Monthly Archives: April 2008

Jordan, Brown have a lot on the line

So Michael Jordan got his man, luring vagabond coach Larry Brown away from the potential openings in Dallas, Phoenix, Toronto and Atlanta to come lead the Charlotte Bobcats.

What’s interesting is that both men need this pairing to work to rebuild their slumping reputations. Brown is coming a disastrous campaign with the New York Knicks, a situation he worsened by insisting on trading for Steve Francis and clashing with Isiah Thomas, who, to be fair to Brown, wasn’t, well, fair to Brown in dealing with complaining players.

Still, Brown’s rep for turning moribund franchises into playoff contenders is on the line with Bobcats, a team with a lot of young talent and parts that don’t really mix all that well together. 

But Jordan has even more at stake. If this move fails, it will fail spectacularly. A lot of eyes will be watching to see how this plays out, moving Charlotte into the NBA spotlight for the first time since the Hornets were in the process of leaving town.

Jordan’s legacy as a player is undeniable and unassailable. His reputation as a basketball executive, though, is bordering on the laughable. He has wrecked two top-five draft picks in his short career with Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison, and with Brown has named his fourth coach in less than 10 years holing up in a front office. When he was with the Washington Wizards, Jordan hired Leonard Hamilton without any NBA head coaching experience and fired him after one year. And just last year, he hired Sam Vincent without any head coaching experience and then burned him after one year.

Now Jordan turns to a friend in Brown. And at Brown’s introduction on Wednesday everybody was all smiles and eager to talk about their North Carolina connections.

But these are two irascible personalities that have a long, long road ahead of them, even in the weak Eastern Conference. On paper, this seems like the perfect move. After all, Brown got the Los Angeles Clippers into the playoffs. 

But it seems as though everything Brown and Jordan The Executive touch end badly after a brief honeymoon period.

That they both have so much to gain and so much more to lose may be the best thing to happen to both of them.

They have to make this work, not just hope it does.

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Filed under ACC, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, NBA, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

A new low in the Clemens steriod saga

Back when the Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee steroids and HGH story blew up, we knew it would get ugly well before it ever got resolved.

One would’ve thought the ugliest high point (low point?) would have been congressional discussion of a “palpable mass” on Clemens’ buttocks, but things sank to a new depth on Monday.

In a report filed by McNamee’s attorney, allegations have been raised of a decade-long extramarital affair between Clemens and country singer … well, former country singer Mindy McCready.

Because Clemens filed a defamation lawsuit against McNamee a few weeks after McNamee’s claims came to light in baseball’s Mitchell Report, Mac’s representation is saying that “all is fair game”. Evidently that includes personal mudslinging of Canseco-like proportions.

McCready has been such a train wreck since the years following her platinum-selling debut “Guys Do It All the Time” that she makes Britney Spears look like a choir girl. And now Clemens is mixed up into all of this.

It wasn’t very long ago, a mere three months, in fact, when our first thought upon hearing the name Roger Clemens was “Hall of Famer.” Or maybe, “Legend”.

We may never know for sure whether Clemens doped or not, but his reputation for flirting with and possibly using steroids has landed him on the first ballot of the Hall of Shame — right next to Brian McNamee.

If that’s not enough to keep anybody away from touching performance-enhancing drugs, then there’s no hope.

And it can only get worse.

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Filed under Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

Hansbrough’s coming back, but is it the right move?

Tyler Hansbrough, the national player of the year, has made his decision — he’s coming back for his senior season at North Carolina.

He may or may not have his point guard back with him, or the team’s deadliest outside threat. Both Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington have declared for the NBA draft, but neither will hire an agent. They have until June 16 to decide whether to go on or come back to Chapel Hill.

Whether those two return or not, the Tar Heels will again be among the favorites to reach the Final Four with Hansbrough back in the fold. Would they be a prohibitive favorite to win it all should Lawson and Ellington return? Sure. But Hansbrough might be enough.

But is it the right decision? Should Hansbrough have entered the draft as well?

He’s the first player of the year to return to school since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1992 — a very different time in college and NBA basketball. Early entries into the draft just weren’t nearly as common — or as expected.

But can Hansbrough hurt his future draft stock? Of course he can, and there are certainly those who will say that he can’t necessarily help his stock by coming back for another year, either. A knee injury would likely plummet him into the second round instead of the 15-to-25 range that he is probably in right now, but that’s a risk Hansbrough is willing to take. He may turn out to be Matt Leinart, who left the No. 1 pick on the table after winning the Heisman trophy his junior to return to Southern Cal for another shot at a national title.

But something else is at work here, one has to think. While the jury will be out on Hansbrough’s effectiveness at the next level for some time — is he a quality role player on a good team, a glorified version of Mark Madsen or could he develop into a starter? — we know what he can do in the college game.

And that’s dominate.

He might not win another player of the year award, but with Hansbrough, that’s not what he’s after. He wants to win a national title, and if he does, something else will happen along the way. Just 122 points behind Phil Ford on the UNC all-time scoring list and only 601 away from the ACC scoring mark set by Duke’s J.J. Redick, Hansbrough has a chance to be the most decorated Tar Heels’ player — statistically-wise — in the history of the program. If he can collect a title as well, then Hansbrough, already a cult figure among sportscasters and Heels’ faithful, will be in the pantheon of UNC basketball, right up there with Jordan, Rosenbluth and Ford. Put him on Mt. Heelsmore.

