Monday, June 29, 2009

Bobcats No.19 in "attractiveness" list

Sports Illustrated's Steve Aschburner has created an interesting list here: Ranking the NBA teams from 1-30 in terms of their attractiveness to the general free-agent market.

The Bobcats come in at No.19, with this comment: "This ought to be a great spot to recruit players -- the area is hoops mad, the weather is terrific, there's a small-town feel to the place. But Michael Jordan's absentee or air-drop management doesn't make him the asset he could be and, let's face it, there is a sense that the Bobcats are trying to do things on the cheap."

Aschburner's list seems well-researched to me at first glance, and I think the Bobcats' ranking is probably about right. Here's his top 5: LA Lakers, Miami, Phoenix, Houston and Orlando.

Bottom 5? Sacramento, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Minnesota.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Curry staying put and other NBA leftovers

So Stephen Curry isn't going to be immediately traded by Golden State after all, according to Warriors coach Don Nelson. (Here's the story about that). That puts a little closure to the events of Thursday night.

After attending the NBA draft for the first time in 20 years or so, I put together a list of random observations that ran in some late editions of Friday's Observer (but not all, due to our deadlines). For those who missed them, here they are:

 Some of the biggest boos of the night in WaMu Theater came when Bobcats coach Larry Brown’s ESPN interview from Charlotte was broadcast on TV. Brown’s coaching gig with the Knicks ended very poorly in 2006. The unprintable obscenities hurled at the TV screens in unison made it very clear that Knicks fans haven’t forgotten.

 This was the first time I had come to New York to cover the NBA draft in close to 20 years, and I’d forgotten what it felt like. The place is set up like a large TV studio and is really in a far smaller room than you’d think. It’s not in Madison Square Garden itself, but in a theater attached to MSG with maybe 1,500 people inside.

 If Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio’s gig in the NBA doesn’t work out – he was taken No.5 Thursday by Minnesota – he should have a career in a boy band. Rubio certainly has the hair for it.

 The weird thing about the NBA “green room”? It is not green, nor is it a room. On Thursday, the waiting area for NBA draft picks and their loved ones was simply a cordoned-off area separated by only a few feet from both the media and the fans.

Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Bob McKillop, Jeff Capel – you could have held quite a college coaching clinic in a 20-yard radius in that NBA green room.

 Davidson’s Stephen Curry was the third point guard picked, by Golden State at No.7. And while the Warriors weren’t his first choice, it’s probably a better alternative than being the first or second point guard taken. At Nos.5 and 6, the Minnesota Timberwolves picked two rookie point guards back to back – Rubio and Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn. Also, Curry gets to experience California’s weather year-round instead of Minnesota’s.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Curry to be traded? Already?!

NEW YORK -- Welcome to the wild and woolly world of the NBA, Stephen Curry.

Curry went to sleep last night in New York as a Golden State Warrior -- the team took him No.7 overall. Here's my column from New York about that move.

However, late Thursday evening, reports started to surface that Curry will actually end up not quite so far West -- possibly getting traded to the Phoenix Suns within the next few days as part of a deal that would ship all-star forward Amare Stoudemire from Phoenix to Golden State. Here's one story about that from the Arizona Republic, which covers the Suns regularly.

While the Republic obviously believes this trade will happen, there are enough "probablys" and "could bes" in the story to raise some doubt. And other reports you read on the Web from somewhat credible sources are not as certain. The Curry family is aware of these rumors, but it sounds like any trade may not be completed until next Wed., July 1st, due to some contractual complications regarding other players involved in the deal.

So, for the moment anyway, Curry is a Warrior. In either case, he will be going to a team far away from the East Coast and not to his preferred landing spot as a New York Knick. But the Suns are certainly a better team right now than Golden State (and generally get more publicity too). Phoenix won 46 games last season; Golden State won only 29.

Phoenix already has one of the games best point guards in Steve Nash, who has one year remaining on his current contract. There's some speculation that Nash wants to get out of Phoenix, however. Suns GM Steve Kerr (who as a player was somewhat similar to Curry) met with Nash Thursday in New York to try and sort out things. Kerr already has made one blockbuster move this week, trading center Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland, where he will team with LeBron James.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An N.C.-flavored first round

The NBA draft's first round had a number of connections to North Carolina, starting with Stephen Curry being selected No.7 overall by Golden State and ending with Wayne Ellington going No.28 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

A quick rundown:

No.7 -- Curry goes to Golden State. His dad Dell Curry said he talked to Golden State coach Don Nelson Wednesday (for the first time ever, Dell said) and that Nelson said they weren't going to let Steph get past No.7. Curry did not work out for the Warriors, but that didn't stop them from taking him.

