Sacramento coordinating effort to sell out new owners’ arena before they own it

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Remember hearing the stories about Kings fans and concerned Sacramento citizens trying to raise money for an arena when the Maloofs first announced their intention to move to Anaheim?

If not, go check out the award-winning documentary Small Market, Big Heart and soak up the story of the many different grassroots efforts that popped up to save their team.

These fans orchestrated sell-outs, sit-ins, and some of the younger ones even sold lemonade to get the message across to both the Maloofs and the NBA that Sacramento wanted to keep their team and would support it.

Time has shown that the Maloofs couldn’t afford to run an NBA franchise and that they weren’t ready to operate in good faith, making these efforts look something like William Wallace in Braveheart if he had a really bad case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Fortunately for Sacramento, the Maloofs are becoming less important by the day. They’re going to sell the team or face Armageddon from all angles, as they can’t afford a lame duck year in Sacramento on any level. Sources close to the ongoing relocation saga are convinced that there is no way they keep the team beyond this season.

All the family can do right now is hope that a bidding war between Sacramento and Seattle returns the highest possible dollar for the winning offer, and barring an unlikely antitrust lawsuit from the fledgling family that offer will be the one the NBA lets them take.

Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen has reportedly made offers between $500-525 million in what was characterized by initial reports to be a done deal, though PBT reported that no deal was imminent and so far there is no deal.

Sacramento’s offer likely starts to produce more money than Seattle’s offer for the Maloof family at about $425-450 million, and sources say Sacramento’s final offer is likely to break the NBA record for a franchise sales price ($450 million, Warriors).

This leaves Sacramento right back where they were in March of 2011, trying to convince David Stern and the other 29 owners that California’s capitol city deserves to keep its beloved Kings. The next question is about the arena — a new one needs to be built wherever the franchise plays next.

So what are those Sacramento fan groups doing now?

Let’s just say they’re not simply handing out fliers (though we will say that they’re circulating petitions for both Seattle and Sacramento to get a team).

As announced earlier today on the Carmichael Dave Show, Dave is leading a coordinated grassroots effort including fans, businesses, and community leaders called Here We Buy (click the link to check it out).

If you don’t recall, Carmichael Dave is the symbolic and emotional leader of the Sacramento movement, and a local media voice that was dismissed by the team sponsored radio station, with many speculating that his aggressive stance on relocation matters was behind it.

Carmichael Dave became this leader when he started a movement called Here We Build that collected over $500,000 in ‘promised pledges’ in the days after the Maloofs announced they were trying to go to Anaheim.  Dave partnered with Jiffy Lube director of marketing Matt Graham to put the #HereWeBuild hashtag on electronic billboards clear across Sacramento, but when mayor Kevin Johnson and Sacramento’s business community convinced the NBA  to give them another year to organize a funding plan the PR effort wasn’t needed anymore.

Of course, collecting Monopoly money to pay for a $400 million arena for owners with both feet out the door is a little bit silly, but Dave and others were doing the best they could under the constraints they had.

“We (grassroots leaders) were rookies back then,” said Dave. “We’re grizzled veterans now.”

What the new Here We Buy initiative will do is give a way for fans and businesses to express their interest in purchasing season tickets or sponsoring the Kings under new ownership.

Carmichael Dave’s group hasn’t set any specific goals for the initiative, but the idea is to show the NBA and prospective owners how ready and excited Sacramento is to fill an arena.  A successful campaign can help show both the new owners and the league that they are walking into a plug-and-play deal.

Equally important to the campaign is giving fans a way to get involved in what has been a long, helpless journey. While fan groups have still been breaking their necks attending city council meetings, working with social media, and going to games while both the team and arena literally fall apart before their eyes — fans have been in the same holding pattern that the deal-makers have been in.

With a legitimate way to give fans the chance to help add another feather to Sacramento’s cap, Dave is expecting the best.

“I think fans of the Kings, despite some media reports, have every reason to be confident. We have the right pieces in our favor. Now we can just participate in the puzzle coming together, and Here We Buy is a big part of that process,” he said.

With Sacramento’s buyers revealing themselves daily, the gears are turning rapidly as ink gets set to paper, decisions get made, and ultimately the city gets ready to make a presentation to Stern and the NBA Board of Governors (the NBA owners).

Mayor Johnson told Sam Amick of USA Today that Stern is aware he will make a request to speak to the league’s governing board before any Seattle deal is finalized, and the deadline for a relocation request to be made this year is March 1 (unless it is extended).

These are just some of the most recent developments highlighting the momentum in Sacramento. Echoing our original breaking report that ‘Kings to Seattle’ was not a done deal, sources close to the situation are still confident that the city will get the chance to meet or beat Seattle’s offer.

I opined on Twitter on Saturday that I thought Sacramento had edged in front of Seattle based on conversations with those sources, and that confidence has been spreading throughout Sacramento, too.

