Hornets Hype

In a basement. In our pajamas.

Archive for August, 2008

In the distance, next to the Superdome, the Hornets’ arenaSo we’re up to 2:30 PM on the second-to-last day.

Three years ago today, two days before Hurricane Katrina hurtled through the Gulf as a Category 5 and changed everything, it was a Saturday and I was lying out in my backyard under a clear blue sky. Nearby was my 1990 Honda Accord, which got destroyed when slate tiles off the roof sliced through both metal and windshield. In the next chair over was my former roommate, one of many friends who have moved on and away since the storm.

This is how it goes, on each anniversary. I can’t help counting down the days and the hours in my mind. It’s like how people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, Challenger exploded, or 9-11 happened.

I remember what I was doing on the second-to-last day.

I write this post both in memoriam, and in explanation, hopefully, of why it hurt so much every time a new misinformation-riddled article from an out-of-town writer came out last season saying the Hornets weren’t going to make it in New Orleans. Because every time they said those guys who bore the name of the city across the front of their teal jerseys weren’t going to make it, what I heard was, “New Orleans isn’t going to make it.” Maybe it was wrong to take it personally. But, on the other hand, it was the taking it personally that led me to make this blog.

On the second-to-last day we rented videos. And we bought a case of beer. Basic hurricane prep, right? (The part that makes this different from any other weekend of your life is that you still have the videos, in their clear plastic boxes in the entertainment center forever, because the store has never re-opened.)

Maybe you thought it was cheesy when ESPN and the like decided to dramatically announce (after “forgetting” the team existed for the first three quarters of the season) that the Hornets were playing for an entire city. It was, and it was also drastically oversimplifying what happened here. But it’s not their fault. It’s hard for people who weren’t here to understand this whole thing. And I’m not trying to be condescending, to make out like we’re some exclusive club you can’t be a part of (you wouldn’t want to be a part of it). But it’s like that trite old saying about people who live in glass houses not throwing stones.

Canal StreetOnly you don’t know your house is made of glass until it comes shattering down. If the National Guard was parked on the road keeping you out of your house for four weeks, and there was no power in your neighborhood for months anyway, and you’d already run down your savings, and you needed to put down a deposit on an apartment in a new, northern city, would you take the $4,500 check from FEMA? Would you stare numbly at the highway flowing past under the car, wondering what happened to your life? Would you feel guilty because you were upset about losing your clothes and books and car, when other people lost so much more?

We’re up to 7 AM on the Last Day. The city officials hold a press conference on TV. I watch it in bed. Katrina has strengthened to a Category 5. The levees cannot hold a Category 5. Evacuation is mandatory. All citizens with vehicles are to leave immediately. Get out. Just get out.

The members of the New Orleans Hornets are expected to be ambassadors for this city, and indeed the current team is full of high-character guys who’ve gotten involved in service this season, but they don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, except for David West, the only player left from the pre-Katrina roster, they’re in the strange and unfortunate position of dealing with the aftermath of something they were never here for. Only the minority owner is local. Chris Paul, drafted in 2005, hadn’t even arrived in New Orleans for training camp when abruptly his new life in the city was over before it started. Is it the team’s fault? No. Can you understand the slight undercurrent of resentment from some New Orleanians early last season? Yes.

12:52 PM on Sunday, August 28, 2005. I take a break from packing (and what would you bring if you had two hours to choose?) and sit down at my computer to quickly blog. This is what I write, at 12:52 PM on the Last Day:

This morning we woke up to sun shining through the slats of the blinds. The palms and magnolias on my street are swaying with the strengthening breeze. The heat bakes the slate roof tiles on the house next door. I look out over roofs that have been there for a hundred years. The cars are parked on the neutral ground. The streets are ominously empty.

We meant to ride it out, but…

Mandatory evacuation of Orleans Parish. It’s a Category 5 storm with winds of 175 miles per hour. The officials are saying there’s no longer a question that the levees will be overcome by the water. It’s so strange, really. It just seems like a pretty Sunday. Last year they said Ivan was going to be The One, and it wasn’t. They said the city would full up like a giant fish bowl. They said this was the price of living in the past.

I don’t know. I know I don’t want to leave, because, no matter how I want to deny it, there is a very real possibility that it won’t be here when I get back. I suppose at a moment like this what you feel is admiration and wonder: at the persistence of the people who settled here, who braved malaria and ungodly heat, who watched the river swallow their homes and then improbably built again in a swamp, at the women of two hundred years ago who did it all in floor length skirts. At least that’s what I think about. Goodbye to my green streetcars. Goodbye to the sweet still air that smells like flowers. Goodbye to the grand old ladies of St. Charles Avenue, with their iron lace and graceful tall shuttered windows and delicate porches, to whom my heart belongs. If this is your end, I am glad I won’t see it. Stubborn old city. It’s funny, somehow I see it making it… It’s very quiet outside now. I’ve taken the pictures down from the walls. We’re evacuating north to Nashville.

Goodbye, city. Good luck.

This is what I write, and then I fold up my laptop and put it in my bag.

Free GumboBut, three years later, and this is the important thing, this is more than a story of a hurricane. It’s a story about the resilience and grim humor of people who learned they had to rely on themselves. It’s a story about stereotypes: about people who heard they were supposed to be an inhuman bunch of looters, who were told they were stupid for living in a place that was their home (sometimes, ludicrously, by people who themselves lived above a fault line or on a tornado-prone plain), who were accused of stealing FEMA money from taxpayers. They said, “Good riddance.”

