17 September 2006
Macas can't get a break

Arvydas Macijauskas, who spent most of last season on the Hornets' bench and was cut loose this spring to sign with the Euroleague's Olympiacos basketball operation, has torn his Achilles' tendon in an exhibition game with Skafati, and will be out for two to three months, maybe more.

Macas, who earned $2.5 million a year in the NBA, is being paid €9 million (about $11.4 million) over his four-year contract with Olympiacos.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:56 PM)
22 September 2006
Pried loose from the bench

Maciej Lampe, nailed to the Hornets' bench for part of last season, then traded to Houston, where he was promptly epoxied to the Rockets' bench, will apparently get some serious minutes this season:

Lampe signed a one-year deal with Russian Dynamo St. Petersburg yesterday. Lampe, last season with NO Hornets (2 games) and Houston Rockets (4 games) is satisfied and wants to prove his basketball skills. "I'm very happy with the decision. I could also sign with Chicago Bulls, but I didn't want to be benched all season, I want to play! People from Russia confirmed that I will play 25-30 minutes per game — and this is good, very good option for me."

Lampe played two years in Spain before signing with the NBA in 2003.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 AM)
30 September 2006
The Magic stay put

Odds are pretty good that Oklahoma City will eventually get an NBA team on a permanent (in the NBA sense of the word, which translates to "so long as the money's good") basis. It probably won't be the Hornets; it might be, but doesn't have to be, the Sonics.

And it won't be the Magic:

Orange County and City of Orlando officials announced a deal Friday to construct a downtown arena for the Orlando Magic and a performing arts center and refurbish the dilapidated Citrus Bowl.

The deal was reached after the parties pushing for the three facilities and city and county officials agreed to dramatically pare down the requests for public funding.

The new arena is projected to cost $480 million, the performing arts center $389 million and the remodeled Citrus Bowl $175 million. The funds will come from a combination of public and private sources, including the Tourist Development Tax.

Another major factor in the deal getting done was the Magic's pledge to contribute $114 million to the project.

The Magic also agreed to cover any construction cost overruns at the new arena and guaranteed $100 million in bonds that will be floated to finance the project.

Team president Bob Vander Weide says this will keep the Magic in Mouseburg for the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, a new arena deal has been reached in Sacramento, though it's contingent on voter approval of a new quarter-cent sales-tax, and that approval may be difficult to come by.

Still theoretically in a moving mood: Portland, though the Blazers have a long lease at the Rose Garden yet, and what talk there was this summer had them moving to Seattle to replace the allegedly-departing Sonics.

Update, 1 October: The Grizzlies aren't leaving Memphis any time soon, either; according to the Commercial Appeal, the deal in which Michael Heisley sold his 70 percent of the team will not change the existing contract between the Griz and Memphis/Shelby County, which provides that the team must stay put for ten years — this season will be year 6 — and prescribes penalties if they leave after that. (To avoid the Commercial Appeal's registration, read this at HoopsHype for the first of October.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 PM)
10 October 2006
Not necessarily a sign of anything

After all, it's a preseason game, and the first preseason game at that.

Still: Hornets 84, Mavericks 81, and as we all know, the Bees never beat Dallas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
13 October 2006
Doing the fast fade

At one point in the third quarter, the Hornets and the Magic were tied, 66-all.

The fact that Orlando won it 100-85 should tell you what happened after that.

Yes, I know: still preseason. Six more of them to come.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 PM)
17 October 2006
The break-in period

Gerry V., during the fourth quarter, recounted a conversation he'd had earlier with Coach Byron Scott:

V.:  See that? The rookie [apparently Marcus Vinicius Vieria de Souza] is putting mayonnaise on pizza.

Scott:  Oh, that's never going to work on this team.

Oh, by the way, there was a basketball game of sorts. Heat 109, Hornets 105.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:01 PM)
18 October 2006
Don't even think about short-sheeting them

Too tall for the usual hotel bedding? The Colcord will be offering this:

With several NBA teams signing contracts for players to stay at the Colcord after playing the Hornets, many of the hotel’s California King-sized beds were custom designed by Certa to be 15 inches longer to accommodate for extra tall guests.

And if that's not enough for you:

The "rock star" suite, located on the top floor, can be reserved for $1200 a night and boasts the city’s best view of Myriad Gardens.

(Noted by Hornets247.com.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:00 PM)
19 October 2006
They call it a "shootout"

And it would help immensely if the Bees could, you know, shoot. (Actually, they didn't shoot that badly, but they fouled a lot: three of them fouled out, something I've never seen before.)

Anyway, this is sort of a tournament: Hornets/Warriors, followed by Clippers/Lakers. Tomorrow night, the Bees will play whoever loses that second game, having dropped the first one, 112-103.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:38 PM)
20 October 2006
And shot down again

The Lakers lost in the first round of the Shootout to the Clippers; they took it out on the Hornets in the losers' bracket, 113-106. So far in four exhibitions, the Bees have shown occasional offense and sporadic defense; if this team has any playoff aspirations, it's going to have to tighten up at both ends. The talent, I think, is there.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:59 PM)
22 October 2006
And then there were five

Five losses in six preseason games, that is: in an exhibition in Reno, the Kings put the hurt on the Hornets, 117-93, as once again the Bees showed sporadic signs of brilliance but couldn't put together one whole quarter.

One more to go, and again it's against the Kings — in Sacramento on Tuesday. Season opener is on the first of November in Boston.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
24 October 2006
The Sonics officially change hands

Brian Robinson's take in Hoopsworld:

A casual Sonics fan may not be aware of, or simply may not care about the massive cloud of uncertainty that has surrounded this team since the sale announcement on July 18. While trying to portray the appearance of business as normal the Sonics have been operating in an ownership limbo and void of direction that has been extremely difficult for them to deal with on an administrative level. While fans have focused on the new ownership group’s Oklahoma roots the team has seen an added workload preparing for what amounts to a very large and complex corporate transaction. As part of the ownership approval process finances have needed to be audited, procedures documented, and all types of details formalized. This has occurred at a time when the team rightly should be focusing on the upcoming season.

I have come to really understand that the Sonics under [Howard] Schultz were a bare-bones operation. While often criticized for being cheap in regards to basketball personnel the truly frugal side of the franchise is obvious on the operational side of things. Individual members of the Sonics staff, players, media, and many other related parties have all relayed to me stories of the organization simply being understaffed to provide some of the key services and marketing that other NBA franchises offer as standard. The existing staff appears to be extremely competent and dedicated but working with limited resources that hurt greatly effect their performance.

It's still not known whether the Clay Bennett group will replace the lot, integrate its own people, or stick with the existing crew, but morale seems to be up:

For the most part the Sonics seem to be anticipating increased budgets and resources and expect this move to be a great positive for them. Bennett has promised in general terms to run a first class franchise and the staff is chomping at the bit to hold him to that promise. Changes will likely take some time to be apparent to the outside world but hopefully will have an internal affect almost immediately. Very soon some basic questions about the new ownership group will be answered.

Of course, the most basic question is still up in the air, and will remain there for a while, but I'm hoping that Bennett and company keep in mind the fact that what they bought is a Seattle operation, and that hauling it halfway across the country should be the last resort, not one of the first ones.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:45 PM)
25 October 2006
Okay, fun's over

The Hornets were maddeningly inconsistent through their first six preseason games, at least partly due to the fact that you never saw the starting five on the court all at once. Last night in Sacramento started out just as weirdly despite the presence of all the starters, but down 79-70 with five minutes left, the Bees put together a 14-2 run to stun the Kings, 84-81. Still, if they'd been able to do that for the first three quarters, they'd never have been down nine with five minutes left.

So a lot of questions remain unanswered. One thing is for sure, though: if this team is going to win the 45 or 50 games it's going to take to make it into the playoffs, they're going to have to be really good for more than five minutes a game.

Regular season starts next week in Boston.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
27 October 2006
And then there were fourteen

The Hornets have pared their roster by two: guards Scooter McFadgon and Luis Flores, both free agents invited to the Bees' training camp, have been waived. Both got some play time, and I got to marvel at the pronunciation of "McFadgon." (Pretend there's no G.)

Meanwhile, backup center Marc Jackson is still out with a strained hamstring and will miss the season opener at Boston. So far this year, Jackson has logged zero minutes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:17 PM)
1 November 2006
I missed the game

Then again, I had a good excuse: dinner date. We hit the Elephant Bar east of Penn Square. No political implications, and the food was pretty decent: I had the misoyaki pork loin, she had something called the Shrimp Adventure Platter. I never thought of shrimp having adventures, but maybe that's just me.

Meanwhile, the Hornets began the regular season with a W: 91-87 over the Celtics in Boston, and from a cursory look at the box score, I have to assume that it wasn't pretty. Still, it's a win, and I'll take it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:53 PM)
3 November 2006
What? Another road win?

I am now prepared to argue that the Hornets have learned to play defense. The Bees picked up a startling 53 rebounds, led by Tyson Chandler with 15. (And after fouling out in the first game, Chandler was cooler tonight, getting called only twice.) And there was offense: five Hornets in double figures. There was just the faintest hint of Third-Quarter Drought™, but a 12-2 run at the beginning of the fourth put the Hornets back in front to stay, spoiling the Pacers' opening night in Indianapolis, 100-91.

Thirty-nine of those 100 points (and 19 of those boards) came from the bench, another indication that maybe this team actually has depth. And since Peja isn't hitting the 3-ball — he's 2-9 so far this year — it's a good thing that Rasual Butler can still drain the occasional trey. (He had two tonight in the fourth quarter.)

And there's this: against the Celtics last year, the Bees were 0-2; against the Pacers, 0-2. Personnel changes or no, I have to believe that there was some sense of payback out there. Moreover, last year's Hornets won only 14 road games all season. Getting two early has to be gratifying.

Having ruined opening night for two teams now, the Hornets will have two opening nights of their own: Sunday in New Orleans against the Rockets, and Tuesday at the Ford Center against the Warriors.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 PM)
5 November 2006
Rocket science

The revamped Houston Rockets are way better than they were last season, and the Hornets found that out early, falling behind in the first quarter, fighting back with a 16-2 run, and watching an 11-point lead evaporate in the second. But the Bees once again showed some serious D, and David West sank two free throws in the last five seconds to ice it, 96-90.

Chris Paul managed a double-double in the first half, scoring 10 and dishing 10 in 18 minutes; he wound up with 16 assists, tying a career high. Tyson Chandler swept 11 boards, and David West dropped in 22 points, raising his season average to an even 20. And Peja's mojo put in an appearance: Stojakovic hit five of eight treys. In fact, the Hornets shot better from beyond the arc (9 of 16, 56.3 percent) than from inside (33 of 70, 47.1 percent).

The Bees still can't hit consistently from the charity stripe: they improved markedly in the fourth quarter, yet still wound up at 60 percent. This is, notes Russ Eisenstein of the radio crew, only the second time the Hornets have started a season 3-0; they've never started 4-0. Will history be made this week? The Warriors will be coming to the Ford Center Tuesday, and it's probably not too much to hope that the Mavericks will thrash them the night before.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:52 PM)
7 November 2006
Return of the Kardiac Kids

Well, the Mavericks didn't dispatch the Warriors last night as anticipated, and Golden State wasn't even tired when they showed up at the Ford Center: the Hornets opened up leads as wide as 15, but still found themselves behind by 1 with five minutes left. It's probably a good thing I missed this game; I don't know if my old heart could take this sort of thing. The Bees prevailed, 97-93, and it was a lot closer than that sounds.

Issues: the Third-Quarter Drought™ persists; the bench wasn't quite as effective this time around. The starters, though, shone, with all five in double figures and three pulling down double-doubles: Chris Paul dropped 22 and dished up 11 assists; David West picked up 16 points and 11 rebounds; Tyson Chandler scored 10 and grabbed 14 boards.

And who would have figured that one week into the season, there'd be only two undefeated teams — and the Hornets would be one of them? Not me.

Thursday, it's a rematch, and this time it's on Golden State's court.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 PM)
10 November 2006
Broken on the fast break

"What cruelty is this?" I thought. "A West Coast game on a school night?" So I cranked up the radio, made it through the first quarter, noted with dismay that somehow the Hornets had managed to duplicate their infamous Third-Quarter Drought™ halfway through the second quarter, and pulled a blanket over my head.

As it turns out, it was just as well; the Bees were indeed outscored in both the second and third, and a late rally fell short as Golden State got its revenge for Tuesday night at the Ford. Final: Warriors 121, Hornets 116.

You might expect from those numbers that there was a lot of shooting, and there was: both teams shot over 50 percent from the floor, and 3-balls filled the air. The Warriors knocked down thirteen of them, four by Mickael Pietrus alone. But the big story was ex-Hornet guard Baron Davis versus current Hornet guard Chris Paul, and the two of them put on quite a show: by the time I drifted away, both of them were in double digits and running at top speed. Davis wound up with 36 points and dished up 9 assists; Paul scored 34 (a career high) with ten dimes.

All the Hornet starters scored double figures except Tyson Chandler, and he got 11 boards; Bobby Jackson added 12 off the bench. David West, still hovering around the 20-per-game mark, picked up 21. But ultimately what sealed the Bees' doom, it appears, was the dreaded turnover: 19 of them, while the Warriors gave up only ten.

Still, 4-1 is probably a game or two better than anyone expected at this point. The West Coast action continues at Portland tonight, where the Blazers aren't anywhere nearly as hapless as they were last year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)

The Hornets were feeling pretty good in Portland. They were up a startling 38-13 after the first quarter, and Zack Randolph hadn't even made a shot yet.

Then things started to unravel. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bees were up by four, 71-67, and even that lead wouldn't last. Tyson Chandler was gone — ejected in the third quarter after a particularly exasperating T — and Randolph owned the court. With four seconds left, Peja dropped a trey to tie it at 91, and with two seconds left, David West fouled out and sent Randolph to the line. Zack missed one of the two free throws, but it didn't matter: the Blazers won it, 92-91.

Randolph wound up with 31 points and 12 rebounds, all in the last 30 minutes of the game. None of the Hornets came close, though Desmond Mason and Peja Stojakovic were hovering around the 20-point mark and Bobby Jackson, the one bright spot on the bench the last couple of games, tossed in 15. David West, rebounding in Chandler's absence, pulled down a dozen boards to go with his 17 points.

Now off to Los Angeles, for a rare afternoon game against the Clippers on Sunday. The Hornets will return to the Ford Center on Tuesday to play Charlotte.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:40 PM)
12 November 2006
Quote of the week

Hornets power forward David West, on the parsimony of backup Brandon Bass:

[T]he young guy’s pretty bad about that. He was a second round pick, so he always uses that as an excuse when it comes to picking up the tab. And guys are always on him, you know, maybe he’ll take care of one sooner or later. But I’m hoping this year he steps up his game at the dinner table.

Bass will earn $664,209 this season (the league minimum for a second-year player), up from $398,762 last year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:38 PM)
Completely road-tripped

Three games on the West Coast, three losses. It's not like this has never happened before, but still it stings a bit.

The Hornets played better against the Clippers, but not well enough to win. No Third-Quarter Drought™ this time — the Bees actually outscored L.A. in the third, 22-15, to pull within four — but a truly craptacular fourth quarter (only twelve points) assured the Clippers of a near-blowout victory, 92-76.

And when they weren't missing shots, the Hornets were losing the ball; they had ten turnovers in the first quarter and 23 overall. They still can't hit free throws, missing seven of 19. And of 13 3-balls, only two found their way through the net. The Clippers, meanwhile, presented a reasonably-balanced attack, and while they didn't shoot especially well, they got lots of second and even third looks.

Numbers: Chris Paul got 20 points (and five fouls); Bobby Jackson had twelve; the rest were 11 or less. (Cedric Simmons, off the bench, pulled down 8, a record for the rookie.) Tyson Chandler was effective on the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds and scoring 8. The only double-double to be seen, though, belonged to L.A.'s Elton Brand, who scored 22 points and got 10 rebounds.

The Bobcats will come to the Ford Center Tuesday, and then two more road games: Wednesday at Detroit, then Saturday at Minnesota.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:03 PM)
14 November 2006
Things that make one go Hmmm

Clay Bennett and friends have been consistent in their insistence that their first priority is finding a place in or around Seattle for the Sonics and the Storm.

But maybe not consistent enough. Buried at the very bottom of this Seattle Times report is an indication that Bennett may have tipped his hand a trifle too soon:

[W]ith polls showing three of four Seattle voters against a subsidy for the Sonics, [Mayor Greg] Nickels and other political leaders did not campaign against the ballot measure. Even the new owners didn't spend a dime fighting I-91 — a sign, many believe, that the owners want to get out of town when their KeyArena lease expires in 2010.

Emphasis added.

Not so well played, guys.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:16 PM)

David West is sidelined for a couple of games, and while losing your leading scorer always hurts, five minutes and 43 seconds into the game, the score was Peja Stojakovic 20, Charlotte Bobcats 17. Seriously. Peja knocked down the Hornets' first twenty points, and wound up with 22 for the first quarter, a team record. Despite this, the quarter ended deadlocked at 34, and the Bees couldn't open up a big lead: it was 55-52 at the half, and the Bobcats stayed close until the last couple of minutes, when the Hornets pulled away for a 94-85 win.

And it's a good thing Peja was showing those mad skillz — 42 points, a career high, and six boards — because the rest of the starters (Brandon Bass started in West's slot) weren't scoring much, though Chris Paul dished up ten assists and Tyson Chandler, before departing with two minutes left after taking an elbow to the jaw, had 15 rebounds. The Hornets' bench, a relatively quiet place the last few games, made some serious noise, pulling down 38 points: in fact, besides Peja, the only Hornets in double figures were Bobby Jackson (14) and Jannero Pargo (10).

The Bobcats were no slouches: Emeka Okafor snagged 25 points and pulled 16 boards; Sean May, off the bench, scored 18 and got 12 rebounds; rookie sensation Adam Morrison scored 21 for the second time in his brief career.

West won't make tomorrow's game at Detroit; Chandler, who suffered a mild concussion, is doubtful. The Bees are now 5-3.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 PM)
15 November 2006
Hitting on all cylinders

The Hornets hadn't beaten the Pistons since the spring of '04 (an 82-81 squeaker in New Orleans), and you do not want to enter the Palace at Auburn Hills missing your leading scorer (David West) and your leading rebounder (Tyson Chandler).

But apparently being missing two starters concentrates the mind wonderfully. Seemingly Inexplicably, Chandler's spot was filled by rookie Hilton Armstrong, who had played a total of four minutes so far. And Armstrong, by gum, won this one; not only did he lead the team with nine rebounds, he sank the first of two free throws in the waning seconds, his 17th point of the night, and when he missed the second, he jumped up and tipped the ball out to Chris Paul, and the Hornets escaped with a 100-99 win.

Let us also say kind things about Brandon Bass, who in his second start in West's power-forward slot this season, scored 12 points, snagged seven boards, and blocked a shot. The Bees' bench did their share, picking up 33 points. Peja? Not a record-breaker tonight, but 14 points. And Chris Paul, who had an off-night last night, dropped in 20 points and provided 13 assists.

The deadly Detroit guards, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, lived up to their reputations, scoring 52 between them, but this time it wasn't quite enough.

This brief road trip concludes Saturday at Minnesota; the Hornets return to the Ford Center Tuesday to host the Miami Heat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 PM)
18 November 2006
Nailbiter Express

And I mean it. With 24 seconds left, the Hornets led the Timberwolves 94-93, and Minnesota tried their darnedest to get a shot. The Bees thought otherwise, and the Wolves fouled Chris Paul during the stop. Paul hit two from the charity stripe, and the Hornets were up by three. Minnesota, with three seconds left, answered with a Mike James trey, to tie it at 96. The Wolves, expecting a drive to the rim, zealously guarded the basket; Peja Stojakovic fired a 3-pointer from far away, putting the Bees up 99-96, and that's how it ended.

In fact, there were lots of 3-balls tonight: the Wolves made 5 of 14 — Troy Hudson, who scored 20 off the Minnesota bench, got four of them — and the Hornets sank 4 out of 10. The Wolves outrebounded the Bees, 50-37, but what killed them was the dynamic duo of CP3 and Peja, who took control of matters halfway through the fourth. Stojakovic wound up with 20 points; Paul hit 12 of 18 from the floor, including a trey, and 10 of 11 from the line for a personal-best 35 points. The only other Hornet in double figures was Desmond Mason, who picked up 10 points; rookie Cedric Simmons led the rebounders with 9.

Kevin Garnett still amazes me. He pulled down 22 points tonight, and was seemingly everywhere at once, grabbing 17 boards. Turning 30 obviously hasn't slowed him down in the slightest. I expect him to be a major threat when the Wolves visit the Ford Center next Friday.

Next game in Oklahoma City: Tuesday, against the Shaq-less Miami Heat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:53 PM)
21 November 2006
The Jazz do some syncopation

The Delta Center is no more. Oh, the arena is still there in Salt Lake City all right, but now it's the EnergySolutions Arena, and that's the way it's punctuated: Solutions is in italics.

The firm itself, which paid Jazz owner Larry Miller an undisclosed sum for the naming rights for the next ten years, specializes in nuclear-waste processing and disposal. And since the Jazz right now have the best record in the NBA, I'm wondering if maybe they're lining Jerry Sloan's shorts with plutonium.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
Heat adjustments

"If Dwyane Wade's head fell off," said Gerry V, "he could still play."

There were times when I thought rather a lot of heads had been misplaced, what with indifferent shooting on both sides for 36 minutes, the Bees missing half their free throws, and a brief encounter between Alonzo Mourning (replacing Shaquille O'Neal) and Marc Jackson (replacing David West) halfway through the fourth, resulting in both players being ejected. With just under three minutes left, Pat Riley cleared his bench; thirty seconds later, Byron Scott cleared his; and the Hornets got a fairly unattractive win, but still a win, 101-86.

What actually worked tonight: Dwyane Wade, who scored 29 points; the Hornets' bench, who ran a four-point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter to 15 points; the ever-reliable Chris Paul, with another double-double (11 points, 10 assists); Tyson Chandler, who pulled down 18 boards; Bobby Jackson, who picked up three treys, one more than he'd had in the preceding ten games combined.

What didn't work: the Hornets still can't make free throws. In fact, the Bees were better from beyond the arc (58 percent) than from the line (50 percent).

Despite that, they're 8-3, and facing the Suns in Phoenix tomorrow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:30 PM)
22 November 2006
Suns of the desert

Byron Scott tweaked the starting lineup tonight: second-string point guard Bobby Jackson started at shooting guard, Peja Stojakovic moved to small forward, and Desmond Mason shifted to power forward. It didn't make a whole lot of difference in the first half, with Phoenix jumping out to a 51-46 lead, and just to make it uninteresting, the Hornets revived the old and unlamented Third-Quarter Drought™, scoring a meager thirteen. Thirteen is also the number of treys they attempted before hitting one.

The Bees remembered they had a defense in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough to make up for an evening of fairly lousy shooting, and the Suns won it, 92-83, dropping the Hornets to 8-4.

The bench wasn't much help tonight, contributing only 8 points, six of which came from Jannero Pargo. The starters, however, performed respectably, with both D-Mase and Peja scoring 21 and Chris Paul adding 19; Tyson Chandler swept away 16 rebounds. Top honors, though, go to Steve Nash: the Phoenix point guard dropped in 24 points.

Friday, it's back at the Ford, for a rematch with the Timberwolves.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:17 PM)
24 November 2006
And McDonald's can buy Denver

The Seattle SuperSonics of Bellevue? Art Thiel of the Post-Intelligencer figures the next step is this:

Since pro sports increasingly is of, by and for corporations, with increasingly less geographic connection to the original city, why not be intellectually honest about the enterprise?

Microsoft Sonics. Amazon Sonics. Boeing Sonics.

