Vivek Ranadive

Wizards, Kings Ahead Of Sports Betting Curve

Monetizing the legalization of sports betting is a hot topic among owners of North American professional sports franchises and several NBA teams are positioning themselves to be at the forefront of the movement.

The Wizards and Kings are among the teams looking to educate potential bettors in preparation for when legalized betting arrives in their respective areas, as ESPN passes along.

“I think this is the most important new business for us,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said while stressing the importance of making sure new bettors are not confused when placing wagers.

The Kings are allowing fans to “Call the Shot,” something that gives fans the ability to predict outcomes like the score of a quarter or the statistics of a certain player. The team is adding a lounge for premium seat holders where fans can go to and use iPads to make “bets” before returning to their seats to watch the events unfold. The Kings are calling the experience “predictive gaming.” which is expected to be available for four select games in March.

“The arena is the game console,” Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive said. “And your phone is the controller for the game console. So we’re only limited by our imagination.”

There currently is no monetary value to the “bets,” as fans can play for free and will get virtual credits for winning. Sports betting is not currently legal in California but the Kings will have the infrastructure in place should wagering become legal.

“We’d have all the infrastructure in place,” Ranadive said. “We’d have the fan base that’s already educated. We’d have the ability to execute and all of that. So we think that we would be able to flip the switch very quickly and move.”

Washington D.C. is closer to legalized sports betting than California, as a bill that would allow sports betting inside of professional sports franchise stadiums and arenas is expected to be passed before the end of the NBA season. The Wizards are among the franchises in the district that are expected to build a Las Vegas-style sportsbook inside its stadium, according to the Washington Post.

Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are expected to be permitted inside of Audi Field (D.C. United of the MLS), Capital One Arena (Wizards, NHL’s Capitals), St Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena (WNBA’s Mystics and Wizards’ G League affiliate GoGo), and National Park (Nationals of the MLB).

The Wizards have been progressive about getting their fans familiar with real-time betting. The team scheduled live, alternate sports betting broadcast for seven games this season where potential bettors can view what a version of live betting will look like while they watch the Wizards play.

“Right now, the people who go to casinos to gamble, it’s a small community and it generates $8-10 billion a year in revenues and play,” Leonsis said. “But there’s probably $100 billion that’s in the shadows by really sophisticated gamblers. And obviously, the first step is we want to get that audience that’s gaming illegally to come into the sunlight.”

Shifting experienced bettors away from the illegal market remains a challenge. CEO Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association believes it’s going to take a partnership between the leagues and betting operators to ensure that illegal bookmakers are put out of business, as I passed along previously in a piece for CNBC.

Eight states (DE, MS, NJ, NM, NV, PA, RI, WV) currently allow for sports wagering, though the impact on the illegal market hasn’t been drastic. “It’s not as if the bookies are out today shopping for new careers,” Joe Asher, CEO of the Britain-based sports betting operator William Hill, said after the landmark Supreme Court decision which made sports betting a reality in many states.

Pennsylvania is the only state with an NBA team that currently has legalized sports betting in place. However, there is no mobile betting available yet, so Philadelphians cannot place legal bets from inside the Wells Fargo Arena as they watch the Sixers play.

Western Notes: Capela, Brunson, Kings, Roberson

Clint Capela‘s thumb injury could cost him a $2MM bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes. The Rockets center has a 2,000-minute criteria tied into the team reaching the Western Conference Finals and for a defensive rebounding percentage above 30%. He has another bonus for attempting 150 or more free throws and a free throw percentage above 65%. He is currently shooting 62.6% from the line. Through 42 games, Capela has played 1,436 minutes. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson and veteran Devin Harris will pick up the minutes vacated by backup point guard J.J. Barea, who suffered a torn Achilles on Friday, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Brunson played 30 minutes against the Warriors on Sunday but Harris will see his role expand as well. “He’s going to be ready and he’s going to be there for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Harris.
  • Kings assistant coaches under Dave Joerger are having their options for next season picked up by the front office, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets. That group includes Bryan Gates, Elston Turner, Bob Thornton, Jason March, Duane Ticknor, Larry Lewis, Bobby Jackson, Phil Ricci and Dan Hartfield. It’s a way of aligning the contracts of the staff with Joerger’s deal. The surprising Kings are currently a game above .500.
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac warned members of the executive board to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Divac made the pronouncement during a conference call with 13 members of the  executive board, along with lead owner Vivek Ranadive. Divac has been frustrated by internal complaints and used the forum to demand respect, Amick adds.
  • Thunder shooting guard Andre Roberson remains sidelined indefinitely, coach Billy Donovan told Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman and other media members. “He’s worked hard, he’s doing all he needs to do but he’s still in the rehab process.”  Roberson suffered a season-ending left knee injury last January and suffered a setback in late November when an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture in the knee.