8:00 PM and you’re in the car, forehead leaning on the glass, rain collecting in ominous puddles along the side of the highway, car headlights stacked to the horizon, gas running low.

Then this winter they said, “New Orleans doesn’t care about the Hornets. New Orleans doesn’t want the Hornets.” And you know what I say to that? I say, “Fuck you. Don’t tell me what I want.”

Don’t tell me what my city needs and does not need. You weren’t there. You came to party, but you didn’t want the baggage. You weren’t there with the doors hanging open and banging in the wind, up and down an eerily empty street littered with debris. You weren’t there when the traffic lights didn’t work for a year. You weren’t there when the Saints scored a touchdown 90 seconds into the first home game after Katrina, and a whole city leapt up in unison, and it meant something.

You didn’t see all those little kids dressed in Chris Paul jerseys.

You weren’t there the night I heard an indescribable roar, and I looked up from the court, and realized New Orleans Arena was full, from bottom to top.

Home4:00 AM, and you’re sleeping on the ground outside at a rest stop in Alabama. Only you’re not sleeping. You’re staring up at the still-clear sky. You’ve outdriven the storm. You’re almost to Birmingham. The traffic has thinned. The rest stop is scattered with quiet people with Louisiana plates. The air is humid. It’s August 29, 2005.

What do we want? We want to forget the Saints were ever in San Antonio; we want to forget the Hornets were in Oklahoma City. We want the Hornets to make it, because our pride can’t take it if they don’t. Because every sellout this spring was a cry of victory for the city. We are not who you think we are, you columnists with poor research skills in bland Midwestern cities. We want you to stop telling us what our fate is going to be. We want you to write the damn follow-up article, the one about the 10,000 season tickets already sold for 2008-09.

We want you to understand why it says “New Orleans,” not “Hornets,” on the front of those jerseys.

Louisiana State Police. 9-9. Zero dead inside.

Louisiana State Police. 9/9/05. Zero dead inside. We're still alive here.

This is how it happens.

Team U.S.A. finishes the preliminary round by beating Germany 106-57.  Then they take out Australia 116-85.  Next, a bit of revenge against Argentina, 101-81.  They Americans then find themselves posed to strike at the Gold.  At redemption.  No one told, Spain though.  The first offensive set for the U.S. is stagnant, and Lebron predictably jacks up a 3 at the end of the 24-second clock.  He makes, it though.  So is that a good thing?  Should I stop my complaining and just jump on the love train?  At the other end, Gasol gets it deep in the paint and earns an and 1.  The U.S. is losing.  It sets the tone for most of the first quarter.  Kobe and Lebron both pick up 2 quick fouls, and the U.S. is facing their biggest deficit of the Olympics.  However, Wade and Paul retaliate with brutal drives to the basket to which the Spaniards have no defense, and suddenly that lead is gone.  One thing is for sure: neither team is going anywhere.

VictoryA steal from CP3 and just a possession later a sick drive and a shot that has no business going in goes in–and one.  Could this finally be Chris Paul’s coming out party?  Calderon is already out for this game and Ricky Rubio has hyperextended his wrist.  Their third string PG picked up his third foul late in the first quarter.  They should give it to CP every time down the floor.  Wade with a steal and reverse jam and the U.S. is up by four; he and CP are killing the Spaniards.  It’s almost funny when the crowd gets upset at a string of fouls called on Spain; Lebron and Kobe have been sitting for five minutes each, and the fact of the matter is, the Spanairds just don’t know how to stop Wade or Paul, and, consequently, the two guards are racking up points at the line.  Still, the U.S. gives up more points than they have in any quarter this Olympics, but they also score more than they have in any other quarter.   All said, it’s 38-31 at the end of the 1st, and suddenly things seem okay.

The second quarter is chaos.  Howard starts it off with an obvious flagrant foul, and Rubio starts taking over with Kidd back in the game.  The Spanish zone defense is forcing penetrators to kick it out to 3s way too often, and the Gasol brothers are slowly grinding it down in the paint.  It’s not long, though, before Coach K goes back to Paul and Wade.  CP immediately throws it from half court to Kobe under the basket for an easy 2; I’m getting a warm feeling inside and I don’t think it’s the Abita I’ve been drinking all night. Less fouls are getting called now, and the play is getting chippy.  You know, I’m really trying to keep an open mind about Lebron, I’m feeling I’ve been too negative about him this Olympics, but then he takes a pass from CP on the break, gets a 3-on-1, and takes it himself, only to makes it (though misses the free throw after the foul).  It’s the wrong play.  I don’t care if he put it in because he is a physical freak.  It was the wrong play.  If he ever learns to play well with others he’ll be the most unstoppable force in the league.  (Not named Chris Paul, that is.)  You know, one of our Achilles’ Heels in international play in the past several years has been 3-point shooting, but we started off 8-11 tonight.  Not bad. Nonetheless, Spain holds serve and it’s 69-61 at half. Breen and Collins inform us this is the smallest lead we’ve gone into halftime with so far this Olympics.

This game is on pace to be the highest scoring game in Olympics history, so I’m holding my breath to see where this game goes next.  The third quarter starts with a lot of no calls on both ends and I’m secretly wishing the NBA was called like that.  With the physical strength of guys in the NBA today, it’s almost a joke to give these guys an and 1 on a touch foul.  After a few minutes, it’s obvious that the starting line-up is struggling again; the lead is down to four, and I continue to be amazed by Coach K’s unwavering loyalty to these guys.  Unless, I suppose, his actual strategy is depth, and he’s just thinking that bringing Bosh, Wade, and CP in on Spain’s back-ups is like a death sentence on the Europeans.  Finally, at about the five minute mark, CP, Wade, and Bosh return; Kobe and Lebron stay in, though I’d just as soon see Boozer come in for James.  No such luck, but Team U.S.A. is keeping their composure, using good ball movement to get it inside; the Spaniards are hacking us by strategy, but we’re making our free throws.  CP to Wade on the break, a quick jumper, and just like that the lead is ten.  I know I’m talking mostly about Americans here, but damn if some of these Spanish players aren’t playing the game of their life.  Navarro has been unstoppable, and he ends the third with a drive on D-Will.  Just beautiful.

