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SBD/May 31, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Hornets won the NBA lottery last night “jumping past three” teams to seal the No. 1 spot and likely draft pick Anthony Davis, according to the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE's Jimmy Smith, who writes under the header, “Winning NBA Lottery Could Accelerate New Orleans Hornets’ Rebirth.” It is the “second time in franchise history that the Hornets have beaten long odds to win the lottery,” but the first since the team relocated to New Orleans 10 years ago. Hornets coach Monty Williams, who represented the team on stage, Saints and Hornets Owner Tom Benson, his wife Gayle and Saints Vice Chair Rita Benson LeBlanc were all in attendance. Williams said, “We’ve had a lot of good stuff happen to us the last few weeks. The Benson family has taken over our team. We were in good hands with Commissioner Stern; our guys worked hard all year long and we just feel blessed to be in this position.” He added, “It’s great for the city, great for the state of Louisiana. We’re really excited right now” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/31). In New Orleans, John DeShazier writes the team “added to its recent run of good fortune, the first giant step being when the franchise negotiated a long-term lease agreement with the state, the second being when” Benson agreed to buy the team from the league. Whether it is “hard work rewarded, repayment for misery or league intervention ... it happened.” DeShazier: “And New Orleans certainly isn’t going to apologize for it” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/31). NBA.com’s John Schuhmann wrote the pick is “part of a fresh start for the Hornets franchise.” Benson recently purchased the team from the NBA, “ensuring a long-term commitment to the Crescent City” (NBA.com, 5/30).
A GODSEND FOR THE HORNETS: SI.com’s Sam Amick wrote “you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone in NBA circles who isn’t convinced the Hornets are runaway winners of this latest lottery” (SI.com, 5/30). SPORTING NEWS’ David Steele asked, “Has there ever been a bigger trade in the history of American sports that never actually happened?” Did the Hornets "know for sure back in December that by not being allowed to trade Chris Paul to the Lakers, they’d end up essentially trading him for Anthony Davis?” Steele: “Let’s not be Pollyanna-ish and act as if this isn’t a godsend for the NBA, the Hornets, new owner Tom Benson and a very strong basketball operation that worked miracles the past couple of years under nightmarish conditions” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 5/30). Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, Mark Wiedmer writes under the header, “New Orleans Hornets’ Draft Gain Is Another Blow For Michael Jordan.” The Bobcats had a 25% chance of landing the No. 1 pick, and no team needed a player like Davis “more than Charlotte.” Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan “is again about to have his hoops acumen sternly tested” (CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS, 5/31).
LET THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES BEGIN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote the reaction of several league execs to the lottery results last night “was part disgust, part resignation.” So many "had predicted this happening, so many suspected that somehow, someway, the Hornets would walk away with Davis.” That is the “worst part for the NBA; these aren't the railings from the guy sitting at the corner tavern, but the belief of those working within the machinery that something undue happened here, that they suspect it happens all the time under Stern.” There is no proof the league or NBA Commissioner David Stern arranged for the Hornets to win, but there is “an appearance of impropriety … that marches arm-and-arm with Stern into the twilight of his commissionership, marches right out the door with him.” Wojnarowski wrote execs within the league and various NBA franchises are “suspicious, dubious, and the Hornets' winning the lottery fed all of that in an immense way.” This is “the problem for Stern, and will always be: Within his own league, they're dubious about him” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/30). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes the lottery "continued an uncanny knack commissioner David Stern has of seeing needy franchises get an extra lifeline.” Blair: “Funny how that happens, eh?” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/31). However, the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson noted he previosuly was allowed to "sit in a sealed room and see how the process works." He noted the lottery is “not rigged because I was not even allowed to go to the bathroom without a security guard.” Johnson: "It was the most mind numbingly boring experience of my entire life” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 5/30). Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer, who was in the room last night, said, “If this is fixed, this is the greatest fix ever. Watching the process, there’s no way it can be fixed” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 5/31).
TIME TO END IT ALL: WFAN-AM’s Joe Benigno said the NBA should get rid of the lottery. He said, “There’s no bigger joke to me than the NBA Draft Lottery. If you have the worst record in the league, you should get the No. 1 pick. ... I always think this lottery it is a little shady to begin with” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 5/30). SportsNet N.Y.’s Adam Schein: “By the way, can we get rid of the lottery? Make it like the NFL, where the worst team gets the No. 1 overall pick. Enough with the archaic lottery” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 5/30).
