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

10 Comments

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. “

Brad Stevens says Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward should be fully cleared by Aug. 1

Associated Press
1 Comment

Everyone watching the Boston Celtics in the playoffs kept thinking the same thing: Add Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into this lineup next summer and — bang — instant contender.

That leads to the question: Just where are Irving and Hayward on their recovery tracks? Glad you asked.

That’s a good sign for the Celtics. And for fans of good basketball.

One word of caution: Progression when adding stars into a system is not necessarily linear. Or, to put it more plainly, throwing superstars who need the ball in their hands into the mix comes with its own set of adjustments and challenges, things do not always go smoothly or as planned. There could be some fits and starts as the Celtics figure things out next season. (And that’s not even getting into the Kawhi Leonard rumors, which are legitimate but also a long way from reality as of today.)

If you were going to trust one coach to figure it out and get guys to buy in, Brad Stevens would be your guy. The Celtics are rightfully going to enter next season as the bar to clear in the East (free agency depending). Just don’t expect things to go smoothly from day one, because that’s just not how basketball or life work.

Michael Porter Jr. says his injury situation “got exaggerated a lot”

Getty Images
1 Comment

If healthy, Michael Porter Jr. might be as talented as anyone in this draft. He’s a 6’11” wing or small ball four who can shoot from the NBA three-point line and has the athleticism to get up and down the floor then finish with authority.

But health is a concern. There was the back injury which forced a microdiscectomy surgery that forced Porter to miss all but three games last season. Back injuries in big men are tricky things and can linger. Then last week there was an off-again-on-again workout and medical evaluation with the pause due to a hip issue. Was that soreness tied to the back issue?

In an interview on ESPN radio, Porter played down the injury concerns.

Former Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., who had issues with his hip and back, said Monday that he’s “feeling great” and wouldn’t dismiss the idea of working out for teams this week ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft.

“It’s a possibility,” Porter said on The Will Cain Show on ESPN Radio. “I feel good. … I got evaluated. I let the doctors come in and do all their tests on me. I’m feeling good. I think the teams are comfortable, but I might get a couple workouts in.”

As for last week’s hip issue.

“It was just a little sore, so I told [my agent] my hip was kind of sore and he just wanted to shut it down for a couple of days,” Porter said. “And then people took that and kind of ran with it, saying, you know, my hip was injured, I couldn’t get out of bed. … None of that was really true. I was just sore and I wanted to take a couple of days off. So that’s all that was.”

Porter is the mystery man in this draft — and those guys always seem to rise and have someone fall in love with them. It’s hard to imagine Porter going lower than eighth, but he has been linked to teams as high as the Kings at No. 2.

Porter is the kind of player that some team lower in the draft may fall in love with and be willing to trade up to the top five to snag him. The health is the question. An NBA front office member who has seen Porter’s medical reports described them to NBC Sports as “fine.”

There are also concerns about Porter’s grit and toughness. He has the reputation of having been insulated and having been a bit of a diva, what happens when he gets to an NBA team where he is not the first (and, at first at least, maybe not the second) option. What happens when he has to play more of a role and have it not be about him and his touches? Teams are asking about that.

Despite the concerns, there will be a team taking him in the first half of the lottery. It could be a home run. Or… that’s what makes the draft interesting.

Report: As expected, Jamal Crawford declines $4.5 million player option with Minnesota

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jamal Crawford wants a bigger payday, and after a solid season scoring 10.3 points per game for Minnesota last season, he might get it despite a tight market. That’s why what happened on Monday was expected.

Crawford opted out of the final year of his contract with the Timberwolves, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford has declined his $4.5 million player option for next season and will become a free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Crawford, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year, will become one of the top reserve scorers on the open market after facing Monday’s deadline to decide on his option.

The concern for teams is that Crawford is 38 and already showing some decline in his skills and game. Crawford can still be productive, but teams will be leery of offering more than two years guaranteed on his contract. And for a guy who comes off the bench — even a three-time Sixth Man of the Year — teams are not going to spend big.

Crawford may also just be looking for a new team chemistry and role, something at this stage in his career he should be able to get.

Enes Kanter’s father sentenced to 15 years in jail in ongoing political dispute

Getty Images
2 Comments

The dictatorial Turkish government has issued an arrest warrant for Knicks big man Enes Kanter because he is an outspoken opponent of Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter is not foolish enough to go home to be arrested (and likely tortured), he may never see his homeland again.

Kanter’s family had to disavow their son and his beliefs. That apparently was not enough. Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Turkey for “membership in a terror group,” the country’s official news agency reported Monday.

Enes Kanter believes to be a politically motivated attempt to go at him. Kanter released this statement.

The Turkish government’s shots at Kanter are not new. Last summer the Turkish government revoked Kanter’s passport while he was abroad, forcing American diplomats (with some help from the NBA) to step in and prevent him from being sent back to his native country and arrested.

All of this is because Kanter is a follower of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkish president Erdogan — who is essentially a dictator now, and runs a country where human rights abuses are rampant — blames Gulen for masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, and used that as an excuse for a crackdown and consolidation of power.

Using or dividing family members to try to gain political advantage or make a political statement is abhorrent, anywhere it happens. Unfortunately, Kanter is caught in the middle of it and there is little he can do.