Works for pro teams in Japan, China and throughout Asia. Works for teams in Europe. Works for teams in Central and South America.

If naming rights can be sold to publicly funded sports buildings, what's the big deal about the team name itself?

Unless the Seattle Sonics of Bellevue really sings to you, at a public price tag of $200 million-plus.

Amazon and Boeing I could believe, just maybe, but if Microsoft had an NBA team:

  • New version of the National Anthem, complete with DRM and DMCA protection.

  • Upgrading your season tickets would cost more than having bought season tickets in the better location in the first place.

  • Four words: Blue Scoreboard of Death.

  • After two years, the valve on the ball would mysteriously no longer accept the inflation needle.

  • The team jet would crash on every other road trip and no one would say a word.

Still, if we're going to hang a corporate name on the Sonics, the perfect one is — dare I say it? — in Oklahoma City.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:42 PM)
Incredible rim shrinkage, or something

Well, the Hornets worked on their free throws, but they couldn't hit from the floor, and the Timberwolves, with payback for last week on their minds, dealt the Bees an 86-79 loss.

The Big Ticket loomed as big as ever — Kevin Garnett got the game's only double-double, with 18 points and 16 boards — and Ricky Davis dropped in 23 as the Wolves shot 48 percent.

Meanwhile, the Hornets couldn't beg for a basket: they shot 33 percent. CP3 managed 18 points; both Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo scored 13 off the bench; Peja had a major off-night, hitting 3 of 15 for 8 points, though he swept 9 boards; Tyson cleared 10 rebounds. (Then again, they missed only 4 of 26 free throws, way better than they've been doing.)

All of this wouldn't be so bad except that the Hornets have to go to Dallas tomorrow, and the last time they beat the Mavericks in the regular season, the year started with a 1.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 PM)
25 November 2006
Some days the bear eats you

The Mavericks definitely had their way with the Hornets, and there's no other way to describe it: it was a blowout from the first jump. The first quarter started with a 21-3 Dallas run and ended with Dallas up 35-16; the Hornets actually outscored the Mavs in the second, 20-16, but in the third Bobby Jackson drew a foul, questioned the call, drew a technical, questioned the technical, drew a second technical and was sent to the showers, and it took three Bees to get him off the court. (At this writing, it is not clear whether Jackson would be suspended.) At the end of the third, it was 70-53 Dallas.

Things got worse. David West and Peja Stojakovic were already out with injuries; with Jackson ejected and the fourth quarter starting badly — Linton Johnson picked up a T — Byron Scott threw up his hands in despair and put rookie Marcus Vinicius, who had played zero minutes this season, into the game. (Marquinhos got one rebound and three fouls, but did not score.) It didn't even matter that Dallas didn't hit a single field goal for the first half of the quarter, and that the Bees finished with an 8-0 run. The Mavericks let the dance team play, or something, and won it 85-73, their ninth straight win after opening with four losses.

"Dallas," said Sean Kelley, "will want to burn this game tape. The Hornets will find many uses for it." The major use will be "See this? Don't do this." The bench scored 34 points, though this was due mostly to the fecklessness of the starters; of those 34, Jannero Pargo accounted for 19. Bobby Jackson, before The Incident, had scored 10; he'd also missed five of six free throws. Desmond Mason, Hilton Armstrong and Tyson Chandler picked up eight rebounds each. The Mavericks were led as usual by Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 28 and got 9 boards.

There's a definite pattern here: win four, lose three, win four, lose three. If this holds up, the Bees should trounce the Raptors and the Bulls at the Ford Center next week, and then beat the Lakers and the Sonics on the road the following week. I wouldn't risk the mortgage payment on it, though.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 PM)
28 November 2006
A large Canadian low

Which, as Al Sleet, your hippy-dippy weatherman, will note, is not to be confused with a Mexican high.

We're still Peja-less and West-deprived, and tonight Byron Scott tapped Rasual Butler to fill in for the Mad Serb. No doubt Scott pointed out that the Raptors were only one game out of first place, carefully not mentioning that first place in the Atlantic before tonight required only a 5-8 record.

Didn't matter. Toronto played it close when they had to, and then opened it up when they didn't. The ever-unpopular Third-Quarter Drought™ turned a four-point halftime deficit into a thirteen-point hole in a mere twelve minutes, and things actually deteriorated after that. Final: Raptors 94, Hornets 77.

Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors' hotly-hyped rookie, justified the hype. Okay, he did pull four fouls, but he scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

On the upside, Marcus Vinicius took his first shot — a trey — and sank it. Not much of an upside, but we'll take what we can get. Tyson Chandler is earning his keep as a rebounder: he got 17 boards. And Chris Paul did manage a double-double (16 points, 11 assists). But 40-percent shooting wins no games against a fast-break team like Toronto. "A regular industrial-strength tail-kicking," said the ever-polite Russ Eisenstein.

No game until Saturday Friday, when the Bulls come to town, but a scary road trip starts next Wednesday, and it's followed by a scary homestand.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:17 PM)
1 December 2006
It might have been

If they'd played 49 minutes, they'd have won it. Unfortunately, the game runs 48. The Hornets were down 18 halfway through the third, and responded with an actual offensive show, which no one expected in the absence of Peja and D. West and Bobby Jackson, whittling that Chicago lead away, but they never got closer than two, and the Bulls finished on top, 111-108.

Did I mention offense? Rasual Butler dropped in 33 points, a new career high, including seven 3-balls. Chris Paul got his third triple-double: 25 points, 18 assists, 11 rebounds. Marc Jackson, playing both forward and center at times, scored 15; Jannero Pargo scored 18 off the bench. But the real killer, if you ask me, was whoever spooks the guys at the charity stripe: the Bees took 40 free throws and missed 13 of them.

The Bulls weren't any better at the line, but they got even more treys: 12, five of which were hit by Andres Nocioni, who scored 31 points and pulled down 13 boards. In the Battle of the Swapped Centers, P. J. Brown outscored Tyson Chandler, 3 to 2, but Chandler ruled the backboards, hauling down 11 rebounds to Brown's three.

At least we know this team can score without the big guns. And they'll need to, since they're going back on the road for another one of those killer West Coast trips.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:45 PM)
7 December 2006
A new incentive plan

The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry predicted that the Hornets would go 0-3 on this road trip; the team was not happy to hear it, and said so.

Mayberry was philosophical:

Hopefully their anger lasts through Saturday and they do prove me wrong. If so, Byron Scott needs to give me a cut of his paycheck this week.

Cut that man a check. The Bees stayed close to the Lakers throughout the first three quarters last night and then pulled away in the fourth to score a 105-89 win. Chris Paul led all scorers (yes, even Kobe) with 26; Rasual Butler and Jannero Pargo came up with timely treys and scored 22 and 21 respectively. CP3 and Desmond Mason put together double-doubles, and Tyson Chandler, as usual, led all rebounders with 12.

It is a measure of the sheer awesomeness of Kobe that in a game where he estimated he was maybe 50 percent at best — he'd sprained his ankle Monday against Indiana, but thought he was ready to play — he still pulled down 24. And Bryant had kind words for Paul: "I love his game."

Busy weekend coming: at Seattle on Friday, then Golden State on Saturday. Let's hope the Bees are still pissed at Darnell.

Update, 9:35 am: Hmmm. The Oklahoman story on the game was written by ... John Rohde?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
8 December 2006
Sonic boomed

In 1999, the then-hapless Los Angeles Clippers scored three points in the second quarter in a game against the Lakers, the second-worst quarter in the history of the NBA. Halfway through the second at Seattle, the Hornets had scored only two. The Bees recovered somewhat in the next six minutes with 13 more points, but they were down 49-33 at the half. In the third, the Sonics faltered, and the Hornets came back to within three, but a 12-point fourth quarter doesn't beat anyone: Seattle takes this one, 94-74, despite the absence of Ray Allen.

Not a whole lot good happened for the Hornets. Only two players scored in double figures: Chris Paul had 16 points, Desmond Mason 10. Tyson Chandler did rule the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds. But the real problem was turnovers: everyone who played had at least one, and the final total was a frightening 25.

As for the Sonics, they were erratic without Allen, though Chris Wilcox filled in well. The future of the franchise may seem to be in doubt, but I don't believe that it's been a factor in the team's actual play.

The rubber game of the Bees' road trip is tomorrow night at Golden State. At this point, I'm making no predictions.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:58 PM)
9 December 2006

Both the Hornets and the Warriors started the night at .500, so it probably wasn't too much of a surprise when the first half ended in a 45-45 tie.

Then Desmond Mason, who had had almost half of those points, didn't appear for the third quarter, and no one knew why. Eventually the story came out: a dental problem, presumably dating from late in the second. But by then the Warriors were on the move, and when Mason returned near the end of the third, Golden State had piled up an eleven-point lead, which would only grow in the fourth. Mason, bottled up, could manage only two more points, Byron Scott threw in the towel at the four-minute mark, and the final was an uninspiring 101-80.

The scary aspect to this was that if you factor out Mason, who hit 10 of 11 from the field, the Bees shot a miserable 34.4 percent. Despite this, Jannero Pargo managed a double-double off the bench — 15 points, 12 rebounds, and even 8 assists — and Rasual Butler picked up 13 points including three treys. But Golden State had five players in double figures, with Mickael Pietrus scoring 22 to lead the Warriors and Andris Biedrins earning the double-double.

The Hornets are now 1-2 against Golden State, with the final game coming next month. Cleveland comes to the Ford Center on Monday, and your guess is as good as mine as to how they'll contain LeBron. Two games follow in New Orleans, against the Spurs and the Mavericks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:59 PM)
11 December 2006
Rocking Cleveland

Maybe we should just play those stronger teams; we seem to do so much better.

It was close all night: tied at the half, Hornets down only one after the third. But in the fourth, the Bees played D, and played it tenaciously; LeBron James managed no points in the quarter, and the Hornets dropped the Cavaliers, 95-89.

And get this: Byron Scott only played eight, and all three of the bench personnel scored in double figures: Jannero Pargo with 15, Marc Jackson with 14, Hilton Armstrong with 12. Chalk up another double-double for Chris Paul, who scored 30 points and served up 11 dimes; Tyson Chandler got his usual 10 rebounds and blocked four shots; Desmond Mason, who kept King James bottled up all night, got 12 points.

The Cavs played hard — four players, including James, in double digits, and Anderson Varejao bettered his career high with 17 — but tonight, it wasn't quite hard enough. And the memory of that last game with Cleveland, in which LeBron sank the game-winner in the last second, will be allowed to fade away.

The next two games are in the Big Easy: the Spurs on Thursday, the Mavericks on Saturday. After that, Florida beckons.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 PM)
13 December 2006
The Iverson chronicles

The Hornets have already indicated that they have no particular interest in soon-to-be-ex-Sixer Allen Iverson, but anything short of Isiah Thomas buying a clue is possible in the NBA, so Hoopsmack examines the ramifications of an Iverson trade from Philadelphia to any other team:

Dallas Mavericks — Mark Cuban suffers multiple strokes, but maintains his ability to jump up and down and hoot wildly.

Golden State Warriors — Golden State wins their first game with Iverson, so GM Chris Mullin immediately signs him to a 10 year, 300 million dollar contract extension, locking up Iverson well into his 40s.

Minnesota Timberwolves — The Timberwolves could sign Jesus and trade for God, and they’d still lose in the first round of the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs — The Spurs are not interested in Iverson, because he was born in this country.

New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets — Iverson mistakenly reports to New Orleans, where he is immediately arrested for looting after buying a new HDTV.

Prediction from this corner: A.I. winds up a Celtic.

Update, 19 December: Which was wrong. The Sixers traded A.I. and rookie forward Ivan McFarlin to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round draft picks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:02 PM)
14 December 2006
San Antonio rose

And the Spurs in their might sought to smite the Hornets, jumping out to an 11-2 lead early on. The Bees, more shorthanded than usual — Tyson Chandler has something that looks like the flu — were not quite daunted, and came back to within five, but the tall Texans had an 11-point lead at the half, running it to 23 points at the end of the third, and after that it didn't matter: Spurs 103, Hornets 77.

Only two Hornets scored in double digits: Rasual Butler, who started at the two, with 17, and Desmond Mason, with 16 and 9 rebounds. Chris Paul, who played the first three quarters, scored only 6 points but served up 12 assists. Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 24.

Perhaps more interesting than the actual game was Sean Kelley's revelation that TNT analyst Charles Barkley had lost a lot of money at an unspecified card game the night before, and kept playing until he'd won it all back. How much was a lot? "Commas were involved," said Kelley.

What this team needs now is to reclaim some of those starters from the infirmary.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:06 PM)
16 December 2006
They call it the streak

Observation from last month:

[T]he last time [the Hornets] beat the Mavericks in the regular season, the year started with a 1.

In an effort to correct this situation, Chris Paul played the whole 48 minutes tonight, the third time he's done that, but it didn't make much difference: the Bees, down horribly in the first quarter, tied it at the half, but Dallas won it 90-79, the 19th consecutive nervous breakdown the Mavs have inflicted on those lovable insects.

CP3 got some serious numbers: 30 points, 12 rebounds (even more than the returning Tyson Chandler), 8 assists. Rasual Butler knocked down 19 points; Marc Jackson got 13. But the Mavericks owned the boards, 50-38, and Dirk Nowitzki, after a cold spell in the first half, returned with a vengeance in the second, rolling up 20 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Howard added 23.

Remember when this squad was 4-0? Now they're 10-12. Some people need to get well, stat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 PM)
18 December 2006
Knuckles and Nuggets and Knicks

Presumably you've already heard the story. (It's hard to conceal things that happen in Madison Square Garden, after all.)

Henry Abbott of True Hoop says it best:

What went wrong here was a series of really stupid overly aggressive mistakes on the part of players who should have known better.

This incident will probably pass without damaging the league too much, but it's not just an "oops." It's the kind of thing the league and players certainly can't afford to have happen very often. It really does hurt ticket sales, TV ratings, and the ability of most people to look up to these players.

And every now and again, after something like that, I'll hear some racist crack. Racists are always waiting for an opportunity to paint the NBA as a bunch of out-of-control black players. It kills me to have these highlights all over the TV, knowing racist idiots in sports bars somewhere are seeing them and feeling vindicated.

Amen to that. This is a case of Men Behaving Badly, period. And the Commissioner did what he had to do. (I thought of one additional penalty — requiring the Knicks and the Nuggets to use the new-soon-to-be-old ball the next time they play — but they don't meet again this season.)

As the pragmatist here, I note that the Nuggets have five games between today and their visit to the Ford Center on the 29th, which means that Denver will be without both Carmelo Anthony and J. R. Smith. (I was actually looking forward to J. R.'s first tangle with his former teammates.) The Hornets won't be playing the Knicks during the suspension period.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
Miami Vise-Grip

Around the beginning of the fourth quarter, Sean Kelley said that it was going to be the Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade Show thereafter, and he knew whereof he spoke. The Hornets scored a surprising 37 points in the second quarter to take a 63-54 halftime lead; a vestigial Third-Quarter Drought™ enabled the Heat to tie it up briefly; the Bees ran up a 9-point lead in the fourth, only to see Miami go up 98-97 with 50 seconds left. CP3 scored with 18 seconds left to tie it at 99; D-Wade took the inbound, held it as long as he dared, and dropped it through at 0:013, and that's where it ended: Heat 101, Hornets 99, and Wade 29, Paul 26.

The Hornets shot just under .500 from the floor, and even made half their 3-balls (7 of 14, four by Rasual Butler, who had 21 points). Good numbers for a change, but not quite as good as they needed. And only one double-double on the court: Alonzo Mourning, standing in for Shaq, who scored 11 and pulled down 10 boards.

Meanwhile, Peja Stokajovic is recovering from disc surgery yesterday; tomorrow, David West will have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow. No word on Bobby Jackson's rib.

To Mouseburg to play the Magic on Wednesday, then back to the Ford, where the Grizzlies and the Spurs will show up on consecutive nights.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:14 PM)
20 December 2006
Worst. Start. Ever.

The Hornets missed their first fourteen shots at Orlando tonight. Chris Paul sank a jumper with 2:42 left in the first quarter to break that string, but the quarter ended 26-13, nothing to brag about.

Then Something Happened, and I'm not sure what: at the half it was tied at 41. But here's a possible clue: the starters got 19 of those points, and the bench got 22. The Bees even gained in the third, taking a 68-64 lead. Then the Magic remembered that they had the second-best record in the East and put together a 17-3 run, ultimately winning it 86-83.

Upside: Rasual Butler still can shoot — he sank all four treys he attempted and wound up with 15 points; Jannero Pargo and Marc Jackson picked up 27 points from off the bench; Chris Paul scored 19; Tyson Chandler got 12 boards.

Downside: That 0-14 run at the beginning, and a 15-point fourth quarter; the Hornets missed four free throws in that quarter, which would have been enough to win.

For Orlando, Grant Hill, 34 years old, scored 21 points to lead everyone. Dwight Howard got a double-double: 16 points, 13 rebounds. I didn't watch the TV broadcast, but judging by the radio report, this one wasn't too pretty.

Two games at the Ford this week: Memphis on Friday, San Antonio on Saturday. The Griz might be beatable; the Spurs, well ....

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:48 PM)
22 December 2006
What can Devin Brown do for you?

The injury-plagued Hornets are about to find out: they've filled the 15th spot on the roster with guard Devin Brown, who was waived by the Golden State Warriors back in October.

Brown, who hasn't played this year, has four years of league experience; before that, he was the all-time leading scorer at Texas-San Antonio.

Meanwhile, we mourn the loss of Brittanie Montgomery, a member of the Honeybees dance team, who was killed in an auto accident last night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:11 PM)
Grizzly business

The big news here was supposed to have been the return of Pau Gasol, and indeed he rolled up 15 points in the first half, though the Hornets squeaked out a 45-40 lead. In the third, though, the Grizzlies found another weapon: the 3-ball, which they wielded with wild abandon, outscoring the Bees 30-20 in the quarter. With barely a minute left, it was tied; Tyson Chandler, who had wangled 17 rebounds, fouled out; Marc Jackson got a clutch rebound, Chris Paul dropped it through at the 0:06 mark, but Gasol answered at 0:009, and lo, there was a 90-90 tie and overtime.

And then Gasol, having amassed 28 points, left the floor halfway through the overtime and clambered into his warmups — the Grizzlies, inexplicably, decided to pull him lest he reinjure himself — and the Hornets finished them off, 100-97.

The new kid got some minutes: Devin Brown missed four shots, but did snag a rebound. And six Hornets scored in double figures, with three double-doubles in the mix: Marc Jackson, off the bench, got 19 points (a season high) and 10 rebounds; Desmond Mason had 17 and 12 boards; Chris Paul scored 15 and dropped 12 dimes. Hilton Armstrong, starting at power forward, had a good night with 14 points.

But what gave the Hornets fits were all those Memphis 3-balls — ten of 'em, four by Mike Miller. The Grizzlies were also way better at the charity stripe, missing only four of them. (The Bees bobbled nine.)

With San Antonio losing to Houston tonight, the Spurs should be in a foul mood tomorrow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:50 PM)
23 December 2006
Ow! Was that a Spur?

Rather a lot of them, actually; San Antonio shot an amazing/appalling 62.9 percent from the floor and dispatched the Hornets, 112-77, though the Bees actually outrebounded the Spurs, 40-32.

It didn't start out badly — the Hornets were up 12-9 four and a half minutes in — but it was all San Antonio the rest of the quarter, ending with the Spurs up 30-20. The Bees rattled off eight consecutive points to start the second, and were down only 12 at the half, but that was it; after 28 points in the second quarter, they would manage only 29 in the third and fourth, including a final 3:45 with no points at all.

A couple of bright spots: the Hornets made all their free throws (a lowish 10; only one Spur got as many as three personal fouls) and half their trey attempts. But field-goal shooting was a meager 31 of 82 for 37.8 percent. And the number that really seems to sum up this game: only 11 assists in all, versus 32 for the Spurs.

Rain or shine, though, Chris Paul gets his points: he got 20 to lead all scorers. Rasual Butler is still shooting well: he made 6 of 8, including two 3-balls. Tyson Chandler hauled down 9 boards, more than anyone else. But there were too many missed shots. (Devin Brown got his first points of the season, on 1-of-7 shooting and 2-of-2 at the line.)

The Mavericks had the night off, so San Antonio takes over the top spot in the conference at 21-7. The Grizzlies, mired in the Southwest cellar, lost again (by the same 100-97 score as last night, this time to Utah), which means the Hornets will remain six games ahead of them.

It's another run to the West Coast next week, to meet the Sonics (Tuesday) and the Blazers (Wednesday). The Nuggets, without J. R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony but with Allen Iverson, will be at the Ford next Friday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:52 PM)
26 December 2006
No, those aren't moving vans you saw

The official position around here ("here" being "within 20 feet of my desk") is that the Sonics aren't going anywhere in the near future and definitely aren't coming here ("here" being "Oklahoma City") this fall..

And Joel Litvin, president of NBA league and basketball operations, says so himself:

Although Hornets owner George Shinn and NBA commissioner David Stern have both vowed to return the Hornets to New Orleans following the 2006-07 season, the Seattle Sonics have widely been assumed to relocate here in the event that the franchise's new Oklahoma-based ownership group is not successful in acquiring a new arena.

Litvin, however, said that won't be the case.

"It will be without a team after this season,” Litvin said of Oklahoma City. "But it's got to be a natural next spot in the event of expansion or relocation. We're not currently planning to expand further, and we hope not to have teams relocating, so we can't offer any promises.

"But we can say that the city has very quickly moved to the top of the list of cities that are out there without an NBA team, but one that we all know can support a team, which they've done for two years in a very extraordinary way.”

A lot can happen between now and, say, 2010, when the Sonics' infamous KeyArena lease runs out, or 2012, when the Hornets' less-infamous New Orleans Arena lease runs out.

And nobody, so far as I can tell, is making noises about expansion, which we should assume is off the table. (Any expansion would likely be to 32 teams, which suggests one in the West — presumably Oklahoma City — and one in the East. The most plausible alternative would be to add two Western teams and shift one existing team to the East, but who would get moved? Minnesota? Memphis? New Orleans, fercryingoutloud?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:08 AM)
Part crash, part burn

"If you were wondering if it could get worse," said Sean Kelley, "it has."

Indeed. With 1:18 left in the first quarter, Chris Paul came down hard on his right ankle, and had to be carried to the bench. The Hornets, who had been up by ten earlier, finished the quarter one point ahead of the Sonics, and inevitably things got, as Sean says, worse.

At the half, Seattle had a smallish lead — 49-47 — the Bees tied it at 72-72 in the third. But the Sonics started hitting treys and the Hornets started missing free throws, and Seattle came away with a 102-94 win.

Byron Scott played only seven tonight, which made for some interesting point totals. Tyson Chandler pulled 11 rebounds and scored 14 points; Jannero Pargo, who started at the two, got 23 points; Desmond Mason had 21. Devin Brown, finding himself with more minutes than he had anticipated, scored 16 and swept 9 boards.

The Sonics had three players over 20: Luke Ridnour with 27, Chris Wilcox with 22, Ray Allen with 21.

It's a back-to-back, with a trip to Portland tomorrow. The first x-rays on CP3 indicate no broken bones; maybe he'll be back for the Nuggets game.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:18 PM)
28 December 2006
Seriously trailing

The Hornets are now missing three starters and the sixth man. Given this fact, you might think that even a sad-sack squad like Portland could dispatch the Bees forthwith. Allow me to correct part of this: the Trail Blazers, who won five straight earlier this month, aren't especially sad.

Jannero Pargo started at point, with Rasual Butler moving to small forward. But while the Hornets did generate occasional offense, they never managed to get past an early Portland lead, and a late rally didn't make up for another recurrence of the Third-Quarter Drought™, as the Blazers won it, 100-85.