Carmichael Dave summed it up as such:

“I’m very confident about the outcome. I just can’t see a situation where the local bidders offer a price that would possibly break an NBA record, have an arena deal already signed off by the city, only to have the NBA approve the move (to Seattle). It would be unprecedented.”

Sacramento is going to field a competitive offer on all fronts and nobody can explain why Stern would willingly add the stain of leaving Sacramento to clean one up in Seattle.

Celtics’ Smart ‘ecstatic’ to have summer in limbo over

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BOSTON (AP) — There was a moment during the past month in which Marcus Smart wasn’t sure where he’d be playing basketball this upcoming season.

A day after signing a four-year deal to remain in the only NBA jersey he’s ever played in, Smart said he’s focused on doing what he can to help the Celtics win their 18th championship.

“I’m ecstatic. This is a blessing,” Smart said Friday.

After being in limbo since the start of free agency, Smart cemented his pact with the Celtics on Thursday. A person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press that Smart will be paid $52 million over the next four years. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team did not disclose the terms of the contract.

Boston brings back a 6-foot-4 defensive cornerstone who has developed a reputation for toughness and doing the little things that help the Celtics win. Smart is also the longest-tenured player on the roster.

The confidence that general manager Danny Ainge is showing in his abilities is not lost on Smart, who acknowledged he knew he was entering a tough free agent market this summer.

“To be honest, I didn’t know where I was gonna end up. I was just enjoying this whole process,” he said. “It is a business, so things aren’t perfect. That’s why it’s called negotiations. You guys come together and you finally agree on something. We both agreed. Boston loves me and I love Boston. Boston wants me here and I want to be here. I am here. So we made it work.”

Barring any late changes, Smart’s return also means Boston will be bringing back the core of the team that won 55 games and reached the Eastern Conference finals while battling numerous injuries and being without both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward the entire postseason.

Smart was a huge part of the run, stepping in to a starter’s role after returning from thumb surgery late in the first round of the playoffs. He averaged 9.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game as Boston pushed LeBron James‘ Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the conference finals.

Now, James is in the West with the Lakers, and given the emergence of youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Smart said he doesn’t see any reason why the Celtics shouldn’t be a favorite to come out of the East.

“We demonstrated the talent and ability we had to do that last year with a few missing pieces. With those missing pieces back in action, I think it really makes it hard for teams,” Smart said. “I think we have a real shot.”

The signing also will allow Smart to shift his attention back to his mother, 63-year-old Camellia Smart, who continues to undergo treatment for the bone marrow cancer she was diagnosed with in April.

“When you kind of go through adversity and something like this hits you and your family, it kind of puts everything in perspective and everything else kind of becomes a blur to you and really not that important,” he said.

He has been with her in Texas since the season ended and said she’s stable and doing well.

“She’s hanging in there,” Smart said. “This is a hard time. But at the same time, it’s an exciting time for my family. So, with the signing, it kind of brings a little joy to a situation and lightens up the situation that was a little darkened for me. … As of right now, she’s doing great.”

As far as basketball is concerned, he’ll continue trying to improve.

“I’m just gonna be working on all aspects of my game. The uniqueness about me is I don’t do one thing perfectly or great. I do a little bit of everything. That’s what makes me so unique. I’m just trying to master a little bit of everything. … If I could just get better a little bit each year, then I did my job.”

 

Raptors president Ujiri apologizes to departed DeRozan

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TORONTO (AP) — Raptors president Masai Ujiri apologized Friday for a “miscommunication” with four-time All-Star and franchise icon DeMar DeRozan, but Toronto’s traded All-Star guard didn’t seem quite ready to make amends.

Speaking for the first time since sending DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard, Ujiri began by saying sorry to DeRozan. The career Raptor had expressed anger and frustration in an Instagram post after learning of the deal, indicating he’d been told he would not be traded.

Shortly after Ujiri apologized Friday, DeRozan added a new post to his Instagram feed: a facepalm emoji, a symbol of frustration and exasperation.

Reflecting on a conversation he’d had with DeRozan at Summer League earlier this month, Ujiri said he “should have handled it better” when discussing future plans.

“Maybe my mistake was talking about what we expected going forward from him,” Ujiri said. “I think that’s where the gap was, because in my job I always have to assume that I’m going forward with the team that I have. If there was a miscommunication there, I do apologize to DeMar.”

Still, after three straight disappointing playoff exits, Ujiri felt something needed to change with the Raptors. He acknowledged struggling with the “human side” of the trade, but decided Leonard was too good a prize to pass up.

Now, Ujiri says, the Raptors “are stepping on territory that we never have.”

“I think if we look at ourselves honestly, everybody knows that we had to do something different, even if it wasn’t this,” Ujiri said. “We had to figure out something different. I take responsibility for that.

“We’ve been doing this how many years?” Ujiri said. “You can’t continue doing the same thing over and over again. And when you get a chance to get a top five player, which doesn’t come very often, I think you have to jump on it. We’ve given a chance to this team, we’ve tried to build it as much as we can but, at this point, this opportunity came in front of us and we had to jump on it.”