I kind of forgot what it’s like to be tense about a basketball game, what with the steamroller effect we’ve seen from these guys thus far this Olympics.  Apparently we’re 1-7 from three point range in the second half, and Spain goes on a 7-0 run to start the fourth.  It’s a two point game.  Can it really only be Hornets fans that are desperate to see CP13 back in the game?  Wade penetrates and kicks it to Kobe who penetrates and makes a sick runner–I really stop to wonder if it’s even fair to post a team with both those guys.  Let alone a team with 12 of them.  But Spain’s proving it’s not all about the individual, because they’re hanging in there.   HOLY CRAP!  Rudy Fernandez, soon to be a Blazer, just did a monster dunk over Howard.  How good is this guy?  But honestly, with CP back in, could you ask for a better game manager?  How many times last year did the Hornets lose a 4th quarter lead?  Once? Twice?  Still, only a five point game with three minutes left.  Oof, I might have just heard a fat lady clearing her throat.  Kobe just picked up a four point play after getting fouled by Fernandez on a 3, which, incidentally, fouled Fernandez out of the game.  Okay, then Spain for three.  Down to four.  Two minutes left.  CP to Wade.  For three.  Count it.  The Americans are feeling it.  We’re at the fouling point now.  CP goes to the line and Doug Collins calls him “money” from the line.  7-7 tonight. Who’s to argue? Yeah.  Spain is out of control now.  After fouling Kobe, they pick up a technical, giving us another two.  So make that four free throws and the ball.  This one is in the books.

The team is going wild.  And to their credit, they all run over to Doug Collins–who announcing now, was part of that disputed 1972 Olympics when we lost to the Soviets, and because of technical disputes, we to this day have not accepted those silver medals–and shake his hand.  I can’t wait to see them all on the medal stand.  But, seriously, with CP on board, was it ever in doubt?  Let me answer that one for you.  No.  Congratulations Team U.S.A.  Redemption achieved.

And the news actually includes us!

By on August 23, 2008

Free Agency signings, with several Hornets-related impacts. I’ll be brief.

  • Devin Brown: signed as a back-up to CP. Yes, Pargo left, but what about MJ? Wouldn’t make signing a pure 2 or a 4/5 make more sense? Anyway, I love the fact that Devin’s coming back. He’s a good guy and a hard worker.
  • Adam Haluska: signed with Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem. Best of luck, man, best of luck.
  • J.R. Smith: re-signed with the Nuggets, allegedly a multi-year deal. Is he staying or about to be signed and traded?
  • Darius Miles: defying medical experts, DM has returned from microfracture surgery, after being away for the game for two years…if he plays at least 10 games for them, his $27.5 million in guaranteed pay from the Blazers goes back on their books.
  • Devean George: re-signed to a 2 year, $4 million deal with the Mavs. Note, the team avoided another 1 year deal and the refusal rights that come with it.
  • Theo Ratliff: signed a one-year deal with the 76ers. He claims he never wanted to leave.
  • Donyell Marshall: waived by the OKC whatevers.
  • Goran Dragic: one way or another, the Suns second round draft pick is going to end up here; when, however, is in queston, and relates to the terms of the buyout of his European contract.
  • Shawn Kemp: at age 40, the ex-Sonic is headed to Italy. Nice retirement plan.
  • Dorell Wright: re-signed with the Heat. After watching Wade this summer, I’d sign for the minimum, dude.
  • Gordon Giricek: after a short stint with the Suns, is headed for Turkey. Couldn’t see that one coming.
  • Demitrius Nichols: re-signed with Chicago. One year. Partially guaranteed. Woo.

Yay!

By on August 22, 2008

 It’s perfect.

Hornets’ new court design August 2008

Which would have been up last night, except I was exhausted (I do not recommend taking a break from working for 3 months… it will just make you forget that apparently there is a portion of the world that works all year round, and then when you have to go back to work, you’re all indignant, like, “WHAT! I have to get up? They want me to work? This is preposterous! This is a gross injustice!”) Anyway. Let’s talk about horns n stripes.

Fleurs and Horns and Hugos, oh my

Logo #1: What can I say? I love the Fleur de Bee. I was a huge fan of it last year, and I could not have approved more when they started using it on mail and playoff gear toward the end of the season. It’s actually meaner-looking than the Hugo logo, and I’ve never really been a fan of the cartoon-animal theory of logo design. If I was a player, I’d be embarrassed to have something on my jersey that my 3-year-old kid would wear.

