Kurt Helin

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets

PBT Extra: Mid-Season NBA coach, rookie, sixth man of year

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We are halfway through the NBA season, the time one can finally start to think seriously about post-season awards.

Nothing is decided yet — well, after all the injuries Rookie of the Year seems pretty close, Andrew Wiggins is the best man left standing — but there are some clear frontrunners set.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss the leaders for Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year in this latest PBT Extra. Suffice to say there is a lot of Mike Budenholzer love in the coaching pick.

Dwyane Wade fined $15,000 by league for obscene gesture

Dwyane Wade, Marvin Williams
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Dwyane Wade was a frustrated man at the end of the third quarter Wednesday night, his team had blown a couple possessions in a row in what would go on to be a two-point loss for Miami to the Charlotte Hornets (Wade had 17 points but on 21 shots).

His frustrations got the better of him and he gave a “one-finger salute” to part of the Hornets crowd.

That cost him $15,000 as the league fined him on Thursday for his “obscene gesture.”

Wade is making $15 million this season. So he can probably swing this and be okay financially.

Just for fun, it should be noted you would have to be cited by the league five times for flopping in one season to earn a fine that large. Just so you know where the priorities are.

Pelicans’ owner Tom Benson puts wife Gayle next in line of succession for team, gets sued by other family members

Smoothie King Center
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At age 87, Tom Benson is not a young man. And like many his age, he wants to make sure his affairs are in order when the inevitable does come.

What that means for the New Orleans Pelicans — as well as the NFL’s Saints — is that Benson’s wife Gayle will take control upon his passing, something Benson himself announced on Thursday.

But it didn’t come without controversy. This plan is a change from the previous succession plans for the two sports franchises — Rita Benson LeBlanc, Tom Benson’s granddaughter, had been his handpicked successor. However she and her husband are now completely out of the picture including losing her company car (a Mercedes) and phone, according to the Times-Picayune.

Rita Benson LeBlanc and other family members have since filed a lawsuit against Tom Benson saying he is incompetent and that he is being manipulated by his wife Gayle, according to the Times-Picayune.

The suit was filed one day after Tom Benson unexpectedly announced plans to transfer future ownership of the clubs to wife, Gayle, cutting off his daughter, Renee LeBlanc, and his two grandchildren, Ryan LeBlanc and Rita Benson LeBlanc, who until recently had been designated as the heir apparent.

The legal battle lays bare the internal strife within one of Louisiana’s richest families and its highest profile business owners, pitting Benson and his wife of 10 years against his adopted daughter and her children….

Renee, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc, are named as petitioners in the suit, which claims the 87-year-old Benson’s declining health is much worse than publicly known and has rendered him unfit to manage his personal affairs or the business of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.

The suit portrays Gayle, 67, as a gold digger.

Here is what Benson said of his decision in a released statement:

“This is something I have thought about and prayed about for a while now. Over the past 60 years, I have been fortunate enough to build a number of successful businesses not only in New Orleans but also in San Antonio. Throughout those years, I have included my family as well as a strong management team around me to run these businesses, whether they be banks, automobile dealerships, television stations or professional sports franchises. I want to continue this model of proven success. This is about the legacy of these two teams and everything we have done for the good of the city of New Orleans and our region –my primary goal is to give the organization the foundation to live on after me for many, many years.”

Benson added, “I agree that this is somewhat of a change in what has been formally declared but this is best for our teams and our community.”

If Benson’s plan stays in place, as far as the Pelicans (and Saints) operations nothing really changes, everyone just reports to a new boss at the top of the ladder. The rest of the management team stays intact.

Tom Benson married Gayle in 2004, and she played a key role in rebranding the team the Pelicans — something local and native to New Orleans — from the Hornets name, which had followed the team from Charlotte under a previous owner. She also has been involved in building naming rights deals and more.

Benson wanted to be clear that, while he’s had a bad knee, his there is no health concern on the horizon that forced this change.