And-Ones: NBA Owners Ranked, Tomjanovich, NCAA Tournament

ESPN concluded their management series with ownership rankings, citing the Spurs (Julianna Hawn Holt), Warriors (Joe Lacob, Peter Guber), and Celtics (Wyc Grousbeck) as teams with the best ownership in the league (article link). ESPN’s panel ranked owners in terms of “performance in guiding the franchise to overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.” To that end, it perhaps isn’t surprising to see the Kings (Vivek Ranadive) and Knicks (James Dolan) round out the list; two owners who have made unfortunate headlines for on-and-off the court stories this season.

More from around the game…

  • Rudy Tomjanovich, a five-time NBA All-Star and decorated head coach, wasn’t inducted into the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame class. Several figures around the league were critical of Tomjanovich receiving the shaft, including former Rocket Calvin Murphy and Jeff Van Gundy. (Twitter links) In an op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle, Jonathan Feigen chastised Hall of Fame voters who “inexplicably” snubbed Tomjanovich. “Tomjanovich, especially, deflected attention, not just in the way he downplayed his coaching contributions, but even in his coaching style that stripped away excess to get the ball simply and quickly to his best player, turning the Rockets from winners to champions,” Feigen writes. “The exclusion of Tomjanovich and others said nothing about their achievements, and everything about the secret panel’s failure.”
  • Tim Duncan‘s ex-adviser, Charles Banks, plans to admit financial misconduct from his business relationship with Duncan (Associated Press link). According to court paperwork, Banks will confess to misleading Duncan into obtaining $6MM in loans.
  • Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress provided an NBA prospect guide to the Final Four, naming South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell as the NCAA Tournament’s MVP thus far.
  • Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett will put his name in the NBA Draft but won’t hire an agent, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reports (link). Per Patrick Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bluiett is “certain to again seek out evaluations from industry experts on his likely draft stock.”

Front Office Shakeups Ahead?

Disappointing seasons could lead to front office changes for at least five teams this summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

The most obvious team headed for a shakeup is Sacramento, which reportedly wants to position someone above GM Vlade Divac and may have interest in former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, despite an official statement denying it. There are also ongoing rumors of a rift between Vivek Ranadive and the minority ownership, which has grown frustrated with the way the team has been managed.

Kyler notes that Ken Catanella was hired as an assistant GM last summer, but wasn’t given the power that many expected him to have.

Change may also be coming to these organizations:

  • Orlando — The Magic seem ready to replace GM Rob Hennigan, with Pistons executive and former Orlando player Pat Garrity as the leading candidate to be offered the job. The Magic had hoped to be playoff contenders after signing Bismack Biyombo and trading for Serge Ibaka, but the new combination never worked out. Orlando is 14th in the East at 27-47, and Ibaka was shipped to Toronto last month. Kyler cites league sources who say several of the Magic’s lower level executives are expecting changes and have started contacting other organizations.
  • New Orleans — A recent report said coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps could both be fired without significant progress by the end of the season. Demps may have bought himself more timee with the DeMarcus Cousins trade, but the Pelicans have reached the playoffs just twice during his seven years at the helm. Louisiana native Joe Dumars is close to ownership and is reportedly being considered as a replacement.
  • Phoenix — The Suns will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, and many believe that owner Robert Sarver wants to turn things around quickly. Ryan McDonough has amassed an impressive group of young talent in his four years as GM, but that may not be enough to convince Sarver to keep him.
  • Atlanta — It’s unlikely that coach/executive Mike Budenholzer or GM Wes Wilcox gets replaced, but several staff additions are expected. The Hawks have been shaken by the loss of free agent Al Horford last season and the possible exit of Paul Millsap this summer, along with a late-season losing streak that may knock them out of the playoffs. More voices may be brought on to help Budenholzer and Wilcox with the decision-making process.

