The self-defeating prophecy in Sacramento

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In a pair of articles this week, Tom Ziller of SBNation.com elucidated the conditions of fandom in Sacramento as the Kings’ season approaches. What could be the last Kings season in Sacramento. To catch you up….(big breath):

The Maloofs were great owners and then the economy tanked and they became bad owners and then they started making noise about wanting a new arena and then threatened to leave and then they actually started having talks with Anaheim and thought they were home free but the NBA was like “Woah” and then Mayor Kevin Johnson presented to the NBA and knocked their socks off while the Maloofs basically presented a slide of “But we want to!” and the NBA was like “No way” and then they figured out a solution and it was awesome and a new arena would be built and then the Maloofs bailed on the agreement because of stuff people think is really piddly that should in no way hold up a deal and the league is in an impossible position and the Maloofs held an aggressive, spikey press conference and the city’s holding firm and it looks like the Kings are going to file for relocation in the spring.

(Gasp.)

So Ziller presents the case for why this season is an absolute no-win for Sacramento and its fans.

And now, we’re supposed to buy tickets, get our gear and root for the Kings. It’s a bizarre situation.

No one knows if fans will show up this season. The team claims that 80 percent of season ticket holders have renewed, but that doesn’t mean much: the season ticket levels seem to be fairly low, and as all keen NBA observers know, a substantial portion of season tickets go unused, especially for bad teams. Some fans have instituted one-man boycotts. Others are vowing to go as cheaply as possible. (SB Nation’s Kings blog is holding FTM Night, a sarcastic rendition of Maloof Appreciation Night. Our decision to ask fans to attend as cheaply as possible has gotten our credentials revoked, probably fairly.) We all saw what happened to Seattle, and how the shell-shocked fans largely avoided KeyArena when it was clear that the Sonics were gone. We don’t want to follow that same path … but who wants to line the pockets of traitors? Who wants to toss cash at the moving van driver?

via Sacramento Kings preview: Where the games are only subplots – SBNation.com.

A developer who lost all but 2 percent of the family’s ownership in The Palms. A developer whose mistakes forced the family to sell their patriarch’s cornerstone business, the New Mexico beer and spirits distributorship. “Trust me, I’m a developer.” When I look at George Maloof’s face, trust is the last thing I want to offer. (By a country mile.) He preceded to tell Sacramento that the Maloofs are committed to staying here. To renovating ARCO. (They have not moved an inch on that idea, according to reports.) Committed to Sacramento. So committed that it’s ridiculous to ask them to actually commit on paper. So committed that you might as well stop asking if they’re committed, because dammit they have said they are committed. Trust them.

I don’t trust that because I remember what the Maloofs didn’t do on April 13, 2011, and I don’t trust that because I remember what the Maloofs did do on April 13, 2012. I don’t believe a word George said about the Sacramento market — we know what he said about Sacramento is wrong. Not a word he said about the arena plan, because if he felt how he did about the arena’s viability all along, he never would have shook hands on the blueprint. The trust I had in the Maloof family and its intentions cracked for good when they forgot about their customers on April 13, 2011, and it shattered forever when they tore down their customers on April 13, 2012.

via When I trusted the Maloofs* – Sactown Royalty.

If you were a Sacramento fan, being treated this way, why would you want to put a single dollar in the Maloofs’ pockets? Why would you want a single opportunity to give them financial relief? Fans are always more attached to teams than owners, owners come and go, something they never talk about when they talk about their rights as owners. And generally, that relationship should remain as such. It’s nasty business to try linking your favorite team to the guy who pays the bills. Or even the athletes who wear the jerseys, a lot of the time. But this has become personal.

Sacramento has a personal relationship with the Maloofs. More than Heisley and Memphis, Bennett and OKC, even Holt and San Antonio. There’s a personal relationship between the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento, and it not a good one. It is bitter and personal and filled with resentment and anger. The Maloofs have openly pushed stories about how they’re being treated by Sacramento, as if they randomly were being bombarded. This is not to justify the abuse they’ve suffered, which is going to be extreme in some cases, because, let’s be honest, some people are terrible. And there’s no excuse for that. None. It doesn’t change the fact that this relationship was poisoned from both sides.

