Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans Hornets’

Morning Shootaround — June 3


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses how the Heat and Spurs are preparing for The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Knicks plan to talk to Fisher soon | Rondo:  No Celtics ‘pitch’ to Love | Report: Pistons nearing deal to make Bower GM | Report: Jazz to interview Griffin, Snyder again

No. 1: Report: Knicks to talk with Fisher soon; Lakers cooling on him as coach — After Oklahoma City lost in Game 6 of the West finals, Thunder backup point guard Derek Fisher didn’t sound like he was as ready to make the jump into NBA coaching as most thought he’d be. As such, the teams most associated with being interested in him — the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers — backed off a bit to allow him time to decompress after OKC’s loss. The Knicks, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, remain interested in Fisher and plan to talk with him this week about their opening. Out in L.A., though, interest in the ex-Lakers fan favorite may be cooling, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Here’s Stein & Shelburne on the Knicks’ pursuit of Fisher:

Phil Jackson‘s first substantive chat with Derek Fisher about the New York Knicks’ coaching job is scheduled to take place this week, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com Monday that Jackson is planning to connect with Fisher by week’s end, giving the Oklahoma City Thunder guard some time to decompress after his team was eliminated by San Antonio Saturday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

One source cautioned that the discussion shouldn’t be classified as a formal interview, given the long and close working relationship between Jackson and Fisher during their two stints together as coach and player with the Los Angeles Lakers. But another source close to the process told ESPN.com that he thinks Fisher will ultimately find the allure of coaching in New York under Jackson too difficult to pass up.

As ESPN.com reported May 19, Jackson essentially put his coaching search on hold to wait to speak to Fisher first after missing out on initial top target Steve Kerr, who spurned the Knicks to coach the Golden State Warriors.

Fisher said Sunday he remains undecided about retirement, but sources say Jackson continues to hold out hope he can persuade the 39-year-old to make the immediate jump to coaching — as Jason Kidd did last season with Brooklyn — after Fisher’s 18 seasons as a player.

“I’m still struggling with the results of [the series],” Fisher told local reporters Sunday. “I haven’t [had] a chance to talk to my wife and kind of step back emotionally from the end of the season. That’s important to do, so that whatever is next, there has to be a separation from the end of the season and what just happened and then I can go from there.”

And here’s Wojnarowski on the Lakers cooling a bit in their pursuit of Fisher:

As the Los Angeles Lakers remain cool on the pursuit of Derek Fisher as a coaching candidate, the New York Knicks continue to cement themselves as the strong frontrunner to hire him, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

So far, the Lakers have expressed an exclusive desire to explore experienced head coaches in their search, and there isn’t yet an indication that team officials plan to seriously consider Fisher for the job, league sources said.

Los Angeles has so far interviewed four coaches about replacing Mike D’AntoniMike Dunleavy, Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins.

Knicks president Phil Jackson has been eager to sell Fisher, 39, on the possibility of Jackson mentoring him as part of a direct move from Fisher’s playing career into the Knicks head coaching job. Fisher is taking a few days to finalize his thoughts on the likely end of his 18-year playing career before fully engaging in talks to become a head coach.


VIDEO: Derek Fisher discusses his playing and coaching future during his OKC exit interview (more…)

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 21


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron bloodied in Heat’s win | Report: Magic reach buyout with Davis | Report: Nets mull signing Collins | Failed Paul trade shaped several teams’ plans

No. 1: LeBron bloodied in Heat’s win over Thunder – The Miami Heat were en route to an eventual 103-81 thrashing of the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena and LeBron James drove to the basket midway through the fourth quarter. James got popped in the face by OKC’s Serge Ibaka as he made his move and finished at the rim with a flush. But after the dunk, James crumpled to the floor and was bleeding profusely from his nose. Our Jeff Caplan was on the scene and reports that James is fine and cleared concussion tests from the injury:

LeBron James left Thursday night’s showdown against the Thunder midway through the fourth quarter after getting clobbered in the nose on his way to completing a highlight-reel play at the rim.Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said James’ nose was swollen and bleeding, but confirmed that he passed concussion tests. Asked if James had X-rays on his nose, Spoelstra would only say that his superstar will be checked out Friday back in Miami. The Heat just finished a six-game road trip and don’t play again until Sunday against Chicago.

“He’s got a swollen nose right now, it’s bleeding. We’ll evaluate him when we get back to Miami,” Spoelstra said. “It’s sore, he took a shot; probably should have been at the free throw line after that, but he was aggressive and it was a heck of an attack right there. He got hit pretty good though in the nose, so we’ll just have to see when we get back.”

With the fourth-quarter clock ticking down to the six-minute mark, James drove to the basket and appeared to get walloped in the nose as he blew through the lane. James soared across the front of the rim, left to right, against Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka looking for a right-handed slam, Ibaka kept him far enough away that James couldn’t stretch far enough for the dunk. High above the rim, James still managed to score before crashing to the floor.

Game action resumed at the Thunder’s end as James squirmed on the Heat’s baseline. It wasn’t until play stopped on an OKC travel call that Heat guard Ray Allen made it back to the other end and was first to reach James. As soon as he saw him, Allen waved for the trainers.

Heat players circled around James and everybody in Miami black held their breath.

“You just don’t know what it is,” Spoelstra said. “I’m like everybody else, you’re used to seeing him like Superman and get up and sprint back even after tough hits and tough falls, so you knew something was up.”


VIDEO: LeBron James takes a hit to the face in Miami’s win over OKC

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No. 2: Report: Magic reach buyout with DavisGlen “Big Baby” Davis came to the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2011 via a sign-and-trade deal with the Celtics that sent Brandon Bass to Boston. After Dwight Howard was traded from Orlando to the L.A. Lakers in the 2012 offseason, Davis got off to a solid start last season with the Magic. But injuries derailed most of 2012-13 for him after 25 games and this season was marred by his well-publicized blowup late at night at an Orlando-area hotel. The Magic have one of the youngest teams in the league and have decided to buyout Davis to free up more minutes for younger players, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Magic and Davis have reached a buyout agreement that will end the burly power forward’s tumultuous tenure with the franchise.

“It became apparent that they felt it was necessary to try to allow their younger players more time on the court and were in a full rebuild mode,” said Davis’ agent, John Hamilton.

Davis was under contract for $6.4 million this season and was due to earn $6.6 million from the Magic next season.Hamilton would not disclose the terms of the buyout.

Davis, 28, didn’t figure into the Magic’s long-term plans.

The move subtracts Davis’ well-documented volatility from the locker room, where there are impressionable youngsters.

Parting ways with him also allows the team to allocate more playing time to second-year big men Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson. The team also could shift Tobias Harris from small forward to power forward, which would enable coach Jacque Vaughn to utilize a three-guard lineup in which Victor Oladipo, Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo play simultaneously.

Magic officials had trade talks with multiple teams about Davis in recent weeks but couldn’t work out a deal before the 2013-14 NBA trade deadline expired Thursday afternoon.

Davis enjoyed highs and endured lows during his Magic tenure, which began in Dec. 2011 following a sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics.

For most of the 2011-12 season, Davis backed up Ryan Anderson and struggled to earn the playing time he wanted.

On Feb. 3, 2012, Davis spoke up during a team shootaround and got into a screaming match with then-coach Stan Van Gundy; after Van Gundy dismissed Davis from practice, Davis damaged a wall as he stormed into the Magic locker room.