One note, and that’s about the colors: For all the people who are complaining about the team going more turquoise than teal and more blue-ish purple than Mardi Gras purple, I’m not sure why you’re surprised. This version of the FDB was used at the end of last season. The playoff giveaway tees were turquoise rather than teal. In fact, I’m glad they finally settled on ONE SHADE of blue, since they’ve obviously been fiddling with the shade for the past year. (Believe me, I know. I’ve got tons of Hornet gear, mail, souvenirs, merchandise, giveaways, etc. at home in a big stack, and the blue isn’t consistent. But the newer stuff is definitely this bluer version of teal.) I think this is a good call, because the two shades look better together than the greeny teal and darker purple. Plus I can wear the gear and get the creepy pleasure of hearing the old “Heeeeyyyy… your eyes match your shirt” pickup line all evening…

Logo #2: Meh. I don’t like this logo, but I do think keeping it around is important to the team’s history. A lot of old Charlotte fans are still huge Hornets fans. The kids like Hugo. Whatev. As for the changes, they’re really, really minuscule.  What, they made his arms purple? They changed some itty bitty details? His smile is more of a smirk now? He doesn’t have treads on the bottoms of his shoes? I’m not sure why they changed him, since they didn’t do much anyway. I think I liked old Hugo better, but it’s hard to tell because I don’t have him in front of me right now. Oh! He does have “NOLA” on his chest now. That’s cool, I approve of that.

Logo #3: The HORN(et). This is a pretty sweet new logo. It reminds me of the font they used for the All Star Game. Very New Orleans. When you consider that, essentially, what it replaces is that big stupid H (I’m not saying it’s going to be used in a similar way, but it’s a 3rd logo replacing a crappier 3rd logo). That H reminded everyone of the Oklahoma City fiasco, which the franchise barely survived this year, mostly thanks to the likability of the players and the success of the team in the standings. N-O-L-A, on the other hand, might even have the added bonus of putting fear in the Lakers. Hehehe. So, NOLA horn? I love.

Mo Pete looks hot in the new uni. JuJu not as much. No offense, JuJu.Home Jersey: A+ I love this one. I thought the stripes were going to look stupid, but this is a nicely retro jersey. I’m loving the Fleur de Bee on the shorts instead of Mr. Hornet. It’s also on the back of the neck. This is better than having the H in the v-neck and the FDB patch on the chest. That was looking kind of busy last year. I wasn’t sure what was going on with the purple stripe, but I think I like it, if the players, you know, remember to keep it tucked in nicely. NOLA horn is below the waistband on the back. Now, I do like a good waistband adornment– the C’s shamrock is so sassy… haha– and I’m glad it’s there, but I do think it should have maybe gone on the front. There are two things in the center on the back (FDB on top, horn on bottom), and nothing in that location on the front. I don’t know, maybe that’s just my nitpick. And then my only other issue is… do I detect the sheen of {gasp!} shiny fabric in the blue leg inset? I kind of detest shiny fabric on jerseys. Again, maybe just my personal thing, but as long as it’s just on the trim, it won’t bother me too much. I’m going to buy me a nice #30 of this.

Away Jersey: Yeeeaaaahhhhh…. no. I think this one’s a slight miss. It’s really just the color of the letters. I think if the lettering was purple and the side stripe yellow, I’d like it better. LOL at JuJu’s knee socks and headband that don’t match. (LOL at Mo Pete’s summer hair, but that’s neither here nor there.) I’m not sure I talked about the new font earlier, but it also gets my approval. Mostly because the old one was all, “Hello, I am Generic Varsity Sports Lettering, what up guys?” This has a bit more of a zing to it. I hope in a couple of years they’ll give us another 3rd jersey, and I hope it’s purple. I will miss the eye-searing change-up-our-luck yellow ones, though. (Now that I think about it, the teal-yellow lettering combo was what looked ew on those too…)

New Hornets.com is rockin’

New Hornets Site: Hot, hot, hot! Oh my god, this may be the best thing out of the lot. LOVE the skyline. Love the FDB. Love the new purple background with FDBs and real fleurs together in groups of four. This is definitely the best the Official has ever looked. (But don’t navigate off the front page. They haven’t seemed to make it consistent across the entire site yet. Like, don’t you have a stylesheet, Hornets site?)

Response to Criticism: There are 3 things I’m seeing.

1. We’ll call the first complaint “Waaaahhh it looks like they went back to Charlotte!” Let’s face it, the team has a history. I don’t really care. They took off the thing that reminded people of Katrina/OKC, the thing that was a betrayal of the city of New Orleans, and that was what was important here. And the pinstripes? Back in the day they were trendy. But now they’ve become old school. And fewer teams have them. So we got this cool throwback thing going on. On the flipside of this are the people who are like, “Why is the teal GONE!???” Someone must be color blind here, either you people or me, but it’s not that different a color. It’s definitely not powder blue or Carolina blue as I’ve seen some people complaining. It’s turquoise. Which is teal’s slightly cuter next-door neighbor.

2. “They had the opportunity to make the WORLD’S MOST AMAZING JERSEY EVER MADE THAT’S ATTRACTIVE AND EVOCATIVE OF NEW ORLEANS AND PERFECT AND THIS ONE IS ONLY OKAY!” Really there is only one thing to be said to this, and that is, “Does it look worse than what we had?” I do not believe it does. I mean, did you LOOK at the old jerseys? They were kinda high school. I never thought about them either way, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing if you’re designing a uniform with the goal of being memorable or distinctive. Traditional letters, teal on gold, cartoon animal logo, stupid H? Yeah, I like these better. So I guess I’ll say to these critics: fans rarely get the world’s most amazing life-changing jersey, so suck it up. Or maybe I’ll tell you a story, you could even call it a love story, about a team called the Buffalo Sabres, who one year decided to turn the Buffalo into a slug. The slug sweater was the #1 selling jersey in the NHL and the team took the Eastern Conference. We should be that lucky.

Cute girl sized shirts!