Scoring? We got some: Pargo, Butler and Desmond Mason each dropped in 16 points; Devin Brown had 13 with two more treys. But with 60-odd points per night stuck in the locker room — well, you get the idea. And as is his wont, Zack Randolph blitzed the Bees, scoring 26 and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Our favorite insects will be back at the Ford on Friday, when Allen Iverson and the Nuggets come to town. (Sounds like a Southern show band, doesn't it?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 AM)
29 December 2006
Depletion allowance

There had been some concern that the Nuggets wouldn't make it out of Denver, what with the snowstorm and all, and indeed they didn't hit Oklahoma City until around 4 am. And apparently it wasn't all of them, either; only eight players hit the Ford Center. Then again, one of those eight was Allen Iverson, and Iverson can play 30, 40, 50 minutes without so much as breaking a sweat. (Twice in his career he's played 54 minutes.) So I wouldn't characterize the Nuggets as shorthanded.

The Hornets, on the other hand, were missing three starters and their primary reserve, and Jannero Pargo, starting in place of the out-for-four-weeks Chris Paul, managed to pick up his third foul barely two minutes into the second quarter.

Still, for all the vacancies, there was a heck of a lot of scoring, at least early on: at the half, the Nuggets led 59-55. Both teams exhibited a touch of Third-Quarter Drought— but the Bees had slightly less of it, outscoring Denver 17-16.

And then the Hornets' frustration boiled over, or something. At 6:36 left, the score was tied at 83-all; for the remainder of the game, the Nuggets would score only two field goals and two free throws, and the Bees won it going away, 99-89.

As it turned out, only eight Hornets would play tonight; six scored in double figures, with Tyson Chandler getting 10 points to go with 9 rebounds. Rasual Butler and Devin Brown led the charge with 20 and 19; lightly-used rookie forward Marcus Vinicius scored 4, his career high, in six minutes. For once, the Bees were fair at the line, hitting 18 of 23.

As for Iverson, he played 45 minutes, scoring a below-par 21; diminutive teammate Earl Boykins, reported at five-foot-five, led all scorers with 26.

And the Ford Center crowd, reported as about 180 over capacity, were loving it. Whether this provides a boost for the Hornets, who play at Dallas tomorrow, remains to be seen.

Addendum, next morning: Iverson takes the blame: "I stunk it up."

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:22 PM)
30 December 2006
Twenty in a row

Standard operating procedure for the Dallas Mavericks is to blow the other team out of the arena in the first quarter and then hold serve the rest of the way. And that's the way it started tonight, with the Mavs jumping out to a 12-point lead. But the Hornets fought back with a 12-4 run to pull within four, and actually took the lead briefly, so Dallas had to blow them out of the arena in the second quarter, and the dreaded Third-Quarter Drought™, which was actually no worse than the second-quarter drought, pretty much finished the Bees, as the Mavs had done in their previous 19 regular-season meetings. The final was 94-80.

Upside: Marc Jackson scores 22 points, including 10 of 10 from the charity stripe; Devin Brown gets 10 points and 10 rebounds; the Hornets actually out-rebounded Dallas, 43-37.

Downside: Fifteen turnovers, only one blocked shot.

And Dallas was, well, Dallas, and they acted like it. Jason Terry led all scorers with 25; Dirk Nowitzki had an off night and still got 17.

The Hornets are now 12-18. The January schedule is marginally less arduous, but the infirmary has yet to return any of the wounded Bees to action.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 PM)
2 January 2007
The Oakland booting

The Warriors came to Oklahoma City having beaten the Hornets two games out of three, and boasting one new player: guard Kelenna Azubuike, the leading scorer in the D-League so far this season, who came up from Fort Worth today to help fill out Golden State's injury-ridden roster.

The Bees ran up a 12-point lead in the first quarter; Golden State made up the difference rather quickly and then some. It was 49-45 Warriors at the half. The ever-unpopular Third-Quarter Drought™ left Golden State up 13 after three; the Hornets fought back in the fourth, at one point pulling to within three, but Golden State prevailed, 97-89.

Matt Barnes inflicted the most damage, scoring 29 (including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc) and hauling down 10 rebounds. One-time Hornet Baron Davis also dropped in 29. The new kid, Azubuike, got to play 16 minutes, garnering four points and three rebounds.

Both Rasual Butler and Jannero Pargo did some serious shooting, Butler scoring 30 and Pargo 24. Tyson Chandler still isn't scoring a lot, but he pulled down 15 boards. The big difference? The Hornets gave up 16 turnovers, versus only 6 for the Warriors.

The Pistons will be here Thursday, as will the TNT broadcast crew. The Hornets beat Detroit earlier in the season; I promise to be delighted should it happen again.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 PM)
4 January 2007
Payback from the Pistons

You have to figure that when Rip Hamilton gets 17 points in the first quarter, the Pistons are going to dominate — especially since the Hornets managed only 19 in aggregate. And then it got worse: the Bees, unable to buy a bucket, scored a meager 13 points in the second quarter, shooting an appalling 31.8 percent in the first half.

But in the third, weirdly, it was Detroit who suffered the Third-Quarter Drought™, picking up only 14, and their 26-point lead dwindled to 18; it dropped to 14 early in the fourth before the Pistons started hitting on, you should pardon the expression, all cylinders, and dispatched the reeling Hornets, 92-68.

Bobby Jackson, recovering from a cracked rib and sporting a flak jacket worthy of the L.A.P.D., reported for duty, played five and a half minutes, scored 7, and then was spirited back to the locker room: apparently he hasn't recovered quite enough just yet. And Rasual Butler, after scoring three in half an hour, retired with "flu-like symptoms." Jannero Pargo scored 16 to lead the Bees, but he had to put up 24 shots to get it; the team hit only 29 of 88 from the floor, 30 percent. Tyson Chandler, meanwhile, pulled down 16 rebounds.

Oh, and Rip Hamilton? Despite exiting early with five fouls, he got 27 points. Tayshaun Prince had the night's only double-double: 15 points, 10 boards.

The Pacers are supposed to be here Saturday. Maybe they can phone it in and save the airfare.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 PM)
6 January 2007
Hoosier daddy?

"Why don't you pour boiling water into my eyes while you're at it?" exclaimed Sean Kelley midway through the second quarter. It was that kind of night: the game started late because the shot clocks weren't working; Jannero Pargo was sent back to the bench in favor of Devin Brown; and three Indiana starters scored 20 points or more. The Hornets' game was actually much improved from recent days, and they were in it until almost the end, but the result was more of the same: Pacers 100, Hornets 93.

Desmond Mason had a hot hand, dropping in 28 points. Five other Hornets scored in double figures, but the low double figures: Pargo had 14; Brown and Marc Jackson had 11; Rasual Butler and Tyson Chandler had 10. (Chandler picks up a double-double: he had 10 rebounds.)

The Indiana sharpshooters, though, were way sharp. Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson picked up 27 each; Jermaine O'Neal scored 22.

Byron Scott is frustrated, to be sure, but sooner or later some of the wounded will heal, won't they?

The Clippers will be here Monday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:55 PM)
Not that you have a choice

NewsOK.com has a poll up: "If the NBA returns to the Ford Center in 2008-09, which franchise would you prefer?"

Now we already know they won't be here in 2007-08, but given the existing situations in both Seattle and New Orleans, there isn't a great deal of reason to believe that either the Sonics or the Hornets will relocate here permanently, in 2008 or even 2009.

For what it's worth, at the time I took it, there were only seven votes in, and the Hornets were leading 5-2.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:47 PM)
8 January 2007
Well, they call it the streak

Hornets 26, Clippers 15 after the first? This was a game of streaks: the Angelenos made up nine points of that deficit in the second quarter, the rest of it early in the third, and then the Bees started scoring again, running the lead back up to 10 — and then the Clippers went on a run of their own, and the third quarter ended with the Hornets up a mere 73-72.

Then that wily old veteran Sam Cassell took command from off the L.A. bench, and the Clippers would utterly dominate the fourth quarter, winning it 100-90. Cassell, who is rumored to have known Dr James Naismith personally, scored 31 of those points himself.

Apart from those last 12 minutes, the Bees played some pretty decent ball, with all five starters in double figures, Desmond Mason getting his second consecutive 28-point game, and Tyson Chandler scoring 13 and pulling 13 boards. But the less said about that fourth quarter, the better.

Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards will be here Friday, but between now and then, there's a trip to Atlanta to take on the Hawks, who, last time out, beat the Clippers by 12. I have a really bad feeling about this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 PM)
10 January 2007
Marquinhos goes to Tulsa

Hornets rookie forward Marcus Vinicius has been sent to the D-League's Tulsa 66ers for six games; he's expected to return on the 22nd of January. GM Jeff Bower says this was timed to give the Brazilian some extra playing experience; unspoken, but fairly obvious, is the hope that starting power forward David West will be back in the lineup soon. West, who had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow last month, is now participating in team drills, which must be considered a good sign.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:13 PM)
Sometimes it's not pretty

The one question I had when the Atlanta game started was "Is Speedy Claxton gonna kill us?" Claxton was the Hornets' sixth man last year, and let's face it, he was never going to get a starting job with Chris Paul around, so I don't blame him for jumping to the Hawks. And with both CP3 and Bobby Jackson, this year's sixth man, out of action, Claxton might have chuckled a bit before the game.

Unfortunately for Speedy, he checked out at the half with a sprain, four points and three assists. Worse for the Hawks, Zaza Pachulia also exited halfway through. So with the walking wounded more or less balanced, it became apparent that both these teams were capable of stinking up the joint.

At which point the Hornets decided not to stink. (Sometimes it is that simple.) After a 23-23 first quarter, the Bees started hitting shots, and the Hawks stopped hitting them; the Bees led by 5 at the half, by 14 after three, eventually running the lead into the middle twenties; the final was 96-77.

Byron Scott's current scheme, of starting Devin Brown at the point and having Jannero Pargo spell him, seems to be working better than the other way around; Brown got a respectable 16 points, but Pargo exploded for 24 points, hitting 10 of 16 including four of five treys. Rasual Butler, at small forward, responded with 21. And Tyson Chandler is actually scoring these days: he got 14 tonight, his season high, and 9 boards. The Bees hit 34 of 65 for 52 percent, with 9 of 16 from beyond the arc.

The Hawks got plenty of second chances — they had 13 offensive rebounds, versus a mere three for the Hornets — but the ball wouldn't drop. Atlanta hit 30 of 90, 33 percent. Joe Johnson, their usual leading scorer, was held to 13; Josh Childress got 19 off the bench.

It's in and out for the next five games: Friday at the Ford against the Wizards; to Milwaukee on Saturday; back to the Big Breezy on Tuesday to host the Magic; a Friday-night trip to San Antonio, and the Lakers arrive on the 20th.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:29 PM)
12 January 2007
Agent Zero reports in

Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards got here before the sleet, and the turnout at the game was pretty respectable for a Friday night with an ice storm going on: paid attendance was 16,899, and the radio team estimated 6500 actually showed up. The Wizards showed some ice of their own in the second quarter, going from an 8-point lead to an 8-point deficit, but they made it up quickly in the last couple of minutes, and it was tied 51-51 at the half. No Third-Quarter Drought™ either; the Hornets led after three, 76-73, and they made it stick with four clutch free throws in the last twenty seconds. Final: Bees 104, Wizards 97, and here's the kicker: Arenas is justly famed for his closing-moment makes. He got two tries tonight, and both times he was denied.

All five starting Hornets scored in double figures: Desmond Mason with 22, Rasual Butler with 20, Devin Brown with 19, Marc Jackson with 11, and Tyson Chandler with 10 (and ten rebounds for the double-double). Jannero Pargo added 19 from the bench. The only other Bee to see action was Linton Johnson; he scored only three, but they were timely, and he picked up three boards and two assists. The Hornets shot 54.5 percent, and hit 50 percent of their 3-balls (8 of 16).

Arenas, as usual, led all scorers (he had 23); not as usual, he hit only 5 of 19 shots, including two treys. (The Wizards were 7 of 22 from beyond the arc.) DeShawn Stevenson added 22 points.

And tonight, both teams hope their flights take off: the Bees are bound for Milwaukee, and the Wizards are heading to San Antonio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:42 PM)
13 January 2007
No Bucks tonight

The Hornets-Bucks game tonight has been postponed; weather isn't bad in Milwaukee — a little bit of snow — but the Hornets' charter flight, which was supposed to have left last night after the Wizards game, wasn't able to take off from Will Rogers World Airport, and some time around 1:30 this afternoon they threw in the presumably-frozen towel.

The game will be made up at some date to be determined. In the meantime, the Bees will be here in iced-over Oklahoma City, waiting for the arrival of the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:38 PM)
16 January 2007
Thou shalt not give offense

And lo, the Magic and the Hornets took this to heart: it was 38-33 at the half, and both teams were shooting well under 40 percent. What's more, Orlando had hit only one 3-ball out of four; the Bees put up eight and missed them all. Things picked up marginally in the third, but stayed ugly, and the Magic tied it at 75 with six seconds left as Tyson Chandler fouled out.

But if there's no offense, perhaps there can be defense: the Hornets held the Magic scoreless for 4:53 of the five minutes of overtime, winning it 84-78, their third win in a row, and how long has it been since you heard that? (Yep. Second week of November.)

Once again, Jannero Pargo demonstrated that he's way better off the bench than as a starter: he played 33 minutes anyway, and he scored 25 points, hitting 10 of 18 and 3 of 4 treys. (At one point, Pargo had 19 of the team's last 23 points.) Desmond Mason scored 21 and hauled down 9 boards, just missing a double-double; Rasual Butler got one, with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Chandler, before foul number six, scored 4, picked up 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots.

The Magic presented a relatively-balanced attack, if "attack" is the word; both Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic got double-doubles, and Darko got his off the bench.

A couple of tough games coming up: at San Antonio on Friday, and then the Lakers will be at the Ford Center on Saturday. The Hornets are now 15-22, not inspiring for a team that started 8-3, but the mere fact that they're actually winning games without most of their starters has got to be worth something, if only in terms of confidence factor.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 PM)
19 January 2007
High weirdness in Alamo City

I didn't understand this game at all. Halfway through the first quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was tossed off the premises; the Hornets missed all the free throws generated by Popovich's technicals; the first quarter ended with San Antonio up 26-12. The Bees shot better in the second, but so did the Spurs, who took a 53-36 lead into the locker room; the Hornets actually outscored San Antonio in the third, but only by one.

The Bees made a run at it in the fourth, twice pulling within eight, but frustration was clearly setting in, and with about sixty seconds left, Desmond Mason was ejected; shortly thereafter, Chris Paul, who wasn't even playing, was thrown out. Final: Spurs 99, Hornets 86.

Still, Bobby Jackson was back — he played 26 minutes and scored 14 points — and starting at power forward for the first time in ages, David West picked up where he'd left off with 19 points and 11 rebounds. (Nor was D-West the only Bee with a double-double; Tyson Chandler had 11 boards and 10 points.) Jannero Pargo, who was scarcely seen until the fourth quarter, still managed to score 11.

The Spurs guards were lethal as always: Tony Parker snagged 23 points; Manu Ginobili had 19. And Tim Duncan pulled down 16 boards.

And after all that, the Hornets have to fly to snowed-in Oklahoma City to play the Lakers tomorrow night. Some weekend.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
20 January 2007
Meanwhile in unsunny Seattle

Henry Abbott at True Hoop plays Spot the Anomaly:

Clay Bennett, owner of the Sonics, writes a letter to the governor saying taxpayers should contribute at least $300 million to a new arena, and it's tough to say how much the Sonic ownership can contribute. That's a little tough to rally behind. It almost seems like it's designed to fail. One other weird thing: Clay Bennett is tight with Rick Horrow, who is the consultant responsible for most of the public stadiums money in the United States. He's THE expert on this. Horrow got the deal done for the big stadium in Oklahoma City, among others. I don't know that Horrow is not involved here, but the other main consultants are listed in the letter, and there's no mention of him. It just seems ... that if Clay Bennett sincerely wanted to get this deal done in Seattle, Horrow would be the point man, right?

This passage from Bennett's letter is presumably what set off Abbott's alarm:

There are several factors that keep us from providing you an absolute number on the amount of private investment today. There is still a great deal of modeling going on about the potential financial return of the building and the benefit it will provide the team. My obligation to the Sonic ownership group is that I not enter into any transaction that does not give us at least a fair chance to earn a reasonable profit over time.

The amount of our contribution is made more complex by the financial realities of a team with a non-economic lease and poor financial performance that will likely lead to losses of $50 million or more before we can get into a new arena. The magnitude of those losses has to impact the amount we can contribute toward an arena.

And surely it does, but the phrasing, to be charitable, doesn't sell the premise. Governor Gregoire could simply fire back, "If your position is that wobbly, perhaps you should be in some other business." At the very least, she'd get cheers from the We Hate Sports contingent in Seattle proper.

Then again, Gregoire has been less than consistent in her stance on the matter. Last year she insisted that any arena proposal demanded a public vote; this week she's more amenable to cutting a deal without an election.

On the larger issue of whether stadium deals are worthwhile at all, Abbott is unequivocal:

I'm not sold on the way stadiums are financed in the U.S., but I'm also not sold on the idea that Seattle can get by just fine as the only major North American city without one. The choice isn't spend all that money now or not at all, the choice is spend all that money now or later — when you then also have to lure an anchor tenant.

I'm still waiting for the Basketball Fairness Act of 2007.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:24 AM)
Visitors from frozen Los Angeles

When the Lakers are in town, the first question anyone asks is "How was Kobe?" Kobe was fine: he scored only three points in the first quarter, all from the charity stripe, but he served up three assists and grabbed two rebounds. Those who expected Bryant to hog the spotlight would have been disappointed.

And then in the second quarter, Kobe did — well, nothing much, actually, as the Hornets, down 29-25 after one, jumped out to a 59-51 lead at the half. So naturally, the third quarter began with a quick Bryant jump shot, and he wasn't going to be quiet after that, rolling up a quick 14 points and bringing the Lakers to within one, 83-82. L.A. actually led with ten minutes left, 88-87, and stayed close for a while, but the Bees poured it on in the last three minutes and dispatched the visitors, 113-103.

Kobe finished with 23, as did reserve guard Maurice Evans, and Evans took a lot fewer shots. Perhaps that explains something. And Kobe led everyone in assists, with seven.

Meanwhile, top scoring honors went to the evidently-recovered David West, who dropped in 26, swept 12 rebounds, and recorded a steal. Bobby Jackson, also back from the infirmary, scored 15. Tyson Chandler had an unexpected 17 points to go with the expected 12 boards. Rasual Butler, master of treys, got four of seven and 20 points total; his most dramatic moment was not, however, a 3-ball, but his block of a Kobe Bryant shot, which he tipped to Bobby Jackson, who tossed it back to Butler, who dropped it in, putting the Bees up by six. And the less-crummy-than-expected weather made for a full house plus, which is always a joy.

On the road now: Philadelphia on Tuesday, Toronto on Wednesday, and then the Kings in New Orleans.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
23 January 2007
Philly freeze

A great instrumental by Alvin Cash and the Registers, and a reasonable description of this game, in which the 76ers danced all over the visiting (and cold-shooting) Hornets, 102-96, a score which is a tad deceptive: the Bees trailed 54-40 at the half and fell behind by as many as twenty before putting together a late rally and pulling within four.

Did the Hornets underestimate the post-Iverson Sixers? Maybe. One thing is for sure: there were long stretches when they couldn't buy a bucket, and even with the flurry of activity in the fourth quarter (which the Bees won 31-26) they shot only 43 percent. Meanwhile, four Philly starters scored in double figures, and Andre Miller snagged a double-double: 17 points, 11 assists. But the real killer was reserve forward Kyle Korver, who led all scorers with 25.

Devin Brown had a good night at the point, scoring 24; David West had 23 and added 11 boards. Rasual Butler didn't score much — seven points — but he blocked four shots. The Bees' bench, though, managed only 16 points total.

So this road trip starts out on a duff note, and there's no time to dwell on it: it's off to Toronto tomorrow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:35 PM)
24 January 2007
Maple Leaf ragged

After losing to the not-so-lowly Sixers last night, the Hornets had something to prove to the even-less-lowly Raptors in Toronto, jumping out to a nine-point lead after the first quarter. The Raptors whittled away at the lead, and tied it in the third; the Bees ran off a 10-0 run at the beginning of the fourth, then went cold, and the Raptors came back. Tyson Chandler (8 points, 5 boards) fouled out with two and a half minutes left; Toronto came back to tie it in the last minute, and won it 90-88.

The absence of T. J. Ford didn't faze the Raptors: Chris Bosh dropped in 35 points, far and away the leading scorer for the night, and Toronto turned the ball over only six times, versus thirteen times for the Hornets.

Rasual Butler was hitting tonight, scoring 19 and blocking three shots; Bobby Jackson scored 17 off the bench; steady Devin Brown had 15. David West departed in the first quarter to have his ankle taped, but returned; he wound up with 9 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bees will play host to the Kings in New Orleans Friday; Saturday, the Jazz will visit the Ford Center. And that Bucks game which was postponed due to nasty weather will be played in Milwaukee on the 3rd of April.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 PM)
26 January 2007
Icing the Kings

New Orleans is a place where unusual things happen, and one of them was the first half of the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings: the Hornets were showing distressing signs of the Third-Quarter Drought™, but the Kings scored nothing in the first six minutes. The crowd was quiet — "They must be giving out free Ambien," cracked Gerry V — but things would get better. The Bees, down 50-46 at the half, were up 67-60 after three. Sacramento would come back in the fourth, far enough to grab a brief lead, but the Hornets got it done, 88-84.

Desmond Mason gets the Hero cap for the night: not only did he lead all scorers with 24 points, not to mention pulling down eight boards, but he kept Ron Artest bottled up for most of the night. (The Ronster managed only nine points, though he did get 12 rebounds.) Tyson Chandler scared up another double-double, 13 points and 12 boards. Bobby Jackson got 15 off the bench; Devin Brown got his usual 14. And I must mention Linton Johnson, who in twenty minutes scored six points and pulled off three steals.

The Sacramento guards were good for 42 points — 21 each for Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin — and reserve forward John Salmons dropped in 14, including 10 of 10 free throws.

The Jazz come to Oklahoma City tomorrow night. Fasten your seat belts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:26 PM)
27 January 2007
Stop all that Jazz

The Hornets weren't supposed to beat the Jazz: Utah was 29-15 and owned a five-game lead over the Nuggets in the Northwest. But the Bees came out buzzing, scoring first and winning the first quarter 27-18. By comparison, the second was sleepy; it was Hornets 41, Jazz 34 at the half. For once, it was the visitors who suffered the Third-Quarter Drought™, with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan drawing a technical. But Utah simply couldn't put points on the board: they'd averaged over 100 for the whole season, but never once tonight did they get the lead, and the Hornets pocketed a big win, 94-83, acknowledged by the Ford Center crowd with a standing ovation in the final seconds.

Well, okay, Deron Williams could put points on the board: his 27 took game-high honors. And rookie forward Paul Millsap put together a double-double, with 15 points and 17 rebounds. But the Jazz shot only 37.5 percent for the night, and hit only one of 14 treys. Would things have been different if Carlos Boozer had made it through the game without screwing up his knee? Maybe.

The Hornets' bench put up 35 points, 21 of which came from Bobby Jackson, including three treys (out of three) and eight free throws (out of eight). Desmond Mason dropped in 20; David West, who had an off-night last night, was back in double figures with 11. And Tyson Chandler had 15 of the Hornets' 40 boards and blocked seven shots.

