While everyone talked Seattle, Dallas and Sacramento played a good game (that the Mavs won)

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As people filed into the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, it felt like the game was secondary. All everyone was talking about was the reports that the Kings could be sold to the Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer group out of Seattle and moved.

But despite the best efforts of the Maloof family to seemingly follow the “Major League” model to drive attendance down, Kings fans are loyal. They showed up.

And what they got was a very entertaining game. One that was ultimately frustrating for them because the Kings blew a 17-point third quarter lead to lose 117-112 to the Mavericks in overtime.

As it has been all season, the arena was not full for the Kings game (as is true around most arenas during the season). Our own Aaron Bruski was there and said that the crowd fills in nearly three quarters of the seats, which is actually up from most recent games. There seemed to be a push to be there, to show support.

“With everything that has gone on with out team this year the fans have come out and shown really great energy in our building, have booed us when we need to be booed, but cheered us when we played exciting basketball,” Kings coach Keith smart said before the game.

Sacramento fans love the Kings. It’s the owners that they loath.

Of course, the Maloofs weren’t there for the game. They haven’t been at a game for a while.

But the fans were there and as they have been since 1985. And early on they liked what they saw. DeMarcus Cousins had 12 first quarter points while the Mavericks started 1-10 from floor. But the Kings really didn’t take control until the second quarter when they went on a 13-0 run sparked by Tyreke Evans (who finished with 20 points).

By the middle of the third that lead was at 17 points. Then Dallas started to come back, helped in part by the Kings going with a small lineup when they had owned the paint in the first half. It was gradual comeback until a 16-4 fourth-quarter run gave the Mavericks the lead. At the end of that run it was O.J. Mayo in transition and some old-school Vince Carter isolation in the half court that helped the Mavs stretch out to a six point lead with less than a minute to go.

But John Salmons nailed a pull-up three pointer from two feet beyond the arc to cut the lead in half (Salmons was 3-of-12 before that shot). Of course, Salmons also had the offensive foul driving the lane with 16.7 left with the Kings down 100-98 that seemed to doom them. The Kings were forced to foul Mayo and he made one of two, it was 101-98.

That’s when it happened. With 10 seconds left Cousins had the ball, kicked it out to Isaiah Thomas, who missed a three so bad he banked it in. He might even have been fouled. Tie game, 101-101. And after a Dallas miss we were headed to overtime.

It was close there too, 109-109, with minute to go, when Cousins picks up goaltend on Shaun Marion layup. Then next possession with 41 seconds left Cousins was stripped when triple-teamed in the paint, then frustrated pushed Carter in the face knocking him to the ground. Cousins was assessed a flagrant two foul for it and he was ejected, the Mavs got two free throws and the ball. Carter hit both. (My feeling is it was a flagrant one, but we will see what the league office thinks. Either way was exactly the kind of reactionary emotional play Cousins needs to stop making.)

Still the Kings got another chance. After a Vince Carter missed free throw it was 115-112 Mavericks with 15 seconds left in OT, once again a three could tie it. Thomas tried again and missed badly again, but this one short and right and fell out. And that was pretty much the ballgame.

Now everyone can go back to discussions about the move. Well, that and Cousins.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

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Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.