27 November 2004
The National Blackguard Association

The Armchair Athletes' NBA Boycott (slogan: "53 disgusted fans and counting") has apparenly inspired NewsOK.com's Sally Allen:

Imagine, a sports world minus the whining and wailing where character counts more than championships and consumers can make the call simply by changing channels or closing their wallets.

No longer will children's attitudes be poisoned by greedy, egocentric, semi-psychotic athletes and their vicious, bickering, tantrum-throwing tirades.

Gullible parents won't be guilt-tripped into buying $200 basketball shoes packaged in little black briefcases as if to create the ultimate Nike-contract illusion.

And, God willing, no longer will NBA franchise-wannabes be lured to the Ford Center's annual overpriced October exhibition game.

Imagine, worry-free watching of sporting events. Spending quality time with our families sans explanations of wardrobe malfunctions, sexual assault charges, naked women in men's locker rooms and/or reassuring your 10-year-old that four-hour erections most likely won't ever happen to him.

Me, I've had no trouble ignoring the NBA ever since they decided that it was perfectly reasonable to let a team in Utah be called the Jazz. And I speak as someone who once lived in Los Angeles and never once saw a lake.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:54 AM)
2 September 2005
Sports buzz

Rumors are flying that the NBA's New Orleans Hornets may relocate to Oklahoma City on a temporary basis, perhaps even permanently.

Nothing is graven in stone just yet, of course. The most logical move for the Hornets, I think, is to relocate to LSU's Pete Maravich Center, just up the road in Baton Rouge. The downside is capacity: the Maravich seats only 14,000. Both Houston and Dallas have offered to host the Hornets on a temporary basis, and indeed the team staff has taken office space in Houston, courtesy of the Rockets, while the home office is drowned out.

But there are a couple of advantages to having the Hornets in Oklahoma City. If nothing else, we'd see, once and for all, if there's enough community support for a major-league sports team. The Ford Center holds 18,500 for basketball, slightly more than the New Orleans Arena. (A few Blazers hockey games would have to be bumped to the Cox in 2005-06.)

Whatever happens, it has to happen quickly: the Hornets' season opens 2 November at Cleveland, and their first home game (vs. Sacramento) is only two days later.

Addendum: From OKPartisan's post on this subject:

It was quite a stunner to read such a mercenary-sounding article after just reading that the Astrodome is full, and more housing is needed for Hurricane Katrina's refugees. I had had hopes that our city would once again demonstrate the "Oklahoma Standard" and offer the Ford Center.

Another addendum: R. Alex contemplates the fate of that other New Orleans team:

I think the chances that there will be a New Orleans Saints a decade from now to be 2-1 against. It's possible, but they are a bubble city to begin with and I have my doubts that the city will ever again be as it was. San Antonio is also a bubble city and one unlikely to get a team while Los Angeles remains vacant unless they can demonstrate a whole lot of fan interest and LA demonstrates more apathy, but even if not the Saints, perhaps the Chiefs or another relocating team. Taking the Saints for a year would give them an opportunity to do that. And Birmingham isn't a bubble city, though it seems to believe itself to be.

To the extent that they've thought about it and they probably have not since they have much more dire concerns at the moment New Orleans has got to be pulling for Baton Rouge. It's in Louisiana, drive-able, and cannnot hold an NFL team of its own and so it would clearly be a placeholding rather than auditioning. The problem is that Baton Rouge was slammed pretty hard, too.

I suspect they'd rather have the Hornets close to home, too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 AM)
10 September 2005
Called for traveling

The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel is all over the court.

Last weekend:

When horror hits Oklahoma and horrors have hit Oklahoma we pride ourselves on our response. Our helping hands, our indomitable spirit.

But the measure of a man is not how he treats his own. It's how he treats others.

And that doesn't mean taking an NBA team off New Orleans' hands. It means opening our arms to its refugees.

This weekend:

The NBA Hornets need refuge, too. It is not improper for [Mayor] Cornett and Oklahoma City to offer the Hornets a place to play the 2005-06 season. Not improper to aggressively promote OKC.

Truth is, the offer is a blessing.

The Hornets, as a franchise, don't need a kind word and a care package. They need a bustling city that wants an NBA team to hang out a shingle. They need a big-time arena with basketball-hungry fans. They need office space and housing and practice facilities. And they need it fast.

What caused this 180? A note from editor Ed Kelley? A promise of season tickets? I have no idea.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:17 AM)
16 September 2005
Hornets, no gremlins

New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn is reported leaning toward playing about a dozen home games in Baton Rouge and the balance in Oklahoma City's Ford Center, a plan which would have two salutary effects: it would test the support for an NBA team here in Soonerland, and it would maintain, for now, the Hornets' ties to Louisiana.

The NFL's Saints, similarly, will be playing at least four games in Baton Rouge.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 AM)
19 September 2005
Here there be Hornets

Mayor Cornett made it official yesterday: the NBA's New Orleans Hornets will play at least some of its home schedule in Oklahoma City's Ford Center during 2005-06. City Council will hold a special Wednesday meeting to approve the lease of city facilities to the team.

The Hornets will have a local staff of about 150, two-thirds of which will be relocating from Louisiana; the balance will be hired locally and will concentrate on sales and promotion.

Two October preseason games are still looking for a location: the season begins on 2 November at Cleveland, with the first home game on the 4th against Sacramento.

(Some of the details of the deal are here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
21 September 2005
Only $999

That's the price for lower-level season tickets for the 35 New Orleans and/or Oklahoma City Hornets games to be played at the Ford Center this season. (Six games will be played in Louisiana; there are 41 road games.)

The deal that brought the team to town is fairly complex: the city must install an NBA-grade floor and do a couple other improvements at the Ford, and must seek tax credits and benefits from the state on behalf of the team. (One such benefit: a cancellation of the sales tax on Hornets tickets.) The team and the NBA are responsible for business plans and marketing, and there is an option for the Hornets to come back in 2006-07.

But more importantly, the city must guarantee the team a 5-percent improvement over its revenues last year in New Orleans, or make up the difference, which could be up to $10 million. (The state and a local business consortium are splitting the liability with the city.) However, should revenues exceed the 105-percent figure, the city stands to make a killing. This is actually reminiscent of the Skirvin Hotel deal: there is some upside risk, but unless things fall totally apart, the city comes out ahead. (This assumes that sports accounting is not like Hollywood accounting, which may be a lot to assume.)

"Totally apart," in this instance, means a half-full arena: City Manager Jim Couch says they will need to average more than 10,000 ticket sales per game to meet the revenue requirements.

Average ticket price should be around $45-50, and the home opener is 4 November against Sacramento.

(Update, 9 pm: AP is reporting that the Hornets have commitments for 2,000 season tickets already.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:15 PM)
Make of this what you will

John at OKCTalk.com ran a WHOIS on okchornets.com, and looky here:

    NBA Media Ventures LLC
    Domain Administrator
    645 Fifth Ave
    New York, NY 10022
    Email: [redacted]@nba.com

  Registrar Name....: REGISTER.COM, INC.
  Registrar Whois...: whois.register.com
  Registrar Homepage: www.register.com

  Domain Name: okchornets.com

    Created on..............: Thu, Sep 15, 2005
    Expires on..............: Sat, Sep 15, 2007
    Record last updated on..: Thu, Sep 15, 2005

Nothing there yet.

Repeat: yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 PM)
22 September 2005
Good news/bad news

Sean Kelley has discovered that his home in Mandeville, Louisiana, in St. Tammany Parish, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, is still more or less intact: there was some siding damage, but it's otherwise in decent shape.

Unfortunately, his job has more or less moved to Oklahoma City for the duration: Kelley was hired this summer to be the radio voice of the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA. (Which reminds me: Is there going to be local radio and television here? Cox Sports carried the games on television from New Orleans, and there was a radio network originating from WODT-AM/WRNO-FM.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:02 AM)
23 September 2005
Temporary nest

Oklahoma Christian University has agreed to speed up construction on a block of 108 student apartments and make them available to New Orleans Hornets front-office staff for the 2005-06 season.

The project was supposed to be completed by January, for a spring-semester opening, but will be accelerated to make room for the influx of Hornets personnel, who will vacate the premises next summer so that the apartments can be made ready for OC students.

Oklahoma City will compensate OC to the tune of $500,000, which the school thinks will just about cover their costs: "It's probably going to be revenue neutral for us," said OC spokesman Ron Frost.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 AM)
Obligatory Hornets post for the day

(Expect to see this title occasionally, if not actually daily.)

Salon.com sportswriter King Kaufman on what's going on here:

Oh, Oklahoma City! Stand by for culture shock. The NBA is coming to town.

I love that the team will officially be known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, a throwback kind of name that immediately made me think of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, who had a history every bit as glorious as that of the New Orleans Hornets so far. If I were an older person it might make me think of the New York-Arcola Original Celtics.

It's all so retro. Maybe the NBA can help the mood by figuring out a way to keep from paying the N.O./Okla. City Hornets players their pensions when they get old.

No, he's not cynical. Really:

Once upon a time the Kansas City Kings, no longer splitting time in Omaha, moved to Sacramento. That seemed strange at the time, like the NBA was moving into a minor league town. Of course, it turned out quite nicely.

This move seems even stranger. Oklahoma City? Where the big teams are a Triple-A baseball club and a minor-league arena football team called the Yard Dawgz?

No, not that. What I mean is: Could it really be that the locals might not get screwed?

Only time (as distinguished from Time) will tell.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:10 PM)
27 September 2005
Bring on the dancing girls

Remind me not to be hanging around the exits when this happens:

Tryouts for the 2005-06 New Orleans/Oklahoma City Honeybees Dance Team will be held on Sunday, October 9 at the Cox Business Services Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m., with tryouts beginning promptly at 9:00 a.m. (NOTE: Auditions will begin at 9 a.m. SHARP. No one will be allowed in the building after that) Applicants must be 18 years of age or older by October 9, 2005 (NO EXCEPTIONS) with a high school diploma in order to audition.

Applicants in top physical condition are preferred. Appropriate dance attire is required which consists of:

  • A black half top that shows midriff
  • Black shorts or trunks (no pants)
  • Dance or athletic sneakers
  • Flesh colored tights
  • "Performance Ready" hair and make-up (no ponytails).

I'm sure there's a formal definition for "performance ready," but truth be told, I'm much happier thinking up one on my own.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:12 AM)
1 October 2005
That "temporary" arrangement

Don Mecoy of the Oklahoman interviews Hornets owner George Shinn in tomorrow's edition, and, well, judge for yourself:

Q: Do you think there's a chance that your team may never go back to New Orleans?

A: I can't go there. You understand? I just can't go there. We'll just have a wait-and-see attitude because legally, technically, we are a New Orleans team and the NBA has to vote on any moving. They had to vote on us coming here and approve it. They wouldn't have approved us to just tell them to stick it in their ear, we're going to move on. You can't do that.

My feeling is that if we do what I think we're going to do and we sell out all these games, and New Orleans completely recovers and all the people go back, the economy starts going up and everything looks great, then we'll probably have to go back. We won't have a choice.

(Emphasis added.)

I may be wrong, but it sounds to me like already Shinn wants to stay.

(Update: The Oklahoman has now posted the interview.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:48 PM)
5 October 2005
High impact

From Double Take in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly:

How they know this already is beyond us, but a study released by Oklahoma City officials indicated that the relocation of the New Orleans Hornets to the Ford Center will generate an additional $57 million to the state's economy.

If that seems a little high, it is.

Consider that the Hornets will play 35 games in OKC this season.

Last year, the team's average attendance was 14,421 per game in New Orleans, or about 505,000 total.

Figure the same number come to the Ford Center, and that means to reach the $57 million figure, each one of those 505,000 will have [to] spend the equivalent of $113 each game.

To put it another way, to accept the estimates, you'd have to believe that a family of four is going to spend almost $500 for, say, a Hornets-Clippers match-up on a Tuesday night in March.

Just how expensive are hamburgers in Bricktown?

Actually, it's the parking that gets you, not the burgers.

Here's where the numbers come from, for the curious.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:36 PM)
14 October 2005
The head Hornet's nest

I'm trying not to read too much into the purchase of a small Nichols Hills home by George and Denise Shinn; speculation has run rampant that this is yet another sign that the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets will never return to the Crescent City.

The team's PR man isn't suggesting anything like that:

"He did say off-hand that he bought the smallest house in the biggest neighborhood. It's certainly not palatial but will be comfortable for them while they are here," [Michael] Thompson said.

And it's not like you can't find houses bigger than 2400 square feet in Nichols Hills.

Why buy? I suppose the answer is the obvious one: he expects to turn over the property in a year or so for a profit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:18 AM)
The inevitable Hornets blog

A chap named Billy is blogging as "Hornets Fan" at LOOK@OKC. We know this much: he has season tickets, and he has ten questions he'd like to see answered.

Number 2 looks interesting: "Who will have the most bizarre injury and what will it be?" I think he might be right with his first guess: "Coach [Byron] Scott with turf toe from kicking a chair."

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:23 PM)
17 October 2005

Lileks won't be going to any NBA games this season:

I participated in a phone survey for the Timberwolves basketball team the other day; asked how many games I intended to attend, I pressed the number indicating "Zero." Asked what was a major factor in my attendance choice, I waited for the option that said "Because it is basketball, and while I have an abstract appreciation of the athleticism and coordination involved in such an enterprise, I would rather sit in a soft chair and read a book. Even a book about basketball." But the survey seemed fixated on matters of price and seat location and disinclined to press the matter of my general objections. Ah well.

I can appreciate this point of view; still, I'll catch a Hornets game or two because, well, when's the last time I went to an NBA game?

Although there's certainly this:

Every sports event I've ever attended eventually felt like I was stuck in traffic. And then, after it was done, I'd get in my car, and be stuck in traffic.

Ah well.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
21 October 2005
Buncha tall guys in suits

"Meet the Hornets" this afternoon from four to six at Centre Court, Penn Square Mall.

(Yeah, suits. The NBA insists these days.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:34 AM)
28 October 2005
Hornets on the radio

Tonight's Hornets-Hawks preseason game is the first I've checked out on the radio, and the broadcast team comes off pretty well: they're not exactly low-key, but they don't scream at you either. (Yes, it's Sean Kelley doing play-by-play.)

Eight stations in Oklahoma are carrying Hornets games; the western flagship, if you will, is KTOK in Oklahoma City. The previously-existing Louisiana/Mississippi network continues pretty much intact.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:07 PM)
1 November 2005
The very definition of "faint praise"

Salon's King Kaufman predicts the NBA season, and no surprise as to the identity of the dweller in the Southwest Division cellar:

If everything goes right for the Hornets this season, they'll be the best pro basketball team ever to play its home games in Oklahoma City.

I dunno. Could they beat the 1996-97 Oklahoma City Cavalry of the CBA, who actually won the league championship?

We'll never know for sure. At this moment, a few hours before the season begins, I'm inclined to think that finishing 31-51 would qualify as a moral victory. (I'm expecting more like 25-57.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:01 PM)
It wasn't even close

Hornets 93, Kings 67 in front of 19,163. A proper christening for the Ford Center.

Two factors: the Hornets owned the boards, and Sacramento, down only one point after the first quarter, went from indifferent shooting to cold to downright glacial.

Last year's Bees started the season with a 2-29 run. Not gonna happen this year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
2 November 2005
The morning after the night before

During halftime of last night's Hornets/Kings game, Mayor Cornett, interviewed on the radio, was sticking to the script: when New Orleans is ready once again, the team will return home.

But that word "ready" is open to all manner of interpretation, and while it's still a fact that there is no commitment beyond 2005-06, anything can happen. Cornett, a sportscaster most of his life, knows this perfectly well.

It's way too early to predict anything, of course: the Bees were an indifferent 3-5 in preseason, and there are still 81 games to go. But if the Sacramento Kings, one of the most consistent teams in the league, can stumble this badly at the Ford well, I'm betting they're relieved that they don't have to come back here this season. (There will be two games in Sacramento, and one in Baton Rouge.) And if the Ford itself becomes something of a "secret weapon," if other teams become spooked at the very thought of coming here, it will be that much harder to pack up and move after the season ends.

But we won't know anything about that until a week from Wednesday, when Orlando comes to town. In the meantime, I'm going to work on pronouncing "Bostjan Nachbar."

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
Cleveland rocks, as it were

Well, okay, two in a row might have been a bit much to hope for.

But you have to figure that any night that LeBron James hits five 3-pointers in a row is a night you're not going to enjoy unless, of course, you're a Cavs fan.

109-87. Next to Houston, to take on the Rockets.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:31 PM)
5 November 2005
Next-season buzz

The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson is pretty sure the Hornets will be back here next year:

[T]his is a question of whether the franchise will exercise the option in its contract with Oklahoma City to return for the 2006-07 season and make the Ford Center its temporary home for a second year.

"We'll know by the middle of January," [owner George] Shinn said.

The main reason: season tickets.

"Best practice in the NBA is to get season-ticket renewal information into the hands of ticket holders early," he said. "That usually means February."

Of course, things have a way of happening faster than usual when it comes to the Hornets for an indication of just how fast, see Scott Cooper's cover story in last week's Gazette but the factor here is not how fast Shinn's organization can move, but how fast New Orleans can be rebuilt. Says Carlson:

There's a housing development in New Orleans called C. J. Peete. The neighborhood is less than a mile southwest of the New Orleans Arena, where the Hornets played their home games, and it has more than a thousand homes. That's about half the size of Newcastle. Now, all of it is uninhabited. Uninhabitable, too.

New Orleans' housing authority has already tagged C. J. Peete and one other neighborhood for total gutting and rebuilding. Work has started in that other development, but no one will be able to move in until June. And that's a best-case scenario.

