It’s a crucial year for the Hornets. Chris Paul can opt out of his contract with New Orleans after this season, and it goes without saying that the franchise would be devastated if Paul left the team. Here are a few ways that the Hornets can build on their spirited first-round performance against the Lakers last season:
– Get Healthy:
After battling injuries for the better part of two regular seasons and seeing his PER drop from 30 in 08-09 to 23.75 in 09-10 and 10-11, Chris Paul used the first round of the playoffs to show everybody that when CP3 is on his game, he’s as good as anybody in the league. Paul is almost unquestionably the league’s best ballhandler and one of its best passers, and he’s turned himself into one of the league’s best outside shooters as well.
If his knees can stay healthy for a full season, he could give the Hornets a fighting chance at getting into the playoffs and winning a series or two all by himself. He’s that good.
David West is CP3’s sidekick on the court, but a torn ACL suffered late in the year kept him out of the playoffs and could cause him to miss a significant portion of this season. If Paul and West both have healthy knees coming into the playoffs, the Hornets could make some noise. If they don’t, it’s hard to envision them as serious contenders.
– Get Players:
It’s not a state secret that the Hornets’ roster is incredibly thin. Outside of Paul, Jarrett Jack, Emeka Okafor, West, and Trevor Ariza, the Hornets don’t have much, and the team desperately needs to stock the roster with some quality role players and veterans (in other words, not Marco Belinelli), who can knock down the open shots that Paul creates and play some defense.
– Stay Defensive:
The secret of the Hornets’ return to the playoffs was their improved defense. Under Monty Williams, the Hornets were a top-10 team in defensive efficiency last season. If the Hornets can maintain their commitment to defense and become the best defensive team in the Western conference (only the Lakers and Mavericks had a higher defensive efficiency in the West than the Hornets did last season), and simply let a healthy CP3 do his thing on offense, they could end up being a very tough out in the playoffs.
I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.
There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.
Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.
This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.
Now we know what time the wild times start.
Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.
Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.
Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.
“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.
“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”
Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.
Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?
The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)
Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.
(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)
Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.
Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:
• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.
• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.
Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.
It apparently still happens.
Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:
After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”
This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.
It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.