Monday and Wednesday, we'll see the 'Blazers and the 76ers. We owe them both.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
29 January 2007
Trail mix

The 82-game NBA schedule provides that you play teams in the other conference twice and teams in your conference four times — except for the ones that you play three times, just to confuse everyone. The TrailBlazers beat the Hornets twice in Portland; the Bees got only one shot at them at home. So it was important to make this one count, and they did. The Blazers stayed close through most of the game, and took the lead briefly in the third quarter, but the Hornets took it to them in the fourth, winning 103-91.

Once again, Byron Scott played only nine: eight of them scored, and six of them, including all five starters, scored in double figures. David West led with 21; Desmond Mason and Jannero Pargo had 16 each — Pargo, off the bench, scored 12 in a row in the fourth quarter — Rasual Butler got 15; Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 16 rebounds. Devin Brown scored 12, his 13th game in a row in double figures. (In 19 games since becoming a Hornet, only four times has Brown scored less than 10.)

Containing Zack Randolph was a priority, and it didn't work especially well: he had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Portland's Wunderkind Brandon Roy was hot, scoring 19. And the Blazers hit ten treys in 25 tries, versus 5 of 10 for the Hornets.

One noticeable trend: the Hornets' free-throw shooting, once horrible plug-ugly, is now up to mediocre. Tonight it wasn't bad at all: 22 of 27. Even Tyson Chandler, traditionally the worst from the line, got two of three.

Will Chris Paul be back soon? The talk is maybe Friday against Minnesota, possibly even Wednesday against the Sixers. Add a guy like that to a team that's 7-3 over the last ten and ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:26 PM)
31 January 2007
Double your anticlimax

As expected (and as demanded by Commissioner David Stern), the Hornets officially informed the city of Oklahoma City today that they will not be needing the Ford Center next season, thank you very much. It's not exactly news, but it's definitely official.

Also transitioning into reality was the rumor that Chris Paul would return to the starting lineup tonight against Philadelphia. He probably shouldn't have bothered: the Hornets started out slow and stayed there, falling behind 14 at the half, dropping as far back as twenty. A late rally fell short, and the Sixers once again had the Bees' number, winning 89-78.

You could call it your dinner with Andre. Andre Iguodala led all scorers with 22, Andre Miller had 14, and between the two of them they dished up 13 assists. The Sixers dominated the boards, 58-40: Samuel Dalembert had 15, and Steven Hunter and Joe Smith both recorded double-doubles.

Meanwhile, the CP3 Express stalled with nine points. Leading the Hornets was, yes, Devin Brown, who got 17; Desmond Mason dropped in 15; yet another spiffy Tyson Chandler night (10 points, 15 boards). But the big difference was at the foul line, where the Bees hit only five of eight while the Sixers sank 24 of 31.

The Timberwolves come to the Ford Friday, and I suspect they won't mind the weather. There follows a three-day road trip, to Houston, Sacramento and Denver.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 PM)
2 February 2007
Dances with Wolves

And a painful pas de dix it was for a while, as the Hornets, up seven after the first quarter, were colder than Minnesota winds for the next twenty minutes or so. The Timberwolves, fortunately, were not much better, and by the fourth quarter the Bees had this figured out and pulled away at the end, 90-83.

There's a tendency to think of Minnesota as Kevin Garnett and however-many dwarves. Not so. Garnett was a tad off his game tonight — for which we thank Tyson Chandler — but Mark Blount, scoring 21 points, took up the slack. And there wasn't that much slack, either: Garnett had a double-double with 17 points (including a last-minute trey) and 13 rebounds.

The Bees didn't shoot all that well, either — subtract the two leading scorers (who were 17-22 between them) and you're looking at 32 percent. They did, however, play some decent D; they pulled off eight steals (four by Chris Paul) and blocked nine shots (four by Tyson Chandler). Chandler continues to get serious numbers: he had 16 points and 18 boards despite having to guard Garnett. CP3 was in good form, rolling up 24 points and eight assists. Devin Brown started at shooting guard in place of Rasual Butler; neither of them had an especially-good night. And Jannero Pargo had another one of his late-game bursts off the bench, scoring 13.

Coming up: three road games, at Houston (Saturday), Sacramento (Monday), and Denver (Wednesday).

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 PM)
3 February 2007
Houston, you have a problem

First quarter: cold shooting, hot tempers. Rockets point guard Rafer Alston and Hornets small forward Desmond Mason were sent home after some harsh words, eight minutes in. The score at the time was 9-8 Houston, and the quarter ended with the Bees up 17-15. Second quarter: cooler heads, still cold shooting. Score at the half: Hornets 33, Rockets 30. In the second half, things started to open up a bit, but they opened wider for the Hornets, who led by as many as nineteen points and won by thirteen, 87-74; it was only the seventh loss at home for the Rockets.

No, I wasn't expecting this either. Yeah, Yao Ming was inactive, but Dikembe Mutombo has proven himself worthy at the post; yet Mutombo, while he got six rebounds, scored nothing. Tracy McGrady poured in a respectable 18 points, but nothing much else seemed to work for the Rockets.

With Mason gone, the Hornets' bench had to work that much harder, and tonight they did, combining for 38 points: Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo scored 12 each. Chris Paul picked up 12 points and served up nine dimes; Devin Brown, in his second start as shooting guard, had 18 points, five assists and seven boards. Tyson Chandler? Yep, another double-double: 11 points, 12 rebounds.

No games tomorrow — supposedly there's some big football game or something — and the road trip resumes in Sacramento Monday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:58 PM)
5 February 2007
The really long goodbye

Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune analyzes the Oklahoma City NBA situation:

The problem for the Sonics, now with new owners from Oklahoma City, is trying to keep a low profile while lobbying for public money for a new arena (fat chance). If that were somehow approved, they'd keep the franchise in Seattle because it would be a guaranteed financial winner. But if not, the way would be open for the franchise to relocate to Oklahoma City because the Hornets have announced an NBA-pushed return to New Orleans.

This will bring back memories of the attendance figures for the Rochester Royals. The rumor is the league wants to keep Oklahoma City open for the new Sonics owners. That would give the Hornets no place to return if New Orleans cannot support a team (they were last in attendance before the hurricane). That would then put the pressure to sell on maverick Hornets owner George Shinn, not an NBA favorite, thus giving new Hornets owners a chance to go to Seattle if the Sonics leave, or swap with the Seattle owners so they could relocate a franchise to their home in Oklahoma City.

The theory is the league doesn't want Shinn continuing to profit from mismanagement and then moving and would make it hard for him to return to Oklahoma City. And you thought those Raymond Chandler novels were hard to follow.

The Rochester Royals, you may remember (I didn't), drifted to Cincinnati, then to Kansas City (as the Kings), and ended up in Sacramento.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:46 PM)
Shot down in Sacramento

The former Rochester Royals are quite at home in the California capital: the Kings jumped out to a 40-24 lead after the first quarter, 63-50 at the half, and while the Hornets drew to within one in the fourth quarter, the Kings held on for a 104-99 win.

Sacramento had six players in double figures, led by Ron Artest with 21; Mike Bibby dropped in 19. The Kings shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and were still over 50 percent at the end.

The Bees had some serious offense: Chris Paul got 24 points, Desmond Mason 17, David West 16. The difference? Both teams made 16 free throws, but the Hornets missed eight — and the Kings missed only two.

To Denver, for a round with the Nuggets on Wednesday; the Bucks will be in Oklahoma City on Thursday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:18 PM)
7 February 2007
Things to do in Denver when you're tired

Beating the Nuggets didn't look like it was on the agenda. The Hornets trailed most of the game, managed to tie it late in the third, fell behind by three at the end of the quarter, and then Denver, apparently irritated, put the squeeze on the Bees. With one minute left, though, the Hornets had fought back to a 101-101 tie. With three seconds left, it was 103-103, and that's how regulation time ended.

At some point during the overtime, the Hornets noticed that they'd won three of the four quarters, and turned up the heat a little, though missing three free throws didn't help. Ex-Hornet J. R. Smith tied it up at 112 with 20 seconds left; Desmond Mason nailed a bucket at the buzzer to win it, 114-112. And it ended with Smith and Byron Scott, never the best of friends, in a hug by the sideline. You can't write scripts like that: no one would believe them.

All five Denver starters finished in double figures. Carmelo Anthony, of course, was huge: 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists. Allen Iverson, maybe slightly slowed by a twisted ankle, dropped in 22 and served up nine dimes.

The starting Hornets also finished in double figures, led by Mason with 23; Tyson Chandler got yet another double-double with 10 points and 16 boards. Bobby Jackson got 15 off the bench.

Tomorrow night: the Milwaukee Bucks come to the Ford Center.

Addendum: The Denver Post reports a sighting of the Birdman:

Former Nugget Chris "Birdman" Andersen attended Wednesday night's game. It is the first Nuggets game Andersen has attended since being suspended two years for violating the NBA's drug policy last January. He played for the Hornets at the time of his suspension. "Bird is a good dude," Hornets guard Chris Paul said. "That's my man. Every time I see him I show him support and I can't wait until he gets a chance to come back to the league."

A year from now. I hope.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:46 PM)
8 February 2007
Not so easy Bucks

The last time the Hornets were supposed to play the Bucks, ice on the runway kept them from taking off. Tonight the Bucks were here, and the Hornets brought their own ice for the fourth quarter while Milwaukee was running a 16-2 run; up ten after the third quarter, the Bees managed a mere sixteen points in the fourth but rallied to force a 90-90 tie at the end of regulation. Apparently everyone was tired after 48 minutes; it was still tied after 53.

And so there was a second overtime, and the Hornets remembered that they were 3-0 in overtime and held the Bucks to four points in five minutes, winning 109-101.

Good Bucks: Mo Williams had 30 points, and Ruben Patterson got 28. (Patterson also records a double-double, with 16 rebounds.) Not So Good Bucks: Both Charlie Villanueva and Earl Boykins fouled out.

No fewer than seven Hornets scored in double figures, and three of them had double-doubles: David West had 21 points and 19 (!) rebounds; Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 22 (!!) boards; Chris Paul scored 14 and delivered 10 assists. Desmond Mason picked up 24 points; Linton Johnson and Bobby Jackson had 10 and 12 respectively off the bench; Jackson's 56th-minute trey put the game out of the Bucks' reach.

The Grizzlies will be here on Saturday in the first half of a home-and-home; the Bees play at Memphis Tuesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 PM)
10 February 2007
No Memphis blues tonight

With essentially no time left in the first half, Chris Paul managed to work the ball into the basket.

From behind the backboard.

They waved it off, of course, but expect this on highlight reels for days to come. And it fit in: a lot of things were falling into the bucket tonight, especially for the Hornets, who shot a startling 55.8 percent from the floor (and 50 percent from the 3-point line) en route to a 114-99 win over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

The Griz stayed close through most of the first half, and Pau Gasol was his usual efficient self, picking up a double-double for the night (21 points, 11 rebounds), but the Bees opened it up in the third quarter, outscoring Memphis 35-24.

Six Hornets in double figures during the shootfest: Chris Paul had 23 (and 11 assists), David West 22, Desmond Mason 16, Tyson Chandler 15 (and 16 boards), Devin Brown and Bobby Jackson with 11 each. Hilton Armstrong is starting to pick up more minutes, and while he still makes the occasional rookie mistakes, he's getting to be a tough competitor. And to everyone's relief, no overtime.

Tuesday the Bees fly to Memphis to play these same Grizzlies, who are now thirteen games below .500.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 PM)
13 February 2007
Now here's your Memphis blues

The last time we saw these Grizzlies, they were losing to the Hornets 114-99. That was at the Ford Center, though; this time, the Griz were at home in Memphis' FedExForum, and revenge was on their minds. They got it, too: the Hornets won the odd quarters, but the Grizzlies won the even ones by more, finishing the fourth with a flourish to win it, 108-104.

Neither team shot especially well. The Bees dominated the boards, but the Hornet guards had a seriously off night. (Any night when Devin Brown and Chris Paul combined come up with only seven points has to be considered an off night; Jannero Pargo, at least, came up with 11.) Tyson Chandler snagged 23 boards, setting a personal record and tying a club record; he also dropped in 17 points. David West also picked up the double-double, with 22 points and 11 rebounds; Desmond Mason, still in sharpshooter mode, had 23 points.

The Grizzly guards, conversely, had their way: Chucky Atkins and Rudy Gay between them scored 37. Forward threat Mike Miller picked up 22, and Memphis recorded two double-doubles: Pau Gasol (11 points, 15 boards) and Hakim Warrick (15 points, 12 boards off the bench).

If nothing else, this should remind us that even cellar-dwellers win once in a while, and it's not wise to take them for granted.

The Bees will be back in OKC tomorrow for a Valentine's Day match with the Kings. I am told the home uniforms will reflect the holiday; I plan to listen to the game on the radio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 PM)
14 February 2007
Kings X'ed

The Hornets' bad shooting on Tuesday somehow turned into good shooting on Wednesday: the Bees hit 45 of 78 shots (57.7 percent) in the process of giving the Sacramento Kings a good old-fashioned Ford Center thrashing, 110-93.

The Kings were playing without Brad Miller, which hurt, but nobody rushed in to fill the Miller-sized hole in the lineup. Ron Artest got 18 points, as many as anyone tonight, and the Sacramento bench kicked in 44 points — but this means that the four other starters managed only 31. And the Kings offered little defense: only 34 rebounds and two blocked shots, versus 44 and 7 for the Hornets.

Tyson Chandler wangled still another double-double: 10 points, 15 boards. Desmond Mason tossed in another 18 points; David West, 16; Devin Brown, 15. The bench contributed 42, including a season-high 12 from Linton Johnson, who has been playing some serious D these days.

We now pause for the All-Star break. The next Hornets game will be Tuesday, at Charlotte.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 PM)
15 February 2007
Sub-Sonic finance

How the proposed new arena at Renton, Seattle's answer to Del City, will be financed:

Senate Bill 5986 would extend several taxes paying off existing sports stadiums to fund a new arena, arts groups and stadium maintenance.

Sales taxes: A .017 percent sales tax for Safeco Field debt would be extended by 17 years, to 2029, raising $150 million. A separate .016 percent sales tax for Qwest Field debt would be extended by eight years, to 2029, raising $77 million.

Restaurant tax: A 0.5 percent tax on restaurant meals and drinks for Safeco Field debt would remain until 2015, raising $75 million.

Car rental taxes: A 2 percent car-rental tax for Safeco Field debt, and another 0.75 percent car-rental tax for Kingdome debt, would be extended until 2012, raising $40 million.

Hotel/motel tax: After Qwest Field debt is paid off in 2021, a 2 percent tax on hotel- and motel-room rentals would be split between the new arena and arts groups, raising $81 million.

That's $423 million of the projected $530 million. Sonics owner Clay Bennett has said he expects the city of Renton to fork over a few dollars; Mayor Kathy Keolker says if the city is assured of a revenue stream, she will ask the Council for "an investment commensurate with those new revenues."

If nothing else, those who insisted that Bennett was planning all along to move the team may be slightly less insistent for the moment.

Update, 11:15 am: Speaker of the Washington House Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) objects, and in his list of complaints I find this:

They ought to get their own financial house in order when their payroll is over $50 million for, what is it, 10 players? I think that's a little ridiculous. They need to get their own financial house in order and if they did, they wouldn't have to ask for public help.

Well, actually, it's 15 players, and if this chart is accurate, the Sonics have the sixth lowest payroll in the NBA. If Chopp is really upset with player salaries, perhaps he should take it up with the union.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 AM)
20 February 2007
Falling down on the job

Everyone in the Hornets organization remembers last year after the All-Star break, in which the team went a ghastly 9-21 and dropped from the sixth playoff position to off the radar entirely.

You'd think a memory like that might impel the team to thrash the unruly Charlotte Bobcats. And you would be wrong: while the Bees have pretty much vanquished the Third-Quarter Drought™ — they outscored the 'Cats 34-24 in the third tonight — they managed to lose the other three quarters, and the game, 104-100, in front of a sparse crowd in the 13,000 range.

Charlotte's Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace each dropped in 21 points; rookie Adam Morrison picked up 18 from off the bench, including 11 in the third quarter. And Emeka Okafor added a double-double — 16 points, 15 rebounds — and blocked five shots.

The Bees did generate some offense, and Chris Paul is scoring again: CP3 got 20. Desmond Mason added 17; David West and Tyson Chandler had 16 each. (And Chandler snagged 20 boards.)

It's the one true mystery this season: the Hornets play better against good teams than they do against mediocre (or worse) teams. Which means the next two games, against the Nets in Jersey and at the Ford against the Sonics, might be equally dreadful.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:33 PM)
21 February 2007
Welcome to Jersey

Vince Carter, when he turns it on, is flat-out amazing. He hit 15 of 25, including four treys, and 12 of 12 free throws, for a season-high 46 points. And former Hornet Bostjan Nachbar had some serious motivation tonight: off the bench, he dropped in 15 points against his erstwhile teammates. If anyone else on the team had done some serious scoring, the Nets would have won it. But the Hornets picked up the win at the Meadowlands, 111-107, behind David West's 32 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Chris Paul, despite playing most of the fourth quarter with five fouls, scored 19 and served up 11 dimes for one of two Hornet double-doubles. (The other was, yes, Tyson Chandler, with 10 points and 12 boards.) Bobby Jackson scored 17 off the bench, including four of six free throws in the waning moments. The Bees shot 50.7 percent for the night, way over their average.

Next game is Friday in New Orleans, against the Sonics; the Bees have the weekend off, and will play at Cleveland on Tuesday before returning to the Ford on Wednesday to take on the Hawks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:21 PM)
23 February 2007
Sonics stay put (for now)

Applications for relocation of a National Basketball Association team must be received by the Commissioner's office by the first of March.

As I suspected, the Seattle SuperSonics aren't going anywhere this fall:

"We do not intend to apply for relocation. We intend to be successful in Washington," [Sonics owner Clay] Bennett said Thursday. "I still think we've got a lot of life left in this deal."

Although Washington voters may stomp it to death yet, if this poll is at all accurate:

About 77 percent opposed use of public dollars for major sports facilities such as the Sonics' Renton proposal.

Bennett has proclaimed that the deadline for a new deal in the Seattle area is 31 October 2007.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:27 AM)
The Kardiac Kids are back

You've heard of games that were never in doubt? This one was always in doubt: the lead changed hands seven times, there were seven ties, and with the Hornets up 98-94 with half a minute left, Seattle's Rashard Lewis fired a trey to cut the lead to one. The Bees ran down as much of the clock as they could, and Chris Paul dropped in a runner.

Which rolled out. Lewis grabbed the ball and called time out: the Sonics reset, and with less than one second left, Ray Allen sent up a jumper.

Which missed. Hornets 98, Sonics 97, and suddenly the Bees are a playoff team again, half a game above the ninth-place Warriors.

Let us not, however, mock Ray Allen, who led all scorers with 32, or Rashard Lewis, who scored 18 and pulled down 12 rebounds. The Sonics had plenty of offense, and they shot 52 percent from the floor (and 53 percent from beyond the arc).

By comparison, the Hornets shot only 37 percent. But they dominated the boards — 56 rebounds versus 42 — and 26 of them were off the offensive glass, meaning that a lot of those shots that were missed were put back. And the Bees committed only eight turnovers, while the Sonics turned the ball over 18 times; the Hornets blocked six shots and recorded a prodigious 13 steals. (Chris Paul had five; all the Sonics combined managed two.)

Two more double-doubles: David West (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Tyson Chandler (15 points, 19 rebounds). Bobby Jackson scored 17 off the bench. And Linton Johnson, in less than 17 minutes, got 8 points and 7 boards, a blocked shot and a steal.

A trip to Cleveland on Tuesday; the Hornets will be back at the Ford to take on the Hawks (Wednesday), and then will head to Chicago.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 PM)
26 February 2007
Backlash, or forelash?

This evening, Washington's House Finance Committee will consider the House version of the bill to allow King County to build an Events Center in Renton, the new arena for the Seattle SuperSonics and Storm.

Which makes the timing of this announcement interesting, to say the least:

The campaign finance records I've reviewed show that Sonics/Storm co-owner Tom Ward has contributed $475,000 to Gary L. Bauer's Americans United to Preserve Marriage.

And another Sonics/Storm co-owner, Aubrey McClendon, contributed $625,000.

Oklahoma City residents will recognize these fellows as the chairmen of Riata and Chesapeake respectively.

The real question here, I think, is this: will King County, clearly a gay-friendly place (and, I assume, more so than Oklahoma City), take this news and say "Screw 'em, let 'em go," or will they decide to fight to keep the team after all?

I honestly don't know which way this will fall.

(Via True Hoop.)

Update, 7:45 pm: Live from Seattle, it's Lachlan:

Part of me would like to flip the virtual bird to the owners and tell them to do their hate-mongering in Oklahoma. It's an insult to the fans who support equality and to the players, who are known for being reflective of the same. And yet, I hesitate to ... flip that bird and withdraw my support. The team didn't ask to be purchased by conservative schmucks.

I suspect this reaction is far from unique.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:22 PM)
27 February 2007
Q'd up

The Cavaliers haven't lost very often at Quicken Loans Arena this season, and they didn't tonight: the Hornets fought gamely back from a double-digit deficit to tie it in the fourth quarter, but this is usually LeBron James' cue to take over, and indeed he did, dropping in three treys to put it out of reach, 97-89. James had 35 points and eight assists, leading everyone in both categories.

What hurts, of course, is that the Bees dominated the boards — David West and Tyson Chandler pulled down ten rebounds each — but they couldn't turn those snags into big scores, although West did come up with 25 points and Chandler 14, both over their season averages. The Hornets didn't even shoot that badly: 47.6 percent, versus 49.4 for the Cavs. But this was LeBron's show, and he made it count.

The Hornets, now 27-30, drop back to 9th in the West, but the middle of the conference is close and then some: as of this writing, Denver (27-28) is in 7th and Golden State (26-31) is in 11th. Even the 14th-place Sonics (22-34) have a shot.

The Hawks will fly in tomorrow night; Friday, it's off to Chicago, and Sunday the Jazz will be at the Ford Center.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:33 PM)
28 February 2007
Those pesky Hawks

And I mean it. They took a 30-27 lead after the first quarter, slumped a bit in the second, allowing the Bees to take a 59-50 lead at the half, and then fought back in the third to pull within one, tying it at 80 in the fourth. And then Atlanta had just enough of a cold spell to allow the Hornets to roll up ten points in a row. The Hawks rallied and kept rallying, but the Bees prevailed, 107-100, in a game that was shortened to 47 minutes, 59.7 seconds by the premature release of streamers from Loud City. Not that it mattered at that point.

Joe Johnson started out hot — twenty points in the first half — but didn't get many shots in the second. Still, he led all scorers with 27. Josh Smith had 17 points and blocked five shots.

All five Hornet starters got double figures, and three of them got double-doubles: Chris Paul (24 points, 13 assists), Tyson Chandler (18 points, a season high, and 13 boards), and David West (17 points and 14 boards). Devin Brown was hot beyond the arc, getting four of five treys and 19 points. Desmond Mason dropped in 16.

March looks difficult: 15 games, 11 against playoff-bound teams. I'm not worried; they were 9-4 in February, and they were still adjusting to having most of the regulars back. And who knows? We may see Peja by the end of the month.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 PM)
2 March 2007
The Bulls and the Bees

First quarter, it looked like the Bulls were just going to walk away with it: they'd jumped out to a 15-point lead early. The Bees came back to tie it at the half; it was still tied at the end of the third. Then in the fourth, Chicago went on a 21-5 tear, and the Hornets never came back: the final was 104-93, the Bees' 20th loss in 29 road games. Basically, it was the old Third-Quarter Drought™ moved to the fourth quarter, which is no one's idea of an improvement: the Bees scored only 14 points in the last 12 minutes.

