HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in a NBA game, died Thursday at 86.
A 2003 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame as a contributor, Lloyd served as pioneer and true barrier breaker for generations of African-American players and other players of color who followed his path into the league.
Lloyd suited up with the Washington Capitols on October 31, 1950. Charles Cooper and Nat Clifton would join him in the 1950-51 season, an arduous journey during those tumultuous times, but one that Lloyd, a former West Virginia State star, survived all of the drama and won a championship in 1955 with the Syracuse Nationals. Lloyd finished his 10-year playing career with the Detroit Pistons and when he retired he was 43rd on the NBA career scoring list with 4,682 points.
Lloyd went on to become one of the NBA’s first African-American head coaches, with the Pistons from 1971-72.
Breaks my heart to hear my friend & Hall of Famer Earl Lloyd passed. Lloyd was the first black player in NBA history. World lost a great man
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t look at the calendar and assume that just because we are still months away from regular season games that there’s nothing to talk about.
That’s not the way we roll here at headquarters. There’s plenty of news (Allen Iverson‘s pending and “official” retirement, the comebacks of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Danny Granger and others, Jeremy Lin suggesting that his coaches in Houston lost faith in him last season, the mounting pressure on Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, etc.) and views to be had with our guests.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Who’s waiting on Dwight Howard?
Not the Detroit Pistons, who have bypassed the Howard free agency sweepstakes for a chance to snag Josh Smith, the versatile forward who ranks as the hottest commodity on the market not named Howard in the first hour since free agency began at 12:01 a.m. ET.
Pistons boss Joe Dumars and his brain trust met with Smith and his camp shortly after midnight with the sides discussing a significant four-year deal that would see Smith join an already impressive young frontcourt group that includes Greg Monroe and AndreDrummond.
It depends on the circumstances. And for folks in New Orleans, those circumstances will change dramatically in the next 24 hours as the team they’ve known as the Hornets will become the Pelicans. The Hornets have scheduled a Thursday news conference to unveil their new logo, mascot and colors, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
What’s in a nickname?
For Hornets (… er, soon-to-be Pelicans) owner Tom Benson, apparently everything.
The owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, Benson owned the rights to the Pelicans nickname before he bought the Hornets in April. The Pelicans date back to 1887 in New Orleans, giving them roots in the city dating back to before Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball (in 1891). The former minor league New Orleans Pelicans boast a rich baseball history and lineage, according to a Wikipedia entry:
Notable Pelicans included Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jimmy Dygert, Henry “Cotton” Knaupp, Bill Lindsay, Zeke Bonura, Gene Freese, and Hall of Famers Dazzy Vance, Joe Sewell, Bob Lemon and Earl Weaver. In Jackson’s only season with New Orleans (1910), he hit .354 to win the league batting title and led the team to the pennant with an 87–53 record. The following year, he would hit .408 with the American League’s Cleveland Naps.
In the 1950s, the team was associated with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was managed by Danny Murtaugh. Other notable Pelican managers included Larry Gilbert and Abner Powell, with the latter credited with introducing the “rain check” in 1889.
The Pelicans’ name briefly resurfaced during the 1977 season when oilman A. Ray Smith moved his Triple-A Tulsa Oilers to New Orleans to play in the Superdome. Tony La Russa was the starting shortstop for the team. After a single season, the team then moved toSpringfield, Illinois, and were renamed the Redbirds.
Whether or not the that history resonates in the city and with fans throughout the state and beyond, however, remains to be seen. As Spears noted, it wasn’t exactly met with fireworks from locals when word spread that a change was coming:
The name “Pelicans” has received a lot of criticism from Hornets fans and NBA followers. During the news conference, a video is expected to be shown explaining the history behind the nickname and what it means to New Orleans and the state. There was similar resistance when the Seattle SuperSonics changed their nickname to Thunder when the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, but now the nickname is widely accepted.
