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Maloofs agree on deal to sell Kings

The Maloof family that owns the Sacramento Kings has reached an agreement to sell the controlling interest in the franchise to a Seattle group intent on moving it in time for next season.

Sources told ESPN.com that NBA teams were formally notified Sunday night that the Kings have been valued at $525 million and that the Maloofs and a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen have executed a purchase and sale agreement, which the NBA confirmed through a statement Monday morning.

The Seattle group intends to file for relocation by the league’s March 1 deadline.

Although the sale still requires formal league approval, ownership transfers typically go through when they reach this phase.

The agreement to transfer the 65 percent majority stake in the Kings to the Seattle group headed by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer represents the 53 percent owned by the Maloofs and an additional 12 percent from minority owner Bob Hernreich.

The NBA announced Monday: “The proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board’s committee process for review.”

Sources said that there has not yet been an agreement submitted on the remaining 35 percent of the franchise, which is held by minority shareholders, not the Maloofs.

“We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members,” Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof said in a statement on behalf of the family. “We would also like to thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise.”

“While we are not at liberty to discuss the terms of the transaction or our plans for the franchise given the confidential nature of the agreement and NBA regulations regarding public comments during a pending transaction, we would just like to extend our sincerest compliments and gratitude toward the Maloof family,” Hansen said in a statement. “Our negotiations with the family were handled with the utmost honor and professionalism and we hope to continue their legacy and be great stewards of this NBA franchise in the coming years and decades.”

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said: “While there is more work ahead, this is a major step toward bringing the Sonics home.”

One source close to the process told ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande that the Maloof family, as it was hoping, will retain a “small piece” of minority interest in the franchise after its expected relocation to Seattle and renaming as the SuperSonics for next season. It’s believed, though, that the Maloofs will hold no decision-making power once control of the franchise is transferred.

The deal, according to sources familiar with the specifics, calls for the Maloofs to receive a nonrefundable $30 million deposit from the Seattle group by Feb. 1. The NBA, furthermore, is fully expecting Hansen to apply for relocation to Seattle for the 2013-14 season by the league’s March 1 deadline, enabling the league’s board of governors to vote on the application at their annual April meeting.

But Sacramento officials are not surrendering their long-running bid to keep the franchise in the California capital.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said last week he had received permission from NBA commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to league owners from buyers who would keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Johnson, himself a former All-Star point guard in the NBA, said in a statement late Sunday night that the city remained undeterred despite the agreement with the Seattle group.

“Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a top-20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history,” Johnson said.

“When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.”

Stern said last week the NBA was still willing to listen to Johnson.

“The mayor of Sacramento has asked me … could I come in and address the board of governors or the relocation committee?’ ” Stern said last week before the New York Knicks played the Detroit Pistons in London. “And I said, ‘Always.’ … Sacramento has been particularly supportive (as an NBA community since 1985 and is) always welcome to present.”

With the OK to present to the board, Johnson said last week that his city is in a “six-week sprint” to put together a proposal.

The Kings were in New Orleans preparing for a matinee game against the Hornets when news came down of the agreement.

“It’s just a little weird (but) at the same time I love Sacramento. I love everything about it. Love the fans; the organization just brought me in with open arms. That’s all I really know in this league is Sacramento,” said Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, a Tacoma, Wash., native. “But then I am from that area back home. It’s just kind of a different situation. Whatever I say about Seattle, Sacramento fans might be mad at me, and whatever I say about Sacramento, Seattle fans might be mad at me. I just love both cities.”

Added Kings coach Keith Smart, “For us, I’m going to get on the floor and coach the game and players are going to get out there and make shots, take shots, make mistakes, make great plays. And then we’ll deal with it as we do off the floor.”

According to Yahoo! Sports, which reported earlier this month that the Maloofs were in serious talks with Hansen and Ballmer, Seattle’s plan calls for the Kings to play two seasons in the SuperSonics’ old home downtown at KeyArena while construction is completed on a new building.

The sale price of $525 million, sources said, is regarded as an overall valuation of the franchise and also includes relocation fees.