That season, Davis also had a verbal altercation with a fan in Portland, Ore., before a game.

The Magic made Davis a co-captain for the 2012-13 season, and Davis embraced the role and flourished under Vaughn. Davis helped lead the rebuilding Magic to a 12-13 start. But Davis dislocated his left shoulder during the team’s 25th game and later fractured a bone in his left foot. His injuries helped doom the Magic to an 8-49 finish to their season.

Early this season, while still rehabbing his foot, Davis had an off-court incident at a downtown Orlando motel. After a discussion with a front-desk clerk, Davis threw one of the motel’s keyboards against a wall. Davis was never charged with a crime.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, several teams are already lining up to add Davis for the playoff stretch run:

The Magic tried hard to move Davis before Thursday’s trade deadline but were unable to find a deal to unload him. The Los Angeles Clippers are the frontrunners to sign Davis, league sources said. Clippers GM and coach Doc Rivers coached Davis with the Boston Celtics and had discussions with Orlando in recent days about acquiring him. The Brooklyn Nets, who like the Clippers are searching for a backup big man, have signifcant interest in Davis too, league sources said. Also interested, according to one of the sources, are the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.

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No. 3: Report: Nets mull signing Collins — Veteran center Jason Collins hasn’t played in an NBA game since April 17, 2013, but the Brooklyn Nets are reportedly considering bringing him in on a 10-day deal. ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein report that Collins, who made history last year when he became the first openly gay active NBA player, would theoretically fill one of the team’s two open roster spots. Brooklyn’s lone trade before yesterday’s trade deadline was to send guard Jason Terry and forward Reggie Evans to Sacramento for Marcus Thornton in a deal that took place on Feb. 19. The Nets were unable to land any frontcourt players, though, thus leading them to potentially add Collins, who played for the Nets from 2001-07:

The Brooklyn Nets are giving strong consideration to signing Jason Collins to a 10-day contract that would position the free-agent center to become the NBA’s first active openly gay player, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets, after letting Thursday’s trade deadline pass without making a deal for Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill, have identified Collins as a prime candidate to fill one of their two open roster spots and bolster a depleted frontcourt rotation via a 10-day deal.

No final decision has been made, but the Nets on Thursday night confirmed an earlier ESPN.com report that Collins was auditioned by the team in a private workout in Los Angeles earlier this week to assess the state of the 35-year-old’s game.

Nets general manager Billy King acknowledged the workout in an evening conference call with local reporters after the passing of the trade deadline but said he did not attend it in person. When asked to share the feedback he received on Collins, King said: “He’s in shape.”

“He’s one of the names on the list,” King said of Collins. “We will look at anybody that’s a free agent that’s big that’s out there. We’re looking at any guys that are free agents and he’s one of the guys. But we’ve got other guys that we’ll look at.”

“We’re going to look to add a guy,” King said, “that we feel will help us.”

King scoffed at the suggestion that Collins was being considered for a 10-day deal for mere publicity reasons, saying: “We’re going to bring in a basketball player. It’s not about marketing or anything like that. … We are trying to get a guy in who can play basketball at this point. That’s my focus.”

Yet King did concede that the aforementioned media blitz that would likely engulf the Nets, at least to start, is something that had to be accounted for in the decision-making process.

“You look at it from every aspect when you add a player,” King said.

King went on to say that a well-rounded defender, as much an outright rebounding specialist, would appeal to the Nets, which would appear to enhances Collins’ chances of landing at least a 10-day deal given that his specialties are positioning, pick-sitting and post defense. No Net could use a hand more than Garnett, who has been starting at center in place of the injured Lopez and anchoring the Nets’ defense but could find himself rested in several games during the regular-season stretch run given Brooklyn’s eight remaining back-to-backs.

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No. 4: Failed Paul trade to Lakers hurt many teams’ rebuild plans — It is perhaps known as the most famous offseason trade that wasn’t in recent memory. The Los Angeles Lakers’ failed attempt to pick up Chris Paul from the then-New Orleans Hornets before the start of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season put a kink not only in that season, but in L.A.’s plans for its next great era of hoops. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, who covered the Lakers for the Orange County Register at the time, has an excellent, long look at how that failed trade affected not just L.A., but all the teams involved:

Twenty-six months have passed since the Lakers had the deal done to acquire Paul from the New Orleans Hornets in a three-team trade sending Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom to the Hornets. As much as has happened to the team in the past two years, CP3 going in and out still remains the missed shot at the forefront of the minds of Lakers staffers, executives and fans.

The Houston Rockets are in town Wednesday night to play the Lakers, and if the trade had gone through, the Rockets would be altogether different now—presumably led not by James Harden and Dwight Howard, but by Gasol.

Instead, Gasol still sits here by the shore, sweating the Thursday NBA trade deadline as the time the Lakers might finally ship him out.

The question of whether Howard would’ve become a Laker at all and might still be there is just one of many that are fascinating to consider. At heart, though, there is no arguing how poorly things have turned out for the Lakers without Paul.

A clear parallel universe was established…and then never allowed to exist.

How would that alternate reality have looked? Rarely do we get to do analysis that is both prospective and retrospective, but let’s take an in-depth look and figure it out.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kobe Bryant tweeted his displeasure with the Lakers’ trading of Steve Blake … Hours after acquiring Earl Clark from the Cavaliers in their trade for Spencer Hawes, the Sixers have cut ClarkDanny Granger had mixed feelings as he heads from Indiana to Philadelphia … Rockets GM Daryl Morey explains why Houston made only one move on trade deadline day when many more were expected

ICYMI of The Night: Crafty little baseline move here by Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin


VIDEO: Jeremy Lin nails the contorting layup along the baseline

A Meandering Road For N.O. Basketball


VIDEO: Fran Blinebury narrates the history of New Orleans basketball

The author Tom Robbins once said that if New Orleans is not fully in the mainstream of culture, neither is it fully in the mainstream of time. Lacking a well-defined present, it lives somewhere between its past and its future, as if uncertain whether to advance or to retreat.

That might also describe the meandering history of basketball in the Crescent City. With roots that stretch to the earliest professional leagues, the game has followed the unsteady path of an overindulgent visitor in the French Quarter to reach the glitz and glamour that is the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend.

The state of Louisiana could fill out a virtual Hall of Fame roster with native-born talent — Bill Russell, Bob Pettit, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Robert Parish, Joe Dumars, Don Chaney and Bob Love. But the pro game has spent more than six peripatetic decades trying to find an embrace in the Big Easy.

“Honestly, it’s not that big. It’s really not,” said Pacers forward and native Danny Granger of the basketball scene in New Orleans. “Compared to Indianapolis, if Indianapolis is a 10, New Orleans is a 4, as far as high school basketball goes … We’ve always been a football city.”

Still, at the end of World War II, the game began to take wing all across the United States. New Orleans’ first team, the Hurricanes, were part of the Professional Basketball League of America in 1947. Led by 19-year-old guard Paul Seymour, the Hurricanes and the league lasted just eight games before going out of business.

A year later, the Hurricanes were renamed the Sports and joined the second year of the Southern Basketball League. The Sports featured the league’s leading scorer in Alex “Greek” Athas, a product of Tulane University in New Orleans. The Sports went 7-24, the SBL went out of business at the end of the season and a nearly 20-year wait for another pro basketball team began.

