Saturday, February 16, 2008

Holy Crap! All-Stars everywhere, pt. 1

Greetings from All-Star land. This city has been buzzing for the last few days and the hype is all building up to an unbelievable game. There will be 24 stars. There will be 0 defense. And there will be an arena rocking so loud that the roof might cave in.

But let's take a few steps back first. To recap, the week after the Grizzlies game the Hornets knocked off the Bulls and the Bucks. Both games were a little too close for comfort (for some of the stretches, at least), but in the end, the boys finished up 4-0 before the break after a disappointing 0-3 stretch. The strong finish puts the Hornets at 16-4 since the calendar changed (that's only one win behind the Jazz's 17-3 mark that's been stealing headlines). Regardless, we're having a great 2008... great is an understatement, as we actually hold the number 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Fast forward to Thursday night. A few friends and I headed out to a local microbrewery to watch (and listen to) a live broadcast of the Hornet's weekly radio program. The special guest of the evening was Jeff Bower, the Hornet's GM. We were hoping to grill him on upcoming trades/deals/moves... or whatever he would want to talk about. Unfortunately we were late and missed his segment. But all was not lost, as I managed to grab a table next to Mr. Bower and his wife. When he finished his pizza I cleverly managed to ignite a little conversation with him. After poking and prodding for a minute, I asked if there were any deals on the horizon... or anyone we were interested in acquiring. Observe:

me: So, are we pursuing any trades or free agents before the deadline.
Bower: Nothing's gonna happen tonight.
me: Well, I'll give you a call tomorrow then.

For those of you naysayers, that last line got a laugh from him, his wife, and some important looking guy who was lingering. This is all true. So turns out Jeff is a pretty smart business man. (Honestly, the press hound these guys day-in day-out, why did I think he'd tell me anything? Because I have season tickets in the cheap seats? Really? No.) I was hoping a trade would go down Friday night just for the hilarity that would ensue based on his comments from the previous evening.

Oh, and we also met Oscar Robertson. Yeah, the triple-double guy. He was there.

***

So, let's return to trade talks. I would like to applaud Sam Burness for being an "active" reader and challenging some of my more ridiculous statements. For those who are interested, just read the response (there's only been 1 so far) from the last post and you'll get a taste of the rhetoric that will be accompanying this blog for the rest of the season. At any rate, Sam disagrees with the Miller trade I proposed. And, what's more, his reasoning makes good sense. He pointed out that Miller adds an offensive gun with little defensive prowess, plus he plays for a team in our division (rebuilding or not, I don't see Memphis giving up a pseudo-star to a team they have to play four times a year). I mean, let's face it, the journalists have been saying it all season (not to mention every Sid and Nancy with a blog who thinks the world cares about what they have to say... lame): the Hornet's need a slasher with a penchant for driving to the bucket. We are totally incapable of drawing fouls and, as such, we rank dead last in the league in free throw attempts. Sam, in his infinite wisdom, suggested we go after Josh Childress or John Salmons. Thanks to every GM's nightmare (the trade machine), I figured we could offer Rasual Butler and either JuJu or Hilton for either player. The problem? Neither team is rebuilding and both have a reasonable shot at making the playoffs (ok, Sacramento doesn't have a "reasonable chance", but they are definitely building on the team they have for a playoff push next year and the only players they are interested in moving are older vets like Brad Miller, Kenny Thomas, and Artest). I for one would love to see a package deal to Atlanta that sent Rasual Butler and JuJu to Atlanta for Childress and Mario West. We get the slasher/good energy off the bench, they get a reliable (more or less) trade-off at the 3 slot plus young (lottery) talent. That setup would give us the following bench: Bobby Jackson, Childress, Uncle Bowen, Melvin Ely, Hilton Armstrong, and Mucho Jannero.