DeMarcus Cousins Talks Vlade, Ranadive, Pelicans

During his introductory press conference as a Pelican on Wednesday, DeMarcus Cousins told reporters that the toughest part about the way he was traded by the Kings was Sacramento’s “dishonesty.” As has been widely reported, the Kings publicly and privately insisted Cousins wouldn’t be traded in the weeks and months leading up to the moment that they agreed to send him to the Pelicans.

In an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Cousins went a step further, suggesting that he views Kings GM Vlade Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive “cowards,” according to Spears. Here are a few of the highlights from Cousins’ candid conversation on the deal and his move from Sacramento to New Orleans:

On whether he wants to talk to Divac or Ranadive:

“Nah. For what? It was a coward move, so I’m pretty sure I will get a coward response. For what? And I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve been there through all same types … I was there with [coach] Mike Malone’s [firing]. I’ve seen how they operate. I know what kind of answer I will get anyway. So, what is the point?”

On when the Kings last told him that he wouldn’t be traded:

“A week before the trade. The sick part about it is that Vlade came in my house with my agent [Jarinn Akana]. We sat in my theater and just talked. That was maybe three weeks ago. We sat there and [he] told me what moves he wanted to make. All of that. I just didn’t understand. … I got a text from the owner right before I went to All-Star. He was asking me about a player, how I felt about him and making a move. The owner! When it happened, I was just in shock. I didn’t understand.”

On whether it will be hard to trust a GM or owner again:

“I’ve always had that issue. I’ve had personal conversations with my agent about that and the whole situation anyway. He tried to steer me in their direction. And I’m like, ‘Nah, I can see through that s—t.’ I’ve always had my doubts. When it comes to that, I’m usually 90%. I knew it. But it was just told to me [no trade] so much.”

On why he still loves Sacramento:

“It’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than the Kings organization. It’s bigger than that. The relationships I built out there, I’m more hurt by that. Being away from those relationships and the community, I’m more hurt by that because of the dishonesty and all that s—t with the organization.”

On whether the Pelicans will have a legit shot to keep him for the long term:

“Yeah. I said in the press conference, ‘I’m all in.’ I’m not here to B.S. or waste time. I’m here to win. Whatever the system is, I’m dialed in. I’m all in. I’m not here to waste time.”

More Notes, Reactions, Updates On Cousins Trade

In the wake of Sunday night’s DeMarcus Cousins trade agreement between the Pelicans and Kings, we rounded up several notes, reactions, and details on the deal earlier today. Updates and reactions continue to trickle in, however, so let’s round up the latest…

News/rumors:

  • A source familiar with the Kings‘ thinking tells Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive believes Buddy Hield has “Steph Curry potential,” which was a key motivator for Sacramento. Given Hield’s struggles so far to adjust to the NBA, that seems like an awfully optimistic projection.
  • The Celtics never had any real interest in Cousins, league sources tell Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. According to Himmelsbach, Boston “could not overlook all the warning signs” associated with the star center. “It’s just really hard when you can’t find one basketball person [to vouch for him],” one source said.
  • Although an earlier report from Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical suggested that the Kings would probably waive Langston Galloway after acquiring him, Bobby Marks of The Vertical now writes that the team is planning to hang onto Galloway, who has a $5.434MM player option for 2017/18.
  • The Pelicans likely aren’t done after striking a deal for Cousins, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate, who tweets that he expects the team to try to claim, sign, or trade for a backcourt player.
  • An earlier report suggested that the Pelicans offered Tyreke Evans to the Sixers in a package for Jahlil Okafor, but Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News (Twitter link) hears from a source that Evans wasn’t a part of that trade scenario.

