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July 28, 2014

The NBA players union needs an agenda, then a leader

Here’s the basic problem with the NBA players union:

            For most of the last 20 years they have never really figured out their mission. Should they raise the bottom? Should they help the middle class? Should they expand the opportunity for the stars to make even more money?

            The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) cast off Billy Hunter a while ago. Hunter was a fiery orator in the classic “union first” profile. Yet all the time I watched his act, I’m not sure he ever did much for the vast majority of NBA players.

He acted angry and strident without getting much done. Shame on union membership for having been so taken in by rhetoric, rather than progress.

            Time to find an actual leader.  Yet I suspect from the in-fighting, not much real change is coming.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2014 at 10:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (116)

July 23, 2014

Charlotte Hornets sign Brian Roberts to be backup point guard

Photo-(7)Just when Brian Roberts had broken himself of using the term “Hornets,” he’s a Hornet again.

A 6-foot-1 point guard, Roberts spent his previous two NBA seasons with the New Orleans franchise that switched its name from the Hornets to the Pelicans. Wednesday he signed with the Charlotte Hornets, who recently changed names from the Bobcats.

Roberts has a similar build to Hornets starter Kemba Walker. He led the NBA in free-throw percentage last season at 94 percent. General manager Rich Cho likes Roberts’ shooting and his performance in the pick-and-roll.

Roberts went undrafted out of Dayton and spent several seasons playing overseas before earning a roster spot in New Orleans. He was a starter much of last season, after Jrue Holiday needed season-ending leg surgery.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford knows him from when Roberts played on a summer-league team Clifford coached as an Orlando Magic assistant.

The Hornets needed a backup point guard after Luke Ridnour’s contract expired at the end of the season. The Hornets are expected to re-sign Jannero Pargo as third point guard later this week.

The Hornets appear close to being done assembling their roster for training camp at UNC-Asheville in October. Clifford said the one last piece he’d like added is a third center. The Hornets have Al Jefferson and Bismack Biyombo at center. Clifford said Cody Zeller could play there some, but that Zeller is more suited to the power forward position.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 23, 2014 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

July 22, 2014

Charlotte Hornets' Cody Zeller on U.S. Select squad that will scrimmage national team

Charlotte Hornets power forward Cody Zeller was selected to a 13-man squad that will scrimmage with the U.S. National Team later this month in Las Vegas.

            This “U.S. Select Team” gets young NBA players in the pipeline for later U.S. National Teams. Among others on the select squad: Former North Carolina player Harrison Barnes and former Duke big men Mason and Miles Plumlee.

            The select team will train with the national team, again coached by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center July 28-31. From there the national team will play several exhibition games leading up to the World Cup in Spain Aug. 30 through Sept. 14.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 22, 2014 at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

July 21, 2014

Marvin Williams' improved 3-point shooting was attractive to Hornets coach Steve Clifford

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford says Marvin Williams’ improved shooting range was a big selling point in signing him.

            The Hornets made Williams’ acquisition official Monday with a late-afternoon news conference. He’ll make $7 million each of the next two seasons.

            While the 6-foot-9 Williams can play either forward spot, Clifford plans to use him primarily at power forward. The Hornets lost starter Josh McRoberts to the Miami Heat, so they need a replacement starter at power forward.

Williams made a career-high 84 3-pointers last season, shooting 36 percent from the arc. Clifford wants his power forwards to have 3-point range to help create spacing around center Al Jefferson.

Williams and Jefferson played together two seasons ago in Utah. Williams is excited about the prospect of playing together again.

“Al is such a dominant presence in the post,” Williams said. “I don’t know if any one center can guard him.”

            Williams was selected by the Atlanta Hawks second overall in the 2005 draft, following a single season at North Carolina. He spent his first seven NBA seasons in Atlanta before playing the last two in Salt Lake City.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 21, 2014 at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

July 17, 2014

New Hornet Lance Stephenson makes a splash at ESPYs

Soon-to-be Charlotte Hornet Lance Stephenson had a featured role in a skit at the ESPYs Wednesday night, when host Drake had a little fun with Stephenson famously blowing in LeBron James’ ear during the playoffs.

ESPN came up with a “Lance Cam” graphic (think the “Kiss Cam” routine almost every NBA team does, where couples are urged to kiss during a timeout). First Drake blew in Stephenson’s ear, then Drake and Stephenson surrounded Indiana Pacers forward Paul George to blow in both his ears.

George was a good sport, considering Stephenson is leaving the Pacers for the Eastern Conference-rival Hornets.

See the video:


Posted by Observer Sports on July 17, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

July 15, 2014

Hornets now considering signing Lance Stephenson

LAS VEGAS -- Having lost restricted free agent Gordon Hayward when the Utah Jazz matched an offer sheet, plus Josh McRoberts to the Miami Heat, the Charlotte Hornets are now open to the prospect of signing Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer learned Tuesday evening.

            Hornets management had contact with Stephenson’s representatives Tuesday, multiple NBA sources confirmed. Stephenson is one of the last name free agents in this class yet to sign, and the Hornets could use his scoring and shooting ability at the wings.

            However, Stephenson had some behavioral issues last season, before reaching free-agency that have seemingly depressed his leverage in the NBA marketplace. The Pacers have offered Stephenson $8.8 million per season over five seasons, and have reportedly not come off that number. Stephenson thinks he’s worth considerably more.

