How the Hornets can rebuild in five easy steps from the Chris Paul trade

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Are you a small market franchise that just lost the best player in franchise istory? Trying to understand how to move on after losing the best player to ever don your laundry? Are you the New Orleans Hornets?

Then have no fear! I’m here to show you the road to redemption in five easy steps. You, yes you can be back in the playoffs and hunting a title within three seasons. All you have to do is follow my easy recipe and send $49.99 to P.O. Box… what’s that? You need the money to cover the massive deficiency in sold tickets you’re going to suffer through now? OK, how about I drop some knowledge for free?

Step 1: Take a deep breath. OK, so the league just pushed you into trading the best player you’ve ever had for a good young player and a bunch of flotsam (no offense, promising young wing Al-Farouq Aminu). You may be tempted to start throwing some money out to fill the roster and try and compete. You may want to see if you can move a player for more. But take a step back. This is not the time for rash decisions. It’s like a breakup. You need to see if you can live on your own. Take your time and see what you do and don’t want from this relationship with the new players. Rushing into decisions maks a bad situation worse. Rebound relationships are bad, unless it’s actually rebounding, but even then, not like that’s going to save you.

Step 2: Determine what identity you want… two years from now. Don’t look at the team you have and try and determine what the goal is, because that’s like looking at a pile of wood and trying to figure out what kind of cabinets you’re going to get. Build the house first. But have in mind that you do want nice cabinets and you need to build the kitchen accordingly. A fast team? A slow team? A balanced team? Dangerous offense? Grind-it-out defense? Young and athletic? Veteran and experienced (hint: you don’t want to go that route)? Identify what you think makes a winner and gear your team in that direction.

Step 3: Clean the books no matter the win cost. Emeka Okafor has to go. Jarrett Jack has to go. There is no value to any player with a contract of any size. They have to go at some point. Bring in a D-Leaguer if you have to. Bring in whoever you need. But everything must go. You want a clean slate. Your coach will hate it, but this is part of it. There can be no big deals, no wasteful spending. You’re going to be terrible you might as well get the value for it. e

Step 4: The Draft is the key. The Hornets have a chance at two top-ten picks in the best draft class since 2003. They can remake their team if they get a top 3 pick and a pick between 7 and 12. There is virtually no chance the Wolves do better than that. Take the best player available that fits with the plan from Step 2. Want defense? Get Anthony Davis. Think you need a lockdown wing? MKG. Want a small forward who can fill it up? Harrison Barnes. Think center is the most important position? Draft Andre Drummond and then send him to the D-League for three years to lift weights. This draft class is your salvation. Combine it with Gordon and go forward.

Step 5: Let it grow organically. Don’t rush things. Sam Presti had plenty of opportunities to go after big name, big price free agents and trade assets, but he didn’t do it. He bided his time until his move was just right, acquiring the big man the Thunder thought they needed, then they swung. They caught Dirk on a bad year. But by not running into big contracts for veterans early to “get them over the hump,” they have the ability to re-sign all their young stud players and continue to build a supporting system. That’s how it’s done.

There’s a future in New Orleans. You just have to go out and get it.

San Antonio Spurs retire Tony Parker’s number

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Tim Duncan went up first. Then Manu Ginobili.

Monday night it was Tony Parker’s turn — all of the Spurs’ big three have now had their jerseys retired.

This is obviously well deserved.

The No. 28 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker went on to win four NBA titles, was named Finals MVP with one of those, plus was a six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA player. He was part of core that turned the Spurs into a dynasty.

Everyone was on hand for the ceremony, with coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan, and Ginobili all speaking before Parker, and all of them talking about their bond.

It was an emotional and touching night.

The next stop for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili? The Hall of Fame.

 

Kings’ point guard De’Aaron Fox out at least 3-4 weeks with ankle sprain

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The Sacramento Kings — everyone’s League Pass favorites — have been snake bitten this season. First it was Marvin Bagley III, who broke his right thumb in the season opener.

Now point guard De'Aaron Fox will be out at least 3-4 weeks (that’s when he’ll be re-evaluated) after suffering a grade three ankle sprain in practice Monday. From the official Sacramento press release:

An MRI conducted this afternoon on Kings guard De’Aaron Fox confirmed that he sustained a left ankle sprain at the end of practice on Monday. He will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks and his status will be updated as appropriate.

After a breakout season a year ago, this season Fox had come back to earth a little in new coach Luke Walton’s system — his turnovers were up and his efficiency had slipped, a 52.8 true shooting percentage that is close to the league average, for example — but he was still putting up 18.2 points and dishing out 7 assists a game. He has been the focal point of the Kings’ offense.

This is a blow to the Kings and their development. Sacramento had won 3-of-4 and seemed to be finding more of a groove.

Sacramento does have depth at the point guard spot, however. It signed Cory Joseph over the summer to a three-year, $37 million contract, plus it picked up a team option on Yogi Ferrell. They have some depth at the spot.

However, those players do not have Fox’s explosiveness. The Kings just will not be the same until he returns.

Greece coach Rick Pitino plans to enter 2020 Olympic qualifying without Giannis Antetokounmpo

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece coach Rick Pitino is planning on trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics without Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pitino officially took over as coach of the Greek national basketball team on Monday. He said he would leave a roster place open for Antetokounmpo in qualifying games but is not sure if he will be able to rely on his best player.

Greece will try to reach the Tokyo Olympics by winning a qualifying tournament. But the dates could clash with the NBA schedule, probably ruling out Antetokounmpo.

“It is a possibility he will not be playing with us in the qualifying round if he goes far (in the playoffs). I understood that coming into this situation, and that’s why it’s such a high mountain to climb,” Pitino said. “But Giannis is something, it’s a bridge we have to cross later on. But we are going to leave a roster spot even if he has to take my place.”

Pitino said he hoped to meet Antetokounmpo and his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, in March when the Bucks travel to Miami.

The 67-year-old Pitino is a veteran of the college game and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville. He has returned to Greece after coaching Athens club Panathinaikos last season and remains popular.

Pitino said he also felt that attachment.

“(Coaching Greece) is the crown jewel for me as a basketball coach,” Pitino said. “This is one of the greatest honors I’ve had as a coach. I consider this so special because it’s a mountain that is so worth climbing.

“And for the next eight months. I’m not American. I’m not Italian. I’m Greek. And that’s the way I’m going to carry myself. You won’t see anybody who will bleed every possession like I will bleed to try and win a game.”

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.