Given the league’s desire to halt the long-running saga caused by the Kings’ uncertain future in Sacramento, as well as its hope of seeing NBA basketball return to Seattle before Stern’s scheduled exit from the league office in February 2014, approval of the move by the NBA relocation committee is widely considered a formality.

The committee features several current NBA owners and is chaired by Clay Bennett, who controversially moved the original Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 but left behind the team’s nickname and logo. Plans for a new $500 million arena in Seattle were approved in October.

Miami Heat star LeBron James took umbrage at news of the deal, tweeting: “So the Kings getting sold for 525M!! And the owners ain’t making no money huh? What the hell we have a (lockout) for. Get the hell out of here.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Playoffs might be a long shot for the Lakers

It might be time to panic in Los Angeles -– well, at least for Lakers fans.

The Lakers now have lost six straight games, their longest losing streak since March 2007. They’re within striking distance of their franchise-record 10-game losing streak in April 1994.

It’s now very realistic that the Lakers might not make the playoffs.

Started 15-21 or Worse Through 36 Games
Lakers’ Past 50 Seasons
Start Finish Playoffs
’12-13 15-21 ? ?
’93-94 11-25 33-49 None
’74-75 15-21 30-52 None
’66-67 13-23 36-45 L, Div. Semis
This is the 10th time in franchise history the Lakers have started 15-21 or worse through 36 games. Of the previous nine times, they never finished .500 or better. The last time they started 15-21 or worse and made the playoffs was 1966-67.

In the past five seasons, the worst win percentage for a Western Conference playoff team was .545 last season by the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz. In an 82-game season, that would be 45 wins.

In order for the Lakers to reach 45 wins, they would need to finish with a 30-16 record.

How realistic is that? Only two teams have ever finished a season with at least 45 wins after starting 15-21 or worse, according to the Elias Sports Bureau — the 2004-05 Denver Nuggets and 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks.

What’s wrong with the Lakers?

Since Mike D’Antoni took over on Nov. 20, the Lakers have been the sixth-worst team in terms of defensive efficiency.

This has much to do with playing at the second-highest pace under D’Antoni.

They were the eighth-best defensive team in their first 10 games of the season while playing at the ninth-highest pace.

The Lakers have had trouble defending opposing teams’ best players. During their six-game losing streak, the Lakers have allowed star players to score well above their season scoring averages:

• 76ers: Jrue Holiday scored 26 (averages 18.3 points per game)
• Clippers: Chris Paul scored 30 (averages 17.0 ppg)
• Nuggets: Ty Lawson scored 21 (averages 14.1 ppg)
• Rockets: James Harden scored 31 (averages 26.5 ppg)
• Spurs: Tony Parker scored 24 (averages 19.2 ppg)
• Thunder: Kevin Durant scored 42 (averages 28.1 ppg)

Injuries don’t help the situation. But turning the Lakers’ season around likely will have to start with much-improved defense.

Improving on the defensive end and winning more games could be much easier if the Lakers can slow down their pace.

The Lakers have had a pace of 100 or more possessions in each of their past four games -– all losses, of course. The Lakers now have a 7-16 record this season in games with a pace of at least 96 possessions, but they’re 8-5 when the pace is 95 or slower.

By Ryan Feldman
ESPN Stats & Information

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Reports: Titans fire Alan Lowry

Titans coach Mike Munchak is parting ways with special teams coach Alan Lowry, the designer of the Music City Miracle play that spurred Tennessee’s lone Super Bowl run in 2000, according to multiple reports.

Munchak has told Lowry his contract would not be renewed, according to reports.

Lowry just finished his 17th season with the franchise, the last 14 coaching special teams. He designed Home Run Throwback that the Titans used to beat Buffalo in an AFC wild-card game in January 2000.

AFC South blog
ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky writes about all things AFC South in his division blog.

• Blog network: NFL Nation

The Tennessean first reported the move.