            Tuesday night, following the summer Board of Governors meeting, Pacers owner Herb Simon reiterated to the Indianapolis Star that his franchise believes its offer to Stephenson is more than fair.

            “We made him a wonderful offer and they didn’t think it was enough, so it’s a simple situation,” Simon told the Star.

            The Hornets have plenty of cap room to make Stephenson an offer. Their first choice was Hayward, who they were willing to pay $63 million over four years. The Hornets appeared to be staying clear of Stephenson until now, as alternatives dried up.

            A 6-foot-5 shooting guard with four NBA seasons, Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.  

Posted by Observer Sports on July 15, 2014 at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (77)

July 13, 2014

Hornets to sign New Orleans' Brian Roberts as backup point guard

The Charlotte Hornets have come to agreement with point guard Brian Roberts on a two-year, $5.5 million deal to back up starter Kemba Walker next season.

            Roberts spent the past two seasons in New Orleans. He wasn’t chosen in the 2008 draft after a college career at Dayton. He played overseas – first in Israel, then in Germany – before catching on with the then-New Orleans Hornets at summer league in 2012.

            Roberts got considerable playing time last season due to an injury to Jrue Holiday. Holiday had surgery in February to treat a stress fracture in his right leg.

            Roberts played 72 games and started 44 last season, averaging 9.4 points and 3.3 assists. He should be a plus to the Hornets’ sub-standard shooting, as he shoots 94 percent from the foul line and 36 percent from 3-point range (42 percent overall).

            Roberts is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, so he’s very similar in size to Walker. The Hornets explored several options at point guard, including ex-Bobcats Shaun Livingston and Ramon Sessions, before focusing on Roberts.

    Yahoo Sports first reported the Hornets' agreement with Roberts.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 13, 2014 at 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (85)

July 12, 2014

Charlotte Hornets agree to terms with forward Marvin Williams

LAS VEGAS – Within hours of learning the Utah Jazz had matched their massive offer for restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, the Charlotte Hornets came to terms with combo forward Marvin Williams.

 Williams, who also played for the Jazz last season, will get a two-year, $14 million deal. He can primarily fill some of the gap left by power forward Josh McRoberts’ departure for the Miami Heat. However, the athletic 6-9 Williams also could play some small forward in situations where coach Steve Clifford wants to go big.

 The Jazz informed the Hornets Saturday morning they would match the four-year, $63 million offer sheet to which the Hornets sign Hayward Thursday.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 12, 2014 at 07:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

Hornets complete trade with Cavaliers that sends center Brendan Haywood's salary to Cleveland

LAS VEGAS – With a slight adjustment that didn’t affect the Charlotte Hornets’ intent, the trade agreed to on draft night with the Cleveland Cavaliers was consummated Saturday.

The Hornets sent the draft rights to Stanford forward Dwight Powell, plus center Brendan Haywood, to the Cavaliers for guard Scotty Hopson. The Hornets also said in a news release they received an undisclosed amount of cash from the Cavs.

It seems unlikely Hopson will ever play for the Hornets. His $2.45 million salary slot for next season is a team option. The Hornets were looking to rid themselves of the $2 million they owe Haywood for next season.

The original deal had the Hornets acquiring the unguaranteed contract of Alonzo Gee from Cleveland. Gee’s cap number is $3.25 million next season, significantly more than what Haywood makes, so Cleveland instead sent Gee’s contract to the New Orleans Pelicans in a separate trade.

The Hornets acquired Haywood in the summer of 2012, after the Dallas Mavericks waived him under the NBA’s amnesty provision. In a system called “secondary waivers,” the Hornets won a blind auction for picking up a portion of the money the Mavs still owed Haywood.

The Hornets were responsible for $2 million of Haywood’s salary each of three seasons. Haywood missed all of last season with a fractured foot.

The Hornets used a second-round pick (45th overall) to draft Powell on the Cavaliers' behalf.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 12, 2014 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Utah Jazz matches Charlotte Hornets' offer to Gordon Hayward

LAS VEGAS – The Utah Jazz has matched the Charlotte Hornets’ four-year, $63 million offer sheet for guard-forward Gordon Hayward, a source told the Observer  Saturday morning.

            This decision by the Jazz was far from a surprise. Salt Lake City media had reported from the start of the Hornets’ pursuit of the 6-foot-8 Hayward that Jazz management would match any offer.

            This was the most the Hornets could offer restricted free agent Hayward, who would have upgraded the Hornets’ shooting, scoring and ballhandling, particularly with Josh McRoberts leaving for the Miami Heat in free-agency.

            The Jazz could have dragged this process out until 11:59 Sunday EDT, since under NBA rules Utah had a 3-day window to consider matching. The Jazz matching Saturday morning at least frees the $14.8 million that was frozen as a salary-cap hold once Hayward signed the offer sheet Thursday.

            The Hornets still need a wing scorer/shooter, along with a backup point guard and perhaps another big man. It’s unclear where general manager Rich Cho might now turn.

            Among remaining small forwards available (all unrestricted): Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson and Trevor Ariza.


Posted by Observer Sports on July 12, 2014 at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)