Chris Paul must be watching Hornets management and counting the days until he can leave

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cpaul_points.jpgThere is more spin going on around the New Orleans Hornets right now than in the White House press room.

Here is what we know: Jeff Bower is out as general manager.

And that keeping Chris Paul happy is by far the most important thing to the franchise, and they are not doing a good job at that.

After that, the stories are totally different, depending on who you talk to.

Hornets’ management is spinning that they “mutually agreed to part ways” with Bower because he didn’t do enough to defuse the Chris Paul trade rumors. (Does anyone actually believe that it was mutually agreed? No? Thank you.) That is what team president told the Times-Picayune.

“This is something that we felt working with Jeff that we needed to find a different way of approaching our work, and again we felt it was a good time to get a clean start,” team president Hugh Weber said. “You cannot do the same things and expect a fresh result. It was a matter of our organization growing in a way our ownership would feel comfortable.

“We felt we needed to be progressive and different and look at things from a prospective. Again, we talked about this before — you can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result.”

Other GMs around the league say that is all spin. Or raw fertilizer. Whichever you prefer. They said Bower told them Paul was not available at any price and it was others putting it out there he was. CBSSports Ken Berger laid out this spin in his story.

Now someone is trying to save face by blaming Bower’s “mutual parting of ways” on his supposed desire to trade Paul, which is laughable. The only way Bower would’ve traded Paul this summer, rival executives say, was if there was a directive from ownership to do so for financial reasons.

Here’s the bottom line: Chris Paul is watching this and shaking his head. His deal is up in two years, and right now he is on a seemingly rudderless ship. With a new owner coming in. Maybe. There’s a great quote in the Berger story.

“Peter Holt wins for a reason,” a front office executive said of the Spurs’ owner, who has kept GM R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich in lock step through San Antonio’s run of success. “Jerry Buss wins for a reason. They’re letting basketball people make basketball decisions. Oklahoma City is the best team in Western Conference for the next 10 years, in theory, and it’s because the owner is allowing Sam Presti to do his job.”

The truth of who said and was doing what in the Hornets front office probably lies somewhere in the middle. And it’s also irrelevant. What matters is building a winner and nobody has confidence that is the direction the Hornets are headed right now. Nobody is even confident George Shinn is going to actually sell the team. Which was supposed to happen in April.

And if that includes CP3, things are going to get much worse on the bayou.

Pistons play recording of Aretha Franklin’s national anthem while spotlighting open microphone at center court (video)

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Pistons legend Isiah Thomas eulogized Aretha Franklin – a proud Detroit native – last summer and concluded with a message to the deceased singer:

I want you to know, I love you. The world loves you. And most importantly, Aretha, Detroit loves you.

Detroit showed its love for Aretha before the Pistons’ opener yesterday. Thomas again spoke kindly of her then asked for a moment of silence. The arena went dark and quiet.

Then, a spotlight shined on an unattended microphone at center court as a recording of Aretha’s national anthem played. While this video shows the powerful rendition of the song, by focusing on the images of Aretha shown on the scoreboard, it doesn’t even capture the full feeling of the moment.

Seeing that open spotlighted microphone throughout the entire anthem was hauntingly beautiful and a great tribute to the Queen of Soul.

NBA’s minor league to offer $125,000 salaries to not-yet-draft-eligible 18-year-olds

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The NBA will lower its age limit to 18, effectively ending the one-and-done era.

Eventually.

In the meantime, the best option for most top players leaving high school is college basketball. But while the NBA takes its time changing a rule (that it never should have implemented in the first place), the NBA’s minor league will offer an alternative route.

G League release:

The NBA G League today announced a Select Contract as part of a comprehensive professional path that will be available, beginning with the 2019-20 season, to elite prospects who are eligible to play in the NBA G League but not yet eligible for the NBA.  The contracts, which will include robust programmatic opportunities for development, are for elite players who are at least 18 years old and will pay $125,000 for the five-month season.

NBA G League Select Contracts are designed for year-round professional growth and will include opportunities for basketball development, life skills mentorship and academic scholarship.  These offerings are slated to include basketball workouts during the summer months through existing NBA infrastructure like NBA Summer League and NBA Academies, year-round education programs designed to increase players’ ability to personally and professionally manage their careers, and a scholarship program for athletes who want to pursue higher education after their playing days.  Additionally, the NBA G League will further enhance player experience through existing partner relationships and NBA player development programming.

The $125,000 salary is nice and a sizeable jump from the standard minor-league salary, which these players were already eligible to receive. Select Contract players can also sign endorsements and receive loans from agents while remaining eligible to play, unlike in the NCAA.

But it’s not as if college basketball players aren’t compensated. Though their compensation is limited by the NCAA cartel, players still get tuition, room and board and cost-of-living expenses. And of course many get under-the-table money, too. The value of that compensation – particularly the tuition – varies by person.

Access to NBA infrastructure could swing some players, but that also comes with risk. Older professionals could expose younger, even more talented, players. Experience and physical advancement matter.

So does the stage. Top college-basketball players are nationally recognized stars who appear regular on television and are revered on campus. Minor-league players are relatively anonymous and play in mid-sized cities away from much fanfare.

There’s still plenty to sort out, and the details could affect how many players enter this new program out of high school. But it’s nice they have another option.

It’d be far better if they could just declare for the NBA draft if they feel they’re ready.

Anthony Davis challenging Michael Jordan as best opening-game player on record

AP Photo/Michael Wyke
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Anthony Davis called himself the NBA’s best player.

He sure backed it up last night.

Davis posted a 32-16-8-3-3 to lead the Pelicans to a 19-point win over the Rockets, considered by many to be the NBA’s second-best team. The performance immediately vaults Davis to the forefront of any MVP discussions.

But for him, it was just par for the course. Davis has repeatedly dazzled in season openers. When 18-6-2-3 qualifies as the dud, you know Davis is doing something right.

Davis’ box scores in New Orleans’ first game each season:

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That makes Davis’ average season-opener game score 24.1, one of the best ever. Only Michael Jordan has a higher mark on record (since 1983, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go; minimum: three games).

Here are the leaders:

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Obviously, Davis cares more about how he finishes than starts. The Pelicans have made the playoffs only twice with him, getting swept in the first round in 2015 and falling in the second round last season.

But it should be clear by now: Davis comes to play as soon as the season tips.