No.12 -- The Charlotte Bobcats select Duke shooting guard Gerald Henderson . Henderson says he has known Larry Brown since middle school and is looking forward to playing for him.

No.13 -- North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough goes one pick after the guy who once bloodied his nose in an infamous Duke-UNC game. Hansbrough ends up in Indianapolis and becomes a lottery (top-14) pick.

No.16 -- Wake Forest's James Johnson goes to the Chicago Bulls.

No.18 -- UNC's Ty Lawson goes to Minnesota briefly, but then is traded to the Denver Nuggets, where he'll be passing the ball to Carmelo Anthony.

No.19 -- Wake Forest's Jeff Teague goes to the Atlanta Hawks.

No.28 -- UNC's Wayne Ellington goes to Minnesota, getting in at the end of the first round (which is important, due to the guaranteed money involved).

Golden State picks Curry at No.7

NEW YORK -- Davidson point guard Stephen Curry was one pick away from what he wanted Thursday night at the NBA draft -- getting chosen No.8 by the New York Knicks.

Instead, he will go to California -- the No.7 pick of the Golden State Warriors.

Curry was the third point guard taken behind Spain's Ricky Rubio and Syracuse's Jonny Flynn.

The first point guard taken was Rubio, who went to Minnesota at No.5. Then the Timberwolves picked Jonny Flynn at No.6. That was weird -- two rookie point guards?! -- but no trade was announced and so maybe Minnesota will actually keep them both.

That left Golden State at No.7 the next possible landing place for Curry, or his favored Knicks at No.8. And the Warriors took him, drawing boos from the Knicks fans in the crowd who had wanted to see Curry play in New York.

Curry draws his first applause of night

NEW YORK -- The fans are in place now at the NBA draft, which is serving to make the atmosphere considerably more rowdy. There are TV screens all over the place, and when they showed the face of Davidson guard Stephen Curry, there were loud cheers throughout the WaMu Theater.

The New York Knicks still covet Curry, but as of now, they remain in slot No.8. That likely won't get him -- Curry is now rumored to be going in the 4-6 range. Only a trade up would allow Curry his dream of playing in Madison Square Garden 41 times a year.

Ol' Roy, Pitino, Calipari -- oh my

NEW YORK -- The scene here at the "green room" at Madison Square Garden is quite star-studded if you're a college basketball fan.

Besides the dozen or so players, it's an absolute Who's Who of college coaches. UNC's Roy Williams (at Tyler Hansbrough's table), Louisville's Rick Pitino (with Terrence Williams) and Memphis's John Calipari (with Tyreke Evans) are all within 10 yards of each other.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop just arrived as well -- he had to cut it fairly close due to his travel schedule but did make it. He is seated at Stephen Curry's table, as are Curry's parents (Dell and Sonya) and his younger sister Sydel.

Curry's younger brother Seth is on his way to New Zealand as a member of the U.S. 19-and-under national team and couldn't be here.

In the house at NBA draft

I'm sitting in the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, and already have decided there's one weird thing about the NBA draft.

The whole thing is a TV show. Sitting in here two hours before the draft is to start, it's all about sound checks and microphones and wires and bright lights. NBA Commissioner David Stern -- wearing a purple tie (as is Stephen Curry) -- has already come out and done a bit of his pre-draft spiel for practice.

I've gone to a few TV show tapings before, and that's just what this feels like.

The players -- the stars of this show -- arrived about 6 p.m. and did a photo shoot on-stage that must have lasted 15 minutes. They looked bored by the end. Curry and Duke's Gerald Henderson, standing next to each other, smiled their way through most of it.

I'm seated about a three-pointer away from where Stern will make the announcement of each first-round pick.

Latest rumor: Davidson's Curry may go at No.4 to the Sacramento Kings rather than 5 or 6 (both held by Minnesota Timberwolves). But a lot can still happen between now and then.