3. “WTF! They took the green out of the teal! Why didn’t they take the blue out of the teal and then we could have had Mardi Gras colors?” I hate to break it to y’all, but… Mardi Gras colors would look Butt. Ass. Ugly on a jersey. Yeah, the Jazz had them, but guess what. The Hornets decided to make a move toward clashing less, instead of clashing more. I don’t really understand the clinging to the dream of Mardi Gras colors. I live here. I am proud of living here. But the Hornets are one of two (I read this somewhere, what’s the other one?) teams that wear their city on both jerseys instead of the team name. That’s enough for me– people are seeing “New Orleans” on their TV screen. The team doesn’t have to be renamed the New Orleans Gumbo (ooh… actually, that would be sorta rockin’… is it weird that I think that?). The Hornets just had their best year ever. People wouldn’t be a little bit sad if their stuff all got changed, after this year?

I don’t need a yellow, purple, and green jersey with, like, a crown, a jester, a shotgun house, a crescent, a crawfish, balcony trim, and a fleur de lis. I just don’t. The Hornets don’t either.

Final Note: Cute ticktock-sized new Hornets gear! Actual cute ticktock-sized Hornets gear! I must have it. Immediately. All of it. Plus I get to redesign my banner again. Whoo.

Calling 700 Hornets Fans

By on August 19, 2008

Ju-Ju is taking on the presumptive champ, Shane Battier, in Round 3 of HoopsAddict.com’s Floor Burn Tournament, celebrating all things hustle.  This could be his last match unless you all rustle up the votes!  Do it!  Do it!


Um..yeah, and there was some U.S.A.-Germany game.  Sorry about that.   

Olympics Game Four: Spain

By on August 16, 2008

I’m going to go right ahead and ruin the surprise: Team USA wins. 119-82. The much-touted match-up turned out to be a rout. Let’s try impressions from the squad, player by player, saving overall comments for last:

  1. Jason Kidd: our starting point guard. It’s not just opposing teams that are ignoring him, even his own teammates are pretending he’s not on the floor if another player brings up the ball. Interestingly enough, he’s starting the 2nd. Our lead steadily decreases. Once CP comes back in for Kidd, that lead balloons again. Shock. Midway through the 3rd, he takes and makes his first shot of the Olympics. How long before the press is countering attacks on his offensive game by saying he’s yet to miss in this tourney and is now 1255-0 in international play?
  2. Kobe Bryant: our starting shooting guard. Not much on offense so far, but he’s continued his excellent defense. The Chinese call him “Little Flying Warrior.” He picks up his 3rd foul in the mid 2nd, and I’m glad the announcers commented on exactly what I was thinking: these international refs are inexplicably calling touch fouls on some plays and ignoring blatant hacks on others (I’m not writing this post in order, and I’ve already chronicled several examples of this below.) In the second half, he continues to be inconsistent on the offensive end.
  3. Lebron James: our starting small forward. The announcers are touting his defense because last game he made a few isolated spectacular plays; so far he’s got two steals to his credit that other players actually tipped free. His fast breaks are a mind-boggling mix of opposing players too scared to stand in front of him and take the charge and refs too awestruck to call his obvious pushes, elbows, and charges. Case in point, he just clotheslined some guy and somehow drew a foul on him. Oh well, he’s on our team for now. Too much trash talking, though, and the refs give him a warning to cut it out; I guess they don’t call techs in the international game. Okay, check that. They just gave Spain’s Reyes a technical, which awards two shots, the ball, and counts as a personal foul. So what was it they gave LBJ just a minute ago? Strange. Collins and Breen don’t care to explain the difference. He made a lot of noise in the first half, but hasn’t done much in the second. Although, to be fair, he’s made several good passes so far.
  4. Carmelo Anthony: our starting power forward. Another quiet game, but not many mistakes, and he’s hit a couple 3s early. He’s starting to fit well into the offense, realizing that Kobe/Wade and Lebron are the focuses of the offensive, and taking what he’s getting. Unfortunately, he picks up his third foul midway through the 2nd. He’s come out on fire in the 3rd, knocking down 2 quick 3s on feeds from Lebron. He might have created more damage, but sat a lot in the 4th when the game was in hand.
  5. Dwight Howard: our starting center. Several nice rebounds and jams, but a couple stupid fouls; and damn if these international players don’t know how to sell the fouls (unless they’re guarding LBJ, apparently). You’d think he would be schooling the Gasol brothers, but not so much. Howard is a beast in the NBA. Is there something in the international game that is slowing him down? It might be that Coach K seems to be running the offense through the 2-4 positions.
  6. Chris Paul: the first point guard off the bench. The announcers are talking about how the team has improved their pick and roll defense; you have to wonder if CP, master of that move himself, has kept his mouth shut on how to defend it. Shortly after he came into the game, Spain put in 17-year-old Ricky Rubio; the announcers reveal CP is one of his idols. Now Lebron is out; instantly CP starts moving the ball better on USA’s offensive sets, and the team has built its biggest lead yet. Wow, he somehow just intercepted an alley-oop meant for Spain’s center, and then through it Drew-Brees-style to Wade at the other end of the court for an easy 2. That didn’t even make sense. Despite the harm it might do to the Hornets’ season, I say Team USA should keep him on the floor for the rest of the tournament until the Chinese give him a nickname. Anyway, in a game where we’re in foul trouble, CP continues to pick up fouls against defenders that have no idea how to stop him within the confines of the rules. Wow, Rubio is fast, when CP switched off him on a pick play, he stopped dead and exploded past Prince and drew the foul. Damn, then a one-handed alley-oop from Rubio at the 3 point line, followed by forcing CP into a travel. Fuck, this kid is 17. Ah, there we go, CP drives at Rubio, and gives him a nice head fake to draw the foul just under the rim; CP’s been at the line all half. His first play in the 2nd half is a steal from Navarro and a coast to coast drive for 2. He drives again on the next drive. He’s unstoppable. Nice alley-oop on the drive in the 4th to Howard; CP seems to be the only one to know how to use him. More steals and fast break passes, and half-court alley-oop tosses that should be astounding the world; for New Orleans fans, it’s just another day in the office for the world’s greatest player.
  7. Dwyane Wade: the first shooting guard off the bench. He came in early when Kobe got in foul trouble. He continues to be aggressive on defense and explosive to the rim. The only thing that seems to stop him is Coach K putting him on the bench. If anyone were to ask which player has been dominant in this tourney, the only name that sticks out is Wade’s.
  8. Tayshaun Prince: the first small forward off the bench, though with the substitution what it is, he’s about the last person to play the position. Nonetheless, we see an early sighting of him at the start of the 2nd. He scores quick and may be one of “zone-buster” guys; next play is an alley-oop to James. With his lanky form, he’s been stifling on defense, really making the most of Kobe sitting so much. No sightings in the 3rd, though, with Kobe back on the floor. He does make it in in the 4th, though.
  9. Carlos Boozer: the first power forward off the bench, kind of. He’s the 11th guy to enter the game, and actually comes into to play the 5 near the end of the 2nd. He’s subsequently boxed out from every rebound by taller Spanish players. I don’t blame him; I blame the coach for putting him in this situation. You have to love his quiet work ethic and hard work, nonetheless. Here’s a prediction: he will get garbage time in the 4th. At the 5. Ha. Call me Nostradamus.
  10. Chris Bosh: the first center off the bench. Somewhat quiet today. In reviewing this post at halftime, I actually don’t have anything else to say about him. Bummer. He’s getting plenty of time in the second half, and is all over the place; how a guy that big has such hustle is incredible.
  11. Deron Williams: the second point guard off the bench, but comes in at the 2, sending our actual 2 to the 3, and our 3 to the 4. I hate Coach K. A couple sets in a row he brings it down instead of CP: on one his strong pass goes up to a quick 3 miss with no one under the rim and the other is a throw away. I think D-Will’s a tremendous baller, and is probably one of the guys affected by a lack of minutes and a constantly changing role (1, 2, or maybe even 3…)
  12. Michael Redd: the second shooting guard off the bench, the 12th player to see action overall. Interesting that before this ever happens, the announcers are criticizing the U.S. for not catching and shooting against the zone. Something, perhaps, Redd is comfortable with? He finally makes it in at the end of the 3rd. He catches and shoots. He also gets some garbage time in the 4th. Not much to write home about.

