Maybe the Kings aren't bound for Seattle?

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Maybe the Kings aren't bound for Seattle?

From Comcast SportsNetSACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson had a stern warning for Seattle SuperSonics fans who are excited about the prospect of the NBA returning to the Puget Sound next season."Don't celebrate too early," he said.In front of a cheering City Hall crowd filled with fans and public officials Tuesday, Johnson introduced the first part of his four-step plan to keep the Sacramento Kings in California's capital city.The three-time NBA All-Star guard turned mayor said he has secured 20 investors who have pledged at least 1 million each to be part of a local group to buy the franchise. Johnson said the major partners he hopes will anchor the last-ditch deal to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle will be revealed as soon as this week.A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that billionaire Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in "serious talks" to collaborate on Sacramento's bid, which would include a plan for a new downtown arena. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no agreement has been reached.Burkle, a Southern California businessman and co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, expressed interests in buying the Kings two years ago. Mastrov was among the final bidders for the Golden State Warriors before Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team for an NBA-record 450 million in 2010.Offering more hope than substance so far, Johnson remained confident he can save Sacramento's only professional team from relocation again."We've been here before," Johnson said. "Our backs have been against the wall. They told us it wasn't going to happen. But each and every step along the way, as long as there is time on the clock, our community always finds a way to stand up for itself."Unlike the last two years, Sacramento is up against a group that already has signed agreements to acquire the Kings and build a new arena for the franchise.The mayor's announcement came a day after the Maloof family announced a deal to sell the Kings to a Seattle group that includes investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. The signed purchase agreement is still pending a vote by the NBA Board of Governors.The group will buy 65 percent of the franchise, which has a total valuation of 525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name, another person familiar with the decision said earlier this week. That means the group will pay a little more than 340 million.The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is waiting to be approved. Hansen's group also is hoping to buy out other minority investors.The main stipulation Johnson is counting on is that the Maloofs are still allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale, which the mayor expects to take until at least April, when owners meet in New York. The deadline for teams to file for relocation for next season is March 1, though that has been extended the last two years for the Kings.Johnson said he has spoken with more than one heavy-hitting investor to back the plan and produce a "fair and competitive offer." He also said prominent Sacramento-area lawyers have offered to work pro bono for the city's cause."I just say to the fans in Seattle: be cautiously optimistic. Be smart. But this isn't about our city against their city, or one mayor against another mayor," Johnson said. "We have something that's ours and we want to keep it, and we're going to do everything we can to make Sacramento the final resting place of the Sacramento Kings."The final three phases of the mayor's "Playing to Win" plan are finding the major financers to compete with the Seattle group's offer, demonstrating the city's commitment to a new downtown arena and showing the strength of the Sacramento market. None of those crucial pieces have been announced.Some of the 20 proposed minority investors, two of whom Johnson said chose to remain anonymous, stood next to the mayor and spoke about why they agreed to non-binding pledges.The group includes developer David Taylor, who backed a plan to build a 391 million arena in downtown Sacramento before the deal collapsed last year; Phil Oates, a developer and the son of Sacramento-area real estate pioneer Marvin "Buzz" Oates; and Kevin Nagle, a business executive and co-owner of the Town Center who helped increase Sacramento sponsorship and season-ticket sales when the Kings explored a move to Anaheim two years ago."I'm doing this for one reason: it's time to fight," Oates said. "Somebody wants something that I own. It's mine, and I'm not giving it up easily. I owe it to my kids. I owe to my grandchild that's going to be born in May and named after me. I owe it to my neighbors. I owe it to my friends. I owe it to (Sacramento) to fight and go down swinging."Johnson already has saved the Kings from relocation once.In 2011, the mayor made a pitch to the NBA Board of Governors and bought the city time to broker a deal that appeared to solve the team's arena woes. But brothers Joe, Gavin and George Maloof backed out of the tentative deal for a new downtown venue with Sacramento last April, saying it didn't make financial sense for the franchise.Many of those who participated in that plan, from public officials to private investors, showed up at City Hall to offer their vote -- or checkbooks -- one more time."The reason I'm committed to become a local member of the Kings' ownership is I really feel that we as a community need to get a return on all the hours and emotions that we spent trying to keep the team here," Taylor said. "I think we're owed a return on our investment."Johnson maintains that Sacramento's biggest reason to be optimistic is that NBA Commissioner David Stern has granted him permission to address league owners and present a new ownership group and plan to keep the Kings.The mayor commended Seattle's efforts to be an NBA city again, which includes Hansen reaching an agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a 490 million NBANHL arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. No construction will begin on that project -- which also faces a pair of lawsuits -- until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.Seattle hoops fans have been reeling since owner Clay Bennett, ironically the chair of the NBA relocation committee now, moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008."When I played in the NBA for 12 years, Seattle had some of the best fans in the NBA," Johnson said. "No different than Sacramento. Incredible fans. And when they lost their team a couple years ago, it was devastating to me, because those fans fought like crazy and rallied and they cheered on the home team. And I strongly believe they deserve an NBA team at some point. Just not ours."