The ABA comes to town

The American Basketball Association was the young, defiant upstart league that burst onto the scene in 1967 with a red-white-and-blue ball, a 3-point shot and a wide-open, slam-dunking style of play that challenged perceptions and authority.

And what better place to do that than rowdy Bourbon Street and New Orleans?

Larry Brown (center) of the New Orleans Buccaneers was MVP of the ABA All-Star Game in 1968. With ABA Commissioner George Mikan (left) and Rick Barry. (NBA Photos/NBAE)

Larry Brown (center) of the New Orleans Buccaneers was MVP of the ABA All-Star Game in 1968. With ABA Commissioner George Mikan (left) and Rick Barry.
(NBA Photos/NBAE)

The Buccaneers were coached by the legendary Babe McCarthy with his honey dew Mississippi drawl and his pocketful of down-home sayings:

“Boy, I gotta tell you, you gotta come at ‘em like a bitin’ sow.”

“My old pappy used to tell me, the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s butt every day.”

McCarthy’s team was loaded with talent. The first player signed was Doug Moe, the talented forward out of North Carolina who had been connected to a college basketball betting scandal. Even though nothing was ever proven, Moe, along with Connie Hawkins, had been banned from the NBA for life.

The Buccaneers then added Moe’s good buddy Larry Brown, the 5-foot-9 point guard who’d been dismissed by the NBA for simply being too short.

“I loved every minute of playing in New Orleans and playing with that team,” said Brown, 73, the Hall of Fame coach who is now at Southern Methodist. “I was an assistant coach at North Carolina at the time and figured that was it. That league and that team meant a lot to me because they gave me a chance to prove that I could be a player at the top level.

“Man, that was a team. We had a great kid that nobody ever talks about anymore — Jimmy Jones from Grambling. We had Jackie Moreland, Jesse Branson, Marlbert Pradd and Austin ‘Red” Robbins. We came within a game of winning the championship in that first year (losing 4-3 in the ABA Finals to Hawkins and the Pittsburgh Pipers).”

The Bucs played before largely empty houses at Loyola Field House for the first several months, mostly because they arrived in town the same year the Saints were welcomed into the NFL.

“I went to the very first Saints game ever,” Brown said. “Guy takes the opening kick back 99 yards for a touchdown and the place went crazy. We all figured they’d never lose a game. Of course, with that passion for the Saints, nobody paid attention to us until football season was over. But when it was, the stands were packed. The enthusiasm and interest was great.

“I loved playing for a phenomenal coach in Babe. He had a great feel for the game and he cared about his players. He reminded me of a southern Frank McGuire and that’s the greatest compliment that I can give anybody.”

Even though Brown won the MVP award at the first ABA All-Star Game and Moe was named to the All-ABA team, they were both traded after just one season.

“I think it was about money,” Brown said, “even though Babe always called me his pissant guard and he did get back a 6-7 guard in Steve Jones. That’s OK. Doug and I went to Oakland and won a championship the next year.

“But I wouldn’t trade that experience — that one year — in New Orleans for anything.”

The Buccaneers survived just two more seasons in New Orleans before the franchise moved to Memphis in 1970.

The Pistol Pete era


VIDEO: Ultimate “Pistol” Pete Maravich highlight reel

It was four years later when the NBA finally came to town with an expansion team. The aptly named Jazz fittingly brought in the greatest improvisational artist in the game in “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who’d played college ball at Louisiana State in Baton Rouge and made music with a basketball like Louis Armstrong did with his trumpet.

Avery Johnson, who won an NBA championship with the Spurs, coached the Mavericks to The Finals and is now an ESPN analyst, grew up on the streets of New Orleans’ Sixth Ward, within walking distance of the Superdome. He joyously recalls watching the show.

“As a young kid, the Jazz really sparked my interest in basketball,” he said. “Growing up, my two favorite guys to watch were Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald and ‘Pistol Pete.’

“Since the Jazz were playing at the Superdome and had all those seats to fill, they were practically giving tickets away. So my friends and I were going to as many games as we could, even on school nights.”

“All the kids in our neighborhood wore our [floppy] socks like Pistol and anytime we saw him make a great shot or an amazing pass, we’d all be out there on the schoolyard or playground the next day trying to do it. For a kid my age, it really didn’t get any better than that.”

Trouble was, most of the NBA was always better than the Jazz. In five seasons, the Jazz never finished with a record of .500 record. When Maravich was beset by a series of knee injuries and couldn’t play, the big show lost its headline attraction.

“It was sad when he could no longer be Pistol,” said Brown. “I grew up with Pete and from the time he was young he had a quality on the court that wouldn’t let you take your eyes off of him.

“I saw him play in the state high school tournament. He loved the game. He made players better. He made you enjoy going to watch the basketball game. You didn’t know what was going to happen, but you knew something great would happen.

“I have always been known as a perfectionist coach, talking about playing the game the right way. Pete didn’t play the right way, but he had to play the way that gave him the best chance to win. A lot of people would look at the shots I let Allen Iverson take in Philly and say, ‘That’s not right.’ But when you have greatness like him, you let him do the things he’s capable of doing. The same held true for Pete and there was nobody capable of doing the things he was doing.”

But with Maravich hobbled and fan support hemorrhaging, the franchise was sold in 1979 and the Jazz name was incongruously relocated to Utah.

Post Pete

“In 1979 the Jazz were leaving, a channel called ESPN came on my TV,” Johnson recalled. “It seemed like the world was changing and you couldn’t hold things back.”

“It was playing in the Superdome,” Brown said. “It wasn’t a real basketball facility. Too many seats. And you know, the South was still kind of funny then. I don’t think people were ever passionate about basketball after the Buccaneers left. They were never really attracted to the Jazz, just Pete.”

At that time, a young David Stern was general counsel to NBA commissioner Larry O’Brien and worked hard to try to find a local owner in Louisiana. He couldn’t.

“I never thought even at that time that the NBA couldn’t work in New Orleans,” Stern said. “I always thought the NBA could work anywhere and we’ve proved that over the years with the so-called small markets in San Antonio, Orlando, Utah, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland and Sacramento. So even as we were leaving, I never thought there was a reason the NBA couldn’t come back.”

It took 13 years, but when the Hornets could not work out an agreement for a new arena in Charlotte, they relocated. The beat of pro basketball was again in New Orleans.

The Hornets played at the New Orleans Arena, built adjacent to the Superdome. They were coached by Paul Silas and with a veteran roster led by Jamal Mashburn, George Lynch and Elden Campbell, and immediately made two playoff appearances. But a miserable 18-64 record the next season was the worst in the league.

The Hornets parlayed that misery into making Chris Paul their top pick in the NBA Draft in June 2005 and plotted their comeback. But real tragedy struck on Aug. 29 of that year when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.

More than 1,800 lives were lost, $108 billion in damages suffered to the city and the Hornets were forced to set up a temporary home for two seasons in Oklahoma City.

Former Hornets player P.J. Brown visits a Katrina memorial in 2007. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Former Hornets player P.J. Brown visits a Katrina memorial in 2007. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

“I was so happy when the team had returned to New Orleans and my hometown got another chance,” Johnson said. “Then came Katrina and all you could wonder was ‘What next?’ Would they come back again?”