Curry countdown -- to Minnesota at 5??

Stephen Curry is in New York today awaiting tonight's NBA draft, as am I (here's my column on Curry from today's Observer). But Curry is certainly not the most famous Carolinian making news in the Big Apple today.

Curry -- along with just about everything else in the news world -- got buried in the back pages today of the New York newspapers as the story of S.C. governor Mark Sanford's confessed affair with an Argentinian woman dominated the news.

The story was on the front page of the established New York Times as well as the two big New York tabloids, which gave it much more sensationalized treatment. The New York Daily News trumpeted "Meet America's Latest Luv Guv." The New York Post proclaimed "Latin Lover E-mails" and "Cry for me, Argentina." Curry, meanwhile got mentioned -- barely -- about 60 pages into the two tabloids.

In the meantime, speculation here about Curry has softened a bit in terms of him going to the New York Knicks.

With Minnesota now holding boths picks No.5 and 6 after a trade with Washington, that is the place more mock drafts seem to have Curry going to the Timberwolves now (rather than lasting until No.8, when the Knicks pick). The Timberwolves are in need of a point guard and will likely take one there with one of their 2 picks (although it's a deep draft and Minnesota might like Spain's Ricky Rubio more).

Curry said Wednesday he thought his chances of getting to the Knicks were "pretty good," but that seems rather doubtful unless the Knicks make a trade up from No.8 today.

ESPN's coverage of the draft tonight in New York officially begins at 7 p.m. today, but the first pick probably won't come until around 7:30 p.m., when the L.A. Clippers select Blake Griffin. From there on, though, it's a wide-open draft.

If the Charlotte Bobcats keep their No.12 pick, it's likely you'll see him on TV -- both Duke's Gerald Henderson and Louisville's Terrence Williams, considered the most likely to be that choice, will also be in the NBA "green room" along with Curry, UNC's Tyler Hansbrough (who I also wrote about today from New York) and close to a dozen other players.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

No.90 returns

After months of curious speculation about why Julius Peppers wouldn't or hadn't signed the one-year, $16-million-plus deal the Panthers have provided him for 2009 under the franchise tag, suddenly he's signed it.

So let me admit this right off: I was wrong. I opined in a "Scott Says" blog on May 27 that I thought Peppers was going to hold out at least awhile in training camp, which begins Aug.2 at Spartanburg. After all, he already skipped the minicamp and summer school. Why not skip a couple of days at Sparkle City, too?

But no, Peppers has now resurfaced again, as has his agent Carl Carey, and it sounds like life is hunky-dory once more for Carolina and Peppers. A training-camp holdout would make no sense now that Peppers has contractually obligated himself to the team once more.

That has looked like the way it would turn out for awhile now -- even me and my pessimistic self didn't think there was any way Peppers would extend his holdout into the season, thereby turning down more than $1 million per game.

Just the timing of this signing is curious. It will certainly make a lot of NFL news, because this is the "dead period" for the NFL, meaning that even a "not-really-a-surprise" story like this will get major play for the next 24 hours or so.

In any event, this is good news for the Panthers. Even though they are having to pay through the nose to do so, they need Peppers given the defensive front four they currently have. They are a better team with him than without him. And since Peppers is well-liked (although little-understood) by most of his teammates, he will be accepted back into the embrace of Carolina's defense with little problem.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

May-be not? Definitely not

The Charlotte Bobcats said today they don't plan to make a $3.6 million qualifying offer to Sean May.

That's the right move -- in fact, the Bobcats and May should stop the pretense and simply go their separate ways. Like Jon and Kate -- minus the 8 kids -- this is a marriage that just isn't working.

Don't get me wrong. I like May. He's everything a writer could like -- funny, honest, blunt, introspective, willing to admit his own mistakes. But he and the Bobcats just aren't going to work out as long as Larry Brown is in charge.

That was obvious last year, when May finally WASN'T hurt and still was no factor. Brown never trusted May to be in good enough shape to help the team, despite the fact it lacked a backup power forward and despite the fact that the two share the same Carolina blue roots.

Is May done forever in this league? I don't think so. The same player who torched Illinois in the 2005 NCAA title final for the Tar Heels is in there somewhere. He's still only 25. But that player simply isn't going to re-emerge in Charlotte.

