How the Hornets can rebuild in five easy steps from the Chris Paul trade

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Are you a small market franchise that just lost the best player in franchise istory? Trying to understand how to move on after losing the best player to ever don your laundry? Are you the New Orleans Hornets?

Then have no fear! I’m here to show you the road to redemption in five easy steps. You, yes you can be back in the playoffs and hunting a title within three seasons. All you have to do is follow my easy recipe and send $49.99 to P.O. Box… what’s that? You need the money to cover the massive deficiency in sold tickets you’re going to suffer through now? OK, how about I drop some knowledge for free?

Step 1: Take a deep breath. OK, so the league just pushed you into trading the best player you’ve ever had for a good young player and a bunch of flotsam (no offense, promising young wing Al-Farouq Aminu). You may be tempted to start throwing some money out to fill the roster and try and compete. You may want to see if you can move a player for more. But take a step back. This is not the time for rash decisions. It’s like a breakup. You need to see if you can live on your own. Take your time and see what you do and don’t want from this relationship with the new players. Rushing into decisions maks a bad situation worse. Rebound relationships are bad, unless it’s actually rebounding, but even then, not like that’s going to save you.

Step 2: Determine what identity you want… two years from now. Don’t look at the team you have and try and determine what the goal is, because that’s like looking at a pile of wood and trying to figure out what kind of cabinets you’re going to get. Build the house first. But have in mind that you do want nice cabinets and you need to build the kitchen accordingly. A fast team? A slow team? A balanced team? Dangerous offense? Grind-it-out defense? Young and athletic? Veteran and experienced (hint: you don’t want to go that route)? Identify what you think makes a winner and gear your team in that direction.

Step 3: Clean the books no matter the win cost. Emeka Okafor has to go. Jarrett Jack has to go. There is no value to any player with a contract of any size. They have to go at some point. Bring in a D-Leaguer if you have to. Bring in whoever you need. But everything must go. You want a clean slate. Your coach will hate it, but this is part of it. There can be no big deals, no wasteful spending. You’re going to be terrible you might as well get the value for it. e

Step 4: The Draft is the key. The Hornets have a chance at two top-ten picks in the best draft class since 2003. They can remake their team if they get a top 3 pick and a pick between 7 and 12. There is virtually no chance the Wolves do better than that. Take the best player available that fits with the plan from Step 2. Want defense? Get Anthony Davis. Think you need a lockdown wing? MKG. Want a small forward who can fill it up? Harrison Barnes. Think center is the most important position? Draft Andre Drummond and then send him to the D-League for three years to lift weights. This draft class is your salvation. Combine it with Gordon and go forward.

Step 5: Let it grow organically. Don’t rush things. Sam Presti had plenty of opportunities to go after big name, big price free agents and trade assets, but he didn’t do it. He bided his time until his move was just right, acquiring the big man the Thunder thought they needed, then they swung. They caught Dirk on a bad year. But by not running into big contracts for veterans early to “get them over the hump,” they have the ability to re-sign all their young stud players and continue to build a supporting system. That’s how it’s done.

There’s a future in New Orleans. You just have to go out and get it.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.

Bulls Fred Hoiberg complains Isaiah Thomas gets away with palming. Thomas shrugs.

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The Boston Celtics have evened their series with Chicago Bulls, and more than that seem to have been able to take the Bulls best punch and now are responding.

At the heart of that is Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who had 33 points on Sunday. He was attacking and getting into the heart of the Bulls defense all night, telling Michael Carter-Williams “you can’t guard me” so many times Thomas got a technical. Thing is, Thomas was right. No Bull has been able to guard Thomas the past two games.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the reason for that is the officials let him get away with a palming the ball when dribbling. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (video above).

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he’s going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight,” Hoiberg said. “When you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he’s impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

I liked the follow-up comment from the reporter (not on the video), which was essentially “the league doesn’t call that on anyone, so that’s your complaint?” Thomas doesn’t get away with palming any more than any other ball handler in the league. If you want to define the rule by a 1950s standard then yes, he does carry, but so does pretty much every Bulls’ ball handler. So does 3/4 of the league by that measure.

Fortunately, Hoiberg never had to coach against Allen Iverson or he might have completely lost it watching him dribble.

This came off as a desperation ploy by Hoiberg. Or it was the worst attempt ever at a “take that for data” rant ever.

Thomas, for his part, basically shrugged when told about it.

When told about Hoiberg’s comments, Thomas said, “That’s not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life, I don’t know what to say to that.”

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.