Remarkably, the Hornet's appear to be going after a much bigger name: Ben Gordon. Thanks to espn.com and hornetsreport.com, it appears that the Hornets were talking about sending Rasual Butler, Hilton Armstrong, Julian Wright (and maybe a first rounder) to Chicago for Gordon and Adrian Griffin. Good trade? I could get behind it. Rasual has been less-than-impressive as a go-to guy (although his last few games starting for Mo Pete have been pretty good), and Byron won't play Hilt or JuJu... ever. I think we'd be better for it in the long run. We get a proven star and they get some young talent to build around Deng, Hinrich, and (maybe one day) Tyrus Thomas. As I always say, 1 in the basket is better than 2 in the hen. Actually, I've never said that (and I'm pretty sure I butchered the phrase), but you get the point.

***

Friday. Curry and I scored tickets to the rookie/sophomore game (scored is a loose term... the upper deck was half-full at best). Actually, the lower section was full of kids. Literally, thousands of kids (and chaperons) from local schools. This ended up being a double-edged sword as it provided endless cheering, but also led to the inclusion of an American Idol celebrity as the half-time entertainment.

The game itself was fairly interesting. The rookies actually kept the score close well into the second half (the game is done in the college two 20 minute half format), but when Daniel "Booby" Gibson decided to drain 9 three-pointers, the game descended into a talent showcase complete will ridiculous dunks and a plethora of turnovers.

1. Kevin Durant is really good. He drives well, has excellent range, and has the quickness to elude big defenders. He tends to bear most of the weight of his team (even during this game) which leads to poor shot-selection, but given a few years, he will be a regular All-Star.

2. Brandon Roy is really good. We already knew this, but I thought it was worth mentioning. His performance the following night (on the big stage) was even more impressive, but I'll cover that tomorrow.

3. Jamario Moon and Sean Williams really want to be good. Both probably will be; however, I doubt either of them will ever be "great". Both have a penchant for hard defensive moves (Williams' 48 minute total in blocks is around 3.5), and they both love to dunk. They both seem a little careless, but I'm sure experience will help that. After the game went south, the two went tag-team on ally-oops (sometimes including the less-than-whelming Juan Carlos Navarro) deciding that playing real basketball was for sissies. Sean actually had the highlight play of the evening with his off the glass alley-oop-to-himself (think McGrady).

4. Chairman Yi (who is as impressive as this sausage) botched 3 or 4 dunks on the night. Incredible. He has a good midrange game with an pretty good moves in the post, but how do you miss all of your dunks in game where no one plays defense?

5. Mike Conley, Jr. was pretty disappointing. I've always been behind this guy, but he pretty much bottomed out for this game, contributing 6 turnovers in less than 20 minutes. Granted, he was playing much better team in a game designed to be skills exhibition... but still, 6? AI didn't even turn the ball over that much during the All-Star game.

We ended the evening by getting as close to the court as possible to watch the TNT guys interview LeBron. I don't know why I thought it would be exciting to see Chuck up close, but I did. We hung out for a while in the press area after crossing paths with Ric Bucher, but it turns out that he was the only journalist left we'd come close to recognizing. Then, we wandered outside and snuck into a restricted area to try and chat with Yao... but we found security before we found him (which is crazy because he's 7-6"... you don't lose a guy like that in a crowd).

Just a couple of dorky white guys.

On our way out, we snapped a photo thinking that our evening at the arena would be the closest we'd get to all of the action and mayhem of the weekend.

We couldn't have been more wrong. Stay tuned, more All-Star stories coming up in part 2.

4 comments:

Sam said...

Very much looking forward to the comments. It'd be tough to let go of JuJu, just because he's so young and talented, but it might be worth it to get a proven slasher. Having said that, Ben Gordon is a jump shooter, not a slasher, so I don't know if he's the best option (although he wouldn't be terrible).

Sam said...

Leeland, in the words of Ms. Spears, GIMME MORE! WHERE IS PART TWO!

Sam said...

Also,, re: Ben Gordon, while he's not a slasher, I'm not sure who else is out there who would really put you guys over the top. The problem is that he's looking for a big contract extension, so if you go after him, then you better be ready to commit to him for th long haul. Also, he's only shooting about 3.5 free throws per game.

Kim said...

waiting for part 2....
(can you mention me as an active reader now too?)