Hornets Hype

In a basement. In our pajamas.

Archive for February, 2011

Tuesday night, with the trade deadline looming, the Hornets were good enough to give us just under an hour with the team’s general manager, Dell Demps.  Although he, like any NBA front office person, was guarded, you could still get a good glimpse of his thoughts by reading how he answered questions, which answers he gave enthusiastically, and which he just had to give.

There was no doubt that Demps came to New Orleans day one with a plan on how he believed this team could succeed; he sold Shinn and Chouest and later Jack Sperling and the NBA.  For the second time in as many times as I’ve heard him talk, he made it clear that if the Hornets could seriously improve the team, the luxury tax wouldn’t stop them.  He also seems fairly confident with the constant phone calls being made, that, more likely than not, a trade will be made before the deadline.

Demps also was insistent that both Chris Paul and David West were in the team’s long term plans.  Chris is under contract; David he knows won’t sign an extension for economic reasons, but Demps sounded confident he could re-sign DX.  Plus, he said any personnel moves are run by both guys.  All of this fits into the long-term goal that Demps has of turning this team into the kind of team that players want to play for, the kind of team that guys believe they can make a contender by being the last piece.  The man is committed to not just success, but success here; he just bought a house, loves it here, and says his family feels the same.  That’s more than Sean Payton can say.

When asked about specific players, he acknowledged Ariza’s up and down play, but was confident that his defense was instrumental in the team’s success.  That said, I find it hard to believe Ariza’s name is legitimately coming up in trade rumors.  He said Chris’s knee is fine, but it was muscles in his quad that gave them pause and led to the knee brace–and that such injuries can take two years from which to fully recover.  Again, Demps said Marcus was inconsistent, and capable of being great, but also of doing nothing.  Sadly, nothing Dell said made me believe Thornton will see much playing time this year, let alone end up on this team.  Interestingly, Demps indicated one of the difficulties in getting a back-up for Chris was that such a player’s minutes would be limited, so they wanted someone that could play back-up point as well as the two.  He never mentioned Bayless, but I have to think he better fit this bill than Jack, who he did mention.  Actually, Thornton could do that.  Nonetheless, it does makes sense of the team’s love affair with Green.

Although the absurdity of smallball was not specifically mentioned, Demps did say he was shopping for a backup big more than anything, and that Ariza had blown some defensive assignments when playing out of place at the 4.  When fans expressed frustration with the stagnant offense, Demps did say that the team has a “20 second rule,” whereby the guy with the ball has to cross half-court before the 20 seconds point on the 24-second clock.  He blamed poor offensive execution on moving on bringing the ball up too slow, as well as lackluster approaches to setting screens.

More than one fan stopped Dell to thank him for making this year so successful.  Each time applause ensued.  Demps said pundits didn’t expect much from the Hornets this year, and he’s loved proving them wrong.  I wasn’t one of those, but Demps’ thoughts echoed ours: with Paul, West, and Okafor, there’s no excuse for not winning.

Petition for More Marcus Buckets

By on February 16, 2011

NBAtv’s Rick Kamla knows Marcus Thornton is “Lil’ Buckets.”  Gil and Bob from CST’s Cox Sports know it.  Let’s face it, he knows it.  The Hype has written about Marcus plenty, albeit, much of it last year.  If you’ve been following him too, you know the nickname didn’t come out of thin air; MT5 can ball.  Somehow, he and Darren “Lil’ Dimes” Collison had enough verve and pluck to make Hornets basketball watchable last year, in a season devastated by injuries, and losses abounding.  After watching our Lil’ rook run over defenses across the League, I think just about everyone assumed Marcus would start at shooting guard for the Hornets this year.

Didn’t happen.

Marcus Motherfucking Lil Buckets ThorntonPeople at AtTheHive and Hornets247 are good people, and write the best Hornets-related content on the web.  But many of the people over there are sick of hearing posters complain about Marcus’ minutes.  Last year we talked about giving up too many layups and horrible defense every game.  Seems fair to me to talk about the problems with each team, each game, each year. Regardless, we decided to help out our kindred bloggers.  Send your Thornton fans our way, and have them SIGN THE PETITION FOR MORE MARCUS BUCKETS!