In four years here, May played the equivalent of exactly one season -- 82 games. He missed 246 -- most due to injury, but a lot last season because Brown wouldn't put him in games.

Although Bobcats GM Rod Higgins also said Tuesday that the team remains open to re-signing May, if I were May, I'd get a long way from Charlotte (and if I were Higgins, I wouldn't do that, either). These two just aren't any good for each other.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Curry to be in draft "green room"

Get ready for more of Stephen Curry in prime time -- the former star guard at Davidson has officially received his "green room" invite for the NBA draft.

The draft will be held Thursday, June 25, at Madison Square Garden in New York, and will be televised by ESPN.

Members of Curry's family will also be there, of course. And Davidson coach Bob McKillop will also attend the draft and be in the "green room," McKillop told me this week. No word on the suit Curry will wear just yet (ha!), but it's almost certain that his name will be called early rather than late in the draft.

Curry could be picked as high as No.3 overall by Oklahoma City and won't last past No.8, where his preferred team, the New York Knicks, are picking. His draft stock has skyrocketed since he declared he was leaving Davidson one season early to go pro, based on excellent workouts, interviews and other measurables.

Curry's next move: heading to Sacramento this weekend for another pre-draft workout. The Kings pick No.4 overall.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Double Trouble prediction

The "Double Trouble" combo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will begin its second year as an NFL duo in a few months. The twosome's friendship seems to have only strengthened in the offseason -- they were together at a wrestling event in Charlotte Monday night.

Much is the same -- DeAngelo is the verbose one, Stewart the quiet one. DeAngelo did many of the Panthers' workouts in the just-concluded summer school practices. Stewart was sidelined once again, this time with an Achilles tendon problem (last year it was a toe injury that required surgery).

That meant a lot of teasing for Stewart, of course. "They’re out there busting their butts and I’m just sitting on the sideline for the second year in a row," Stewart said Tuesday. "I’ve been taking some heat for that."

Stewart also said Tuesday that he believed he and Williams could be even better this season. "I don’t see why we should lower our expectations from last year," Stewart said. "I think me and DeAngelo are capable of more."

I don't think so, however, in terms of one important statistic -- total touchdowns.

It's fine for Stewart and DeAngelo to think they will be better in every respect. And it's very possible in one sense -- the Panthers might get further than their final-eight finish in the NFL last season.

But statistically? Williams had an NFL-high 20 TDs and a team-record 1,515 rushing yards last season -- it was a Pro Bowl year that was wrongly snubbed. Stewart had 836 rushing yards and 10 TDs. Maybe those two will combine for more than 2,300 rushing yards once again -- I could see that in theory, or even a sliight increase. But 30 TDs? That's an average of nearly two per game. It remains a stunning number of scores.

It stands to reason that NFL defenses will stack eight in the box even more against the Panthers this season to account for Nos.28 and 34. I think what will end up happening is the total number of TDs for "Double Trouble" will go down, but the number of passing TDs (Jake Delhomme had a modest 15 TD passes last season) will go up.

In any case, the Panthers' offense -- with 11 of 11 starters back -- remains the strength of this team. But I'll predict right now that Double Trouble's total number of TDs will slide down the scale slightly from 30 to somewhere in the 20-22 range.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fox makes a good call

I went to the Panthers' final practice of summer school Tuesday and was impressed by something that happened at the end of practice.

John Fox, the Panthers' always-look-forward, one-game-at-a-time head coach, actually told his team to look back. As he addressed the team at the end of practice -- an address I couldn't hear, but that several players and Fox recounted to some extent afterward -- Fox talked about the Arizona game. Here's my column about this subject for Wednesday's paper.

The Arizona game, as you recall, was Carolina's final game of last season (on Jan.10, 2009). Going in, the Panthers were in the NFL's final eight and sitting pretty with a homefield playoff game. Going out, they were humiliated, having lost by 20 points to Arizona.

Fox told the team to remember that game and to let it fuel them. He called the game "the elephant in the room" and said it would be there whether he talked about it or not, so he might as well talk about it.

To me, this was a step forward for Fox. He generally is of the "that game is over, forget about it, we're moving on" philosophy, but is making an exception for this one. I think it's a motivational tactic that will help.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Curry rising on draft boards; Lawson falling

Our own Rick Bonnell offered some excellent commentary from the recent NBA draft combine in Chicago -- here was his take on Stephen Curry.

