Tagged: nba

The New Orleans Hornets Are Going To Become The New Orleans Pelicans

Marc J. Spears is reporting that the New Orleans Hornets, a professional basketball organization, are going to change their name to the New Orleans Pelicans. There are a few reasons why they are making this particular move. The Pelicans were a minor league baseball team in New Orleans for decades, so there’s some local history. Also, the other choices were “Brass” or “Krewe,” so at least it could have been worse.

But what this basically boils down to is that there will be a group of professional basketball players called “the Pelicans,” presumably as a way to make the Toronto Raptors feel slightly less dumb, I suppose.

Sacramento Kings considering move to…Virginia Beach?

UPDATE: Some knowledgeable folks have poked holes in this story, while Joe Maloof said they haven’t spoken with Virginia Beach. So. Stay tuned. Maybe they’re heading to Poughkeepsie instead?

ORIGINAL POST:

The Sacramento Kings are an NBA franchise that currently plays in Sacramento, as the name implies. They are not likely to stay in Sacramento a long period of time, and rumors are always flying around about where they will wind up. Even as recently as February, the team was pondering a move to Anaheim. Las Vegas and Seattle are often mentioned as potential destinations for the Kings. The Kings are looking for another home, is my point, so any report about a new city for the team would have to be pretty far out there to surprise.

Which brings us to today’s news that the Kings are apparently on the verge of heading to Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach? Virginia Beach. The story, which comes from Inside Business in Norfolk, says the Maloofs (who own the Kings) are negotiating with Comcast as part of the move. Comcast would build and lease out a new arena. The deal could be announced next Wednesday, Aug. 29.

I don’t know if it’s the last possible destination I’d name for the Kings, but it’s still an incredibly left-field choice. Virginia Beach has a population of about 442,000 people, which is not much behind Sacramento’s 472,000 people. Virginia Beach is mostly known for being a resort town located near a few military bases. Virginia Beach is not a place one can easily imagine hosting a major sports franchise. Professional athletes get bored living and playing in places like Minneapolis, Orlando, Cleveland and, yes, Sacramento. Virginia Beach is…well, it’s unexpected, that’s for sure.

Did you think when you woke up today you would hear the words “Virginia Beach Kings?” Because I did not.

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Dwight Howard to the Lakers

It’s happening: Dwight Howard, the petulant behemoth who kept reminding you he was still playing for the Orlando Magic and was not happy about that fact, is heading to L.A. On the one hand, this is wonderful news, because the horrid and unending “Where will Dwight Howard go?” blather will finally stop invading actual sports news (well, for now, but more on that in a second).  Continue reading

The 2011 NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions

The NBA Playoffs are here! This is my favorite time of the year, or at least tied with the NFL’s postseason. Playoffs! The second season! Plenty of people (rightly) complain that the NBA season is meaningless and way too long, and they are very right, because teams often coast through interminable stretches (“It’s February in Milwaukee. There’s no way I’m chasing down that rebound”). But the playoffs are when every team just has to win 16 games against some of the best teams in the world (also, the Indiana Pacers) and they can be crowned champions. It’s when the older, battle-tested squads try to “flip the switch” (which almost never works) and young, hungry teams try to break through and win it all (which almost never happens). Playoffs! Here’s your bracket, and here are my predictions: Continue reading

Kobe Bryant finally does something to show he might not be perfect

Kobe Bryant is in his 15th season in the NBA. The fact that he has somehow gone all this time — 15 years spent on the league’s glamour franchise — and not made a single public misstep, not shown a single time that he might be less than perfect, is quite astonishing. Not a single scandal or flaw, this guy.

So I don’t know what to make of this video, wherein Kobe appears to lose his cool (for the very first time!) in the direction of a referee. Scroll ahead to the :35 mark:

That’s Kobe Bryant — one of the Faces of the League, five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, franchise player, top-jersey-seller, superstar — directing a gay slur at a referee who made a call he didn’t like. This would be shocking were it not for Kobe’s career-long history of being a tremendous athlete who also appears to be an thoroughly unlikable human being. That he was caught by TNT’s cameras isn’t the issue, though it’s nice a national audience got a reminder of Kobe’s personality (as opposed to carefully stage-managed interviews and commercials and the like). The ref, who makes somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000 per game, is responsible for calling fouls and technical fouls during a game. Kobe Bryant, who makes that referee’s salary in just one regular season game, has never committed a foul in his life.

Kobe released a statement (through the Lakers) saying his comment “should not be taken literally.” Because we live in a time where we say things that aren’t meant to be factual statements, I suppose. He also says his comments weren’t meant to offend anyone. At no point does he actually apologize for using a word that is, by design, used to offend and hurt people. He did seem to apologize later on. Bryant was fined $100,000 by the league (his salary for roughly one-third of an NBA game) and reprimanded by commissioner David Stern. (Unsurprisingly, he will appeal the fine.)