With rabid fan support for the Hornets and a hunger for the first pro sports franchise in OKC, the question of whether the Hornets would return to the Big Easy continued to be asked. As the city slowly and steadily picked up the pieces and began to put itself back together, Stern — now the commissioner — remained the city’s greatest champion. He gave his steadfast approval to New Orleans as an NBA town.

“Apart from my own previous history with the city, I have an affection because of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that followed,” Stern said. “It was important to me for us to be the first sport to play a regular-season game again in New Orleans after Katrina. We scheduled an All-Star Game [2008] there and people said we were crazy. So it gives me enormous pleasure to see where the franchise is today.”

“That was a very strong statement made by commissioner Stern,” Johnson said. “ ‘We are not going to leave you at the time of your greatest trial.’ It was a sign faith, of hope, of possibility for the future.”

When the Hornets returned, the team was in full bloom with Paul as its leader. He was joined on the 2008 All-Star team by New Orleans teammate David West. The Hornets finished 56-26, their best record ever, were the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and defeated Dallas in the first round.

But things again turned sour two years later when the NBA was forced to purchase the team from owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest in a bid to keep basketball in the city. The league, with Stern acting as the de facto owner, ran the franchise for 1 1/2 years. Paul, who’d been an All-Star four times in six seasons in New Orleans, said he wanted out and, after one deal that would have sent him to the L.A. Lakers was turned down by Stern, Paul eventually was traded to the Clippers.

CP3 and the Big Easy

Chris Paul in 2008 (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Chris Paul in 2008 (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Now, three years later, Paul still holds an affinity for the city. New Orleans is more than just a team in a city where his NBA career began.

“[It’s] everything. Everything,” said Paul, who will return this week as a member of the Western Conference. “It’s going to be emotional going back. Obviously I was already going to All-Star regardless because we have some players’ association events and things like that. I still have a lot of my close friends and family there in New Orleans. My pastor lives in New Orleans. I’m doing my daughter’s christening when I go back and stuff like that. My brother’s doing his twins. It’s going to be pretty cool to be back.”

Even though he actually played his first two NBA seasons in Oklahoma City with the displaced Hornets, Paul sank his teeth and his roots into America’s most colorful, most unique city.

His brother got married in New Orleans.  Paul still runs an after-school program in the city.

“It’s crazy because I’m older and a little bit wiser now from when I was there in New Orleans, but it’s the people of New Orleans that make it what it is,” he said. “Everybody talks about the food and the environment and the nightlife and all this different type stuff. But it’s the people. There’s nothing like it. It’s its own language. It’s its own everything. And me being born and raised from the South, the people of New Orleans became my family.

“I did those [first] two years in Oklahoma City so I had no idea. I was going off what everybody was telling me about New Orleans. It’s crazy to hear some people talk about, ‘Oh, New Orleans, I can’t go there, I can’t do this.’ And I tell people, ‘I loved it. I absolutely loved it.’ What you learn is that some people will say that in front of the camera and stuff like that, but when it [the camera] moves, they’ll be like, ‘I hated it.’ But, you know, I’ll talk about New Orleans. I absolutely loved it there. That ‘07-08 season was something special that I’ll never forget. When you’re winning and playing in New Orleans, there’s nothing like it. Nothing like it.”

A new beginning

In April 2012, Tom Benson, the owner of the NFL Saints, bought the team from the NBA. In June the team made Anthony Davis the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. And for the start of the 2013-14 season, the Hornets were rechristened as the Pelicans, a nod to the state bird of Louisiana and a source of local pride. Now New Orleans will host its second post-Katrina NBA All-Star Weekend.

In his second season in the league, the athletic forward Davis has exploded at both ends of the court as a franchise player and future All-Star. Jrue Holiday, an All-Star a year ago, has been added to the roster. It’s the fourth season for coach Monty Williams.

“I was disappointed they had to let Chris go,” said Brown. “But I believe in Monty Williams. He’s a smart young coach who used to work for me. They’ve got an unbelievable kid there in Davis. I’m telling you, that kid is the truth.

“I’ll always have a love for that city because of one special season of playing basketball. But after all those years and all those teams and all those different problems, I think they’re finally going in the right direction.”

Walkin’ to New Orleans, as the great Fats Domino sang, goin’ back home to stay.

Rose Garden One Of Last Stadiums To Get The Corporate-Naming Touch

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – And then there were three.

Only three of the NBA’s 30 arenas do not bear a corporate name: Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks; The Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Detroit Pistons; and New Orleans Arena, home of the rebranded Pelicans.

Truth be told, that number will soon shrink to two if the Pelicans can find a willing corporate partner.

Last year’s renaming of Milwaukee’s Bradley Center to BMO (Harris Bank) Bradley Center dropped us to four. And Tuesday’s announcement in Portland that the awesomely named Rose Garden Arena — affectionately called simply the Rose Garden — is now the antiseptic Moda Center, made it a lonely three. The deal with Moda Health, a regional health and dental insurance provider, reportedly is for 10 years and $40 million, or $4 million a year, or about $1.4 million less than backup guard Mo Williams will earn the next two seasons.

The Trail Blazers called The Rose Garden Home since 1995, and although team president and CEO Chris McGowan surmised: “The Rose Garden put us on the map, the Moda Center’s going to take us into the future,” Blazers fans seem to have an affinity for roses.

The sudden death of The Rose Garden made us nostalgic for the good ol’ days when an arena name meant something, by gosh, or at least sounded like it did. Gone are The Omni, The MECCA, The Spectrum, The Summit and The “Fabulous” Forum, among others.

Lost are the coliseums like the Coliseum at Richfield — or as I remember it, “Richfield Colisuem” — and the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Which leads to another bygone era of patriotism in arena/stadium naming such as Phoenix’s old barn and Portland’s Rose Garden predecessor, Memorial Coliseum.

And forget about naming an arena after the great metropolis in which it sits. Once New Orleans finds a deal (assuming it can), the mighty Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills will stand alone.

We’re left with a hodgepodge of cold, corporate neon signs on big buildings. It’s difficult enough to keep track of player movement, let alone which stodgy bank or hot company du jour has its name on which arena this week.

Some of these companies seem to come and go with every Wall Street ebb and flow. Quick, name the Philadelphia 76ers’ home arena … For 27 years they suited up at The Spectrum. In the 17 years since moving into a new arena, the place has gone by four corporate names. If you said Wells Fargo Center, congratulations. If you said CoreStates Center, First Union Center or Wachovia Center, please catch up.

It’s hard to believe we’re a solid two decades into naming-rights deals with the late, great Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss really ushering in the era 25 years ago when he signed a deal with Great Western Savings and Loan, changing the Forum to Great Western Forum. The genius behind it is there was little backlash because so few people outside California recognized Great Western as a bank, it almost seemed like a natural name change for a venue that had grown famous for its basketball, boxing and concerts.

The Chicago Bulls weren’t too far behind, going corporate in 1994 with their move into the cavernous United Center and the great Celtics ditched the Boston Garden a year later for something called the FleetCenter. Yes, Fleet specializes in enemas, but this Fleet was actually a Boston-based bank. Of course, once Fleet was sold to Bank of America, the arena name had to be flushed.

