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.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.