Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stephen Curry scores 54 and makes it look easy

(UPDATE: I spoke with Stephen by phone Thursday night. He said the game was "surreal" and that he had never been in a zone exactly like that in his life. More to come from that interview in my column for Friday's newspaper and online). In an NBA game, 54 points is nothing short of amazing.

That's what Golden State's Stephen Curry scored Wednesday night against the New York Knicks -- and in a regulation game, although it was unfortunately in a loss.

It was the most points in the NBA this season. In fact, it was the most points scored in Madison Square Garden since Kobe Bryant scored 61 points in 2009. There was also that memorable Kobe game Dec.29, 2006, when Kobe Bryant put up 58 in a triple-overtime loss to Charlotte. I was at that game, and it remains one of the best highlights ever for the Bobcats and the most I've ever seen put up in person in a game at any level. (Deron Williams also scored 57 against Charlotte a year ago -- that's the last time someone scored 54 or more).

Curry, the former Davidson star, went 11 for 13 from three-point range. If you check out the highlights -- they are all over the Internet, including this batch from ESPN -- you can see he was pulling up for off-balance, in-transition three-pointers and making them with ridiculous ease. Here's what Golden State coach Mark Jackson had to say after the game.

Curry had scored 38 points in the game before that, so he's had 92 in his last two. The fact Steph didn't make the West all-star team was ridiculous this season, but Golden State is going to make the playoffs, and that's what Curry really wants.

His points are going to go back down to a more normal range soon -- David Lee was out for the Knicks game due to a one-game suspension, and he generally supplies a lot of the Warriors' offense. But it's great to see Curry playing at his absolute best -- ankle problems forgotten, life going well. You won't find a nicer athlete in pro sports -- that he's from Charlotte makes it all the better.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jordan playing Bobcats vs Hornets debate down the middle

Michael Jordan writes a monthly "Chairman's Corner" column for the Bobcats website, and in this month's column he addressed the Bobcats vs. Hornets debate -- sorta.

In fact, what MJ said was very little at all. Read the relevant excerpt here and tell me what you think -- to me it sounds like an owner who really hasn't decided on this topic. But some believe he is cushioning the blow for the pro-Hornets faction (of which I am one -- I believe the name should change) when and if he decides to stay with things "as is" and keep them as the "Cats" as he prefers to refer to them.

From Jordan's column:

The most popular topic this month was our team’s nickname. With New Orleans announcing their decision to become the Pelicans, some of you have asked if we would consider taking the Hornets nickname.

We have been in contact with the NBA and we are conducting our own research to determine if that is the best course of action. As some of you may be aware, we have engaged a national polling group to survey both our current season ticket holders and randomly selected individuals in our local area to see how our fans and stakeholders feel about this topic.

Judging from the e-mails you’ve sent me, the opinion seems to be very mixed. Some of you have said we should change the name and some of you have said we should not. In fact, a few of you even suggested that we should change the name to something new altogether, and not use Bobcats or Hornets.

There are a lot of factors to take into account and a lot of information to sift through. This is a decision that we will not take lightly and we will not make hastily. We want to do what we believe will be in the best interests of our organization and our fans.

OK, this is Scott again -- if I'm Jordan and I'm really going to make this change, not sure I would have used the word "mixed" -- I might have implied more support for my side. But then again it's Jordan. He just turned 50, he owns the team and, as usual, he's going to do what he wants. It's just interesting reading the tea leaves on this one because it means a lot to some people.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thoughts on March Madness, NASCAR and Panthers

Hi guys,

I am back after a couple of weeks off. Sorry that the blog hasn't been updated in awhile. Let's get that rectified with three quick thoughts:

-- UNC solidified its NCAA at-large credentials with a big home win Saturday over N.C. State. The Tar Heels would have to fall apart completely to miss the Big Dance now. It could be a banner year for N.C. in March -- Duke will be a No.1 or No.2 seed, State will certainly make the field and Davidson will be favored to win the Southern Conference again. And there could be more. After Sunday's disappointing 20-point home loss to Temple, Charlotte is on the outside looking in and would need a big run over the next two weeks -- but that's not inconceivable for a team that has beaten Butler on the road.

-- Saturday's NASCAR wreck was horrific, and after watching that race car disintegrate and spew into the stands I agree with Humpy Wheeler -- spectators need to be moved back and up, no matter how much it costs. When you injure your own customers, that's a seriously bad business model.

-- Our Joseph Person reports that the Panthers will likely try to keep all three of their running backs in 2013 -- DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. I have previously advocated trading DeAngelo if the price was right, but I can see the logic of this move. Stewart was hurt a lot in 2012 and while Tolbert is a fine short-yardage back, you don't want him as your every-down guy. And if you're not going to get good trade value for DeAngelo, by all means keep him -- that 210-yard rushing performance in Week 17 shows he's still got a lot of juice left.

Lastly, if you haven't yet read this story by our Gary Schwab and David Scott on Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick -- one of the best running backs you've never heard of -- you owe it to yourself. It's fantastic.

Friday, February 8, 2013

5 thoughts on Bobcats-Lakers

1. Bobcat coach Mike Dunlap kept Ramon Sessions on Kobe Bryant too long in the fourth quarter. You could almost see Kobe smile every time he got the ball and had Sessions on his hip. Gerald Henderson was much more effective guarding Kobe and had what I thought was a clean block toward the end of the game that officials decided had to turn into two free throws for Kobe – the perks of being a star.