In the name of nostalgia, what follows is a history of arena names for each of today’s 30 NBA teams (via basketball-reference.com):

Atlanta Hawks

Alexander Memorial Coliseum (1968-72); Omni Coliseum (1972-97); Georgia Dome (1997-99); Philips Arena (99-present)

Boston Celtics

Boston Garden (1947-95); FleetCenter (1995-2005); TD Banknorth Garden (2005-09); TD Garden (2009-present)

Brooklyn Nets 

Barclays Center (2012-present);
As the New Jersey Nets: Rutgers Athletic Center (1978-81); Brendan Byrne Arena (1981-96); Continental Airlines Arena (1996-2007); Izod Center (2007-10), Prudential Center (2010-12)

Charlotte Bobcats

Charlotte Coliseum (2004-05); Charlotte Bobcats Arena (2005-08); Time Warner Cable Arena (08-present)

Chicago Bulls

International Amphitheater (1966-67); Chicago Stadium (1967-94); United Center (1994-present)

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Arena (1971-74); Coliseum at Richfield (1974-94); Gund Arena (1994-2005); Quicken Loans Arena (2006-present)

Dallas Mavericks

Reunion Arena (1980-2001); American Airlines Center (2001-present)

Denver Nuggets 

Denver Auditorium (1974-75); McNichols Sports Arena (1975-99); Pepsi Center (1999-present)

Detroit Pistons

Detroit Olympia (1957-61); Cobo Arena (1961-78); Pontiac Silverdome (1978-88); The Palace of Auburn Hills (1988-present)

Golden State Warriors

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena (1972-96); San Jose Arena (1996-97 while Oakland arena renovated); The Arena in Oakland (1997-2004); Oakland Arena (2004-06); Oracle Arena (2006-present)

Houston Rockets

Hofheinz Pavilion (1971-75); The Summit (1975-98); Compaq Center (1998-2004); Toyota Center (2004-present)

Indiana Pacers

Indiana State Fair Coliseum (1967-74); Market Square Arena (1974-99); Conseco Fieldhouse (1999-2011); Bankers Life Fieldhouse (2011-present)

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (1985-99); STAPLES Center (1999-present)

Los Angeles Lakers 

Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (1961-67); The Forum (1967-88); Great Western Forum (1988-99); STAPLES Center (1999-present)

Memphis Grizzlies

Pyramid Arena (2001-04); FedExForum (2004-present)

Miami Heat

Miami Arena (1989-99); American Airlines Arena (1999-present)

Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Arena (1968-74); The MECCA (1974-88); Bradley Center (1988-2012); BMO Bradley Center (2012-present)

Minnesota Timberwolves

Metrodome (1989-90); Target Center (1990-present)

New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans

New Orleans Arena (2002-present)

New York Knicks

Madison Square Garden (1947-present)

Oklahoma City Thunder

Ford Center (2008-09); Oklahoma City Arena (2009-10); Chesapeake Energy Arena (2010-present)

Orlando Magic

Orlando Arena (1989-99); TD Waterhouse Centre (1999-2006); Amway Arena (2006-present)

Philadelphia 76ers

Convention Hall (1963-67); The Spectrum (1967-94); CoreStates Spectrum (1994-96); CoreStates Center (1996-98); First Union Center (1998-2003); Wachovia Center (2003-10); Wells Fargo Center (2010-present)

Phoenix Suns

Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum (1969-92); America West Arena (1992-2007); US Airways Center (2007-present)

Portland Trail Blazers

Memorial Coliseum (1971-95); Rose Garden Arena (1995-2013); Moda Center (as of Tuesday)

Sacramento Kings

ARCO Arena (1985-09); Power Balance Pavilion (2009-12); Sleep Train Arena (2012-present)

San Antonio Spurs

HemisFair Arena (1973-93); Alamodome (1993-2002); SBC Center (2002-06); AT&T Center (2006-present)

Toronto Raptors

SkyDome (1995-98); Air Canada Centre (1998-present)

Utah Jazz

Salt Palace (1979-91); Delta Center (1991-06); EnergySolutions Arena (2006-present)

Washington Bullets/Wizards

Capital Centre (1974-93); US Airways Centre (1993-97); MCI Center (1997-2006); Verizon Center (2006-present)

Morning Shootaround — April 11

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: You knowit was a great night in the NBA when our choices this morning are a triple-double game or a player scoring 47 points in 48 minutes. The triple-double performance? That came courtesy of Denver’s do-it-all star Andre Iguodala, who led the way in the Nuggets’ win over the Spurs. The 47-point effort — with eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals thrown in for good measure — came from Kobe Bryant in a close win against the Blazers. Which one do we pick? As great as Iguodala’s performance was, we’ve got to give it up for Bryant. It was a classic will-the-Lakers-to-a-win performance from the Black Mamba as he is doing everything he can down the stretch to make sure the Lakers keep hold of that No. 8 seed out West.

News of the morning

Williams dominates vs. Celtics | Hornets hope for best with Davis’ injury | Gortat may return before season’s end

Williams impresses in win over CeltsOver the last week or so, we’ve had plenty of posts praising Nets guard Deron Williams for the revival in his game (as well as news that he’s giving up cortisone shots on his ankle). If the Celtics were unaware of just how much better D-Will has been playing, though, they got an education last night. Williams toasted Boston for 29 points and 12 assists and in the process made Boston look silly on several occasions, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

Deron Williams looks ready for the playoffs to start.

Williams was spectacular against the Celtics last night, finishing with 29 points and 12 assists as the Nets came away with a 101-93 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 inside TD Garden.

With the win, the Nets moved closer to wrapping up fourth place in the Eastern Conference and clinching homecourt advantage in the first round. They own a 3 ¹/₂ -game edge over idle Chicago with four games left to play in the regular season.

Williams even was able to make Avery Bradley, one of the league’s elite on-ball defenders, look silly. Bradley, Boston’s starting point guard, managed to play just 10 minutes after Williams saddled him with four fouls, and none of Bradley’s teammates fared much better.

It’s the kind of virtuoso performance the Nets have come to expect from Williams in recent weeks, as he continued his dramatic resurgence since the All-Star break. Williams came into last night’s game averaging 22.5 points and 7.8 assists a night.

He did a large portion of his damage in the second quarter, when the Nets took control of the game for good after the two teams traded baskets for much of the first quarter.

Williams finished with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting and four assists in the second quarter alone, including a pair of slick passes to Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, respectively, for buckets in the final minutes of the half to send the Nets into the locker room with a 53-43 lead, an advantage they basically maintained for the rest of the game.

Davis hurt vs. Kings; Hornets hope for bestOur own Scott Howard-Cooper was on the scene last night in Sacramento for a game between the lottery-bound Hornets and Kings. What should have been a good late-season assessment game for two young clubs took a nasty turn in the fourth quarter when the Hornets’ prized rookie, Anthony Davis, went down with a knee injury. The Hornets were a bit ambiguous in how Davis is doing, but are hoping for the best with his health:

But that gave way to the uncertainty of the centerpiece, Davis, limping out of the locker room and headed for the flight back to New Orleans and a likely MRI exam on his left knee.

The initial diagnosis was a sprain, the result of Sacramento’s Marcus Thornton landing hard on Davis’ knee when Davis was on the court after challenging a Thornton drive under the basket in the fourth quarter of the 121-110 Kings victory. Davis, walking under his own power, left the arena with security and was not talking.

“I think he’s OK,” coach Monty Williams said. “I don’t want to jump the gun. I didn’t see the play yet, but he said Marcus landed on his knee. He said he’s a little sore. I’m just glad it wasn’t a buckle or a ligament or anything like that. We don’t know that for sure. But usually when somebody lands on it, it could be a contusion. It’s probably more scary than anything else. We’ve got to let the doctors check him out and make sure. He’s walking around. He’s got ice on it.”

