Archive for June, 2007

Good Job Hornets
June 29, 2007

Look, I was all for the Hornets drafting USC shooting guard Nick Young. But, when University of Kansas small forward Julian Wright was still on the board at #13 in the first round, i’m glad they grabbed him.

Wright reminds me of Richard Jefferson. Jefferson thrived in Byron Scott’s uptempo offense in New Jersey, Wright will thrive here.

ESPN Analysis:

Chad Ford: I love Julian Wright. I think he’s been underrated all year — he does so many things well. He’s not a great shooter, but he’s a guy who makes teams better. He’ll be very good running the floor with Chris Paul. I’m a little surprised they passed on Nick Young, who fit a need, but Wright was the best player left on the board.

Draft Projection: Top 10Similarities: A more aggressive and athletic Boris DiawNotes: Wright told reporters on March 25 that he was returning to Kansas for his junior season. He said the chances of him playing at Kansas next year were “100%.” However, he changed his mind and declared for the 2007 NBA Draft on April 9. Wright will hire an agent soon, ending his college eligibility.

Positives:
After two years in Lawrence, Wright might be ready for the NBA in 2007. Great athlete with very long arms that allow him to play much bigger. He plays with great energy, is a terrific defender and is an excellent passer for a player his size. Has the ability to be a point forward in the pros. He runs the floor very well, rebounds and just has a nose for the ball.

Negatives:
His jump shot is still a question mark. He has some consistency from 12 to 15 feet but really lacks any range beyond that. Almost unselfish to a fault. Doesn’t always dominate the way he could. Scouts wonder exactly what position he’ll play in the pros.

Summary:
Wright may be the most versatile player in the draft. He can guard and play four positions on the floor … but he needs to develop a more consistent offensive game. Look for him to be a Top 10 pick who could go as high as No. 3 depending on who’s picking in the draft.

Even the team’s second round selection (#43) was solid. University of Iowa combo guard Adam Haluska.

NBA Comparison: Craig Ehlo
Strengths:
Underrated athlete who doesn’t get the credit as he should … Active player who usually does a solid job of moving without the ball … Tough player who plays the game with a great attitude and most importantly continues fighting throughout games … Possesses great upper body strength, enabling him to convert difficult shots … Possesses legit NBA three point range on his jumper … Is a player who can get on a roll quickly … Shows a feel for the game that few players possess … Patient player who has learned how to allow the game come to him … Has improved greatly in utilizing screens to get his shot off … Great work ethic and a high character guy who has blossomed into a solid leader … Upper body strength enables him to finish after contact has occurred … Defensively Haluska does a solid job of playing the passing lanes for steals … Highly efficient player who plays within his strengths and rarely tries to exceed them … Quick release allows him the ability to get his shot off despite tough defenders … Crafty scorer who understands how to draw fouls from opponennts with ease … Unselfish player with decent court vision … Ball handling ability is refined … A top level free throw shooter … His ability to shoot the rock gives him a chance as a role player – shooter off the bench …

Weaknesses:
May struggle to find a good position in the NBA as upon appearance he looks to be closer to 6-3 1/2 – 6-4 … than the 6-5 he is listed … Defensively he struggles to defend opposing players with great quickness … While not terrible, his lateral quickness is below average … Needs to become more assertive and fight through screens and picks better … Not exceptionally creative generating offense for himself off the dribble. Keeps it simple … Doesn’t have a great first step which hampers him from gaining full separation from his defender, and thus less of a threat offensively … Lacks the body control to finish in traffic on his drives to the basket … Not a great shooter off the dribble as Haluska is better when his feet are set … Can go through periods where his jump shot is inconsistent … Does a good job of grabbing long rebounds but will not be a big rebounder on the NBA level … At times makes his shot harder than it has to be as he tries to sell contact to the refs by flailing his arms and legs … Potential isn’t great as he is close to maximizing it …

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Go North (Shore) George Shinn
June 25, 2007

