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Lockout or no, Hornets need to sell season tickets

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The New Orleans Hornets have a goal — sell 10,000 season seats.

It’s at the heart of a plan to bolster the bottom line of the franchise and make it more attractive to a local buyer. It also kicks in provisions of the lease that make it hard to move the team out of town.

In other words — they need to do it if they are serious about keeping the Hornets in New Orleans.

The challenge: You try selling season tickets to a sport where there may not be a next season. You try selling during a lockout.

The Times-Picayune has a story on how the Hornets are working at it.

Right now, the Hornets are 1,500 shy of the stated goal of 10,000. (Hornets president Hugh) Weber and (Hornets chairman Jac) Sperling explain to prospective buyers how that number will make moot the team’s attendance benchmarks in the current lease with the state, increase sellouts at the Arena and how close the Hornets are to be leading the league in new ticket sales….

Sperling said the fans with whom he has spoken since the lockout commenced, three weeks into the 100-events-in-100-days campaign, haven’t seemed overly inquisitive about lockout issues, even though the Hornets cannot speak about CBA negotiations under threat of a $1 million fine….

“The idea is this is about New Orleans, the New Orleans Hornets, and people understand it,” Sperling said. “They ask questions, but in general, people understand the deal. This is about the Hornets in New Orleans. This was our plan. That’s what the purpose is. Our fans understand. We’re trying to achieve our goal. And they want to be part of it.”

Most teams don’t sell a lot of season tickets this time of year anyway (unless they scored big in free agency — the Heat phones were ringing off the hook this time last summer). But the Hornets are working it and they are making the right argument — this is about keeping a team in New Orleans. Frame the argument as civic pride, not the lockout or Chris Paul possibly leaving (even if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement could make life a lot better for smaller market clubs like the Hornets and make it easier to keep Chris Paul).

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.