Reactions/analysis:

  • The acquisition of Cousins is a franchise-altering move that will return the Pelicans to relevancy in the NBA landscape, writes Justin Verrier of ESPN.com.
  • Michael Lee of The Vertical makes the case that the Kings‘ timing in trading Cousins – interrupting the standout center’s enjoyment of All-Star weekend – was a microcosm of how they handled his entire stint in Sacramento. Sunday represented one last night of Kings chaos for Cousins, as Ben Golliver of SI.com details.
  • While the Cousins trade should mark rock bottom for the Kings, things could get even worse for the franchise before they get better, says Tom Ziller of SBNation.com.
  • The Kings‘ decision to trade Cousins is the “sanest move they’ve made in years,” argues Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. “This was a definite culture move,” a source with insight into the deal told Beck. “Enough was enough.”
  • Bobby Marks of The Vertical provides a full breakdown of the swap from both the Pelicans‘ and Kings‘ perspectives, with a focus on the salary cap details.

Kings Rumors: Ranadive, Cousins, Gay, Westbrook

Sources with “intimate knowledge” of the Kings insist that team owner Vivek Ranadive won’t entertain the prospect of trading DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Arnovitz writes in a lengthy and entertaining feature piece for ESPN.com. That’s something we’ve heard before, and comes as little surprise, considering the Kings and Cousins are reportedly on track for an offseason contract extension.

Arnovitz’s piece features many more fascinating tidbits about Cousins and about the Kings’ franchise though, many of which we haven’t heard before. The entire story is worth checking out, but we’ll round up a few of the highlights right here:

  • Although Ranadive insists that the only major player personnel decisions he has made were the ones to trade for Rudy Gay and to not hang onto Cousins, Arnovitz writes that “not a single league source for this story outside of Sacramento said that ultimate authority resides anywhere but with Ranadive.”
  • Arnovitz hears from one NBA insider that Ranadive told him “some months back” that he’d like to assemble a big three in Sacramento, with Russell Westbrook joining Cousins and Gay. It’s not clear if that declaration was made prior to Westbrook signing his extension with the Thunder, but either way, it seems extremely unlikely that the OKC star would end up with the Kings. Gay also seems likely to depart in free agency this summer, though Ranadive remains unconvinced of that, per Arnovitz.
  • Members of front offices that have dealt with the Kings say that Sacramento’s front office structure is confusing to navigate, according to Arnovitz. “There’s just so much ambiguity about how the decision-making process works [in Sacramento] and what information actually gets back to whom,” said one rival executive. By way of example, Arnovitz cites one Kings source who says that during the 2015 draft, there were as many as five team owners in the draft room, including one who was trying to make a side deal for a second-round pick.
  • One league source tells Arnovitz that Ranadive has an “unhealthy fixation on the Warriors,” having previously been a part of Golden State’s ownership group.
  • According to Arnovitz, communication between Cousins and Kings’ executives has sometimes created problems. Sources tell Arnovitz that Cousins was assured that George Karl wouldn’t be hired as the team’s head coach in 2015. Cousins was later told in February 2016 that the team was going to fire Karl that day, but it ultimately didn’t happen until two months later.
  • Be sure to check out Arnovitz’s full story for many more tidbits about Cousins and the Kings.

Pacific Notes: Buss, Lakers, Karl, Tolliver

Lakers president and part owner Jeanie Buss will face a major decision after the season ends, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Buss could signal a change of direction for the franchise by firing her brother Jim, who serves as executive vice president, and GM Mitch Kupchak. It has been nearly three years since Jim Buss promised to resign if the Lakers weren’t “contending for a championship” in three or four seasons. Coming off three of the worst seasons in franchise history, L.A. sparked some hope with a 10-10 start, but has lost 12 of its last 13 games. “We’re like every other team that we will play a season and we will assess that season when it’s over,” Jeanie Buss said. “No reason to speculate on any possible changes. It’s a waste of time to speculate.”

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Nearly all of the Lakers‘ offseason signees are now eligible to be included in trades, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Power forward Thomas Robinson passed his deadline December 23rd, a day after Metta World PeaceMarcelo Huertas, Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov and Jordan Clarkson all became eligible on December 15th. The one exception is backup center Tarik Black, who cannot be traded until January 15th. League rules stipulate a later deadline for him because he received at least a 20% salary increase while re-signing with Bird rights.
  • Critical comments about the time he spent coaching the Kings were removed from George Karl’s new book, according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears and Marc Stein. A proof copy of “Furious George” obtained by the network included negative passages about DeMarcus Cousins, GM Vlade Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive. Karl said he had “not authorized” those parts of the book to be included. Sources told ESPN that Karl agreed to refrain from critical statements about the organization in the settlement he reached when he left the team after last season.
  • Anthony Tolliver is earning more playing time with the Kings, relays James Ham of CSNBayArea. The well-traveled forward signed with Sacramento in July for $16MM over two seasons. He has been in and out of the rotation during the first two months of the season, but has found a larger role in the past week. “Professional — he can sit five games in a row and his name is called and he’s going to come out and play like it’s his last game,” Cousins said. “True professional. He’s always ready to play.”