Go North George Shinn

I just got back from a short vacation to Los Angeles.
Quickly, when traveling to la-la land…try to stay at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Eat at restaurants like Asia de Cuba and enjoy the nightlife at clubs like the Tropicana Bar.
In between burning the candle at both ends my brother and I drove 45 minutes south of LA to Anaheim to watch an Angels game.
In between laughing my butt off at the team’s rally monkey and watching Vlad Guerrero blast a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th something dawned on me.
Anaheim is a utopia for a sports owner!
Orange County, California is one of the richest counties in the country. It’s mostly middle to upper middle class families with entertainment dollars to spare.
The Angels annually out draw the Los Angeles Dodgers in overall attendance.
That said, I’ve got yet another idea for Hornets owner George Shinn.
Move your entire operation north!
Invest in the north shore.
Think about it. Next to Jefferson Parish, St. Tammany is the richest parish in the state.
St. Tammany is mostly middle to upper middle class families with entertainment dollars to spare. It’s also grown by nearly 60,000 people since Hurricane Katrina. Population estimates of St. Tammany now sit just under 300,000.
Look, I’m a 6th generation New Orleanian and never plan on moving out of the city but to ensure the long term future of the NBA in the greater New Orleans area I’m all for a relocation to St. Tammany Parish. Maybe it’s time for Shinn to start moving toward the money and not asking the money to come to him.
If Shinn remains in downtown New Orleans and tries to bring those from surrounding suburbs to him he’ll always struggle and play second fiddle to the Saints.
If he brings his product to a fast growing, wealthy parish he has a better chance at making it long term.
The only draw back I see is losing future NBA All-Star games. But after what happened in Las Vegas back in February is that such a bad thing? Plus, keeping the team long term is more important than luring future all-star games.
Think I’m crazy with this idea?
Think again, look at the world Champion Detroit Pistons.
When things were going bad in downtown Detroit, when people were scared to go into that city and the suburbs were flourishing that franchise went to the money and now calls Auburn Hills, Michigan home.
And don’t think the Pistons are a sports exception. The Phoenix Cardinals play in Glendale, Az. The Miami Dolphins play 30 minutes north of the city in Davie, Fl. And the Dallas Cowboys just built a billion dollar stadium in Arlington, TX.
In my opinion, families in St. Tammany would embrace the Hornets the way the families in Anaheim have embraced the Angels. The team would feel like the Hornets were theirs and you could increase the fans base even more by being active in their growing community and in places like Tangipahoa Parish.
Or you can stay in downtown New Orleans, play second fiddle to the Saints and struggle to get the suburb families to travel to the city 41 nights during the school year.
Now, my old boss always used to tell me, “don’t give me a problem, give me a solution.”
How should George Shinn get this done?
Start with asking New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to give the 6 million dollars the city has ear marked for a new practice facility to St. Tammany Parish. 2 weeks ago during his state of the city speech Nagin said he’d work with surrounding parishes for ‘1 Louisiana’.
Don’t just talk the talk Ray, walk the walk. Let everyone know that keeping the Hornets in the greater New Orleans area is a top priority and if that means giving the money that’s been sitting in escrow for years to another parish to get things done….then do it!
Shinn would then have to work with St. Tammany leaders to build a new state-of-the-art training complex. I’m a dreamer but I envision a complex built to honor flood elevation codes near the waterfront of Mandeville. The structure would also follow the strict historic guidelines of this quaint neighborhood.
From there state leaders could approve a feasability study regarding a new NBA stadium adjacent to the practice facility.
A feasability study came out of the state senate yesterday (June 6th, 2007) which will research a new NFL stadium in eastern New Orleans. So why not one for a Hornets new home in St. Tammany?
Can you picture a brand new stadium and practice facility built to look historic on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville?
Many people would say I’m not only crazy but delusional.
But realize this, many more than I believe that the Hornets are crazy to believe that their current business model is going to work in New Orleans long term.
It’s time to start thinking way outside the box.

This Guy Won’t Be There When The Hornets Pick…But…
June 25, 2007

This guy (Yi Jianlian) won’t be there when the Hornets draft in the first round, but if he slips to them at #13 would you take him?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRaXgRlEJkU

Yi JianlianPower Forward (Rank: #4) 7-0, 246 Age: 19 China ()Hometown: Shenzhen, China

Draft Projection: Top 10Similarities:

Yi’s skills just might be too good to keep him in Guangdong

Toni Kukoc Notes: Yi’s team, the Guangdong Tigers, announced in November 2006 that Yi will be released to enter the 2007 NBA Draft. While he’s listed as being born in 1987, many scouts believe that he’s actually born in 1984 making him 23 … not 19. That’s a big difference in NBA development terms. Is averaging 24.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg while shooting 57 percent from the field for the Guangdong Tigers this season.Positives: A long, athletic forward who is very skilled. Explosive leaper with good lateral quickness. He has long arms (7-foot-4 wingspan) and big hands, which allows him to play even bigger than he actually is. Excellent shooter and ballhandler. Fundamentally very sound. Excellent basketball IQ. Has really improved his rebounding. Hard worker.Negatives: Needs to add strength, especially to his upper body. Needs to play more physically. Needs to work on his post-up game. Not a great shot-blocker. More of a face-the-basket type of 4.

Summary: Yi is the best international prospect in the draft this year. He has a ton of experience playing in international competitions and at the highest level in China. Given his upside and size he’s a lock for the Top 10 pick who could go as high as No. 3 according to several NBA executives.

