The New Orleans Hornets are going to become a ward of the NBA, something that has never happened in league history. Yet the players say that is not going to affect the team's performance as it is off to a surprising 14-7 start.
"We've got to play ball but it's naive to assume we're not aware of what's going on," forward David West said. "It's part of the business, and we are part of that business. We are aware of the business aspect of things. As much as people wouldn't like us to be, we are. We are very knowledgeable. We can put two and two together when it's necessary."
The sale of the franchise from George Shinn to the NBA should happen in the next week, though it is not expected to significantly change the team's daily operations.
"From a fan's perspective, there will be no change," Hornets president Hugh Weber said. "From a player's perspective, no changes. Coaches, front office staff--no changes. We'll have more resources, not only financially, but intellectually."
NBA commissioner David Stern has appointed Jac Sperling to oversee the franchise until a long-term buyer can be found. Sperling is a New Orleans native and vice chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Sperling stressed that Weber will be running the operation.
"We'll collaborate and I'll look out for the best interests of the NBA," Sperling said.
Coach Monty Williams said the staff and players are only thinking about basketball but did admit, "It can be a distraction. I'm not going to lie about it."
The Hornets have never gotten back on solid footing since being forced to temporarily move to Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans five years ago. Just 10,823 attended Wednesday night's victory over the Detroit Pistons at New Orleans Arena, the first game since the NBA announced its plan to take over the team.
"We feed off the crowd a lot," guard Chris Paul said. "I would love to see more people here. We want to be here. We love it here."
Memphis Not Meeting High Expectations
The Memphis Grizzlies are carrying just 13 players, two under the NBA roster limit. However, owner Michael Heisley sees no reason to change that situation.
"If this goes on for a long period of time we'll have to address something, we'll have to take a look at what we need," Heisley said. "But making changes for change's sake isn't the answer. I'm not giving up on the season. It's still early. We have to wait and see what happens."
Heisley guaranteed at the start of the season that the Grizzlies would make the playoffs. However, they are 9-14 and Heisley admits that his optimism and patience are being tested.
Forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol have missed time with injuries. Point guard Acie Law was cut after being signed as a free agent over the summer.
"I started the season with high hopes for the team. It's not living up to what I'd hope," Heisley said. "I don't know what's happening. We're having a difficult time and I don't know what the reason for it is. I've wracked my brain trying to figure it out. I still like our team. I don't like the results. But we play hard. By the All-Star break we'll have a better idea of where we are. We've just got to get to .500 by the All-Star break."
Trade Rumors Don't Bother Iguodala
Andre Iguodala has learned over the years that professional basketball is a business. Thus, he no longer gets upset when his name is bandied about in trade rumors, including the latest one that has the Philadelphia 76ers supposedly considering dealing the forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Every GM gets a call about a player every single day," Iguodala said. "That's just the way the game goes. You've just got to handle what you can handle and take it from there. One thing I've learned over the past year is not to worry because when you worry, you start to second-guess yourself and doubt yourself. I never want to be in that position where I'm doubting myself. I never worry about things that I don't control."
Sixers president Rod Thorn denies he is shopping Iguodala, saying that he is "trying to ascertain the value of all of our players-—big difference." However, Philadelphia would certainly consider trading Iguodala. He will have three years and $44 million left on his contract after this season and he is impeding the progress of rookie Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, by playing the same position.
Most talent evaluators around the league believe Iguodala would be better served playing on a team in which he not the first scoring option and would be more effective playing in a system where he could defend and run the floor, much as he did while starting for USA Basketball last summer when the U.S. won the FIBA World Championship.
Always outspoken Charlotte Bobcats shooting guard Stephen Jackson has gone into damage control when it comes to talking about point guard D.J. Augustin. Both Jackson and forward and fellow co-captain Gerald Wallace said last weekend that the Bobcats had become "soft" with Augustin running the point in place of Raymond Felton, who left for the New York Knicks as a free agent last summer.
"D.J. is our point guard," Jackson said. "We have a lot of confidence in him. We want him on our team."
However, Jackson and Wallace aren't the only ones questioning Augustin. Coach Larry Brown has said Augustin doesn't have Felton's "bulldog" persona and lacks the physicality to be a lockdown defender.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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