If you're thinking from this that C. J. Peete was otherwise functional before Katrina, think again: the Housing Authority of New Orleans started demolition in 1998. Things apparently don't move quite so quickly in the Big Easy.

Carlson concludes that a second year for the Hornets here in the Big Breezy is pretty much inevitable, and she's probably right, but what happens after that? Everybody George Shinn, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is absolutely positive that the Hornets will go back home.


Whenever that is.

Chris Sheridan of ESPN thinks two years is the limit:

Stern appears to be giving Shinn no wiggle room to stay in Oklahoma City for more than two years, and the commissioner does not want to leave a legacy of having failed twice in the Crescent City. (The Jazz played in New Orleans before moving to Utah in 1979.)

So the real-life deadline, in effect, is January 2007. Certainly by then there will be substantial progress toward the restoration of New Orleans. Let's hope so, anyway.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:05 AM)
Sudden life

Hornets 91, Rockets 84, at Houston. Apparently the Bees can win on the road.

What's impressive here is that the Rockets had a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter, and held it for a few minutes more before the Hornets went on a berserk 17-2 run. What's more, five Hornets scored in double figures.

Next game is Wednesday at the Ford, against the Magic of Orlando.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:16 PM)
7 November 2005
Permanent nest

David Aldridge writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The truth of the matter is that it was a tough go for the Hornets in New Orleans before the hurricane. Like Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio, Texas; and Memphis and Oklahoma City, for that matter New Orleans might be too small to support two major-league teams. The more established Saints have four decades of history in New Orleans, and the benefits to a city of having an NFL team, frankly, are greater than those of having an NBA team.

(Along those lines, shouldn't the NFL dip into its stadium building fund and publicly commit to helping build a new football stadium in New Orleans that would assure that the Saints remain there? The league has made untold millions hosting Super Bowls in the Big Easy over the years. It's time to repay that debt.)

No city will support a team with an 18-64 record the one the Hornets had last season for long, and Oklahoma City is surely no different. The Hornets are going to continue to be bad for a lot longer than this season. But geographically and financially, it makes sense to leave them in Oklahoma City. Equally important, people in the city are uniquely capable of understanding the pain of loss and shared suffering.

"They were sympathetic because of what they went through," Hornets owner George Shinn said last week. "They understood, and they stepped up. They made it clear to the NBA when they called that [they were not] trying to steal the team. They just want [the Hornets] to have a safe place to land."

And any notion that Oklahoma City isn't a major-league town evaporates the moment you reach the corner of 5th and Robinson.

That's where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building used to be, before Timothy McVeigh's act of madness reduced much of it to rubble.

Now a wondrous memorial to the dead and the living has risen from the ashes. And there is a nearby museum that details every second of that horrible day and many of the seconds that have come and gone since. There also is a serene outdoor mall with a reflecting pool that connects one end of the memorial to the other. There are 168 chairs lined up on one side of the memorial, one for each person killed in the explosion.

And on each wall these words are engraved:

We Come Here To Remember Those Who Were Killed, Those Who Survived, And Those Changed Forever. May All Who Leave Here Know The Impact Of Violence. May This Memorial Offer Comfort, Strength, Peace, Hope And Serenity.

Oh, Oklahoma City is big-league, all right.

The Hornets aren't going to stay 18-64. (Last year, they won two of their first 31 games; this year, they've won two of their first three.) And there's already an indication that the Saints might be on the way out the door. I do, however, like Aldridge's idea that the NFL, which doesn't exactly have an abundance of Super Bowl sites, should assist with the Superdome repair and/or replacement.

As to the question of whether the Hornets should stay, I admit that right now, I'm more concerned with whether they beat the Orlando Magic Wednesday night.

(With thanks to Doug Loudenback.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
9 November 2005
And it's back to .500

The Hornets, trailing by one at the half, went totally cold in the third quarter, and didn't recover quite fast enough in the fourth; Orlando wins it, 88-83. Attendance was 18,508.

The Mavericks will be here Saturday, and it won't be on Cox 7.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:41 PM)
12 November 2005
None of that tedious defense stuff

A lot of shots taken, and a lot of shots made; it's just that Dallas made a couple more of them along the way.

Mavericks 109, Hornets 103. This moves the 4-2 Mavs ahead of the 2-3 Bees in the Southwest Division.

Next game: at Miami on Tuesday, before returning to the Ford on Wednesday to play Denver. (McDonald's has a promotional deal; they ask, presumably rhetorically, "Are the Nuggets Chicken?" Now that's irony.)

Later: The Oklahoman notes that the game was a sellout, even with both OU and OSU home football games the same day.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
16 November 2005
Just a bit too much Heat

Nemesis, thy name is Dwyane Wade. With the Hornets up by seven with two minutes left, Wade went on a seven-point run that came within a rim width of being a nine-point run.

So there was overtime, and Miami prevailed, 109-102. Let us hope the Nuggets aren't in a prevailing mood this evening when they drop into the Ford.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:26 AM)
The bipolar express

For about ten minutes tonight, the Hornets were as good as any team in the NBA. Unfortunately, that left 38 minutes when they were consistently inconsistent, and while Denver wasn't exactly wonderful, "wonderful" wasn't necessary: Nuggets 91, Hornets 81.

The Hawks will be here Friday; the Bees hit the road immediately afterward.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
18 November 2005
No argument from me

From LOOK@OKC's Hornets Fan:

For a successful season in the NBA, a team needs to win all of the games they should and a few of the games they shouldn't.

The only problem with this, from the standpoint of a team that's 2-5 on the season, is that there aren't that many games they should win.

Then there's the situation with the Atlanta Hawks, who come to the Ford tonight 0-8 but who beat the Hornets in preseason. Twice.

Oh, and Speedy Claxton and PJ Brown got onto the NBA All-Star ballot. I would, of course, never, ever encourage anyone to engage in ballot-box stuffing, at the Ford Center, via T-Mobile T-Zones, or at NBA.com.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:38 PM)

You can't get much scarier than this: the Hornets at one point had a 26-point lead and watched it shrink to one in the waning seconds before Chris Paul sank the last two free throws and put the game away, 95-92. It was Atlanta's ninth loss in a row, but the Hawks picked up 60 points in the second half 42 in the fourth quarter while the Bees floundered. A smaller crowd than I expected on a Friday night: 17,554.

The Hornets are now 3-5, the same record they amassed in the preseason.

Tomorrow: on the road at Orlando; then to Philadelphia on Monday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 PM)
19 November 2005
Magic repaid

The Magic won when they visited Oklahoma City; tonight the Hornets got payback in Orlando, winning 98-95 and running their record to 4-5. David West scored a career-high 34 points, hitting 15 FGs in 22 tries and picking up 4 out of 5 free throws, not to mention 8 rebounds.

The Sixers are next.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:43 PM)
21 November 2005

That is to say, Allen Iverson, who played only about 34 minutes tonight, but who scored 24 points in a 103-91 Sixers victory over the Hornets that wasn't as close as that twelve-point margin suggests: the Bees shot less than 40 percent.

Back to the Ford on Wednesday against the Timberwolves, before a holiday road trip.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:23 PM)
23 November 2005
Taming the Wolves

A genuine nailbiter in front of a sellout crowd at the Ford. The Hornets trailed Minnesota by as many as 18 in the second quarter and were down 48-36 at the half, but would not be denied; the Bees pulled it out, 84-80.

Now 5-6 on the season, the Hornets will hit the road and head west, playing at Seattle on Saturday, Golden State on Monday and Denver on Wednesday. (Next home game, against Philadelphia, is on the 2nd of December.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 PM)
26 November 2005
Welcome to the West Coast

Last year, the post-Thanksgiving road trip for the Hornets was horrid: they lost them all. This year they start off with a win at Seattle; down by twelve with two minutes left, the Sonics made a quick eight-point run, but the Bees prevailed, 105-99, bringing their record up to 6-6.

For the fourth game in a row, David West scored over 20 points. Next game is Monday night against Golden State at Oakland.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:13 PM)
29 November 2005
It was not to be

Three in a row? Not if the Warriors have something to say about it, and they did, breaking open what had been a close game in the third quarter and dancing away with it.

Golden State wins it, 99-83, and ex-Hornet Baron Davis, who promised to kick in $500 for Katrina relief for every point he scored, will write a check for $8500.

The Bees now head for Denver; they'll play the Nuggets Wednesday before coming back to the Big Breezy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:00 AM)
30 November 2005
The road trip ends well

Carmelo Anthony's injury didn't matter much: Andre Miller pulled 33 points to lead all scorers. Still, the Hornets, cold in the first quarter and only up 1 at the half, held on to beat the Nuggets in Denver, 102-95, finishing the West Coast trip 2-1 and jumping back up to .500 ball. Desmond Mason, making his first start this season, picked up 26 points.

The 76ers will be here Friday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 PM)
2 December 2005
We got your hypertension right here

A full house at the Ford got to witness some scary stuff tonight. At one point in the second quarter, the Hornets led the 76ers by fourteen points; at the end of the third quarter, the Sixers were up by one.

It wound up Hornets 88, Sixers 86, with Allen Iverson missing a three-pointer right before the buzzer. These Bees are going to give me a coronary, I swear. (Iverson snagged 34 points anyway.) Now 8-7, the Hornets will head out on a two-game road trip against division opponents (Dallas Saturday, Memphis on Tuesday) before returning next Wednesday to take on the Celtics.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 PM)
3 December 2005
They said it wouldn't last

And it didn't. The Hornets scored exactly zero in the first three and a half minutes in Dallas, and while they managed to squeak to within one point in the third quarter, they never got the lead, and the Mavericks pulled away at the end, 97-88.

Dirk Nowitzki poured in 30, twenty-two in the second half, to power that fourth-quarter run. Chris Paul had a good night 25 points and six rebounds and Speedy Claxton scored 21 from off the bench, but it wasn't enough.

The Bees, now 8-8, head next for Memphis, who likely won't be any easier than the Mavs, who improved to 11-5.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:55 PM)
6 December 2005
Hot times in Memphis

If the Grizzlies play for the rest of the season like they did tonight, they'll win the division: they didn't do much of anything wrong.

The Hornets didn't do much of anything right, which is why they lost at Memphis, 89-73; it's the Grizzlies' sixth straight win, and the Bees' second straight loss.

The Celtics come to town tomorrow, and there should be snow to greet them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 PM)
7 December 2005
Bossed from Bosstown

Not quite a sellout, but almost 18,753 officially despite weather which can be charitably described as "uncomfortable." Still, this game is played indoors, which doesn't explain why the Hornets' shooting was so cold tonight. The Celtics trounced the Bees, 101-87, leaving both teams at 8-10 and putting an end to a three-game winning streak at the Ford. David West led all scorers with 29, but it takes five guys to play this game.

This is definitely a rough month. Coming up: another West Coast tour, starting with Portland on Friday night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
9 December 2005
No bed of roses

Definitely a nailbiter at Portland tonight: with two seconds left the Blazers tied it up at 89 and sent it into overtime, then won it in the extra five minutes while the Hornets failed to drop a single field goal until the final buzzer. The final was 98-95, the fourth loss in a row for the Bees.

Sunday to Sacramento, then Monday at Phoenix. Like I said, a rough month.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:45 PM)
11 December 2005
How Sonic can you get?

The headquarters of the Sonic drive-in restaurant chain is right here in the Big Breezy.

Now think of the possible sports tie-ins:

The Seattle SuperSonics could be the next NBA franchise to relocate when their lease expires in 2010, if the Washington state legislature votes against funding to either renovate KeyArena or build a new venue.

The Sonics want a commitment for funding to be made in 2006, because they said it takes four to seven years for the necessary planning and construction to be completed. The Sonics' concerns were addressed last week at a news conference when they disclosed the franchise has lost $58 million since 2001.

And it's not getting any better, either:

Sonics officials said if they sold out all 41 home dates, including all 58 suites purchased at KeyArena this season, they still would lose money under their current business model.

What's this got to do with Oklahoma City? Plenty. If the Hornets return to New Orleans, as everyone involved swears they will, this is the most likely spot the Sonics will end up: team support here is running well beyond original expectations, and NBA Commissioner David Stern would much prefer to have another team move here than to deal with angry Hornets fans in Louisiana.

This calls for cherry limeades all around.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:18 PM)
It's good to be the Kings

At least tonight, when Sacramento got revenge for its loss in Oklahoma City earlier this season: the lead traded hands half a dozen times, but the Kings pulled away from the Hornets late in the fourth, winning it 110-100. The Bees, now 8-12, have lost five straight.

Tomorrow night: at Phoenix, before returning to Oklahoma City on Wednesday to take on the Clippers, and then heading to Louisiana for a rematch with the Suns at Baton Rouge. Winning any of these could be considered a moral victory at this point.

Russ Eisenstein, the studio host for the Hornets network, had an interesting halftime feature on Sean Banks and the rest of the 66ers, the D-League squad in Tulsa, although what made it most interesting was Eisenstein's misidentification of that tall guy standing by an oil well as the "Golden Miner."

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:25 PM)
12 December 2005
The time they got to Phoenix

The Suns, slightly dimmed by injuries, trailed most of the night, yet made a tremendous run in the last couple of minutes. But what the heck: the Hornets got away with a road win against a team with a far better record, and how often do you get to see that? NO/OKC 91, Phoenix 87, and they'll come back to the Ford only three games below .500. The Clippers will arrive Wednesday, followed by a rematch with the Suns Friday at Baton Rouge.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:19 PM)
14 December 2005
Not pretty, but we'll take it

Maybe it's easier to beat the first-place teams after all. And it helps to run up a twenty-point lead early; even with the usual Hornets fourth-quarter drought and a couple of technicals Jackson Vroman was actually tossed from the game the Bees made life miserable for the Los Angeles Clippers, 102-89.

We'll find out whether this works Friday night in Baton Rouge, where the 10-12 Hornets, who won at Phoenix on Monday, will have to take on the Suns again.

Attendance at the Ford was a modest 17,490, but the decibel level was as high as ever.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 PM)
15 December 2005
On the block

NBA trading season starts today, and Hornets reserve guard Arvydas Macijauskas, who has played only 26 minutes this year, will probably be glad to go.

Coach Byron Scott says only that the team needs a little more size and more scoring off the bench and that if it were up to him, he wouldn't want to see a deal for Pacers guard Ron Artest:

I always thought I could coach anybody. I don?t know about Ron, though. Unbelievable talent, nobody's denying that. I don't want to mess up our chemistry. Ron Artest, as great a player as he is, he scares me.

Assuming Artest remains with the Pacers and avoids both injury and suspension, the Hornets will have to tangle with him twice this season.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:01 AM)
16 December 2005
Return of the Saints?

New Orleans may be getting their football team back next year:

[NFL Players' Association executive director Gene] Upshaw met with Saints players in San Antonio and said he wants to have them return to their training facility in Metairie and split their eight home games between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and the Superdome, if possible, players said.

"The impression I got from [Upshaw] is we'd be back next year in New Orleans and play four games in the Superdome and four games in Baton Rouge," Saints defensive end Darren Howard said. "He didn't say it like that, but that's the impression I got.

"I guess that's what he's arguing for and the commissioner is pushing for. If I had to guess, if I had to put my money on it, I think we'll be back in New Orleans next year. But it's all hearsay until it happens."

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue hasn't said anything officially yet, but this sounds very much like getting the team ready to come home.

How does this affect the Crescent City's other major sports squad? Ron Hitley at Hornets247.com (he doesn't do permalinks, so look for 15 December 10:47 am, "Links and Random Shizzle") says it will hurt:

The Saints will always get more love in N.O., and with them back in town, there's less appreciation for pro basketball.

Which would tend to support sportswriter David Aldridge's premise:

The truth of the matter is that it was a tough go for the Hornets in New Orleans before the hurricane. Like Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio, Texas; and Memphis and Oklahoma City, for that matter New Orleans might be too small to support two major-league teams. The more established Saints have four decades of history in New Orleans, and the benefits to a city of having an NFL team, frankly, are greater than those of having an NBA team.

With the New Orleans market now smaller by a quarter, maybe a third, it's clearly not going to be any easier.

Hornets owner George Shinn and NBA Commissioner David Stern still say that the Bees will go back to New Orleans. And that's exactly what they should say. But a lot can happen between Now and Then. Meanwhile, says Hitley:

The NBA fans of Oklahoma shouldn't worry though. If the Hornets move back to N.O., they'll have the Oklahoma City Sonics to root for. Has a surprisingly nice ring to it.

I thought so myself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:23 AM)
The Suns are avenged

In spectacular fashion, at that, putting together a 37-10 (!) fourth quarter to more than erase a big Hornets lead and drop the Bees, 101-88, in front of a small (not quite 7500) but vocal crowd in Baton Rouge; clearly this was payback for the Hornets' victory at Phoenix earlier this week.

Once again, the Hornets fail to put together a three-game winning streak, and they drop to 10-13; the Spurs show up at the Ford Sunday night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 PM)
17 December 2005
Does your team blow?

ESPN and the research firm Markitecture polled fans of the 92 major-league teams in baseball, football and basketball hockey was given a pass because they didn't have a season last year and all the data would presumably be stale and then ranked 91 of them (the NBA Charlotte Bobcats get an incomplete because they're so new) from best to worst according to the following criteria:

Bang for the Buck: Revenues directly from fans divided by wins in the past three years

Fan Relations: Ease of access to players, coaches & management

Ownership: Honesty; loyalty to players and city

Affordability: Price of tickets, parking and concessions

Stadium Experience: Friendliness of environment; quality of game-day promotions

Players: Effort on the field; likability off it

Coach/Manager: Strong on-field leadership

Championships: Titles already won or expected soon

Based on these criteria, the San Antonio Spurs, who finished no worse than sixth in any category and at the top in two, are the nation's premier major-league sports franchise. Another NBA club, the Detroit Pistons, placed second; the top-rated NFL team was the Pittsburgh Steelers (third) and the top-rated MLB team was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (fifth).