The Bulls had three players over 20 points: Ben Gordon with 27, Luol Deng with 24, and Kirk Hinrich with 22. Tyrus Thomas started in place of the ailing P. J. Brown, scored 10 and blocked three shots.

The Oklahoman ran a story this morning on how Tyson Chandler was still peeved at Bulls coach Scott Skiles long after being traded to the Hornets, and if Chandler thought he had something to prove, he did make a good showing: yet another double-double, with ten points and 13 rebounds. All the Hornets starters, in fact, were in double figures, as was reserve guard Bobby Jackson, but just barely: Chris Paul's 16 was the team high.

So this March starts like last March: with a loss. Let's hope it doesn't turn into the 3-11 debacle it was last year. Next game is Sunday evening at the Ford, against the Jazz. Unfortunately, the Jazz, at 38-19, are hot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 PM)
4 March 2007
Extremely sloppy play noted

There must be something about ESPN's cameras that spooks the Hornets. With a national television audience looking on, the Bees started out strong and then ground to a halt, while the Utah Jazz dominated the boards and the charity stripe, winning entirely too easily, 108-94.

The Hornets had opened up an 11-2 lead over the Jazz in the first quarter, but that didn't last, and while the Hornets were still up 19-15 after the first stanza, Utah opened the floodgates, winning the next three quarters and their 40th game of the year. Center Mehmet Okur dropped in 28 points; sophomore guard Deron Williams contributed 20, and Carlos Boozer added a double-double, 17 points and 12 boards. The Jazz outrebounded the Hornets, 47-37.

Tyson Chandler had a double-double before the first half ended; he wound up with 20 points and 19 boards. Chris Paul also DDed: 14 points, 10 assists. And all five starters scored in double figures, though once again it didn't much matter. The Hornets racked up 29 personal fouls; the Jazz got 31 points at the free-throw line, versus only 14 for the Bees.

And after this, things get harder: on the road, against the Nuggets, the Suns, and these same Jazz. ("This" same Jazz?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 PM)
5 March 2007
The Jazz like it here

Well, yeah, they won last night, but there's more to it than that:

Jerry Sloan's opinion? Hurry back, NBA.

"It's a wonderful city. The people have been terrific here, the ones I deal with in the arena, and the people I run into on the street," the Jazz coach, a southern Illinois native, said of Oklahoma City. "It's a great basketball city.... A tremendous building, too."

There are no plans to relocate a franchise in time for next season, but Derek Fisher, president of the NBA players union, believes the city has proved itself during its two-season Katrina-prompted tryout.

"The NBA now has a feel for what it would be like to have a team here, because they've hosted well," the Jazz guard said.

Now all we have to do is, um, find an actual team.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:16 AM)
6 March 2007
Mile-high clubbing

The Hornets played even with the Nuggets for about 18 minutes, and then slowly, inexorably, turned into a team that couldn't buy a bucket. After winning the first quarter by a point, the Bees were down ten at the half, down twenty-three during the Third-Quarter Drought™, and managed to pull back to within eight halfway through the fourth quarter, only to see Denver start clicking again. Final: Nuggets 106, Hornets 91, Denver's first victory over the Bees this season.

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony did their usual sparkling work, combining for 45 points. But the man who shook things up the most, I think, was Marcus Camby, who dropped in eight points, pulled down 11 boards, served up six assists, blocked six shots and grabbed four steals — about as close to everywhere as a player can be in this game.

The Hornets bench was busy tonight, contributing half the offense, but this was due mostly to comparative fecklessness on the part of the starters, although Tyson Chandler got his usual double-double (15 points, 18 rebounds, both team highs) and Chris Paul managed one of his own (13 points, 14 dimes). It was nice to see Rasual Butler hitting again: he led the bench with 11, including three of six treys.

This road trip just gets harder: Friday at Phoenix, Saturday at Utah. Next game at the Ford will be Tuesday against the Nets, and they won't be pushovers either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:21 PM)
9 March 2007
Sun burned

For a moment in the first quarter, it looked like Phoenix was going to run away with it; the Suns scored 34 points in 12 minutes, and 21 of them came from 3-balls. But the Hornets stuck close, trailing by one at the half and briefly taking the lead a couple of times after that. Finally, with 3.5 seconds to go, the Hornets, down one, got a stop, and after a timeout, the timing of which was questioned by the Suns, tried one last shot. Didn't go, and that's how it ended: Suns 104, Hornets 103.

This was one of those rare games where everybody who played scored, but nobody scored a whole lot. Leandro Barbosa, off the bench, was high man for the Suns with 19, and Amare Stoudemire picked up the double-double with 18 points and 11 boards. Captain America Steve Nash dropped in 15. For the night, the Suns tried 35 treys, and connected on 14; Raja Bell got five of them.

David West and Devin Brown had 19 points each to lead the Bees; Tyson Chandler got his 14th straight double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds). Weird statistic: both Hornets and Suns starters scored 70 points. (Jannero Pargo led the Hornet bench with 15.)

Minnesota obligingly lost tonight, so the Bees, 0-4 in March, remain in 10th place in the conference. The last meeting with the Jazz is tomorrow night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:19 PM)
10 March 2007
Instant rematch

In Oklahoma City earlier this week, the Jazz easily dispatched the Hornets; tonight in Salt Lake City it wasn't quite so easy, but the results were much the same, (no) thanks to the Third-Quarter Drought™, in which the Bees picked up a mere 16 points in 12 minutes, going from a two-point lead after two to a ten-point deficit after three. Final was 96-86, and the Hornets are now 0-5 in March.

Blame Mehmet Okur. The electric Turk hit five treys in seven tries, racking up 29 points. Carlos Boozer added 20 (and 13 boards), and Deron Williams dropped in 10 (with 13 assists). The Jazz outrebounded the Hornets 44-32; Boozer alone had seven offensive rebounds, more than the entire Hornet squad, which explains why the Bees got so few second-chance points.

Two double-doubles on the Hornet side: David West (13 points, 10 rebounds), Chris Paul (12 points, 11 assists). Jannero Pargo had 15 off the bench. Tyson Chandler had only six boards tonight, but he blocked six shots.

The Bees now have to finish 10-9 to come up to last year's 38-44 record. March is going to be a long, long month.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 PM)
13 March 2007
The porpoise-filled life

With the Nets in town, I was looking for a fish-related title, but my big worry was that the Hornets, who have been floundering for five games, would put up minnowmum resistance in the presence of all those New Jersey mussels. ("Knock it off, you're giving me a haddock." — Ed.) Didn't happen: the Bees put up some serious offense and outrebounded the Nets, tying the score at 104-104 with 1:04 to play. Buckets were exchanged. Then Tyson Chandler (6 points, 11 boards) fouled out with 22 seconds left; Vince Carter, who hadn't been doing so well at the line, came up with two free throws, and the Nets never trailed again, winning 112-108.

Richard Jefferson, after an injury, is indeed back: he dropped in 26 points to lead all scorers. Vince Carter had 21; Jason Kidd scored 18 and dealt 12 assists; ex-Hornet Bostjan Nachbar hit up his old teammates for three treys and 12 points from the bench.

With the exception of Chandler, all the starting Hornets scored in double figures. Chris Paul had 25 and served up 12 dimes; David West had 24. Linton Johnson and Marc Jackson, former Nets, got 12 between them.

This weekend the Bees are on the road: Friday at New York, Saturday at Washington. Both of these, for the moment, are playoff teams, though the Knicks have only a one-game edge over New Jersey. Monday, it's back to the Ford Center to play the Celtics.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:44 PM)
16 March 2007
New York's a lonely town

Certainly the Hornets had trouble getting acquainted with Madison Square Garden's baskets: after 12 minutes, the Bees were shooting an appalling 18 percent and the Knicks were up 29-15. Things improved in the second quarter, with Rasual Butler knocking down eight points in a couple minutes with only three shots, and the Bees trailed by six at the half. Both sides enjoyed, if that's the word, a Third-Quarter Drought™; with a couple of minutes left, the Hornets actually got the lead. With 14 seconds left, it was Hornets 92, Knicks 90, and New York got four last shots — yet somehow missed them all.

The Knicks still outshot the Hornets, 48 percent to 43, and had fewer turnovers (12 versus 16). But the Bees owned the boards, and it was second-chance points that made the difference.

Well, that and Rasual Butler, who made five treys in five tries, leading the bench with 17 points. There was a double-double — from David West, who scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Chris Paul, despite some niggling physical problems, dropped in 20 and managed 8 assists.

Steve Francis led all scorers with 21, and served up 10 assists. Channing Frye was good for 20; Eddy Curry got 18. Isiah Thomas played only nine men, and the New York bench scored 21 points. (The Hornets' second unit picked up 31.)

Possibly pertinent quote: "Fear is the darkroom where the devil develops his negatives," said Gerry V. Perhaps finally winning a game halfway through the month will give these guys some confidence tomorrow night against the Wizards.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:59 PM)
17 March 2007
From the Verizon Shooting Gallery

Well, at least something moves quickly in the District of Columbia: the Wizards and the Hornets rolled up a total of 120 points in 24 minutes. Unfortunately for the Bees, they had only 55 of them. Sixty more points were scored in the third, split 30-30, leaving Washington up 95-85. You might infer from this that there wasn't a whole lot of defense in evidence, and you would be correct — until the fourth quarter, when the Wizards went on a 20-4 tear and simply ran away with it. The final: 125-103.

And Washington did all this without Caron Butler; Andray Blatche started, and Antawn Jamison (21 points) helped take up the slack. Darius Songaila, off the bench, took six shots and made them all. And there was this fellow named Arenas who got 30 points and 11 assists. The Hornets shot a decent 49 percent, but the Wizards stayed around 60 percent for almost the entire game, and what's more, Washington dominated the boards, outrebounding the Bees 42-31.

Still, 103 points, even in a losing battle, suggests some serious offense. Chris Paul, ignoring that stress issue, rolled up 21 points; David West had 17; the bench was good for 44, led by the Jacksons (Bobby and Marc), with 10 each. And they missed only two free throws out of 22, though three-balls were hard to come by (5 of 19).

This is, if I remember correctly, the seventh time in a row that a Wizards-Hornets game was won by the home team. The Bees will be back at the Ford on Monday night to take on the Celtics; whatever Beantown's problems in recent years, they've not had much trouble thrashing the Hornets, so it would not be wise to take them lightly.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 PM)
19 March 2007
A tip of the salary cap

The children get an unexpected lesson in the natural order of things:

In class today we were talking about George Washington when one of my students asked me how much the president made a year. When I told the class what he makes [$400k a year], a number of jaws hit the floor. We began talking about how much the president earns and I tried to put it in perspective for them.

I asked them to picture the 12th man on the Sacramento Kings. You know, the guy who has no chance of seeing any playing time, riding the bench the whole season. I told them that guy earns $1 million a year, more than double that of the leader of the free world.

The Kings have 13 on their roster; with Maurice Taylor ($1.07 million) having been waived, the most likely "12th man" would be reserve center Vitaly Potapenko, who has played all of 9 minutes this year. He's making $3,674,584, though this is largely due to sheer longevity: Potapenko has spent ten seasons in the NBA. The classic story of this sort involves Babe Ruth, whose salary demand in 1931 was a whopping $80,000. It was pointed out to him that the President (Herbert Hoover) only drew $75,000; Ruth replied, "I had a better year than he did." And indeed, the Kings are only two games out of a playoff spot.

Or you could look at it another way: Members of Congress receive $168,500 a year. This year's NBA salary cap is $53,135,000. In other words, for what it costs to stock an NBA team (few teams are actually below the cap), you could buy 315 Congressmen and have enough left over for a small party on K Street.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
The Boston tea party

Very high WTF levels tonight. The Celtics connected on their first nine shots and led 31-26 after the first quarter; in the second quarter they missed their first nine shots, and then two more. At the half, the Hornets were up 57-40, which means that the Bosstown bunch scored a whole 9 points in the quarter. The gap widened in the third as the Hornets started making shots, and most of the fourth was garbage time. Final: Bees 106, Celtics 88.

It's worth noting that Boston outrebounded the Hornets, 39-36, and Paul Pierce was far and away the leading scorer, dropping in 28 points. But by any standards their play in the last 36 minutes was ragged, and Doc Rivers can't be happy with the results.

Meanwhile, the Hornets got some numbers of their own; they shot 53.3 percent, and a startling 62.5 percent from beyond the arc. (Rasual Butler, now on a roll, hit five of six treys and scored 18 points, more than any of the starters.) Tyson Chandler, after a few misses, was back in the double-double column, with 16 points and 11 boards.

A quick flight to Memphis, where the Grizzlies await; after that, things start to get, um, hairy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:25 PM)
20 March 2007
They don't give up

So much for the Grizzlies' haplessness: Memphis still seems to have a supply of hap. It was 30-30 after the first quarter, Mike Miller having dropped in 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting including three treys. At the half it was still tied, 61-61; Miller was still at 13, but Pau Gasol had zoomed up to 20. The Hornets finally opened it up in the third quarter, jumping out front 92-81, and ran the lead up to 20 points at one point. With 90 seconds left, Memphis had closed to within 9: "You're not good enough to take teams for granted," warned Gerry V. The final: Hornets 114, Grizzlies 103, and Miller was still at 13.

Much of the slack was taken up by Gasol, who finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. The Griz shot an above-average 51.3 percent, and hit 17 of 19 free throws. But the Bees were better, shooting an unheard-of (for them) 60 percent, 50 percent from beyond the arc, and making 23 of 26 from the charity stripe.

David West led the Hornets with 26 points. Chris Paul had 23 (including 11 of 11 from the line), and dished up nine dimes. Tyson Chandler chalked up another double-double: 16 points, 11 boards. Byron Scott played only eight tonight — Bobby Jackson was ailing — and the three from the bench dropped in 30 points, half of which came from the resurgent Rasual Butler.

The next four games will be crucial: against the Lakers in New Orleans on Friday; against the Rockets at the Ford on Sunday, followed by the Mavericks on Tuesday; and then a trip to San Antonio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:23 PM)
23 March 2007
Villagers subdued

Hornets radio guy Sean Kelley observed tonight that "it takes a village to guard Kobe Bryant," and the way things went, it might have taken the whole darn county. The Hornets actually led by one at the half, but the combination of Third-Quarter Drought™ and a warmed-up Kobe proved to be disastrous: the Lakers were up 12 after the third, and they didn't miss a free throw until well into the fourth. Final: Lakers 111, Hornets 105.

How dominant was Bryant? Chris Paul had 28 points (and 10 assists), Tyson Chandler (!) had 22 points (and 21 rebounds), but no one noticed: Kobe scored 50 (by coincidence, 28 plus 22). It was his fourth consecutive game with 50 points or more, a trick not seen since Wilt the Stilt. Bryant made 16 of 29 field goals and all 16 of his free throws.

Oh, there was a double-double for the Lakers, too — Lamar Odom had 15 points and 10 boards — but no one noticed that either.

Next for the Bees: a three-game plague of Texans.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
25 March 2007
Rocketing to oblivion

This game was on ABC's national television schedule, but was dumped, no doubt because they felt it wouldn't be much of a game, with the Rockets generally healthy and the Hornets in a March slump. After the first quarter, I might have believed them; the Bees were down 30-20. After the second, it was 52-44. One good Third-Quarter Drought™ would have killed it.

But it didn't die: the Hornets found some D and some buckets, and went into the fourth leading 75-73. The Rockets regained their shooting prowess in the fourth, but the Bees were on a roll, and broke it open in the last couple of minutes, winning by twelve, 106-94. "ABC blew it," observed Sean Kelley, and he wasn't the only one who thought so.

The Rockets' primary offensive weapon, the Yao Ming/Tracy McGrady axis, was good for 47 points; but Yao's shooting was off — he made only 7 of 22 — and McGrady, who almost never misses free throws, missed three free throws, and hit only one of four treys. (Rafer Alston was the three-point threat, hitting four of nine.)

Desmond Mason had a good night, with 19 points, and you have to figure that 19 points for your third-leading scorer is good indeed. Chris Paul racked up 28, including four of five 3-balls, and David West added 23. The Hornets shot 50 percent and dropped in 16 of 18 free throws. Tyson? Oh, yeah, another double-double: 14 points, 10 boards.

The Hornets have now beaten the Rockets three straight. Unfortunately, they must next play the Mavericks, a team they last beat some time during the Spanish-American War.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 PM)
27 March 2007
21st verse, same as the first

Well, this makes two towns in which the Dallas Mavericks have never lost a regular-season game: New Orleans and Oklahoma City. The Hornets haven't beaten the Mavs, in fact, since the fall of 1999, when Chris Paul was still in ninth grade.

Facing a trip to San Antonio tonight to take on the Spurs tomorrow, Byron Scott pulled the starters early. It didn't matter: the Bees had a lead halfway through the second quarter, yet the Mavs were up 12 at the half (56-44) and up 25 after three (84-59). Much of the sellout crowd (the tenth at the Ford Center this year) bailed out early, missing an opportunity to see the Hornets' bench outplay the Mavericks' bench, but the score was largely irrelevant. (For the sake of completeness: Mavs 105, Bees 89.)

I meant that about the bench. The Hornets' leading scorer was backup guard Jannero Pargo, who got 23 points in 36 minutes, including four of five 3-balls. The bench in aggregate — everyone but Linton Johnson got minutes — scored 46, versus 43 for the starters, led by Tyson Chandler with 13. And, hey, how often do we get to see Brandon Bass? (He scored 5 in a smidgen over five minutes.)

The Bees did a decent job of tying up Dirk Nowitzki, who was held to 15, but in so doing, they left Josh Howard (25 points, 10 boards) and Jason Terry (19 points) too many openings. And reserve center DeSagana Diop snagged eight rebounds before fouling out.

The second half of the Back-to-Back from Hell awaits.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 PM)
28 March 2007
Spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle

Some jangled nerves at the AT&T Center, presumably, as the Hornets jumped out to a six-point lead at the half, running it to nine points after the third. But after that, the Spurs got seriously jingly, opening the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run, including three treys by Brent Barry, erasing the lead entirely. With 17 seconds to go, Barry sank yet another long ball, putting San Antonio up 90-88, and that was it: the Hornets were unable to come back with a basket, Chris Paul fouled out with a bit more than a second left, and Jacque Vaughn dropped in two free throws to ice the deal at 92-88.

Tim Duncan was his usual efficient self, scoring 31 points; Brent Barry had five treys in all for 15; Manu Ginobili got few shots from the floor but delivered 7 of 8 from the charity stripe for 12.

In addition to six fouls, Chris Paul produced 20 points and 9 assists; Tyson Chandler scored 10 and rebounded 12. The Bees are getting free throws to fall these days: tonight they were 18 of 20. But they also gave up 18 turnovers, and you can't do that against a team like the Spurs.

The Hornets are now 32-40 with ten to play, and they must win seven to improve on last year's 38-44 mark — and going 7-3 won't guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. The last game at the Ford Center will be Friday the 13th (!) against the Nuggets. Between now and then, well, we start with the Knicks on Saturday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:30 PM)
31 March 2007
It just takes a little longer

The Knicks and the Hornets started the night needing to pick up some ground to get into the playoffs, and obviously only one of them would. It wasn't obvious who would, though, even during the 48th minute, when the Knicks took a one-point lead after trailing by as many as 15; the Bees got some clutch free throws and took a 3-point lead; New York came back with a 3-ball, and suddenly it was 92-92, followed by overtime.

And the Bees are at their best in these little five-minute spurts: they haven't lost an overtime game all season, and they held the Knicks to a meager two points, pulling out a 103-94 win.

Bobby Jackson was back tonight, and he made sure everyone knew it: he came up with 12 points. David West led the Bees with 20; Desmond Mason dropped in 19; Chris Paul, who dominated the overtime period, finished with 16; and Tyson Chandler, who played six minutes with five fouls, was in double-double land again, with 13 points and 13 boards.

Still, nobody could do much about Eddy Curry: the New York center scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. It is probably a good thing that Steve Franchise Francis was left at home this time.

The Milwaukee game from January, postponed because the Hornets' charter flight couldn't get out of an Oklahoma City snowstorm, will be made up Tuesday night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 PM)
3 April 2007
Bucks spent

Despite the return of demigod Michael Redd, Milwaukee had dropped six in a row before tonight, but the Hornets kept them under wraps during the first half, taking a 67-56 lead and giving up only one personal foul (by Desmond Mason, on Redd). What's more, Tyson Chandler had his double-double by halftime.

As everyone knows, the time to score on the Bees is during the third quarter, and the Bucks duly pulled to within six, courtesy of long-ball prowess and nine Hornet turnovers. To kill time in the fourth, Sean and Gerry tried to analyze Rasual Butler's shooting, Vaillancourt suggesting that in the absence of other explanations, Butler's streakiness could be attributed to astrological factors. Rasual promptly dropped in two consecutive treys, half of a 12-1 run for the Bees, shutting down that line of thought. And the Bees won it 119-101, their highest point production all year.

Still, Redd outscored everyone, dropping in 27 of the 46 points scored by the Bucks' starters. Lynn Greer and Ruben Patterson paced the bench with 19 and 10 respectively.

But the Hornets ruled the boards, outrebounding Milwaukee 47 to 25 — Chandler got twenty, alongside 18 points — and after that fourth-quarter spurt, they wound up with nine 3-balls, same as the Bucks, and on five fewer attempts yet. David West was deadly, hitting 8 of 11 from the floor and 8 of 8 from the line, for 24; Desmond Mason was right behind with 21. Chris Paul scored only 8, but dished up 14 assists; Butler, Jannero Pargo and Bobby Jackson were all in double figures off the bench.

Short road trip, this; the Hornets come back to the Ford tomorrow to host the Sonics. The Suns will be in town Friday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 PM)
4 April 2007
These games seem to be getting longer

They were carrying out the bodies all night, or so it seemed. Tyson Chandler's turf toe reasserted itself in the first quarter, and he withdrew; Desmond Mason caught an elbow under the eyeball in the second, sending him to the bench; Chris Wilcox, whose elbow it was, discovered shortly thereafter that he was in pain; Devin Brown took a pop to the ribs in the third, but returned. And, of course, Peja Stojakovic and Ray Allen are out for the duration.

After falling behind 21-19 at the 12-minute mark, the Hornets gradually built up a lead; they were up 78-65 after the third. The Sonics promptly went on an 11-2 run to pull within four; both teams went cold, and with 80 seconds left, it was 84-82 Hornets, which means that in 10:40 the Bees scored a whole six points. In the next minute, nobody scored anything. The Sonics got the ball back with 23 seconds left, used 21 seconds to score a bucket, and suddenly it was overtime — which, of course, meant the Hornets' troubles were over, since they hadn't lost a game in overtime all season.

I kid, but not too much: there's something about those little five-minute periods that concentrates the Bees' minds in a way 12-minute quarters don't. They rolled up a 10-point lead, courtesy of seven from Bobby Jackson (out of 18); the Sonics whittled it down to five; the final difference was nine, 101-92. Maybe sometime they'll explain how the Hornets could score 17 points in five minutes after scoring six points in 12 minutes.

It was a good night for double-doubles: David West (18 points, 14 rebounds), Marc Jackson (13 points, 12 boards), and Chris Paul (11 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists, almost the triple) all shone. Still, none of them could touch the Sonics' Rashard Lewis, a hard man to defend, who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 boards. And the radio guys, trying to see if it would work a second time, made fun of Rasual Butler's shooting; Butler may or may not have heard them, but he scored 16 anyway.

So the Bees are now 35-40 with seven to play. (Last year they finished 38-44.) The first five playoff spots are filled: right now it's the Lakers in sixth (39-35), the Nuggets in seventh (37-36) and the Clippers in eighth (36-37). The Lakers play the Clippers later tonight; last I looked, the Warriors, in 9th (35-39), were beating the Rockets. Assuming Golden State wins, they'll remain one game in front of the Hornets, so both of them are hoping that the Battle of L.A. ends with the Lakers victorious. And, lest we forget, of those seven to play, two are against the Clippers.

