Breaking: Deal between Maloof family, Seattle’s Chris Hansen for Kings struck, to be announced

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While Sacramento will get a final shot to convince NBA owners that this is not something they want to approve, sources have told ProBasketballTalk that Seattle’s Chris Hansen is ready to announce a tentative agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings in the coming days.

Following this come reports other teams have been notified of a sale, something PBT can confirm. The sale price is $525 million of which the new owners will get 65 percent.

Adrian Wojnarowski reported a week ago a deal between the Maloof family and Hansen was “at first and goal from the one,” and furthermore that the Kings moving to Seattle was a done deal. That report had been echoed by CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz and David Aldridge of NBA.com, though each reporter left a little wiggle room in case the Maloofs changed their minds.

According to our sources, any deal sending the Kings to Seattle would not be a done deal because any deal would be subject to an approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors.  In addition, sources tell PBT that Sacramento has been approached by at least three groups of “heavy hitters.”  Sacramento could be getting close to announcing a group that meets NBA criteria that has the “vision to transform one of the NBA’s most proven markets into a top NBA franchise.”  This, they believe, will help win the NBA’s support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.

As we’ve followed this story for the last two years, the city of Sacramento has bent over backwards to accommodate the Maloofs according to sources from all sides of the situation. One league source called their offer of public funds to build an arena for the Maloofs a “model offer of public funds,” and the NBA itself supported the failed deal from last year that the embattled Maloof family backed out of.

Since reports of the Kings’ move to Seattle have hit the net from very reputable sources, Sacramento has been firing on all cylinders in what has been a long-term initiative to respond in the event the Maloof family was willing to sell the team. Indeed, sources close to the situation in the California capitol have told PBT that preparing for this contingency has been a prime focus of the city, and that when it comes time to present Sacramento’s offer to the Board of Governors that they believe it will be a compelling and competitive offer.

It will be up to the Board of Governors — made up of the 29 other NBA owners — to make that determination.

We reported in September that Seattle’s Chris Hansen would need to put up more money to beat Sacramento’s offer, and that is one of the main sources of the city’s confidence according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity.

We calculated that an offer from Sacramento of $425-450 million for the overall price of the Kings franchise would put more money in the Maloofs’ pockets than the reported $525 million offer from Hansen, because a Sacramento owner would not need to worry about the Maloofs’ outstanding loan to Sacramento (~$75 million).  The city also doesn’t have to worry about the league’s relocation fee, which was $30 million when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, although the Board of Governors can set that fee at whatever level they wish. USA Today’s Sam Amick confirmed Sacramento’s target offer in his exclusive interview with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson last week.

The biggest point in Sacramento’s favor according to sources is the “model offer” of public funds itself, an offer that was in excess of $200 million in a California climate that normally doesn’t support public funds for sports facilities.

Sources close to the situation tell PBT that this, along with the league’s fear of another Sonicsgate, will be the deciding factors should Sacramento be able to provide an actionable offer that is competitive with Seattle.

The Maloofs themselves have reached the point where they have to sell the team, something that doesn’t really help their leverage. Their financial struggles are well documented and in May they asked their minority owners for a $10 million cash call. Along with the threat of having a lame duck year in Sacramento, nobody with knowledge of the situation has said that there is a realistic chance that the family decides not to sell.

This means that this story is coming to a head, and if the Board of Governors pushes the Maloofs toward the Sacramento offer they will have to listen. Because a Sacramento offer can put the same type of dollars in the family’s pockets, sources in Sacramento like the city’s chances to pull this out.

Favoring Seattle is the fact they have a larger television market than Sacramento (Seattle is 14th, Sacramento is 20th), and that a relocation fee assessed to Seattle could put money in each owners’ pockets, but Sacramento isn’t without ammunition here.  They have no competition from other sports teams and have a long and storied history of supporting their franchise.  They are also arguably further along in their arena building process, as Seattle is still facing two relatively toothless lawsuits and an environmental review while Sacramento’s arena deal was ready for approval last year.  In addition, as SB Nation’s Tom Ziller points out, there are several reasons that expansion could benefit the league and owners would also benefit from an expansion fee in that case as well, which would theoretically give the Hansen group a better price point to join the club.

Sacramento has been working for a long time and has not been caught off guard by the Maloofs’ intentions to sell. As long as Mayor Kevin Johnson can deliver the package he has been foreshadowing, it will be up to the league to decide whether or not they want to turn their back on Sacramento.

