Al Jefferson is announced by Charlotte Bobcats as newly signed free agent.

Rod Higgins out as Hornets president


Late last night, the Charlotte Hornets made an announcement that was oddly timed for a couple reasons.

1. An NBA Finals game had just finished, and most basketball writers were focused on that.

2. The NBA draft is two weeks away.

Team release:

The Charlotte Hornets today announced that Rod Higgins has stepped down as the team’s President of Basketball Operations, effective immediately.

“I would like to thank Rod for his seven years of dedication to this organization,” said Charlotte Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan. “Rod has been a consummate professional throughout his time with the team. Thanks to his hard work and commitment, we have an improved roster and we are poised for success in the future. Rod was of great help to me as I navigated my first four years as majority owner of this franchise. I wish him all the best.”

Rich Cho will remain in his capacity as General Manager and assume responsibility for the team’s basketball operations. He will report to Jordan and Vice Chairman Curtis Polk.

This is just strange.

Did Higgins really resign voluntarily? Six weeks after Charlotte completed one of its best seasons since re-entering the league? Two weeks before a draft in which the Hornets have the Nos. 9, 24 and 45 picks?

The plugged-in Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer headlined his blog post “Charlotte Hornets can Rod Higgins…” The text doesn’t elaborate on which party initiated the change, but I suspect we’ll hear more about it soon enough.

Higgins was Charlotte’s general manager for four years and then promoted to president in 2011, when the team hired Cho as general manager. The partnership seemed to be working until now.

The Hornets will be in good hands with Cho, who succeeded as the Trail Blazers’ general manager during a period when they couldn’t stop firing general managers regardless of their ability. He’s definitely qualified to lead a front office.

But who decided Higgins won’t be part of the Hornet’s future, and why now? Those are mysteries.

Thabo Sefolosha’s lawyer: White police officer targeted black Hawks forward

Thabo Sefolosha
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NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer representing a professional basketball player arrested outside a New York City nightclub has told a jury his client was targeted because he’s black.

Attorney Alex Spiro said Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court that a white police officer saw a black man in a hoodie when he confronted the Atlanta Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on April 8.

Sefolosha was arrested while leaving a Manhattan nightclub following a stabbing. He subsequently suffered a season-ending leg fracture after a confrontation with police.

A prosecutor said in opening statements that Sefolosha called an officer who repeatedly told him and others to leave a “midget.”

Sefolosha pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The Swiss citizen declined a plea deal from prosecutors.


DeMar DeRozan says he hates talking about free agency, takes pride in Raptors longevity

DeMar DeRozan
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DeMar DeRozan has a $10,050,000 player option for 2016-17. Given the rapidly escalating salary cap, it’s a practical certainty DeRozan will opt out and get a major raise.

But he says he doesn’t want to talk about it.

DeRozan, via Eric Koreen of the National Post:

“I hate that, honestly,” DeRozan said in a one-on-one interview. “I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing (in Toronto). A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me.

“Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.”

This sounds awfully similar to LaMarcus Aldridge, who stated his desire last year to become the great Trail Blazer ever and then signed with the Spurs this summer.

Things change, and the impracticality of an extension ensures DeRozan will hit free agency. I believe he’s devoted to the Raptors right now, but his loyalty might change in the next nine months – especially once he sees contract offers from other suitors.

Toronto’s interest in DeRozan might fluctuate, too. He’s a nice player, but the Raptors haven’t won a playoff series with him despite winning the division the last two years. Depending how this season goes, Masai Ujiri might want to rework the roster significantly next summer, and letting DeRozan walk could create major cap space.

I believe DeRozan wants to return to the Raptors, and I believe they want to keep him. But so much can change between now and when both sides must make that call.