Whither the Hornets? Keeping in mind survey lead time, which means that nothing that has happened in Oklahoma City is a factor, the Bugs are regarded this way:

  • Bang for the Buck: 49th (15th in NBA)
  • Fan Relations: 46th (14th in NBA)
  • Ownership: 76th (25th in NBA)
  • Affordability: 3rd (1st in NBA)
  • Stadium Experience: 47th (11th in NBA)
  • Players: 65th (23rd in NBA)
  • Coach/Manager: 51st (18th in NBA)
  • Championships: 88th (28th in NBA)
  • Overall: 55th (17th in NBA)

One could argue that last year's 18-64 record doesn't augur well for playoff potential, I suppose. Then again, Hornets TV guy Bob Licht says with a straight face that this year's Bees are on track to finish 42-40, which surely would be good enough for a playoff berth, inasmuch as eight out of 15 teams in each division will qualify.

Oh, and the absolute bottom of the sports barrel? The New Orleans Saints, who finished nowhere above 60th in any category and came in dead last in ownership. Tom Benson, call your PR man.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:18 PM)
18 December 2005
Spurred to greatness

The SRO crowd 19,297, about 0.5 percent above Ford Center capacity got to look at the defending NBA champs, which is always fun; what was more fun was watching the mighty San Antonio Spurs actually getting beaten by the Hornets, 89-76.

For a change, the Bees didn't fall apart in the fourth, outscoring the Spurs 29-14 in the final stanza, getting double-digit scoring from five players and just missing the triple-double from Chris Paul, who got 17 points, 12 boards and 9 assists.

Now 11-13, the Hornets hit the road for the frozen North, for a rematch with the Timberwolves and a first look at Milwaukee's Bucks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:29 PM)
19 December 2005
Actual New Orleans sports

While the Hornets were beating the Spurs in Oklahoma City and the Saints were losing to the Panthers in Baton Rouge, there was a basketball game in the city of New Orleans.

It wasn't a big game, particularly the women of Tulane beat Central Connecticut State 72-60 but it was the first actual sporting event in the Big Easy since, well, you know when. Admission was free, and about 800 showed up.

(Via Hornets247.com.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:07 AM)
20 December 2005
Building the hive mind

To no one's surprise, Hornets owner George Shinn is seeking local investors for the team.

Team president Paul Mott says that the prospectus will be out next month, and that the minimum buy-in per investor will be two percent, estimated at $4-6 million.

Absolutely no one is saying so, but this looks like the first step toward establishing the Hornets permanently in Oklahoma City. Shinn says that if the team moves back to New Orleans, he will buy back local investors who want out.

If I didn't know better and technically, I don't I'd think Shinn was trying to create something similar to the ownership structure of the San Antonio Spurs, which was designed specifically to insulate the team from relocation threats.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:45 AM)
21 December 2005

It's cold in Minnesota this time of year, but not as cold as the Hornets; the Timberwolves could have phoned it in, 88-69, and it wasn't as close as it sounds. (At one point in the third, the Wolves were up by thirty-two points.) The Bees shot a dismal 32.5 percent, not quite the worst in team history but close.

With the game out of reach in the last quarter, first the Bees and then the Wolves turned matters over to their bench-dwellers, and Arvydas Macijauskas, who must have been wondering if he was ever going to get to play again, scored six points, bringing his season total to 14.

The Hornets, now 11-14, will take on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday.

Addendum: The Oklahoman tossed in this line:

The 69 points bested the team's previous season-low of 73, set back on Dec. 6 at Memphis.

Under the circumstances, I think this should have been "The 69 points worsted the team's previous season-low of 73."

What's that? Huh? No, we don't have any wool. Go see the Black Sheep. He usually has three bags around this time of year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 PM)
23 December 2005
Another century?

The second of March, 1962, and the Warriors have beaten the Knicks, 169-147.

From the Knicks' point of view, this had to be weird: "We score 147 points in 48 minutes and we still lose?" For that matter, this year's Hornets, over two games, didn't score 147 in 96 minutes.

Then again, the Knicks were witnessing history in the making: Wilt Chamberlain, all by himself, put in 100 of those 169 points for Philadelphia, and forty-odd years later, no one has quite come close.

Annika thinks it may be coming:

After Kobe drops 62 on the Mavs in only three quarters, you gotta wonder if Wilt's record might be in danger.

Well, it's possible, I suppose.

If Kobe wanted to, against the right defense, he could get to 101. Unlike Wilt, Kobe is almost automatic at the line, and he's got the advantage of a three point shot that didn't exist in 1962.

True enough: Chamberlain was a crummy free-throw shooter (his career record at the line was a fairly terrible .511, though he made 28 of 32 on the Big Night), and every one of those 36 field goals he sank was for two points.

Sixty-two points in 33 minutes (Bryant sat out the fourth quarter, presumably with Phil Jackson's approval) works out to about 90 in forty-eight, a tad short of a hundred, but who besides Kobe is even close these days?

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:09 PM)
Bucks up

The lead changed hands more than a dozen times, but finally Milwaukee, led by Michael Redd's 36 points, pulled away from the Hornets and won it, 101-94, dropping the Bees to 11-15.

Chris Paul and David West were pretty hot 24 and 27 points respectively but overall the Hornets shot only 39 percent.

Four days off, then one game at the Ford, against the Rockets Wednesday, before a quick trip to San Antonio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:08 PM)
28 December 2005
Rocket booming

Tracy McGrady missed the last Hornets-Rockets game, and I was wondering: Is T-Mac that good?

He's that good. He picked up 38 points; combine that with 26 from Stromile Swift off the bench, and you'd think Houston would have won it in a walk. But the Bees prevailed, 92-90, with six players in double figures, and a welcome return to form for J. R. Smith, who dropped in 16 points. David West and Rasual Butler each scored 15, Butler snagging three treys in four attempts.

Empty seats? Not a one.

The Hornets, now 12-15, are off to San Antonio for another crack at the Spurs tomorrow night, and then back to the Ford for a week with four games: Dallas, Charlotte, Miami and Portland.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:40 PM)
29 December 2005
Working on that productivity

The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel seems to be upset that the Hornets, as a team, are worth a mere $225 million, less than any other NBA team, according to the annual Forbes tabulation. Considering that the two smallest markets with NBA activity are the Bees' regular home and their temporary home and considering that the hapless Knicks and the marginally-hapful Lakers, in the top two markets, place one-two on the Forbes list methinks Mr. Tramel doth protest too much. And the #30 Hornets only lost a couple of million dollars last year; the #29 Portland Trailblazers (worth a stirring $227 million) hemorrhage almost that much cash in a month, and have been for years.

Besides, Forbes has a more interesting chart: Player Relative Productivity Score, in which the 100 highest-paid NBA players are rated in terms of performance versus salary over the past three years. The Hornets, down in Poverty Row, have only two of them, but both are well ahead of the Forbes average: Desmond Mason ($7.2 million a year) comes in at 117, and P. J. Brown ($8 million) at a startling 157, seventh in the league. If nothing else, George Shinn would seem to be getting (some of) his money's worth. (The cellar-dweller player name withheld in case his mom is reading scored a pitiful 29; at the other end, Chauncey Billups of the Pistons, apparently underpaid at $5.9 million, comes in with a score of 189.)

And consider this: the Knicks, top of the NBA financial heap, are worth $543 million, three times annual revenues. The allegedly bottom-feeder Bees are worth $225 million, 2.88 times revenues. If we could get Madison Square Garden ticket prices at the Ford Center but never mind, let's not go there. (Heck, we couldn't afford to go there.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:43 PM)
Forget the Alamo

"This isn't a message in a bottle," said radio color guy Gerry Vaillancourt, and indeed it wasn't; the Spurs made it clear from halfway through the first period that they were not going to lose to the Hornets again, especially in front of the hometown folks.

If there's an upside to the 111-84 debacle, it was the chance to give the usual bench-dwellers an outing: both Arvydas Macijauskas and Maciej Lampe got some playing time. (Macas hit a trey, even; Lampe didn't score, but picked up a couple of boards.)

The Mavericks visit the Ford Center on New Year's Eve.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:50 PM)
31 December 2005
Unsweet sixteen

Dallas had beaten the Hornets fifteen times in a row. For a couple of seconds, it looked like the streak might come to an end, but no: Mavs 95, Bees 90, and it took a heroic rally in the waning moments to get it that close.

The Hornets actually outshot the Mavericks, but missed too many free throws. Worse, at some point during halftime Dirk Nowitzki, then a meager 2-11 from the field, got his mojo back, finishing with 24 points.

Next game is Monday against the 10-20 Charlotte Bobcats; the Hornets (who, you'll remember, started out in Charlotte) are now 12-17.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:33 PM)
2 January 2006
Downright yoogly

There's no other word for it, but it's a W, and when you've had only twelve in twenty-nine games, you'll take it. (Yeah, I know, the Bees had only two in 29 games last year, but that's ancient history.) It was, said Gerry Vaillancourt, "a game where you just gut it out." Ultimately, the Hornets managed a bit more in the guts department, fighting the Charlotte Bobcats to a tie after the first quarter, building up a mere one-point lead at the half, and finally pulling away in the final four minutes, 103-86.

I don't know if Byron Scott was frustrated coming into this game, but he used only seven players tonight, and J. R. Smith wasn't one of them. Chris Paul got 24 points and 11 assists; David West dropped in 20 points more. Speedy Claxton and Rasual Butler combined for 25 points off the bench.

The Miami Heat arrive at the Ford Center Wednesday; the game will sell out just from people wanting to see Shaq.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 PM)
4 January 2006
Heat wave

They played that on the Ford Center PA about halfway through the third quarter, and by then the Hornets could have been waving at them; it was 72-50 at the time. Miami would narrow the gap, what with Dwyane Wade getting a triple double, Jason Williams banging down the treys, and Shaq being, well, Shaq, but otherwise the Heat were cold after the first quarter, and the Bees chalked up a win, 107-92. Byron Scott played everyone (except the Officially Injured) tonight, and six Hornets got double figures, led by Desmond Mason with 24 and David West with 20.

This is only the second time this season the Hornets have had two consecutive 100-point nights and the first time, they lost both those games.

One more game in the home stand: Friday night, against the Trailblazers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
5 January 2006
The disengagement begins?

Almost unnoticed in the flurry of Hornets vs. Heat and the sideline story of some football game in Pasadena (did I mention "Hook 'em Horns"?) was this little tidbit of information:

The Hornets plan to move two January games scheduled for Baton Rouge, La., back to Oklahoma, including one possibly in Norman at OU's Lloyd Noble Center.

The games to be moved are Jan. 13 against Sacramento and Jan. 18 against Memphis. An announcement from the Hornets is expected today.

The Sacramento game is the one being considered for the Lloyd Noble, what with a Bon Jovi concert booked for the Ford Center that weekend, and I think it's a safe bet the Kings will happily play the Bees anywhere other than the, um, home hive.

No word yet on the last three Baton Rouge games; the official story so far has been that they're considering moving them to the New Orleans Arena. In the one outing in the City of the Red Stick, the Hornets drew a meager 7300, only halfway filling up the Pete Maravich Center, about thirty-eight percent of capacity at the Ford, where the Hornets have sold out four of the last five.

Update, 6 January: The Arena it is.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:39 AM)
6 January 2006
Blazing performance

Well, sort of. The third quarter was an utter disaster: just barely into it, Chris Paul tore a ligament in his right thumb, and he'll be out for at least two weeks; the Hornets managed a pathetic 11 points in 12 minutes. Juan Dixon, who got a season-high 28 against the Bees at Portland, did almost as much damage in Oklahoma City, scoring 27.

And yet the Hornets, having gone from 19 points up to six down, survived, slapping down the Trailblazers 90-80, winning their third in a row for the first time in almost two years. You have to figure Kirk Snyder will be starting for a long, long time; he picked up 22 points, cleared six boards and blocked four shots. David West pulled off the double-double, with 19 points and 13 rebounds.

A quick trip to Atlanta to meet the Hawks, and then the Pistons come to town Tuesday. What happens on Friday is still unclear; Sacramento will be here, but the exact location of "here" is yet undetermined.

Update, 9 January: "Here" has now been determined: it's the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, which officially seats 11,528 for basketball though legend has it that for OSU and Texas games, they've shoehorned in as many as 13,000.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 PM)
7 January 2006
Walking wounded

It could have been much, much worse. Chris Paul is out, Kirk Snyder took ill at halftime, and Speedy Claxton dislocated his ring finger in the second quarter. Claxton made it back in fact, he scored 29 points, his career high but the depleted Hornets fell to a comparatively healthy and hot-shooting bunch of Hawks in Atlanta, 101-93. David West picked up 22; J. R. Smith, back in starting rotation, scored 7.

So much for four in a row. The Bees fall to 15-18, with the Pistons coming Tuesday.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas got eight points, three rebounds and an assist in about 27 minutes of playing time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:27 PM)
10 January 2006
Thoroughly Ripped

With Chris Paul back and in close to top form, the Hornets played even with the Pistons for half the game in fact, they had a three-point lead at the half but Detroit took command in the third quarter and would maintain it the rest of the way, winning 96-86, their 27th win in 32 games. Rip Hamilton did the most damage, scoring 30 points.

It wasn't all bleak: five Hornets scored in double figures, and David West once again pulled down 20. But a loss is a loss, and the Bees fall to 15-19.

Two days off, and Sacramento comes to town or, more precisely, to Norman.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:21 PM)
13 January 2006
Noble effort

We'll never know if moving this game from Baton Rouge to the Lloyd Noble Center really made any difference to the players; Desmond Mason has seen the place before, but he played here as a visitor in the Bedlam Series.

The Hornets didn't spank the Kings as badly in Norman as they did at the Ford for the season opener, but 90-76 is nothing to sneeze at, and while the Bees had another one of their patented lousy third quarters a meager 17 points Sacramento was worse.

Notable: the return of Bostjan Nachbar, who's been on the bench since the 28th of November; Rasual Butler sank four treys (in four attempts) and a couple of two-pointers; Chris Paul still seems to be well.

Now 16-19, the Hornets head for Houston tomorrow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 PM)
14 January 2006
Rockets in their pockets

The trip to Houston did some good for the Hornets, who beat the Rockets for the third time this season, 86-80.

It wasn't pretty, at least in the first half, as Houston discovered that they can play good ball without either Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming, but the Bees' defense eventually wore them down. Rasual Butler didn't pick up a trey tonight, which is unusual; David West picked up a sprain in the fourth quarter, which is scary.

Five Hornets, including West, scored in double figures; P. J. Brown got the double-double on 13 points and 10 rebounds.

To Charlotte on Monday afternoon, then Wednesday it's the Memphis Grizzlies, in a game moved out of Baton Rouge to the Ford Center.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:06 PM)
15 January 2006
Yet another "Will they stay?" article

The Hornets started out, after all, as a Charlotte team, so I tend to give some additional weight to Charlotte pundits in this matter.

The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, looking toward the future of the Bees:

Oklahoma City is already a phenomenon. Ford Center is packed or nearly packed every night and the volume would remind you of Charlotte Coliseum, circa 1990. The NBA loves virgin territory that was [owner George] Shinn's original sales pitch for expansion to Charlotte and OKC is just large enough to support one major-league team.

From what I hear, the Hornets generate about $1 million in revenue every home game there. Their lucrative cable-television deal with Cox transferred to Oklahoma City, because Cox operates both there and in New Orleans.

Shinn is genuinely conflicted about New Orleans for practical and sentimental reasons. I'm sure he doesn't want to be remembered as the guy who moved a team twice in five years.

But this time he bears no fault. Hurricane Katrina didn't just wreck New Orleans, it emptied the city. The arena can be fixed, and will be in time to host three Hornets games this season. But will there again be the population and corporate base to support a team, particularly with the NFL pressuring the Saints to stay there as well?

Whatever you think of Shinn, the man knows a good business deal. Whatever flaws the Ford Center has as an NBA venue can be fixed. Oklahoma City sees the Hornets as validation, and that town will keep buying tickets and T-shirts.

Who would turn his back on that?

Then again, it's not just up to Shinn, and the NBA's David Stern, who has to sign off on any such thing, isn't giving any hints that he would.

And we will not engage in any New Orleans-bashing, unlike, say Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who will play the Hornets in the Big Easy this season, and is quoted by Bonnell thusly:

Hopefully they've drained the mud out of the building, and the termites aren't going to eat the buildings away by the time we get down there.

Now that's just harsh, Phil. And some of those Louisiana boys are going to be anxious to make you pay for that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:31 PM)
16 January 2006
Fair Charlotte

They weren't quite Good Charlotte today, especially during the second quarter, when the Hornets outscored them 41-20. (It was a 25-25 tie after the first.) The Bobcats did what they could, but never quite got back into the game, and the Bees chalk up another W, 107-92.

Six Hornets got into double figures; Chris Paul scored 24, including 12 of 12 from the line, and David West pulled a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Of course, the important number here is 18, which is the number of games the Hornets won in 2004-05 and the number they've won in 2005-06 with 45 left to play. But you play them one at a time, and in the next one, they face the tough Memphis Grizzlies at the Ford.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:41 PM)
18 January 2006
It's a roller coaster, I tell you

The Hornets were up 48-39 at the half, and one of those patented Terrible Third Quarters brought things to a 62-62 tie after three. But the Bees would not be denied this time, dropping the Memphis Grizzlies, 87-79, winning their fourth straight, something that hasn't happened in a couple of years, and squaring their record at 19-19.