Williams added that “I’m pretty sure we’ll rush him right over to our people” after the team lands in New Orleans to get an MRI.

Gortat healing up, eying returnIt has been more than a month since the Suns have had the services of center Marcin Gortat, who has been out since severely spraining his foot in a game against the Raptors. But the Phoenix big man has been working out hard and has plans to get in at least one more game before the end of the season, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:

Suns center Marcin Gortat has been all over the place on a possible return but has narrowed down the scenarios to the possibility of a comeback for the Suns home finale against Houston. He is with the team on the road for the first time since suffering a right foot sprain March 6.

“I’ve really been lifting hard,” Gortat said. “I started taking true jump shots. I’m coming back fast. I just need a little more time. I need to get in basketball shape. My jumper is so messed up. I don’t have a feel for the ball much. I’ll be back. I don’t know if it’s this year or next year. I’ll try to go against Houston at home on Monday. I need practice to see how I feel. I’d love to play. But if there is a little thing that doesn’t feel right, I’m not going to play. There’s no reason for me to risk it.”

Gortat acknowledged that he would receive a Nike contract bonus with one more appearance but he said the statistical portions of that bonus are now unattainable. Gortat averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 61 games this season.

ICYMI of the night: Chris Anderson, formerly of the Nuggets, has just been getting victimized by his old teammates. The latest to slam on him? None other than Washington’s Nene … :

What Does It Take To Beat The Heat?



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ORLANDO – Your turn, Chicago.

Maybe you can do what hasn’t been done for a staggering 27 straight games, and stop the freight train that is the Miami Heat. The Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic — all members of the Eastern Conference lottery mafia — tried their best to derail the Heat’s plans to surpass the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game win streak.

Maybe another playoff team, catching the Heat on the second game of a four-game road trip after two straight games missed by All-Star shooting guard Dwyane Wade (sore knee), can finally solve the Heat riddle?

Or not?

That Wednesday night showdown with the Chicago Bulls at the United Center doesn’t look so daunting after all, not when LeBron James is a part of the festivities. He started slow but wound up one rebound shy of a triple double (24 points and 11 assists) in the 108-94 win over the Magic on Monday. The Heat always have a chance to walk out of an arena a winner with King James on the court.

Even on a team without Wade, James serves as the perfect catalyst for a veteran team filled with specialists who are comfortable with their roles. In addition to the shine of their stars, the Heat have shown off that depth during the streak.

“That is what this team is built around,” James said, being generous, of course, since this team is built around him and Wade and fellow All-Star Chris Bosh. “A lot of depth and veterans, guys that know that when someone is out then guys are going to be able to step in. That feeling that D-Wade was out was like, ‘okay, now it’s time for someone to step up,’ which we know we are capable of doing so.”

As much as this streak is about the Heat and their record chase, this is about the other teams (10 who don’t have as many wins on the season as the Heat have in the streak) deciding who among them will step forward and end this thing.

The Heat can’t suffer through their usual first half swoon and climb out of a double-digit hole against a lunch pail crew like the Bulls, who will no doubt be amped-up for a chance to punch a hole in the Heat’s cosmic ride.

And that Friday night tilt in New Orleans looks a whole lot tougher after the Hornets ended the Denver Nuggets’ 15-game win streak tonight in a 110-86 waxing at New Orleans Arena.

Motivation is great, a fine tool to work with for any ambitious team. But, again, is it going to be enough to beat the Heat?

Those who have tried and failed know better.

“They move the ball so effortlessly,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “They have great trust in each other. The way that ball moves from one player to the next is very, very impressive. And, defensively, they’ve always been top-shelf. They combine great athleticism, effort, technique and commitment. You know what they’re going to do and it doesn’t matter because they put great effort and intensity into it. The next step that they’ve taken is they’ve got great trust in each other.” (more…)

Heat Schedule May Look Easy, But …




HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – How far can the Miami Heat take their streak? After Wednesday’s Comeback on the Cuyahoga, and looking at the rest of their schedule, it’s anybody’s guess.

Next up: The down-and-out Detroit Pistons visit AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami (Friday on NBA TV, pregame at 7 p.m.). The Pistons have won only eight road games all season.

Easy pickings, right?

Heat upcoming schedule
Day Date Loc. Opponent Time (ET) TV
Fri. 3/22 vs. Detroit 7 p.m. NBA TV
Sun. 3/24 vs. Charlotte 6 p.m. League Pass
Mon. 3/25 @ Orlando 7 p.m. League Pass
Wed. 3/27 @ Chicago 8 p.m. ESPN
Fri. 3/29 @ New Orleans 8 p.m. League Pass
Sun. 3/31 @ San Antonio 7 p.m. NBA TV

Well, ask the Denver Nuggets, winners of 31 out of 34 home games, just how easy it was to file away a Philly club Thursday night with a half-dozen road wins. No disrespect, Mr. Flacco, but that’s your Mile High Miracle.

To avoid handing over the mantle of longest active win streak to the Nuggets after they somehow made it 14 in a row Thursday, Miami will need to take care of business in a more focused fashion than a couple of nights ago in LeBron James‘ old gym.

The Heat (53-14) seek consecutive victory No. 25 Friday night, in their quest for the NBA record of 33 straight, against the malfunctioning Pistons, a squad that hasn’t won a game since late last month — nine consecutive losses.

Miami’s upcoming schedule is favorable enough that the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers record-holders should watch with bated breath. To finish out March, Miami plays just two teams with winning records. Still, both of them are on the road and neither Wednesday’s game at Chicago nor a March 31 date at San Antonio will be a walk in the park.

If Miami makes it to April unscathed, the streak will have reached 30 with only New York, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Milwaukee blocking the Heat from destiny.

But before chalking up their next three — vs. Detroit, vs. Charlotte, at Orlando — as automatic W’s, remember that it’s often the dog with the softest bark that bites the hardest.

The Heat’s 24-game win streak, the second-longest in NBA history, is split evenly among current playoff teams and non-playoff teams, and it’s the lottery-bound teams that have been the biggest pains. The Heat’s average margin of victory against playoff teams is 11.5 points compared to 10.3 on the other side. Only one playoff team has battled them to a finish of five points or less — Boston on Monday night, falling 105-103 after losing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Five non-playoff teams have lost by five, four, one, four and three points. The Magic, Monday’s opponent in Orlando, lost by a point at Miami for Heat win No. 16 on the streak. Not included in the above group is double-overtime loser Sacramento, which wound up down 12 at the final buzzer, 141-129, for Heat win No. 12.

A quick look a Miami’s next six (here’s their remaining 15 games):

TONIGHT: vs. Detroit Pistons (23-46)

Road record: 8-25

Last 10: 1-9

Current streak: Lost 9

vs. Pistons this season: 1-1

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SUNDAY: vs. Charlotte Bobcats (16-52)

Road record: 6-28

Last 10: 3-7

Current streak: Won 2

vs. Bobcats this season: 2-0

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MONDAY: at Orlando Magic (18-51)

Home record: 10-25

Last 10: 2-8

Current streak: Lost 5

vs. Magic this season: 2-0

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WEDNESDAY: at Chicago Bulls (36-31)

Home record: 18-16

Last 10: 4-6

Current streak: Lost 2

vs. Bulls this season: 1-1

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MARCH 29: at New Orleans Hornets (23-46)

Home record: 13-21

Last 10: 3-7

Current streak: Won 1

vs. Hornets this season: 1-0

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MARCH 31: at San Antonio Spurs (52-16)

Home record: 29-4

Last 10: 7-3

Current streak: Won 3

vs. Spurs this season: 1-0*

*The NBA fined the Spurs $250,000 for coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back to San Antonio prior to this game.

