Hornets to be sold to Saints owner Tom Benson for $338 million

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Tom Benson, the long-time owner of the New Orleans Saints, now will own both professional sports teams in that market.

Benson has reached a deal to buy the team for $338 million, reports David Aldridge of NBA.com.

The league reached a tentative agreement early Friday morning with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson to buy the team for $338 million, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

The NBA Board of Governors had been expected to approve a sale of the team at its meetings this week in New York. Going into the week a California-based group led by Mike Dunleavy and Raj Bhathal was considered the front runner. But Benson stepped forward able to buy the team himself, without a group of investors, and that plus his ties to New Orleans apparently swayed the other owners.

A source indicated that Tom Benson spoke with Stern on Monday, and the deal came together quickly after that discussion. Benson will have to pay approximately 10 percent of the purchase price immediately. The NBA’s Finance Committee is expected to approve the sale Friday morning before the Board of Governors meeting adjourns, with final approval on the sale expected later in the spring.

The Times-Picayune broke the story this morning.

The NFL used to have strict rules against their owners also owning teams in other sports, but that has been relaxed to allow owners to have multiple teams in the same market, according to ProFootballTalk at NBC.

The league bought the Hornets from George Shinn, who tried his hardest to run that team into the ground and ruin the market like he had done in Charlotte. That sale price was reportedly $318 million (so the owners turn a small profit on the deal). While operating the team the NBA was able to negotiate a new, more favorable lease deal for the New Orleans Arena — a deal that keeps the team in the city through 2024 — and to build up the season ticket and fan bases in the city. That plus a new CBA that is more favorable to small markets made the Hornets attractive to investors.

The fans in the Big Easy have stepped forward to support the team. They deserve stable ownership and now they have it.

Carmelo Anthony leaves without speaking to media, will probably get fined

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Lately, Carmelo Anthony has parsed whether the Thunder are frustrated or angry and said he’s going through the roughest stretch of his career.

It didn’t get any better last night.

Anthony scored 11 points on 12 shots with three turnovers, and Oklahoma City got outscored by 21 points with him on the floor in a home loss to the Hornets. The Thunder have now lost two of three, falling to the lowly Nets and Hornets and needing overtime to beat the freefalling Grizzlies.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Anthony today:

I’m sorry. My bad. I had a FaceTime session with my son, so I skipped out on you guys yesterday. I apologize. It’s true, though. That’s true. It’s true. He had a school night.

The NBA’s media-access rules state: “All players must be available to the media for a minimum of five to 10 minutes during the postgame media access period.” It’s been a while since someone got punished for violating the policy, but Kevin Garnett was fined $25,000 for not speaking to the media after Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

I’m sympathetic to Anthony wanting to speak to his son, who’s still in New York. But the league tends not to take these personal concerns into consideration, which is probably for the best. There’s a rule. Anthony violated it. Assessing which personal calls should supersede the rule is a can of worms not worth opening. Besides, Anthony probably could have returned to the locker room for an interview after concluding the call.

Anthony earns a lot of money. If he wanted to risk a $25,000 fine to speak with his son, I have absolutely no problem with that. But that’s probably the choice he made.

In my experience, Anthony has been forthright with the media. He spent years as the face of the Knicks, dutifully answering for problems created by James Dolan and Phil Jackson. Because he was available nearly daily while his superiors avoided interviews, Anthony was the grilled by the New York media.

I bet he expected a reprieve in Oklahoma City. Instead, the spotlight has shined on him as a problem with the underwhelming Thunder.

It’s understandable he’d rather talk to his son than reporters. But it’s also understandable the NBA wants to promote its business through the media, and the league has power to enforce its rules.

Grizzlies fan absolutely owns kids halftime scrimmage (video)

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The Grizzlies lost for the 15th time in their last 16 games, a 25-point drubbing at home against the Heat, last night.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in Memphis.

This young fan – while playing in the halftime scrimmage – stopped his dribble, stepped on the ball, whipped off his youth jersey to reveal a Marc Gasol jersey, flexed, re-started his dribbled then drove for a basket.

Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation:

The Grizzlies don’t deserve this hero.

DeMarcus Cousins pushes Trevor Ariza after whistle, gets technical foul (video)

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For better or worse, DeMarcus Cousins is moody.

Just after getting dunked on by Clint Capela, Cousins showed his frustration by pushing Trevor Ariza after a whistle. The Pelicans center got his NBA-leading ninth technical foul – automatic suspension triggered at No. 16 – but I’m surprised this didn’t escalate beyond just that.

Paul George floors Jeremy Lamb with crossover, hits step-back 3-pointer over him (video)

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The Thunder suffered a rough home loss to the Hornets, but at least Oklahoma City produced a couple fun highlights.

Not only did Russell Westbrook have this powerful dunk, Paul George put the moves on Jeremy Lamb.