Five players in double figures tonight, led by Chris Paul with 16; P. J. Brown scored 15, and David West, with a 10-point outburst in the fourth quarter, got the double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds). Chris Andersen, over the flu, came within one rebound of a double-double of his own (10 points, 9 rebounds). But really, this was a triumph for the defense, who held the Griz to a mere 38 percent from the floor.

(I just noticed: the Hornets, so far in January, are 7-2. P. J. Brown, interviewed after the game, explained: "We're growing up.")

Three games coming up on the East Coast: Washington Friday, New York Saturday, and Boston on Monday. The Spurs come to the Ford Center a week from today.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 PM)
19 January 2006
One more resident of Loud City

Apparently my assumption that no one ever takes my advice on anything was off by one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:08 PM)
20 January 2006
Nobody beats the Wizards

Which is not quite true Washington had lost 20 of 37 coming into this game but tonight I think they could have beaten anybody. The Hornets didn't do anything wrong, particularly: in fact, Chris Paul pulled down 28 points, a new career high; the third quarter wasn't at the usual level of awfulness; and the Bees shot a respectable 49 percent. But it didn't matter: the Wizards came out fast and furious, they led by 11 after the first quarter, and they made it stick, 110-99.

Oh, well. Tomorrow: Knicks at knite.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:19 PM)
21 January 2006
Back in the New York groove

Chris Paul played his very first college hoops at Madison Square Garden (Wake Forest vs. Memphis), and I think he was happy to be back: he scored 27 and contributed 13 assists as the Hornets piled up some serious points at the expense of the Knicks, 109-98.

What's more, the Bees forgot to go cold in the third quarter, outscoring New York 31-20 over the period; there was a brief drought in the fourth, but by then the damage was done. Five Hornets scored in double figures; Rasual Butler got 12 points on four treys.

Back to .500, and off to Beantown to meet the slumping Celtics on Monday before returning Wednesday to the Ford, where the Spurs will be waiting.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:09 PM)
22 January 2006
A picture with altitude

Once in a while I take a look at Hornets Central, an OKC-based message board devoted to the NBA team temporarily housed here, and as you might expect, there is a lot of back-and-forth between Oklahoma City fans and New Orleans fans regarding the team's future.

Most of said dialogue is pretty predictable, but this one piece of snark is so spectacularly barbed I had to sneak a copy of it over here. It's used in the .sig block by a user/moderator identified as "JWHornet," and, well, it speaks for itself:

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:14 PM)
23 January 2006
Boston massacre

The problem with that cliché about "pure as the driven snow": have you ever actually driven in snow? We're talking some seriously scuzzy stuff.

Some of that scuzzy stuff was on the ground the last time Boston played the Hornets, and the Celtics spanked the Bees rather convincingly.

Some of that scuzzy stuff was on the ground tonight as the Hornets visited Boston, and the Celtics, once again, spanked the Bees rather convincingly, 91-78.

It didn't help that the Hornets shot a horrid 35.5 percent from the floor, and that the dreaded third-quarter slump not only returned but managed to persist into the start of the fourth. On the upside, David West dropped in 21 points, and J. R. Smith looked like the J. R. of old, scoring 16 in the fourth.

And while they're back under .500 again, 20-21 at the halfway point is six or eight games better than anyone predicted back in October. Not that this makes anyone feel any more comfortable about playing the Spurs day after tomorrow.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas got half a dozen minutes on the court: he connected on one shot, pulled down an offensive rebound, and got a steal.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:55 PM)
25 January 2006
Adventures in listlessness

What kind of night is it when the league champions shoot a meager 37 percent and still win by sixteen points?

Yep. The Spurs were flat; however, the Hornets were utterly wretched, shooting 31 percent. On the radio, Sean and V. wound up in a Biblical discussion with 2:30 left, perhaps in the hope that lightning would take out the Ford Center and put an end to the misery. No acts of God, though, and San Antonio finally won it, 84-68, in a game apparently nobody wanted. I expect someone to report tomorrow that the weird January weather in Oklahoma City caused the rim diameters to shrink.

Somehow I don't think Memphis will be quite so ragged come Saturday night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 PM)
26 January 2006
Scott speaks up

No one will ever accuse Hornets coach Byron Scott of beating around the bush. The de rigueur radio debriefing after last night's debacle never came off, and I'm willing to bet it's because he used the time he normally spends on chatting with the broadcast guys to chew out the team for a lackluster (read: "awful") performance.

And when it was rumored in the fall that the team might deal with Indiana for the occasionally-problematic Ron Artest, Scott said that he'd rather not:

I always thought I could coach anybody. I don?t know about Ron, though. Unbelievable talent, nobody's denying that. I don't want to mess up our chemistry. Ron Artest, as great a player as he is, he scares me.

Artest, incidentally, will not be joining the Bees: the Pacers swapped him to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic.

Was the front office listening? Maybe.

Of course, the biggest question facing the Hornets is "Where are we going?" Scott says he likes it fine here in the Big Breezy:

I would love to play here. I think our guys are enjoying it. The fans have been unbelievable. Out of our 12 home wins, I think our fans out there have won half of them. So, I would prefer to stay here.

Is the front office listening? Maybe.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
27 January 2006
Not the way he intended to fly

Hornets forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen, 27, has been tossed out of the NBA for a violation of the league's anti-drug program.

Under the agreement between the NBA and the Players Association, exact details of the matter are not available to the public; however, cause for disqualification, instead of a mere fine and/or suspension, would include use of cocaine, meth, acid, or opiates. Andersen will be barred from the league for a minimum of two years.

This year the Birdman, in 32 games, averaged 18 minutes per game, 5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 PM)
28 January 2006
Two out of three ain't bad

The first two Grizzlies/Hornets games were won by whichever team was at home; after falling behind early, the Bees won the third at Memphis, 95-86.

With the Birdman gone, P. J. Brown played longer than usual, and he seemed to be enjoying it, picking up 18 points and 9 rebounds. David West disappeared into the locker room near the beginning of the second half to get retaped; once back on the floor, he hit nine shots in a row, singlehandedly disposing of the third-quarter curse. (West finished with a double-double, 19 points and 12 rebounds.) And Speedy Claxton got 20 from off the bench, 18 in the first half. Pau Gasol played all but two minutes of the game and scored 25 for the Grizzlies despite heavy Hornet defense.

Now up to 21-22, the Bees open a three-game home stand on Monday against the Bucks, followed by the Bulls on Wednesday and the Lakers on Saturday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:42 PM)
30 January 2006
The Bucks stop here

Once again, Milwaukee's Michael Redd had the Hornets' number, picking up 32 points and six rebounds, but this time the Bees won it, on a last-second (literally) shot by David West, 94-93, evening the series at 1-1 for the year.

West got yet another double-double with 24 points and 15 boards. Neither team shot particularly well, but Redd owned the second quarter, and while the Hornets weren't bad in the third, the Bucks poured in 35 points during those 12 minutes to grab the lead.

The Bees are now back to .500 (22-22), with the Bulls and the Lakers due later this week.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 PM)
31 January 2006
Keeping an eye on the team

The quick-and-dirty broadcast package put together for the Hornets when they fled New Orleans for higher-and-drier Oklahoma City called for all 82 regular-season games on the radio, with Oklahoma affiliates added to the existing Louisiana/Mississippi network, and 65 games on Cox Sports Network, which, conveniently enough, had been doing the games on New Orleans-area cable. Something similar is no doubt in the works for the 2006-07 season.

If you don't have cable, you go to a sports bar that does, or you listen to the radio. Simple enough. But as King Kaufman points out at Salon.com, the trend is toward fewer options, not more:

Sports have long since left poor people behind in the arena by pricing tickets beyond their means, and now they're in the early stages of leaving them behind on television and radio too.

Pensioners who have loved the Boston Red Sox through decades of futility were recently informed by the 2004 World Series champs that the number of games on free TV starting next year will be a convenient, easy-to-remember zero, except for the odd late-season Saturday game on Fox.

The St. Louis Cardinals this winter announced that their games are moving from the clear-channel behemoth KMOX to a smaller station the team bought an interest in, a move influenced by the rise of satellite radio, which figures to lessen the need for teams to broadcast on huge stations or cobble together a team network over a wide area.

Yeah, well, it sucks to be poor. No surprise there. But:

Nobody ever went broke with a business plan that targeted people with money and ignored people without it. But I wonder if some politician, somewhere, will mount an effective argument that if the sports industry is going to gorge at the public trough, in the form of stadium subsidies and tax breaks, it has a responsibility to make its product available to the public. All of it.

The Hornets, to their credit, have kept prices comparatively low: admittedly, it costs more to be right behind the bench, but it's still possible to get $10 seats, though the average is more like $30-40. And while Oklahoma City's agreement with the team guarantees them a specific return, the city isn't having to write big checks; local fan support has been more than enough to meet the revenue guarantee. (Which, of course, will be a sticking point for 2007-08, when New Orleans expects the team to return, but that's another issue.)

For cities where access to games is becoming limited, Kaufman recommends:

Cable-bill subsidies maybe. A team-sponsored cable package for qualifying customers that includes the local broadcast stations plus the team's games. There are ways to take care of the people who are being shut out of the sports world for lack of funds.

Cox's lowest-end package (Limited Basic), at least in Oklahoma City, does include Cox Sports coverage of the Hornets.

And at least he didn't propose Federal Ticket Stamps.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:21 AM)
I think we can take this as official

From NBA.com (and how come it isn't NBA.net?):

NBA Commissioner David Stern announced today that the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets will return to the Ford Center in Oklahoma City to play 35 home games during the 2006-07 regular season. The Hornets will play six regular season games at the New Orleans Arena.

"While the NBA and the Hornets remain committed to returning to New Orleans, we have agreed with Louisiana and SMG officials that, for now, our collective interests are best served by having the team play the bulk of its 2006-07 schedule in Oklahoma City," Stern said. "However, we are hopeful that the team will be in a position to return to New Orleans full time beginning in the 2007-08 season."

In addition, Stern announced that the league will enter exclusive negotiations with city and state officials to hold the 2008 NBA All Star Game in New Orleans.

Which I, cynical to the last, read as "You have to give us something."

From my New Year's odds:

The Hornets will return to New Orleans for 2006-07: 1-8

Like that was difficult.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 PM)
1 February 2006
Narrow escape

In their previous game, the Bulls were losing to the Mavericks by 30 points; they only lost by four. So you have to figure that the Hornets' 17-point lead in the second quarter wouldn't hold up, and it didn't; Chicago managed to retake the lead with three minutes left. But the Bees, in Sean Kelley's phrase, hit the switch at the right time, winning 100-95.

Now this is dedication: Aaron Williams, just acquired from Toronto, arrived at the Ford at 6:15, less than an hour before tipoff, and suited up. What's more, Byron Scott put him in four minutes into the game. (And the sellout crowd gave Williams a standing ovation when he set foot on the court, which had to be gratifying for everyone; he responded with 8 points, matching his season high, five boards, and two blocked shots. And five fouls, but you can't have everything.)

Incidentally, Williams is wearing the same number 34 that he wore for the Raptors; I have no idea what number Steven Hunter, due in from Philadelphia shortly, will be wearing, since Rasual Butler already wears 45.

Five Bees in double figures tonight; Chris Paul knocked down 25 and 13 assists.

There's still the question of what the Hornets, now 23-22, will do with Kobe and the Lakers this weekend but that will be answered soon enough.

(Addendum: Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times heads his writeup: "Hornets cast a Paul on road trip." And Hunter's been assigned number 31.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 PM)
2 February 2006
And we were worrying about Kobe

Some day we may be worrying about this:

Epiphanny Prince of Murry Bergtraum High School [NYC] scored 113 points in a game Wednesday, breaking a girls' national prep record previously held by Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller.

Prince, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, led her team to a 137-32 victory over Brandeis High School.

Someone thought to ask the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James what he thought of this, and he said:

It's an amazing thing when an individual does that. I don't know who she is, but maybe we'll see her in the WNBA. For that matter, the NBA.

And you know, at five-foot-nine, she's not much shorter than Speedy Claxton.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:05 PM)
4 February 2006
He's here, but he's not here

Philadelphia 76ers center Steven Hunter, traded to the Hornets this week, apparently flunked his physical, putting that transaction on hold and ensuring that Hunter won't suit up for the Hornets/Lakers game tonight.

Sixers president/GM Billy King says he hopes to have the matter resolved over the weekend.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 AM)
The Kobe show

Everybody talks about Kobe Bryant's bazillions of points, but it's almost just as important to the Lakers that he's second on the team in assists, and with Lamar Odom out, it fell to Kobe to feed the rest of the offense. And he certainly didn't hog the spotlight. (Well, there was that hissy fit in the third quarter that got him a technical, but he got over it.) But four minutes into the fourth, Phil Jackson pitched a fit (and got a T of his own), and pulled his starters in disgust. He thought better of it after four minutes more, but it didn't matter by then: the Hornets, who shot almost 57 percent from the floor, sent the Lakers on their way, 106-90.

Attendance was reported as 19,344, 181 over capacity. Chris Paul pulled yet another double-double 19 points, 13 assists and five other Hornets pulled down double figures. Rasual Butler hammered it home with a trey (he was 3 for 3 beyond the arc) with six seconds left; Desmond Mason started out strong and finished with 21 points.

Oh, and Kobe? 35 points and 5 assists. Good numbers, but this time they weren't good enough.

The Bees, now 24-22 and seventh in the Western Conference, next head for New Jersey; they'll be back at the Ford at midweek to meet the Sonics, and later the Knicks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 PM)
6 February 2006
Gross vs. Nets

New Jersey had won ten straight at the Meadowlands, and they weren't about to let the Hornets break that string, so when the Bees took a 12-point lead at the half, the Nets poured on the pressure in the third quarter, and iced it midway through the fourth when the Hornets' offense went cold; even a pair of patented Rasual Butler treys couldn't salvage matters, and the Nets got their 11th in a row, 99-91. ("An industrial-strength tail-kicking," quipped Russ Eisenstein about that second half.)

It was the Bees' bench that provided most of the scoring: Speedy Claxton got 23, and Rasual Butler pulled down 18. Even J. R. Smith and Bostjan Nachbar were seen; Nachbar got a board and a dime, and J. R. hit both his shots, one a trey.

Fortunately, as road trips go, this is a short one: one game. The Hornets return to the Ford Wednesday to meet the Sonics.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 PM)
7 February 2006
Behind the Birdman

Marty Burns' NBA Notebook at SI.com reveals that the Players' Association is fighting the dismissal of Hornets forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who was suspended from the league in January for reasons which went unstated but whose penalty was consistent with severe violations of the NBA's drug policy.

The case will go to arbitration in New York Friday before Calvin Sharpe, professor of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Notes Burns:

Andersen, who stands to lose more than $10 million over the next three years, is staying mum and completely out of the spotlight. Maybe he's guilty as charged and has enough respect for himself and the truth to let it go. Or maybe he's innocent but has been told to keep quiet.

That should about cover it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:10 AM)
8 February 2006
This will pass quickly enough

Senate Bill 1022, by Mike Morgan and Todd Hiett (as heavyweight authorship goes, you can't get much heavier), adds one new sales tax exemption to the 50 already in existence:

51. Sales of tickets made on or after September 21, 2005, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality or a public trust of which a municipality is the sole beneficiary.

Which, of course, applies to the Hornets: this was part of the package deal that brought the Bees to OKC, but the legislature was out of session at the time.

(Full text here, in Rich Text Format.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 AM)
Fallback position

Yours truly, engaging in some guesswork a couple months ago:

If the Hornets return to New Orleans, as everyone involved swears they will, this is the most likely spot the Sonics will end up: team support here is running well beyond original expectations, and NBA Commissioner David Stern would much prefer to have another team move here than to deal with angry Hornets fans in Louisiana.

Stern, I suspect, has modified his position somewhat, if only because he's figured out that sending the Hornets back to New Orleans is going to cost a lot more money than any conceivable buyout. He's not crazy enough to say so, though.

With that in mind:

Clay Bennett, a prominent businessman who led a group of corporate investors that lured the displaced New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City, said he is watching with interest the political proceedings involving the Sonics, the Seattle City Council and the Washington State Legislature.

Bennett is keenly aware of the strife building between city officials and the club, which seeks a taxpayer-funded $200 million for renovations to KeyArena. He also read the comments from principal owner Howard Schultz, who said last week that Sonics owners would be forced to sell or move the team unless they receive public assistance.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Bennett said that he has not been in contact with anyone representing the Sonics, but "we'd be very interested in those discussions and would pursue them vigorously."

Number of NBA seasons, 2005 through 2015, in which there will be no team in Oklahoma City: 0.

Update, 10 February: Bennett and Oklahoma Professional Sports LLC, the ad hoc business consortium that backed Oklahoma City's bid to host the Hornets from 2005 through 2007, have set up a corporation to seek an NBA franchise for the city, be it the Hornets if they stay, or another team should they go. Meanwhile in Seattle, Schultz is making noises about selling out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:50 AM)
Slightly faster than the speed of sound

How can you buzz when you're slow? Chris Paul got knocked out of the game in the second quarter with bruises to the ribs; Speedy Claxton suffered a mild concussion after only thirty seconds in. The remaining Bees were game, and did their best to slow down Seattle's scoring machine, led by 34 points from Rashard Lewis, who got five treys in the fourth quarter and to the delight of the Ford Center crowd of 18,807, somehow it worked: Hornets 109, Sonics 102.

Once again, five Hornets in double figures. David West got the double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds; so did Kirk Snyder, with 16 points and 12 assists. And P. J. Brown came this close: 21 points, 9 rebounds. But the Big Shot was yet another patented Rasual Butler trey which broke a 102-102 tie with 15 seconds left: P. J. and Desmond Mason drew Seattle fouls and calmly dropped two free throws each to ice it. (Mason had 15 points; Butler had 14; the resurgent Bostjan Nachbar played seven minutes, scored 4 and got 3 boards.)

