Tuesday, June 24, 2014

LeBron to Charlotte? Hornets must try

I do not expect LeBron James will end up anywhere besides Miami. But this is a chase the Charlotte Hornets absolutely have to join, just in case.

And they will. The Hornets and general manager Rich Cho are not dumb. They will get in line as a suitor for James -- who has opted out of his contract with the Heat -- just like everyone else in the NBA will. And Michael Jordan should be part of this recruitment process.

And while LeBron's landing spots certainly would seem to be more likely in Miami, L.A. (with either team), or Cleveland, it is a tribute to the Hornets that they at least are in this conversation. A column in Yahoo! Sports recently was headlined: "LeBron James Could Be The Superstar Michael Jordan Is Looking For" and contained the sentence: "The Hornets can make a solid case they are in better standing than the Heat if James is removed from the equation."

Ultimately, I cannot imagine LeBron coming to Charlotte. But that's the way the biggest dreams sometimes are -- unimaginable until they actually happen. If you are the Hornets, you never know on this one until you try.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Benjamin wants to win Super Bowl his rookie season

Kelvin Benjamin certainly has not backed down from anyone or any expectation so far for Carolina.

When asked last week after a Panther practice what his expectations were for this season, Benjamin said simply: "Win the Super Bowl. Add on to my national championship ring."

Benjamin, the Panthers' No.1 draft pick in May, won a national championship in college last season with Florida State. At 6-5, 240, he is supposed to give Cam Newton the big target that he has been lacking and has been impressive so far in practice.

A couple of the leaping grabs Benjamin has made in workouts have caused everyone on the practice field to take notice, although he remains a work in progress as a route runner. Even if Benjamin doesn't start in the regular-season opener, however, it is a sure thing he will come in for red-zone situations and try to take advantage of his height and athleticism on fade routes.

Newton has smartly started making a concerted attempt to bond with Benjamin. He took Benjamin to Georgia over the Memorial Day weekend, where they hung out on a boat, went swimming, played video games and ate to their heart's content.

Benjamin was appreciative. "I want to get around an older guy who's been here in the limelight," he said of his new quarterback. "He's trying to teach me things."

The Panthers -- who won 12 games and the NFC South title last season -- don't start training camp until late July in Spartanburg. By then, Newton should be fully healthy from his offseason ankle surgery. How Benjamin fares when the Panthers put the pads on -- and how quickly he and Newton gel on the field -- will be one of camp's key storylines. Benjamin has got to play well quickly for this team to come anywhere near accomplishing that Super Bowl goal.

When asked if that goal was really possible, Benjamin laughed and said: "What? It's a football team, right? So it's possible."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Best new Hornet uniform is the alternate one

Can the Charlotte Hornets make their alternate uniforms their primary home uniforms?

Unfortunately, they cannot, because those alternate uniforms -- primarily teal in color and on the far right in the picture above -- are the ones that I like the best of the new trio of uniforms the Hornets unveiled Thursday.

The Hornets will wear those teal uniforms 16-20 times a year, they say -- about half of those at home games and half at away games. Of the three, the teal uniforms are the only ones that say "Charlotte" on the chest plate -- the other two both say "Hornets."

None of the three uniforms have the characteristic pinstripes coming down the front of the jersey that the originals had. That is a lost opportunity in my book. I wish the pinstripes had been inserted into at least the alternate uniforms.

On the other hand, I think the lettering is good and the overall look is crisp and uncluttered on all three uniforms.

The Hornets will have three uniforms for 2014-15. Here is a quick look at each and my reaction to each:

1) White home uniforms. The NBA mandates that a light-colored uniform must be an NBA team's home uniform. None of the Hornets' new uniforms are bad by any means, but these to me are the weakest of the three. I just like purple and teal to be the primary color -- that's what says "Hornets" to me.

Also, while the word "Charlotte" is actually on this uniform, it is in very small print and extremely hard to read on the bottom right leg of the shorts. The Hornets' brass say this is a "discoverable" element -- to me, it should have been easier to discover. The purple numbers are cool, though. (Here's another take from the influential "Uni Watch" blog, which believes the home whites are actually the best).

There is colorful striping on the left side of the uniform, which the Hornets are insisting are "pinstripes" in homage to the original design. To me, a pinstripe is thin. These are very thick. These "pinstripes" use purple, teal and light blue like the original Hornets, but they also add a new color in gray.

2) Purple road uniforms. These are the second-best of the new uniforms. The purple is vibrant. This is basically like the home uniform but with a lot more color to it. Like the home uniform, the chest plate says "Hornets" and not "Charlotte" -- Hornets officials said this was in large part due to their research, which said fans wanted the word "Hornets" very prominently displayed since it was so hard to get the old nickname back. Again, the word "Charlotte" is on the bottom right leg of the shorts and you won't ever see it unless you are really, really looking for it.

3) Teal alternate uniforms. These will be worn in about a quarter of the Hornets' games. I wish it was more like 90 percent of them. Talk about a pop -- these uniforms are the ones I predict will sell the most (fans can pre-order all of the new unis, but not until August).

These also have "Charlotte" on the chest plate, and I like that too. The purple numbers on the teal looks a lot like the iconic Alexander Julian design that originally made so many millions for the Hornets (Julian wanted to design these new uniforms for free, but the Hornets instead had a team of designers from Nike do it).

This shade of teal is a bit darker than the original teal, by the way. It looks fantastic.

All in all, it's wonderful to see actual Hornets' uniforms again -- ones that will be worn, not just old uniforms that will only be nostalgically remembered. And while I am nitpicking some here, what will be the most important ultimately is how well the Hornets play in these uniforms.