Kris Bryant’s MVP performance leads Cubs to comeback win at Dodger Stadium

Kris Bryant’s MVP performance leads Cubs to comeback win at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – The “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chants started at Dodger Stadium late Friday night, Cubs fans celebrating Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the 10th inning and cheering on this entertaining comeback win.

Until Clayton Kershaw returns to full strength, stares down hitters from 60 feet, six inches and unleashes his entire arsenal, it’s impossible to know how the Cubs would stack up against Los Angeles in October. But it’s still safe to say this would be an epic playoff matchup between two big-market, star-studded franchises, with two iconic ballparks becoming the backdrop, celebrity row after celebrity row.

As a quiet homebody who happens to have his own billboards and marketing deals – but doesn’t do bulletin-board quotes or brag about his game – Bryant is not exactly a Hollywood personality. But this is also a goal-oriented individual who doesn’t shy away from the pressure and the expectations and absolutely wants to be the best at his craft.

The Cubs won this round with Bryant, who launched his 34th and 35th home runs in a 6-4 victory, an MVP-worthy season becoming the sequel to his Rookie of the Year campaign.

“It’s humbling,” Bryant said. “You grow up hearing that kind of stuff on TV. To experience it in real life is pretty cool.”

It became hard to hear Bryant inside the visiting clubhouse, because teammates chanted “MVP!” and sung along with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre as “Nuthin But a G Thang” played on the sound system. But for most of the night, it looked like it would be a silent room postgame as the resilient Dodgers took 3-1 and 4-2 leads.

Until the eighth inning, when Bryant launched a home run off Joe Blanton that landed in the center-field seats blocked off for the batter’s eye. And then the ninth inning showed why manager Joe Maddon will want Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward in a playoff lineup.

In the middle of a frustrating offensive season where he’s felt the weight of a $184 million contract, Heyward led off by ripping a double into the right-field corner off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Heyward hustled to third base when new Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz couldn’t handle strike three against Jorge Soler. Heyward ran home to score the game-tying run when a Jansen wild pitch sailed toward the backstop.

That set the stage for Bryant, who brought up the fielding error he made in the fifth inning during his postgame interview on Channel 7 after hitting the game-winning homer off lefty Adam Liberatore. All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo may set the tone in the clubhouse, but Bryant already brings tunnel vision and a high degree of professionalism to an 82-45 team, even at the age of 24. 

“He just doesn’t quit,” Heyward said. “He wants to be in every spot. He goes up there and has his at-bat – and that’s it.

“You can talk about why he’s been hitting the ball well, this and that, but he has a good approach. It’s that simple. Other than that, he works his tail off every day to try and go out there and help us win.

“When you have that gift – and you have that work ethic – the bottom line is a lot of good things can happen.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

A resourceful $250 million team won’t fade away, even with Kershaw (back) not pitching for two months, one of 27 players the Dodgers have stashed on the disabled list, tying a major-league record. Los Angeles has cycled through 14 different starting pitchers, relying on depth, a powerful lineup and a strong bullpen to surge into first place and hold onto a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

“How about last year?” Maddon said. “We beat up on the Mets during the season, we go (into the playoffs) and we can’t even touch them. It’s such a different animal. People get hot or people get cold.