What happens between now and Friday when the Knicks come to town is anyone's guess. We now know that Steven Hunter won't be here: the deal has been called off. And I'd bet that CP3 will be back; after all, he tried to start the third quarter tonight before discovering that he wasn't quite up to it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 PM)
10 February 2006
New York nix

So what's it like when Speedy Claxton starts? It's different, to be sure; with Chris Paul sidelined, the Hornets had to work yet another variation on their offense, and it didn't really start working until midway through the second quarter, at which point Slovenia's favorite son, Bostjan Nachbar, went on an 11-point rampage to finish off the half and cut the New York lead from 10 to 2; the Bees gradually pulled away in the third and after a couple of anxious moments in the fourth, put the Knicks away, 111-100.

Both sides had balanced attacks: the Knicks had seven players in double figures, the Hornets five. Two Hornets pulled double-doubles: David West (21 points/10 rebounds) and Speedy Claxton (18 points/11 assists).

The Bees are now 26-23; another one-shot out of town tomorrow night, against the Timberwolves, and back to the Ford to meet the Wizards on Monday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:43 PM)
11 February 2006

The Hornets blew hot and cold at the Target Center: after fighting back from a 14-point deficit halfway through the second quarter to an 11-point lead late in the third to five points behind midway through the fourth, they finally put Minnesota away, 100-94.

Not that the T-Wolves were any more consistent, but they owned the boards, and it's hard to argue with Kevin Garnett, who snagged 21 of those boards along with 19 points before descending into visible bitterness in the last couple of minutes.

All five starting Bees got double figures: Speedy Claxton got 28, within one of his career high, and Kirk Snyder got 28, six more than his.

The Hornets have Sunday off. The Wizards come to the Ford Center on Monday, followed by the TrailBlazers on Wednesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 PM)
13 February 2006
The Kardiac Kids

The Hornets were down 17 at the half, down 19 early in the third quarter, and refused to lie down and die; a David West shot with 0.2 second left won it.

(I wrote four different versions of the opening paragraph in the last minute and a half: that's how wild this game was.)

Let it be said that Gilbert Arenas was incredible he got 43 points and that Washington played as hard as it's possible to play. And yet: Hornets 97, Wizards 96.

West got 19 points; all five starting Bees hit double figures, and Speedy Claxton, starting at point guard again while Chris Paul recuperates, got the double-double with 16 points and 10 assists.

And the new number-three point guard, Moochie Norris, just arrived from the Rockets in a swap for Maciej Lampe and "cash considerations," suited up and put in six minutes: he picked up a trey, a rebound, and an assist.

The last game before the All-Star break is Wednesday, against Portland. The Bees are now 28-23 overall and 16-6 since the first of the year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 PM)
15 February 2006
On the way to the All-Star break

There seemed to be an awful lot of "Hey, we get six days off!" floating around the woodwork at the Ford Center; the play on both sides was a little bit less than inspired, but the Hornets never trailed the Blazers and finally chalked up the 29th W of the season, 102-86.

The return of Chris Paul was relatively placid: he scored only one free throw, but pulled down five boards and served up seven assists before exiting in the third quarter with the wind knocked out of him. Jackson Vroman disappeared early with a twisted ankle and did not return. But all twelve Bees on the active list (meaning everyone other than Brandon Bass and Arvydas Macijauskas) scored, and half of them scored in double figures; Aaron Williams got 14, his season high, and Kirk Snyder led all scorers with 22.

The Hornets got their fifth straight win, their 9th in the last 10. The season resumes next Tuesday with a road trip to Indianapolis to take on the Pacers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:30 PM)
21 February 2006
Off the pace

The Hornets kept within striking distance of Indiana for the first twenty-four minutes, but the Pacers held the Bees to 17 points in the third quarter (and 15 in the fourth) and won it going away, 97-75.

Both teams were missing key players Jermaine O'Neal was inactive for the Pacers, and David West was away from the Bees but Indiana, with five players in double figures, was able to shrug off O'Neal's absence. Chris Paul had a welcome return to form with 27 points, hitting 8 of 15 including three treys, but the rest of the team shot a miserable 29 percent.

In the fourth quarter, the benches were emptied, and all the Hornets (except J. R. Smith, who was bumped to inactive) got at least six minutes of playing time; neither Jackson Vroman (who started in place of West) nor Brandon Bass scored, but each hauled down three boards.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas played nine and a half minutes, scored four points and pulled off a steal.

Tomorrow the Jazz come to the Ford Center; Saturday the Bees fly to Salt Lake City to play the same Jazz.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:22 PM)
22 February 2006
All that Jazz

And the Jazz, after a pathetic 12-point first quarter, demonstrated that they were, if not all that, certainly most of that, coming back to dispatch the depleted Hornets, 82-76.

Come to think of it, depleted doesn't even begin to describe things: Speedy Claxton was out with a sprain; Jackson Vroman, starting in place of David West, broke his forearm on a two-handed dunk in the third quarter; a minute or so later, Desmond Mason retreated to the locker room with a bruised tailbone.

Bright spots: Aaron Williams pulled down 13 boards, his season high, and Bostjan Nachbar dropped in three treys and two from the line for 11 points, one short of his season high.

Still, there's not so much depth in the ol' depth chart, and there's only one more day of trading.

The Bees start a four-game West Coast trip with a rematch with the Jazz on Saturday, followed by the Blazers, the Sonics and the Clippers. Under the circumstances, they should consider none of these games easy wins.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 PM)
23 February 2006
Boki is packing

Well, here's a surprise: the Hornets are swapping Bostjan Nachbar to the New Jersey Nets for center Marc Jackson and forward Linton Johnson, a deal presumably at least partially motivated by the Nets' desire to clear some salary-cap space, and one which addresses the Bees' most immediate need: another big man in the middle.

Nachbar, injured in the fall, has been fighting his way back to the second string; he played 25 minutes in last night's debacle with the Jazz, and was the only Hornet to hit anything from beyond the arc.

Johnson will presumably slot in behind Rasual Butler in the small-forward position; Jackson will back up P. J. Brown at center, replacing Jackson Vroman, who is out for the season with a broken wrist.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:40 PM)
25 February 2006
Forget Wednesday

On second thought, don't; in that game, the Hornets led for three quarters and fell to the Jazz in the fourth. And it almost happened again tonight, but the Bees held on and dropped four clutch free throws in the waning seconds to win it, 100-95.

David West was back, and delivered 20 points and 8 rebounds; Chris Paul picked up 23 points and served up 8 assists. And the two new guys not only got minutes, they got results: backup center Marc Jackson scored 4 points and snagged 4 boards, and third-string forward Linton Johnson, pressed into service when Desmond Mason didn't start and Rasual Butler got into foul trouble, turned in his best performance ever, with 17 points (two treys) and 11 rebounds.

At least there was actual scoring tonight: both teams shot fairly well from the floor, though the Jazz blew 12 free throws. Mehmet Okur led all scorers, pulling down 26 points.

The West Coast trip continues tomorrow at Portland, then to Seattle on Tuesday. The Bees are now 30-25 and back in the #6 playoff slot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:38 PM)
26 February 2006
Nothing so cruel as the truth

From Deadspin:

NBA: Knicks 89, Wizards 110. Gilbert Arenas had 46. So did the Knicks' starting five.

It's true.

From the Silver Lining Department: "Hey, the Knicks got 43 points from the bench!"

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:50 PM)
They don't give up

Persistence characterizes these Blazers; despite shooting even worse from the line than from the floor, they stayed with, or just ahead of, the Hornets for 41 minutes before the Bees finally broke free and scored the win over Portland, 88-75.

You can characterize this as a balanced attack: David West got 22 points, Chris Paul 19, and Rasual Butler, whose three-point mojo returned after too long an absence, dropped in 13. The new arrivals, Marc Jackson and Linton Johnson, combined for 8 points and 13 boards.

Off to Seattle on Tuesday, then to Los Angeles to meet this year's seriously-tough Clippers on Wednesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 PM)
28 February 2006
Sweepless in Seattle

The Sonics were a lot closer to Super tonight than they've been lately, shooting 60 percent most of the night. Then again, the Hornets were woefully short of sting, especially in the third quarter, in which they were outscored 29-18, and in which a frustrated Desmond Mason vented his frustration just loudly enough to get a technical. Unfortunately, it was his second T, and that was all for D-Mase.

And yet the Bees refused to go gently into that good Seattle night, cutting the 22-point deficit to a mere three before the Sonics caught on and finally finished them off, 114-104.

Best effort? Perhaps Rasual Butler, who got 23 points, a season high, including 15 from the three-line in that fierce fourth quarter. Or maybe Marc Jackson, who scored 19 off the bench. And yet another double-double for Chris Paul, with 25 points, 14 assists and seven boards.

But Ray Allen pulled down 33 for the Sonics, including five treys, and if Butler hadn't tied him up during the fourth quarter, it could have been a lot more than that.

So 2-1 on the road trip, and the Clippers await tomorrow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:31 PM)
2 March 2006
Clipped and/or Stapled

The return of the Third-Period Drought was dramatic: the Hornets rolled up eight quick points and then didn't score again for the rest of the quarter. "Frightening," said Gerry V. "At least at Dunkirk they had boats."

It was a new club record, and not one they wanted to set: they gave up twenty-three unanswered points, and the Clippers, who had been down ten, took a lead they would never relinquish, winning 89-67. (You want scary? The Bees had led at the half, 51-47, which means they scored sixteen points in 24 minutes. Is this an NBA record for futility? Yes, it is.)

P. J. Brown got a double-double (10 points, 11 boards), but nobody noticed; Desmond Mason picked up 20 points, but ditto. Brandon Bass, who hadn't been seen lately, made two free throws (out of four).

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas came in with four minutes to play, but did not score. (Then again, at the time, neither did anyone else.) He did get a rebound.

I need some sleep.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:00 AM)
4 March 2006
A bigger display

Before the season started, the Hornets had been pretty much written off: no home, at least for a while; no star players; no reason to expect them to improve on the previous year's uninspiring 64-loss season. And therefore, there was no reason to put them on national television.

Well, forget all that. With the Bees drawing huge crowds and poised to make the playoffs, not to mention the presence of the almost-inevitable Rookie of the Year (thank you, CP3), ESPN has bumped the 31 March Wizards-Rockets game off its schedule in favor of the Hornets and the Grizzlies at the Ford Center.

(I need hardly point out that this would be a really good time for another sellout.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:12 AM)
6 March 2006
The Suns also rise

The Phoenix Suns arrived in town with a ten-game winning streak, and nothing, not even the loss of Steve Nash in the third quarter with an ankle injury, was going to keep them from going to eleven. The Hornets shut them down in the first half, 61-49, but the second-half blues struck yet again, badly in the third quarter, worse in the fourth, and the Bees dropped their third in a row, 101-88. Phoenix now leads the series 2-1.

David West led all scorers with 22 points; Chris Paul picked up 14 points and 11 rebounds. Still unexplained is how they could pile up 61 points in the first half and only 27 in the second.

It's off to New Orleans to take on the Lakers Wednesday night. Rumor has it that the Arena will be pretty close to sold out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 PM)
8 March 2006
Macas wants to play

Reserve shooting guard Arvydas Macijauskas is not at all reserved when he discusses his dissatisfaction with the way things are going, or not going, for him.

Glued to Byron Scott's bench, Macas has played just 105 minutes this year, scattered among 16 games. (A quarter of those minutes came in one game, against Atlanta on 7 January; he was 1-7 from the floor and scored 8 points.)

"I'm aware that I can't have 30 minutes every night," he says, "but you must remember, I gave up a promising career in Europe to play in the NBA. If I can't play [for NO/OKC], I hope they trade me. I'm twenty-six years old, the best possible age for a player; I can't spend three years on the bench."

Well, that's the gist of it, anyway. He's signed to the Hornets for two years, with an option for a third, at $2.5 million a year. On the depth chart, he's behind J. R. Smith, who isn't getting any minutes either; relief for starter Kirk Snyder usually comes from Rasual Butler or Linton Johnson, who are technically small forwards.

Rumors circulated right around the trade deadline that Macijauskas and Smith would be dealt to San Antonio in exchange for Brent Barry; it didn't happen. The Hornets front office confirmed that there was a last-minute trade that missed the deadline, though they haven't said exactly what that deal was.

Myself, I'd like to see both of these guys pried off the bench once in a while; the Bees are not that overwhelmingly deep.

[Google translation]

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:02 PM)
Back to the future

The newly-renovated New Orleans Arena kept filling up all during the first half; apparently there was a major traffic jam downtown. Attendance was 17,744, which is about as many as you can get into the Arena and still play ball. (If there was any question as to the extent of fan support in the Big Easy, I think that question has been adequately answered.)

The Hornets kept within screaming distance of the Lakers all night: they were down six at the half, the dreaded third-quarter blues didn't materialize, the Hornets briefly grabbed the lead a couple of times, but finally Kobe Bryant, who hit seven straight from the floor, and Smush Parker, who pulled off two late steals, put the Bees away, 113-107.

Unsurprisingly, this makes the playoff situation a bit murkier. The Hornets are now 31-29 (.5167); the Lakers are 32-30 (.5161). And right behind are the Jazz and the Kings.

Kobe beat his average, getting 40 points. Five Hornets got double figures; David West got 25, and both Chris Paul and Speedy Claxton dropped in 22. (CP3 snags yet another double-double, serving up 10 assists.)

The Pacers will come to the Ford Center Friday night, followed by the Nets on Sunday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:51 PM)
10 March 2006
The night of a thousand free throws

So said radio guy Sean Kelley near the end of the third quarter, at which point half a dozen technicals had been called; I was starting to wonder if maybe I'd picked up a Blazers hockey game.

No high-sticking at the Ford Center, though I'm quite sure that if either the Pacers or the Hornets had sticks, they'd have used them: this was a seriously physical game, and Indiana's Danny Granger left the fray with an eye injury, though he came back in the fourth quarter.

Oh, yes, the score: Pacers 92, Bees 90, after the weirdest six seconds I can remember. Down two, the Hornets called time at the beginning of an inbound, which annoyed Anthony Johnson enough to slam a ball back to an official. Yet another technical; the Hornets missed the free throw, and another inbound, where a classic David West at-the-buzzer jumper rimmed out.

And if there weren't a thousand free throws, there were sixty-three of them, with four players finishing with five fouls each.

David West, for the umpteenth time, finished with 20 points, 17 in the second half. Kirk Snyder and Desmond Mason both dropped 16; Speedy Claxton got 11. And while Chris Paul only pulled 7 points, he also bagged 7 rebounds and served up 8 assists.

Now 2-7 since the All-Star Break, the Hornets drop out of the 7th seed in the Western Conference, with the New Jersey Nets due in on Sunday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:41 PM)
12 March 2006
Life in D without O

Well, the Hornets patched up their leaky defense (fourteen steals!), but there was still the issue of actually scoring some points once in a while, which they didn't do until about two minutes in, by which time New Jersey had already piled up eight points. The Nets led by as many as 19; the Bees whittled it down to four late in the game, but for the sixth game in a row, it was not to be: Nets 95, Hornets 84, and the Bees drop to .500.

Scoring? Five Hornets in double figures, but only CP3 got as many as 17. When you miss 48 of 81 shots, this is what happens. The Nets, meanwhile, never dropped below 50 percent from the floor.

Will time away from the Ford Center help? A trip to San Antonio sounds scary all of a sudden, and then two games in New Orleans, against the Nuggets and the Clippers, won't be pieces of cake either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:27 PM)
14 March 2006
At least there are no excuses

Well, it was sorta different: P. J. Brown, who took an elbow in the forehead against the Nets, sat out this game, and Desmond Mason lasted all of fifty seconds before a bruised knee took him out. Marc Jackson started in the middle, and, mirabile dictu, J. R. Smith got some minutes. (He didn't score but once, but he played fairly decent defense.)

The result, unfortunately, was more of the same: Spurs 96, Hornets 81. But there weren't any ghastly lapses, any protracted dry spells, any spectacularly bad plays: the Bees played well, just not well enough to beat the league champions on their home court.

Jackson, in his first start, scored 16 points and pulled down six rebounds. Chris Paul scored 16, David West and Speedy Claxton 14 each. Tony Parker snagged 20 (and a double-double) for the Spurs, but the real thorn in the Hornets' side was Brent Barry, who came off the bench to hit six of six from the floor, including four treys.

Back to New Orleans for the next two: the Nuggets on Saturday, the Clippers on Tuesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 PM)
18 March 2006
March badness continues

The Nuggets led after the first quarter, 34-16, and that was pretty much it. The Hornets actually outscored Denver by three the rest of the way, winning the second and fourth quarters, which didn't matter in the least: Nuggets 109, Hornets 94, and now it's eight in a row.

The three-ball was the Holy Grail tonight. There were forty-three three-point attempts: the Hornets made five, or as many as Greg Buckner made all by himself. Buckner had 19 points off the bench; add 28 from Carmelo Anthony and 17 each from Kenyon Martin and Andre Miller, and you'll wonder if the Bees brought any defense.

Which, in fact, they did: they outrebounded the Nuggets, 43-39. The big difference, aside from Denver's trey surplus they had eight was an inordinate number of Hornet turnovers (sixteen, versus ten for the Nuggets) and the ongoing below-average field-goal percentage (41.5, while Denver hit 48.2 percent).

Still, five Hornets made double digits, led by David West with 24 and Kirk Snyder with 12. CP3 pulled another double-double 11 points, 10 assists and off the bench, Marc Jackson picked up 10 and Linton Johnson scored 11 before fouling out. P. J. Brown had 8 points and 10 rebounds.

