Archive for November, 2012

Who’ll Replace Sean Payton?
November 23, 2012

Okay, so that headline is a little sensationalized.

It should read — who’ll replace Sean Payton…if he actually leaves for the Cowboys?

Look, I truly believe Sean Payton is remaining in New Orleans.  I think he’ll agree to a contract extension before the new year. 

If I had to put odds on Payton remaining with the organization he turned into a winner — I’d put those odds at 98%.

I think Payton is in an amazing situation in New Orleans.  He’s one of the top paid coaches in the NFL, he’s got a locker room full of talented players who love him, a future Hall of Fame quarterback at the top of the career, a GM who allows him to call the shots about football related matters and a supportive owner who doesn’t meddle into football ops.

All that said, Payton is a family man, and his two children reside full-time in Dallas — so the 2% chance he bolts NOLA for Big-D is something Saints fans should (and are) paying close attention to.

So, let’s talk doomsday scenarios.  If Dallas bombs out and misses the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive season and if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fires coach Jason Garrett and if Sean Payton decides to return to Texas to coach America’s Team and to be closer to his children — what would the Saints do?

How do you replace the guy that turned around one of the worst franchises in NFL history?

The simple answer is — Payton is irreplaceable.  But, if the Saints ever had to move on without Payton, who would owner Tom Benson hire?

1. Joe Vitt:

Since Vitt returned from his suspension the Saints are playing very well.  If Payton left for Dallas — and he didn’t take Vitt with him — Vitt makes the most sense to become the Saints head coach.  The Saints are built to win, so keeping things intact is important.  Vitt can run the team — just as he’s been doing in Payton’s absence and the Saints top assistants can continue to work with their respective units.  Hiring Vitt keeps the organization on the winning track it’s been on.  

2. Steve Spagunolo:

After covering Spags this season it’s easy to see why he was hired as the St. Louis Rams head coach.  He’s a knowledgeable, personable, smart, well-respected coach.  Promoting Spags changes the dynamic of the Saints a bit — Spags doesn’t come with all the machismo and bravado of Payton.  Spagnuolo reminds me more of Tom Coughlin and Tony Dungy — as compared to Payton being like Jon Gruden and Bill Parcells.  Having learned from one stint as a head coach — I believe Spags would be a good choice for Saints head coach if Payton left for the Cowboys. 

3 & 4: Jon Gruden or Jay Gruden:

Former Raiders and Bucs coach Jon Gruden is a friend of the New Orleans organization and if you watch him at all on ESPN — a true fan of Drew Brees and the Saints.  I think Tom Benson’s first call would be to Jon Gruden to see if he wanted to replace his friend Sean Payton. I also think Gruden would have interest in the job.  In all honesty, if Payton left and Gruden were interested I think he should be the first choice.  As I stated earlier, the Saints are built to win — so Gruden’s intensity, work ethic and knowledge may be just what this organization needs to remain a Super Bowl contender.  That said, I think Jay Gruden may be the better fit for the Saints.  Like Payton 6 years ago, Jay Gruden is a tremendous offensive mind who’s paid his dues coming up through the Arena League and the United Football League.  Jay Gruden passed on the opportunity to interview for head coaching positions in Jacksonville and St. Louis last season.  If the Saints approached Jay Gruden, he’d bolt Cincy as offensive coordinator.

5. Winston Moss:

A former Saints assistant coach under Jim Haslett — Moss has served as Mike McCarthy’s assistant head coach in Green Bay since 2007.  McCarthy of course knew Moss from NOLA because he too was on Jim Haslett’s staff.  I’m not sure of the relationship between Mickey Loomis and Moss — but if it’s a good one this could be an easy decision.  Moss would take over an offensive situation similar to what’s he’s used to in Green Bay — and perhaps Moss could help Steve Spagnuolo breathe life into a defense that’s been the Saints Achilles heel each of the past three seasons. 

In the end, I think the 20 minutes it took me to write this blog were a total waste of time because I think Sean Payton will be coaching the Saints for many years to come.  But, if he goes, you now have a few names to toss around.