I say this as someone who pays a lot of attention to the NBA: Kobe Bryant does not seem like a good person. He might be a good guy in his real life, I don’t know, but I know that in his actions, behavior and comments on and off the court as well as his general persona, he seems cartoonishly unlikable. I’m not basing this on the rape allegations, which were dismissed but nonetheless remain the first thing most people think about when they think about Kobe. I’m basing this on the way he snarls at reporters and teammates alike, denigrates his competitors and compatriots, sneers at those he deems as lesser than him, forcibly smiles and laughs in interviews in an attempt to show a “softer side,” sells out teammates for their own shady behavior, demands trades and complains about his bosses, among other things.

We laud ferocity and competitiveness in our athletes. When someone doesn’t win the big one, we ask if they really have the drive of a true champion. If LeBron can’t win a title, maybe he just doesn’t have it in him to dominate. We want focus, determination and a win-at-all-costs ethos. Michael Jordan, the greatest professional athlete of this or any other era, embodied this. He was famously competitive, not above punching a teammate during practice or verbally abusing someone who wasn’t up to snuff. And we adulate him for this, because he was the greatest, because he was MJ, because he won six rings and played the game at a level not seen before or since. Kobe Bryant, like all of his peers, wants desperately to be like Mike. He wants to be viewed as the greatest competitor on the floor. There are two problems with this: First, he’s not as likable as Jordan. (Whatever his flaws, Jordan had a charisma that Kobe cannot replicate.) And Jordan played before the era of Twitter, YouTube and constant coverage. His highlights ran on ESPN and that was it. It wasn’t like everybody heard, all the time, about all of these bad things Jordan allegedly did off the court. (Some of these things were reported, yes, but not constantly, and they didn’t live on in perpetuity on YouTube and the Smoking Gun.)

Some superstars do seem like good guys. Magic Johnson springs to mind, as do Dwyane Wade and Steve Nash and Dwight Howard (I’m not saying they are perfect, of course, but they simply come across differently). Even if Jordan was the best (and he was), that doesn’t mean he was necessarily a good guy or fun person to play with or anything. Kobe seems to fall into the same category. He’s a transcendent talent, but the kind of person that you probably never want to interact with outside of watching his highlights. Every so often, we get a reminder of this, and then he drops 45 points and cracks a joke during the post-game interview and all is forgotten. For a while, anyway. Because stuff like this doesn’t surprise people who have watched Kobe for a while. This is all we expect of him.

Carmelo finally heads to New York, where the lack of championships should make all of this fuss worthwhile

After what seems like a neverending carnival of rumors, reports, inklings and hints, the Denver Nuggets finally traded Carmelo Anthony. He becomes a New York Knick, which is what he always wanted. Since this definitely won’t result in any titles or anything any time soon, it’s safe to say everybody is a winner here.

Carmelo gets to go to the Knicks and play for a marquee franchise with a marquee sidekick in Amar’e Stoudemire. One of the dominant scorers of his generation gets to play for one of the best offensive minds (Mike D’Antoni), which is nice. After seven long months where Amar’e was the best player on his team, he is once again second banana to a more charismatic, more well-rounded player.

The Nuggets get some decent talent and didn’t completely prepare for rebuilding mode, as they would have in a Nets trade. The downside is they got the kind of talent that could help them get a seven or eight seed, and not the kind of talent that gets any further, but hey, they were making the playoffs and getting knocked out in the first round while they had a franchise player, so it’s really a lateral move for them. At least they’re finally done with this situation.

Honestly, the biggest losers here are (a) Carmelo’s rep right now and (b) Amare’s ego down the line. While I wouldn’t say this months-long saga was as destructive to Carmelo’s image as “The Decision” was for LeBron’s — mostly because there is a world of difference in the image these two have cultivated, considering Melo is best known for “Stop snitching” and that comical back-peddling when he threw a punch at the Knicks (!) a few years back — it might have been more draining because of how drawn-out the whole thing felt. As for the latter, well, let’s just say that Amar’e was reveling in being the 2010 free agent who signed with the Knicks, he was reveling in the attention, he was reveling in the star power and he was doing this because, for a time, he WAS the franchise. He wanted another star with him, and he got it. But there’s no doubt which of the two players is the brighter star, so that’s something Amar’e will have to deal with in the future.

There were other players involved, too. Chauncey Billups, who spent a little more than three seasons back with his hometown team and briefly played the returning savior, gets shipped off to New York to find enough touches for two stars that badly need the ball to contribute (both Stoudemire and Anthony take a little more than 19 shots per game). Corey Brewer, that former Florida standout, is supposedly involved as well, as two players are going to be flipped for him. New York basically decimated its roster to do this, giving up Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari, the latter of whom is supposedly going to be shipped off again.