Another good turnout in New Orleans. But as Byron Scott says, playing 36 minutes of solid basketball is just not enough.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 PM)
20 March 2006
Birdman: still out

In January, Hornets forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen was suspended from the NBA for two years for a violation of the league's drug rules. The Players' Association filed a grievance; today the arbitrator upheld Andersen's suspension.

Andersen can apply to be reinstated in January 2008. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, half his $3.5 million annual salary counts toward the Hornets' salary cap, even though he's not actually being paid.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:15 PM)
21 March 2006
Feel the swarm

"If we're going to win games," said Byron Scott, "we've got to get angry."

And after the Clippers jumped out to an early 12-3 lead, the visibly pissed-off Hornets took out eight games' worth of frustration on the Angelenos, outscoring the Clippers 30-11 in the rest of the quarter and fighting off a late L.A. rally, finishing it off with a throwaway Rasual Butler three-pointer at the buzzer to win it 120-108.

You want numbers? This is the highest point total the Bees have posted all year; in fact, the last time they scored 120 was two years ago, and they lost that game (to the Raptors, 121-120). And Rasual Butler ruled: he shot 12 for 16, including seven of nine treys, plus one from the line for a career-high 32 points. Both Chris Paul and David West dropped in 21 points; West snagged 11 boards for the double-double. Marc Jackson scored 10 off the bench, and J. R. Smith fought his way back to respectability with 3 of 4 shooting (including a trey), seven points, a steal and a blocked shot in 18 minutes.

What makes it sweeter is that the Clippers were good tonight: they shot 55 percent from the floor (the Bees did 52) and hit 19 of 21 free throws. Corey Maggette scored 25 off the bench, dominating the fourth quarter, and Elton Brand dropped in his usual 24. But the Hornets forced 19 turnovers and pulled 13 offensive rebounds, insuring themselves plenty of looks.

Back to the Ford Thursday to take on the inconsistent Rockets, and then an industrial-strength road trip: the Bulls, the Lakers, the Jazz, and the Warriors, over a mere six days. Let's hope they stay mad.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 PM)
23 March 2006
A problem with Houston

The idea, I assume, was to return to the style of play that prevailed before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, this meant the return of the Third-Quarter Drought, in which the Bees were outscored by Houston to the embarrassing tune of 26-10, and while they recovered somewhat in the fourth, it wasn't quite enough to make up the difference, and the Hornets fell to the Rockets for the first time this season, 93-92.

What happened? The Bees outrebounded Houston, 51-39, and had fewer turnovers to boot. But the shots wouldn't drop: the Hornets shot only 36 percent from the floor. And there's nothing more painful than a three-ball at the buzzer when you're down by four.

What attack there was, was balanced: six Hornets scored in double figures, with double-doubles from David West, Aaron Williams and Speedy Claxton, and the bench was good for 32 points (versus 11 for the Houston reserves). Still, an L is an L, and the Bees now have two more Ls than Ws.

Now to hit the road and hope someone is slumping at home.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 PM)
24 March 2006
Bulls hit

And they hit hardest in the fourth quarter. After the Hornets dominated the first period, Chicago could do no wrong in the second, and while the Bees stayed with them through the third, the Bulls finished them off, 96-82.

It wasn't just the starters, either: Ben Gordon and Othella Harrington combined for 41 points off the bench, and Tyson Chandler pulled down 21 rebounds.

Interestingly, the Hornets' starters scored 41 points, and so did their bench; of the ten Bees who scored, seven got double figures, but all except Chris Paul (13) had either 10 or 11. With Brandon Bass dispatched to the D-League, Arvydas Macijauskas was put back on the active list, but didn't play.

And the shooting woes continue: the Hornets shot only 35 percent from the floor and got just two treys, both by Linton Johnson.

The Lakers are next, and I suspect Phil Jackson isn't fretting much.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:59 PM)
26 March 2006
Byron Scott wants to stay on

The New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that Hornets coach Byron Scott, whose contract expires at the end of next season, has been talking to owner George Shinn about extending his stay with the Bees.

Says Shinn:

Byron loves the Hornets, and he wants to stay, and he said that he needs a couple of more years to build this team. I like the way he coaches and his attitude. I just think he's a quality guy. He makes a few mistakes, and I think I need to coach him on P.R. a little bit.

There are a handful of instances in which Scott might have made Shinn squirm a bit: earlier in the season when Scott said that were it possible, he'd like the team to remain in Oklahoma City indefinitely, even NBA Commissioner David Stern grumbled that Scott was going against the Official Line.

What Scott wants is a five- or six-year deal; no one is apparently talking salaries, though Scott makes about $3 million a year now.

Meanwhile, The Oklahoman says that Shinn is ready to sell up to 49 percent of the team to an Oklahoma City group which includes Clay Bennett's Oklahoma Professional Sports LLC.

Formal paperwork has yet to be drawn up, and the NBA must approve the deal, but no problems are anticipated. I hasten to point out that this doesn't necessarily have any effect on the league's announced plan to return the team to New Orleans for 2007-08.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:11 PM)
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home

Not that the Hornets have been winning all that many home games of late, but the last time they came to the Staples Center was a thorough embarrassment, and while they avoided a repeat of that debacle, they also avoided the bucket too many times in the fourth quarter, allowing the Lakers, who had had a slender two-point lead at the half, to pull away and win it 105-94.

What's more, P. J. Brown fouled out with five minutes left; Speedy Claxton got his sixth foul with five seconds left. David West, steady as always, put together another double-double with 23 points and 10 boards; Chris Paul dropped in 17, P. J. got 13 before leaving the game, and Rasual Butler managed 12.

Comparisons to Friday night in Chicago are instructive. Against the Bulls, the Bees scored 46 in the first half and only 36 in the second; against the Lakers, the Bees got 60 in the first half and only 34 in the second. Kobe? He got thirty, below his average, but it didn't matter.

Tomorrow night in Utah, and the Jazz aren't likely to be any kinder.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:06 PM)
27 March 2006
Smooth Jazz

David West pulled up lame and did not play, and the Hornets were in trouble, though as usual, it didn't actually materialize until the Third-Quarter Drought" kicked in. It may not have mattered, though: Utah shot better than 55 percent through most of the game and had it locked down well before the fourth quarter began. And the Hornets lost to the Jazz, 104-80, a difference far greater than D. West's 17-point average. (Picture of a disaster in the making: first quarter 31, second quarter 21, third quarter 16, fourth quarter 12.) Utah vaults over the Hornets in the standings with the win, taking 9th place in the conference and dropping the Bees to 10th.

Despite all that, six Bees scored in double figures, led by Rasual Butler with 15; the Hornets bench contributed 32 points, but this is less an indication of bench strength than of starter fecklessness. (The lowest-scoring Jazz starter, Andrei Kirilenko, picked up 13.) And the Jazz outrebounded the Hornets by an embarrassing 45-23.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas came on in the last five minutes and missed two jump shots.

This road trip ends with Wednesday at Golden State, followed by Friday at the Ford against the Grizzlies (on ESPN!), then back on the road to meet the Raptors and the Pistons.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:34 PM)
30 March 2006
Who knew? A W in Oakland

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Byron Scott, vexed at still being 1-and-whatever this month, and beset with ever-increasing injuries, retrieved Brandon Bass from the D-League, and reshuffled the starting lineup: Marc Jackson took David West's spot at the four, and Linton Johnson started at the three, bumping Rasual Butler to the two and Kirk Snyder to the bench. (Four Hornets were listed as injured tonight: Vroman and Mason, as usual of late; West, missing his second consecutive game; and Claxton, with a return of the dreaded turf-toe. What's more, P. J. Brown rolled his ankle late in the fourth and had to retreat to the locker room.)

The Hornets didn't shoot particularly well, but neither did Golden State, and things were nip-and-tuck through almost the entire game. On the last possession, trailing by one, the Warriors brought it in and got one, two, three shots at the bucket, and the last one went in too late. Hornets 86, Warriors 85, and now the Bees are 2-and-whatever for the month.

Pointwise, Rasual got his trey back in the fourth quarter, hitting four of seven overall and 20 points total; Chris Paul added 18, Marc Jackson 16, and P. J. got 12 before going down on that ankle. Brandon Bass scored just a single free throw, but he pulled down six boards. And no Third-Quarter Drought", either: the quarters went 22, 22, 22, 20.

The Grizzlies will be waiting at the Ford on Friday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 AM)
31 March 2006
There are no words for this

Or weren't, at least until very recently:

When George Mason University Band Director Anthony Maiello composed the school's Fight Song a few years ago, he never got down to writing lyrics.

But after the basketball team advanced to the Final Four of the men's championship tournament, the NCAA called asking for the words. That sent several administrators scrambling this week to come up with real words to accompany the music.

As real as this, anyway:

Hail to George Mason, Patriot green and gold
We are George Mason, home of the brave and bold
Hail to George Mason, proud for all to see
Catch our spirit, feel our pride, onward to victory

"Boomer Sooner" it ain't.

(Via Deadspin.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:28 PM)
Tinkering with the formula

With pain and sorrow accumulating among the starters, the Hornets continue to experiment: they signed power forward Marcus Fizer from the Austin Toros of the D-League to a ten-day contract and jettisoned the ailing Jackson Vroman to make room on the roster. (For Vroman, being waived means that there is a 48-hour window of opportunity for another team to acquire his existing contract; if he is not picked up at that time, he may be signed to a new contract. Either way, he is not eligible for this season's playoffs which may not matter, since he won't be healed by then anyway.) And yet another new wrinkle: the ESPN presence in the Ford Center.

Depleted or not, the Hornets jumped out to an early lead, but Memphis stayed close, and there were plenty of ties (eight of them) along the way. But tonight, the Bees would prevail: they shot an amazing 59 percent, and ruled the boards, 33-22. Final: Hornets 107, Grizz 102, taking the season series 3-1.

Of the wounded, only Speedy Claxton returned to action, but the new starters seem to be settling into something of a groove. Linton Johnson, scoreless in his previous start, pulled down 16 points and 8 boards; Marc Jackson, holding down the middle, scored 24, a season high, and got 7 boards. Add 9 from Aaron Williams, 15 from Rasual Butler, and 21 from Chris Paul, and suddenly you've got offense. Weirdly, the Memphis bench outscored its starters, 53-49.

What matters here is first, of course, the W, but also the first real national audience for this year's Hornets and for the Ford Center. Cue John Lennon: "I'd like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition."

Two road games follow: the first meeting with the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, followed by the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:02 PM)
1 April 2006
Speedy to the Knicks?

Knicks coach Larry Brown says he's going to look for a point guard in the off-season, and Stephon Marbury, injured last night against the Sixers at the Garden, won't be it.

One possibility:

Hornets free agent Speedy Claxton, who played for Brown in Philadelphia, is on the coach's wish list. Claxton is a good defender, ball-handler and looks first to set up others. The former Hofstra star is behind Rookie of the Year shoo-in Chris Paul.

Claxton could be available for the $5 million mid-level exception, the only avenue other than a sign-and-trade in which the Knicks can obtain a decent free agent.

Speedy is pulling down $3.6 million in the last year of his contract with the Hornets.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 AM)
2 April 2006
1-0 in T.O.

According to Byron Scott, it was the whim of the Schedule Gods that the Hornets hadn't played the Raptors even once in the first 71 games; whatever the explanation, this would be the Bees' only trip to Toronto this year. (The Raptors will visit the Ford Center this coming Friday.)

The Hornets piled up an 18-point lead in the third quarter, but Toronto refused to roll over and die, and with two minutes left, the Raptors, cashing in on three consecutive turnovers, regained the lead. The fourth quarter ended with a 95-95 tie.

The first overtime was full of sound and fury, but signified nothing; each team managed five points in five minutes. In the second overtime, the Bees struck early and made it stick, coming out on top 120-113. (I am, I suppose, slightly disturbed that the Bees scored 20 points in five minutes, considering they only scored 15 points in the 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.)

With 58 minutes of play time, you might think there were a lot of shots taken, and you would be correct: the Hornets took 99 shots and made 45 (45.5 percent), while the Raptors hit 45 of 113 (39.8 percent). Toronto hit 12 of 31 three-balls; the Bees, 4 of 14.

For the first time this season, there's a triple-double for the Hornets: Chris Paul scored 24 points, grabbed 12 boards and served up 12 assists, the first time he's pulled off this feat, and he didn't need the overtime to reach the threshold, either. David West, back in the saddle, scored 23; Rasual Butler dropped in 17, Marc Jackson 16, Aaron Williams 13, Speedy Claxton 10 (and 12 dimes, for a double-double) and J. R. Smith 10. It appears that when Linton Johnson starts, he scores a lot and provides a fair amount of defense, or he scores very little and provides a whole lot of defense. It was the latter tonight, with three points, two blocked shots and 8 boards, including some clutch play towards the end. And Brandon Bass, who played about 10 minutes, snagged 4 points and 7 rebounds.

But what I wonder is how is this Toronto team only 26-47? They seem to be a lot better than that, and they didn't even have the services of Chris Bosh tonight; what's more, their ace rookie Charlie Villanueva scored 25 points and hauled in 18 boards.

To Auburn Hills on Tuesday, where the Pistons will be waiting and presumably without Rasheed Wallace, who got his 16th technical foul of the season today and is subject to a one-game suspension.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:10 PM)
4 April 2006
Sliced and McDyessed

Any illusions the Hornets might have had about sneaking this one away from the Pistons were utterly shattered by Antonio McDyess, who came off the bench in the absence of Rasheed Wallace to score 26 points (and 14 rebounds). The Bees were game, maybe a little beyond that, but Detroit had lost only three games at the Palace this year, and they were in no mood for a fourth: Pistons 101, Hornets 93.

The Hornet mainstays stayed with it all game: both Chris Paul and David West picked up 24 points, and the team shot a respectable 48 percent. But when the Pistons are hitting on all cylinders, they don't lose, and this was their 60th win of the season.

A long flight back to OKC, and Golden State will be waiting at the Ford Center for a Wednesday-night contest.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:59 PM)
5 April 2006
Do or die time

Somewhere in the third period, the Hornets snapped: first David West, then Chris Paul. The crowd was appalled. Technicals were assessed. Frustration was rampant.

And with two seconds left, it was 103-103. West uncorked one of his patented last-second shots; it refused to drop in.

So the Warriors and the Hornets, one point apart in their last meeting, went into overtime, and Golden State's last shot wound up in the arms of Chris Paul. Bees 114, Warriors 109.

Every Hornet starter made double figures: Rasual Butler had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds), and Chris Paul got his second triple-double (17 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds). But Speedy Claxton, off the bench, outscored them all, picking up 21, and Kirk Snyder, after many days glued to that bench, hit five of six (including a trey) for 11.

Unfortunately, the Kings surprised the Spurs in San Antonio, so the Bees remain two games back in the race for that last playoff spot. But at least they're still in the race.

The Raptors drop in Friday, followed by a quick trip to (shudder) Dallas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:53 PM)
7 April 2006
2-0 against T.O.

Last time we saw the Raptors, I said something to the effect that they were better than their record suggested; they are indeed a persistent bunch. Tonight they made thirteen treys (out of 35 tries, which was almost the same as their percentage from inside the arc) and came back twice from major deficits to scare the Hornets. Fortunately, the Bees tend to play better when fear is staring them in the face, and they prevailed, 95-89.

Seven of those Toronto treys were sunk by Mike James, who scored 36 in all. It still amazes me that this team has lost 50 games.

Desmond Mason and P. J. Brown saw some action tonight from the bench; it was good to see them back on the court. David West scored 19, Chris Paul 16, and Linton Johnson 13; Speedy Claxton dropped in 11 from off the bench.

Saturday night in Dallas, where the Mavericks always seem to have the Bees' number; after that, the final homestand, against Cleveland, Seattle and Utah.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 PM)
8 April 2006
Dallas aforethought

During the preceding three years in New Orleans, one thing the Hornets didn't do was beat the Dallas Mavericks; the last time they put the hurt on the Mavs, they were still the Charlotte Hornets, fercryingoutloud. Thirteen consecutive losses to Mark Cuban and company.

The relocation to Oklahoma City made absolutely no difference. The Bees played the Mavericks four times this season, and Dallas won all four of them, the only team to sweep four from the Hornets this year. The score 101-77 is almost irrelevant.

It's not like the Bees were bad, particularly: they shot 44 percent from the floor, fairly typical. But they gave up 18 turnovers, including 8 steals, and the Mavs owned the boards, getting 48 rebounds to the Hornets' 30.

Rasual Butler led the Hornets with 14 points. P. J. Brown, off the bench, picked up 12, and that was it for double figures.

Six games left, and now two below .500. It's still theoretically possible to make the playoffs but it's going to be that much more difficult.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:53 PM)
10 April 2006
Cavalier treatment

Just how bad is the Third-Quarter Drought"? The Hornets scored 37 in the second quarter tonight and twelve in the third. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, picked up 29 in each, so the Bees' 11-point halftime lead turned into a six-point deficit going into the fourth.

The Hornets almost redeemed themselves in the last quarter, but the operative word is "almost": with half a second left, LeBron James picked up his 13th field goal of the night (for 32 points) and put Cleveland in front, 103-101.

It wasn't all LeBron, either; Flip Murray sank three treys and scored 25, and Donyell Marshall, off the bench, picked up 16 with four treys.

Chris Paul led the Bees with 22 points; Speedy Claxton had 14, as did David West, who departed with an ankle injury midway through the fourth. Three other Hornets scored in double figures.

Meanwhile, playoff hopes are, as Sean Kelley said, "on the ropes." And what kind of game is it when an official leaves with an injury?