Meanwhile, there's another obstacle: the Suns, who will be here Friday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:41 PM)
6 April 2007
Bench marks

So you're getting ready to play the Phoenix Suns, who have won 56 of 75 games, and you're missing your starting center, your starting point guard, and your chief cutter, all of whom were beaten up in the last game. What do you do?

The Hornets shuffled the lineup, or what was left of it: Jannero Pargo started at the point, Rasual Butler at small forward, Marc Jackson in the middle, and while they probably weren't going to win this one anyway, they actually did win three of the four quarters by two points, and if they hadn't fallen behind by 14 in the first quarter, they might have pulled it off. As it stands, though, they lost by eight, 103-95.

And all the starters finished in double figures, led by David West with 17 and Marc Jackson with 16. The Bees actually outshot the Suns from beyond the arc (7 of 17), but the Phoenix offense, paced by Leandro Barbosa with 26 including six treys — aside from Barbosa, the Suns were 2-21 shooting the 3-ball — was overpowering when it had to be. Steve Nash concentrated on support, but still got the double-double: 15 points, 12 dimes.

Tomorrow night in Minnesota, and it's not a whole lot colder there than it is here. With six games to go, the Hornets are three games out of a playoff spot: not mathematically eliminated, but not in an encouraging position either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 PM)
7 April 2007
Thrown to the Wolves

Or so it looked early on: Minnesota shot over 60 percent in the first half to nail down a 57-51 lead. The Hornets recovered and then some in the third, outscoring the Timberwolves 29-18 and going up by five. In the fourth quarter, seemingly no one could score: through seven and a half minutes, the Bees picked up a mere six points, the Wolves only five. It was 96-94 in the last second, and the Wolves' Hail Mary shot at the buzzer fell away, leaving the Hornets with an unattractive but necessary win.

Minnesota had six players in double figures, though Kevin Garnett didn't get there until the very end. Reserve guard Rashad McCants led the Wolves with 17; the Minnesota bench was good for 45 points, and the Big Ticket had a lowish 13 points and a solid 12 rebounds. The Wolves tried 23 treys, and made 14 of them.

Chris Paul led all scorers with 18, and ten dimes to boot. Also with a double-double: Marc Jackson, with 15 points and 11 boards. (The Bees attempted thirty from beyond the arc, and connected on eight; Marcus Vinicius, who played six minutes, got one of them, his second of the season.)

Five to go, and two of them are against the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers, who will be at the Ford Center Tuesday. (The last Oklahoma City game is Friday, against the Nuggets; the season ends with three on the road, against the Rockets, the Kings, and finally the Clippers.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 PM)
10 April 2007
Sonics buy huge tract of land

Okay, it's not that huge, and it's not technically a buy yet, but still:

The Professional Basketball Club (PBC), which owns the Seattle Sonics and Storm, and Transwestern/Harvest Lakeshore, LLC, which is a joint venture between Transwestern Investment Company and Harvest Partners, the developer of The Landing, a mixed-use retail, entertainment, and residential complex on the shores of Lake Washington, have reached an agreement in principle to assign the rights to acquire 21.2 acres of land that could become the home of a new multipurpose events center. Boeing currently owns the property, which is adjacent to the site already being developed by Harvest Partners as the first phase of The Landing. Harvest Partners has the first right of refusal to buy it.

"We have been involved in extensive recent discussions and expect to have a signed definitive agreement soon,” said Eliot Barnett, Managing Partner of Harvest Partners. “We both see excellent potential for The Landing and the new events center and believe that together they would provide even greater economic, cultural and other benefits to the City of Renton, the region and the state,” said Clay Bennett, PBC Chairman.

Representatives of Harvest Partners and PBC have been discussing how the adjacent developments would complement each other and contribute to the ongoing redevelopment of Renton. Harvest Partners is on track to see its first retail tenants open for business in October of this year and the balance of the retail following in May 2008. The first residential phase would open in 2009. In addition to Sonics and Storm basketball, the new events center would host a variety of other sports, business, entertainment and cultural activities. PBC is working with business, labor, sports fans, community leaders and others for approval of state legislation that would enable the development of the multipurpose events center, which ideally would come on line for the 2010-11 NBA season.

Which is right after the KeyArena lease expires.

There are two ways to look at this: that Clay Bennett and friends are actually serious about getting a new facility in the Seattle 'burbs, or that Clay Bennett and friends are just going through the motions so it won't look so bad when they move the Sonics out of town. At the moment, I'm more inclined to believe the former.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:26 AM)
Back and forth

The first quarter was something to behold: the lead changed hands half a dozen times in those twelve minutes, and it ended with both teams shooting .500, a mere three fouls in aggregate, and the Hornets up 26-25. By comparison, the second quarter was horrific: the Clippers continued to shoot .500, while the Bees apparently had doused themselves with Rim Repellent (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) at some point, managing a mere 15 points and retreating to the locker room down 11.

Then the third, and Devin Brown rolled out 14 points in the first six minutes, and the Hornets outscored L.A. 29-14, taking a four-point lead going into the fourth. And with 20 seconds left, they still led, albeit only by two, and the Clippers had the ball; ten seconds and one dunk later, it was tied at 87. Jason Hart fouled Chris Paul, who sank two free throws; Eldon Brand got a last-second bucket to tie it at 89 with one second left, and overtime duly ensued. As we all know, the Hornets don't lose in overtime: Bobby Jackson dropped in two free throws with 33 seconds left to put the Bees up by seven; Corey Maggette shot a 3-pointer in response; with 11 seconds left, Chris Paul managed to miss two free throws; Jason Hart hit a bucket to pull within two; David West hit one of two from the line, Maggette got the ball — and threw it to Devin Brown. Hornets 103, Clippers 100, and the playoff race isn't quite dead yet.

Both teams, depleted by injuries, played only eight men. (Well, James Singleton officially played one second for Los Angeles.) D-West got seven of the Hornets' 14 points in the overtime, and finished with 33. Devin Brown tied his personal best with 25, and Chris Paul added 17 with 10 assists.

The Clippers, however, outrebounded the Bees, 50-42, and both Chris Kaman and Eldon Brand recorded double-doubles, Kaman with 10 points and 12 boards, Brand with 37 points and 10 boards. Corey Maggette, who hit two of the Clippers' four treys, wound up with 24.

So Golden State, which had the night off, occupies eighth place in the West at 38-40; the Clippers, 37-40, are half a game back; the Hornets, 37-41, trail the Clippers by half a game. (The Warriors, however, own the tiebreaker over the Bees.) I'm thinking we need more overtime: in games going beyond regulation this season, the Hornets are 7-0.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:02 PM)
13 April 2007
And don't come back, now, y'heah?

Not that I have any particular reason to want to go to Renton, Washington, but if I had, it's gone now:

Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said those who criticized the [Sonics' new arena] plan because it does not provide assurances that the team will not pull up stakes ten years from now are underestimating the strength of the region.

"Why would anybody leave here and go to Oklahoma City? Have you ever been to Oklahoma City? I have," Prentice said.

No more lamb fries for you, darlin'.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:01 PM)
Last stand

The RedHawks were rained out, and I couldn't bring myself to watch the Hornets' last game in the Ford Center, knowing it was the last game in the Ford Center.

Which it almost certainly is. They jumped out to a 13-point lead after the first quarter, watched Denver's big guns narrow it to three at the half, to one with two minutes left. Finally, with half a minute to go, the Nuggets took a three-point lead, and made it stand up: final, 107-105. Unless the Warriors go totally troppo for the rest of the season, this is it.

The story wasn't just 'Melo and A.I., either; yes, they combined for 54 points, but the real killer was center Marcus Camby, who blocked nine shots while rolling up a double-double, 15 points and 11 boards. And let's not overlook guard Steve Blake, who scored ten and served up ten assists.

The Bees had plenty of attack, with 16 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets' ten, and David West came up with 31 points and 13 boards. Marc Jackson also had 13 rebounds, and 13 points to boot. But a cold spell came late in the fourth, and seemingly nothing would warm it up again.

Tomorrow, the first day of the Bataan Death March season-ending road trip, at Houston. The Rockets, who are 0-3 against the Hornets this year, will presumably be looking for payback.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 PM)
14 April 2007
The end of another streak

The Rockets hadn't beaten the Hornets since March of '06, so their 123-112 win was probably a tad more satisfying than usual. It didn't hurt that Houston shot a better-than-respectable 58 percent from the floor, or that Yao Ming dropped in 30 points, or that Rafer Alston knocked down five treys en route to a double-double (21 points, 13 assists), or that Tracy McGrady was, well, Tracy McGrady, pulling down 21 points and serving up 10 dimes.

The Bees were never really out of it, but then they were never really in it either; they'd pull to within a possession or two, and the Rockets would run up four or six quick points to put some distance between them. Still, David West had 33 points, giving him 97 in the last three games; Devin Brown was hot in the first half and scored 21; Marc Jackson was hot in the second half and scored 22; Chris Paul not only pulled the double-double (20 points, 15 assists), but he outrebounded everyone, grabbing eight boards. A decent offensive showing — 54-percent shooting — but simply not enough tonight.

Two last West Coast games, against the Kings (Monday) and the Clippers (Wednesday); if they split 1-1, the Hornets will finish 38-44, exactly where they did last season.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 PM)
16 April 2007
Battle of the also-rans

The Hornets are stuck in 10th place in the NBA's Western Conference; the Sacramento Kings are 11th. That much didn't change. And the Kings hadn't lost at home to the Hornets for ten years, but that did change. You really couldn't tell, though, which way things were going until very late: the score was tied 31-31 after the first quarter, 61-61 at the half, and the Hornets led at the end of the third, 94-93. The Kings promptly ran off seven consecutive points to start the fourth; the Bees followed with seven of their own. Things proceeded along these same lines most of the way through the quarter. At the two-minute mark, the Hornets were up five; they stretched it to seven at the buzzer, taking a 125-118 win.

With all that scoring, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that all ten starters scored in double figures; the Kings had two more in the teens, the Hornets one. David West led everyone (again), with 25; Chris Paul had 23 and 12 assists; Devin Brown and Bobby Jackson 20 points each; Rasual Butler 13; Marc Jackson 12. Hilton Armstrong scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Ron Artest led the Kings with 22; Mike Bibby, who had four treys in the first quarter, ended up with 17; Francisco Garcia got 17 off the bench. Justin Williams led all rebounders with nine.

The Hornets have won 38 games, same as last year, so beating the Clippers at Staples Center Wednesday will constitute an improvement, albeit small.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:22 PM)
18 April 2007
Thou shalt not covet, etc.

What with Berry Tramel's just-slightly-hyperbolic prediction in yesterday's Oklahoman, and the introduction in that paper of a regular "Sonics update," you might think that the deal was done and the moving vans were already being loaded.

Me, I'm sticking with Henry Abbott's stance in TrueHoop:

Oklahoma City deserves praise for housing the Hornets in a time of need, and I'm sure we'll all support them if/when they get a team. But at the moment that's Seattle's team. Laying your eyes on another city's team is like laying your eyes on another man's wife. Gets people kind of cranky. Wait for the divorce, already.

I mean, we don't even have a separation agreement yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:56 AM)
19 April 2007
Actually, I missed the game

With a 9:45 (Central) tipoff, I decided that resting these battered old bones might be of more interest than the last game of the season.

Which, of course, turns out to have been an error in judgment, since this was a close one, won by the Bees in the waning moments on a Rasual Butler three-point play, putting the Hornets up 86-83 and dealing one of two death blows to the playoff hopes of the Los Angeles Clippers. (The Golden State Warriors, who were one up on the Clips, beat Portland last night to nail down the No. 8 spot.)

And David West pulled down 32 again, the fourth time in five games he's been over 30, and the Hornets didn't miss a single free throw all night. Corey Maggette led the Clippers with 21.

So it's 39-43 for the year, not especially inspiring, but one game ahead of last year's pace. Next year in the Big Easy — well, it's anyone's guess for now, but I suspect that bigger things are coming.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
We got the Beat

Patrick Nelson of Oklahoma City's Sonics Beat writes to Chris Van Dyk of Seattle's Citizens for More Important Things, because:

1.  As somebody who lives in [the] Seattle area, he could provide some valuable, local insight on the whole Seattle SuperSonics arena situation.

2.  Chris and I share the same dream! Neither of us want the public to build the Sonics an arena!

Van Dyk is, shall we say, not amused.

After that, talking to Steven Pyeatt of Save Our Sonics had to be a genuine pleasure. One quote from Pyeatt that bears repeating:

OKC will have to deal with this very same issue in the near future no matter what team they end up with. Ford Center is very similar to KeyArena and after the novelty of having a team wears off there will be a push to build a publicly funded state of the art facility so that the team can be competitive.

Of course, the Ford itself was funded by the public, as one of the original MAPS projects, so it's not like we've never seen this premise before.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:08 PM)
27 April 2007
The Vegas suggestion yet

Lest you think the Sonics are inevitably bound for Oklahoma City, Clay Bennett hinted otherwise at a meeting of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau board. To wit:

"What I heard him say was that if he ended up having to move the team, Vegas would likely be a more attractive market than Oklahoma City," said Steve Leahy, chief executive of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, who attended the convention bureau meeting.

Seattle City Councilwoman Jan Drago, who was also there, said "it was about money — they can't make a return on their investment in Oklahoma ... he really expected to end up in Vegas."

There are two possible problems with a Las Vegas move:

  1. The Thomas and Mack Center, the presumed game venue, holds a comfortable 18,776 for basketball, but it dates back to 1983, positively paleolithic in NBA terms. (They get no link: their Web site is a godawful aggregation of Flash-based conniption fits.)

  2. Commissioner Stern still isn't comfortable having a team in a place where there is gambling going on.

Still, this serves as a warning shot across the bow of those who insisted that the Oklahoma move was, you should pardon the expression, a slam-dunk.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:39 AM)
2 May 2007
And then, in the dead of night...

Sonics-watcher Peter Nussbaum has inevitably been watching the team's new ownership, and he says he's seen this pattern before:

I think if you checked the "Robert Irsay Guide to Moving a Franchise," you’d see that [Clay] Bennett and Co. have gone according to plan:

STEP ONE — Check
Find team to purchase. This is important.

STEP TWO — Check
Attempt to put positive spin on non-local ownership taking over a beloved local institution. Make not-so-funny jokes about the differences between your hometown and your new team's location.

Find some local types to put in "important" positions.

Make obligatory efforts to keep team in town, keeping Commissioner and League happy, as well as intimating that you don't want to move. Be sure that the requests you make would never be accepted by local government, though; you don't want to screw up and not be able to move the team!

Gut front office.

STEP SIX — Check
Start stonewalling media. Remember, no news is good news for your plan. The more you get people to hate you and your team, the easier it will be to move!

Call Bekins.

I can find only one flaw with this premise: Bob Irsay actually called Mayflower.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 AM)
21 May 2007
It helps to plan ahead

Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales apparently has a fallback position: in the National Basketball Association.

In the absence of a better explanation:

For some reason, typing the domain www.albertogonzales.com into your browser's address line takes web-surfers to the online home of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. A quick online search shows that the Attorney General's name is registered to InterCosmos Media Group of New Orleans, and was registered on Feb. 3, 2005, just as Gonzales was up for Senate confirmation. An attempt to reach InterCosmos for an explanation was unsuccessful.

OregonLive Blazers blogger Casey Holdahl speculates: "My guess is that Alberto can really stroke the three."

(Via TrueHoop.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:13 PM)
23 May 2007
The great Northwest revival

Portland and Seattle will pick one-two in the NBA draft, and this could mean big things down the road:

Take a second to realize that [the Sonics] probably added seven nationally televised games to their schedule. Realize that on opening night the probably national doubleheader will be Detroit/San Antonio and Portland/Seattle. Realize that for the next 15 years there will be a rivalry and competition between Seattle and Portland that will be followed nationally. As much I hate Portland it is a truly great thing that they got the other top pick. We have a NW Revival in the NBA and it warms the soul.

And if it energizes the fan base, so much the better. A serious regional rivalry is good for everyone.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:12 PM)
25 May 2007

The Hornets drew #13 in the NBA draft lottery, which prompted this observation from Ron Hitley:

So we got the expected 13th pick. Last time the Hornets selected at that spot we ended up with a guy called Kobe Bryant. For a minute.

It's true. Kobe, however, saw his future in L.A., and Lakers GM Jerry West gave starting center Vlade Divac to the Bees to get him.

Divac, incidentally, played two years as a Hornet, and averaged around 11 points and 8 rebounds over 145 games (in which he started 121). And P. J. Brown, who should know, says that Divac was one of the best actors ever on the court: he could flop with the best.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:07 PM)
30 May 2007
Insert "sinking" metaphor here

Professor Gary Roberts of Tulane University, arguably the nation's most prominent specialist in sports law, is getting ready to leave New Orleans, and, he says, the Big Easy's two major-league sports teams will eventually be doing likewise:

New Orleans is a much smaller and much poorer city than it was before the storm, and it was a marginal market before the storm. The reality is that unless New Orleans pulls off an absolute miracle and comes back a richer, stronger city than before, the Saints and Hornets will eventually leave. I can't imagine the Hornets being here five years from now. The Saints could last a little longer because the economics of pro football give them more of a cushion, and this is football country.

How long is "a little longer"?

The fact that [Saints owner] Tom Benson has finally backed out and allowed competent people to run the team means that they'll probably have a better product on the field than before, and that may well prolong the period of time they can survive here. Because of that, there will be more enthusiasm for them and more willingness on the part of fans to buy tickets and to obtain sponsors. But at the end of the day, the way things are going in pro sports I just can't see New Orleans being a major league city 15 or 20 years from now. The NFL can last longer here than the NBA, and there are more places that the Hornets can go than the Saints can go. You have to have an $800 million facility to justify relocating. In basketball, there's a facility in Oklahoma City and several other places waiting for a team. The Hornets could easily move. This is not a basketball city for the most part, and it's not a rich city.

Absolute miracles are not unheard of, even in sports (cf. the 1969 Mets), but that's seldom the way to bet.

Still, you can be absolutely certain that if the Hornets end up in Oklahoma City, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth and charges of skulduggery and a predictable piece of performance art by the professional race pimps who will charge that it's all a matter of melanin. Expect the same, minus one or two decibels, should they move to Las Vegas or Kansas City or really anywhere else.

That said, I don't think the Saints are going anywhere: the town has gotten behind the team even when it was at its suckiest, and they have a long way to fall to reach those depths again.

(Via Chris Lawrence, who will be teaching at Tulane this fall.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 AM)
19 June 2007
Expect a good work ethic

You think the Hornets had buzz? Meet the new insects on the block: the NBA D-League team in Fort Wayne, Indiana will be called the "Mad Ants."

The name, of course, is actually a nod to Fort Wayne namesake "Mad" Anthony Wayne, but I just love the sound of it; it's at least as much fun as the Toledo Mud Hens, and, well, there's no mud involved. ("Mud Ants"? Perish the thought.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:28 PM)
3 July 2007
The Big O on the draft

As far as the NBA draft goes, this year marks the beginning of the era of "one and done": high-school graduates can no longer place their names in the hat until they turn 19, which generally means one year of college before jumping to the ostensible Big Time, a major change from the thirty-year-old Oscar Robertson Rule which stripped away most draft restrictions.

Robertson himself has misgivings about "one and done," but perhaps not the ones you'd think:

For every LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, there are hundreds of other teenage athletes who have been mistakenly led to believe they're ready for the NBA. Once they enter the draft and find out they’re wrong, it's too late: they're not allowed to attend or return to college on an athletic scholarship.

In no other line of work is someone penalized for leaving or delaying school and returning later. Besides, college coaches — who can make millions of dollars — negotiate with other colleges, or with NBA teams, all the time. They don't forfeit their employment if they decide to stay put.

Athletic scholarships should be guaranteed for four years, instead of renewable year to year by the college. College athletes should also receive a modest stipend and more realistic expense money. If athletes have to struggle to get by, of course they will want to turn pro as soon as possible. They're also more likely to accept money from agents who want to sign them, although agents aren't the only people who slip money to college athletes. (Signing with an agent makes players ineligible for the college game, whether or not money has changed hands — but coaches are allowed to collect fees for referring agents to players!)

The NBA and the NCAA have brilliant people working in management. Certainly they can come up with a better system than "one and done" that is equitable for the colleges and the athletes, gives athletes an incentive to stay in school and reinforces the value of education.

And maybe the NBA, which has an obvious interest in this sort of thing, can kick in some of those scholarship dollars along the way.

(Noticed by Henry Abbott.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:52 PM)
8 July 2007
High ceilings are a must

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will marry Ye Li of the Chinese national team on the 5th of August. Both Yao and Ye had played for the Shanghai Sharks in their younger days; they've been dating for about eight years.

Yao is the tallest current NBA player, at 7 feet 6 inches; Ye is listed at 1.9 meters, a shade under 6-3. My first thought was "Is this the tallest couple ever?" Well, no, they're not:

Gottlieb "Fred" Fischer (8 feet 1 inch) was born in Vienna, Austria, and his bride Elfriede (7 feet 11 inches) hailed from Bernstadt, Germany — which makes their outrageous "wild west" cowboy costumes all the more bizarre.

Gottlieb and Elfriede met when both were booked in a London dance revue. A romance bloomed, followed by a wedding in November 1933. In 1937 the giant couple made their way to America, where they were initially billed as Mr. & Mrs. Long on the Hagenbeck-Wallace and Cole Brothers circuses. When picked up by Ringling Brothers, they resumed their actual names and affected western attire.

The Fischers retired from show business in 1948 to run a motel near Sarasota, Florida.

Mr. & Mrs. Long? Now that's truth in advertising.

Anyway, all the best to Yao and his lovely bride.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:15 AM)
26 July 2007
How the NBA got into this fix

And one of the finest conspiracy theories of our time, I am forced (don't ask) to concede. It begins thusly:

Tim Donaghy's bookie had a side interest that few people know about. He ran a cabbage farm just outside of Poughkeepsie, New York. Even fewer people know that said cabbage farm is actually a cover for one of the largest government-sponsored remote viewing stations in the country. Remote viewing, as you may know, is where specially trained operatives use the power of their mind to view a specific point in space and time. They cannot control what they view, but they're pretty good at where and when.

That's the easy part.

Later findings: Cuban cigars (in Turkey!), an abandoned cistern, and a photo of actress Marsha Warfield.

It just doesn't get any truthier than this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 PM)
31 July 2007
The Big Ticket proves transferable

Somebody stayed up late working up this deal:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they have acquired 10-time All-Star and 2004 MVP Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 first round draft pick (top three protected) and a return of Minnesota’s conditional first round draft pick previously obtained in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade. Minnesota also receives cash considerations in the deal.

Okay. Do the Celtics have any money left to fill up the roster? I mean, they're giving up five players to get Garnett, who probably earns as much as any four of them put together.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:25 PM)
23 August 2007
Stern reprisals

News Item: The NBA fined SuperSonics co-owner Aubrey McClendon $250,000 two weeks after he said his group didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle. League spokesman Mark Broussard confirmed the penalty Thursday, but said he did not immediately know the reason the fine was imposed. The comments of McClendon, an Oklahoma City energy tycoon, were at odds with commissioner David Stern's stated hope of keeping the Sonics in the city they've called home for all 40 years of their existence.

