Hornets fire Byron Scott

The New Orleans Hornets started the season a disappointing 3-6, and decided to make a change at head coach, firing Byron Scott.

Scott will be replaced by general manager Jeff Bower, with Tim Floyd as his top assistant, the team said. Floyd formerly coached the Hornets and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA and most recently at USC.

Team owner George Shinn thanked Scott for his service, but said Bower “knows this team better than anyone” and gives the Hornets “our best opportunity to reach our goals this season.”

Scott won NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2008 after he and franchise point guard Chris Paul led the Hornets to a 56-26 record and the Southwest Division title. The Hornets then defeated Dallas in the first round of the playoffs and were within one win of the West finals before losing Game 7 at home to the San Antonio Spurs.

Scott hung on to his job after the early exit but couldn’t survive New Orleans’ poor start, even though the many holes on the Hornets’ roster — with no consistent scorer at the wing positions and little depth — appeared to be beyond his control. A number of league observers considered a coaching change inevitable if the Hornets struggled this season.

The team’s biggest problem isn’t Scott — it’s a lack of talent on the wings. Peja Stojakovic was supposed to be the Hornets’ top perimeter scorer, but he has struggled with a bad back and is getting older. The quickest way for the team to inject some scoring into its lineup would be to trade for Stephen Jackson or Rip Hamilton, two sharpshooting wings that are readily available. But that would require a long-term commitment to one of those players as part of the team’s core.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Take my overpaid star…please!

Memphis GM Gerald Wallace took a lot of heat for trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers. But if we’ve learned anything in the past few days, it’s that Wallace was simply a man ahead of his time.

On Tuesday, we learned that the Bucks agreed to trade Richard Jefferson to the Spurs for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Amir Johnson. (Fabricio Oberto was part of the original deal, but San Antonio sent him to Detroit for Johnson, who was then sent to Milwaukee.)

Regular readers know I’m a Bucks fan, and I spent the last couple of days grumbling on the Sports Bubbler message boards about how we didn’t get anything in return for Jefferson, who is still a pretty good player. When Wallace traded away Gasol, at least he got Javaris Crittenton (who was considered a prospect with upside at the time) and Pau’s brother, Marc, who turned out to be a productive center for the Grizzlies.

Then I wake up today to see that the Cavs and Suns have agreed to go through with that long-rumored trade that will send Shaq to Cleveland for salary cap relief. Who do the Suns get in return? A retiree (Ben Wallace), a bench player with a partially guaranteed contract (Sasha Pavlovic), some cash and a second round pick.

This is the going rate for a Third Team All-NBA center these days.

We knew that this summer had the potential to be a rough one for free agents, but it’s a little surprising to see that good players like O’Neal and Jefferson could be had for virtually nothing. Bucks owner Herb Kohl and Suns owner Robert Sarver realize that their clubs aren’t legitimate contenders, so they don’t see the point in paying the luxury tax just for the privilege of being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. What kind of an effect these moves have on season ticket purchases remains to be seen.

The bottom line is that if a team is willing to spend, there has never been a better time to acquire talent. You’re not going to get someone like Caron Butler, who plays for a (pretend) contender and has a reasonable contract, but you can get Jefferson, who is overpaid and is on a mediocre team that is up against the luxury tax. And the older the player, the more likely he’s available. Teams aren’t going to give up good players that are in their early- or mid-twenties because the plan is to rebuild before they’re over the hill.

So who might be on the move for a bag of peanuts and some salary cap flexibility? How about Tracy McGrady, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Vince Carter, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Redd, Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton?

Truth be told, a team like the Suns isn’t going to give the youngish Stoudemire away for cap flexibility alone. But as the price of a star goes down, the price of superstar goes down as well.

It promises to be an interesting summer.

Does Ben Gordon have a promise from the Pistons?

The answer is yes, at least according to Sam Smith.

But I also heard that Gordon’s agent allegedly has been saying he has an $11 million promise from the Pistons.

First off, when a writer says that he “heard” that someone has “allegedly” been saying something, beware. But let’s assume for a moment that the report is accurate.

On the surface, the Pistons’ interest doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why replace Rip Hamilton with Ben Gordon? Isn’t Hamilton better?