 

I Think I Like A Contract Extension For Hornets General Manager Dell Demps
November 17, 2012

Let me start by saying that I truly like Dell Demps.

He and I have had several great talks about the NBA and about obscure foreign players.

I’m also pretty sure I like the fact that Demps got a contract extension from new Hornets owner Tom Benson today — the reason: Demps pros outweigh his cons.

Look, no professional sports executive is perfect — and Demps is still very much a work in progress — but now that the Hornets have stability I believe Demps best years are ahead of him.

When looking at Dell Demps you’ve got to break his Hornets career into two categories — before Tom Benson (BTB) and after Tom Benson (ATB).

Demps took over in 2010 at a very difficult time.  Demps started with a disgruntled star (Chris Paul) and a broke owner (George Shinn) who’d – in an unprecedented move – sell his franchise back to the NBA.

The moves Demps made BTB were aimed at keeping Chris Paul happy and doing everything possible to keep the Hornets in playoff contention.  Making sure the team won helped keep the franchise profitable.

The Bad (Before Tom Benson):

Demps first big move as GM was trading Darren Collison and James Posey (in a 3-team deal) for Trevor Ariza.  Ariza was a nice cog in the Hornets playoff run against the Lakers and the move made CP3 happy — but the move lacked foresight.  Demps should have realized Paul was never going to stay in NOLA and kept Collison.  Collison has since helped the Indiana Pacers make a nice playoff run and he’s currently the starting PG for the Dallas Mavericks averaging 14 points and 7 assists per game.

Later in his first season Demps traded local product Marcus Thornton to Sacramento for Carl Landry.  Hornets insiders say Paul never cared for Thornton and as a defensive-minded coach I can guarantee Monty Williams wasn’t crying when Thornton got shipped out.  But Marcus Thornton can play.  I think Demps and Williams should have worked harder to keep the former LSU Tiger.  To me, Thornton is an electric scorer off the bench — a guy who can change a game if he’s hot — he was also young and on a good contract.  Trading good young players on good contracts is never advised in the NBA — and Demps did it twice with the Collison and Thornton deals.

Dell traded the Hornets 2011 1st round draft pick.  The pick was traded for Jerryd Bayless — but Bayless was eventually moved for Jarrett Jack.  Small market NBA teams can’t trade 1st round draft picks.  Demps came from San Antonio so he knows this.  Small market NBA teams have to develop players.  No NBA team does a better job of drafting and developing than the Spurs.  Demps made a mistake moving that 1st round pick.

Demps first draft — in 2011 — he was totally handcuffed.  The NBA owned the team and sold the Hornets pick (Josh Harrellson) to the New York Knicks to get the Hornets franchise some much needed cash.

The “first” Chris Paul trade with the Houston Rockets and LA Lakers in December of last year was reportedly Dell Demps deal.  Had the NBA allowed the deal to go through the Hornets would have labored into 7th or 8th place in the Western Conference (and never landed Anthony Davis) and been stuck with the bad contracts of Luis Scola and Kevin Martin.  Sure, the Hornets would have gotten Goran Dragic in a deal but as an unrestricted free agent their was no guarantee he’d have re-signed.  The NBA made the smart move and nixed Demps deal.

My final Demps (Before Tom Benson) fail is the 2012 NBA trade deadline.  Demps failed to move Chris Kaman or Carl Landry — despite knowing neither would be back with the team this season.  Every NBA team has stories of 2nd round picks that become starters — Demps should have at least gotten 2nd round picks

The best move Demps made prior to Tom Benson taking over was trading Darius Songaila and Craig Brackens to Philly for Jason Smith and Willie Green.  Green is gone but Smith has emerged as a team leader and one of Monty’s most valuable players off the bench.  Some people tell me “Dell traded for Greivis Vasquez and he’s a solid player.”  That’s true, but Quincy Pondexter is the player who was traded for Vasquez and he’s found a nice role off the bench for a very good (undefeated) Memphis team — so the Vasquez/Pondexter deal is a push.

Now, all that said — Demps has done some nice work since Tom Benson bought the franchise and Demps has been allowed to do his job.

