The NBA’s plan for New Orleans is taking shape.
The Hornets will stay mostly in Oklahoma City next season (playing 35 games there), then will make the transition back to New Orleans the season afterward.
To make things go, the NBA appears set to put the 2008 All-Star game in New Orleans.
Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, “From a multibillion-dollar tourism perspective here in the city, this is one of the most powerful national signals that we can have, because it is the first major sporting commitment since Katrina.
“It is an event that attracts thousands of people, it has exposure all over the world, and it puts a highlight that weekend on New Orleans as a destination.”
A deal could be reached by mid-March or sooner.
Although New Orleans has tremendous challenges in its outlying neighborhoods, Perry said the historic tourism core and the special-event core of the city are intact, open and ready for business.
The big question is whether all this can save the franchise in the Big Easy.
Even as the franchise moved from Charlotte to New Orleans — a move forced by the owners’ unpopularity in Charlotte — skeptics wondered whether a community as poor as New Orleans could support the high-priced NBA.
New Orleans failed in its bid to host this year’s All-Star game, which will be played in Houston on Feb. 19. Las Vegas will host next year’s event.
MAVS’ MOVE WORKS
The Mavericks took off on their long winning streak after Erick Dampier was removed from the starting lineup in favor of DeSagana Diop.
“The thing we need is rebounding and blocked shots,” Johnson says of the starting center position. “It’s no secret where our offense comes from. It’s not rocket science.
“But we need blocked shots and rebounding to help us start games better. He’s been trying to do that.”
Meanwhile, Dampier is faring OK coming off the bench.
The Mavs, you may recall, gave Dampier a $70 million contract after they opted not to use the money on Steve Nash.
These are tough times for Isiah Thomas.
First, he’s hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit, then the New York tabloids report he has a 20-year old son.
Thomas responded to charges by a former coworker, saying, “I hope that when I’m found innocent of these allegations that you will write it and run it with the same intensity. I look forward to my day in court, where I am proven right and she is proven wrong.”
Then the Daily News and Post discovered Isiah has a son, who says he was apparently conceived while Isiah was engaged. Both had reporters on the scene when Marc Edward Dones revealed his identity.
Dones said he wants nothing more to do with Thomas, that he left three messages the past month to talk to him but got no response.
PISTONS VS. BULLS
Phil Jackson says he sees some similarities between this Pistons team that is on pace to win 70 games and his recordsetting 72-win Bulls team of 1995-96.
“When we set it, we just figured no one would break that for another 30 years. The Lakers did it in 1972, we figured it would be another long period of time before it would be broken. So it’s surprising that here, just a short (10) years later, Detroit is back pushing for that.”
Pistons assistant Ron Harper, who played on that 72-win team, believes the Bulls would win a seven-game series against these Pistons in five games. Jackson wouldn’t go that far, but did say where he felt the Bulls had the advantage.
“That Bulls team was a little bigger in the backcourt,” he said. “In Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Ron Harper, we had three guys who were 6-6, 6-8 and 6-6. Then we brought in 6-11 Toni Kukoc off the bench along with Steve Kerr.”
“I don’t have a game for them, not this team. So I’ll take the hit for that. I tried to make one, believe me. We have a conventional, 7-foot-2 inch center, and they play 6-8 and 6-9 (centers), and it’s a difficult matchup. If you try to play a halfcourt game with a post center against them, then you’re just sort of struggling a little bit.”
— Heat coach Pat Riley, on playing the Suns
Scott can coach
Darrell Walker, an assistant coach for the Hornets, says media types who said Byron Scott didn’t do much coaching in New Jersey were wrong. The proof is the job Scott is doing for the Hornets this season.
Speaking last week, he said, “It’s amazing this team is where it is after everything we’ve gone through,” said Walker. “We’ve got 22 wins.
“Did you pick us to have that now? Did anyone? Coach (Byron) Scott has done a tremendous job. They always talked about coach Scott that he didn’t coach in New Jersey. That’s a bunch of bull because he did.
“He gives us (assistants) a lot of chance to teach and a lot of coaches don’t let their assistants do that. He did that in New Jersey and they took that for not coaching. It’s a myth. He should be talked about for coach of the year.”
Did you know?
• Qyntel Woods is the Knicks’ sixth starting small forward this season. The others: Matt Barnes (now in Philly), Trevor Ariza, Malik Rose, Quentin Richardson and David Lee.
• Avery Johnson has won the award for coach of the month three times. He was never player of the month in 16 seasons. Looking ahead The Suns will play four out of five games at home heading into the All-Star break.