NBA AM: Is Sacramento Losing The Kings?
The Return of The Sonics: The Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings, have reached an agreement to sell the team to hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who will apply to relocate the franchise to Seattle starting next season.
The agreed deal sets the franchise value at $525 million; however, Hansen and Ballmer will only be purchasing 65 percent of the team for roughly $340 million. The deal does require approval by the NBA Board of Governors, which is often considered a formality at this level, with reports already surfacing that the NBA Relocation Committee will endorse a move back to Seattle in their recommendation to the Board.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has agreed to let Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson make his counteroffer for the team to remain in Sacramento to the Board in a last ditch effort to keep the team in Sacramento.
According to reports, the Maloof family will keep a small portion of the team, but will have no operational authority over the franchise.
Hansen and Ballmer will also seek to rename the team back to the Seattle Supersonics. The City of Seattle won the right to keep the name, the logo and the color scheme of the team when they lost their team to Oklahoma City, which eventually became The Thunder.
Both sides are expected to finally acknowledge the agreement, which both sides have refused to comment on over the past few weeks as details of this sale leaked through the press.
Sources close to the situation say that current Kings President and General Manager Geoff Petrie will not be retained beyond this year and that any franchise alerting transactions or trades have been tabled during this process.
Early reports peg former Lakers coach Phil Jackson as one of the names Hansen and Ballmer plan to tap as part of a front office revamp. Spurs’ GM RC Buford and former Pacer executive Larry Bird have also been mentioned in connection with the new Sonics ownership group.
You can expect plenty of speculation regarding the structure of a new team in Seattle, however, league sources warn that nothing can be done until the Board of Governors approves this deal and that tends to take a substantial amount of time.
The Maloof family can and likely will move forward with whatever the Seattle group is asking for. They are expected to receive a $30 million non–refundable deposit on February 1st.
Hansen and Ballmer’s plan is for the Kings/Sonics to play the next two seasons in Key Arena and the move to the $450 million arena Hansen has agreed to build in Seattle.
Hibbert Ready For Second Half Run: Pacers’ big man Roy Hibbert has seen his game drop off this year, however, he’s watched as his teammates notably Paul George and David West have picked up the slack.
Hibbert talked with HOOPSWORLD about where the Pacers stand, how they’ll integrate Danny Granger and why Paul George owes him the credit for George’s breakout year.
Memphis, Rudy and Zach: There has been a lot of speculation about the Memphis Grizzlies and their quest to get below the luxury tax line.
The Grizzlies are currently sitting on $74.153 million in salaries this season. putting them $3.846 million over the $70.307 million luxury tax line.
Like most teams at this time of year the Grizzlies have been gauging what some of their assets would return in trade and the biggest has been small forward Rudy Gay. Slated to earn $16.46 million this year with two more seasons worth $37.20 million left on his deal, Gay is viewed in most circles as the disposable piece.
Several teams have expressed interest in Gay, however, sources in and around those teams either deny the packages they have been linked to, or they have turned away offers altogether. There appears to be no shortage of interested suitors, however, none of them seem to be willing to give Memphis the kind of package they are seeking in exchange for Gay.
The Grizzlies are not looking to make a cash dump and they are not looking to fire sale the team. They are however concerned about the escalating luxury tax that kicks in next year and the repeat tax offender clause that could multiple tax costs down the road.
They also view themselves as contenders now.
So the trick of the trade is how do you shed some salary now, set yourself up smartly for the future and add the kinds of pieces it will take to contend in a playoff series this year with the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and the LA Clippers?
There was a belief that moving Gay could achieve all of those things in one action; however, it seems there just isn’t a deal yet Memphis would move on.
Enter Zach Randolph.
More than a few league sources peg Randolph as the easier chip to move. Randolph is owed $16.5 million this season and has two more seasons worth $34.3 million left on his deal. Zach is more effective than Gay and actually clocks in cheaper. The problem is Memphis really does not want to move Randolph and denies having any level of discussions regarding him.
HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy tweeted out some news regarding this situation yesterday, as league sources told him that Gay was not likely going anywhere and if anyone was leaving it was Randolph and Houston was the prime suitor.
Grizzlies sources deny any discussions with Houston regarding Randolph, however more than a few Houston sources peg Randolph as the only Grizzlies’ player they’d have interest in when asked about their reported interest in Gay.
The Grizzlies don’t have to move either player to avoid the luxury tax this year, moving off Marreese Speights and his $4 million contract achieves that and helps towards next year’s tax bill too.
So while the Grizzlies are clearly gauging their options, this perception that Memphis has to move Gay is misplaced as is the belief that Memphis is ready to part with Randolph.
Of the two Randolph is easier to move, but that’s does not mean Memphis is ready to pull the trigger on anything at this point. Like most teams in the NBA they are gauging their options and looking for the perfect storm deal that sets them up for the future without tearing apart their present.
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The Bobcats and Their Urgency: The Charlotte Bobcats have a roster loaded with tradable assets and normally the Bobcats shy away from publicly pronouncing their interest in making a deal. This season it seems the Bobcats want the world, or at least their fans to know that they are not accepting the status quo and are open for business.
“We’re very active – our owner wants us to be active,” Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
Higgins’ team has been engaged on a number of fronts, but sources close to the process warn that money and large salaries are still going to be a problem for the Bobcats.
The Bobcats have been preaching patience with their growth, scrapping an overpriced borderline playoff squad in favor of a rebuild through the draft.
General Manager Rich Cho who was part of the Thunders’ rebuilding process believes that the process will take time.
“The plan hasn’t changed: Acquire assets and build through the draft,” Cho said to the Observer. “Then you add in trades and free agency.”
The Bobcats have a number of ending contracts or contracts due to hit restricted free agency. The biggest is swingman Gerald Henderson, who has been playing very well as of late averaging 13.8 points on 50 percent field goal shooting, and is due for his free agent payday and might be priced out of Charlotte’s budget.
Forward Hakim Warrick is slated to earn $4 million this season but has $4 million non-guaranteed next season.
DeSagana Diop is finally coming to the end of his deal and is owed $7.37 million; however, Charlotte will have paid 70 percent of that at the trade deadline.
Warrick, Henderson and Diop combined create an interesting trade package worth more than $14.4 million, so it’s not as though Charlotte doesn’t have the ability to make a major deal if they choose to.
The Bobcats caution that they are not looking for a “hard right” turn in their approach to building the Bobcats, but they are making it clear at 10-30 they are open for business.
“We’re not afraid to trade,” Higgins concluded. “We know this model exists and we’re a young team. But by the same token, we’re not afraid to trade.”
The 2012-2013 NBA Trade Deadline is set for February 21st at 3pm EST.
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