Kings to Seattle: It’s not done. But don’t be shocked if it is soon.

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Things can change. There was already what was supposed to be a final game in Sacramento that turned out to not be so final. And anyone who doesn’t think the Maloofs can change their mind at the last minute didn’t watch the arena negotiations in Sacramento a year ago.

But the Maloof family selling the Kings franchise to Seattle’s Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer group for around $500 million is moving fast down the road to reality.

And it’s what David Stern wants, which makes it all the more likely. And he wants it to happen before March 1 so the new owners can file to move the team to Seattle next season (a lame-duck year in Sacramento would be ugly).

When the news broke Wednesday that a deal was close, it seemed to come out of nowhere. But these talks didn’t. They have been going on months or longer and I was told have been serious for a little while. More serious than Virginia Beach ever was because the money is there in Seattle. Hansen’s company is pitching in for the arena and to buy the team and it is a $2.7 billion firm. Ballmer is worth more than $15 billion by himself.

They can overpay for the franchise, pay relocation fees, and whatever else. While the City of Seattle is going to pitch in a bond for the stadium construction, this is not like the deal in Virginia or even the old deal in Seattle before the Sonics moved where the state governments were asked to pitch in some cash. Most of the money in the project is private financing and there is no state money. Those kind of projects get done.

David Stern looks back at what happened before in Seattle, a great basketball market, as a black eye, and he wants to see a team return there. It’s one of his last priorities and something he wants as a legacy, according to reports. And what Stern wants…

But that is different than saying this is a lock.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says there is hope and there is, because this is a massive deal. A very complex deal. Remember that in all of this the Kings and Maloofs have a debt to the city of Sacramento worth more than $75 million, plus other obligations. Those have to be cleared up. The Kings owners would remain a minority owner in the new team and arena. This is an arena some in Seattle — including baseball’s Mariners — have opposed. Large deals with a lot of moving parts can crumble.

But it’s hard to see some cavalry come charging over the hill to save the Kings, because the NBA isn’t fond of the cavalry.

David Stern and the plethora of other attorneys at the NBA league offices are big on process. They want someone to be around, to work through the system, not to just swoop in last minute. Hansen has been talking to the league and working on his arena deal for years. Getting the team is just the last, big part of that.

If Hansen does buy the team, there will not be opposition from the other owners. Because Stern wants this and because stable ownership in a large Seattle market is a good thing. It will fly through the league process. However, team officials around the league have been warned not to comment on these talks, reports Sam Amick at the USA Today.

In the end, I wouldn’t bet the rent money on the Maloofs selling the team because they are unpredictable. To put it kindly. I mean a key owner of the Kings is on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” And the deal has not reached the point the minority owners of the Kings have been informed, reports the USA Today.

But the Seattle deal didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s been worked on for a while. The Maloofs were not telling Kevin Johnson about it but the talks have been happening and it’s not going to be easy for Johnson to wedge himself into them at this point. Now it’s time to see if the deal can be finalized. Something David Stern wants. And what he wants he usually gets.

Vince Carter to be second-oldest opening-game starter ever

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Vince Carter is 42 years old. He’s more than a decade older than all his Hawks teammates. He was drafted before Atlanta point guard Trae Young was even born.

Yet, after all these years, Carter is still starting in the NBA.

JuliaKate E. Culpepper of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Rookie Trae Young will start his first regular-season NBA game alongside expected starters Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Vince Carter and Alex Lin.

When Atlanta visits the Knicks tomorrow, that will make Carter – 41 years and 264 days old – the second-oldest opening-game starter ever. Only Robert Parish – who was 42 years and 65 days old with the 1995 Hornets – was older.

Here’s every opening-game start by a player over 40:

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Don’t expect Carter to challenge Parish’s record next year. Carter said he’ll probably retire after this season. Even if he bucks the odds to play again, odds are strongly against him being on a team that’d start him.

But tomorrow will give Carter one more accomplishment in his incredible career.

Austin Rivers: Everybody, ‘so f—ing gassed up on the Celtics and the Sixers,’ overlooking Wizards and Pacers

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We picked the Celtics, Raptors, 76ers and Bucks to be the top four teams in the Eastern Conference this year and ranked the Wizards and Pacers next. If that’s not the consensus, it’s close to it.

