The five most interesting stories, rumors and notes in the NBA:
1. A tale of two cities: It’s not often that a news report– an unconfirmed one, based on unnamed sources — creates the kind of ripples around the NBA like yesterday’s story that the Sacramento Kings are close to being sold and moved to Seattle.
As the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta reports, officials in Seattle and Sacramento seemed in the dark about the sale, which according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarwoski would carry a record $500 million price tag and transfer ownership from the Maloof family to a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen.
The reaction among the Trail Blazers – excitement about a possible return of the I-5 rivalry, mixed with sadness about the loss of once-exciting Sacramento — mirrored the reaction around the league.
In Denver, Nuggets coach George Karl – who coached the SuperSonics to the NBA Finals — said: “I’m not going to lie, I’m happy that Seattle is going to have a team…but
I am disappointed that Sacramento can’t keep their team,” the Denver Post reports.
In Charlotte, where Utah played last night, Jazz guard Earl Watson recalled the emotions he went through when the Sonics bolted for Oklahoma City in 2008, the Deseret News reports.
“To watch them leave was hard, to be a part of that was hard,” said Watson, who played on the final Seattle and first OKC teams. “The city definitely deserves a team. The city
definitely loves sports, great fans, I think some of the best fans in
Rockets center Greg Smith, who grew up near Sacramento, tells the Houston Chronicle the move would be tough. “It’s going to hurt,” he said. “In Sacramento, you always had the Kings. They’ve been there your whole life. Going to Seattle is tough.”
In Oklahoma City, Thunder big man Nick Collison, one of two current OKC players who made the move from Seattle (along with Kevin Durant), tells the Oklahoman that he’s taking a wait-and-see approach, but, “If it happens, I’ll be happy for Seattle fans and feel for Sacramento
fans, because I’ve seen first-hand how hard it is for fans to lose a
team. If we go there, it’ll be fun for me to see some old friends, but
it definitely probably would be a weird feeling.”
The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry points out something that could make Seattleites shudder. The move would have to be approved by the NBA relocation committee, which is chaired by Thunder owner Clay Bennett, the man most responsible for the Sonics’ move to OKC.
Seattle fans, of course, despise Bennett. But how do they feel about potentially taking another city’s team? The Seattle Times is running a poll asking respondents if they would feel “guilty about swiping the Kings,” and of the three answers, “No, not at all” is leading at 44 percent, followed by “Yes, I’d feel Sacramento’s pain” (31 percent) and “Yes, but only a little” (25 percent).
2. Meanwhile, in Sacramento … The Kings have two players for whom a move to Seattle would be a homecoming — guards Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Thomas. But the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Kawahara reports that the Kings did not make Brooks and Thomas available to the media yesterday. Maybe they had dental appointments.
But would the Kings be available to a different buyer willing to keep the team in Sacramento? Bee columnist Ailene Voisin writes that the negotiations with Hansen’s group show that the Maloofs are willing to sell, something they’ve insisted they don’t want to do, so they owe it to Sacramento to give the city “a chance to cobble together a competitive bid.”
Is there a White Knight who could save the day for Sac? Mayor Kevin Johnson, in a news conference, said he has remained in contact with billionaire Ron Burkle, who has previously been identified as a possible buyer who could keep the team in place.
However, Voisin points out that there is bad blood between the Maloofs and Burkle that could keep a sale to him from happening.
3. The Heat is on: Tonight’s TNT game at the Rose Garden could be a big turning point in the season … for the Heat.
Wait .. .what?
The game between the Blazers and Heat begins a tough stretch for Portland, the first of a back-to-back that includes a game Friday at Golden State, and is followed by a home matchup against Oklahoma City.
But the Heat are the ones whose season could turn? Apparently so. The Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick writes that the Heat are facing a “pivot point” in the season after a stretch in which they have lost four of their last seven games.
Sure, Miami (23-10) still has the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Heat have been getting pounded on the board, getting outrebounded in five of their last seven games — including by 17 against Orlando, 20 against Chicago and 19 against Indiana.
Miami’s top post player, Chris Bosh, is averaging 7.6 rebounds, which would be his worst average since his rookie season, and hasn’t had a double-digit rebounding game since Dec. 12. That led to a weird exchange with media members after Miami’s practice at the Rose Garden yesterday, when Bosh said he would support coach Erik Spoelstra if Spoelstra gave his playing time to another player.
just showing how much invested I am into it,” Bosh said. “We want the
best rebounders out there on the court. To say, if I’m lacking on my
job, and if it’s not me, and if I’m not a good rebounder out there, if
I’m not what this team needs, then maybe I need to sit and learn some
more, or maybe somebody else needs to play more. That’s just a figure of
speech; you know what I mean.”
4. Point of yes return: That Miami could be struggling so much on the boards but still be on top of its conference shows that the East is a little flat right now, with the Heat and Knicks clearly on top, but the other potential playoff teams jumbled below them.
But Boston and Indiana are starting to make some noise, and there’s one other factor that could infuse some life back into the East: Derrick Rose.
Rose has started dunking and shooting jumpers in practice as he continues to take big steps in his return from May knee surgery, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley reports
Chicago (19-14) has done a nice job staying afloat without the former MVP, but it remains unclear when Rose will actually play in a game, ESPNChicago.com’s Jon Greenberg reports. Greenberg notes that guesses put the date in the late-February to March range.
5. Ah, etiquette: Remember in November, when the Blazers’ Damian Lillard drew the ire of the Bulls after he dunked with 1.9 seconds left at the end of Portland’s win at the Rose Garden?
Rookie mistake, right? After all, it takes time to learn that there’s an unwritten etiquette that says when you have victory wrapped up, you’re supposed to dribble out the clock and not show up the other team.
But Toronto’s Jose Calderon and Landry Fields are hardly rookies. Last night, they hooked up for an alley-oop dunk with 15.6 seconds left in Toronto’s 90-72 home win over Philadelphia.
The play apparently upset the 76ers, who exchanged “heated words” with some of the Raptors in the hallway right after the game, the Philadelphia Daily News’ Bob Cooney reports.
According to Cooney, both Calderon and Fields wanted to apologize for the play, although according to the play-by-play, there should have been three or four seconds left on the shot clock.
More likely, it was a classic case of misplaced anger by the 76ers, who lost their fifth game in a row.
NOTE: The NBA High-5 will return next week.