The prospect of again spurning the city of Seattle makes commissioner David Stern uncomfortable. And the prospect of pulling the Kings out of Sacramento after nearly three decades, and a local financial commitment for a new arena, also makes him uneasy.
If Stern believed he was going to walk off quietly with his planned February 2014 retirement, he was mistaken. The decision on where the Kings end up could determine part of Stern’s legacy, especially in the Pacific Northwest. While the decision on whether they remain in Sacramento or relocate to Seattle is ultimately up to the Board of Governors, the NBA fate of two cities will be decided on Stern’s watch.
Stern is attempting to steer responsibility toward the Board of Governors, but along with deputy commissioner Adam Silver, he will definitely have a say. And the presentations from the Seattle-based group led by Chris Hansen, and the Sacramento group spearheaded by former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson, the city’s mayor, didn’t make the decision easier.
Both presentations were impressive, with the Sacramento group answering the biggest question, whether it had enough financial backing to purchase the team from the Maloof brothers and also build a new arena.
“There’s no question that Seattle is a vibrant and thriving market with plans for a great building, and Sacramento has been a great and supportive market of the NBA with plans for a new building,” said Stern. “And so we need to flesh out for the owners, every owner seems to have a different question, but we’ve got a fair amount of work to do.”
Stern would love to leave the decision up to the Relocation Committee, but many fans and Seattle officials believe Stern was instrumental in facilitating the SuperSonics’ move to Oklahoma City in 2008, paying back Thunder owner Clayton Bennett for housing the displaced New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.
Stern was asked whether he would influence the decision. He offered a convoluted response.
“This one is so weighty, and each of the owners understands that. I’ve never seen quite the commitment that is now evident for all members of the committee to get on top of this, and they’re all going to wind up having, I think, their own opinion,” he said. “Our job here is to just lay out the considerations and make sure that they touch on everything. We have a constitutionally mandated Article 7 analysis that we have. We have a request for a transfer. It is just more complex. We’ve never had a situation like this, and my role, I view it here, is to make sure that they focus on the issues.
“And the seriousness of purpose to me is really incredible, because they know that there’s a lot at stake here for two communities and the NBA. And I don’t think they need to be influenced or want to be influenced at this point.”
Johnson, meanwhile, introduced a prospective new owner in Vivek Ranadive, who was a minority owner of the Warriors. His involvement could encourage the Board of Governors and Relocation Committee to take Sacramento’s bid more sincerely.
“I think it was pretty simple,” Johnson said. “They felt that the Seattle group before us laid out their case and claim for why they thought Seattle was the best market and where the team should end up, and we got a chance to lay out our case, which I happen to believe was more compelling, even though I wasn’t in their room, and feel very confident about our team. And the NBA said both sides did a good job, and they’re going to continue to deliberate and ask questions. I’m sure there will be some more follow-up and due diligence, but that’s really for the NBA to ultimately decide.”
Johnson made sure not to bad-mouth Seattle, but wanted to offer the perception that the NBA approving relocation would rip a team away from a city that’s done everything the league has requested to secure it.
“I was very clear on the front end that we don’t have anything to disparage and say about Seattle,” he said. “It’s a great city and has a great legacy, and we wish Chris Hansen the best. I think they deserve to have an NBA team, just not our team.
“We said we had a vision for this community, we stuck to it, we defied the odds, we did everything that was asked of us and more. What more can you ask from a city and a community than what we’ve done and what we’ve delivered? And we think we’re setting a good precedent for what a city should do. We felt it was incumbent upon us as a city to deliver a public investment to keep an arena there. We felt it was incumbent upon us as a city to have a community of owners.”
Johnson is convinced he organized Sacramento’s best shot at retaining the Kings, and he may have scored his most important basket.
Ware could be as good as new
As catastrophic and nauseating as Kevin Ware’s broken right leg appeared on national television during Louisville’s victory over Duke in the East Regional final, an expert in the field of fractures and dislocations of bones, and upper and lower extremities, said the Cardinals guard could regain full health.
Ware was diagnosed with fractures of the tibia and fibula, and doctors inserted a rod to stabilize the leg, and treated the wound caused by the bone puncturing the skin to prevent bacteria and infection. New York-based doctor David Helfet, director of the orthopaedic trauma service at the Hospital for Special Surgery and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said Ware’s injury was likely caused by an issue with the bones before the play occurred.
“For a young guy of that age, pounding as much as he does, for his leg to break like it broke, would suggest 99 percent of time, that there was some weakness in the bone that allowed that to be the weak link in the system,” Helfet said. “If you were a betting man, you would bet that this was due to some underlying reason in the bone. There was repetitive stress there and a little area of weakness.
“Usually if it’s rare, there’s a reason for it to happen. It’s just not in the usual turmoil of basketball, otherwise it would happen more often.”
As for long-term damage, Helfet said there is no comparison between a broken leg and ligament and cartilage damage.
“Actually, I think if it was my son and the option was you had to dislocate your knee and sustain some muscle and ligament injuries in your knee or break your leg like this, I would sign up my kid 100 times for this [leg] injury rather than a complex knee ligament injury,” Helfet said. “While this injury looks gruesome, the bone heals. The bone heals completely. [The doctors in Indianapolis] did all the right things. They took him immediately to the operating room, they washed it out. The only downside to this injury long term is if it gets infected.