The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002. Some fans are hoping the Charlotte Bobcats change their name back to the Hornets, considering the change in New Orleans. A source said the Bobcats will do their due diligence in considering a switch back to the Hornets, but nothing is imminent.
All that said, the Pelican is the state bird, on the state flag, on license plates various other official entities in the … wait for it … Pelican State.
But again, what’s in a nickname?
For fans of the Saints, Hornets and all things New Orleans who have come along since the baseball Pelicans, it’s all about the look of the new logo, mascot and colors.
“I believe people will like that it’s a state pride thing,” said Carl Blouin Jr., whose roots run generations deep in the Crescent City. “It really depends on what the logo looks like. If it’s a goofy Pelican with a long neck and a knot in his throat, no. If it’s a tough Pelican diving into Black Bay to catch a shad, looking fierce, then maybe so. But if it looks like a cartoon character … we’re going to have a major problem. It’s all going to depend on the logo.”
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what it looks like then. In the meantime, we need your input …
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you’re one of those late shoppers in need of a go-to gift or stocking stuffer, we’ve got you covered with Christmas just days away.
Actually, former NBA “Iron Man” A.C. Green provides a clutch assist on the perfect hoops gift with his latest book, Elves Can’t Dunk, copies of which will be disseminated throughout NBA locker rooms from Los Angeles to Washington.
All holiday jokes aside, Green dropped some words of wisdom on us with his first visit to the Hang Time Podcast for Episode 97 featuring both Green and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
We solve more than just your shopping problems, of course, as we debate the state of the basketball union in Los Angeles (is it a Clippers or Lakers town right now?); Ricky Rubio‘s return and what that means for the Minnesota Timberwolves; the Golden State Warriors and the revival of Bay Area basketball; And, of course, Jeremy Lin‘s return to Madison Square Garden.
Get all that and more in Episode 97 of the Hang Time Podcast with your hosts Sekou Smith,Lang Whitaker and Rick Fox.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The name on the front of the jerseys will reportedly remain the same. The NBA franchise in New Orleans is not going anywhere.
But the same can’t be said for the nickname that the franchise brought to town from Charlotte. The Hornets could soon become the Pelicans … that’s right, the state bird (technically it’s the brown pelican) is set for global stardom as the new nickname of the franchise with new ownership in charge.
If it happens as planned, the change in New Orleans could trigger not only a mascot and color scheme change in the Pelican State, but also some changes back in Charlotte, where Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said the Hornets nickname would be welcomed if available:
“It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “We would definitely entertain the opportunity. That’s as much as we can say right now. We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”
The Hornets also considered the nicknames Krewe (groups of costumed paraders in the annual Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans) and Brass.
Louisiana is the Pelican State. The brown pelican is the state bird and appears on the state flag and seal, and official state painting. Moreover, the Pelicans played minor league baseball in New Orleans in all but nine seasons from 1887-1959 and in 1977.
Gayle Benson, [Tom] Benson’s wife, told Fox Sports New Orleans recently her preference for new team colors was navy blue, red and gold.
The Hornets came to New Orleans in 2002 from Charlotte. New Orleans has also had an NBA team called the Jazz, which moved to Salt Lake City in 1979.
Since the fine folks in Utah have no intention of parting ways with the Jazz nickname, the Bensons had to come up with something. And for the people of the state of Louisiana, the Pelicans is a much more representative moniker than the Hornets. It’s a state-pride thing.
We’re all for region-appropriate nicknames and everything; the Oklahoma City Thunder — who moved from Seattle and left the name “SuperSonics” behind — is a spot-on name. But some nicknames need to be left alone for eternity.
The Los Angeles Lakers are named for the lakes of Minnesota, where the franchise began as the Minneapolis Lakers. That nickname is off limits.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ten or 20 years from now, when someone talks about 2012, it will be remembered as the breakthrough year for LeBron James. He won his first title, a third MVP and a second gold medal.