The fact is, opposing announcers always seem apprehensive when Marcus enters the game.  Opposing defenders pay a little more attention to him than Belinelli, Green, or Jack.  Kid can make shots.  In a hurry.  Just watch his flow, his explosion on the break, his quick release;  he’s one of the few NBA players I just love to watch ball.  The best part?  It doesn’t matter if you’re in his face, in his way, or fouling him; he’s going to get to the rim, blow by you, or shoot over you.  And he’ll score.  In a hurry.

Some people think it’s childish to think Monty “doesn’t like” the kid.  But can you think of one basketball reason why he’s not the best option at the 2 for New Orleans?  Or for that matter, not at least the second best option at the 2?  I can’t.  Let me stop you right there.  The parroted answer is “defense.”  These are the same corporate yes-men that say Belinelli is in the game for his defense.  [Record scratch - music stops]  Wait, what?  No.  The Italian can shoot, no doubt, but let’s not get overeager–he’s never been known as a defender and isn’t this year.  Or is it that he says he cares about defense?  I’m not being facetious.  Listen to every interview with every Hornets coach and player and count the times they answer a question having nothing to do with defense with some iteration of “it’s all about defense for us.”

I think Monty is so insistent on converting this squad to a defensive mindset, that if he calls you at 3AM, and you have the balls to answer “Hello?” instead of “Defense?” it’s back to the end of the bench.  If that’s the case, and it’s Marcus’ expressed commitment, rather than actual play, I say we all need to shout at Marcus and call him a dummy.  Because hecan fix that easy.  Just eat, breathe, and sleep defense.  Say “defense” when you roll out of bed in the morning, Marcus, whisper “defense” when you get in your car, and say it again as you walk into work.  Damn, get “Defense” tattooed on the back of your hands, son, so you can’t forget.  But, then again, maybe that’s not it.

Whatever “untouchable” point Monty is fussing over, every rule is made to be broken.  So, Monty, I think you’re a great coach, but just play the fucking kid already.  He’s the third most talented scorer you have, and absolutely has the most untapped potential of any player on your roster: meaning, he needs minutes to improve.  Yes, Coach Williams needs to trust Marcus the way he’s trusted all his other players, and give him time to work out any issues he sees with his game.  Otherwise, the kid will never improve.

And why let him get away, so he can succeed elsewhere, when he clearly has a strong bond with the New Orleans crowd, and has to love playing for his home team.  (Um…tickets, anyone?  People love him, they’ll pay to see him?  Hello?!?)  The people of New Orleans believe in Marcus.  And more than a few of us know something about the game.  So, coach, play the kid!

You know, I really meant this to be a one paragraph post, but here I am, still writing.  I can’t help it.  I love Marcus Buckets.  If you’re gushing to talk about Thornton too, and other sites are becoming less receptive to your chatter, bring it here.  Unleash whatever you have to say.  As for the haters: feel free to post whatever you want; we won’t censor you.  But, you post, you sign the Petition.  So there’s that.  Also, for those of you that like to read blogs and not post, that’s cool, but, if you care about Marcus, just put in your name and random words.  Ball.  1.  Freedom.  Pink garters.  Alkjdfl;kaewr! What happened to Ticktock6?  Whatever does it for you.

So, come on down, folks, and sign the PETITION FOR MORE MARCUS BUCKETS by posting below:

Gray Smash!!!

By on February 12, 2011

For those of you who don’t know it, I have an irrational dislike of Kurt Thomas.   As Mr. Thomas has aged (he’s now 38), he’s often been used as a center, instead of his natural position, power forward.  He’s 6’9″, 230 lbs.  In contrast, his presumptive position opponent at the New Orleans Arena tonight, the 26-year-old Aaron Gray, is 7′, 270 lbs.  Gray’s also twice as wide.  Lest I become an angry Bruce Banner-clone, Gray better do his best Hulk Smash!!! impression on Thomas tonight.  You don’t want to see me when I’m angry.