Kings Notes: Cousins, Casspi, Gay, Stauskas

Kings coach Dave Joerger has gone back to a bigger starting lineup in an effort to improve the team’s defense, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Kosta Koufos is back with the starters, being used at center with DeMarcus Cousins at power forward. Joerger briefly tried a small-ball starting lineup, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. “I’m trying to protect DeMarcus a little bit by letting Kosta take the hits on a bigger guy like [Washington Wizards center Marcin] Gortat,” Joerger said. “And defensively more pick-and-rolls and try to save [Cousins’] legs for the end.” 

There’s more news out of Sacramento:

  • Cousins continues to put up incredible numbers, averaging 28.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per night, but the Kings need more production from their complementary players, writes James Ham of CSNBayArea“We’ve just got to be better,” Omri Casspi said after Monday’s overtime loss at Washington. “Our bench guys and our role players have to do a better job of helping DeMarcus. It feels like he’s doing anything he can to win the game for us. We’ve just got to be better.”
  • Rudy Gay confirmed that he has left Octagon Basketball, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. Gay, who has suggested that he won’t be re-signing with Sacramento after he becomes a free agent next summer, may be joining Roc Nation, an agency headed by rapper Jay Z (Twitter link). However, he told Jones that the change isn’t related to his impending free agency (Twitter link).
  • Nik Stauskas says it doesn’t bother him to hear that the Kings feel like they should have drafted someone else in 2014, Jones posts on Facebook. Owner Vivek Ranadive recently told Amick that he preferred Magic guard Elfrid Payton over Stauskas as the No. 8 pick. “Like I said, they did me a favor sending me here to Philadelphia,” Stauskas replied. “I’ve had a really good opportunity to play even though I hadn’t been performing though my first year with the Sixers. I’m thankful that the organization gave me an opportunity, they drafted me, but if they felt like the made a mistake by drafting me then they felt like they made a mistake. I can’t do anything about it now.”

Pacific Notes: Paul, Walton, Chriss, Ranadive

The Clippers aren’t worried about a sprained left thumb that Chris Paul suffered Saturday in practice, according to Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. The All-Star point guard stood on the sidelines as the team practiced today, but his availability for the season opener isn’t in doubt. Paul has been listed as “day-to-day,” and coach Doc Rivers explained that he sat out practice as a precaution. “He’ll play in definitely one of the two [remaining preseason games], and that tells you it’s not that serious,” Rivers said.

There’s more news out of the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes the Lakers are the only team that could have tempted Luke Walton to leave Golden State, writes Joey Ramirez of NBA.com. Walton spent two years on the Warriors’ bench and served as Kerr’s lead assistant last season. He accepted a five-year deal in May to take over in Los Angeles, where he spent the first eight seasons of his playing career. “He’s such a great guy,” Kerr said. “He’s become one of my best friends. We’re all gonna miss him, but we’re all happy for him. I know he wouldn’t have taken any other job but the Laker job to leave Golden State.” 
  • Marquese Chriss may be a 19-year-old rookie, but he is impressing his Suns teammates by standing up to veterans in preseason games, relays Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. His latest skirmish was with Mavericks’ center Andrew Bogut on Friday night. “’Quese has to show that he ain’t scared,”  said Eric Bledsoe. “Once one of those players or a veteran player feels like he got fear in you, as a young player, it will ride you for the rest of your career. ‘Quese is setting the tone early.”
  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has apologized to former executive Geoff Petrie for slighting his contributions to the organization in a recent interview, writes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. The apology was prompted by Petrie’s angry response after reading the two-part piece in USA Today. Voisin accuses both parties of engaging in revisionist history and contends the whole incident was unnecessary.