Wouldn’t that be enough for most of us, no matter how the NBA career panned out?

As for Lawson and Ellington, we will see. Lawson may or may not have been hampered by a troublesome ankle against Kansas in the national semifinal, but he wasn’t even one of the top 5 players on the court that night. Did he just have a bad game? Maybe. Or was he simply not as good athletically and physically in a game featuring the two deepest teams in the country? One would also have to figure that Lawson, a decent shooter in college, would be woeful from NBA 3-point range.

Ellington is harder to figure. He can certainly stroke it and teams always need shooting. And on a team with as much talent as the Tar Heels, it’s likely that we didn’t see everything that he’s capable of doing. 

At the same time, though, is Ellington better than Rashad McCants was in college? That’s a tough call, isn’t it? And 6-foot-4 shooting guards tend to struggle in the NBA.

Whatever happens, Heels fans can rest assured that the team’s centerpiece is coming back, and the team is obviously better for it. Hansbrough will be loved even more now than ever, and fawned over on an even grander scale.

Dick Vitale is probably doing cartwheels.

But so are Heels’ fans.

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Filed under ACC, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, NBA, NCAA Tournament, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels

Pacman and Dallas — Bad Idea

You hear some things about Dallas.

You hear stories. And among them includes the high volume of strip clubs within the Dallas metro area. Maybe it’s nothing more than any other American city, but you know what they say about Texas…

There was something else about Dallas on Wednesday. The Cowboys, America’s (Most Wanted) Team in the 1990s, reached a deal to acquire Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Jones has been suspended for the last year by the NFL for his various scrapes with the law, the most damning of which came in a shooting at a Las Vegas strip club that left a bouncer paralyzed.

Jones has yet to file for reinstatement into the league, meaning he won’t be donning the star-adorned helmet quite yet.

But when he does, he could be an electrifying football player who might be enough to help the Cowboys actually win a playoff game, something they haven’t done in 11 years.

He may also be the worst acquisition in the history of football. It’s too early to say.

But for a guy, who, after his 11th run-in with police, commented on ESPN that he sees nothing wrong with “scrip clubs,” let’s just say the odds of him getting quickly reacquainted with police procedure could be at an all-time high in his new home.

Pacman and Dallas? Really? Isn’t this like trading Chris Washburn to a team in Bogota, Colombia? Isn’t this like sending Gilbert Brown with a gift certificate to Golden Corral? Trading John Rocker to the Harlem Globetrotters?

This is not going to end well.

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Filed under College Basketball, College Football, Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, N.C. State Wolfpack, NBA, NFL, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

Annika, Danica — and my little girl

When my daughter was 2 months old, with my lovely wife working a 12-hour shift at the hospital, I propped my little girl up onto my lap and we watched Annika Sorenstam tee off on the first hole to open her Thursday round at The Colonial.

Throughout the course of the day, from changing diapers to bottle feedings to running the gamut of Fisher-Price toys, the TV in the living room was tuned to Sorenstam’s first round in a PGA Tour event. We saw her pars, her bogeys and her first birdie, the one she putted from just off the fringe that prompted Sorenstam to rock back and give us a fist-pump.

I was OK with Sorenstam getting a sponsor’s exemption to play in a PGA Tour event. And even though I knew there was no way my little Allison was ever going to recollect what was happening on the screen in front of us, I made sure to have it on so that I could remind her any time that I needed to that she watched, in some form or fashion, Annika take on the men on Thursday and Friday.

I’ve already told Allison that story a couple of times over her 5 years, and surely, she will roll her eyes when I bring it up over and over again in the future. She knows who Annika Sorenstam is more from EA Sports’ Tiger Woods series of video games, and though she rather dress Natalie Gulbis in her blue outfit and use her at times, Allison understands that Annika is good, that Annika is a girl and that Annika once played against the boys and beat some of them.

So when I told Allison about Danica Patrick on Saturday, her eyes got pretty big. Allison knows what auto racing is — she sees the NASCAR races on at our house and roots for Reed Sorenson, not because she knows who or what a Reed Sorenson is, but because he drives the Target car. She likes Target, likes the color red and wonders why the Target car never leads a race.

That question isn’t an easy one to answer to the satisfaction of a 5-year-old.

But she caught on to Patrick’s story.

Patrick became the first woman to win a top-level motorsports race when her fuel strategy led to an IRL victory in Japan on Saturday. It was Patrick’s 50th race in her much-hyped career, and for Patrick and those in her corner, the victory generated more of a sense of relief than pure joy. The Anna Kournikova comparisons could stop.

Naturally, some critics have tried to downplay Patrick’s accomplishment already, claiming she only won because of fortuitous fuel mileage or that the IRL boasts a relatively weak field. Some have even criticized Patrick for crying in victory lane, as if Michael Jordan’s desperate clutching and weeping over the NBA championship trophy never happened, or that Woods’ shedding of tears following his winning the British Open weeks after his father’s death was an illusion.

