The NBA may buy the Hornets. Yes, the situation is that bad.

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Okay, so a lot’s happened in the last 24 hours (most of which actually happened last week, but we’ll get to that) with the ownership situation in New Orleans. The world is much different than it was two days ago. In short, the NBA is closing in on the purchase of the New Orleans Hornets by the league itself.

Apparently, in a Sports Illustrated story by Ian Thomsen last week, a reference was made to league considering purchasing the Hornets in an effort to stabilize the ownership situation with George Shinn wanting out-out-out and negotiations with Gary Chouest stalling. This slipped by most of us because, really, who reads things you have to hold anymore, besides your grandmother? (All kidding aside, the fact that this slipped by is pretty staggering).

Marc Stein of ESPN followed up last night and reported that the league is indeed in consideration of acquiring the Hornets in a situation similar to that of what MLB did with the Expos. Immediately following that, the Times Picayune reported that Gary Chouest was dropping out of negotiations for majority ownership. This morning, John Reid at that established publication reports that Chouest was concerned about the impending work stoppage as well as his ability to devote the necessary time to the franchise.

(Pant, pant. Okay, here we go again.)

This morning, NBA FanHouse’s Sam Amick reports that not only is the league considering it, they are well on their way towards moving to acquire the team, and have even selected personnel to run the team in the interim while it works to find stable ownership. The league obviously is not looking to hold the team long-term, but is looking to find ownership which will keep the team in New Orleans and avoid a very dicey PR situation with the second team moving in three years and less than a half decade after Katrina and all its horror.

And all of this is after it was revealed that the team would have an opt-out from its lease if attendance measures didn’t dramatically recover which would drop the Hornets penalties for bolting New Orleans to a mere $10 million.

The league exploring this drastic of a solution leads to the question of whether they’re concerned that current majority owner George Shinn, desperate to dump his ownership, might sell the team to someone who may not be committed to keeping the team in the Crescent City. Alternatively, it may simply be a sign of the times that there’s not another viable option the league is willing to wait on. This will be the fourth team in the past year to change ownership, which is, you know, kind of a lot.

The league also will want to resolve the situation quickly, since having control of the ownership is A. a drain on resources and B. is likely to have complications with the CBA negotiations coming this summer, particularly with the Hornets being a small-market team which is a major issue in negotiations. It’s also a very controlling move by the league, which has not been hands-on with ownership situations (as opposed to players issues which they have been very hands-on with). The league did not intercede with the Dolan-Thomas disaster in New York, nor with the Cohan issues in Golden State. We’re looking at a situation without precedent in basketball, and one which could have far-reaching implications for how how the league handles such matters in the future, the CBA negotiations, and most importantly, the future of professional basketball in New Orleans.

Commissioner David Stern already came under enough fire for his involvement with the Clay-Bennett-backed move of the Sonics to OKC where he was seen as more of a willing accomplice than an outright actor. But if the league is unable to find a local ownership group to satisfy the league’s requirements and a stronger offer is brought from a group in a prospective NBA city (like Kansas City, Anaheim, Las Vegas, or Seattle), it could be seen as a deliberate effort by the league to get out of what some consider to be an impossible market in New Orleans, despite what Hornets president Hugh Weber says is a situation that can work. Take a second and realize that should the NBA relocate the Hornets to Seattle it would be viewed as a good thing by many of the big-market-leaning press and a rectification of past sins by the league in moving the Sonics to begin with. And it would likely mean the outright dissolution of the Hornets franchise itself (as a reversion back to the Sonics would be nearly a lock).

This is all very unlikely, as the league’s first and foremost effort will be to find local ownership committed to New Orleans. But with an arena many consider to be far below NBA standards, in a market far below what most consider NBA standards, and with a fanbase showing a lack of support far below NBA standards, this could drag on, locking the NBA in a quagmire of their own.

This is a whole new ballgame.

Gregg Popovich gets ejected, Tim Duncan takes over coaching, Spurs still fall to Trail Blazers

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan was back in charge in San Antonio and the Spurs were flourishing under his leadership again.

Duncan was directing players on defensive assignments, encouraging them and providing needed leadership. But in the end, he couldn’t provide the same late-game heroics from the bench that he long did on the court.

CJ McCollum scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Spurs 121-116 on Saturday night to spoil Duncan’s first shot at coaching following Gregg Popovich’s ejection.

Duncan took over just 13 games into his first season as an assistant coach. Popovich was ejected after walking onto the court to berate official Jason Goldenberg over a non-call. Popovich calmly walked off the court following his first ejection of the season (you can see it in the video above).

On Twitter, this led to a debate as people tried to figure out who took over as coach. Assistant Coach Becky Hammon ran one time out, but it was Duncan — the assistant coach assigned to scout Portland on the staff — who was the main man. Duncan, Hammon and Will Hardy coached by committee, but it was Duncan calling the plays and screaming out instruction.

“It was cool,” Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. “It didn’t really feel like a huge difference. I think he did a good job. He took control. He helped lead us to a big lead.”

Popovich was asked if he considered having Becky Hammon take over to make history as the first woman to lead an NBA team.

“I’m not here to make history,” Popovich said.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 13 rebounds but the Spurs lost their fifth straight and fell to 5-8.

Damian Lillard added 22 points and Hassan Whiteside had 21 points for Portland (5-8), which rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap a four-game skid in San Antonio.

“We’ve blown leads before, so we kind of know what to expect,” McCollum said. “Once you do it, you’ve got to stay grounded, focus on the little stuff.”