I also found very interesting a recent story from's Chad Ford, who spoke with 15 different GMs and NBA executives recently. As Ford wrote, he "gave them the task of ranking the top 13 point guards in the draft, including a couple of players -- like Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry and Toney Douglas -- that some GMs see as 2-guards. I then took those 15 responses and averaged them to get a more comprehensive ranking of where each prospect fell."

Here's the interesting part locally -- Curry was ranked No.2 in this straw poll among the 13 point guards. Lawson fell all the way to No.9.
Curry trailed only Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, while Lawson trailed everyone from Wake Forest's Jeff Teague (No.6) to Jrue Holiday and Eric Maynor. Here are Ford's ratings based on his 15 responses from league execs, as well as the story's comments about Curry, Teague and Lawson. (This draft is mostly characterized as weak overall but very strong at point guard).

Top point guards in 2009 draft from's Chad Ford:

1. Ricky Rubio (18-year-old Spanish pro player)

2. Stephen Curry, Davidson
Curry was somewhat of a surprise as the second-place finisher, which speaks to how well he was received at the combine, where he shot the lights out, measured a little bigger than expected and looked like he fit in with the other point guards on the floor. He also was a pro in the interviews, and many of the older GMs feel the fact that he grew up around the NBA game will help him make a quick transition to the pros.
Three GMs had him ranked as the top point guard in the draft, and he received seven second-place votes, too. One GM had him ranked sixth.
This coincides with a number of things I heard at the camp that had the Thunder, Wizards and Warriors all looking at possibly selecting Curry before the Knicks draft at No. 8.

3. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
4. Jrue Holiday, UCLA
5. Tyreke Evans, Memphis

6. Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
Teague has a tough decision to make soon. While a number of GMs like him, many think he should go back to school for another year.
His highest ranking in our poll was sixth, and his lowest was eighth. That's probably good for a late lottery to mid-first-round pick in the draft. But given Teague's talent, he could do better with a breakout season at Wake Forest next year.
Teague's range probably starts with the Pacers at No. 13. The Sixers, Wolves, Hawks and Mavericks will also take a long look at him.

7. Brandon Jennings, Italian pro league
8. Eric Maynor, Va. Commonwealth

9. Ty Lawson, UNC

Lawson is coming off a rough week: Some GMs didn't like him in the combine setting, he measured the shortest of any point guard in the draft, and there were questions about his conditioning and a potential toe injury. Put all that together and Lawson seems to be the one guy slipping on a lot of boards.
Two GMs had him ranked as high as sixth on their point guard list, but a number of others had him much lower, with two GMs ranking him 10th and one GM ranking him 11th.

10. Patrick Mills, Saint Mary's (Calif)
11. Darren Collison, UCLA
12. Nick Calathes, Florida
13. Toney Douglas, Florida State

Note: The NBA draft is June 25th.

Jarrett's pet peeve

I didn't have room to get this into my column today on third-year Panther receiver Dwayne Jarrett, but I did ask him Tuesday what he is concentrating on most as a wide receiver this offseason.

Said Jarrett: "Not dropping a ball. I hate dropping balls. That’s my worst pet peeve. I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old (and thus shouldn't drop any)… But it happens. It's part of the game. You just can't let it get to you. You have to act like it never happened."

Actually, I think Jarrett's hands are OK. Both Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad have been known to drop a few balls every season, and it has turned out all right for them.

I think Jarrett's biggest problem as a pro thus far has been two-fold: 1) simply learning the playbook and 2) "separation anxiety." What do I mean by that? He simply isn't quick enough to get a lot of separation between those fast-twitch cornerbacks that populate every NFL team, which means a lot of catches in traffic, which means a whole lot of contested balls.

Jarrett does believe QB Jake Delhomme trusts him more now after he had a few key catches toward the end of last season. And Delhomme says that's true. But we all know that when harassed No.17 usually looks to No.89 (and wouldn't you?)

What Jarrett really needs to become in 2009 is this team's Ricky Proehl -- a guy who catches 30-40 balls this season, takes some heat off the constant double-teaming of Smith and sneaks deep down the middle occasionally for a big one.