If you follow me on Twitter, or have watched a Knicks, Suns, Spurs, Sonics, Bucks, or now Bulls game with me, you know I can’t stand Kurt Thomas.  My hyperbole about his suckage is renowned, if, admittedly, a bit unfair.  Here’s the genesis.  Kurt Thomas was drafted 10th overall in the 1995 draft by the Miami Heat, played there two years, was shipped to Dallas for a year, and then established himself on several good Knick teams, from 1998 to 2005.  I was living in New York at the time.  Here’s a stat people some forget now, but one I’ll never forget, ingrained in my brain as it is: playing at a small college, Thomas managed to lead the NCAA Division I in scoring and rebounding in the same year, becoming at that time only the third player in history to do so, by averaging 28.9 and 14.6 per game.

In the real world, Thomas has career averages of 8.8 and 7.0.  His highest rebounding average ever was 10.4 a game, his last year with the Knicks.  His highest scoring average ever was 14.0, two years prior.  Nevertheless, nothing, and I mean nothing, would stop Breen or Frazier, the local TV announcers, from mentioning at least two or three times a game that Thomas led the NCAA in rebounds and scoring at the same time (“one of the only players ever!”), as if it was a question (“did you know….?”), and always with boundless enthusiasm.  Like viewers hadn’t heard this game after game after game after game.

Yet, New Orleans folks, Thomas is the quintessential Aaron Brooks (the ex-Saint quarterback, not the Rocket PG).  Yup, that sums it up nicely.  Just good enough to make you think he’s the guy who will win you games, but then, right then, at that point of hope, he inexplicably causes a series of losses singlehandedly.  Do you keep him?  Trade him?  Make him the Man?  (Ugh.) Thomas was never the star the Knicks thought he would be.  Since leaving the Knicks, Thomas has  never been more than a role player, yet the Suns and Spurs consistently paid him more than $6M a year (and as much as $8M), and you see his name among the “key free agents” available from year to year.

Why?  He’s a too-slow forward, has no moves other than an open jumper, and despite having decent rebounding instincts, he’s 6’9″ and totally outclassed by a legitimate center.  Can he defend?  Kind of.  But who cares.  I’d prefer Mbenga as a back-up center, at least that cat’s 7′.

Enter tonight’s match-up.  Thomas vs. Gray.  Gray is no Dwight Howard, but he’s not the patsy some say he is.  Did Howard post 20-17-1-1-3 (pts/rbs/stl/ast/blk) against Gray, who only managed 8-8-2-3-2?  Yes.  But did Howard have -10 and Gray +8?  Yes.  There’s something to that.  Though Gray may have been outclassed by Howard, the Hornet held his own and helped anchor a defense that was finally clicking again.  Considering he was playing against Howard, an MVP candidate, that’s saying something.

Gray has long been a conundrum among bloggers (not journalists, because so few actually use advanced stats).  This year, by way of comparison:

  • Gray has a PER of 13.5 and True Shooting % of 63%
  • Thomas PER of 11.0 and TS% 55%
  • (Howard PER 25.3 and TS% 60.0)
  • Gray’s Total Rebounding percentage is 18.2%
  • Thomas’s is 13.9%
  • (Howard 21.8)
  • Gray’s offensive rating is 115.
  • Thomas’ is 111.
  • (Howard’s is also 111?)

I could go on.  The point is Aaron Gray is a good player; he just needs minutes.  Clearly, he deserves to be in the rotation, and can do so on a contending team.  And all it took for him to get the chance to prove it was an injury to Emeka Okafor and illness from Jason Smith.  Shame on you Monty Williams.  The numbers have been there.  They come as no surprise.  There’s only so many seven-footers out there, and only so many who can actually play well. Gray’s one of them.

Not to mention the fact that Aaron”s an excellent passer out of the post.  The Hornets  can run their screens, pick downs, and other sets with him in the game, he can help ball movement, and he can find your cutting and screening shooters.  Also, as an aside, I’ve met him, and he’s just an awesome person, so I’m biased.  (Kurt Thomas may be nicer than Oprah, but I’ll never know, nor do I want to.  “Irrational,” remember?)  Regardless, if I’m the New Orleans Hornets, I actively get Gray involved in the offense tonight and have him smash Thomas in the low post.  Plus, you have this kid named Chris Paul who seems to be good at finding good looks for his players.  (And, no, Rose won’t help Thomas the same way.)