The Sonics will be here Wednesday, the Jazz on Friday, and the season ends with three games on the road.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:44 PM)
12 April 2006
Sonic euthanasia

We could have used a couple dozen more of these. No Third-Quarter Drought"; two double-doubles (Marc Jackson and Desmond Mason); another clutch bucket by CP3; nobody even close to foul trouble all night. But Seattle declined to roll over and die: Ray Allen dropped in 36 points, and the Hornets escaped with a 104-99 victory over the Sonics, taking the season series 3-1.

Then again, maybe we couldn't. Aaron Williams took a pop to the knee after the fifth minute; David West, still with ankle trouble, didn't play at all.

Chris Paul led the Bees' scoring with 21; both Jackson and Mason scored 17; Speedy Claxton and Kirk Snyder dropped in 10 each; rookie Brandon Bass, making his earliest appearance ever, got a career high of 9 plus four boards in 23 minutes.

The last regular-season game at the Ford is Friday, against the Jazz.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 PM)
13 April 2006
The Seattle shuffle

The Sonics moving to Oklahoma City? It's news to Mayor Cornett:

Although the Seattle SuperSonics said in their Board of Governors statement last week that they have had "numerous inquiries" from potential buyers, Oklahoma City is not among the cities that have called, Mayor Mick Cornett said.

Cornett also said the Sonics have not called him or the ownership group put together to acquire an NBA franchise on the city?s behalf in an effort to gauge their interest in acquiring the Sonics.

Sonics CEO Wally Walker attended Wednesday?s game, but he declined to be interviewed for this story. He said his presence in Oklahoma City has nothing to do with the Sonics' recent decision to announce they would sell. He said he was traveling on personal business and stopped to catch the road game.

On the other hand, Walker would be remiss in his duties to the Sonics if he didn't check out all the possibilities, however unlikely.

And certainly The Mick thinks it's unlikely:

"Professional sports these days seems to come down to the venue and the lease," Cornett said. "The Sonics are one of four franchises that has been identified as a potential long-term tenant for this arena. There are numerous scenarios for Oklahoma City, and in all of those scenarios we wind up with a team. In one of these scenarios, we wind up with Seattle. But I think it is a long shot. I really think Seattle at the end of the day will find a way to keep them."

The elephant um, the insect in the room will not, of course, be discussed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:06 PM)
14 April 2006
Hear the buzz better

One of the weirdest shapes this side of Jabba the Hutt is KTOK's nighttime directional pattern. Here in the middle of town, it's no big deal, but directly east or west, you're out of luck.

So I can't say I'm surprised to hear that Clear Channel is contemplating simulcasting next year's Hornets games on FM, perhaps on The Twister. This has been the practice in New Orleans, where WODT is backed up by WRNO-FM.

And even if you're not a Bees fan, listening to Sean and Gerry V riffing off one another is a genuine treat.

Update, 28 April: The Hornets broadcasts next year will move to Clear Channel's KHBZ 94.7, an alt-rock station known as wait for it "The Buzz."

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:15 AM)
And that was that

Sean Kelley was calling for Rolaids in the second half, and I can't blame him: this game churned from start to finish. With 27 seconds left, the Hornets led the Jazz, 104-103; Deron Williams drew a foul and sank two free throws at the 18-second mark, putting Utah in front, and that was the season. (Oh, yeah, there are those three West Coast games, but we won't talk about those right now.)

All five Jazz starters scored in double figures, but the greatest damage came from the front court, where Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer combined for 48 points and 17 rebounds; Kirilenko blocked seven shots.

David West, though, was stellar: he had 31 points and 12 boards, and four other Bees picked up double figures.

So now the Hornets, at 38-41, are two games out of ninth three games out of the eighth playoff slot with three games to play. They are not mathematically eliminated, technically, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to win all three while the Jazz and the Kings go 0-3 next week.

Still, did anyone imagine this team would win even 38 games? Recall the words of one particularly-uninformed commentator:

I'm inclined to think that finishing 31-51 would qualify as a moral victory. (I'm expecting more like 25-57.)

At New Year's, I guesstimated 34-48. At the time, they were 12-17.

I close with the words of Ron Hitley of Hornets247.com, before the season began:

Early indications are that OKC can sustain a major league franchise, but will the support for the Hornets last?

The novelty might start to wear off when the Hornets stumble into the new year with single digits in the win column. If the people of Oklahoma City want to keep the team for at least another season, or prove themselves prime candidates for an expansion team, that can't happen.

And, well, it didn't. The last game of the season at the Ford, like the first, was a sellout.

Addendum, Saturday night: Sacramento 100, Denver 82. The door is officially closed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:56 PM)
15 April 2006
We got crowds

I noted here that I didn't predict the Hornets' eventual won-lost record particularly well.

On the other hand, I did a bang-up job on attendance:

And, just for giggles, let me mention that about this many people can be counted on to show up downtown each April at the Festival of the Arts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 PM)
16 April 2006
For funsies

The Hornets were out of the playoffs, and they weren't likely to dislodge the Kings, so Byron Scott apparently decided to let everyone on the active list play and let it all hang out. The results were not particularly lovely on either side, though the Kings' Mike Bibby gave the Hornets fits, scoring 23 including five 3-balls, and Sacramento did post the W they needed to clinch a seed, winning 96-79.

Just to make it semi-interesting, the Bees canceled the Third-Quarter Drought", actually outscoring the Kings 28-24. Marcus Fizer made his first appearance, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds. The top Hornet rebounder was Brandon Bass, who got six, along with eight points. (Chris Paul scored 12; everyone except J. R. Smith got at least two.)

Two to go: tomorrow night in Phoenix against the Suns, and Wednesday in L.A. against the Lakers.

Side glance: The Bees' 38-42 record would still be in playoff contention barely were they in the Eastern Conference.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:22 PM)
17 April 2006
Set by the Suns

The second consecutive "let's see what the bench can do" game, inasmuch as the Hornets aren't going anywhere in the postseason, and it was even quirkier than last night's game: Brandon Bass started, for the first time ever, and by gum, Arvydas Macijauskas put in some minutes and picked up seven points. Marcus Fizer made his second appearance, scoring nine; Linton Johnson scored four and snagged seven boards. Me, I was just hoping Sean Kelley would have to deal with both Arvydas Macijauskas and Phoenix forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili, which he did.

Oh, the score? Suns 115, Hornets 78.

Byron Scott has been making noises about half the team coming back next year, which means, of course, that half of them won't. The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry predicted who'd stay and who'd go this morning, and I'm inclined to agree with most of his choices, though I think Linton Johnson has a better chance of making next year's squad than Mayberry thinks. (We can both remonstrate in silence this fall when the new lineup is announced.)

One more exercise, against the Lakers Wednesday, and the mighty Hornets machine, such as it is, goes back into drydock.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:12 PM)
19 April 2006
Thoroughly scrubbed

Basketbawful defines "scrub game" as follows:

A game in which a team's bench players (the "scrubs") either start or play most of the game. This is typically done near the end of the season when the team's playoff seeding has been determined and the coach decides to rest the starters.

This is not what happened at the Staples Center. The Lakers, were they to lose, would have dropped to eighth and would have had to play San Antonio in the opening round of the playoffs; seventh would have pitted them against Phoenix, a presumably-easier opponent. The Hornets, after two games of experimentation, went back to their regular lineup in the hope of going out on a positive note.

It didn't happen. With about three minutes left in the third, Desmond Mason bopped Kobe Bryant on the head, a foul deemed Type-1 Flagrant. Kobe made both free throws and then followed with a bucket. It is a measure of how things went for the Bees that the four-point play went almost unnoticed. The final: Lakers 115, Hornets 95.

P. J. Brown led the Bees with 16 points; Marc Jackson, playing in David West's forward position, picked up a double-double (15 points, 13 boards). Moochie Norris, spelling Chris Paul in the absence of Speedy Claxton, scored 13 and didn't miss a shot all night.

Oh, and Kobe? Thirty-five, about his average, in twenty-nine minutes.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas came on in the fourth and scored four.

So that's the season: 38-44. You can look at it as sub-.500 ball; or you can look at last year, when the Hornets played sub-.220 ball. I have to figure that winning more than twice as many games is a step in the right direction.

Preseason begins in October.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:49 PM)
10 May 2006
Will they stay or will they go?

I sat on this for a while, wondering if I might hear some stories in the interim, but it didn't happen.

Anyway, Clark Matthews, who writes "Strictly Hornets" for OKCHornetsCentral.com, has taken a stab at guessing what happens to the half-dozen free agents on the Bees' roster. He expects five of them to be gone, with only Rasual Butler sticking around (and getting a fat raise, to about $11 million over three years).

He's probably right about Speedy Claxton: the 6th man for the Hornets, he could be a starter for rather a lot of teams, and he could get paid like a starter, too. Picture him gone.

I'm not so sure about Aaron Williams. A-Train isn't quite the bruiser Byron Scott wants to see in the lane, but he's steady, and he has a commendable work ethic, which counts for a lot with this team. (Might even be enough to justify keeping Linton Johnson around; he's not so steady, but he busts his butt.)

Jackson Vroman has already been waived; the team could pick him back up, but I somehow doubt it. And really, we didn't see enough of Marcus Fizer to know whether they want him for a whole season (he was signed for only two 10-day contracts).

Meanwhile, of the players still under contract for next year, I'm thinking we can say goodbye to J. R. Smith and Arvydas Macijauskas, and there's this nagging suspicion that P. J. Brown will ask to be traded, just so he can be on a playoff contender in what is likely his last year in the league. On the other hand, NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Paul isn't going anywhere. Thank heaven.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 AM)
11 May 2006
An expensive avocation, this

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote this piece on NBA playoff officiating before the playoffs began, but didn't publish it.

Sunday, an incident at San Antonio: apparently disturbed at the absence of a foul call, Cuban ran onto the court and was ordered back to the bench. Cuban went back to his laptop and posted the article, which contained statements like this:

[T]he NBA has a huge problem. It doesn't view the playoffs as a place where the very best of the best of officials go to work. It views the playoffs as part of a reward system for officials.

The NBA's response? They fined him $100,000 for running onto the court, and another $100,000 for his blog article.

Some people really, really don't like to be criticized.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 AM)
15 May 2006
Things are starting to Fester

The Oklahoman's "Mr. Monday" sums up Hornets owner George Shinn:

George Steinbrenner might be Darth Vader, Mark Cuban might be Richie Rich, but our owner is Uncle Fester.

Mr. Monday has yet to see Shinn and H. Ross Perot in the same place at the same time.

Heck, Mr. Monday hasn't seen Shinn and Roscoe P. Coltrane in the same place at the same time.

I bring this up mostly to note Mr. Monday's pronoun usage.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:05 AM)
7 June 2006
And we grumble about George Shinn

SellTheKnicks.com. Why?

The mismanagement of the New York Knicks is about more than just basketball. James Dolan is a spoiled brat with zero business acumen. His legacy will consist of botched deals, frivolous spending, and PR nightmares. This man is in no way fit to run the Knicks.

Which is followed by a list of Dolan's putative transgressions and misdeeds.

Dolan, you may be sure, is not pleased.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:14 PM)
13 June 2006
Although Gerry V would love it

While attempting to follow up on a HoopsHype rumor that Spanish team FC Barcelona might deal for Hornets bench-dweller Arvydas Macijauskas should their Juan Carlos Navarro decamp for the NBA, I turned up an article on an FCB power forward who will never, ever be welcomed Stateside simply because you can't put him on television.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:15 AM)
26 June 2006
Madness spilling into April

Fixing things that ain't broke is generally not a good idea:

In its present state, the NCAA basketball tournament approaches perfection. Not too many teams, not too few, unknowns upsetting the enormous schools wall-to-wall hoops for 3 weeks in March. And then you have the astounding run of George Mason.

Now, the coaches want to nearly double the size of the 65-team field. They will ask the NCAA to expand the field at meetings in Orlando, Fla., this week.

"They'd love to see the tournament double to 128," said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. "It's based on several things. First, there are a lot of good teams worthy of making the NCAA field, and second, the size of 64 or 65 has been in place for a number of years."

Two immediate questions:

  • Would the women's tournament be similarly expanded?

  • Who's going to pay for all that oversized paper to print off 128-team brackets?

The cynic in me sees this as an attempt at increasing job security for coaches: you make the NCAA, you're probably not going to be fired.

(Via Deadspin.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:42 AM)
29 June 2006
Please, Mr. Post Man

Byron Scott, last week:

If we can get a big at 12 and 15, we'll take that and then we'll take our chances in free agency as far as getting a shooter. Bigs are hard to get, so if you can get a 6-11 and a 7-footer or 6-11 and 6-10 that can help clog up that middle and block shots and rebound, then I think it helps make us an even more attractive team as far as free agency goes to try to land a guy that can flat-out shoot the ball.

They indeed took that. The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson is impressed:

Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons are difference-makers for this franchise. For other teams, they might?ve just been nice additions. For this team, they?ll put the Hornets over the edge.

Not immediately, of course. But if you're looking for guys who can slash and burn in the lane, these are the guys you're looking for.

In the second round (at 43), the Bees opted for Brazilian forward Marcus Vinicius, whom I suspect will be dangled as trade bait.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:28 AM)
2 July 2006
As promised

Byron Scott, two weeks ago;

If we can get a big at 12 and 15, we'll take that and then we'll take our chances in free agency as far as getting a shooter.

Well, they got bigs at 12 and 15, and they did in fact go to the free-agent market for a shooter: Pacers forward Peja Stojakovic, who will be joining the Hornets (pending a physical) on a five-year deal worth $64 million, what ESPN calls "arguably ... the boldest acquisition in club history".

The Bees are under the salary cap and can actually afford this kind of money, and no doubt it was a powerful incentive, but Stojakovic and Scott go back a long way: both of them had played in Greece, and when Stojakovic originally signed with Sacramento, Scott was an assistant coach for the Kings. And Peja hadn't been a Pacer very long: he was acquired by Indiana in January in a trade for Ron Artest.

No trades are technically official until the 12th, but this one looks like a done deal, and with the three draftees from last week, the Hornets' signed-for-this-season roster is up to 12. Mike Kahn predicts:

This translates into them allowing free agents Rasual Butler and Speedy Claxton to walk if they are so inclined, while moving fine young forward David West to sixth man or to power forward. Desmond Mason and Kirk Snyder will duke it out for the starting shooting guard spot, giving them depth they haven't had in years. More importantly, they're now stocked enough, they could maybe even orchestrate a sign-and-trade with Butler or Claxton with immature and problematic J.R. Smith if they are so inclined.

But now, they don't even have to do anything. Sure, [Hilton] Armstrong is young and raw, but will spell undersized P.J. Brown at center and even allow him to slide over to his natural power forward position occasionally. What everybody really envisions, of course, is the indefatigable Paul barreling up the floor and kicking it out to Stojakovic stroking 3-pointers all day long.

And wouldn't that be nice?

Update, 7:30 pm: The Oklahoman is reporting that Grizzlies point guard Bobby Jackson will be signed by the Hornets, which presumably would free up Speedy Claxton to seek a starting role elsewhere.

Update, 7:30 pm, 3 July: "Elsewhere" seems to be Atlanta.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:15 AM)
6 July 2006
Are the big deals finished?

The Oklahoman's main hoops guy, Darnell Mayberry, thinks so: he's already predicting the starting five for next season's Hornets, and really, it's hard to argue with this placement:

  1. Chris Paul, point guard
  2. Peja Stojakovic, shooting guard
  3. Desmond Mason, small forward
  4. David West, power forward
  5. Tyson Chandler, center

Still to come: the departure of Rasual Butler (probably) and Arvydas Macijauskas (almost definitely).

And I'd like to wish P. J. Brown well as he moves to Chicago for what may be his last season: if the NBA has an Elder Statesman, it's P. J.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
10 July 2006
Mottless crew

The Hornets, Ron Hitley says, were "long overdue for a mysterious resignation," and sure enough, team president Paul Mott is out after 14 months on the job.

What this portends is unclear, to say the least. And it's not like owner George Shinn has never done anything inexplicable before. Perhaps the identity of Mott's replacement, when the time comes, will provide a clue.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
13 July 2006
Paging Andrew Betts

You gotta love this:

The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets announced [yesterday] that they have acquired forward Peja Stojakovic and cash considerations from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for the draft rights to Andrew Betts.

So it's become a sign-and-trade transaction, and I'm sure they had their reasons. (Most likely: the Pacers pick up a trade exception which they can use anytime during the season, probably $7.5 million or so, which far exceeds any amount of cash they forked over to the Hornets.)

Which leaves one question: Who the hell is Andrew Betts?

The Hornets drafted him 50th in 1998 out of Long Beach State; he never played in the NBA during the regular season, but took off for Europe, where he spent five seasons among three Euroleague teams, the last of which was Spain's Tau Ceramica, for whom he averaged 6.8 points per game. (By some weird coincidence, one of Betts' teammates that year 2004-05 was Arvydas Macijauskas, whom the Hornets waived yesterday and who will return to the Continent.)

And Betts comes back into the picture in this year's Vegas Summer League, playing for the Hornets. Will the Pacers pick him up for a minimum contract? Maybe he's hoping for exactly that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
18 July 2006
The door revolves

Yours truly, December 2005:

If the Hornets return to New Orleans, as everyone involved swears they will, this is the most likely spot the Sonics will end up: team support here is running well beyond original expectations, and NBA Commissioner David Stern would much prefer to have another team move here than to deal with angry Hornets fans in Louisiana.

And again, February 2006:

[Clay] Bennett and Oklahoma Professional Sports LLC, the ad hoc business consortium that backed Oklahoma City's bid to host the Hornets from 2005 through 2007, have set up a corporation to seek an NBA franchise for the city, be it the Hornets if they stay, or another team should they go. Meanwhile in Seattle, [Howard] Schultz is making noises about selling out.

Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman, just now:

An Oklahoma City investor group led by Clay Bennett has reached agreement to purchase the Seattle SuperSonics for a reported $350 million, according to multiple sources. Sources in Seattle confirmed a Tuesday afternoon press conference to announce the sale, and the Seattle Times and the Fox Sports Northwest both reported the purchase.

The Seattle Times story is here.

Now if I could just predict the farging stock market.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:55 PM)
The official Sonics announcement

As seen on NBA.com:

The Basketball Club of Seattle (BCOS) announced today that it has signed a purchase agreement to sell its NBA Seattle SuperSonics and WNBA Seattle Storm for $350 million. The teams are being purchased by the Professional Basketball Club LLC, an Oklahoma City, Oklahoma based investment group led by Clayton I. Bennett, chairman of Dorchester Capital, a private investment company. Additional members of the group include Aubrey K. McClendon, Chairman and CEO, Chesapeake Energy Corporation; G. Jeffrey Records, Chairman of the Board and CEO, MidFirst Bank; Tom L. Ward, Chairman and CEO, Riata Energy, Inc., and G. Edward Evans, chairman, Syniverse Holding, Inc. The transaction is expected to close by the end of October of 2006.

?We have enjoyed the opportunity to own and operate the Sonics and the Storm for the past five seasons and are proud of what we?ve achieved both on and off the court,? said Howard Schultz, chairman of the Basketball Club of Seattle. ?Since the majority of the Basketball Club of Seattle?s investors live and work in the Seattle community, it was extremely difficult for us to decide to sell the teams. As you may know, over the past two years, we have worked with local and state officials to seek a solution to the arena issues. However, it became more apparent that a new ownership group may be more successful in achieving the remaining goals of the Sonics and Storm.?

?We are grateful to have the opportunity to combine our passion for professional basketball and our abilities to build successful business enterprises,? said Bennett. ?We thank the BCOS. They love this city and the Sonics and Storm. We appreciate the opportunity to lead a professional sports organization that has achieved the pinnacle of success within both the NBA and WNBA.

?The Sonics and the Storm are synonymous with Seattle, and it is our desire to have the Sonics and the Storm build upon their great legacies in the Greater Seattle area,? added Bennett. ?We believe with the right dynamics on the court, the right community support, the right business model and a financially committed ownership group that recognizes and respects Seattle, we can succeed here for decades to come.?

?We decided that if we had to sell the team, our first preference was to identify a local buyer who resides in the Northwest, and we were committed to taking a lower price if a local buyer came forward,? continued Schultz. ?Unfortunately, we searched for a local buyer, but were unsuccessful. However, we are pleased that the ownership of the Sonics and the Storm will transition to the Professional Basketball Club, which is a stellar management team, with a history of proven success.?

?The Basketball Club of Seattle offers a sincere thank you to our players, our coaches and all of our front office employees for their hard work and dedication over the past five years,? said Wally Walker, president and CEO of the Seattle Sonics & Storm. ?We also want to thank Sonics and Storm fans and business partners for their passionate support. Our employees and basketball fans around the Northwest should remain very proud of the 40-year legacy of the Sonics and the success the Storm have experienced in their seven seasons. I?m committed to working with the new owners to keep our teams in Seattle and I?m excited about the energy they will bring to the organization.?

Former Seattle Seahawks great Steve Largent, who is from Oklahoma originally and knows personally several members of the new ownership group commented, ?They are well-respected and successful business professionals who are sports fans. I know they truly would like to keep the Sonics and the Storm in Seattle. On a personal note, I hope they are successful.?

The Basketball Club of Seattle purchased the teams in April 2001 from The Ackerley Group. During the five years of BCOS ownership, the Sonics recorded a winning percentage of 51 percent, made two playoff appearances and won the 2005 Northwest Division title. The Storm have made three playoff appearances and won the 2004 WNBA Championship the first major professional sports championship for Seattle since the Sonics won the 1979 NBA Championship.

In addition to achievements on the court, the teams remain active in the community. The Sonics & Storm Foundation and its players donate more than $1 million per year to the region?s communities.

SuperSonics.com has a Sale FAQ posted.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:32 PM)
The unofficial Hornets announcement

On the Seattle sonicscentral.com blog:

According to SonicsCentral sources, coinciding with the Seattle Supersonics petition to the league regarding the sale, New Orleans Hornets ownership, headed by George Shinn, has applied to the league to permanently stay in Oklahoma City.

The Hornets had previous[ly] maintained that they would return to New Orleans as soon as repairs and conditions made it possible.

This is unconfirmed at the moment, but you know, it sounds Shinn-ical.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:43 PM)
19 July 2006
Post-modern Art

Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer dumps on Howard Schultz:

At least three times publicly Tuesday, Howard Schultz, the soon-to-be-former Sonics owner, lamented that government officials showed him and his fellow buccaneers "no respect."

Honest, he really said it. Not Gary Payton, the self-absorbed player Schultz couldn't stand, and instead traded. It was Schultz who adopted Payton's schoolyard rap with his pout over the city's reluctance to subsidize his team's playpen.

Then Schultz, along with president and fellow owner Wally Walker, had the jewels to claim that some silly cowboys from Oklahoma will have more success than the homeys did in keeping the Sonics in Seattle.

My definition of "no respect": Assuming one's listeners are total morons.

Or, perhaps, "silly cowboys."

Incidentally, NewsOK.com has reprinted the Thiel piece, which ends with this fatuous blast at Oklahoma City:

Alert to basketball fans in Oklahoma City: As of Tuesday, your arena is already on the fast track to becoming a crap can, your owner is a wild-eyed venture capitalist and your team next year will pay maybe $50 million to a pimply teenager who doesn't know a drop step from a drop kick.

At least it's not the Dust Bowl. But the taste is recognizable.

Remind me to ask him how he likes his crow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
21 July 2006
Jersey watch

So far, I have done a fairly lousy job of anticipating the numbers to be worn by this year's new Hornets, a situation made more difficult by the fact that ex-Bulls center Tyson Chandler had worn number 3, a number already claimed by Chris Paul; Chandler, vowing at a press conference to be "twice as good" as he was in Chicago during his tenure as a Hornet, will wear number 6 instead. Conveniently, 6 has been vacated by Arvydas Macijauskas, long gone for Europe.

Interestingly, Hilton Armstrong, drafted 12th, will wear number 12; Cedric Simmons, drafted 15th, will wear number 22. Aw, shucks.

Still to be determined: Bobby Jackson and Marcus Vinicius, who haven't formally signed the papers yet. Jackson wore #24 in Memphis, which will clash with Desmond Mason. And Peja? He was #16 for the Kings, #16 for the Pacers, and he'll be #16 for the Hornets.

(Retired numbers: 7, for Pete Maravich of LSU he never played for the Hornets, but he remains a towering figure in Louisiana sports history, and he did play for the Jazz when they were in New Orleans and 13, for Bobby Phills, a Hornets guard killed in an auto accident halfway through the 1999-2000 season.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:07 AM)
Meanwhile in the Emerald City

Nick Licata, who presides over the Seattle City Council, has an idea what to do with a Sonic-less KeyArena:

It would be an opportunity for a real public-private partnership of a different sort than, say, professional sports. We could convert KeyArena to a new type of facility that would reflect new 21st century technology. In Las Vegas, 15,000 show up for a national gaming conference. Why not have those people come to Seattle?

Why not, indeed?

Licata drew flak earlier for suggesting that the value of professional sports was "on a cultural basis, close to zero." Asked about this and other issues by a Sonics fan, he sent an explanation, attached as a comment to this thread:

I have been saying for months that I would like to see the Sonics stay in Seattle, but not at a cost of over $200 million. As I stated several months ago, there is no doubt about it, my glib, foolish remark on the relative unimportance of professional basketball in Seattle was smug and wrong. In my clumsy way I was trying to point out that Seattle is a world-class city for a variety of reasons, not just because of the Sonics. Public leaders need to ask the right questions, and then listen to the answers instead of providing good press copy. As an elected official, it is my job to weigh competing interests and decide what is the best use of taxpayer dollars. Let me give you some background on this issue. In 1995, after a City Council vote, the former Coliseum was rebuilt into KeyArena at the request of the Sonics. That same year, the voters of King County narrowly voted down a baseball stadium. The State Legislature and the King County Council overturned that decision. In 1997, state voters narrowly passed a measure for a football stadium. Partly as a result of voter anger at the baseball stadium vote being overturned, state voters then passed a series of anti-tax initiatives that constrained the ability of local governments to pay for basic services. This forced cuts in services, and has had a lasting impact. Some governments, such as King County, have had to eliminate entire lines of business, such as providing swimming pools and park construction. Right now the Seattle City Council is considering a tax levy proposal from Mayor Greg Nickels to provide funding for road and bridge maintenance. This is needed because a principal funding source for this basic, core service was removed by an anti-tax measure. One goal of anti-tax measures was to force local governments to put measures on the ballot for voters to decide what they want government to do, so this is in line with the intent expressed by the voters. That is why I believe it is fair for the City Council to insist on a public vote for any tax proposal for a new basketball arena. These initiatives have forced elected officials to carefully choose what items to fund. For this reason, the Council crafted a set of reasonable conditions for negotiations, and the Mayor's office began discussions with the Sonics' former ownership.

The economic model for professional basketball includes a reliance on public subsidies. The level of subsidy required for a NBA franchise has increased considerably in recent years. The Sonics consider the 1995 version of KeyArena obsolete, only 11 years after its construction. This is not an isolated case: Memphis built a new arena in 1991, and then again in 2004. The economic lifespan of NBA arenas is decreasing and the amount of public subsidy formerly a small portion is now expected to be the overwhelming majority. This is the economic model of the NBA nowadays. Keep in mind, the bonds used to finance construction of KeyArena will not be paid off until 2014, four years after the Sonics lease expires. The current business model of the NBA depends not only on public subsidies, but on generating revenues from arenas that are much larger than KeyArena, in order to generate revenue from restaurants and shops. They want all the revenue the arena can generate, including from concerts, which are more profitable than Sonics games. NBA arenas are becoming as much malls as sports arenas. That is why KeyArena is considered obsolete, not because of any structural defects, or lack of good sightlines, for example. As the KeyArena business plan notes, it was rated "Best Venue in the NBA" in 2004, and has won Facilities and Event Management's "Prime Site" award three times since opening. The question is, how much is enough? The proposal for a $220 million KeyArena remodel, when including the remaining debt, and financed at 6% interest, would cost an annual $40 million tax subsidy for 15 years. I developed a proposal that would have provided $8-10 million in new annual revenues for the Sonics. The Mayor of Seattle proposed three options to the Sonics. One of the options would have provided a $20 million annual increase in revenues for the Sonics. The Sonics' former owners did not respond to any of the offers, and instead sold for $350 million the business they purchased 5 years ago for $200 million. This was their business choice; they chose to take their profits by selling the team, rather than accepting one of our offers and submitting it to the public for a vote.

(Originally presented as a single paragraph, divided here for reasons of appearance.)

It won't necessarily happen exactly that way in Oklahoma City, the Home of Creative Financing, but down the road, we're going to have to deal with these issues.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:43 AM)
23 July 2006
The Pacific Northwest shakeout

Brian Berger of Sports Business Radio passes on this possible scenario:

  • [The] Blazers and the Rose Garden will be sold to Hollywood Video founder Mark Wattles. Wattles was born and raised in Portland and if at all possible, the NBA would like to see the team purchased by an owner with local ties.

  • Seattle will move to OK City at the start of the 2007-08 season.

  • Paul Allen will purchase the New Orleans Hornets from George Shinn and move them to Seattle. This makes sense for a number of reasons, including the fact that Shinn does not want to return to New Orleans and NBA basketball does not make sense in that market. Ticket prices are way too high and people there are just trying to get back on their feet. NBA basketball is not a winning proposition in New Orleans, no matter how much the NBA would like to see a team succeed there. The other thing the Hornets move to Seattle accomplishes, is it returns the NBA to a long-time NBA city. David Stern has a track record of returning a team to cities that have lost a franchise the NBA returned to Charlotte after only 2 years . . . and he'll reward OK City with the Sonics once the Hornets deal with OK City expires at the end of this season. Then he can move the Hornets to Seattle. As my high level source told me [Wednesday], Stern would be choosing the "lesser of two evils" by having Paul Allen own the Hornets instead of George Shinn. Plus, Allen has tremendous clout in Seattle with government officials, the fans and corporate sponsors. His Seahawks have been very successful and there is no reason to think that he wouldn't be successful with an NBA team in Seattle. And by the way, he has a nice parcel of land to build a new arena right next to Qwest Field.

This seems as plausible as anything else I've heard lately, and they could finish it off nicely by having Paul Allen and Clay Bennett swap their properties, or at least the names of those properties, leaving the Sonics in Seattle, the Hornets in Oklahoma City, and George Shinn looking for a day job. I'm not quite so convinced that the NBA is a losing proposition in New Orleans, but I'm not the guy who crunches the numbers either.

(Via TrueHoop.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:31 AM)
See that gun? Now jump it

CafePress is already selling "Oklahoma City Sonics" gear.

The following notation accompanying the women's tank top is instructive:

Get the latest in basketball fashion while those pretentious latte sipping Seattlites continue to badmouth OK.

By the way, they're about halfway finished with that new Starbucks at May and Grand.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:37 PM)
1 August 2006
Insistence of vision

Last year, the Hornets were all but invisible on national TV. This year, there will be five games televised nationally: one on ABC, two on ESPN, two on TNT.

The home opener will be in New Orleans on 5 November, against the Rockets; the first game at the Ford will be on the 7th, against the Warriors. Current plans call for 35 games in Oklahoma City, six in the Big Easy, before the Bees' expected move back to New Orleans full-time next year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:16 PM)
4 August 2006
Sonic boosters

A report from the first meeting of Seattle's Save Our Sonics movement:

[The Regional Council] had 4 guest speakers talking about the economic impact of all 3 major sports teams in the region ... A consulting firm estimated the direct economic impact (including inter related jobs and additional sales) of the Sonics and Storm in 2004 was $160 mil and about $234 mil statewide compared to $177.4 and $270 mil respectively for the Mariners and $147.7 and $218 mil for the Seahawks. That's a pretty far cry from Nick Licata's estimate to Sports Illustrated earlier in the year.

Licata, president of the Seattle City Council, figured it as "zero cultural value," though he later backpedaled somewhat.

I mention this because I believe that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it is possible to make a case for the Sonics (and the Storm) staying in Seattle, and because I don't think The Move is necessarily a done deal until the moving vans actually show up. And anything can happen: down Oregon way, Paul Allen has decided that he doesn't want to sell the TrailBlazers after all. Does this mean he's contemplating a theoretical vacancy in Seattle? Maybe, maybe not.

And I suspect the NBA might be slightly uneasy about these matters, because the Sonics won't be playing in Oklahoma City this season until April, in game 75. (They'll come to New Orleans in February; the Hornets will visit KeyArena twice during December.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
12 August 2006
Storm patterns

I've put out a handful of pieces on the Sonics and the possibility that they may wind up here in Soonerland. It might be well to remember, though, that Seattle has two professional basketball teams, and while the city leaders may disagree on the cultural importance of the Sonics, there's one distinct market that's drawn to the WNBA's Storm:

Since the rumors and eventual sale of the Sonics and Storm began, I've had one thought about what it would mean to lose the Storm in particular:

Seattle's lesbian community would be devastated. Bayou and I have attended several games in the past, and two within the last month. Both times, I looked around, and thought: "Wow, I can?t believe how many lesbians are here."

Everywhere, wall-to-wall dykes, couples, femmes, singles, sports dykes, families with one or more kidlets, goth riot grrrls. It was an absolutely diverse microcosm of gay women and their loved ones. And judging by this article, I am not the only one who?s noticed this phenomenon.

From said article:

[I]t's all so ordinary. A Storm game isn?t some political gay confab, civil-rights rally, must-be-Pride-Month thing events that get sidelined as "alternative" or worse. Storm games are social shindigs, community gatherings and business-networking affairs.

They?re as much a fixture of the city's lesbian community as they are a destination for straight people. And at a time when the future of the Storm, and the Seattle Sonics, remains uncertain, it's worth exploring the significance of the games and who they're meaningful to.

And it's worth mentioning them to Clay Bennett next time he holds a press conference in Seattle, I should think.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 PM)
3 September 2006
The grounding of Birdman

After half a year of suspension from the NBA and thirty days of rehab, Chris "Birdman" Andersen has straightened up.

Will he fly again? There's still the rest of the suspension to serve, and he can't play overseas or in the CBA, which honor the NBA's suspensions.

Marc Spears of the Denver Post thinks the NBA should back off just enough to allow Andersen to play in the D-League:

What would it hurt for the NBA to allow Andersen to suit up for the expansion NBADL Colorado 14ers? Isn't losing the majority of a $14 million contract and being kicked out of the league punishment enough? The minor-league team could give the 28-year-old without a college degree a chance to keep his skills sharp and live a positive life. It also would give the interested Broomfield team a marquee name player.

"If he's demonstrated strong rehabilitation, we'd certainly be interested," said Gary Hunter, the president and CEO of the 14ers' parent company. "It's all subject to the NBA's rules and guidelines."

Andersen, who is working out daily, said: "It would definitely help me out to play. Staying in shape. Staying on top of my game. Improving on areas in what I need to improve."

Mixed emotions here. I'm a hardass about punishment generally; on the other hand, earning one's way back into the good graces of the powers that be has a certain philosophical appeal. For now, I'm tilting slightly toward "second chance."

Also: 14ers? I'm told that this refers to the mountains around Denver, which run 14,000 feet or thereabouts, but to me, it sounds like jailbait.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:15 PM)
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The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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