“I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy” Stern says of Seattle/Sacramento issue

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When this is all over and the Kings have new owners and plans for an arena, fans in Seattle or Sacramento will be heartborken.

“I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

That pretty much kills the expansion hopes, which some fans saw as a win-win scenario in the struggle for the Kings.

Otherwise Stern and Commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver largely stayed neutral on the issue at their annual All-Star press conference. That despite facing a barrage of questions about the efforts of a Seattle group to purchase the Kings and move the team to the Pacific Northwest — and the effort of Sacramento officials to put together a counter offer.

Stern’s basic lines were that the Seattle group has put together what appears to be a strong offer that is being reviewed by ownership committees. He said they would certainly look at and study an offer being put together by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson by March 1. But he was able to dodge the hard questions by saying he’s not an owner and he doesn’t have a vote on the ultimate decision.

“As I’ve said before, there’s a very strong ownership group (from Seattle) that has come together, and there’s a plan for a $600 million or so, maybe it’s only 590, building that I haven’t studied any plans of, but it seems to be in the normal course a standard application that’s quite strong,” Stern said….

“It’s going to wait upon Mayor Johnson making good on his statement that there will be an offer. And it’s going to, I think, be upon, in the Sacramento area, a number of the regional municipalities and the various people who have been saying they’ll give the mayor the support that he needs. And we’ll see.”

Stern said he has not met with Johnson but that the owners but said it is possible that offer could sway owners.

“Oh, certainly it’s plausible to me, but I don’t have a vote,” Stern said. “But I expect that the owners have a very open mind on this.”

So why no expansion? Money. Why do you think?

“There’s a large group of owners who believe that expansion is an economic matter, is a neutral thing,” Stern said. “At least the way we’ve done it to date, you get a lot of money in and in return for that you cut the new team in for a large and growing source of revenue from national TV, national licensing, and all things international and digital. And then it doesn’t really seem to make that much additional sense as the increased revenue that demands to the gross BRI and increased each player costs and the like.”

But Stern said he didn’t think in the end this would be a financial decision.

“And I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics because it’s not about, okay, ‘I say 525. All right. I say 526,’ Stern said. “To me that would be economics. I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide. But I don’t want to get to it because we don’t have the predicate for that tough decision yet….

“And then the owners are going to have to deal with it. This is a good time to be a commissioner and not an owner.”

But when a Seattle reporter tried to suggest that the way the Sonics left last time would impact this time, Stern shot him down fast.

“This is being done by the book,” Stern said. “But I seem to remember, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a $300 million plus subsidy for the Mariners, and a $300 million plus subsidy for the Seahawks, and there was a legislation which precluded that for the Sonics, and Speaker Chopp said that we should take the money from our players.”

What Sacramento has now that Seattle didn’t then was a mayor fully committed to getting a deal in place.

The question is will that be enough? Stern and Silver dodged that question like press conference veterans.

Watch Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic dunk all over Bol Bol

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Bol Bol had some impressive blocked shots during exhibition games at the NBA’s restart, but he hadn’t gotten one in his 16 limited minutes since the seeding games started. He wanted one.

So Bol tried to get in front of Jusuf Nurkic of Denver on Thursday and… that did not go well.

Bol did later get a blocked shot on Hassan Whiteside.

Nurkic, however, ended the night with 22 points, seven rebounds, and the Trail Blazers got a 125-115 win that has Portland comfortably as the ninth seed, just half-a-game back of eight-seed Memphis. Portland is setting itself up with a better-than-average chance make the playoffs

Kawhi Leonard’s 29 leads Clippers past Mavericks in potential first-round preview

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Thursday night in a possible playoff preview.

Paul George scored 24 points and Ivica Zubac added 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who strengthened their hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Clippers entered the night a just half game ahead of Denver, but they shot 54% against the Mavericks to improve to 2-2 in the restart.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points and Luka Doncic added 29 for Dallas, which fell to 1-3 in the restart.

Dallas likely will finish as the No. 7 seed, making a first-round matchup with the Clippers a strong possibility.

“That’s obviously going to be a tough matchup,” Porzingis said. “They’re one of the favorites to win it all. They have multiple guys that have been there already. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and getting experience in that.”

Doncic was coming off a monster game — 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. He made 10 of 21 shots against the Clippers, including 6 of 13 3-pointers.

“Luka’s just a handful,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It takes a whole team to guard him. I thought our guys did a pretty good job overall. We lost him a couple times, which you can never do. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

The Clippers led Dallas by 12 in the third quarter before the Mavericks rallied and tied the game at 101 midway through the fourth. Los Angeles responded with a 9-0 run to regain control. The Clippers shot 62% in the fourth quarter to pull away.

“I just liked how we played overall,” Rivers said. “We played like a team tonight, on both ends.”

Though the Mavericks fell to 1-3 in the restart, Doncic remained confident.

“We’re a great team,” he said. “We’ve always got chances, no matter what. I think some people count us out, but we’re not out. We’ll give our max.”

Devin Booker says after latest Suns’ win ‘Kobe’s with me every day’

Devin Booker Kobe
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Devin Booker grew up a huge Kobe Bryant fan. When Booker made the league in 2016 he got to play against his idol and threw up 28 points on the night. Kobe was impressed. The two talked after the game and Kobe gave him an autographed pair of shoes with an inspirational message:

“Be Legendary.”

Booker took that to heart. He got the phrase as a tattoo. He’s been writing “Be Legendary” on his Nike’s before every game in the bubble. And after he scored 20 against the Pacers Thursday, helping the Suns remain undefeated for the restart, he said Kobe is still inspiring him every day.

“Kobe’s with me every day. You guys see what I put on my shoes with the ‘Be Legendary.’ It’s a reminder.”

Whatever he’s doing, it is working. Booker hit a Kobe-like turnaround game-winner to beat the Clippers. He’s averaging 28 points and 6.5 assists a game for the restart, and shooting 40% from three. Defenses are keying on him, but with a healthy Deandre Ayton and other players stepping up — Cameron Johnson has been a surprise standout in Orlando — the Suns look sharp and keep on winning.

Kobe would be proud.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 33 on Heat, Bucks secure No. 1 seed

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a huge early deficit to get a 130-116 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half where the team piled up 73 points despite playing without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.

Antetokounmpo, the favorite to win his second MVP award, sat out about five minutes of the fourth quarter after collecting his fifth foul with 11 minutes to go. Milwaukee trailed by 1 with about five minutes remaining before using a 20-0 run, with three dunks from Antetokounmpo, to make it 130-111 with less than a minute to go and cruise to the victory.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton played 30 and 34 minutes respectively after the stars both sat out the entire second half of their last game on Tuesday.

Duncan Robinson had 21 points for the Heat, who lost to Milwaukee for the first time this season after winning the first two meetings.

The Heat led by 6 with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo picked up his fifth foul on a charge and headed to the bench. Andre Iguodala made a 3 for Miami before the Bucks scored the next 13 points, capped by a 3 from Bledsoe, to take a 107-103 lead with about seven minutes remaining.

Robinson made a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of almost four minutes for Miami with about 6 ½ minutes to go and Antetokounmpo re-entered the game soon after that.

The Heat led by 12 with about 10 minutes left in third quarter before Milwaukee used a 16-3 run to take an 82-81 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Antetokounmpo and Wesley Matthews each had five points each in that span to help close the gap.

The Bucks cut the lead to 3 with a dunk by Antetokounmpo late in the third. But the Heat wrapped up the quarter with a 5-2 spurt to take a 98-92 lead into the fourth.