Air Check: The Genius Of Clyde

aircheck-250HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

The national guys aren’t perfect. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

Here are a few more moments that made us laugh, made us smarter, or made us shake our heads.

Previous

1. Poetry Time with Clyde Frazier
Game: Utah @ New York, March 9
Broadcast: New York


One of the joys of living in the New York area is the ability to listen to Clyde Frazier‘s wordplay 75 nights a year. And as he describes Utah’s lackluster play in the first half on Saturday, Clyde brings some of his best work.

“No fire, no desire, seem tired, uninspired.”

Beautiful.

2. When no commentary is needed
Game: Orlando @ New Orleans, March 4
Broadcast: New Orleans


Sometimes, you just want to tell broadcasters that they don’t have to evaluate every foul call against their team. Here, David Wesley starts in on a call that just doesn’t need a critique, because there’s plenty of contact between Eric Gordon and Arron Afflalo. The replay isn’t the best angle, but the original shot shows a clear foul as Afflalo rises for his shot.

Also, a lesson for you players out there: If you don’t want to be called for a foul, don’t swing/chop down with your arm.

3. Calls against your team are not for the faint of heart
Game: Oklahoma City @ San Antonio, March 11
Broadcast: San Antonio (NBA TV)


Sean Elliott ranks as one of the biggest homers on League Pass, and he doesn’t change his stripes when the Spurs’ broadcast goes national for NBA TV. Here, he has issues with two straight loose ball fouls on Boris Diaw.

After the first call, Elliott tells us that he “didn’t like that one at all.” No kidding. Then he says that “It’s a grown man’s game underneath,” and “The paint area is not for the faint of heart.”

I guess that means that Diaw is allowed to hold down Serge Ibaka‘s arm as the rebound comes their way.

After the second call, Elliott says “Ibaka looked like he had that rebound anyways.” Well no, he didn’t once he got fouled.

Then, “Ibaka gets rewarded for not boxing out.” Actually, Diaw gets punished for pushing Ibaka in the back.

Bottom line, a foul is a foul, even if it happens 94 feet from the basket.

“Two wrongs just make it wrong,” Elliott says.

That’s exactly what those who were listening to him were thinking.

4. LeBron’s wants an Air Check
Game: Philadelphia @ Miami, March 8
Broadcast: Miami


Clearly jealous of Scott Hastings and unsatisfied with just being the best player in the world, LeBron James wants some love in this week’s Air Check column. Either he wants to complain about that one time he got called for a foul or he wants to drop some poetry like Clyde, but James tries to get in on the Heat’s broadcast after deflecting a pass out of bounds.

Unfortunately, the mic wasn’t on.

Morning Shootaround — March 11

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: That much-ballyhooed Pacers-Heat matchup turned out to be quite a dud, but if you’re interested in hearing about it, our man Sekou Smith has perspective on the game from both the Miami camp and the Indiana camp. Since that one was such a letdown, we’re forced to pick another game and the Blazers-Hornets matchup from New Orleans turned out to be a surprisingly well-played one. Rookies Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis put forth solid nights, Wesley Matthews continued to showcase his mostly unnoticed clutch shooting game this season and the even more overlooked Ryan Anderson came through with a clutch bucket of his own.  It’ll be a season or two before the Hornets or Blazers will be fighting it out for a spot in the West elite pecking order, but for now, enjoy the solid effort put forth by these young squads.

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News of the morning

Dwight apologizes to Orlando | Davis making late ROY charge? | Griffin praises Jordan’s jam | Perkins savors matchup with Celtics

Howard apologizes for messy Orlando exitWith 18 wins this season, the Magic are not far removed from their 21-61 season of 2003-04, which was their last season of play before Dwight Howard came first aboard. Although Howard provided many great memories in Orlando, his messy departure this summer — preceded by a will-he-stay-or-go act last season in Orlando — left many Magic fans with a sizable disdain for the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year. All that said, Howard isn’t so unaware of his actions that he’s beyond apologizing to the folks in his old town — especially as the Lakers ready to visit the Magic on Tuesday. Sam Amick of USA Today chatted with Howard at his palatial, nine-bedroom, 14-bathroom, 11,000-square foot home in Los Angeles about his ‘Dwightmare’ season in Orlando, his first season with the Lakers, playing with Kobe Bryant and more in a must-read interview:

The famous view on the road to Dwight Howard’s house in Bel Air is nothing short of spectacular, the Hollywood Hills below unfolding into the valley where stars have come and gone.

On a clear day, it has been said of this classic route on Mulholland Drive, you can see all the way to Canoga Park, some 14 miles away. And on this day, Howard — the Los Angeles Lakers center and aspiring actor whose dreams of becoming an icon had so much to do with him coming here — can see all the way to Orlando.

The big man who was so beloved there returns Tuesday for the first time since he was traded seven months ago, this time as the villain. In an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports, Howard acknowledged that this script — the one that included twists and turns and battered his once-sparkling image — should have been written differently.

“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” he said, sitting at his kitchen table. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.

“I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”

“There are a lot of things about me that have changed,” said Howard, a 27-year-old Atlanta native who was drafted first overall out of high school in 2004. “I’m becoming a better man because of the stuff that has happened to me this last year and a half. Everybody goes through stuff like this. Even though I’m going through it where everybody in the world can see it, I’m happy that it’s happening.

“If it didn’t happen, I’d be stuck in my ways. I would never change, and then it would be a lot worse. For all this stuff to happen, for me to sit back and see and evaluate myself and what I could’ve done better and realize that I needed to make a change, I’m getting better. I’m growing up. I’m maturing.”

Howard, who had taken the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference finals in 2010, said he should have spent more time separating fact from fiction to those who mattered most.

“Whenever something happened, I should’ve let my teammates know. I should’ve said, ‘OK, this is what’s going on. I know what’s being said, but this is how I really feel,’ ” Howard says. “Or, ‘Hey, Coach, this is what’s being said, but this is how I feel,’ instead of just letting everything pile on and me not saying anything.

“I just felt at the time like, ‘I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to sit back and let it unfold.’ By doing that, everybody was getting mixed signals. They’re hearing this on TV, or I might make a quote about this and they twist it and turn it into something else. Now you’ve got everybody like, ‘What is he doing?’… It was story after story after story start coming out saying it was me saying this and me saying that, and I’m like, ‘I never said none of this stuff.’ I could tell some of that stuff started to bother my teammates, but I didn’t say nothing because I’m like, ‘They know that I’m not saying this.’ And it just kept piling on and piling on.”