Despite all my griping, this was a stellar game. But here’s a note to Coach K: your starting line-up should be CP, Wade, Kobe, Boozer, and Bosh; with D-Will, Lebron, ‘Melo, and Howard off the bench; and mostly sitting Prince, Redd, and Kidd. That’s just my two cents, plenty would disagree. I think what few would argue with, though, is that CP and Wade should both be starting. That said, you really can’t go wrong with almost any line-up when you have this caliber of talent. What I really wish is that Coach K would be more consistent. I wonder if he will be in the Medal round?

It seems like we get flashes of brilliance from several guys, but if they had longer to get in a groove and establish their rhythms with their teammates, I think we’d see an even more effective American squad. We’re doing well, but I think we could be even better. Which is scary, as we’re already winning games by 20+ points.

Have faith, and gamers shall provide…

Hornets’ new stripes

This screenshot (it’s from NBA 2K9– someone over on Hornets Report had their eyes open) seems to spoil the Hornets’ new uniforms, which are supposed to be unveiled next Wednesday afternoon. So we’ve got the fleur de bee on the sides of the shorts and on the back of the neck, as well as a bluer teal (I fully support this), and a bluer purple (matching the bluish purple that’s been showing up the second half of last season in all the official FDB stuff). I thought I’d hate the pinstripes, but this looks kinda cool. They alternate teal and purple. Can’t see much of the font from this shot, so I guess we’ll have to wait for the official jerseys. Also I’m not sure what exactly is going on with the side striping.It’s team… then blue in the middle and it widens… into a shape we can’t see because the jersey is being folded? Hmm…

I’m going to assume this is pretty close to what we’re going to see. I think I like: they’re nicely retro, and they’ve got the FDB, and vertical striping will just make Chris Paul look faster. I shall bestow my stamp of approval and go back to stirring my gumbo…

Bonus points to who can tell me what 2K got wrong about CP3 in this shot.

Free Agency Catchup

By on August 14, 2008

** Update: Pargo is going to Russia’s Moscow Dynamo. **

Okay, been busy with that whole thing over in China, so I’ll make this recap quick. Kind of.