And the worst part is that the more they do to poison the relationship, the more it helps them. The league will not consider what the Maloofs have done to poison the well for ticket sales or revenue this season. They expect the fans to support them, no matter what. That’s their strength as a sports league. They can demand unreasonable things in exchange for the game they provide. And while David Stern in particular needs serious commendation for his protection of Sacramento in this instance, there’s only so far he can go.

So the more the Maloofs do to prove they should not own an NBA franchise, the more they will gain support of the league and its owners. Because very little in sports business makes sense.

That’s really the incredible part of this story. There’s nothing the fans, the citizens can do at this point. If the Maloofs decide to keep the team there, it will be of their own initiative. If they decide to file, nothing will change their mind. The fans can show up in droves and carry the team to the playoffs, and it likely won’t generate enough revenue to change the Maloofs mind, because the arena dictates so much of that. They can pressure the mayor’s office to cave and the city may simply not be able to afford it. They can not go and validate the Maloofs talk of the support.

The Maloofs have a right to protect their interests as businessmen. They’re not legally obligated to take care of Sacramento. Morally is another question, but as always that matters little in business.

If you were a Kings fan, would you want to go games? To buy jerseys, coozies, stickers? Would you want to support the team that’s yours?

Wizards hire former Cleveland Browns exec Sashi Brown, former Georgetown coach John Thompson III

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The Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager.

Now, they’re filling the rest of the front office.

Wizards release:

Sashi Brown will serve as chief planning and operations officer for Monumental Basketball and Daniel Medina will serve as chief of athlete care & performance for Monumental Basketball.

Brown will manage efforts relating to technology, finance, communications, security, research and player engagement and Medina will head up medical, training, mental health, strength and conditioning, nutrition and physical therapy/recovery.

Leonsis also announced a new athlete development & engagement department which will be led by former Georgetown and Princeton Head Coach John Thompson III. Thompson will use his vast experience to lead a team that will focus on maximizing player potential both on and off the court for all Monumental Basketball athletes. Employing a holistic development approach, the department will focus on financial literacy, post-playing career opportunities and the overall empowerment and development of the athletes.

In addition to Sheppard’s promotion and the addition of Brown, Medina and Thompson, Leonsis also announced two promotions of current staff. Sashia Jones, who previously served as vice president of community relations, was promoted to vice president of player engagement and will work with Thompson to provide services to players for all teams. Brett Greenberg, who previously served as vice president of basketball analytics/salary cap management, was promoted to assistant general manager for strategy and analytics.

When the Cleveland Browns hired Brown to run their front office in 2017, it was an unconventional choice. He’s a Harvard Law grad whose apparent football connection was serving as the Browns’ and previously Jaguars’ general counsel.

Now, he’s getting hired to work for an NBA team with even fewer obvious basketball ties.

That might be fine. Employers should more often consider untraditional candidates. Maybe Brown’s intelligence will translate.

It is a weird fit, though.

Under Brown’s watch, Cleveland essentially imitated imitated Sam Hinkie’s Process. The Browns went 1-32 in Brown’s two seasons in charge, accumulated assets, didn’t draft particularly well and still rose into a budding power under the next general manager.

Now, Brown will work for Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who said his team would never tank.

To be fair to Brown, he might have more than one gear. Just because he thought that strategy was right for the Browns at that time doesn’t make it the only way he can contribute. It’s also possible Leonsis is more open to new ideas.

Thompson is part of basketball royalty in Washington. Both he and his father coached Georgetown. Though the younger Thompson had his ups and downs on the job, it’s still a prestigious position – especially in D.C.

It’s a little surprising Medina landed with with another NBA team so quickly. The 76ers had plenty of issues with Joel Embiid‘s, Zhaire Smith‘s and Markelle Fultz‘s health. But evaluating medical personnel is extremely difficult. Results say only so much. The counterfactual is hard to assess.

Why did Jimmy Butler choose Miami? It started playing dominoes in Little Havana

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Jimmy Butler‘s push to get himself to Miami in a sign-and-trade caught the NBA off guard.