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant will be in the footnotes. He was there for almost all of the biggest moments, battling James and the Miami Heat in The Finals and joining forces with him on the gold medal ride in the London Olympics while making a statement of his own along the way.
But history won’t sugarcoat the fact that Durant broke out but didn’t break through that year.
That’s why Durant heads into the end of the summer with 2012-13 on his mind. He’s had enough of watching someone else hoist the hardware (Larry O’Brien) that he covets, even if it is his good friend and rival James.
Durant, even at 23, is keenly aware that the NBA clock waits for no man, that opportunity knocks for only so long before it moves on to the next one. There are no guarantees that you’ll get back to the big stage during the NBA season. There are too many men chasing that glory and far too many variables outside of one superstar’s control to make it a reality on a consistent basis.
With his focus on an Olympic gold medal at the time of that trade, Durant initially declined to discuss how the Lakers’ moves could affect the Thunder’s hopes of returning to the NBA Finals next season. But now that he’s back home with a gold medal in hand, Durant says the “confident” Thunder are looking forward to the challenge posed by the new-look Lakers next season.
“People outside, fans, media, of course they are going to say [the Lakers are the favorites] because on paper they have the best lineup in the league. But you still got to play the games. We respect everybody. We are going to go through the league respecting everybody as well.
“We already view ourselves as an elite team, but we have to prove it again. Last year is over with.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —Kevin Garnett contemplated his future and decided against walking away from the game he’s given the last 17 years of his professional life. The Celtics All-Star is returning to Boston for three years and $34 million, as first reported by Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Garnett, 36, spent the first 12 seasons of his career in Minnesota and the last five with the Celtics, where he won a championship in 2008. Garnett turned back the clock in the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals this season and averaged 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds during their playoff run.
“The decision came down to whether KG wanted to keep playing,” said one source. “And once he decided that he did, it was going to be Boston. He wasn’t going to leave Doc (Rivers) and those guys and play anywhere else.”
“Kevin was absolutely great this season, and he just wants to keep going,” said a source. “And when you look at how he was playing, there’s no reason for him to stop.”
Garnett’s return allows the Celtics to move on to other pressing matters when free agency begins at midnight. Ray Allen is a free agent and is reportedly a target of several teams, including the NBA champion Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just because he was cleared to return to the practice floor last week did not mean that Hawks All-Star center Al Horford was definitely coming back for the first round of the playoffs.
It only meant there was a chance he might return from the torn pectoral muscle injury and surgery that cost him all but 11 games during this abbreviated regular season. And that chances appears to be slipping away.
“I don’t feel like it is realistic that I can play for the playoffs. Obviously, if we advance and start going we will see. But as of right now the way I feel I think I am out for the playoffs.”
There have been rumblings all along that a potential return for Horford was being blown way out of proportion and that he wasn’t nearly as comfortable with returning after this type of injury as some within the organization were.
Bryant has missed the past seven games with a shin injury, but said he expects to return Friday when the Lakers visit the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers also play the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday at home before ending the regular season by visiting the Sacramento Kings on April 26. The Lakers could decide to sit Bryant against the Kings because the playoffs begin two days later.
“It will kind of establish my rhythm more,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ victory over the Golden State Warriors. “It finishes the season up the right way and generates the momentum we need toward the postseason.”
Bryant went through a tough on-court workout with Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy about three hours before the Warriors game. Bryant was healthy enough to play against Golden State, but the Lakers opted to give him another couple days of rest.
Bryant last played April 6. He said he’s never worried the injury was serious, and he began targeting his return a few days ago.
“It just takes time for it to heal,” Bryant said. “There is nothing you can do to expedite it. You just have to sit and wait.”
The Lakers’ 5-2 record without Bryant showed that they could survive without the face of the franchise in the short-term. But the time off provided Bryant with some clarity about this team.
Any doubts he might have had about what his team could accomplish disappeared as he watched both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol dominate teams, at times, in his absence.
“I feel very good about it,” Bryant told Spears. “I believe it’s a championship team. I know it when I see it.”