“A young kid like this, clean break like he had, good nutrition, strength, the odds are it will not get infected. The odds are it will heal so well you won’t notice it was broken a year from now. The bone could be as strong as it ever was before, and if it was some kind of defect, it will be stronger than it was before.”
Helfet said basketball players are obviously more at risk for ligament injuries because of all the jumping, but he didn’t think Ware’s injury should deter those who want to pursue the sport.
“If I was counseling mothers who have kids playing in high school or college playing basketball, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “The potential for this to happen is so rare that you would do more harm than good, creating a new crisis here.”
Helfet said there is no question Ware can continue his playing career if he doesn’t experience complications.
“I would think in about four months he could run,” Helfet said. “In about six months he could be in a physical contact situation. I don’t think there’s any question [he could play next season].”
Drummond a big score
Safe to say the Pistons scored by selecting Andre Drummond, who entered last year’s draft as a giant mystery after one uneven season at the University of Connecticut. Drummond entered Saturday averaging 7.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in just 19.8 minutes. While he has been jeered as one of the league’s worst free throw shooters (33.9 percent), he has made a smooth transition to the NBA.
At 7 feet and 270 pounds, Drummond has the athleticism and instincts to become a dominant defensive player. And he has respectable offensive skills to at least be a threat around the basket. Drummond doesn’t turn 20 until August, and he has the potential to develop into one of the game’s elite centers.
“Andre has been outstanding,” said coach Lawrence Frank. “He came in there and you hear all the stuff that people say and all of it was totally off base. He’s a terrific kid. He’s got a great spirit about him, very high character. He’s very coachable, brings a very unique skill set. If he continues on the track that he’s at, he can do really special things.”
Drummond is a classic man-child. He looks much older than his 19 years and has impressed team officials with his work ethic. If he did come into his rookie season fueled by naysayers who questioned his decision to enter the draft, Drummond doesn’t show it.
“Never satisfied. I shocked a lot of people but that was not my goal, to surprise people,” he said. “I wanted to play the game I love. I’m not here to prove anybody wrong. I’m here to play basketball.”
Like his team and many NBA observers, Drummond was unsure how he would fare during his rookie season. The Pistons easily could have shelved Drummond, as the Celtics have done with Fab Melo, allowing him to gain experience in the Development League, but he possessed enough skills to become an immediate asset off the bench.
“It took this year for me to get more confident in myself as a player,” he said. “A lot of different things happened throughout the year with my injury. The way I have been playing has been great, so of course my confidence is going to build up. I feel a lot more confident than I did at the beginning of the year.”
In 13 games in January, Drummond averaged 8.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.1 blocked shots in just 22 minutes, but a stress fracture in his lower back cost him 22 games, at a point when he was about to break into the starting lineup and form an imposing frontcourt tandem with power forward Greg Monroe.
“It definitely was tough, I never missed a game or a practice in my life,” Drummond said. “Being off for six, seven weeks has been tough. But the support staff and my teammates have made sure I haven’t missed a beat.”
Despite a 25-51 record entering Saturday night’s game, there is hope for the Pistons. They have some young pieces, as well as salary-cap space. With Monroe’s scoring and Drummond’s defense, the Pistons should eventually at least break even in most games in terms of power forward and center matchups.
“Next year, we’re going to do a lot better,” Drummond said. “We have our pieces to the puzzle now. I feel that we’re going to do great. Facing the last couple of games in the starting lineup with Greg has been great. Of course, it’s going to be a little shaky because we haven’t played with each other that much this year, but we showed sparks of what type of team we could actually be. So, I’m excited for what’s going to happen next season.”
Do Pacers have enough?
The Pacers have gotten so used to playing without Danny Granger that they remain a threat in the Eastern Conference, but one has to wonder whether they can win two series to reach their desired rematch with the Heat. The Pacers had won eight of nine before Friday night’s loss to the Thunder with the resurgence of center Roy Hibbert, who got off to an awful start this season. Granger, who will be ready for training camp after left knee surgery last week, is a free agent after next season, meaning his expiring contract could be offered in trade this summer.
If shootaround was any indication, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott hasn’t lost his team. Despite a 10-game losing streak that they snapped Friday night against the Celtics, Scott was exchanging jokes and pleasantries with his players, talking to Alonzo Gee and Wayne Ellington about his days wearing the “shorty shorts” in the 1980s . . . While the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard appears to have Rookie of the Year locked up, the Wizards’ Bradley Beal may have swayed some votes if he were able to finish the season. But he was shut down with a stress injury to his right fibula. Beal averaged 13.9 points but was limited to 56 games. Long term, he gives the Wizards a capable backcourt mate to John Wall . . . A somber goodbye to former NBA official Greg Willard, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last week at the age of 54. Willard was one of the league’s best officials, and his colleagues wore his No. 57 last season for several days after his cancer was diagnosed. The Celtics, as did every NBA team, held a moment of silence in his honor before Wednesday’s game with the Pistons.