  • The Big Swap: three teams made a massive trade, so we’ll do it team by team:
    • Cavaliers: get Mo Williams (from Bucks); luckily, he cares more about scoring than playing PG, which is handy with Lebron on your team.
    • Bucks: get Damon Jones (from Cavs), Luke Ridnour (from OKC), Adrian Griffin (from OKC); I guess this clears up some heavy contracts and gets them a pass-first, if average, PG to go with Redd and Jefferson. I like it.
    • OKC: Desmond Mason (from Bucks) and Joe Smith (from Cavs); this gives them two good players now, and incidentally, this deal will mean that between these guys and those already on the roster, OKC will have about $26.4 million in expiring contracts for Summer 2009.
  • Andre Iguodala: finally got his deal from the 76ers, 6 years and $80 million. 76ers are looking young and dangerous now.
  • Hawks: made a bunch of useless moves, signing former-Piston Flip Wilson to a contract, turning back rumors that he might be headed to Europe (the same report suggested Pargo might be considering Europe also); they also picked up undrafted free agent forward, Othello Hunter, and guard, Thomas Gardner, who’s played four whole games with Chicago.
  • Michael Finley: looks to be re-signing with the Spurs.
  • Josh Powell: Lakers signed this former-Clipper forward. Woo.
  • Francisco Elson: the Spurs’ free agent moved North to sign with the Bucks; always love when the oversized West loses big men.
  • Dan Dickau: this former Hornet, a quasi-cult favorite in the short time he played here, respected for his hard work and dedication, decided to take a European vacation–and I’m not talking Chevy Chase–with Italy’s Avellino team.
  • Kyle Weaver: the Bobcats’ second round draft pick was traded to OKC for their second round draft pick next year…talk about speculation…and disappointment in Weaver?
  • Louis Amundson: the Suns signed this young energy player, hoping to continue their make-over under new coach, Terry Porter.
  • Jaycee Carroll: another young player, after performing well in the Summer League, but getting no guaranteed contract, has decided to head overseas: agreeing to a 1-year deal with Italy’s Siviglia Wear Teramo.
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu: has ruled out a return to the NBA, and plans to play for Joventut Badalona.
  • Andre Barrett: this ex-Clipper guard is headed to FC Barcelona; the story sounds like a broken record now. What does this mean for the future of basketball?
  • Rafer Alston: arrested on DUI charges. Now he’s hanging on police officers’ coattails.
  • Brandon Roy: sadly, BR needs arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to his meniscus (knee); although, this type of injury might put him out a month, not a year.
  • Shaquille O’Neal: call him the Big Reconciliation; word is he and Shaunie have stopped their divorce proceedings. (Yes, I admit it, I shamelessly wanted to get in on the Give-Shaq-A-Nickname Sweepstakes…but seriously, congrats, Big Guy!)
  • Zaza Pachulia: the Hawks’ Georgian superstar appeared on CNN Wednesday to discuss the Russian-Georgian conflict. “I am not trying to talk about who is wrong and who is right,” Pachulia said. “The most important thing to me is that there be peace, and that the people of Georgia not have to live in fear for their lives or their homes.” As I write this, I’m sitting safe in my house, in my safe country, watching a bunch of people swim around a pool live from half a world away. It’s easy to take that existence for granted.
  • Nate McMillian/OKC: the current coach of the Blazers said he has no intention of letting Clay Bennett hang his jersey in OKC, saying he never played there. Hmph.
  • Jason Kidd: in his best assist of the Olympics, he called out the Spanish team, for their ridiculously racist photo, which even after international outcry, they insist was good-natured humor. This isn’t about being PC, it’s about respect. What were the Spaniards thinking? Kudos also to Kidd for saying that it is ridiculous to argue that this is FIBA jurisdiction and Stern needn’t take action against the players involved.

Oh, and word is out that the Hornets will soon make their official announcement about the new team jerseys!

Olympics Game Three: Greece

By on August 14, 2008

A revenge game, as our guys take on the team that knocked us out of the last World Championships.  This team is good and  poses a huge danger to us.  Let’s see how it goes by position, such as it is.

PG: Kidd picked up three fouls in the first two minutes.  CP’s come in and instantly improved the ball movement. He’s also smartly realized the tenor of the game and picked up two quick fouls on Greek players with his penetration drives.  This may be a factor as he drives to the rim on the fast break and the Greeks look afraid to touch him (plus the replay shows a sweet head fake like he was going to pass it off behind him).  Followed by a CP steal and feed to Kobe under the basket.  D-Will starts the 2nd, but quickly moves to the 2 when Wade goes out; CP back in, gets some nice ball movement again, but is fairly quiet.  By-the-by, at the 5:08 mark in the 2nd, we’re up 36-26.  D-Will comes back in at point; oof, he just committed an offensive foul, so that’s his second.  Surprisingly, Coach sits him (and brings back CP).  Kidd starts the 3rd.  In short order he gives up a wide open three at one end, fails to get the rebound at the other, and a few possessions later slows down a fast break; how lucky are we to have his leadership and veteran presence?  What the hell?  On a later fast break he tries to throw the ball off the backboard to a trailer and is not even close to reaching anyone.  Right.  Sit down.  CP comes in immediately, but has a few quiet minutes.  CP starts the 4th.  Schools their center on a switch, nice jumper.  Oof, then torched at the other end by a driving Spanoulis. Comes back with a nice pass to D-Will, but DW is fouled.

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry…SG: Kobe starts off well, but picks up an early intentional foul; the Greeks are frustrating us and it shows.  Wade comes in, but for once is quiet.  D-Will then checks in; doesn’t do much.  Wade starts the 2nd, and gets a great steal and alley-oop to Kobe to start the quarter; and then another steal and a fast-break to Lebron who dunks it home. He then lands funny on a play and immediately asks to come out.  D-Will slides to the 2.  But, before he does anything, Wade comes back in, and quickly makes two nice plays on the offensive end, and then adds a 3 for good measure; how much were the Greeks hoping he was injured?  Kobe back to the 2; how any of these guys know what position they’re playing when, I have no idea.  At halftime, it’s 51-32, maybe Coach will explain it to them in the locker room.  Kobe starts the 3rd.  Nice drive to the rim, takes the contact, still puts in the shot, but misses the and one.  Damn, nice block by Mamba at the other end.  Wade comes in at the 2 and Kobe slides over.  About twenty seconds later D-Will comes in and picks up his 3rd foul (what is with the substitutions?).  Nice dish to Wade for 2.  D-Will starts the 4th.  Makes a few good hustle plays.  Interesting; they go to the Syracuse zone in the final minutes (Coach Boeheim is an assistant coach).