Lowry had been with the franchise as a coach almost as long as Munchak, who started his coaching career with the team in 1994. Lowry joined the then-Houston Oilers in 1996 as a defensive assistant for quality control after also coaching at the 49ers, Tampa Bay and Dallas. Lowry took over special teams in 1999, the team’s first season as the Titans when they went 13-3 and needed that lateral from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson for the winning touchdown against Buffalo.

He helped coach Derrick Mason and Marc Mariani to the Pro Bowl as returners, the last in 2010 in Mariani’s rookie season. In 2012, the Titans returned a kickoff and three punts for touchdowns in 2012, including one punt return featuring another lateral. The Titans also ranked seventh in the NFL averaging 40.4 yards net on punts and 15th averaging 23.6 yards on kickoff returns.

But Tennessee also had two punts blocked.

Munchak has been very busy since the Titans concluded a 6-10 season in his second year as head coach after owner Bud Adams decided to keep him on the job for 2013.

Lowry becomes the fourth assistant coach either to have his contract not renewed or fired since the season ended, not counting offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who was fired Nov. 26. Munchak fired linebackers coach Frank Bush and tight ends coach John Zernheldt, who had a year left on his contract, while not retaining running backs coach Jim Skipper.

Munchak also has to decide whether to keep Dowell Loggains as his offensive coordinator or move him back to the quarterbacks assistant coaching job that has been open since he fired Palmer. Also, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray’s status remains a big question after the Titans set a franchise record by allowing 471 points in 2012.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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A. Peterson, J.J. Watt top All-Pros

NEW YORK — It’s unanimous, on both sides of the ball.

Vikings 2,000-yard man Adrian Peterson and Texans pass-swatting end J.J. Watt were unanimous choices for The Associated Press All-Pro team announced Saturday.

Peterson, who came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, and Watt, who led the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks, were selected by all 50 members of a nationwide panel of media members who cover the league.

Peterson is a three-time All-Pro, while Watt represents lots of new blood. He’s among 17 players making their All-Pro debuts.

“Obviously it’s a huge honor, especially for being such a young guy,” said Watt, a second-year pro. “It’s crazy to even think about. It’s very humbling and very motivating. It makes me want to do it again and again.”

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Seth Perlman
Adrian Peterson, who came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, was a unanimous selection for the AP All-Pro team. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt also was a unanimous pick.
Peyton Manning made his sixth team, the previous five while quarterbacking Indianapolis. He led Denver to the AFC’s best record, 13-3.

Also chosen for the sixth time was Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, who this season moved into second place on the career receptions list. San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis made it for the fifth time in his six pro seasons.

The 49ers had the most All-Pros, six: Willis, fellow LBs NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, guard Mike Iupati, safety Dashon Goldson and punter Andy Lee.

“As an organization, we take great pride in the success and recognition of our players,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “This type of acknowledgement only comes from hard work and a team-first mentality, which all six of these men exhibit on a daily basis. They play the game the way it was meant to be played, and are very deserving of this honor.”

Seattle was next with RB Marshawn Lynch, center Max Unger, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. All were selected for the first time.

Sherman was incensed when he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. He was thrilled with the news he made the All-Pro team “because that’s comparing the whole league.”

” That is taking individuals and saying they are the best in the NFL at that position and that’s what I wanted to be,” Sherman said. ” The Pro Bowl is taking three from each side, it’s more of a popularity contest. The All-Pro, you’re the best at your position. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fifth-rounder or fourth-rounder or undrafted. If you play the best, you’re All-Pro.”

Denver had three All-Pros: LB Von Miller, tackle Ryan Clady and Manning. No other team had more than two.

The NFC had 17 players and only 10 made it from the AFC.

One rookie, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh, was chosen.

Also on offense were Baltimore fullback Vonta Leach, making it for the third straight year; Detroit WR Calvin Johnson and Chicago WR Brandon Marshall; Houston tackle Duane Brown; New Orleans guard Jahri Evans, making his fourth consecutive appearance; Baltimore kick returner Jacoby Jones; Miami DE Cameron Wake; Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins and New England DT Vince Wilfork; and Chicago CB Charles Tillman.
Copyright 2013 Courtesy of  The Associated Press

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