The Good (After Tom Benson):

Dumping Trevor Ariza & Emeka Okafor was a genius move.  The Hornets had to eat the final year of Rashard Lewis’ terrible contract but Demps saved $21 million next year when he dumped Ariza/Okafor onto the Wizards.

Signing Ryan Anderson.  I’ve been a fan of Anderson since former UNO coach Joe Pasternack told me about him.  Pasternack came from Cal and coached Anderson in Berkeley.  Anderson is a quality player and true professional who makes the Hornets better on the floor and in the locker room — his contract is also manageable.

Signing Robin Lopez — while Lopez will never be his twin brother (Nets center Brook Lopez) — Robin is a good player on a good contract.

I also like the selection of Austin Rivers with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.  Demps can’t get credit for #1 pick Anthony Davis — Demps had nothing to do with the ping pong balls falling the Hornets way in the NBA Draft Lottery.  I know Rivers has struggled at times but I’m a believer — so in my opinion — this is a good move for Demps.

Demps has also positioned the Hornets for the future.  The team has only $34 million dollars committed to salary for next season.  The Hornets don’t have to use the king’s ransom they’ll have but they can if the right player (or deal) comes along.

Demps has made one big mistake since Tom Benson became owner.  Demps urged Benson to match the Phoenix Suns offer to restricted free agent Eric Gordon.  Four years, $58 million fully guaranteed.

Right now, Demps, Hornets Executive GM Mickey Loomis and Benson are being patient with Gordon and saying and doing all the right things.  Hopefully their patience pays off and Gordon returns to be a all-star type player and leader.

I don’t think Gordon will ever be the guy the Hornets envision.

As I wrote over and over this summer the Hornets would have been better off moving on without  Gordon. The Hornets should have made an offer to restricted free agent Brook Lopez — or unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic — or just saved their money.

Gordon’s absence rushes the development of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.  Gordon’s absence means Monty Williams has no go-to guy at the end of games.  Gordon’s absence makes fans question “what’s going on with this franchise!!!”

All said, I truly believe Dell Demps deserved a contract extension.  He deserves a fair chance to build a team.  Dell is a good man and a good NBA executive who understands the league.

I think Dell can become a great GM.  Look, Dell’s the guy who — while with San Antonio — scouted and drafted foreign players such as Goran Dragic, Tiago Splitter and Nando deColo.  He found sleepers like George Hill from IUPUI.  He’s credited with helping develop Tony Parker.  Demps has got to get back to his roots — stockpiling picks, scouting and drafting European players, building a team through the draft and discovering quality players on the way up instead of on the way down.  The next 10 months are crucial for Dell.  The moves Dell makes at the trade deadline, the player (s) he drafts next summer (likely in the top 10) and any free agent signings could define his tenure.

{Sidebar: One guy I think Demps has his eye on, and for good reason: Joe Ingles — a 25 year old SG/SF from Australia currently playing in Spain.  Ingles has an NBA opt-out next summer and he could be the reason the Hornets didn’t pickup Al-Farouq Aminu’s option.}

So — good luck Dell — I like the fact that you got a contract extension — I Think.

Hornets (VERY EARLY) 2013 Mock Draft Projection
November 15, 2012

ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks his top 100 prospects for the 2013 NBA Draft.  Player I like for the Hornets is #9 — and doesn’t Steven Adams just sound like a Monty Williams player?

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/blog/_/name/nba_draft/id/8634837/ranking-top-freshmen-america-nba-draft

Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Top 100 Rank: 9

Adams is a tough, physical big man who is still learning the nuances of the American game. The Kiwi import is earning big minutes from Jamie Dixon right away and already looks like he could step in and play defense in the NBA. His defense alone might get him drafted in the lottery. If he can show some offensive game as well, he’s got the talent to be a top-10 pick.

LSU to Rose Bowl or Fiesta Bowl Makes Perfect Sense
November 12, 2012

LSU won’t be playing for a BCS National Championship this season but the Tigers could end up in one of college football’s most coveted bowl games.

Stay with me — With Alabama being upset by Texas A&M the Southeastern Conference needs help to get into the championship game.