So what do this mean, in the short- and long-term, for the Knicks? They traded a bunch of parts for a strong scorer who is iffy defensively. So, basically, Amar’e, but two inches shorter, two years younger and with better knees. Great. The Knicks are still where they were before the trade: they’re going to score a lot of points and let their opponents run up the score. The Knicks allow 105.8 points per game, making them tied (with Cleveland!) for second-to-last in the league. They’re the second highest-scoring team in the league (following Denver, which allowed the 25th-most points out of 30 teams, and this should be telling you something). They just got stronger offensively, there’s no doubt about that, but they still have a spare-parts roster and no defense whatsoever.

(To compare it to another recent star teaming: LeBron and Dwyane Wade are also two offensive dynamos who teamed up in Miami. There are important differences, not the least of which is that LeBron and Wade are both terrific defensive players. Both of them are also great distributors, particularly LeBron. Carmelo has a career assists-per-game average of 3.1, which is better than Amare’s 1.4 dimes. Wade and LeBron average 6.4 and 7 assists per game over their careers.)

Don’t get me wrong: The Knicks will be entertaining to watch. Mike D’Antoni will work wonders with two offensive dynamos on the same team, something he really hasn’t had, and Melo and Amar’e represent the strongest front-court combination in the league. And because they’re the Knicks, expect to hear a lot about them, disproportionately to their accomplishments on the court.

But this isn’t a team that can contend in the East. Boston, Miami, Chicago and Orlando are all better, and I’m not so sure the Knicks beat Atlanta in a seven-game series. Down the line, they can use the allure of New York to grab a free agent here or there. But this is a two-man show that needs to fill out the roster. Who are they going to get in the next couple of seasons? Vets chasing a ring are more likely to sign in desperation with Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City — younger teams that are more likely to play in the Finals over the next few years.

In perhaps the worst omen of all, Isiah Thomas is once again “calling the shots” in New York. Donnie Walsh, who cleared out the cap space to make room for marquee free agents and essentially worked to undo all of Thomas’s epic screw-ups, has a murky future with the team. Walsh also reportedly didn’t like the particulars of the Carmelo trade, thinking they shouldn’t give up every asset to get the guy. So even with more star power, at least they’re the same old Knicks: ready and willing to screw up whenever possible.

NBA All-Star starters announced

The NBA All-Star starters have been announced, and there are no surprises:

EAST: Guards Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, forwards LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire, center Dwight Howard

WEST: Guards Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, forwards Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, center Yao Ming

Cue the gnashing of the teeth because the teams with the best records in the league (San Antonio and Boston) have no starters. That is stupid. More worthy of mockery is Yao Ming’s perpetual inclusion, even though he hasn’t played basketball since 2003. Derrick Rose is the first Chicago Bull since Jordan retired in 1998, while Wade and LeBron are the first teammates starting since 2007 (Wade and Shaq). The game is Feb. 20 in L.A.

Yao Ming might be done, but he doesn’t sound that way

“I haven’t died,” he said. “Right now I’m drinking a beer and eating fried chicken. What were you expecting, a funeral?”

— Yao Ming’s NBA career was a momentary burst of brilliance, amplified by what he represented as the 7-foot-6 emissary of the sport to China (and, by the way, representative of that country as it chugged towards the 2008 Olympic Games). Unfortunately, he seemed mostly promise and very little payoff (on the court, at least), as he has been hobbled by a string of injuries that resulted in this season’s limited-minutes-per-game and yesterday’s revelation of an ankle fracture. He is in the final year of his contract and turned 30 in September. It seems more likely than ever that he will retire, but he seems upbeat.

The financial woes of the New Orleans Hornets

The NBA is set to take over the New Orleans Hornets, making them the first team owned by the league. The team needs a buyer, and since they haven’t found one, the league hopes to stabilize them until somebody else steps up to purchase them. Deadspin released a stash of the club’s financial documents on Tuesday,

Marc Stein has a nice read on the whole situation, since there are multiple big factors at play. The first, and biggest, is whether or not professional basketball could leave the Big Easy. The obvious answer is yes. The area hasn’t shown that it can financially support the Hornets. Going to eight Saints games a season is not the same as 41 home hoops games. It’s entirely possible the team could head to Kansas City, while the Sacramento Kings would remain the long-term goal for bringing basketball to Las Vegas. There’s the secondary issue of Chris Paul, the team’s superstar, who can opt out in 2012 but has already expressed a (now-quieted) desire to move. Though he might still dream of pairing up with another All Star in a bigger city, he isn’t going to be moved while the league owns the team; can you imagine the furor if a team essentially owned by the commissioner handed one of the game’s elite players to a franchise like New York?

It is, ultimately, a sad state of affairs. In 2008, when the team was contending for a championship and Paul was an MVP candidate, they lost more than $6 million dollars. With a potential lockout looming, Paul’s status uncertain, the ownership situation muddled and empty arenas, it’s an altogether nightmarish scene for the employees and fans of the organization.