As usual, it comes down to showing the league the money. Fortunately for Sacramento, this is something that Mayor Johnson has a great track record with.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will reportedly get that chance, but he’s going to have to convince the owners to reject a deal put before them. While those same owners did that in the case of a proposed Kings move to Anaheim, this may be a tougher pitch for Sacramento.

Adam Silver likes NBA teams moving away from term ‘owner,’ prefers ‘governor’

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Warriors star Draymond Green has objected to using the term “owner.” The 76ers use “managing partner,” not “owner,” as Josh Harris’ title.

Does NBA commissioner Adam Silver like teams moving away from the term owner?

Silver, via TMZ:

I do. I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I’ve said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word owner. But, we moved away from that term years ago in the league. We call our team owners governor of the team and alternate governors. So, I think it makes sense. As I’ve said, I don’t want to overreact, and you’ll find the word throughout memos over the past decade in the NBA. But I’m sensitive to it, and I think to the extent teams are moving away from the term, we’ll stick with using governor.

Players have gone both ways. I think a few players have actually spoken out and said the greatest thing that ever happened was when Michael Jordan was able to call himself an owner. But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term, and I completely respect that.

The elephant in the room: Slavery. The history of white people owning black people is the subtext to this entire discussion. Slavery looms over a league where most owners are white and most player are black.

However, the term “owner” here doesn’t refer to owning the players, but owning the team. “Ownership” has far wider historically usage than slavery. In most fields, “owning” companies – which NBA teams are – doesn’t generate backlash.

Are we too loose with the term “owner” in sports? Perhaps. It’s common to say something like, “Players should strongly consider their potential owners in free agency” rather than “players should strongly consider their potential team’s owners in free agency.”

But there are power differences between players and owners/managing partners/governors/whatever you want to call them. Unless addressing the actual underlying issues, changing terms will accomplish nothing.

Those power dynamics are why the Warriors referred to Mark Stevens as “Mr. Stevens” and Kyle Lowry as Kyle Lowry after Stevens pushed Lowry during the NBA Finals. Those power dynamics are why Donald Sterling took guests into the Clippers’ locker room to ogle players. Those power dynamics are why LeBron James is remembered as the bad guy from The Decision despite Dan Gilbert’s wild letter.

There will always be differences between players and owners. Owners have more money and staying power. But the NBA can create a better, fairer environment for its players.

It’ll just require deeper consideration than a simple word change.

Report: Knicks will roll over cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard

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The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.

But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.

This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.

He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?

New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.

But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.

And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.

Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.

The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.

Report: Kyrie Irving doesn’t like living in Boston

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Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.

It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.

Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.

Via ESPN:

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”

We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.

At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.

Chris Paul: “I never asked for a trade” and says he’s happy to be in Houston

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With Golden State laid low by injuries (and maybe a defection), Houston should be the team stepping to the front of the line saying “it’s our turn” in the West.

Instead, the Rockets two stars — James Harden and Chris Paul — are feuding, ownership is turning coach Mike D’Antoni into a lame duck, and everyone without a fantastic beard hears their name in trade rumors.

The Harden/Paul feud is real, but Paul tried to downplay it at a charity event in Los Angeles over the weekend, denying a trade request and saying he was happy to be in Houston, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.”

“I’ll be in Houston,” Paul said. “I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”

The report goes on to note Paul was asked if he had to work things out with Harden and he kind of danced around that question but said the issues were around a season-ending loss. Certainly, two straight years of being bounced by the Warriors has the Rockets frustrated. However, there is also a style issue: Harden dominates the ball and likes to work in isolation, Chris Paul can’t be as efficient that way anymore and prefers a more fluid offense (and more pick-and-roll for him). Coach D’Antoni gives a lot of leeway to Harden.

Harden and Paul need to work their issues out because Paul is nearly untradable (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener with a pick or young player). Paul still has value on the court — a master floor general he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game last season — but he is 34-years-old, lost a step last season, has an injury history (he played 58 games last season), and is owed $124 million fully guaranteed over the next three seasons. There simply are not teams interested in trading for Paul.

Houston could head into next season the favorites in the West. Part of that depends on how things shake out in free agency (does Kawhi Leonard come West, for example), but a lot of it is just the Rockets getting their act together. I expect Paul and Harden to figure things out, at least well enough to make it work. Mostly because they don’t have a choice. Paul isn’t going anywhere, whether he asked to leave or not.