Lets work off the assumption the top ranked teams in the country remain ranked #1 and #2.  Kansas State and Oregon are currently in the top spots — both teams have perfect 9-0 records.

This blog is based on K-State and Oregon playing in the BCS National Championship game — if that happens it’s very very possible that LSU slides into the Rose Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl. 

As I write this I think LSU heads to Arizona and the Fiesta Bowl — below is an explanation why:

BCS National Championship Game:

#1 Oregon vs. #2 Kansas State

Right now K-State is the projected #1 team in the BCS Poll — but if #2 Oregon chalks up wins over Stanford and Oregon State to close the regular season and gets another victory over UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 Championship game than the Ducks move to #1. 

If Oregon moves to #1 the Rose Bowl gets 1st pick for a replacement in the BCS pecking order.

With the 1st pick their is no doubt the Rose Bowl would take an undefeated or 1-loss Notre Dame.  The ‘Grand Daddy’ gets a nice match-up with the Fighting Irish taking on the Big Ten Champion (Nebraska or Wisconsin).

Since the Fiesta Bowl loses Big XII Champion Kansas State and because the Wildcats are ranked #2 in the BCS the Fiesta Bowl gets the 2nd pick in the BCS pecking order.

With a projected 10-2 overall record the Texas A&M Aggies become a very strong possibility here, but I think LSU gets the call from the Fiesta Bowl officials.  A&M has electric QB Johnny Manziel and the Aggies travel, but LSU is a proven commodity and the Tigers have one of the best teams in the country.

People may be asking “why wouldn’t the Fiesta Bowl take a Big XII at-large team?”  The reason, the highest ranked Big XII team will be either Oklahoma or Texas.  Both of those teams have played in so many Fiesta Bowls it’s hard to count — so the Sooners and Longhorns fans won’t be excited about a trip to the desert.  Plus, the Big XII just signed a long term deal with the Sugar Bowl so the Fiesta Bowl has no obligation to that conference. 

What about Alabama and Georgia?  Barring any unforeseen bumps in the road, The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are set to meet in the SEC Championship game the first week of December.  I truly believe that the winner goes to the Sugar Bowl and the loser is out of the BCS.  Big bowl games don’t like to take teams coming off a loss.  

Now, if K-State and Oregon remain unbeaten and K-State manages to retain it’s #1 BCS ranking than the Fiesta Bowl gets the first pick in the BCS pecking order — and they’d take Notre Dame.  That would send LSU to the Rose Bowl against the Nebraska/Wisconsin winner.  Texas A&M would also be in the mix but the Rose Bowl and LSU flirted a few years ago so I think the Tigers would get the nod. 

Some people have asked me “how can LSU go to the Rose Bowl instead of a Pac-12 at-large team?” 

Great question.

Based on projections the Pac-12 won’t have a second team in the BCS.  The Pac-12 will have Oregon in the BCS Championship Game — but because the conference won’t have another team in the BCS top 15 rankings the Rose Bowl would have to select a team from another conference. 

Again, ALL THIS COULD CHANGE based on upsets and such — but using the current standings and projections here is how I see the BCS unfolding:

BCS National Championship Game:

#1 Oregon vs. #2 Kansas State

Fiesta Bowl:

LSU vs. Clemson

Rose Bowl:

Notre Dame vs. Nebraska/Wisconsin winner

Sugar Bowl:

Alabama vs. Oklahoma (or Texas if Sooners get upset by Oklahoma State in Bedlam)

Orange Bowl:

Florida State vs. Rutgers

Some people have projected that the Sugar Bowl will take Clemson as an at-large team — but because the Sugar Bowl just singed a big deal pitting the SEC vs. Big XII — I think the Sugar Bowl does everything possible to match schools from those leagues.  

We’ll see how it all shakes out.  I know SEC fans are pulling hard for two of the three remaining unbeaten (Oregon, K-State, ND) teams to lose.  If things go crazy and teams start losing left and right and a 1-loss team gets into the BCS title game — it’ll be a SEC 1-loss team (Alabama or Georgia).

 

 

 

 

The Eric Gordon Disaster
November 8, 2012

In my opinion, Saints/Hornets Executive General Manager Mickey Loomis is one of the best (if not the best) capologists in NFL history.

