First Cup: Thursday

  • Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times: The day began with a tweet, was fueled by a fast-spreading media report and ended with rumors and reaction. But by the end of the day, nobody seemed to know the fate of basketball in Seattle or Sacramento. The two cities reacted very differently Wednesday to swirling rumors that a group from Seattle is negotiating to buy the NBA's Sacramento Kings. In Seattle, there was excitement that the NBA might return after its exit five years ago. In Sacramento, there was despair among fans and defiance from public officials, punctuated by Mayor Kevin Johnson vowing to fight to keep the team in town. "It's a significant day for the community because it appears it's the first day that the Sacramento Kings are for sale," Johnson said at a news conference. … Johnson made it clear he believes it's unlikely the Maloofs — who bought the team in 1998 for $156 million — will themselves keep it in Sacramento.

  • Editorial Board of The Sacramento Bee: Do the Maloofs really want to go down in history as the ones who took the Kings from Sacramento? They apparently are in talks to sell the team to a group led by billionaire Chris Hansen, who would move it to Seattle. According to some media reports Wednesday, a $500 million deal is close. If that's true, the very least the Maloofs can do is allow time for a bid from ownership groups who would keep the team in Sacramento. The other Kings owners – who control 47 percent of the team – need to push in that direction. It is also way past time for the Maloofs, who previously insisted they had no plans to sell the team, to make a clear statement of their intentions. Their stock answer to any question – their PR people say the team won't comment on "rumors or speculation" – is disrespectful to city leaders and long-suffering fans, who deserve far better.

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: If ever there was a time for a financial white knight to make an appearance, bathed in the purple and black splendor of the region's only major professional sports franchise, this is it. One last shot.One last gasp. One more dance. If Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are finally willing to sell their NBA franchise – buckling under the financial burden that has been building since the housing bust – they owe Sacramento a chance to cobble together a competitive bid. Downtown. The railyard. The K Street Mall. The current location in Natomas. Who cares where the cement is dumped if the franchise is still around to tease and torment, to provoke endless conversations about DeMarcus Cousins and his maturity issues, Tyreke Evans and his injuries, Jimmer Fredette and his slump, Geoff Petrie and the loss of his golden touch? The Maloofs owe us that much. Commissioner David Stern and his board of governors owe us that much. NBA history teaches us that this community is something special, that sellout streaks outlast losing streaks, withstand economic downturns, overcome crappy teams and lousy coaching and Game 7 heartbreak except when threats of relocation extend into a second, excruciating decade.

  • Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: Whether the Kings ultimately move or stay, it's time that Sacramento embraces an undeniable truth: None of the turmoil surrounding the team is the fault of this community. It's all on the owners, the Maloofs. It's their doing, their failures, their dysfunction and their unbelievable gall. Mayor Kevin Johnson called their bluff Wednesday, saying he will try to find an ownership group to buy the team and keep it in town now that the Maloofs are clearly open to selling. These guys have been looking for an obscene deal for years, and the one positive about Wednesday is they can't deny it any longer. The jig is up. So long, boys. It hasn't been nice knowing you.

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: According to the report, the Sacramento Kings owners, the Maloof family, is close to an agreement to sell the team to an ownership group that plans to move the team to Seattle as early as next season. And that would make Nuggets coach George Karl, an ardent fan of Seattle, very, very happy. When the SuperSonics were uprooted and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, Karl, who spent seven years of his career coaching that team, said, “It killed me. It happened so quick.” And yet as much as he loves Seattle he doesn’t however, overstate Seattle’s worth as a basketball city. “I think it’s a great sports city,” Karl said. “I think it has an East Coast feel. I think sports is always going to be (secondary) because Seattle is a little bit of an individual city – outdoors and entrepreneurs. There’s just a lot of mental action there. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be a great sports city because of that. They have a lot of things on Saturdays and Sundays.” As for Sacramento, Karl said “in the same sense there’s a part of me that’s disappointed because I think Sacramento, I’ve enjoyed my times in Sacramento.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Wednesday's NBA news du jour about the Kings' possible relocation from Sacramento to Seattle brought back childhood memories for two Utah Jazz players on the other side of the country. Earl Watson remembered one of the few times he shed tears as a basketball fan. Marvin Williams recalled growing up wanting to play for the Seattle SuperSonics. Though the move isn't a done deal yet, both players are optimistically cautious that their friends, family and acquaintances in the Emerald City will no longer be NBA-less in Seattle. "I got a few texts about it this afternoon," Williams said before Wednesday's 112-102 Jazz win over the Bobcats. "I'm not going to get my hopes up yet. … It sounds like it's pretty promising, but I've got to wait to see."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Growing up in Vallejo, Calif., and then Fresno, Greg Smith was surrounded by fans of the Sacramento Kings, including many of his closest friends, so much so that even without sharing their affection for the local team he still felt their pain with the news Wednesday that the Kings appear headed to Seattle after a sale of the team. “It’s just tough,” Smith said. “They’ve been there so long. It’s going to hurt. In Sacramento, you always had the Kings. They’ve been there your whole life. Going to Seattle is tough. I don’t know the details, why management needs to do that. But it’s going to hurt.”