Top Ten ways Aubrey McClendon will raise the money to pay the NBA fine:

  1. Cancel two full-page ads in the Oklahoman complaining about OG&E's new power plant
  2. Foreclose on Irma's Burger Shack
  3. Borrow it from Mark Cuban
  4. Buy half of Seattle, sell it at a profit
  5. Bottle deposits at Pops
  6. Take it out of Kevin Durant's rookie contract
  7. Buy the other half of Seattle, sell it at a profit
  8. "For everything else, there's MasterCard"
  9. Postpone the acquisition of two more miles of Western Avenue
  10. Should be enough under the sofa cushions

Seattle may hang the guy in effigy if they can find enough hemp rope.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:32 PM)
3 September 2007
Get your own getaway car

The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel says the city should not offer to help finance the Sonics' departure from Seattle:

Any owner who threatens to hit the highway with his franchise is demonized. But the city he lands in usually escapes such scrutiny.

That would change if Oklahoma City bankrolls the Sonics' move. OKC is not desperate. We lived a long time without the NBA, and we could live some more the same way.

Just because Bennett and Co. are old friends worthy of trust doesn't mean they can have the city's credit card. Every owner, every sport, wants to squeeze out the best deal for his franchise. That's what owners do, shoot for the moon. Heck, that's what Bennett's doing in Seattle, asking for a $500 million arena.

Oklahoma City should do all it can to prep for an NBA team's arrival, but it should not help pack the moving vans.

Simple as that. The city can promise facility upgrades and better lease terms, but going beyond that is out of the question. Or should be. And if there's anything under the table that we don't know about, let's hope someone upends that table before Bennett's Halloween deadline.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:13 AM)
17 September 2007
The return of the Birdman?

Peter May speculates in the Boston Globe:

Teams looking for a veteran midseason pickup at an attractive price could do a lot worse than former Nuggets/Hornets forward Chris Andersen, a.k.a. The Birdman. That's when Anderson's two-year suspension for violating the league's drug policy expires. Andersen has been working out in Las Vegas getting ready to resume his career, and it's anticipated that the Hornets, who last held his rights, will not reinstate his contract (3½ years left on a four-year, $14 million deal), which will make Andersen a free agent. "He's exceeded expectations in every area," reports Andersen's agent, Steve Heumann. "We're moving forward to the first applicable moment to apply for reinstatement." Andersen turned 29 in July and has several years of NBA experience under his belt. He would be the first player to come back from a drug suspension and actually play in the NBA.

Last I looked, the Hornets were two players over the roster limit and will have to deal or waive at least two of their three remaining free agents before the season begins. A lot can happen, though, between now and January.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:47 PM)
25 September 2007
The best of both worlds

Ryan White of the Oregonian performs the synthesis:

The SuperSonics want an arbitrator to say it's OK to leave Seattle. Seattle is suing the Sonics to make them honor their lease. Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy went loopy Saturday night about a Saturday morning column in The Oklahoman. That's why Sonics owner (and Oklahoma City businessman) Clay Bennett needs to put Gundy on retainer as his spokesman.

It might sound something like this:

"I'm going to talk about this lawsuit, right here. If anybody hasn't read this, I don't read it; it was brought to me by a lawyer — a guy who knows stuff about laws. Let me tell you why I want to talk about this lawsuit. A whole bunch of it is inaccurate and had to be written by a lawyer who doesn't own a basketball team. It's fiction.

"When you have a basketball team someday, you'll understand how it feels. When you go to the country club to play golf and someone makes fun of you because your basketball team isn't making enough money?! Or someone says you're bad at business?! And you come home crying to your accountant?!

"THAT'S WHY I DON'T READ LAWSUITS! Because they're GARBAGE! And the lawyer who wrote it is GARBAGE! Attacking an owner for wanting to move his team. You people make me sick. I'm done."

The quality of discourse — and of Clay Bennett's PR — would take a giant leap upward.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 AM)
1 October 2007
More fireworks in Seattle

A pair of Sonics/Storm season-ticket holders has filed suit against the team's new ownership, claiming deception:

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of everyone who purchased season tickets between July 2006, when Clay Bennett led a group of Oklahoma City businessmen in purchasing the team, and Sept. 21 [2007], when Bennett filed a demand for arbitration to escape the final two years of the team's KeyArena lease.

It accuses Bennett's ownership group, The Professional Basketball Club, of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and violation of Washington's Consumer Protection Act, according to a draft of the complaint to be filed today in King County Superior Court.

The Save Our Sonics group has released a statement:

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2006/2007 basketball season all Sonics' season ticket holders were offered an "Unprecedented Commitment" should they make the decision to renew their existing season ticket package. In an enclosed letter Sonics' Chairman Clayton I. Bennett states, "At a time when we are asking for your season ticket renewal, it is of paramount importance that we establish our commitment to you, our most passionate and supportive fan." Within that same letter he makes an unequivocal guarantee of fixed ticket pricing through the 2010 NBA season. Since that time it has become obvious that the Sonics are not able to guarantee this products availability and have in fact taken direct action to deny it to their customers with recent attempts to breach their existing lease.

As stated in Mr. Bennett's letter season ticket holders are "the foundation of any franchise", as well as "the most passionate and supportive fans." That this type of deceptive solicitation may have abused their loyalty is unacceptable and should be an embarrassment to the entire National Basketball Association.

It occurs to me that this might do more damage to Bennett's position than the city's suit to enforce the KeyArena lease would.

Update, 6:45 pm: Or maybe not. Sports Illustrated columnist and sports lawyer Michael McCann sent this to Henry Abbott at TrueHoop:

This claim seems highly unlikely to succeed. For one, it hasn't been a mystery to NBA fans — and one would think Sonics season-ticket holders in particular — that the Sonics might be leaving Seattle. This has been speculated ever since the Bennett group purchased the team. Second, these fans paid to see the Sonics play in Seattle in the 06-07 and 07-08 NBA seasons. They either got or will get that. If they paid for a future season that never occurs, they would be entitled to a refund and incidental damages. But that's not the case here. Lastly, the Sonics have not yet moved nor even announced a move; whatever "harm" that could arise has not yet done so.

In addition, case law has not been favorable to lawsuits filed by disgruntled season-ticket holders, a topic recently examined when Billy Donovan walked away from coaching the Orlando Magic and less directly discussed in relation to Tiger Woods not appearing at the 2007 Buick Open.

Clay Bennett, so far, has given no indication that he's going to budge on his Halloween deadline.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 AM)
29 October 2007
Where the Sonics stand

Right where they've been: in Seattle.

The ruling by US District Judge Ricardo Martinez (text in PDF format here) throws out the argument by the Professional Basketball Club, which owns the Sonics, that the KeyArena lease should be subject to arbitration. Pertinent quote (Article II sets the end of the lease date at 30 September 2010):

The parties unequivocally excluded from arbitration disputes relating to Article II. Had the parties clearly intended that only PBC be able to seek judicial relief for any disputes regarding the Lease, the parties would not have placed such prominent language within the arbitration clause of their agreement.

And here's the "unequivocal" language in the arbitration clause (here, as before, emphasis as it appears in the ruling):

All claims, disputes and other matters in question between the parties arising out of, or relating to provisions of this Agreement shall be decided by binding arbitration . . . unless the parties mutually agree otherwise or unless the claim, dispute, or matter in question relates to the provisions of Article II ("Term; Use Period"), Article III ("Termination of Current Agreement Providing Seattle Center Space for SuperSonics Home Game Use"); Article IV ("Coliseum Design and Construction"), Article V ("Coliseum Planning & Construction Schedule; [PBC] Opportunities to Void Agreement"), Subsection XVI.F ("Hazardous Substances") or Article XIX ("Subcontracting and Transfer of Ownership").

Seemed fairly obvious to me; apparently it seemed fairly obvious to everyone except the Sonics' front office.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:36 PM)
31 October 2007
What's more, it's timely

What the well-dressed Seattle SuperSonics fan will be wearing tonight: the Clay Bennett mask. (Also available in special Frankenowner version.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:11 AM)
12 November 2007
But clean the locker room anyway

Five days after I patiently explained why you shouldn't start standing in line for Sonics tickets in Oklahoma City just yet, the Oklahoman's Mr. Monday provides a counterargument:

Let's try this exercise:

Mr. Monday: The Sonics are going to leave.

Leafy-Green Seattleite: Wait, but what about ...

Mr. Monday: No, really, the Sonics are going to leave and come to Oklahoma City.

Solar-powered, ex-Ralph Nader delegate: But you guys have a small TV market and poorly planned bicycle routes.

Mr. Monday: Our dudes own the team. You are making them upset.

Hybrid-driving, carpooling mountain climber: Ugh, capitalism.

Mr. Monday: Scoreboard, ya hippie.

My objections to this line of thought are twofold:

  • Actual NBA fans are somewhat less likely to conform to this particular stereotype;

  • What the hell is so "poorly planned" about our bicycle routes, other than the fact that we could use more of them?

Point, counterpoint. Cue the other shoe.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:33 AM)
14 November 2007
0 and whatever

John Rohde came up with this curious assertion in the Oklahoman:

With Sonics ownership and the city of Seattle in a testy lawsuit over the existing lease at KeyArena, perhaps having the league's worst team will soften Seattle's hardheaded stance against the Sonics leaving town two years early.

If the Sonics' woes continue — and there's little reason to think they won't — perhaps the dire circumstances will persuade Seattle mayor Greg Nickels to finally relent and say, "Aw, hell. Take 'em."

Oh, so that's the ticket. Losing teams deserve no loyalty, because, well, they're losers.

I can just imagine the response when, say, Sonics Central gets hold of this.

Update: It's something like this.

Further update: They've killed that particular thread. See Comments.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:41 AM)
6 December 2007
A Scotsman on the Sonics

Mark Woods blogs for NBA.com from the United Kingdom. The following is excerpted from his 3 December post (no permalinks that I could find, alas):

I cannot believe, deep down, that [NBA Commissioner David] Stern wants to facilitate moving the Sonics to what is, in American terms, the back of beyond. From a large-ish media market which represents all that is exciting about Uncle Sam's 21st century aspirations to a small-ish city which has always been a college rather than a pro town. A team which, like the Hornets of Charlotte before it, was woven into the fabric before a renegade owner began to unpluck the stitches.

It would, in truth, provide the worst example of the cold corporatism of sport if the Commish did not intervene, somehow, to halt this trade. The NBA is, and always shall remain, a business. With owners, shareholders and a mighty bottom line. Any business, though, is only viable if it has customers who trust in the product. And in sport, there is another range of factors: affection, identification and passion. Forget that, and a team becomes as much a commodity as a tin of baked beans.

And if that is sport in the modern era, it will not last. The links will be broken. The kinship will decay. Who wants to place their trust and loyalty in a friend who is here today but maybe gone tomorrow? If the Sonics decamp, the sanctity of the game will be chipped away once more, another blow in an age where the ties that bind are being yanked to breaking point by players who are ever more distant from those who cheer them on. It is a tremor which will not only be felt in Seattle but elsewhere too. And when that call comes, and the news breaks, the cries will be loud as faith turns to disbelief.

I like it here in the "back of beyond," myself, and I don't believe that it will always remain such, but let me repeat that line:

Who wants to place their trust and loyalty in a friend who is here today but maybe gone tomorrow?

Do Seattle fans still trust the Sonics ownership? As far as they could throw them, maybe. Then again, the Sonics are still selling a lot more tickets than the New Orleans Hornets are.

Pass the beans.

(Via TrueHoop.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
11 December 2007
Seattle SuperCynics

The Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith is manifestly unimpressed:

The Bulls get to see the league's brightest new prospect in Kevin Durant and the NBA's most cynical organization, the Oklahoma City/Seattle SuperSonics, when they visit the United Center on Tuesday night. This is truly the one team in the NBA whose mission appears to be to lose games to further alienate its community and make relocating easier.

And that's not all:

The joke around the NBA is Minnesota general manager Kevin McHale and Seattle GM Sam Presti are battling for executive of the year for building the Celtics and Magic.

That's going to leave a couple of marks. Furthermore, says Smith, the Sonics' crappy record is exactly what the front office wants:

Sources say [Rashard] Lewis even agreed before last season to a short-term extension of $25 million over two years, but it was not offered because the new ownership didn't want to spend the money. After opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent, Lewis then said he was prepared to accept an offer from Presti, the new GM, but none came. Instead, [Ray] Allen was traded to the Celtics for spare parts and Lewis was let go for more detritus, all apparently in a not-so-transparent attempt to begin building a team for the next city.

The bottom line:

The sad part for the sake of competition is Seattle had the pieces in place and a reasonable payroll to have a terrific team this season. Instead, it chose a callous plan of surrender.

"Patience is a virtue in this league, to let a team mature," Allen said. "But they wanted to have their own team and their own guys."

And, we presume, their own, different city.

Color me disgruntled.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:20 PM)
8 January 2008
No Storm in Oklahoma

The WNBA's Seattle Storm has been sold and will not be relocating, to Oklahoma City or anywhere else:

A local ownership group has bought the WNBA franchise from Clay Bennett and his Oklahoma City-based group, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Monday night.

League president Donna Orender will be in Seattle on Tuesday for an 11 a.m. news conference, the Storm announced Monday.

Neither Orender nor Storm chief operating officer Karen Bryant could be reached for comment Monday, but the source said the new ownership group includes at least one woman.

From an AP story at the Oklahoman:

Dan Mahoney, spokesman for the organization, would only confirm Monday night that the announcement scheduled Tuesday was not related to the Storm's current search for a new head coach.

I guess I'm pleased with this, not for any personal lack of interest in the WNBA myself, but for the simple fact that numbered among my circle of online friends are some serious Storm fans in the Seattle area, and I figure they'll be delighted at the news.

And running down the blogroll, I find that I figure correctly:

We'd all miss the team, the environment, the sense of community we felt going to the games.

Now we don't have to miss it. I never thought I'd say that, but thank you, Clay Bennett. Thank you for having the sense to see that the Storm belongs in Seattle.

This is, I think, the first time anyone in Seattle has ever accused Clay Bennett of having any sense.

Update, 2 pm: The AP fills in the blanks:

A group of Seattle women, led by former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson, is buying the WNBA Seattle Storm from the SuperSonics for $10 million. Two Microsoft Corp. executives and an entrepreneur round out the purchase group named Tuesday.

The group, calling itself Force 10 Hoops, has until the end of February to close the sale and would need approval of the WNBA board of governors for the standalone franchise.

Levinson, who led the negotiations, said the group was doing it for Storm fans and the community.

The others in Force 10 Hoops are Ginny Gilder, who owns an investment business, is president of a family philanthropy and won a silver medal at the L.A. Olympics; Lisa Brummel, senior vice president of human resources at Microsoft and a Yale softball player; and Dawn Trudeau, who heads Microsoft's database division.

Best of luck to the new owners.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:34 AM)
10 January 2008
A size-14 shoe drops

Maybe bigger, depending on your level of cynicism. The NBA's Hornets (remember them?) have renegotiated their lease at the New Orleans Arena, and the new expiration date is 2014, two years later than the previous lease. But now there's an early-out clause:

[The lease] allows the Hornets to opt out after next season, albeit with penalties ranging from $50 million to $100 million. The precise cost would depend on inducement reimbursements by the team to the state and a relocation fee imposed by the NBA.

The lease says the Hornets may leave only if average attendance is worse than 14,735 for the final five months of this season and next season. The benchmark is close to the team's average attendance for the three seasons before Hurricane Katrina. Such an average still would leave the Hornets in the bottom third of NBA attendance, league officials said.

Not counting last night's game with the Lakers, the Hornets are averaging 11,871, which has to be discouraging for a team that's tied with the Mavericks and half a game behind the Spurs. And here's a kick: the Bees are 9-6 at home and 14-5 on the road. (The Mavs, away from Dallas, are a ghastly 7-8.) Not that I'd suggest the Hornets would rather be somewhere else entirely; after all, they just signed an extension of their lease, right?

Update: The Bees drew 15,605 against the Lakers, who won 109-80.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
21 January 2008
Now arriving: the Birdman

Two years ago this week, Hornets power forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen was tossed out of the NBA after testing positive for an unspecified drug. (Wikipedia says it was meth.) This weekend he'll be eligible to apply for reinstatement, a process which has no known time frame, since it's never been done before.

The Hornets will have first rights to the Birdman, but it's unlikely they'll pick him up; I'm guessing that they'd have to reinstate his old contract, which paid him $3.5 million a year over four years, and the Bees presently aren't in need of a power forward, especially one which will cut into salary-cap space. If they don't sign him, he becomes a free agent. My best bet is on Andersen being signed to a couple of 10-day contracts to see if he's back in shape, and if he passes muster, playing out the rest of the season at something close to the veteran's minimum (about $895,000 a year for a five-year man). I note that NBA.com hasn't deleted his stats page.

Update, 26 January: Okay, it's been done once.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:30 AM)
26 January 2008
The Birdman watch begins

As noted here previously, Chris "Birdman" Andersen will apply for reinstatement after spending two years under NBA suspension for drug use. The process is still a bit murky:

Sources have told ESPN.com that the "wheels are already in motion" for Andersen to attempt a comeback, a somewhat arduous process that will begin with him filling out a multi-page application for reinstatement and sending it, along with dozens of pages of supporting documentation, to the league office in New York via overnight mail.

Andersen must then schedule a meeting with members of both the commissioner's office and the players' union, and the consent of both organizations is needed for Andersen to be reinstated. Andersen has no right to appeal if his reinstatement application is rejected.

There is no language in the collective bargaining agreement specifying any kind of a timetable for the reinstatement process, so it could be only a matter of days — or it could take several weeks — for Andersen to get a definitive answer.

I had suggested that the New Orleans Hornets, who have first rights to Andersen's services, might pass him up, but maybe not:

New Orleans has won 14 of 16 games to move atop the Western Conference, and it would stand to reason that they'd be interested in re-signing Andersen prior to the playoffs, adding an energy player to a front line with suspect depth behind starting big men Tyson Chandler and David West. The Hornets are nearly $5 million below the league's luxury tax threshold.

They'd have to pay him a prorated percentage of his original salary, which was around $3.5 million a year. And perhaps more to the point, they have 14 players on the roster, which means there's room for one more.

And apparently I missed another point:

An NBA spokesman said Andersen would be the first player since Roy Tarpley, who was banned from the NBA in 1995, to formally apply for reinstatement.

Tarpley's application was denied and he sued the NBA last September in federal court in Houston claiming the league violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to reinstate him.

There's a difference, though: Tarpley was suspended, subsequently reinstated, and then permanently banned after a second offense.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:33 PM)
11 February 2008
Not quite a slam dunk just yet

The Chamber of Commerce and the office of the Mayor are pushing hard for that penny sales tax to finance Ford Center upgrades with the arrival of the NBA in mind, and they've put out a flyer to boast of how much of an economic impact the Hornets had [link to PDF file] during their two-year tenure here.

This paragraph has drawn fire:

That level of attendance generated an estimated $33,243,908 in direct spending [one year]. The assumptions being that 20% of the attendees are from out of town and would spend $200 while the remaining 80% of the attendees are local and would spend $35 per event. Non-resident attendees would account for $528,520 per game and resident attendees would account for $369,964 per game for a total of $898,484 in direct spending for each game.

Opponents counter:

20% of the attendees ... came from outside of OKC?
They spent $200 each when the average ticket price was under $30
These numbers appear to be grossly exaggerated.

I suspect the twenty-percent bit might be a tad high, but $200 seems plausible: you try booking a hotel room within a mile of the Ford Center on game night for under $100. And if I had had to drive all the way here from Somewhere Else, I wouldn't have bought the ten-buck billets up in the stratospheric heights of Loud City. Economic projections tend to have all manner of fudge factors applied, though, so I'm not taking the Chamber's numbers as gospel.

Were the opponents actually paying attention, they'd go after Sonics management's argument that moving the team would have no economic impact on Seattle. After all, nobody ever drove all the way to Seattle from Somewhere Else and ran up $200 in expenses, right?

Just the same, whatever extra I wind up spending in sales tax — I expect the measure to pass, and I plan to vote for it — will pale in comparison to the cost of my eventual season ticket.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:49 AM)
12 February 2008
Sympathy for the announcers

Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel, noting that the Dallas Cowboys remain the Dallas Cowboys despite not having played in Dallas in some time, worries about the branding of Oklahoma City's eventual NBA squad:

Oklahoma City voters will have funded two arena projects — construction of the Ford Center and its renovation — yet have an elongated city name that afflicts places like Indianapolis and Minneapolis, who combined have placed their name on exactly one major-league franchise out of seven possibilities: the Indianapolis Colts. Oklahoma City would be the only six-syllable name in major league sports.

And yet no one, except perhaps the occasional Baltimore diehard, complains about the Indianapolis Colts, who work out of a seven-syllable city. For that matter, Tramel didn't exactly fret over the nomenclature hung on the previous Ford Center tenants: the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Eight, maybe nine syllables.

Still, he gets it right on the Big Question:

So would it be the Oklahoma City Sonics or the Oklahoma Sonics?

I vote for Oklahoma City. OKC voters and leaders will have made the NBA possible. Their name deserves top billing. And just to be sure, get it in writing.

Besides, "OKC" looks pretty good on those seemingly-endless sports tickers.

[Insert usual "The Sonics aren't here yet, don't be jumping the gun" caveat here.]

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:08 AM)
16 February 2008
Vegas? Who needs it?

The NBA All-Star Game, says Sports by Brooks, should be permanently relocated to New Orleans:

New Orleans is the first place the NBA should consider for a permanent home for the game. You can guffaw if you want, but if you think about it for three seconds, it makes perfect sense — even if the Hornets move. The Big Easy needs the business, the NBA needs a nice PR play, and the city has a favorable demographic and facility for the game. Perfect fit.

Besides, consider the alternatives:

We've heard a lot of lip service from the NBA and NFL about helping to rebuild what was once a great American city. The NFL has fallen down on the job (if we see that Saints Visa ad one more time, we're going to spit up), but the NBA has a great opportunity to make a statement and follow through on David Stern’s never-ending rhetorical support of the town.

It's either that or "Hello, Oklahoma City 2011!" How exhilarating.

Now that's an argument I hadn't anticipated.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 AM)
25 February 2008
A model of restraint

The Ford Center schedule for this fall is coming together, and there's one word conspicuous by its absence: "Sonics." General manager Gary Desjardins explains:

"We don't know what's going to happen. We still have to conduct business. If the Sonics come, certainly we'll end up having to make some changes. But right now we still have an obligation to book the building and schedule events."

And the primary tenant, in the absence of the NBA, is the CHL's Oklahoma City Blazers, although the Blazers' lease specifies that any NBA team gets first crack at any particular date.

Mayor Cornett isn't worried:

"Are we going to be able to host 41 NBA games on a fairly short notice? Yes. Absolutely. There shouldn't be any conflict between the NBA and the Blazers. Hockey and basketball teams coexist all over."

On balance, this seems to be the proper stance: there's no guarantee that the Sonics will be here at all, let alone for the fall of '08, so it's business as usual until we hear otherwise.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:42 AM)
29 February 2008
Oh, hi, Brad

That was Brad Henry on the phone just now, telling me how important to the state it was for the city to land this NBA team.

Well, actually, he didn't tell me, precisely: his prerecorded voice played into my answering machine. To the Governor's credit, he kept his message to a brisk 28 seconds, insuring he'd get through the whole spiel before the machine rang off. To his discredit, whoever sent this for him did so through a number not identifiable by Caller ID, which I consider a breach of protocol.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 PM)
1 March 2008
A smaller aspect of the Big League City

As suggested by TrueHoop's Henry Abbott:

[NBA players] talk about a massive spectrum of things, of course, from AAU to Zydrunas Ilgauskas. But sprinkled in there among the things players talk most frequently — you hear it again and again — is the Cheesecake Factory.

Nowadays, if ever someone tells me that they bumped into an NBA player out in public, I like to stop them mid-sentence and guess: "Was it at the Cheesecake Factory?" It can make you look like a freaking genius, because once in a while, you'll be right. (If that doesn't work, I ask if it was at P.F. Chang's. Those two together account for a ridiculous percentage of player sightings nationwide.)