No one knows the salary cap system better than Loomis and no one makes deals work in that system better than Loomis.

The Saints are never handcuffed salary-wise and the team never has to make questionable decisions based on salary.

That’s why I’m so perplexed as to why someone like Loomis would sign off on the Hornets 4-year, 58 million dollar deal to Eric Gordon.

Loomis is an NBA novice but he’s a smart enough executive to know the risk of such a questionable contract — especially in the NBA — where unlike the NFL, all of the money is fully guaranteed to the player.

As I write this column, the Gordon deal is one that could hurt the Hornets organization for years to come.

Since last spring I’ve written countless blogs about Eric Gordon.

Like most, I started out as a champion of the dynamic 23 yard old — but my tune quickly changed.

My reason for jumping off the EG10 band wagon before anyone else was two-fold.

First, once Gordon made unsavory comments regarding the New Orleans Hornets organization during free agency it became crystal clear that he did not want to help this organization move forward in it’s rebuilding effort.

(Side bar: I lobbied non-stop for the Hornets to work with Gordon and his agent (Rob Pelinka) on a sign-and-trade — but the Hornets stood firm on their belief that Gordon was the future of the franchise.) 

Second, Gordon’s injury issues were a major red-flag for me.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, both concerns regarding Gordon have come to fruition.

The franchise announced Wednesday night that Gordon will spend the next 4-6 weeks in Los Angeles rehabbing his sore knee.  Why LA?  No One knows, but instead of forcing the player you’re paying $14.8 million annually to stay in New Orleans, rehab with the team and stay connected — the Hornets have cowered to Gordon once again.

Gordon missed all but 9 games last year due to minor knee issues.  Gordon has missed all of training camp, preseason and the first 4 games of the regular season due to knee soreness.

My prediction is that Gordon returns to the court sometime in December — plays a few games — then once again experiences knee soreness.  At that point, Gordon will decide to try microfracture surgery to alleviate the constant pain he feels.  If Gordon goes this route he won’t play again until the end of the 2014 season — if ever again.

Of course, that’s a doomsday scenario — but it’s realistic.

So, what kind of situation are the Hornets in now that they’ve seemingly purchased damaged good?

First off, a trade is out of the question.  Gordon can be traded to any NBA team (except Phoenix) on January 15th — but no one will trade for Gordon.

In today’s NBA — with stiffer luxury-tax penalties and franchises leery of taking on a bad deal — their is no market for Gordon.  An oft-injured SG with bad knees who’ll never play up to his contract — IMMOVABLE!

I can’t even find a team with enough bad, expiring contracts to make a trade work.

For better or worse, The Hornets are stuck with EG10.

The good news is — looking at the numbers, Gordon’s absurd contract is not as horrible as you’d imagine

Because of shrewd moves by Loomis and GM Dell Demps the Hornets have only $34 million committed to salaries next season.

Gordon’s extension also expires the same time Anthony Davis is due for a contract extension — so EG10’s contract will not keep the team from offering Davis a max-deal.

The problems with Gordon’s deal are as follows:

Player Development: The Hornets envisioned a backcourt of Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon.  If Gordon can’t be counted on does the team develop Rivers as a shooting guard?  Does the team try to sign a free agent point guard?  If the Hornets have a top-5 draft pick do they select a talented SG like Shabazz Muhammad from UCLA?  Picking Muhammad seems foolish if Gordon is healthy but smart if he’s not.  The uncertain Gordon situation throws the entire rebuilding effort off course.

Free Agency: The Hornets have money to spend but they have to be careful.  They can’t over-extend themselves in the summer of 2013 or 2014 because they have to make sure they have enough money for Davis (and possibly Rivers).  Not being able to add the right pieces to help Anthony Davis could cost the team in the long run.  Not being able to add pieces around Chris Paul is what soured CP3 on NOLA.  Also, had the Hornets showed restraint and held onto their money — they could have better assessed what type of player Anthony Davis is and used money to build around his strengths in 2013 and 2014.

