Who’s winning the race to open a new Kings arena?

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While Sacramento’s fight to keep their Kings could extend all the way to the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting on April 18-19, this week will prove pivotal as both Sacramento and Seattle are set to give their best pitch to the BOG’s joint committees tasked with reviewing the matter today in New York.

League insiders have bounced around on a lot of issues surrounding the Kings saga, but one of the issues that they are in agreement on is that the city that can build an arena first will have a key advantage in the eyes of the owners deciding the fate of the franchise.

In what may be a surprise development to some given Seattle’s head start on the arena building process, sources say that in Wednesday’s meeting and in the coming weeks, Chris Hansen’s group will reveal that they have “very little chance” of opening an arena before the 2017-18 season due to expected challenges under environmental law.

Seattle and Hansen are expected to agree to proceed with an arena deal as early as January 2014, after a final environmental review is conducted.  It is at that time that they are expected to face significant challenges (lawsuits) to their environmental review over traffic and arena location.  Those lawsuits have no time limit to be heard within, so a one-year lawsuit would make it a race for Seattle to open for the 2017-18 season if arena construction takes two years.

Sacramento is on track to open an arena in the 2016-17 season, and has no significant legal opposition to its arena plan as of yet.  There was practically no opposition against the last Sacramento arena plan, although that plan never got into the details of design (where opposition to large developments often form, as it has in Seattle). Also, the Downtown Plaza site for Sacramento’s arena plan is favorably zoned in the eyes of both the city and the league.

Sources with knowledge of the NBA’s view have identified two main differences that define each city’s path to an arena.

The first is a difference in environmental laws that provides Sacramento with an ‘expedited process’ to address any environmental challenges made against their arena deal once an environmental review is complete.

California recently enacted law AB900 at the urging of AEG (which has plans for a football arena in downtown Los Angeles near Staples Center). That law limits environmental challenges to a 175-day time-frame following the approval of an environmental review. Because any challenge must be heard in an appellate court, with statutory directives designed to expedite a challenge, Sacramento has a key legal advantage in the race to build an arena.  Co-Author of the law and member of Sacramento’s arena task force Darrell Steinberg is expected to attend today’s meetings with the joint committees to answer any questions about how the law works.

Should the NBA’s BOG approve the sale of the Kings to Sacramento buyers, an environmental review lasting for one year would result in a construction start date of no later than November 2014 when considering the maximum 175 day review for any environmental challenges.

Because of the certainty the expedited review process provides, Sacramento can present a firm timeline to the league whereas Seattle’s environment laws have no time limit for challenges to be heard and any legal proceedings go through superior (lower) courtrooms.  The expedited process in California takes place in appellate courts, and also gives those courts additional tools to further expedite an arena deal.

The second difference is the amount of resistance the Seattle arena deal is currently facing and will continue to face until all environmental challenges are heard. There are already challenges under Washington environmental laws that will take anywhere from one year or more to resolve according to Peter Goldman, who is currently suing the city on behalf of the local Longshoreman’s union over traffic concerns and the lack of a viable alternative site analysis required under state environmental law. The union’s main concern is union jobs at the port, which it wants to see grow as trade along the Pacific rim grows.

The main issue for opponents of the arena deal is where the arena is being placed. Opponents contend that the stadium district that houses the two existing stadia for the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders is already congested with traffic that interferes with the Post of Seattle. They’re arguing that even with attempts to mitigate additional traffic issues, the development of an “L.A. Live-like facility” on top of the other stadiums is an issue that cannot necessarily be fixed.

Whether or not these opponents’ claims have merits, league sources expect Hansen to be forthcoming about the possibility that the challenges delay the opening of the new facility.

There has been Seattle-based talk about a pair of pro bono attorneys in Sacramento that have been pursuing a potential lawsuit demanding a voter referendum on the recently approved arena deal.  Those attorneys sent a copy of their ‘intent to commence action’ (a threat to file a lawsuit) to Seattle television stations on Tuesday.

The attorneys contend that Sacramento’s parking monetization plan is effectively a tax that needs to be voted upon by the public, but according to Sports Illustrated and NBA.com Legal Analyst Michael McCann, who has been following the Kings situation closely, he said that’s not likely to be the case.

“An administrative action like a parking monetization plan is not generally subject to referendum, but could be subject to an administrative review by a local agency such as the city treasurer or zoning board.”

Sacramento sources told PBT that they have “no concern about a referendum whatsoever.”

Three Things to Know: What you need to know about race for West play-in

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) What you need to know about race for West play-in

Four teams were alive in the chase for the final playoff spot in the West when they got out of bed Tuesday morning — Memphis, Portland, Phoenix, and San Antonio — and four were still alive when they went to bed Tuesday night.

But things looked very different by the end of the day. Portland — by virtue of a 61-point game by Damian Lillard, and helped by a Memphis loss — was the eighth seed and the team everyone else was chasing. The eighth seed has a huge advantage in the play-in series that is coming (it only has to win one of two games, the nine seed must sweep them both), and Portland had taken that away from Memphis. Still, nothing was secure yet.

Here are the play-in scenarios for each team (all four teams play Thursday).

Portland: Beat Brooklyn and the Trail Blazers are the eighth seed. It’s that simple. They control their own fate. If the Trail Blazers lose they only keep the eighth seed if everyone else loses. If Portland loses but two of the other three teams also lose, then the Blazers are the nine seed.

Memphis: Beat Milwaukee — who likely will be without Giannis Antetokounmpo after his headbutt of Moe Wagner — and Memphis can finish no worse than ninth. If the Grizzlies win and Trail Blazers lose, then Memphis regains the eighth seed. If the Grizzlies lose, they need both the Suns and Spurs to stay in the playoffs.

Phoenix: The Suns must beat the Mavericks to go 8-0 in the bubble, or they are out. And even going 8-0 may not be enough, Phoenix still needs Memphis and/or Portland to lose to move into either of the top two seeds (if both lose the Suns can be eight, just one and they finish ninth).

San Antonio: The Spurs must beat the Jazz to have any chance, lose and they are out. Even with a win San Antonio needs at least two of Portland/Memphis/Phoenix to lose to become the nine seed (if all three lose the Spurs can be the eighth seed, but that is a longshot).

2) Damian Lillard ties career-high 61 to will Portland to critical win

Paul George and Patrick Beverley talked smack from the bench, and it made Damian Lillard mad. You wouldn’t like Lillard when he’s mad…

If you’re an opponent. For the rest of us, it’s pure basketball joy. In the two games since the Clippers ran their mouths in a win, Lillard has scored 112 points on 55% shooting (hitting 33-of-34 free throws) and willing Portland to two wins and the eighth seed. On Tuesday, Lillard dropped 61 on Dallas.

You had better respect his f****** name and his game.

3) Devin Booker should be the bubble MVP, drops 35 to keep bubble Suns perfect

The NBA is giving out awards for the bubble — an NBA Player of the Seeding Games and NBA All-Seeding Games Team — and Devin Booker is going to pick up some hardware. Or should, at least.

The Suns remained perfect at 7-0 in the bubble on Tuesday beating what’s left of Philadelphia 130-117 behind 35 from Booker.

Booker has craved respect he feels he hasn’t gotten up to this point, mostly because the Suns’ teams he has been on are terrible (and the defensive issues of those teams fall partly on him, although there is much more at play as well). In the bubble, he has earned that respect.

Respect alone won’t get the Suns into the play-in series, another win won’t even do that (as noted above, the Suns still need help even with a win). But the respect is there, and that is something.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.