Report: Maloofs want NHL or MLB team, so they will sell to Sacramento if Seattle deal dies

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The Maloof family — the owners of the Sacramento Kings still — were in the room with the Seattle group trying to buy the team when they made their pitch to a committee of owners last week. How much that really helped the Seattle group is up for debate — the one thing everybody on both sides of this debate agree on is they are sick of the Maloofs.

Next Thursday and Friday in New York the NBA owners (officially as a group called the Board of Governors) will meet in New York and among the topics to be discussed is whether to approve a sale of the Kings to a group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer — wealthy guys with a plan to move the team to Seattle starting next season and build a new arena.

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson put together a counter offer with billionaire money (Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov, and Paul Jacobs) and a stadium plan of its own to get built near downtown Sacramento. It’s the kind of offer the NBA and other professional sports leagues want to see from cities with teams — a lot of public money and community support rallied around the franchise.

Anybody who tells you they know for sure what the owners will do next week is a fool — nobody is certain on this. But read the tea leaves and it seems Sacramento may have the eight votes they need to block the sale to the Seattle group.

And if that happens, as we have said before would likely happen, the Maloofs will sell to the Sacramento group.

This is confirmed by a new report in the Sacramento Bee — but it is the reasoning that is new. And kind of funny.

They want their money and they want to pursue another professional sports franchise in Major League Baseball or the NHL, hence their 5 p.m. deadline today for the Sacramento-based investors to submit a written matching offer for the Kings….

On Thursday, sources close to the Maloofs said that if the Sacramento group submits a matching offer that satisfies the league’s other owners, they will embrace an outcome that keeps the Kings in Sacramento.

To be up front, PBT never reported on the Friday deadline before now because it’s meaningless. It’s just the Maloofs trying to assert some control over a situation where they have no control. If Seattle is rejected the Maloofs only options are to sell to the Sacramento group or hold on to the team. So they will deal with Sacramento. And a deal will get done. The deadline is moot.

But let’s get to the key point — the Maloofs don’t want to hold on to a team because the guys too poor to field a quality NBA team want into the NHL business? Or the MLB business?

The Maloofs have met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and have for months looked into buying a hockey franchise, with Las Vegas among the possible destinations. Their interests also have expanded and included opportunities in Major League Baseball.

I know how popular Bettman is among hockey fans, what they think of his intelligence, but even then he is too smart to get into bed with the Maloofs. Right? Same with Bud Selig. Right?

The NBA owners do not have an easy choice next week — these are two good offers before them. Seattle is a bigger, wealthier market and its owners define the words “deep pockets.” But for a league that will go to more than a dozen cities in the next 12 years and say “you need to help us out with arena upgrades/a new arena” to walk away from a city that did everything a league could ask sets a bad precedent. The owners will ultimately vote what they think is best for their own pocketbooks long term. But nobody knows for sure what that choice will be.

One way or another, a week from now we should know the fate of the Kings. And then maybe this franchise and its fans can move on to the next step.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.