Hornets’ Davis spices up ROY raceSince practically the first week of the season, Portland guard Damian Lillard has been the presumptive favorite to win the Kia Rookie of the Year Award, and he’s got the resume to back it up. Lillard has been West’s rookie of the month every month this season, is second on the Blazers in scoring while leading them in assists and has had the poise of a veteran player throughout most of the season. Before the season began, the ROY race was thought to be one between Lillard and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets, but injuries kept Davis from truly making an impact until the last few months. After last night’s Portland-New Orleans showdown in Louisiana (which the Hornets won), the race might be closer than expected, writes John Reid of NOLA.com:

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard still appears to be the frontrunner to the win this season’s NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. But New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis got another opportunity to close the gap in Sunday’s matchup against Lillard and the Trail Blazers.

Coming off a sensational 20-point, 18-rebound performance against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, Davis put forth another solid effort in the Hornets’ 98-96 victory against the Trail Blazers.

Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. Lillard, who leads all rookies with a 18.8 scoring average,  scored 20 points and had eight assists.

“We’re just getting better as a unit,” Davis said. “We haven’t done a great job of closing out games in the fourth quarter, but we’re doing a better job and we have to continue doing so.”

On the final play of the game, Davis forced Trail Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews to miss a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.Since returning from a sprained left shoulder, Davis had averaged 16.7 points, 13 rebounds in the past three games He grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds and scored 20 points Saturday night against the playoff contending Memphis Grizzlies.

Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, is the rookie leader in assists (6.4) and 3-pointers with 134. But he couldn’t lead his team like he did in December, when he  made a game-clinching 3-pointer as  time expired to lift the Trail Blazers to a 95-94 victory against the Hornets at the Rose Garden.

“Tonight, it was just one of those games where they made some shots,” Lillard said. “They got going on a run. It was kind of a game of runs and we just came up short.”

Griffin awed by Jordan’s jamThe Clippers live up to their “Lob City” nickname just about every night, with Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin alley-oops serving as the main source of highlights for L.A. But as exciting as Griffin’s jams are, you can’t overlook what DeAndre Jordan can do each night off a lob or a clear lane to the basket. In case anyone forgot, though, Jordan showed his talents off last night with a posterizing, monster flush over the Pistons’ Brandon Knight that drew respect from L.A.’s resident dunk expert, writes Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

Blake Griffin has Timofey Mozgov, Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol. And after Sunday night, DeAndre Jordan has Brandon Knight.

“That was the best dunk of the year,” Griffin said. “It’s the best dunk I’ve seen in person.”

Jordan caught a lob from Chris Paul, cocked back and turned Knight into a trending topic on Twitter with a vicious slam during the Clippers’ 129-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday at Staples Center.

“It was a great pass by Chris, and honestly, I didn’t see Brandon until I caught the ball,” Jordan said. “After that, was just, yeah….”

Paul described what followed the dunk as “the aftermath.” The crowd went nuts as the scoreboard replayed the highlight over and over. The bench nearly rushed the floor, and Paul, usually pretty calm, howled as he slapped Jordan on the chest.

“It was pretty impressive,” Paul said. “I usually try not to react after all those different types of dunks, but that one was pretty good.”

Perkins still loves facing CelticsHard to believe, but it has been 25 months since the Thunder swung what was a then-surprising deal with the Celtics, picking up defensive big man Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. Perkins was at his stopping best on Sunday afternoon against the Celtics (and particularly Kevin Garnett) as OKC picked up a 91-79 victory. But for Perkins, who was a key part of Boston’s 2008 championship team, playing his old team will always get the juices going, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman:

As the Celtics inbounded the ball at midcourt during the first half Sunday, referee Scott Wall had to caution Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett. They were getting a little too physical jostling for position.

Were they being serious? Were these avowed blood brothers getting riled?

“It was serious at the time,” Perk said with a smile. “But there wasn’t nothing behind it all. We damn near could have gave each other a hug.”

No one would have been surprised. But rest assured they were serious. Gran Torino and Garnett are nothing if not serious. And Garnett paid for that seriousness he helped instill in Perkins.

The Thunder beat the Celtics 91-79, and here’s the No. 1 reason. Garnett made just five of 19 shots. That’s Garnett’s most misses in a game since Jan. 16, 2012, when he also went 5-of-19 against Perkins and the Thunder.

No coincidence there.

“Perk took the challenge,” said Kevin Durant. “That’s his mentor, the guy he looked up to, the guy he learned a lot from, and he took the challenge by making him shoot tough shots.”

Garnett was 3-of-11 with Perkins on the bench, with all three makes at the basket and only two of the misses outside the paint.

Perkins kept Garnett away from the basket. That’s how games are won.

“Perk didn’t do anything new tonight,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “He was typical Perk.”

It’s been 25 months since the Celtics traded Perkins, their 2008 NBA championship center, for Jeff Green. It’s not getting any easier for Perkins and his old team to share the court.

“He’s moved on to his new family here, which is great,” said Celtic star Paul Pierce. “But Perk knows he’ll always be family, he’ll always be remembered, especially by me and the Boston organization.”

Perkins was particularly close to Garnett and point guard Rajon Rondo. Those two and Pierce are the only remaining players from the title team.

“I think it’ll be easier when a lot of the guys that I played with be off the team,” Gran Torino said. “Still pretty hard going against guys I went to war with.

“We had great times over there. Not easy at all, especially going against a coach who pretty much raised me. Who started me who I was as a player. It’s always difficult, but know I’m always trying to get the win.”

ICYMI of the night: Watch this dunk … that’s all we’ve got to say:

Are Pistons Interested In Keeping Calderon Around?

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Detroit Pistons are a franchise that’s going younger, but might they have found their point guard of the future in 31-year-old Jose Calderon?

Detroit was the third wheel in the trade that made it possible for Memphis to ship Rudy Gay to Toronto. Career-long Piston Tayshaun Prince, the last remnant of Detroit’s 2004 title team, went to Memphis and Calderon, a career-long Raptor, and his $11 million expiring contract landed in Detroit.

The Pistons created additional cap room by taking on Calderon’s expiring deal and sending out Prince, who has nearly $15 million coming to him over the next two seasons. However, Detroit, with young building blocks such as Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler, might not be viewing the eight-year veteran Calderon simply as a money saver before letting him pick his next destination in free agency.

David Mayo of Mlive.com reports that the Pistons will make a play to keep Calderon, however they won’t break the bank to do so.

The Calderon trade created even more financial flexibility for the Pistons going into the summer trade and free-agency season but Joe Dumars, the team’s president of basketball operations, has made it clear that Calderon is not just any player on an expiring contract which pays a base salary of about $11 million this year.

Dumars has said he is interested in re-signing Calderon but neither side will discuss much beyond that; the Pistons won’t break the bank to keep Calderon and he isn’t painting himself into a negotiating corner by vowing to stay.

Calderon has impressed his new team with his steady play, averaging 12.3 ppg and 7.8 apg while keeping his turnover rate right about the same as it was this season with Toronto despite playing with unfamiliar teammates and garnering little practice time.

He’s increased his shooting percentages in his first 12 games with Detroit to 50.0 percent overall and 51.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 31.8 mpg and that has pushed Knight, a second-year player, to shooting guard. He received six of Calderon’s 18 assists in Wednesday’s road win at Washington.

Those 18 assists quickly put Calderon in the Pistons’ record books next to Isiah Thomas, Mayo reported, as the only Pistons players with as many as 18 assists and as few as two turnovers in the same game since 1974.

The Pistons, who continue a three-game road trip tonight at the New Orleans Hornets, are 5-7 with Calderon, which isn’t terrible considering Detroit is 23-37 overall and seven games back of eighth-place Milwaukee.