All-Star Wrap-Up, Trade Chatter and other Notes
All-Star weekend came and went, and it wasn’t quite as exciting for me as last year’s event. Of course, part of that was location, as last year it was in New Orleans and marked a turning point for the NBA in that city. From all I’ve heard, the arena food became better, fan awareness sky-rocketed, and when Niall walked down the street with a Hornets Jersey the ladies started flocking to him like Klingons looking for bloodwine. It took him weeks to recover, which was a shame because the parties, by all accounts, were legendary. Surprise, it’s New Orleans.
Phoenix, on the other hand, was apparently tame – if not dead. The courtside celebrity that got the most play was John McCain. At the NBA weekend. There is so much wrong with that I don’t even know where to begin – so I’ll just leave it at that and avoid all the outraged comments.
Anyways, there was a lot of Paul going around. During the game he did his thing, scoring 14, dishing 14, grabbing 7 rebounds, involving himself in about 7 of the 10 top highlights in the game, and calling the highlight-reel give and go between him and Shaq. Paul was even on the receiving end of a half-court alley-oop from Tony Parker, while multiple times he got into the passing lanes and batted the ball into the crowd. One of those led to Tim Duncan(who was miked up) to be heard saying “108 games with a steal? Makes sense now, right?”
The game was just part of Paul’s ever increasing ascension into one of the spokesmen for the NBA. He gave the NBA Cares speech at half time. When the All-Star starters were announced – generally in order of popularity – he was second to last in the West, announced right before Kobe. Paul and Michael Jordan were the face of the Make-a-Wish foundation earlier in the day, and my wife stumbled across Paul’s appearance on John King’s State of the Union show on CNN.com and called me in to watch it. He was part of an impressive panel that included Bill Russell and Magic Johnson, Steve Nash, and Grant Hill that was asked about some current events and then given a video of Barack Obama playing basketball to break down. Paul easily had some of the best lines of the group as Steve Nash and Magic Johnson were too busy turning any question they were asked into a fawning endorsement of Obama.
Paul kept it simple – agreeing with John King that if he played Obama, he’d give no quarter, and simply embarass him. Paul then insisted he’s completely different person on and off the court, while Grant Hill chimed in saying he was a pain in the neck on the floor. Paul just smiled. Later, when asked to break down Obama’s shot, Paul simply chuckled and said “all that matters is the results” as the president knocked down a shot.
David West, of course, went to Phoenix as the stealth All-Star. He played fourteen minutes, grabbed a few rebounds and hit a few shots. He was not featured in pretty much anything, and preferred it that way, I’m sure. By the way, I should say now I’m starting another investigation like the one I did last year when Peja suddenly started playing well. After the palm-edge blow to the back of Mike Miller’s neck, West’s near invisibility in Phoenix, the arrival of a strange hero in New Orleans known to some as “The Phantom”, and suspicious reports each off-season about West engaging in hand-to-hand combat to keep in shape, I have developed a theory: David West is Batman. More to follow.
Oh – and by the way, I thought I’d comment on some of the trade rumors about Tyson Chandler that keep cycling around. As can be expected, it seems they’ve been way overblown. If you take a look at the articles and how they started – most are journalists reporting rumors reported by other journalists, all based on rumor, and all carefully cloaked to try and seem interesting and legitimate. The one consistent nugget of truth I can tease out of those articles is that the Hornets don’t want to pay the Luxury Tax next year. Does that mean we’d need to trade Tyson? No. It means we need to trade someone like James Posey, Antonio Daniels(attractive expiring contract this summer) or Morris Peterson. And maybe toss in Hilton Armstrong.
I’ve also found no evidence the Hornets are participating in a fire sale. I’m not sure why anyone would assume they would be suddenly in financial crisis. Last year they made money from the playoffs – and this year their attendance is up about 25% over the course of the season. You can give George Shinn crap for a lot of things, but when the Hornets have the money, he will typically spend it. His “tight-fisted” reputation came from not wanting to pay Alonzo Mourning the biggest contract in NBA history after already giving Larry Johnson gobs of cash – and not wanting to pay Eddie Jones a huge contract when Eddie had already said he would rather play somewhere else.
So I hope the rumor-mongers give it a rest – the Hornets are in fine shape and Jeff Bower will probably do what he prefers – patient small scale deals to get the team under the cap.
The only like scenario for this team to change drastically would be if David West fails in stopping the Joker from turning golden boy Chris Paul into a a LeBron James-like New York-Lovin’ Media Whore and is then left with no choice but to kill Paul and take the blame for the sudden change so that New Orleans Sports Fans can still have one sports figure they can still love for all eternity . . .
Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.