NBA season preview: New Orleans Hornets

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Last Season: The player the franchise had built itself around, Chris Paul, decided he wanted out before last season began. He did so in a far less-aggravating way than his superstar counterparts (we’re looking at you, Mr. Anthony and Mr. Howard), but he did it just the same. Since the key piece the Hornets received in the deal, Eric Gordon, only appeared in nine games for them before going down with injury, that helped the team to finish dead last in the Western Conference standings.

Lottery luck was on their side, however, as the Hornets were rewarded for their dismal season by receiving the number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, despite the fact that they didn’t end the season with the league’s worst record.

Key Departures: Big men Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, and Carl Landry.  Point guard Jarrett Jack, who only led the team in scoring once Gordon went down, though he did appear in just 45 games.

Key Additions: The number one overall pick in the draft, Anthony Davis. Ryan Anderson, a solid offensive threat, was brought in from Orlando. Robin Lopez was traded for, after the Suns decided they had spent enough time trying to develop him into a legit NBA center.

Three keys to the Hornets season: 

1) Developing Davis: By all accounts, Anthony Davis should provide an immediate impact in his rookie season, especially on the defensive end of the floor. The rebounding and shot-blocking ability should be present from Day One. But offensively, it’s not a stretch to use the word “raw” in describing where Davis is in the development process. Turning him into at least a competent player on the offensive end of the floor should be the team’s goal in his rookie season, while enjoying the production he should provide immediately on D at the same time.

2) And your point guard is … Greivis Vasquez? Looks like it, at least initially. Vasquez was surprisingly serviceable in the role for the Hornets last season, posting averages of 12.4 points and 7.6 assists in almost 26 minutes per game. But he’s hardly considered a speedy initiator of the offense with a basketball IQ beyond reproach, so we’ll see how that works out. Vasquez to this point has seemed like someone who would come in and not totally ruin things for you off the bench, rather than a player who you’d want running your team for extended periods. But hey — we’re rebuilding here, right? Beyond that, rookie Austin Rivers may see some time there (even though he’s really a two), and Eric Gordon-if-he-can-stay-healthy can play with the ball in his hands, as well.

3) Eric Gordon, Superstar: Gordon was supposed to be a legitimate trade piece in return for Chris Paul; he’s someone who by almost all accounts is one of the league’s top two-guards. The good news is he’s getting close to returning to action, and is even pushing to be ready on opening night. But when he returns isn’t necessarily all that important; what the team needs from him is superstar production, considering the max contract it gave him in the offseason. Four years and almost $60M is a ton to invest, so no matter how Davis turns out, the team will be in a tough spot from a salary cap standpoint in the future if Gordon doesn’t turn out to be the real deal once he’s back from injury.

What Hornets fans should fear: In the first year of a full-fledged rebuilding situation, patience is the key for Hornets fans. If by the end of the season the development isn’t there, the team doesn’t turn into a cohesive unit, or Davis or Gordon aren’t playing to their expected levels of production, then go ahead and panic. But for now, enjoy the young team that’s been put together and hope they provide some entertainment and show some signs as the season progresses.

Prediction: A second straight year near the bottom of the Western Conference standings seems likely, though there are a few other teams that New Orleans may be able to leapfrog if things go as planned. But playoffs? Yeah, no.

Damian Lillard says players who want to leave team owe teammates, fans truth

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Damian Lillard was making the rounds on a media tour Monday, and at virtually each and every stop he was asked about Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony. We told you about Lillard’s recruiting pitch to Anthony.

One of his stops was with one of my favorite radio shows,  Bill Reiter’s Reiter Than You on CBS Radio. Lillard talked about what players owe teammates when they try to push their way out of town.

“You owe your teammates first because those are the guys that you spend the most time around that you have relationships with, more so than anybody else,” Lillard said. “And also the fans because they are part of your team. They’re the people that come and cheer for you and support you as much as anybody. So I think they’re the two groups of people that you owe the truth. They deserve to know the truth in where you stand and what your plans are.”

Hard to argue with that.

Of course, honesty can lead to some bad blood. If Kyrie Irving went to his teammates and the fans in Cleveland and said, “Look, LeBron James is leaving in a year, and I don’t want to be the guy holding the bag, so I’m forcing my way out while I can” how would that go over? It’s the truth — or maybe the largest part of the truth, there is never just one thing — but it would rub a lot of people the wrong way. And Irving would get roasted in the media (more than he is already).

It sounds good to be honest, and a lot of guys try, but they have talked themselves into that narrative before they sell it everywhere else. Everything is spin, to a degree.

Watch Stephen Curry make fun of Klay Thompson’s 360 dunk fail in China

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By now we have all seen Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson brick that dunk attempt in China, right?

Here is the link to the video if you haven’t seen it.

Well, teammate Stephen Curry was also in China this week and decided to do a little mocking of Thompson’s missed dunk for the crowd.

It was all in good fun, and of course we all know about the Warriors team culture. Glad that Curry and Thompson can jab at each other like this.

Pistons sign Luis Montero to two-way contract

AP
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons have signed Luis Montero to a two-way contract.

The team announced the deal Monday. The 6-foot-7 Montero played 49 games last season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League. He played in 12 NBA games with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2015-16, averaging 1.2 points, 0.3 rebounds and 0.1 assists.

NBA teams are allowed two two-way players on their roster at any time, in addition to the 15-man, regular-season roster.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

LeBron James reportedly so frustrated with Kyrie Irving he is “tempted to beat his ass”

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Anyone else getting weary of the spin wars between the Kyrie Irving and LeBron James camps?

Irving thinks LeBron and his camp leaked the trade report and are trying to drag his good name through the mud. LeBron  — the man who led the way in teaching other players they should take control of their destiny and where they play — is angry that a player took control of his how destiny and is about to leave him high and dry. Right now both sides are trying to control the story — does Irving really envy Damian Lillard and John Wall‘s roles over his own, or is that spin? —  while fans come up with trade proposals. (No, a Kyrie for Carmelo Anthony trade is not happening.)

About the only thing that is clear is that this relationship is beyond repair. As evidence, we bring you the latest bit of spin, this from Stephen A. Smith’s “sources” as he spelled out on his radio show, (those sources are almost certainly are in the LeBron camp).

The full quote was: “If Kyrie Irving was in front of LeBron James right now, LeBron James would be tempted to beat his ass.”

I imagine if they were face-to-face right now it would look like every other NBA “fight” — they would push each other then make sure other guys jumped between them and held them apart so they could jaw but not actually have to throw a punch.

And yes, I know it’s Smith and we should take what he says with a full box of Morton’s Kosher Salt, but he illustrates a point:

Right now, the fight between Kyrie and LeBron is the sides trying to control the narrative.

No doubt LeBron is frustrated, he is in the legacy building part of his career and the Cavaliers were the consensus best team in the East with a shot at a ring next season. No Kyrie — almost no matter who Cleveland gets back in a trade — means the Cavs take a step back (while the Warriors and every other team in contention got better).  LeBron feels hurt and a little betrayed and is spinning that.

Irving is within his rights to ask out. There are certainly a variety of reasons he wants out, but at the top of the list is he wanted to control his own destiny before LeBron left next summer (probably) and Kyrie was left as the star on a team built to go around LeBron. Not that Cleveland did anything wrong, that is exactly the kind of team the Cavaliers should have built, LeBron will go down as an All-Time top 5 player, and this team brought Cleveland its first ring in 54 years. That doesn’t mean Irving can’t read the writing on the wall and want out.

For now, the drama will not stop between these two — nor will the spinning.