Before the game, Popovich said coaching could only go so far and it was up to each player to take responsibility for his own mistakes and performance during this losing streak. Popovich put that responsibility squarely on the Spurs when he was ejected early in the third quarter.

McCollum had 23 of his points in the first half.

Bryn Forbes added 17 points and DeRozan and Rudy Gay added 16 apiece.

 

Jamal Crawford finds it “baffling” no team has called to sign him yet

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Iman Shumpert got his call from the Brooklyn Nets.

Carmelo Anthony got his call from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jamal Crawford is still waiting for his call, and he’s confused why it hasn’t yet come. From Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

“I know I can play,” Crawford told NBA.com, “and I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me…

“Physically, I feel better than I did last season,” he said. “I’m able to get my body together. My skill set is sharp. I feel that I’m good. My mindset is be patient and hopefully something good comes about it. I’ll be ready for the opportunity.”

Like Anthony, Crawford needs the right role, but he can help teams.

He’s not young at age 39 but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is a bigger concern to front offices, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season (including a 51-point game against Dallas). 

Some team is going to give Crawford a chance. Probably. Until then, he is staying ready, waiting for the phone to ring.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over not one but two Pacers (VIDEO)

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Once Giannis Antetokounmpo gets rolling downhill, good luck.

The Pacers found that out the hard way with not one but two players getting dunked on by the Greek Freak. On the same dunk.

Damn. That’s not fair.

It’s also not the only highlight play for Antetokounmpo on the night.

Milwaukee was up double digits on the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, and of course, Antetokounmpo was leading the way.

NBA teams enhancing fan experience with high-tech replays

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ATLANTA (AP) — NBA fans will soon be able to look up at the big videoboard above the court and get a different look at that deep Trae Young 3-pointer early in the first quarter. Or see a different perspective of that monstrous Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk.

In a reversal of roles, NBA teams are bringing the video game experience back to the live action – one arena at a time.

The Atlanta Hawks Friday will become the fifth NBA team to unveil significant financial investments into new 360-degree replay technology designed to eventually give fans the power to change the way they see the game.

“It’s the wave of the future,” said Hawks vice-president of live experience Joe Abercrombie, who says the technology also is “one more thing to give people a reason to come” to the arena.

The Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, Wizards and now the Hawks are using the technology to package and replay highlights in the arena during games. The Bulls, who host the 2020 All-Star game, are scheduled to come online next month.

“It’s very nice. I especially like that up-above view,” said Allen Hazlett a fan from New Berlin, Wisconsin, after seeing the new technology at Thursday night’s Bulls-Bucks game in Milwaukee.

“I think it’s an added benefit for the fans. For those that aren’t here all the time, to see that, I think, really ups the fan experience for them. I don’t think people realize until you go somewhere else and you don’t see it how lucky we are to have this arena. Everything here is state of the art.”

The six teams have joined NBA partner Intel, which provides the technology for the new video replays. The process begins with 38 5K video cameras strategically located around arenas. The high-tech cameras work together, bringing 360-degree replays to in-game video boards, TV broadcasts and fans’ devices through social media.

It’s the latest effort by teams to entice ticket-buying fans to come to new and renovated NBA arenas. Atlanta spent almost $200 million to renovate State Farm Arena; Milwaukee last year opened its $477 Fiserv Forum.

“For us it was really a no-brainer,” said Matt Pazaras, the Bucks’ senior vice president for business development and strategy.

“There’s nothing like seeing a Giannis dunk live, and if we can supplement that experience with this technology, great. But if people are experiencing the Bucks wherever they are, hours away or thousands of miles away, we can still make the experience better.”

NFL fans already have seen 360 replays on TV. Those replays start from the traditional side camera before swinging around to bring the viewer behind the quarterback.

Not that the NFL was first in line.

Gamers have been manipulating all-angle replays for years. Video game-savvy kids may roll their eyes when their parents come home from NBA games eager to share their stories about their first looks at 360-degree replays.

Those video games were designed to mimic the real games. Now it’s time for some role-reversal.

Rich Green, Intel’s director of sports, said popular video games Madden NFL 19 and NBA 2K20 “have camera angles and if you do replays, you can spin the camera around.”

Added Green: “Now we’re going to have that in live games. Now they can watch their favorite player and follow just him. It increases their level of engagement.”

The new technology isn’t just for the fans.

Coaches and scouts can make use of the enhanced replays to improve player evaluations.

“I think the future of this is going to weigh heavy for basketball operations and player development,” Abercrombie said.

Players now have better tools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Abercrombie said players who take dozens of shots in a practice can now study their shooting form in a new way.

“Players have asked ‘Can I shootaround and you take a look at the way I’m shooting and I want to spin around and take a look at the way I’m releasing,”‘ he said. “You think about traditional coverage of a game, there’s only four angles. Two on the floor and two up.

“When you think about 360 view and repetitive shooting over and over again, they can say ‘Oh, I see where my tendencies are.”‘

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, a former executive at Turner Entertainment, says TV sports leaders have dreamed for years of the day fans could control the way they watch a game.

“We’ve been reading for years that ‘You can be the director,”‘ Koonin said. “Actually, you can do that with this. The capabilities are unbelievable. … We think it’s the next generation of sports media.”

Green said there is more to come as new ways to utilize the technology will be found that are not yet possible.

Green said such high-tech terms as “voxels” – similar to pixels in the 3D age – and “volumetric video” will become common. He said fans will be able to follow a game from the viewpoint of their favorite player.

“How you watch a play could be completely different from how I watch it based on how we control what angle we want to see,” Green said. “That’s why we’re just scratching the surface.”