  • Darnell Mayberry of the The Oklahoman: So how does the possibility of basketball being back in Seattle affect the Thunder? Thunder chairman Clay Bennett in April 2011 was appointed chairman of the relocation committee. He's joined by Miami owner Micky Arison, Indiana owner Herb Simon, Philadelphia owner Ed Snider, San Antonio owner Peter Holt, Utah owner Greg Miller and Minnesota owner Glen Taylor. In order for the Kings to move to Seattle, the franchise must first gain approval from Bennett and the board. In other words, the man who was reviled for “ripping the Sonics from Seattle,” is now one of the men in charge of returning the NBA to the city. If Seattle acquired another NBA team through relocation or expansion by 2013, the Thunder would have had to pay the city of Seattle $30 million as part of the settlement between the two sides. But another stipulation precludes the Thunder from making that payment even if the Kings relocate to Seattle. The Washington state legislature would have had to authorize $75 million in funding for Seattle's KeyArena by the end of 2009 in order for the Thunder to be on the hook for that payment. That did not happen. So even if the Kings move this summer, the Thunder's ownership group will retain a $30 million payment that would have gone to the city of Seattle.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: He may have tweaked Carmelo Anthony’s composure with some choice comments, but when asked about the Knicks forward’s one-game suspension last night, Kevin Garnett cut short his postgame press session. “Ya’ll have a good night,” the Celtics forward, with a slight smile, said on his way out of the locker room. Other Celtics were more outwardly intrigued. Rajon Rondo had just finished joking about being suspended for hanging up on an NBA investigator when it was mentioned that Anthony had been given the same penalty by the league for attempting to stalk Garnett outside the Celtics locker room and team bus Monday night. “Oh, my goodness, so that’s the same thing, huh?” the Celtics guard said, comparing his penalty to that of the Knicks forward. … Rondo then added as another joke, “Just because I get suspended doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. Why can’t I be a peacemaker?” In a more serious vein, Doc Rivers said Anthony should have been fined, not suspended.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "It's funny how business works," Nowitzki conceded. Funny indeed. But when you think about it, if your aim is brilliance it takes a fair share of crazy to get there. And when you stop laughing at the thought of Nowitzki playing for the Lakers and start thinking about how much sense it makes for everyone involved, the unimaginable actually becomes plausible. How, you ask? By trading Dwight Howard to the Mavericks for Nowitzki. By rolling the dice on Nowitzki paired with Nash paired with Kobe Bryant paired with Pau Gasol creating the kind of perfect amalgamation for D'Antoni's system. By understanding that combination gives the Lakers a better chance to compete for a championship over the next two years, not the team we see flailing about with mismatched parts trying to fit into a system it's not built to succeed in. And by accepting you're going to have to blow things up in two years anyway, and with Gasol and Bryant and Nowitzki's contracts all expiring after the 2014 season the Lakers will go into that summer with enough cap space to add at least two dynamic young stars. … I know it sounds crazy, right? But the NBA is where crazy happens these days, and unless you're willing to think outside the box and act decisively, you're putting yourself at risk against your fast-thinking, fast-acting competition.

  • Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star: Ahead of Wednesday’s press conference, Tom Anselmi gave Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo the head’s up – there would be a second house cleaning in as many days at an MLSE franchise. … When they start clearing out cubicles at any business, a tremor goes through the herd. If Colangelo’s worried about showing up at the office to find his desktop photos piled in a cardboard box, it doesn’t show. He was stretched out courtside during pre-game, shaking hands, looking as relaxed as a new hire. “I’ve learned you can never operate out of fear,” Colangelo said. “I am unaffected by this.” … Colangelo is in the last year of his three-year deal, with a team option for a further year in 2013-14. That’s still up in the air. “I’ve never brought up my situation (to ownership). It’s never been brought up to me,” Colangelo said, shrugging. What’s the promise going forward? Colangelo isn’t offering one. “A successful year would be making sure we take another step forward in the process of building a basketball team.” The opaque nature of that statement gives you some idea why Bryan Colangelo has a job, and why Brian Burke is looking for one.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It is hyperbole to suggest the Heat’s season is at stake at this stage, not while atop the Eastern Conference, not with memories of greater challenges fresh. Yet while this isn’t a panic point, it could be a pivot point. It is reasonable to be concerned about the Heat’s difficulty in reversing recent trends, notably those related to rebounding, with Indiana becoming the latest to bully Miami on the boards. It is worth monitoring how tightly the Heat stick together, considering Bosh’s comments after the latest struggle.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: According to those inside the Blazers’ locker room, Aldridge isn’t just making a case to be an All-Star for the second consecutive season. That, they say, is a no-brainer. Even more, he’s making a case that he’s the best power forward in the NBA. Aldridge is averaging 20.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, and is the highest-scoring power forward in the league. He is one of two players who have recorded at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in three different games this season. The other is LeBron James. And Aldridge is one of four players who are averaging at least 20 points and eight rebounds per game. The others are James, Kevin Durant and David Lee. “That’s pretty select company,” Stotts said. “That kind of speaks for itself.” In many ways, it might have to. Aldridge is a guarded and understated person who refuses to let too many inside his inner circle. Even on this year’s team, which is close and cohesive, he’s a loner who kind of does his own thing. … The Blazers (19-15) are having a surprisingly successful season and, as players such as Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki battle injuries and ineffectiveness, Aldridge is emerging as the best power forward in the NBA — even if few are noticing.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The injuries are piling up for the 30-year-old Varejao: He had ankle surgery in 2010-11, which caused him to miss 51 games. He had a fractured wrist in 2011-12, which caused him to miss 41 games. Knee surgery will sideline him until March. He's missed the last 11 games. At the time of his injury, he was leading the NBA in rebounding at 14.4 per game. Varejao was also averaging 14.1 points and shooting 47.8 percent from the field. He plays with such reckless abandon, it's difficult to keep him healthy. "That's how I play," he said. "That's how I help this team. This was a bad hit. He caught my knee in the right spot. I hope I don't hurt it anymore." Scott said injuries are a part of the game, especially with Varejao. "I don't know if you can stop him from getting hurt," Scott said. "It's freaky injuries." Varejao expects to play again this season.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: New Bucks coach Jim Boylan admitted it has been a whirlwind for him since he was named to replace Scott Skiles as coach late Monday. The Bucks won in his Milwaukee head coaching debut on Tuesday night, beating the Phoenix Suns, 108-99. Then it was a quick flight to Midway Airport in Chicago and a date against Bulls on Wednesday night. "No time to catch your breath," Boylan said. "Just keep on rolling, that's all." And the Bucks did with a 104-96 victory over the Bulls as they blocked a season-high 15 shots, outrebounded the Bulls, 48-45, and hit 10 of 22 three-point tries. Boylan said he is still getting around to talking individually with all the players but will use Thursday's practice day to chat with a few more members of the team.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The 3-pointer is the most potent weapon in basketball. And the key to being a good 3-point shooting team is simple. "Have people who shoot the ball well," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If Chris Mullin is on your team, you're going to have a better 3-point shooting team than if I'm on the team." Popovich then, tongue-in-cheek, said the NBA should abolish the 3-point shot. "It's not real basketball," he said. "Get rid of it and let's play basketball again. "But it's there, and everybody's getting real good." … The 3-point line is 22 feet in the corners and 23 feet, 9 inches elsewhere behind the arc. It's almost become the same as a regular jump shot for some players, which is why there have been discussions about moving the 3-point line back a bit. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, however, doesn't believe that will happen anytime soon. "There's been talk in the past of making the court bigger [in order to move the 3-point line back farther], but you just simply cannot do it because of the limitations on the sizes of the arenas," Carlisle said. "And there's a lack of complete uniformity from arena to arena as well.”

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall has been wearing Adidas sneakers in practice this week as he prepares to make his season debut on Saturday after missing the first 33 games with a stress injury in his left knee. After practice, Wall left the impression that nothing is settled with regards to his footwear going forward. “I may try a couple” different shoes, Wall said. “I’m on display again.” But only a few hours later, Adidas issued a statement announcing a new partnership with Wall and Reebok also issued a statement that confirmed his split from the brand that used Wall as its primary basketball spokesperson the past 2½ years.