SF: Lebron misses his first two lay-ups.  Kobe moves to the 3. Nice penetration on the feed from CP and he makes the pass to Lebron for the easy lay-up.  Now Wade shifts to the 3; smothering D by him helps hold the Greeks to a 24-second violation.  HOLY CRAP.  Wade just came out of nowhere to snag an offensive rebound over the entire Greek team and then put it right back in.  Hmmm…next play he gets shoved to the ground and then a no call…strange calls tonight.  Kobe moves back to the 3 to start the 2nd; he’s still struggling from 3-point range–there it is!  I told you, Kobe gets a pass from Lebron  (who finally realizes he can’t take on 5 players), and nails a 3 from about four feet behind the line, that is, around the NBA line–why these guys don’t keep to their normal rhythms and do this more often, I don’t know (it would also stretch out the defense).  He then slides back to the 2 and Lebron returns to the 3; Bron-Bron gets a steal and takes it home. After a time out he makes a nice pass to Bosh for 2, followed by a selfish 3 next time by the floor (clank).  Outlet pass to Lebron, he stumbles, and through sheer skill, keeps his balance and the dribble, gets up, and realizing that inexplicably, he’s not being covered, takes two steps and jams it.  Lebron starts the 3rd.  Does nothing.  Kobe slides over, he’s starting to make some shots, which is a good sign for Team USA.  About twenty seconds later, Wade slides to the 3 and Kobe sits.  It’s 69-49 with 2:05 left to go.  He draws a foul on a 3, but only makes 1 FT: must be the trapezoid playing with his head.  Wade starts the 4th.  Makes a few steals, the team is vicious defensively in the fourth, no sign of letting up.  Redd finally comes in with about six minutes to go, but is fairly quiet, though drains a 3 near the end of the game, and does give a dish off for a 3 by D-Will.

PF: Carmelo has done nothing in the first four minutes, but helps put us in the penalty for team fouls at the five minute mark.  Lebron moves to the 4, he is quiet, and then ‘Melo comes back in a few minutes later, who does nothing, and Lebron moves back to the 4.  Wow, ‘Bron just turned down the iso set to pass to an open Wade for 3 (he misses, but it’s the point).  Lebron is picking up some points tonight, but they’re mostly clean-up points.  He’s done little spectacular, really, unless you count thundering home dunks off a loose ball or on a fast break spectacular; my point is, these are all plays Erick Dampier could have made. With Bosh’s return, ‘Melo slides back to the four.  Carmelo starts the third.  Hits a 3 about three minutes in.  Doesn’t do much else; Lebron slides to the 4.  Oh, nice block on the fast break! But on the next possession,   when he’s knocked down under the basket, he looks for a pushing foul instead of getting up off his ass.  Carmelo comes back in right after, who is subsequently blocked twice in a row under the rim; so next time down he decides to try a contested 2 from deep, and isn’t even close. Carmelo starts the 4th.  Does nothing, and Lebron comes in quick, gets a few steals, but one throwaway.  So with it 80-57 at the 6:25, he sits in favor of Prince. Prince plays some good D, but doesn’t see much action on the other end.

C: Howard has to watch his fouls, they’re calling this close. Bosh comes in half way through the first and immediately gets a nice feed from CP; two straight bad plays on D, though–oh, but then he draws a nice charge on Greece’s center.  Howard starts the 2nd, and starts with a big dunk, but then Coach puts Bosh back in at the 7:31 mark.  What the hell?  And Bosh then picks up his second foul with 7:00 to go.  Ultimately, he does take out Bosh, for ‘Melo??  He does get a steal and stumble coast-to-coast, only to miss the lay-up (quickly jammed in by Lebron).  But about a minute later, Coach goes back to Bosh, who closes out the half by avoiding his third foul and getting a rejection on a straight up jumper.  Howard starts the 3rd.  Brings down a couple boards to start. Bosh comes in around half-way through the quarter.  Oh, Bosh’s rejection follows ‘Bron’s!  Bosh starts the 4th.  He plays solid, if undistinguishing.  So at half way through, Boozer comes in.  Boozer.  At the 5.  He’s guarding the line, and there’s no one in the paint.  Why?  Then he struggles against a much bigger center.  Oh well, U.S. wins, 92-69.

Coach:  they said coming in that the Greeks struggled against the zone, but Coach K said he didn’t plan on using the zone; interesting way to ignore your scouts.  He’s yelling at the ref for a non-call early.  Interesting.  CP and Bosh pick up their second foul early in the second–why doesn’t he sit CP and bring in Redd, and also bring back Howard?  Isn’t Coach K used to guys fouling out with 5 fouls?  We’re short big, he might want to be careful.  Apparently, they’re reporting that Coach is going to a 9 man rotation here, so Redd, Prince, and Boozer are apparently all on the outside looking in. The real question is why the hell is Kidd not on the short list?  He looks horrible.  Imagine CP/D-Will feeding Redd all game?  If it’s all about the “team,” and not ego or appearances, why does Coach start Howard and Kidd, both of whom he doesn’t give as minutes as their back-ups?

For once, I’m impressed by Team USA.  Moreover, I don’t feel as if anyone really stood out. That is, the TEAM did well.  I’m really excited about their next game against Spain now.