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.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?

Spurs GM still optimistic relationship with Kawhi Leonard can be salvaged

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs.

He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged.

Leonard has requested a trade from San Antonio because he is unhappy after missing most of last season with a right quadriceps injury. Buford would not comment on “speculation” of a trade demand, but agreed there is a fractured relationship between Leonard and the only franchise he has played for.

“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to the organization and to the community and while none of wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him,” Buford said Thursday night as the Spurs made two late picks in the NBA Draft. “We’ll explore all of our options, but the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season but returned to play in nine games. He complained of discomfort and pain in the leg in his final game. Leonard sought an outside opinion after the Spurs cleared him to play, working with his own medical team in New York in an attempt to return to the court. The 6-foot-7 forward reportedly grew upset that the Spurs had questioned his rehabilitation process.

The Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year citing “injury management.” While San Antonio was in the playoffs, losing in the first round to eventual repeat champion Golden State, Leonard was rehabbing in New York – which meant that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked for the situation, deferred all comment to “Kawhi and his group.”

“I think all of us would wish that things would have gone differently,” Buford said.

The Spurs held a team meeting late in the season where veterans, led by Tony Parker, implored Leonard to return. Leonard said he was unable to due to the injury.

In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA defensive player of the year is due just over $20 million next season, and can become a free agent in the summer of 2019. He is eligible to sign a $220 million extension with San Antonio.

He is reportedly willing to walk away from that to play elsewhere, possibly in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this from today … he’s under contract for another year, our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time,” Buford said.