Gray might not be getting alley-oops like Tyson used to.  But you might see the jumbotron go Gray repeatedly tonight

The New Orleans Hornets are currently one of two teams (the Oklahoma Thunder being the other) that start each game with an Arena-wide, pre-game prayer.  This strange occurrence is a hybrid of religious zeal and moneymaking, as the Hornets sell this slot of proselytizing to the highest bidder.   While I’ve been told that anyone can pay for the privilege of delivering this prayer, and, indeed, we’ve heard Jewish Rabbis come forward multiple times, nine times out of ten it’s a Christian prayer. In contrast, I have yet to hear an atheist step on the hardwood and dedicate a few moments to reason and logic, wish the players well, admit that each player’s health is a motley mix of conditioning and pure chance, and wish them the best. Instead, we are subjected to a game day prayer to Jesus (no, they rarely say his name, but they almost always say something similar to “In Your Name We Pray,” it’s not hard to read between the lines) to  ask the big guy in the sky to bestow good health to the players on both sides of the floor. What’s missed in the well wishes is the excessive entanglement with religion in a place where it is simply out of place.

The Hornets, as opposed to, say, LSU, or Benjamin Franklin High, are a private institution, not run by the state or any of its many subdivisions. This means, strictly speaking, many Constitutional provisions that would guarantee freedom, equality, and non-discrimination do not apply to the Hornets; that is, unless the team determines that such values correspond to its corporate mission. Private institutions, otherwise, are, in part, free to espouse whatever values they want. For example, you’ve no doubt seen Chick-Fil-A around town. They have an expressly Christian value-system built into their corporate ethos, and have even been known to fund anti-gay causes. The New Orleans City Council can’t do that, but Chick-Fil-A is free to hate whomever they want.

The rub is that the Fourteenth Amendment allows Congress to prescribe prophylactic remedies, such as Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) laws, and these statutes can touch even private institutions. The basic gist is that employees cannot be discriminated in the workplace because of race, religion, sex, nationality, etc. There is a “religious organization” exception, i.e., if the organization’s purpose and affiliation is overtly religious, such as a church, or if the company’s or charity’s articles of incorporation state a religious purpose. The NBA is not one of these groups. As such, its non-discrimination policy reads:

Equal employment opportunity is a fundamental principle at the NBA. Accordingly, the NBA’s EEO Policy provides that all employment decisions will be based on merit and valid job qualifications and will be made without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, alienage or citizenship status, ancestry, marital status, creed, genetic predisposition or carrier status, sexual orientation, veteran status, familial status, or any or status or characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local law.

I added the emphasis to the above quote.  So how is this relevant to the Hornets? Because the NBA owns the Hornets. Therefore, every single Hornets employee is an NBA employee.  Hornets’ blogger, Joe Gerrity, was recently brave enough to question the Hornets’ pre-game prayer. Although the poll Hornets247 ran concomitantly with that article is gone, approximately 65% of people were in favor of the pre-game prayer, about 25% were against it, and the remainder didn’t care. But that is precisely the point of anti-discrimination statutes: to preclude a majority of people from discriminating against the minority.

For Christians whose beliefs are in-line with the pre-game prayer, it is an innocuous blessing. For those of opposing beliefs, it may be less so. And for those that believe in no higher power, but instead rely upon science, logic, ethics, and reasoning to guide their lives, the entire thing is a travesty. The point is not which side is “right.” The point is, if it is opposed by as many as a quarter of the people who care, it should be done away with, regardless of NBA rules.  Why stir such strong sentiments when they are ultimately irrelevant to the product produced by the NBA?

Regardless, the NBA’s own anti-discrimination policy forbids the pre-game prayer. Similarly, if my private, non-religious employer decided to start the work day with a prayer, there is no doubt that it would violate the tenets of the EEO Act. It is harassment. Plain and simple. If you’re a Christian, it probably is not. If you’re a non-Christian it is. End of story. This is the part that is difficult for the dominant, Christian majority to get: some people are offended by your religion.

Think about this: if we were talking about basketball at a public school, like either of the aforementioned LSU or Benjamin Franklin High, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that an opening prayer would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion”), which is applied to the states and their subdivisions by the Fourteenth Amendment. There are a number of similarly decided lawsuits related to high school football games that are squarely on point.  This is because governments and their many subdivisions are precluded from favoring any religion over any other religion, or even favoring believing in any religion over believing in none at all.