“I’m not going to diminish the fact I’m going to be paying attention. But things change. Trends can be so trendy, to quote Yogi. So I don’t get too far ahead, because things can change very quickly.”

Like Bryant going from a promising player with a few holes in his swing who looked worn down at times last season – to an MVP frontrunner with a .303 average, 89 RBI, 107 runs scored, a .982 OPS and the versatility to play third base, defensively shift across the infield and move to the outfield.

Kershaw vs. Bryant would be must-see TV in October.

In the Gym at EFT: Wide receiver skill development

In the Gym at EFT: Wide receiver skill development

In the first edition of EFT Football Academy, TF North graduate Landon Cox, who was a star wide receiver at Northern Illinois and later in the NFL, shares some tips on how to become a better receiver and be more efficient on the field.

Cox is a Performance Specialist and wide receiver coach at EFT. In this segment Cox works on a few different techniques with Warren Township junior wide receiver Micah Jones.

EFT has evolved into the premier elite performance training facility in the Midwest, where every EFT football coach has NFL experience and the dedication to helping each player reach their potential. The EFT Football Academy is designed to assist in the development of grade school, high school, and collegiate football players.

Some of their off-season training experience includes 70+ active NFL athletes, six Super Bowl Champions, six Olympics, and more.

[MORE: High School Lites Football Roundup: Week 1]

In addition, performance includes explosive power development, positional movement pattern development, proper spring and change of direction mechanics, and more. Every EFT workout focuses on improving each athlete's overall abilities like speed development, agility and mobility, acceleration and deceleration, and strength and condition — just to name a few.

Former Bears wide receiver Devin Hester called it "the best workout in the world."

Watch Cox's tips in the video above, and be sure to look out for next week's edition on CSNChicago.com.

How Mike Montgomery fits into big-picture plans for Cubs

How Mike Montgomery fits into big-picture plans for Cubs

LOS ANGELES – In their never-ending search for young pitching, the Cubs discussed a Matt Moore deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, but wouldn’t consider trading Kyle Schwarber. To get Moore at the Aug. 1 deadline, the San Francisco Giants had to surrender the runner-up to Kris Bryant in last season’s National League Rookie of the Year race (Matt Duffy), plus two more prospects.

Moore finished one out short of a no-hitter on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, throwing 133 pitches against a deep Los Angeles lineup, two-plus years after having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Whether or not Moore helps shift the balance of power in the National League West, the Cubs should still have enough pitching.

To get through October. As long as John Lackey (shoulder) comes off the disabled list in early September and the rest of the rotation stays healthy. Surviving next season and beyond could be a different story, if Jake Arrieta becomes another team’s 2018 Opening Day starter, if Jon Lester breaks down in the middle of that $155 million megadeal and assuming Lackey finally retires around the 3,000-inning mark.

All that makes Mike Montgomery an interesting lefty swingman if the Cubs are going to maintain The Foundation for Sustained Success.

“I think he is a major-league starter, regardless of what happens tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s wild 6-4 comeback win that took 10 innings at Dodger Stadium. “This guy has the ability to be a solid major-league starter based on his strength level, his delivery, the variety of pitches that he throws. The strike-throwing ability is exceptional. He’s got all those different things going on.

“Just be a little bit patient with (him) and let him get his feet on the ground somewhere, because he’s the kind of guy that can take off if he gets comfortable in his environment.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

If Montgomery didn’t ace this audition, he also didn’t bomb against a first-place team in front of a big crowd (48,609), either, showing the potential the Cubs saw in making last month’s trade with the Seattle Mariners.

Montgomery kept the Cubs in the game before Bryant’s clutch performance, allowing three runs in five innings and minimizing the damage on a night where he didn’t have pinpoint control (four walks, hit batter, wild pitch, 49 strikes across 91 pitches).

The Cubs are in trouble if Montgomery somehow winds up in this year’s playoff rotation, but he checks a lot of boxes for the future as someone with youth (27), size (6-foot-5), first-round/top-prospect pedigree, a high groundball rate and a service-time clock that won’t make him a free agent until after the 2021 season.