Gordon does have one thing on Rip — youth. He is 26, five years Hamilton’s junior. If Joe Dumars is planning to make a splash in free agency next summer, then he’s planning for a franchise resurgence in 2011, and Hamilton would be 33 at that point. If he signs Gordon, Dumars is just trying to make the Pistons younger.

Hamilton still has a lot of value right now. He’s a sharpshooter and a pretty good defender, and there are more than a few teams that could use him. This is pure speculation, but how about a Hamilton for Boozer swap with Utah? The Jazz already have Ronnie Brewer — would they even go for it? The Spurs, Rockets, Cavs, Wizards and Hornets might be interested as well (though New Orleans is trying to trim salary, not add it.)

Hamilton’s contract runs through the 2012-13 season but the final year isn’t fully guaranteed.

I prefer Hamilton right now. Gordon can make some impossible shots, but he sometimes shoots the Bulls out of games. He averaged 24.3 points against the Celtics in this year’s playoffs, but he only shot 39% from the field (and 29% over the last three games). He did shoot better than 45% from the field during the regular season, which is solid for a shooting guard. I think $11 million per season is too much to pay in this market; given his faults (shot selection, suspect defense), I’d estimate Gordon’s value to be around $8 million per season.

Pistons’ struggles can be traced back to 2003

With the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select…

Darko Milicic.

This is the blackest mark on GM Joe Dumars’ otherwise solid record guiding the Pistons, but six years later, the Milicic pick is having a domino effect on the franchise. While Dumars did successfully dupe the Magic into trading a first round pick for Milicic in 2006 (which resulted in the selection of Rodney Stuckey in the 2007 draft) the Milicic pick still haunts this franchise. Just take a look at the next few selections in that 2003 draft…

Read the rest after the jump...

Why Allen Iverson shouldn’t be starting in the All-Star Game

The starters for the NBA All-Star Game have been announced, and Allen Iverson is amongst the starters in the East. In my picks, I didn’t even have him on the roster, much less in the starting lineup. The Pistons are a mediocre team and AI is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Maybe that’s not his fault, but it doesn’t mean that he should get a golden ticket into the All-Star Game every season. More importantly, there are at least five guards — Joe Johnson, Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Ray Allen and Vince Carter — that are more deserving. With AI’s inclusion, there won’t be room for at least two of them in Phoenix.

Here’s a look at their stats…

AI: 16.15 PER, 17.9 ppg, 5.4 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 spg, 42% FG, 28% 3PT
JJ: 18.85 PER, 22.0 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, 43% FG, 35% 3PT
DH: 23.16 PER, 21.8 ppg, 6.4 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.6 spg, 45% FG, 32% 3PT
JN: 20.87 PER, 17.1 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.2 spg, 51% FG, 44% 3PT
RA: 17.96 PER, 18.0 ppg, 2.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 50% FG, 41% 3PT
VC: 20.6 PER, 21.5 ppg, 4.7 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 spg, 44% FG, 40% 3PT

And here’s an argument for each guy…

Joe Johnson: The Hawks are a game ahead of the Pistons and JJ’s stats are better in every category except for steals. I think Johnson deserves to start.

Devin Harris: The Nets are only 5 1/2 games behind the Pistons — let’s face it, both teams are mediocre — and Harris’ numbers are vastly better than Iverson’s.

Jameer Nelson: He’s having the second-best season of anyone on the Magic, and they are 8 1/2 games ahead of the Pistons. Iverson’s scoring is a bit better, but Nelson is a far better shooter and is as good or better than AI in every other category.

Ray Allen: They have the best record in the East, 10 games better than the Pistons. Allen is a far better shooter, and while his assist and steal numbers are lower than AI’s, he’s a better rebounder.

Vince Carter: See Devin Harris. Seriously, I prefer all these other guys to Carter, but I prefer Carter to Iverson. His numbers are better pretty much across the board and the Pistons and Nets aren’t too far apart in the standings. Carter and Harris are carrying the Nets while AI has more help — Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince (who is more deserving of an All-Star nod due to his terrific defense and good stats).

Since AI is in, that means we have to cross two players off that list of five (as there is likely to be just three additional guards on the roster). I would go with Johnson, Harris and Nelson. The Magic deserve two All-Star nods and Nelson’s numbers are a bit better than Ray Ray’s. As for Carter, the Nets probably don’t deserve two spots.

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