DeRozan led the Raptors in scoring in each of the last five years, and was key to Toronto winning a franchise-record 59 games and securing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season.

“There’s no measurement for what DeMar DeRozan has done for this organization,” Ujiri said, pledging that the departed guard will be acknowledged “in the biggest way that we can possibly do it” for his nine seasons with the Raptors.

Even with DeRozan, Toronto lost three straight postseason series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, including consecutive second-round sweeps. The Raptors have never reached the NBA Finals.

Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, has twice finished in the top three in MVP voting and is a two-time winner of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Ujiri called his new acquisition “a no-nonsense basketball player that plays on both sides of the floor and produces.”

Still, there are reasons for concern. A seven-year veteran, Leonard missed all but nine games last season because of a leg injury. He can become a free agent next summer, and has stated his desire to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

As long as Leonard is with the Raptors, however, Ujiri will work to show him what Toronto has to offer.

“I think there’s a lot to sell here,” Ujiri said. “Our team, our culture, our city, our ownership. We have everything here except a championship, in my humble opinion. I don’t think we lack anything in this city.”

Leonard has yet to pass a physical, Ujiri said, adding one is expected to happen “in the next couple of days.”

Ujiri, who returned from a trip to Africa earlier Friday, has not met Leonard in person since the trade, but said they have spoken on the phone. Ujiri disputed rumors that Leonard has no interest in playing north of the border.

“He didn’t express a lack of interest about playing in Canada to me,” Ujiri said.

DeRozan and Leonard are expected to be on the court together next week when USA Basketball convenes a national team training camp in Las Vegas. That team is coached by San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.

Draymond’s pitch to Cousins: “I’m pretty sure me and you are going to fight”

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Good thing Draymond Green found his calling in basketball because if he had to make a living as a salesman he’d be living on Nissin Top Ramen. At best.

Everyone has heard the story already: After not getting any serious offers the first 24 hours of free agency, DeMarcus Cousins took matters into his own hands and called up Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors and pitched his services. The Warriors jumped at the chance and signed Cousins to a one-year, $5.3 million contract. And then the NBA freaked out.

What is new is Cousins telling ESPN’s Chris Haynes about Green’s horrible pitch to get him to come to the bay area.

“Draymond probably had the worst pitch,” he said while chuckling. “He was like, ‘Cous, I’m pretty sure me and you are going to fight.’ I’m like, ‘Draymond, Come on. Whoa. Whoa.’ But Draymond, that’s my guy. I respect him as a player, I respect him as a competitor. He’s one of the top in this business and just his approach to every game, I want that guy on my team every day. So, we talked, we kind of communicated about what we both wanted, which was winning games. He openly said he knows I wouldn’t get as many touches and I don’t give a, I don’t care. And the same thing for me. It’s about winning the games. I think me and Draymond will mesh well.”

Cousins also was amused by the backlash to his signing.

“But, it’s just kind of funny because before the whole thing started, I was just kind of wasted. I was damaged goods, not a winner, just everything negative. And soon as it happens, it’s like, ‘He’s too damn good to [be a Warrior].’ So, it’s just kind of funny how the narrative switches right away when things don’t go the way they expect it to.”

If you want more insight into Cousins’ thinking (and don’t mind some NSFW language) check out this trailer from the upcoming SHOWTIME Sports documentary about Cousins’ decision this summer.

Michael Beasley reportedly joins Lakers on one-year contract

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Because a locker room with Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo — with LaVar Ball circling around it — did not have enough distractions…

Michael Beasley, welcome to the Los Angeles Lakers.

It’s one year for $3.5 million.

Beasley is another eccentric guy for the Lakers’ collection. Remember when he changed teams from Minnesota to Phoenix and rather than move his stuff he just had a big estate sale and sold it all? Beasley by himself isn’t a distraction at this point, but all of those personalities in one locker room and… I do not envy Luke Walton right now.

Beasley had a solid offensive campaign for the Knicks last season, averaging 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists playing more than 22 minutes a night (he also started 30 games for them). He can attack off the dribble and score, gets to the line, and shot 39.5 percent from three — the man has embraced his role as a scorer off the bench and he can get the Lakers some buckets.

He’s also going to give up a lot of buckets because he does not play defense (he did rebound a little better last year, but that’s only when the guy missed despite his lack of D).

How Walton fits all this together remains to be seen. Beasley played 93 percent of his minutes last season at the four, where the Lakers will start Brandon Ingram but also rotate LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma through. Guys are versitle and basketball is evolving to being positionless, but that’s a lot of guys eating up minutes for similar roles.

At the price they are paying, this is a decent signing by the Lakers. Beasley will get them points if he stays healthy (he did play 74 games last season). I’m sure Magic/Pelinka will sell this as “adding another veteran playmaker to our roster,” and they will ignore all the baggage that comes with it. All those guys are on one-year contracts, the Lakers are looking farther down the road at much bigger targets than the new guys in the locker room.

But man, that Laker locker room this season is going to be a piece of work.