With the exception of more police officers in and around Chesapeake Energy Arena and Bricktown, Thunder Alley "should otherwise resemble its regular season form" tonight for the Spurs-Thunder NBA Western Conference Finals Game Three, according to Michael Kimball of the OKLAHOMAN. The video board outside the arena "won't show a live broadcast of the game," and Oklahoma City officials "expect that alone will make the crowd much smaller than the 6,000 people who gathered" to watch the Thunder-Lakers Western Conference Semifinals Game Five. But the police presence "will be increased nonetheless." Thunder VP/Communications & Community Relations Dan Mahoney said that Thunder Alley "will follow the regular season model" and that extracurricular events at the watch party "will end when the game starts" (OKLAHOMAN, 5/30). The OKLAHOMAN's Kimball noted the Thunder tonight are "holding a fundraiser" for Norman Richards II, the man critically wounded in the Bricktown shooting. Richards "remains hospitalized after being shot in the back shortly after" Thunder-Lakers Game Five on May 21. Fans attending tonight's game "can participate in a raffle and auction to help Richards and his family pay for medical bills and other expenses" (NEWSOK.com, 5/30).
BITTERSWEET: In San Antonio, Buck Harvey wrote, "A lot of people in the Seattle area will be rooting for the Spurs to extend their winning streak to at least 22. At the same time, those in Seattle wish they could root for this Thunder roster as their own" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 5/30).
Before Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird decides if he will return next season, he needs to "make sure he and team owner Herb Simon are on the same page," according to Mike Wells of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Bird said of his upcoming talks with Simon, "Just a number of questions. I've got a lot of them written down to ask him and hopefully we can get the answers we like and move on." Bird "wants to make sure Simon agrees with him on the direction of the franchise." Simon is "willing to spend on players -- except restricted free agents -- if he knows it will benefit the franchise." Bird has been in "complete control of basketball operations for the past four years," and was named '12 NBA Exec of the Year (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/31). Wells writes Bird "put a damper on the hope of some fans when he said that Simon doesn’t like pursing other team’s restricted free agents." Bird said, "Me, I’d go after them. My owner won’t let me. I’d go after anybody. I understand his point of view. If you go after them you’re going to overpay. When we talked about that four years ago, I agreed with him. In a small market, you don’t want to get in a bidding war for players. I would like to. If that’s a rule he’s got, we live by it" (INDYSTAR.com, 5/31).
SPEND WISELY: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes Bird "wants to win championships, and there's only one way that's going to happen in the next few years," and that is by "spending money." Kravitz: "That's what this whole Bird-Herb Simon conversation will be about: the owner's willingness to spend, something he has done in the past but might be disinclined to do with such lousy recent results at the gate." If Simon "gives Bird more freedom -- and the Pacers figure to be about $10 million under the new salary cap -- that's great. If he doesn't -- and you'll know he hasn't if Bird walks away -- the Pacers still have a chance to remain good for years to come." Kravitz: "But to be a champion, or at least compete for titles? That's hard to do when you're 24th in total payroll" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/31).
DOWN SOUTH: In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham reports Hawks GM Rick Sund has "had discussions" with the team's owners about returning to the club, "but no agreement has been reached to return for a fifth season." Sund's contract expires at the end of June, and he said, "Nothing has been resolved at this point. We will have some more discussions, and then the process will play itself out at some point and time." In addition to re-signing with the Hawks, Sund's "potential options include an advisory role with either the Hawks or another club." Cunningham notes the Trail Blazers reportedly were interested in talking to Sund about their GM vacancy, "but have narrowed their list of candidates" to three other execs (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/31).
New Packers season-ticket holders will “pay a $3,000 per seat user fee beginning in 2013, when stadium expansion is complete,” according to Richard Ryman of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. The Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District approved the new fee yesterday. The existing user fee of $2,000 was “put in place for the 2001 season to help pay for the renovation of Lambeau Field, completed in 2003.” The Packers are “adding about 6,700 seats in the south end zone,” and depending on the final seat number, “user fees could raise up to $20 million, all of which would go into the $143 million expansion.” The new fee will be charged to "each new season-ticket holder, whether they get seats in the new section or the existing bowl." Season-ticket holders who move "from the bowl to the new south end zone seating will not be required to pay again” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 5/31).
LESS IS MORE: In Cincinnati, Joe Reedy notes a “reduction in season-ticket prices has translated into an increase in sales for the Bengals.” With two- and four-game ticket packs going on sale next Thursday, the team announced that the seats, “which were reduced to $40 per game, are sold out.” Those tickets, “which were in rows 13 and higher in the Canopy levels of eight sections, were previously $60 per game” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/31).