And, well, we already have both a Cheesecake Factory and a P. F. Chang's.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:46 AM)
4 March 2008
The Birdman will fly once more

The Times-Picayune is reporting that the New Orleans Hornets are prepared to sign Chris "Birdman" Andersen, dismissed from the NBA two years ago for drug use.

Commissioner David Stern is expected to lift the ban today; if so, and Andersen passes the physical, the Bees, who have first rights to his services, will have 30 days to offer him a contract equivalent to what he was making before the suspension: $3.5 million a year, prorated for the rest of this season. If they don't, Andersen will become a free agent and can negotiate with any other team.

The Hornets can definitely use a big man — the Birdman is 6-10 — to spell center Tyson Chandler, so look for this deal to come down pretty quickly.

Update: It's official. If all goes well at the physical, he'll be in uniform as soon as he gets a new number: #12, which he used to wear, now belongs to Hilton Armstrong.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:41 AM)
Getting the ball rolling, as it were

Turnout in Ye Olde Precinct looks to be pretty good for the "NBA tax" vote; I cast ballot number 558 at a quarter past five. I have no idea how the neighborhood actually voted, though the "Big League City" signs outnumber the "No Sales Tax" signs by a factor of seven to one. I think it will pass, though not overwhelmingly so.

Update, 9 pm: With about three-quarters of the precincts in, Mayor Cornett figures 60-40 is good enough to win, and maybe it is, though it still seems like jumping the gun to me. Then again, he presumably knows which precincts are still out, and I don't.

Update, 9:30 pm: Okay, he's right and I'm wrong. With everything in, though technically still unofficial, it's 62-38.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:37 PM)
5 March 2008
Speaking of jumping the gun

Last I looked, the SuperSonics were still in Seattle, right?

So how is it that the newly-designed NBA.com sub-site for the Sonics mentions Seattle only in the title bar of your browser?

Geez, why didn't they just Photoshop out the KeyArena logo on the floor while they were at it?

Addendum: They've added a new picture to the rotation, with a fellow (appears to be Damien Wilkins) with "SEATTLE" woven into his waistband. Still, there's no other reference to the town; this could just as easily have read "CALVIN KLEIN."

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:38 PM)
8 March 2008
How we voted

Doug Loudenback has posted the "NBA tax" election returns by precinct, so you can see how your neighbors voted on the sales-tax extension. Most notably, it wasn't a slam dunk, as it were, citywide: the measure failed to pull a majority in at least 80 precincts.

Precinct 453, where I live, voted 435-247 for the measure. (And if there were 682 total votes, this means that 124 people came in after me during the last hour and three quarters.)

Interestingly, in what looks like a throwback to the old days of Oklahoma City politics, almost all the precincts north of the river approved the proposal, and almost all the precincts south of the river rejected it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:14 PM)
14 March 2008
Wrong bounce

Way back in 2004, before the Hornets left Charlotte — never mind that unfortunate business that temporarily drove them out of New Orleans — researchers conducted a study of NBA viability in several cities, some with teams, some without. Ted Strueli of the Journal Record picked up on it, with the observation: "They didn’t give Oklahoma City much of a shot at success."

Indeed they didn't. The Big Breezy, said the researchers, might draw an average of 11,400 or so, producing revenue on the wrong side of $35 million a year.

It was at that point that Doug Loudenback started laughing. For one thing, the Hornets, during their two-year tenure here, averaged close to 18,000. What's more, a good basketball town like, say, Seattle, they said might average over 19,700 per game. Inasmuch as KeyArena holds 17,098 bodies, this would be a trifle difficult. No wonder Sonics owner Clay Bennett was screaming for a new arena.

Furthermore, a potential Memphis team — the Grizzlies had not yet arrived from Vancouver — would, say the researchers, seriously outdraw the Dallas Mavericks, which didn't even come close to happening. And inasmuch as both the Clippers and the Lakers are based at Los Angeles' Staples Center, the report projects identical attendance and revenues for the two teams. Given the sheer number of variables involved ... but never mind, you get the idea. As Yogi Berra never said, "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." (Robert Storm Petersen apparently did.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 AM)
Are you a good lease or a bad lease?

Seattle SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett and NBA Commissioner David Stern are in apparent agreement over what constitutes a bad lease, and if you ask either of them, they'll point in the general direction of KeyArena. Inevitably, you have to wonder: what would they consider a good lease?

The Letter of Intent sent by Bennett to Mayor Cornett [link goes to PDF file] gives a hint. The Sonics are looking for a 15-year lease, to begin "no sooner than the 2008-09 NBA season and no later than the 2010-11 NBA season." I doubt seriously that it will begin as soon as this fall, but we shall see. The lease would be extensible in 3-year increments up to an additional 15 years.

The Sonics will pay rent of $40,000 per game, 70 percent of which is identified as "game-day expenses" based upon an expected performance standard, and all of which is subject to CPI adjustments after years 5 and 10. For a 41-game season, this comes to $1.64 million; exhibitions and playoff games are extra. In addition, the team will pay $100,000 a year for rent on the practice facility and will assume responsibility for routine maintenance, repairs, utilities and insurance on that facility.

The city will be expected to renegotiate the naming rights for the Ford Center with the team and the Oklahoma Ford Dealers. The team will pay the city the amount of the current agreement — $409,000 a year — and will receive the proceeds from any new agreement, less any expenses incurred by the city in changing signage and stationery and such.

And in a move I didn't expect, but perhaps could have predicted, the team and the city will attempt to wangle state incentives under the Quality Jobs Act.

There's a lot more, but all of it is subject to negotiation before the signatures are affixed. City Manager Jim Couch, at least, thinks it's a fair deal. No word yet from David Stern.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:08 PM)
17 March 2008
Buckets of fail

It's got to be a bad night when you score 116 points and still lose by 52.

(Side note: The Nuggets, who won that game, are 40-26 and a game and a half out of the 8th playoff spot in the West. Meanwhile in the East, New Jersey holds on to the 8th spot with a record of 28-38. What can we learn from this?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
25 March 2008
How the game is played

Michael Bates is justifiably incensed at what he calls "Sonics madness," and wants to know what happened to all the fiscally-responsible Republicans in this state.

My guess is, they're queuing up for free tickets. The idea of state incentives was mentioned in the letter of intent Sonics ownership sent to Oklahoma City, though I really didn't expect them to be quite so blatant.

Still, this is the price of playing the game:

While libertarians rightly bemoan the notion of forcing taxpayers to subsidize wealthy team owners, they should understand that the market works both ways. If sports leagues have the leverage to demand public financing of stadia as a precondition for moving a franchise to a city, they would be foolish not to use it.

Luring a professional sports team is difficult and generally not economically smart. It is rather galling that the vast majority of a town's residents who will never attend a game are forced to pay for the privilege of added traffic congestion. Nonetheless, there are plenty of cities out there begging for a team. Public subsidies for arenas are the cost of playing.

I suppose this makes me a financial relativist; the best I can hope for, therefore, is to become a financial relativist with season tickets.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:14 AM)
26 March 2008
Hugs, not thugs

Tom Ziller points out the obvious:

Here's a fact: A vast swath of America thinks the NBA is a haven for thugs. A lot of people see black skin, jewelry, rap music, and tattoos and think of gun play and drug trades. Of course, the NBA's police blotter has been no worse than those for the other two major sports. And it isn't like the NFL doesn't have black people, or baseball players don't get tattoos. But the 'thug' label continues to stick to the NBA in a way it doesn't to any other league.

I blame Latrell Sprewell.

Actually, I don't; there are plenty of hotheads shooting hoops, not all of whom have tried to choke P. J. Carlesimo (who, incidentally, is presently the coach of The Team Currently Known As The Seattle SuperSonics). But "hothead" does not equal "thug," and in the hopes of clearing this matter up, Ziller calls upon one man who could "help save the NBA": Barack Obama.

Here's why: After Obama's speech last Tuesday, Americans experienced one of those rare-as-Clippers-in-the-playoffs moments to discuss race issues — in the media, at the water cooler, around the dinner table — with something approaching civility. Sports fans haven't dealt with the issue in a big way since Jackie Robinson and Texas Western. Things have changed since the '60s, obviously. But racism is still around us. Heck, look at last year's Jazz-Warriors series.

Not that we should expect miracles:

This isn't to say the country's racial divide will be bridged in the next four (or eight) years under a President Obama, or that Commissioner Stern's work on this issue will ever be done. But talking about it and making people think about it, you could say, is half the battle. It's easy for someone to look at Caron Butler's tattoos or Chris Wilcox's hair and typecast. In a postracial America (or something close), that stereotypical standby is less of a presence, and some semblance of respect already given to shortstops and quarterbacks might [be] offered to two-guards.

As a citizen, I suppose a potential boost for the NBA's image is not a reason to vote for a candidate. But as a fan, I know who and what I'm rooting for: that someday, maybe the casual sports fan — every sports fan — will look at David Eckstein and Allen Iverson and see the same thing: players.

I am not quite so sanguine about Obama's true commitment to a "postracial" America, but to the extent that he's jump-started the dialogue — and it seems fairly clear to me that, intentionally or not, he has done so — he's made a genuine contribution to life in these United States, even if he doesn't survive the bloodletting at the Democratic National Convention. Whether that constitutes an actual reason to vote for the guy is left as an exercise for the student.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 AM)
4 April 2008
Quote of the week

Pat Riley, on the likelihood of his being named to the Hall of Fame:

I look at it this way: I don't belong there.

I never coached a [Catholic Youth Organization] team. I never hauled a group of wannabes in the back of a truck to Central Park and worked them out from dawn to dusk. I never took a kid home in my car and treated his athlete's [foot] in my house when I was in high school. I never did the 8 million hours of work that a student-manager/assistant coach did. I never did any of that stuff.

I was pushed through a door and a silver spoon was shoved in my mouth, that had Kareem and Magic and Worthy and McAdoo and Scott and Cooper and Nixon. I mean, that's how I got my start. And most of the guys that are in [the Hall] did it the other way. So that's how I look at it.

"Scott" is Byron Scott, currently coaching the New Orleans Hornets, and he begs to differ:

No matter what the team he was given, somebody still has to coach them, discipline them. Somebody has to still earn their respect, which he's done over the years.

This is Riley's first year of eligibility for a spot in Springfield.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 AM)
9 April 2008
Unanimous it isn't

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he'll vote against the Seattle SuperSonics' relocation to Oklahoma City:

"My preference is the Sonics stay in Seattle. My prejudice is against having a Dustbowl Division in this part of the country because I don't think in the big picture that helps the NBA and I think the bigger market helps the NBA."

Cuban points out, sensibly, that the Sonics draw from far beyond King County, Washington:

"Once you've got an established fan base for a city that's been around as long as Seattle, there's more value to the NBA that just the 13,000 showing up in Seattle [for games]," he said. "They actually go to road games. You see people here wearing Sonics jerseys. The other thing I don't [think] people realize is you guys pull from Vancouver, you guys pull from different parts of Canada, it's just a short drive."

Dallas is 200 miles from Oklahoma City. By the standards of this part of the country, it's just a short drive. You think maybe Cuban thinks the Oklahoma City [fill in name of team] might cut into the Mavs fan base?

Still, Cuban doesn't think his view will prevail:

"[L]ike everything else in the NBA, [the vote] will be 29-1."

I'm thinking 28-2 myself.

Update, 18 April: Since Bennett presumably isn't allowed to vote on the relocation, it will be 28-1 if Cuban is the lone holdout. I still think there will be at least one more, which would make it 27-2.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:14 PM)
15 April 2008
Faint praise, you might say

Bomani Jones has a sort of grudging admiration for Sonics owner Clay Bennett:

Think about it. Clay Bennett and his buddies bought the Sonics because they want to have a basketball team in their hometown. That's all it was. Oklahoma City is definitely growing — it's certainly not the city it was when I visited my grandparents there as a kid — but I can't imagine what kind of book-cooking would have to take place to make me believe the Sonics would be more profitable in a metropolitan area about the size of Birmingham as opposed to one more comparable to Phoenix.

Basically, a few rich guys want to be able to watch NBA basketball courtside without catching a flight, so they went and got a squad. Think someone's special for having a house in the Hamptons? These cats bought the Hamptons, and put it down the street from their houses. They win.

Clay Bennett's not a popular man in Seattle. But do you blame him for wanting an NBA team in his hometown? If ever there was an example where a town owed its tax dollars to a professional owner, this is it. Bennett and company put up $350 million so Oklahoma City could have an NBA team. The least Oklahomans could do is put something in the hat.

Yet, as reptilian as this whole ordeal has been, there's something admirable about what Bennett's doing, too. Oklahoma City never would have gotten an expansion franchise, no matter how fantastic the crowds were while OKC served as the Hornets' foster city. Bennett's audacity, all the way down to the bald-faced whoppers he's told since he bought the team, have a quality that isn't entirely repulsive. This probably isn't Bennett's dream, but it's certainly his wish, and it's amazing that he has come so close to making it come true.

Well, the NBA wasn't going to expand into Birmingham (the 40th Nielsen DMA, five steps above Oklahoma City) either, and Jefferson County has troubles of its own these days.

But Jones understands what's going on here:

It's capitalism run amok, but it's can't-miss theater. And, deep down, I get it.

And if there's anything they hate in places like Seattle, it's capitalism that dares to run amok. Down here we revel in the sheer wackiness of it all. It wasn't so long ago that OG&E wanted to build a new coal-fired power plant, and Chesapeake Energy, a major natural-gas producer, took out Oklahoman advertising to blast them for any number of sins, the worst of which, of course, was not using natural gas. (The nerve!) Chesapeake, not incidentally, is run by Aubrey McLendon, one of Bennett's partners in Sonics ownership, who was fined a quarter of a million by the NBA for having had the temerity to suggest that they might indeed want to move this team they'd bought. It's theater, and we've got the cast for it.

Still, "isn't entirely repulsive" does manage to include, by definition, a fair amount of actual repulsion, and, at bottom, it should.

Addendum, 6 pm: At least somebody in Seattle knows how to play this game. Previous owner Howard Schultz is planning to sue the current ownership. Bravo, Mr Schultz. As remediation, it's not likely to work, but as theater, it's fabulous.

Addendum, 20 April: Mr Jones goes through his mail, which is not overly complimentary.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:57 AM)
18 April 2008
Here they come

The National Basketball Association has approved the relocation of the Seattle franchise to Oklahoma City, pending the resolution of existing legislation in Washington state.

As I predicted, there were exactly two No votes: they were Mark Cuban (Mavericks), who had gone public with his opposition, and Paul Allen (TrailBlazers).

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:27 PM)
20 April 2008
You got it, ferret-face

Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel drops all the metaphors into the blender for this one:

Seattle mayor Greg Nickels responded to the NBA's vote Friday by pointing out that his city's metropolitan economy is "larger than the entire state of Oklahoma's."

Which is completely accurate and entirely beside the point. It reminded me of a scene from M*A*S*H, when Hawkeye tells someone he's from Crabapple Cove, Maine, population whatever, and Frank Burns pipes up, "Fort Wayne's bigger than that."

Yes, Seattle is glorious and huge, but compare Seattle's Frank Burns to OKC mayor Mick Cornett, then tell me which city is Hooterville.

Neither Margaret Houlihan nor Oliver Wendell Douglas was available for comment.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
21 April 2008
A different sort of staying put

Had I my druthers, the nascent Oklahoma City [fill in team name here] would have been taking New Orleans' place in the Southwest Division, bouncing the Hornets back to the East and sending the Milwaukee Bucks to fill the open Northwest slot.

Not gonna happen, says Darnell Mayberry:

According to league sources, the NBA will not realign any divisions or teams to accommodate the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City. Whenever the team lands in Oklahoma, either next season or in 2010, it will continue in its current division, which includes Utah, Portland, Minnesota and Denver.

Although Oklahoma City is geographically closest to Southwest Division teams — Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Memphis and New Orleans — the league isn't interested in undoing the system's current balance by adding a sixth team to the division. The 30-team NBA has six five-team divisions.

Realigning Memphis or New Orleans to add Oklahoma City to the Southwest Division also isn't an option, sources said, because of how well the division's current structure works.

If nothing else, this should make Mavericks owner Mark Cuban happy:

"There's not enough TV weight," Cuban said earlier this month before the Sonics played the Mavs in Dallas. "There's not enough demand from a TV perspective from outside that little area. It's nice, but when you've got San Antonio versus Dallas, which you'd think is a great marquee matchup, no one outside our area [cares]. That's bad. You don't expand the market at all."

No one asked Cuban about Clippers/Lakers matchups.

Still: okay, fine. Denver isn't all that Northwest-y either. We'll live with it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:06 PM)
10 May 2008
Whom's on first?

Legalese and English are often at odds, or so it seems to me, and sometimes we have to sacrifice the language to plug the loopholes.

This is not one of those times. Last month former Sonics owner Howard Schultz filed suit against the current Sonics owners, hoping to get the sale voided.

With this in mind, Wiley L. Williams, assistant municipal counselor in Oklahoma City, shot off a nine-page letter to Schultz's legal team [link goes to PDF file] informing them that whoever owns the team is legally bound by the new Oklahoma City leases. Key (so to speak) phrase (page four):

While we have no expectations whether the Plaintiffs in the above referenced litigation will or will not be successful, there is an expectation by City leadership and citizens that the owners of the Team, whomever they may be, will honor all of the Team's contractual obligations with the City — including the contractual obligation to relocate to Oklahoma City and to play home games at the Ford Center for the duration of the term of the lease.

This grates on the ears in several places, although "whomever they may be" is, I contend, the worst, and the least excusable.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 AM)
14 May 2008
When David gets all Goliath-y

I've suggested that the ongoing Seattle vs. Oklahoma City wars might be good theater, if nothing else; it hadn't occurred to me that what we're seeing might simply be a deeply dysfunctional business plan, and we're the enablers:

[T]he only way [NBA Commissioner David] Stern could continue to pursue a faulty business model was through a Ponzi scheme of pitting one city against another — exactly the situation he has aided in creating here.

Playing off the feelings of inadequacy in Oklahoma City (and that is not intended [as] an insult at all; it is clear from their language that they want the NBA so they might be elevated to a "major league city"), Stern has managed to create a sense of urgency in both cities, to the point where a total approaching half a billion dollars is being proposed to reconstruct existing arenas.

When I wrote about this last year, my argument was that the whole debate was upside-down, and that rather than having the cities chase the NBA, it should be the NBA chasing the cities. Let's face it, the NBA needs markets more than the markets need the NBA.

After all, do you think people in Las Vegas or St. Louis woke up this morning and cursed themselves for not having an NBA team? Do you believe residents of Memphis are patting themselves on the back with glee that they don't live in a hellhole like San Diego, a city barren of NBA basketball?

Given the Griz' attendance, I'm sure there are residents of Memphis who think, "What? We have an NBA team?"

I do like the idea of an inverted perspective, but David Stern still has scarcity on his side: artificially created to be sure, but still scarcity. And if playing one town against another turns out to work, it's prudent to assume he'll keep doing it until such time as it stops working.

I can't speak for anyone else in the local Sonics Thunderbirds Barons fan base, but I think things would have gone much more easily if Clay Bennett had written a check to the NBA and Stern had decreed, "For a new team shall be yours, and we shall add another one to the East for balance." As though the East would ever be balanced. And the Sonics? They'd be in Seattle, as they'd been for four decades.

Meanwhile, if anyone comes up with an explanation of why David Stern is so resistant to expansion, I'd like to hear it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:00 PM)
23 May 2008
Something to shoot for

It's not physically possible to beat that here, but this is the benchmark:

For the fifth time in six seasons, the Detroit Pistons are the attendance champs in the NBA. With 41 straight sell-outs and an average of 22,076 per game, the Pistons hosted 905,116 fans during the 2007-08 regular season.

"Our sell-out streak and leading the league in attendance are two things that we take a great deal of pride in," said Pistons CEO Tom Wilson. "They are an indication of the quality of the fan experience we provide, the excellence of our team, and, most importantly, they demonstrate the strong commitment and fierce loyalty of Detroit Pistons fans."

The Ford Center, once the upgrades are completed, will hold maybe 19,000 fans. But as NBA arenas go, it's no slouch; if we could bring in 19,000 on a regular basis, that's up there with the Lakers and the Knicks. (Kobe and company drew an average of 18,997 for the season.)

Of course, the Pistons were 34-7 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and a record like that helps immensely at the task of putting butts in the seats. Still, the temporarily-displaced New Orleans Hornets averaged nearly 18,000 at the Ford despite sub-.500 finishes in those two years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:07 PM)
12 June 2008
Foregone conclusion?

The NBA has shuffled the Development League cards a bit, and the Tulsa 66ers, previously associated with the New Orleans Hornets, will now be assigned to — what a shock — The Team Presently Known As The Seattle SuperSonics.

This is definitely a case of treating the fait as accompli.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:57 PM)
17 June 2008
Lakers drained

And finally, it wasn't even close: Boston 131, Los Angeles 92, and the Celtics do it in six.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:55 PM)
2 July 2008
Transition begins here

The city of Seattle and the basketball team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics have apparently settled their differences. I've been listening to the radio pickup from Seattle's City Hall. They're putting the best possible face on it — and it's a pretty good face, considering they're getting rather more of a concession from Clay Bennett and friends than had been previously offered: $45 million up front to get out of the lease, which would more than cover the amount still due on KeyArena, and conceivably another $30 million [see below]. It's a big chunk of change, but I'm guessing it's probably about what Bennett expected to lose in two lame-duck years in Seattle.

The separate Schultz lawsuit has not been settled, but I expect it will wither away shortly.

And note that word "formerly": Seattle retains the rights to the name "SuperSonics" and the team colors, which is fine with me.

Meanwhile, upgrades to the Ford Center will begin this summer.

Update: Here's the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article on the settlement.

Addendum: Commissioner David Stern weighs in:

[I]f an opportunity arose in the future for an NBA team to be located in Seattle, we would support that team playing its home games in a re-built KeyArena, if it wished. However, given the lead times associated with any franchise acquisition or relocation and with a construction project as complex as a KeyArena renovation, authorization of the public funding needs to occur by the end of 2009 in order for there to be any chance for the NBA to return to Seattle within the next five years.

And if the funding is authorized, today's settlement calls for Bennett et al. to ante up $30 million unless Seattle gets another team within five years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 PM)
3 July 2008
A puckish sense of humor

The next step for an NBA-less Seattle, says Costa:

Instead of embarking on a mad dash for another shot at big-league hoops, the Emerald City should take its parting gift, and promptly graft it onto the next National Hockey League team that wants to move into KeyArena.

Why not? Hockey is a missing link for the Pacific Northwest's sports scene (the cross-border Vancouver Canucks notwithstanding). Reviving the Seattle SuperSonics as an NHL team would nicely fill the void. That green-and-gold color scheme would look great fitted with skates and hockey sticks. The Sonics logo would have to be reworked a little, but it can't be too hard to airbrush that basketball into a puck.

Now I'm worried. This is starting to sound almost logical.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:52 PM)
4 July 2008
Symptoms of NBA fever

There was a lot of flapdoodle in the Oklahoman this week about the inevitable Big Boom downtown to follow the arrival of the Oklahoma City Subsonics, or whatever they're going to be called.

The Prohibition Room restaurant in the Gold Dome, two miles up Classen, doesn't want to be left out, so they're setting up a shuttle service: "Park your car here and we will take you to the game."

This could work, if 9:30 or so — figure on a 7:00 start time and a 7:12 tipoff — isn't too late for your idea of dinner, or if you want to celebrate a victory (or wash away the stench of losing) with libations. I expect other eateries in town will follow suit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:46 PM)
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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