Hornets Draft
June 25, 2007

Who will the team select Thursday night in the 1st round during the annual NBA Draft?

Here are a few of the top contenders:

Nick Young: Shooting Guard-USC
http://nbadraft.net/admincp/profiles/nickyoung.html

Rodney Stuckey: Shooting Guard-Eastern Washington
http://nbadraft.net/admincp/profiles/rodneystuckey.html

Thaddeus Young: Small Forward-Georgia Tech
http://nbadraft.net/admincp/profiles/thaddeusyoung.html

Derrick Byars: Small Forward-Vanderbilt
http://www.nbadraft.net/admincp/profiles/derrickbyars.html

Jason Smith: Power Forward-Colorado State
http://nbadraft.net/admincp/profiles/jasonsmith.html

College World Series To New Orleans?
June 22, 2007

The time has come for the College World Series to leave Omaha.

Zesto’s, located just outside Rosenblatt Stadium, is an Omaha institution.
There, it needed to be said.
And I did so at the risk of never again being able to show my face at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, or take a stroll through the Old Market, or drink in the slice of Americana that is Zesto’s.
And I also did so at the risk of seriously offending some of my ESPN brethren who (to put it kindly) wax poetic about the prospect of spending nearly two weeks in Nebraska every year.
But seriously, why should Omaha have a stranglehold on one of the premier college sports championship events?
Some would argue that it is — or has become — a top-tier event because of everything that Omaha brings to the table each June. And they would be right. Seemingly everyone associated with this event is as welcoming and hospitable as the chamber of commerce ads would lead you to believe.
But that doesn’t mean another community couldn’t take all of the great things that already exist about the CWS and put its own stamp on the annual festival.
UC Irvine’s extra-inning heroics would be a great story in any town in America. So, too, would Oregon State’s run from nowhere to last year’s national title.
It’s no different than George Mason’s historic run to the 2006 Final Four in Indianapolis.
Ah, Indy.
It’s home base for the NCAA and it’s constantly striving to be the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World” — making it no surprise that the nonprofit Indiana Sports Corporation would love an opportunity to have a piece of the great story that the CWS has become.
Indianapolis also has Victory Field.
Opened in 1996 in a section of downtown that rivals everything Omaha has to offer, it is “the best of everything in one ballpark,” according to Baseball America. And Sports Illustrated called it “the best minor league ballpark in America.”

An NCAA championship on Wrigley Field? It’s worth thinking about.
I don’t care if the CWS moves to Indy. I really don’t.
There are plenty of other great minor league parks that could host this event. There’s AT&T Bricktown Ballpark (Oklahoma City), AutoZone Park (Memphis), Dell Diamond (Round Rock, Texas), Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Louisville Slugger Field and Zephyr Field (New Orleans).
Let the record show that Rosenblatt Stadium, home to the Omaha Royals, is also a minor league park. And while it wouldn’t be fair to call it a fixer-upper, the old ballyard on 13th Street clearly needs some fixing up.
Rosenblatt has undergone nearly $35 million in renovations over the past two decades, with another $25 million proposed if College World Series of Omaha Inc. can get a commitment from the NCAA to host the Division I baseball championships beyond the current agreement that expires in 2010.
There’s also been talk of putting the $25 million toward building a new ballpark in downtown Omaha, but the city politics and the prospect of leaving Rosenblatt may derail that idea before it ever really gets off the ground.
For a radical idea, how about Chicago?
It’s unlikely that an MLB ballpark would be available for the entire CWS run, but two stadiums could work. Play the elimination games on the South Side at U.S. Cellular Field and then move the championship series to Wrigley Field.
Go ahead and try to convince anyone that college baseball players wouldn’t approach a shot at playing in front of the ivy-covered walls with the same fervor and zeal that they currently do in Omaha.
For its part, the NCAA has been relatively silent on the matter. Dennis Poppe, the managing director for baseball, told ESPN.com, “I guess when you have a commitment and a good relationship, it’s kind of like a good marriage. Why would you look for another one?”
Rotating venues seems to work OK for the Final Fours and the Frozen Four, and those events are perennial sellouts. So why wouldn’t it work for baseball?
For the people who can imagine this event being played only in Omaha, the list of reasons could fill a book.
Ultimately, the decision lies with the NCAA. And given the agendas, bureaucracy and conflicts involved, it’s too early to tell how this will play out.
The best of both worlds might be to institute a rotation that includes Omaha as a permanent fixture every two or three years.
That would open up the College World Series to some other great venues and cities while still keeping a renovated Rosenblatt and Omaha in the mix.
After all, there’s only one Zesto’s.