Wizards guard Austin Rivers, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:

“I think we’re heavily slept-on,” he tells me. “Team’s been to the playoffs, what, the last five, four or five years? Then going into this year, you add me, Dwight Howard, Jeff Green and nobody seems to talk about us. So I just think we’re heavily slept-on, but that’s fine. At the end of the day, nothing really matters until the season starts and we set that tone for ourselves. I get the hype of a couple of the other teams, but I think we have a chance to compete with the best of the East.”

I tell him I recently spoke to Tyreke Evans, who said something similar about the Indiana Pacers. Rivers gets more animated.

“Yeah, I would say Indiana’s the other team that gets slept-on, too,” he says. “You look at Indiana, they took Cleveland to seven games and then damn near, arguably could have beaten them.”

Rivers rattles off Evans’ stats from last season, then continues: “That’s who they just added to the team? And nobody seems to talk about the Pacers because everybody’s so f—ing gassed up on the Celtics and the Sixers. And rightfully so: they’re both talented teams. But Indiana is just as good as both those teams. And I think we’re in the same situation.”

I agree the Wizards and Pacers had positive offseasons. But Indiana might have been punching slightly above its weight as a surprise team last year, and Washington’s problem has often been overconfidence.

In that regard, Rivers – acquired in an offseason trade from the Clippers – is already fitting right in. The brashness might be good for Rivers, but it’s not what the Wizards need.

Washington could have a good season. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are a strong starting point in the Eastern Conference, and Dwight Howard could help with the right attitude and health. Rivers is a quality reserve. But let’s pump the brakes on calling Jeff Green a key addition, though Rivers would be only one of many – including someone in his immediate family – to make that error.

Report: Klay Thompson doesn’t plan to give Warriors discount

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Klay Thompson, who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, has said many times he plans to stay with the Warriors. He even discussed signing a contract extension, which would have capped his compensation far below what he could get in free agency.

But Thompson is apparently no longer interested in offering Golden State that savings.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Thompson has no plans to take a discount, and the Warriors don’t expect him to, league sources say.

Thompson’s max next summer projects be about about $221 million over five years if he makes an All-NBA team (or wins Defensive Player of the Year) this season or about $190 million over five years if he doesn’t.

That’s a steep bill, but the Warriors have little choice but to pay it. They’re in the midst of maybe the greatest run in NBA history, and they’re generating massive revenue. Cheapness would be a terrible reason to break up this team. Thompson is a key contributor, and at least his outside shooting should help the 28-year-old age well.

But costs will get steep in a hurry. If the Warriors re-sign Thompson and Kevin Durant next summer and Draymond Green the following summer to max – not even supermax – deals, keep Stephen Curry then fill the roster with 10 minimum-salary free agents, their projected payroll in 2020-21 would be… about $288 million, including about $115 million in luxury tax. That might be untenable, even for Golden State.

Perhaps, Durant will take one decision out of the Warriors’ hands. But if Durant stays and Thompson seeks every penny, Green could face a belt-tightening team in 2020 free agency.

Spurs waive Manu Ginobili, will likely continue paying him into retirement

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The Spurs are still paying Tim Duncan, who retired in 2016.

It seems they’ll also give Manu Ginobili, who retired this summer, a similar golden parachute.

Duncan will earn $1,881,250 this season, the final installment of his three years of post-retirement income. When he retired, Duncan had one season remaining on his contract with a $6,393,750 salary. San Antonio didn’t have to pay him that money. Duncan wasn’t coming to work anymore. But the Spurs graciously allowed the all-time great to receive all but $750,000 of his remaining salary and stretched the payments over three years. That money still counted against the cap and was paid despite San Antonio trying to clear cap space in both 2016 and 2017.

The Spurs waived Ginobili yesterday, and no word has emerged on a buyout amount. He was due $2.5 million this season.

Based on the process and Duncan precedent, it seems highly likely Ginobili will continue to draw paychecks from San Antonio.

The Spurs would do well to pay Ginobili all his money this season, whether it’s the full $2.5 million or a negotiated reduced amount. They’re already over the cap and still below the luxury-tax line, so there’s minimal flexibility harm. The only other option – stretching Ginobili’s payments into equal thirds over the next three seasons – could interfere with roster building in future years.

Of course, the other option was getting Ginobili removed from the books entirely. But it seems that route has passed with waiving him.

San Antonio wants to treat its legends well, and that means paying them more than necessary – even with that money counting toward the cap as the Spurs transition into their next era.