If a pre-game prayer at a public school is viewed as religious coercion, excessive entanglement with religion, a message sent to a minority that they are outsiders, or an establishment of a “normative” religious belief (all language used by the U.S. Supreme Court), why, just because the Hornets are a private organization, would the team want to do something so blatantly discriminatory, when it doesn’t need to go there at all? Basketball should be inclusive, not decisive; sport is about bringing together people of all sorts to witness elite competition, to see others striving for physical perfection: not an opportunity for ecumenical proselytizing to a captive audience.

Arguably, sport is the antithesis of religion. It involves physical contact, facts, strategies, cause and effect. Religion involves intangibles, faith, and suspension of disbelief. Players cannot afford to trust in god they won’t get hurt; they have to stretch and condition. Players can’t just pray they make their shots; they practice, practice, and then practice more. Nor do coaches read the Bible in search of parables in lieu of drawing up X and O plays.  The prodigal son doesn’t know how to defeat a zone.  

Many players and coaches are religious, and that is fine. That is their personal belief. But in opposition to religion; where people are supposed to merely trust that their traditions, priests, and God have their best interests in mind and are subsumed by acquiescence to belief in a omnipotent benevolence, no questions asked; NBA players and coaches cannot afford to simply do what has always been done: they must evolve,they must innovate.  To be elite in the NBA, players and coaches have to watch game film, strategize, and think through each game plan and opponent: reasoning their way to success, practicing and honing those strategies on a daily basis, and executing them all at the highest level to achieve victory.  Thus, unlike religion, basketball is palpable, responsive, and falsifiable.

So even were the NBA not the Hornets’ owner, it is clear that religion has no place in the NBA. But seeing as the NBA is the Hornets’ owner, and all the team’s employees are Hornets employees, exposing them to religious prayer before every game is a form of religious intolerance; because, as the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, religious discrimination is not just favoring one religion over any other, but favoring belief in religion over non-belief.  Twenty eight teams in the NBA get it right.  Two do not.  One, the New Orleans Hornets, is owned by an organization professing non-discriminatory principles. Yet, the Hornets’ pre-game prayer violates those principles every home game.

Forty-one times a year, the Hornets and the NBA offend me and many others.  Maybe more this year if the team makes the Playoffs.  It needs to change.

Hornets Hyped in Brazil

By on February 2, 2011

Although Hornets’ fans have decried the lack of National TV games for the New Orleans Hornets this season, it’s obvious that anyone who has League Pass or watches NBA highlights still loves, at the very least, Chris Paul, who was one of two guards elected by popular vote to start for the Western Conference All-Stars in Dallas.  This is not just a U.S. phenomenon, though; Paul and the Hornets are followed worldwide.  We’ve pointed out in the past that the Chinese love CP3 (or “Small Cannon” as they call him–among other nicknames), and have linked to blogs and forums in China, as well as Germany.  Well, now we have one more to add from Brazil:

NoHornetsBrasil, which y’all can find at http://nohornetsbrasil.wordpress.com/.  You will need to be able to read Portuguese to read their posts, but I have it on good authority that they rock, and no doubt they are hyping the Hornets.  Or, if you trust Google, check out its page translator and input NoHornetsBrasil’s website.

I know the Hornets were popular in Brazil when we had Marcus Vinicius (pictured on right) as one of our young, developing players.  Alas, he never quite became the player we were hoping when we picked him up in the mid-second round in 2006.  By 2008, Vinicius was shipped out to Memphis as part of the trade that brought us Bonzi Wells and Mike James.  Soon thereafter, he returned to Brazil, and, ultimately, surfaced in the Italian League.  Also, if you watched the Worlds closely over the summer, you would have seen him representing Brazil.  Anywho, it looks like some people in Brazil still dig the Hornets.

So, no matter what language the folks over at NoHornetsBrasil are writing, or how you read their posts, we love having more and more people writing and reading about, watching, following, and just loving the Hornets.  Welcome to the extended Hornets family, NoHornetsBrasil!