Patrick’s accomplishment is real. One would need to look no further than in my daughter’s eyes when I told her that a girl beat all the boys in a race to know that. Patrick was the only girl out there, and yet she beat them all. All the boys. 

Who cares exactly how it happened? 

My little girl doesn’t.

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Filed under Auto Racing, Designated Hitter, Golf, NASCAR, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

The NBA playoffs have started — Where’s my team?

They were my team.

They came to me like the Carolina Panthers eventually did. Before the Panthers arrived, I was a Washington Redskins guy, lover of all things Gibbs, Theismann and Riggins. But then the Panthers showed up and Daniel Snyder took over in Washington, making the split easier.

The Charlotte Hornets, though, took a little bit more time. I was an unathletic kid who liked to shoot baskets in his driveway. In other words, I was a Boston Celtics kid. Bird. McHale. Parrish. DJ. Ainge. Maxwell. JoJo. Fitch.

My team.

But then the Hornets showed up out of the teal blue. And with Bird in decline, McHale barely able to get up and down the floor, my allegiances shifted. Just like David Stern wanted them to.

And so when Dr. K, Tim Kempton, came up with a big board, and when Kelly Tripucka came back onto the floor and cried in a postgame interview, and when Armand Gilliam made a pass once, I was there. Not in the Charlotte Coliseum, but in heart and soul. Boxscores. Newspaper clippings. Magazine articles. Posters.

The Muggsy Bogues replica jersey.

I was that guy. I was the one who thought the guy tossing the big foam brick behind the basket on foul shots was cool. I followed the Hustle Stats during games. I watched to see how many bee logos lit up the scoreboard, the barometer by which decibel levels were measured in the arena. I thought the Hive Five was… OK, I thought the Hive Five was terrible.

Still.

This was my team. All mine. My buddy had a horrific teal and purple windbreaker. Ghastly. It made Member’s Only jackets look hip. He loved it. It was teal and purple. I wished I had it.

They were worthless to start, but the Hornets won more games than the other expansion team, the Miami Heat, did that first year. I know because I followed it. One. Five. 10. 13. 14. 18. 20. The Heat never got past 15.

Then the ball started rolling. Larry Johnson, “Grandmama” came along. Then “Zo,” Alonzo Mourning. Those two with Kendall Gill? This, my friends, was a team.

And it was my team.

But then things soured. We found out owner George Shinn had an affinity for Hornets’ dance team members, and a parade of kinda good players came through the turnstiles — Glen Rice, Vlade Divac, Kenny Anderson, Anthony Mason, Eddie Jones. Came and went, it turned out, just like the fans started doing.

Soon Shinn started telling us the most modern arena in the league less than a decade earlier was all of a sudden outdated. He brought in an insufferable blowhard named Ray Wooldridge as a minority owner, and the team started shopping around, holding Charlotte ransom for a new arena while the owners’ private jet was gallivanting to Louisville and Roanoke and New Orleans.

ShinnRidge didn’t get its arena and left town, ripping my heart out. And they did it with the other NBA owners’ blessing, of course. Why wouldn’t they approve the move? What if they wanted to move one day?

It’s a different NBA now. There’s something called the Memphis Grizzlies. Something called the New Orleans Hornets. And something called the Charlotte Bobcats.

And just this week, on Thursday, the band of billionaires approved the SuperSonics’ owners a potential move from Seattle to Oklahoma City, turning their collective backs on the wonderful fans of Sonics basketball, a 40-year institution that has an NBA championship banner in its rafters. The owners approved it by a vote of 28-2. ShinnRidge, of course, wasn’t one of the two.

Three days later, the NBA playoffs began, capping an incredible regular season unlike any in the league’s history.

But not all fans are rejoicing.

Some of us are wondering where our team is playing.

 

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Filed under Designated Hitter, NBA, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

I need help

I need help.

OK, let me rephrase that. 

I need patience.

Herald sportswriter Randy Quis has made a move in his career and enjoyed his last day at the Herald on Wednesday. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes him all the best. Anybody who knows Randy likes him within seconds, and he’s going to be missed around here.

With that said, while the Herald conducts interviews to find Randy’s replacement, the sports department has been cut in half — to me. So instead of having two of us desperately trying to figure out how to be in as many places at once as possible, now we’re down to a single solitary sports writer and editor.

In other words, things are going to be a bit stretched over the next few weeks, so please be patient with the Herald and its sports coverage during this very busy time. We are as short-staffed as we can be, and while we’re actively pursuing applicants for the job, it’s going to take a little time. 

I’ll be out to as many events as possible, I can assure you of that. But over the next few weeks, it will be even more imperative that coaches and/or team parents get results from sporting events to us at the paper. Those can be phoned in directly to my desk at (919) 718-1222 or e-mailed to me at alexp@sanfordherald.com.

Any and all help, as always, is very much appreciated. No one reading our section every day truly knows just how incredible our community’s coaches are in getting information to us. They make our lives that much easier and our product as good as it can be.

With that in mind, please don’t be shy in making sure I get a little help.

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Filed under Designated Hitter, The Sanford Herald