Team Morale: Demps & head coach Monty Williams said over and over last summer that Gordon is the player they’d build around — that Gordon would embrace a leadership role and help develop young stars Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.  If Gordon is teaching them how to dress like an NBA millionaire — they’re in luck — EG10 is a sharp dresser — but he ain’t teaching them anything else.  Have the young stars seen EG10 grind? Nope!  Have they seen him emerge as a leader on the court? Nope!  Do they see him on the bench at games supporting them and the coaching staff while the franchise rebuilds?  Nope!  All the young players see is a soft-as-cotton player who seems completely disconnected.

Fans:  I’ve always believed that max-contract players have to do three things: 1. Be the best player on the roster. 2. Play every night (or in 90% of the games). 3. Put butts in seats!  Gordon does none of the three.  On Wednesday night the Hornets set a franchise record for fewest points scored in a regular season game.  Having Gordon on the court would keep things like that from happening.  That said, fans in New Orleans already look at the Hornets as the second-tier team.  The Hornets need positive news, strong leadership and competitive play to remain relevant.  The Gordon deal prevents any of those things from happening until Anthony Davis possibly emerges as a legitimate force in his 2nd or 3rd season.

The sad part about the Eric Gordon deal is that the Hornets could have taken a different path.  With new owner Tom Benson and #1 pick Anthony Davis the Hornets didn’t have to handle their business the typical NBA way — they could have been a visionary franchise like San Antonio or Oklahoma City — they could have charted a new path — unfortunately the Hornets committed the worst small market sin — they gave a mediocre player a bad contract.  For small market teams to win in the NBA they’ve got to have good players on good contracts.

Look, in closing, I truly hope I’m wrong — I hope the Hornets patience and support of Gordon pays off and he emerges as an all-star and team leader.  But until that happens — the Hornets brain trust deserves to be on the hottest of hot seats and team owner Tom Benson should be fuming for listening to the men who told him to pay a guy 14.8 million annually.  Benson should be even more upset that Gordon is chilling out in in LA — far from the La where he should be.

Projections For November 6th, 2012
November 7, 2012

BCS National Championship Game:

Alabama vs. Oregon

The two bets teams in college football. No argument in my mind — the computers can’t mess this up.

——————————————————–

Rose Bowl:

Nebraska vs. Oregon State

Tradition Pac-12 versus Big Ten match-up keep the powers that be happy.

———————————————————

Fiesta Bowl:

Notre Dame vs. Kansas State

Amazing game.  Alabama and Oregon are the two best teams but ND and K-State could also be undefeated.  Major win for the Fiesta Bowl. 

———————————————————

Orange Bowl:

Florida State vs. Rutgers

ACC vs. Big East — the throw-away game of the BCS. 

———————————————————-

Sugar Bowl:

Oklahoma vs. South Carolina

WHAT??? Hear me out. 2-loss LSU won’t be in the game.The Tigers played in New Orleans last year and the Sugar Bowl can’t look like homers. UGA will be coming off a beat down in the SEC Championship game against Alabama so I think the Sugar passes on them.  I hope Florida State beats Florida and knocks the Gators out the the BCS — Gators fans have historically snubbed New Orleans so the Sugar is not excited about them. So, if all that happens — and if South Carolina beats Clemson I think the Gamecocks get into the Sugar Bowl.  All big “if’s” — but South Carolina has passionate fans who travel and they’ve never played in the Sugar Bowl or a BCS game.     

 

Super Bowl XLVII

Houston Texans vs. San Francisco 49ers

My original prediction prior to the start of the NFL season was the Texans vs. the Chicago Bears.  I still like the Bears but can’t stand Jay Cutler.  His punkish antics make me believe that the Bears will implode before getting to New Orleans.

2013 Saints Mock Draft:

Damontre Moore/DE/Texas A&M

6’4, 250 lbs.

http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=110646&draftyear=2014&genpos=DE

 

2013 Hornets Mock Draft:

Steven Adams/C/Pitt (Originally from New Zealand)

7′ 250 lbs.

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/pitt-big-east/pitt-big-man-steven-adams-backstory-is-as-interesting-as-his-future-is-intriguing-656568/