2. With Kobe taking two shots and scoring zero points in the first half, the Lakers looked awful (and trailed by 12 at halftime). I know Kobe is trying to facilitate, but he took it to an extreme level, like he was trying to prove some strange point by not shooting at all.

3. Byron Mullens was really effective for most of the game (20 points, 12 rebounds), but had zero points and only a single rebound in the fourth quarter.

4. Charlotte’s Antawn Jamison had a lot of family in the stands and had a good game off the bench for L.A., scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds in 19 minutes. The Bobcats really wanted Jamison this offseason, and he sure could have helped them. I would make the Kris Humphries-for-Ben-Gordon trade with Brooklyn if the Bobcats can really make that happen -- Charlotte badly needs some more help underneath.

5. Charlotte is now 4-33 in its past 37 games after starting 7-5. Despite various flashes of promise, this remains a very bad team. The records don’t lie – the Bobcats are 11-38, again the worst record in the NBA.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where does your team pick in 2013 NFL draft? Panthers are 14th

The NFL released the draft order for the 2013 draft Tuesday, updated with the playoff results. They are below. The Panthers pick No.14 -- they were due for a much higher spot before winning their last four games in a row.

The position I think the Panthers need most: offensive line, defensive line and defensive secondary. I am assuming there's no way they keep CB Chris Gamble and as we saw throughout 2012 they are quite vulnerable at safety. Here is the 2013 first-round draft order, which the NFL notes does not include trades already made or to come. The teams' 2012 regular-season records are in parentheses. The draft will be held April 25-27, 2013, with the first round on Thursday, April 25th. The Panthers generally host a free draft party on that date, too, which is well worth attending:

1. Kansas City (2-14)

2. Jacksonville (2-14)

3. Oakland (4-12)

4. Philadelphia (4-12)

5. Detroit (4-12)

6. Cleveland (5-11)

7. Arizona (5-11)

8. Buffalo (6-10)

9. New York Jets (6-10)

10. Tennessee (6-10)

11. San Diego (7-9)

12. Miami (7-9)

13. Tampa Bay (7-9)

14. CAROLINA (7-9)

15. New Orleans (7-9)

16. St. Louis (7-8-1)

17. Pittsburgh (8-8)

18. Dallas (8-8)

19. New York Giants (9-7)

20. Chicago (10-6)

21. Cincinnati (10-6)

22. Washington (10-6)

23. Minnesota (10-6)

24. Indianapolis (11-5)

25. Seattle (11-5)

26. Green Bay (11-5)

27. Houston (12-4)

28. Denver (13-3)

29. New England (12-4)

30. Atlanta (13-3)

31. San Francisco (11-4-1)

32. Baltimore (10-6)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An incredible Super Bowl -- and that was defensive holding

When you don’t care much about the Super Bowl turns out – and a lot of folks in the Carolinas I’ve talked to in the past two weeks really didn’t – about all you can ask for is a game like the one we just saw, which ended with Baltimore edging San Francisco, 34-31, and older brother John Harbaugh edging younger brother Jim.

The game wasn’t decided until 49ers kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. was tackled on the final play, returning a free kick to about midfield as the clock ran out after the Ravens had taken an intentional safety.

What a terrific Super Bowl this was. Outside of that annoying half-hour stadium power outage in New Orleans, it was great theater. There were no lead changes, but San Francisco nearly came all the way back from a 22-point deficit (at 28-6 early in the third quarter). Both quarterbacks were fantastic. It made you realize once again why the NFL, despite its various problems, is America’s No.1 spectator sport.

Five quick points I’d like to make fresh off of turning off the remote control:

1) On that fourth-and-goal play on San Francisco’s last drive, that was defensive holding, even though it wasn’t called. A frantic Jim Harbaugh was right. The hold on San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree occurred outside the legal five yards. But a lot of times NFL officials let that much contact go at the end of a game.

2) CBS announcer Jim Nantz was right on top of it in the final seconds, correctly bringing up the intentional-safety scenario. His partner Phil Simms? Not so much. First, on the 49ers’ fourth-and-goal play, Simms said it was a good “no-call,” then saw more replays and said he was “confused.” Then he said the Ravens shouldn’t take a safety once they got the ball back and were trying to run out the clock inside their own 10, even though it clearly was the right call given the field position.

3) I thought the Super Bowl commercials were down a notch overall from some of the past years. Didn’t you think so? The one with Deion Sanders "re-entering" the NFL I liked, and the one about farmers, too, but I can’t remember what either one advertised.

4) It is indeed time for Ray Lewis to retire. After all the hype, he looked old and slow to me. I know he’s the Ravens’ emotional leader and all of that, but he wasn’t nearly as big a factor in this game as, say, Jacoby Jones. But you do have to hand it to the Ravens -- I am still stunned they stopped San Francisco on that final drive on four plays inside the 10, even with the questionable no-call.

5) I once watched in person as Appalachian State creamed Delaware, 49-21, for one of its FCS national championships. QB battle that night? Armanti Edwards vs. Joe Flacco (Sunday's Super Bowl MVP). The clear winner that night? Edwards. A long, long time ago it was, children, way back in the ancient days of December 2007.