“I enjoy it, I truly do,” Benson said. “I love being in the office and being around the coaches and players and staff and being a part of what they are doing. I have just come to a point in my life where I need to make some tough decisions on how things are going to be planned out. My wife, Gayle, is very important to me. She is born in New Orleans. She has been a businesswoman in this city for many years and is actively involved in many charitable organizations, the Catholic Church, hospitals, schools and university boards, to name a few…I am very proud of her. She is the most logical and natural person closest to me that will ensure the continuity, the stability and the success of our Saints and Pelicans in the city of New Orleans for a long time. “

Five Things We Learned In NBA Wednesday: One half of Durant, Westbrook is all you need

Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking maybe you don’t want to go swimming in Australia

One half of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook is all you need. Okay, maybe we didn’t learn that so much as get reminded on Wednesday. Oklahoma City has now won four in a row and, finally with everyone healthy, are starting to play like the legit title contender we thought they were. And all of that is because of Westbrook and Durant, who turned it on in the second half after a sloppy second quarter from the Thunder when they shot 4-of-22 as a team (OKC was down a dozen at the break). In the second half the best one-two punch in the NBA just took over — Westbrook had 25 in the second half, Durant 21. When Westbrook was using his athleticism to attack he was dangerous, when he settled it was a win for Washington — in the second half Westbrook was 8-of-9 shooting in the paint and 2-of-11 outside it. Which is why when he attacked and didn’t settle he got the overtime game winner.

No matter how well Durant and Westbrook are playing it’s not going to be easy for Oklahoma City to catch Phoenix. The Thunder are just three back of the Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and if you look at Phoenix’s schedule and see eight quality playoff teams in a row lined up you think they will lose a few and OKC will close that gap easily. Nope. The Suns started out this gauntlet beating Portland Wednesday night to make it four straight win. The three guard attack of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas combined for 76 points, while Gerald Green scored another dozen. Oklahoma City may well catch Phoenix at some point but this is not going to be easy for them.

Kyle Korver can dunk. The Hawks sharpshooter is a borderline All-Star because he’s having as good a shooting season as anyone has in the history of the NBA — he’s shooting 53.5 percent from three this season. But what he really wants to do is dunk — for the first time in two years Korver threw it down on Wednesday. We wouldn’t believe it either, but there is video evidence.

Andre Drummond vs. Nikola Vucevic could be a fun matchup for years to come. Brandon Jennings was the story in the Pistons’ win over the Magic — 24 points and 21 assists — but what I was watching in this game was a matchup of potential All-Star centers from the East in Andre Drummond and Nikola Vucevic. It’s a contrast of styles (which is why they weren’t matched head-to-head all game long). Vucevic scored a couple times on Drummond (and missed a couple) on traditional post ups but the strength of his game is that he can pop out and hit the 15-18 foot jumper, something Drummond didn’t always contest (to be fair he had rim protecting duties on a lot of those and needed help rotations). Drummond on the other hand got the ball in the post more and was 4-of-5 by my count on Vucevic in that setting. The bottom line is Vucevic ended up with 26 points and 15 boards, Drummond 26 points and 17 boards. These are two of the best young centers in the game and we would be watching them battle for many years.

Head-to-head, the Sixers are tanking harder than the Knicks. The real losers here? Anyone who paid for tickets to this game. Philadelphia met New York and unfortunately for two tanking teams someone had to win. Sure, the players didn’t see it that way but you can be sure parts of the fan bases (and front offices) did. The Sixers sat Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel and that was enough to give the Knicks the edge and the win behind 27 from Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks have a two-game winning streak and they are just half a game (two in the loss column) behind the Sixers.

Report: LeBron James met with Ray Allen, tried to convince him to return to NBA

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat
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Ray Allen has spent the first half of this NBA season soaking in the sunshine, playing golf, spending time with his family and enjoying life as a retiree in Miami.

While LeBron James was out rehabbing injuries a couple of weeks ago he chose to do so in the warmth of South Florida.

While he was at it, LeBron went and met with Allen and tried to convince him to give all that up and return to the grind of the NBA, and do so in a cold-weather city. That according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

During James’ Miami jaunt, the four-time MVP met with free agent guard and former Miami Heat teammate Ray Allen in order to try and appeal to the league’s all-time leader in 3-pointers again about joining the Cavs this season, multiple sources told ESPN.com…

Apart from James’ face-to-face meeting with Allen, several other members of the Cavs have kept in contact with the shooting guard this season — James Jones and Mike Miller, who were also Allen’s teammates in Miami, as well as associate head coach Tyronn Lue, who was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics when Allen played there.

Allen is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to return to the NBA for a 19th season or not. He has said recently he is working to stay in shape, but wouldn’t go any farther than that.

If Allen returns he will have plenty of suitors — the Spurs, Clippers and other contenders have made their interest known — but the Cavaliers are considered to be the frontrunners. Allen has a comfort level with former teammates like LeBron, plus if he does come back it’s to chase a ring and going to a team in the East makes that an easier path than choosing a team out West.

Or, he might look at the Cavaliers situation (improving though it is) and decide the sunshine and golf are pretty hard to give up. Either way we will find out next month.