The basketball cultural fit made sense — the Heat’s focus on hard work and conditioning as a foundation for winning are very Butler — but with the Sixers, Lakers, Clippers, Rockets and other teams interested in him Butler could chase a ring next season. The Heat were a year or two and a couple of big moves away from that level. Yet Butler chose Miami after meeting with the Heat staff and canceled other meetings. Soon enough, the deal got done and Butler was a member of the Heat.

How did butler come to that moment? It started when he played dominoes in Little Havana. Anthony Chaing at the Miami Herald put together a fantastic look at how Butler — with some help from Dwyane Wade — came to love Miami.

As for Butler’s fit with the city of Miami, he started exploring that in April with a tour through Little Havana. With the 76ers in town to take on the Heat in the final home game of Wade’s career on April 9, Butler used the first part of that day to learn about the area.

Butler was determined to experience “the real Miami” and settled on Little Havana as the neighborhood to tour…

On April 9 during a tour of Little Havana, Butler was looking forward to proving he was a better dominoes player than those at Domino Park that day. Not aware that double-nine dominoes were used at the park, Butler was thrown off because he grew up playing with a double-six set…

The group ended up playing double-six dominoes. And of course, Butler won.

Butler spent the first part of that end-of-the-season day trying to get a feel for Miami, its people, their love of basketball, and if he would be happy there. He ultimately decided yes, he would. Wade had planted the seed with Butler that the Heat organization and Miami would be a good fit for him, but Butler had to explore and figure it out for himself.

Butler started that months before he met with teams, but by the time he walked out of the room where Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, and the rest of the Heat brain trust had been to pitch him on June 30, Butler knew where he wanted to play. He left it to the Heat and 76ers to figure out the sign-and-trade (which sent Josh Richardson among others to the Sixers, a move that cleared out enough cap space for Philly to sign Al Horford).

Now it’s on that Heat brain trust to add a lot more talent to the roster.

Bucks GM Horst says keeping Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez was summer priority

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Milwaukee made the leap last year — won 60 games last season, had the MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, was top five in offense and defense, reached the conference finals, and became a serious title contender. It was an amazing season and run, one that earned GM Jon Horst Executive of the Year honors, as voted by his peers.

But a GM’s job is never done.

The Bucks went into the summer with three starters as free agents and a lot of questions about keeping the roster together. Milwaukee retained two of those starters — Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez — and those two were the top priorities, Horst told Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Khris was always a focus… He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here. Fits our culture, fits our style of play, fits our aging curve. He’s become a leader of our team. For us, we want to try to recruit with him and play the culture fit, winning. Create an environment he wanted to play in for a long, long time. A place where his family is happy with Sam and the baby and everything…

When we got Brook last offseason, we understood, at some level, how important he was going to be to us and how important he was going to be and what the value was going to be. We also understood if he’s as good as we think he’s going to be, it’s going to present a lot of challenges.

The challenges Horst is referring to are about money. The Bucks got Lopez on a one-year steal of a contract at $3.4 million, but he played his way into an eight-figure salary. Keeping Lopez meant roster changes were needed to create cap room.

The ultimate upshot of that is Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are no longer with the team. The Bucks could have matched the four-year, $85 million offer Indiana put on the table for Brogdon, but doing so would have put them deep into the luxury tax and tied their hands in other ways. The Bucks signed Wesley Matthews as a stopgap instead.

Malcolm is very, very important and we knew how important he was to our team. It will be hard to replace him. I think we’ve done the best that we can and we’ll continue to work in ways to be creative and fill that gap.

Horsts’ moves this summer should keep the Bucks as title contenders next season, they head into the season as the favorites in the East.

That’s not the biggest question facing Milwaukee, however. That is: Did the moves keep Antetokounmpo happy? Next summer he can be offered a super-max contract extension to stay with the Bucks through his prime, if he turns it down the Bucks have to consider trading him. Will Antetokounmpo take the money? Every move Horst made this summer needed to bring Antetokounmpo closer to answering yes to that question.

We’ll see how it went in a year.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

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Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.