David Albright is the senior coordinator for college sports at ESPN.com and can be reached at david.albright@espn3.com.

Saints Lineup
June 19, 2007

ANALYSIS: Saints’ starting lineup still anybody’s guess
By LARRY HOLDER

Roster chopping has already begun for the New Orleans Saints as veterans Michael Lewis and Willie Whitehead found themselves without a team by week’s end.

It certainly won’t be the last of the cuts as the Saints make the transition from organized team activities to the sweat box known as training camp at Millsaps College in Jackson. While there aren’t as many jobs up for grabs, considering the vast majority of starters return for 2007, there will be a logjam for some spots starting at the end of July.

Secondary

This is the most obvious spot as the duel between Fred Thomas and Jason David began as soon as David came to New Orleans from Indianapolis. Thomas will go to camp as the starter, but look for David to get increasingly more time with the first team.

Thomas has played solid during the OTAs and the full-squad minicamp, but that’s a little deceiving considering the team was in T-shirts and shorts.
Safety Roman Harper appears completely healthy following a torn ACL last season and should be safe at either free or strong safety. The race between third-year starter Josh Bullocks and newly-signed Kevin Kaesviharn will be one to watch.

Kevin Kaesviharn, Cincinnati

While Thomas became the scapegoat for many of the deep passing plays, Bullocks did his part to make Thomas look lost and toasted. Kaesviharn is a proven playmaker and could be shifted into the first team about the same time as David.

Wide Receiver

The names may not bowl you over, but the Saints have a slew of solid receivers going into camp.
Marques Colston is the undisputed No. 1 receiver, and an improved Devery Henderson seems well on his way to grabbing the No. 2 role. Veteran David Patten saw tons of action as the Saints’ third wideout, and if his health holds up, Patten should fit in nicely at the slot.

That leaves Jamal Jones, Terrance Copper, Lance Moore, Rhema McKnight, Dante Ridgeway and first-round pick Robert Meachem to compete for probably two slots. Copper and Jones were the winners last season, but Moore’s chances increased when Lewis got booted.

There’s no doubt about Meachem making the team, so it realistically means only one of the bunch could be safe. Meachem has been an obvious disappointment thus far, but those troubles may decrease when he hits Jackson completely healthy.

Defensive Tackle

No one is really safe in this group. Hollis Thomas signed a four-year deal a couple of months ago, but the team isn’t thrilled with Hollis’ weight issues. Brian Young had glimpses of solid play, but hasn’t blown anyone away.

Kendrick Clancy started 26 games the last two seasons with the New York Giants and in Arizona. Acquiring Clancy should be a wake-up call to both Thomas and Young.

Kendrick Clancy
Tight End
Mark Campbell, Billy Miller and John Owens all saw significant field time during the Saints’ ruin to the NFC Championship game. Adding pass-catcher Eric Johnson in free agency will throw one of the three returnees for a loop.
Other Races
Brian Simmons and Mark Simoneau will battle for the starting middle linebacker gig. Simoneau proved to be solid, but bringing in Simmons from Cincinnati as the Saints’ first free agent during the offseason shows the team is searching for an upgrade… Punter will be up for grabs as Jacksonville Jaguar punter Chris Hanson will go heads up with second-year Saint Steve Weatherford. Weatherford was serviceable a season ago and may have the advantage… I’m convinced the Saints’ backup quarterback is not on the squad yet. Jamie Martin looks old and neither Jason Fife nor Tyler Palko will do. Drew Bledsoe is a definite possibility considering his ties to Sean Payton.

Hey Hornets, Sign Luke Walton
June 19, 2007

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

ESPN Analysis:
Luke Walton, Lakers He chose the right time to have a breakout year. The fourth-year forward has improved tremendously as a scorer, which in turn has made his devastating passing skills even more of a threat.
On the downside, he’s a better fit in a read-and-react system like L.A.’s than on a one-on-one team, so not every club will be a good match. Plus, he’s only had one good season so teams shouldn’t get too giddy with the bidding.

Fletcher’s opinion: SIGN LUKE WALTON:
Look, the Hornets have made it very clear that they will not spend mega buck in free agency this summer.
So here is a player, on the rise, that they can get for a reasonable price.
He could step right in and start on a veteran team.
He’s an unselfish player who can d-up and score a little bit.
Imagine a line-up consisting of:
1. Chris Paul
2. Luke Walton
3. Peja Stojakovic
4. David West
5. Tyson Chandler
In my opinion being a good coach or general manager means finding a free agent player before he hits his prime.
I believe that Luke Walton is on the cusp of being a very good player and can help this team make the playoffs next year.