Thrown Away to Worthy

Tar Heels. Panthers. Bobcats.

  • July 17, 2014 3:35 pm

    Stephenson Stirs the Hornets Stew

    Michael Jordan and Lance Stephenson are hanging out together in Las Vegas around 1 or 2 a.m. I could stop right now and this might be the most intriguing sports story of the summer based on assumptions about His Airness and Born Ready. However, the two were not throwing down at the craps table with half-naked chicks replenishing their glasses of Malbec or whatever the hell Lance Stephenson drinks. Instead, they are surrounding a table somewhere in private while negotiating contract terms.

    I picture it like a police interrogation. Law & Order, if you will, because that show is exactly how it goes down in the precincts and courtrooms. There is Lance sitting at the metal table looking straight ahead while his agent stands behind him resting his hand on Stephenson’s shoulder. On the other side of the table, Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho leans back in his chair with a wry smile after he slides a piece of paper over to Stephenson. You can see the orange embers of Jordan’s cigar floating in the dark behind Cho’s magnificently bald dome. Jordan doesn’t speak. His presence is always felt.

    "Walk away from this and there is no deal," Cho calmly says.


    The tension builds as Lance and his agent realize the deal is for two fewer years and just $200,000 more per year than an offer to Stephenson from the Indiana Pacers. Will he walk away? The agent whispers in Lance’s ear. On one had, Lance wants to escape the shadow of Paul George and star on his own team, but on the other hand the Pacers are a legitimate NBA title contender. It’s decision time.

    "What the hell," Lance says. "Let’s do it. I got to hop a plane to the ESPY’s, anyways."

    And that is exactly how the Hornets landed their newest free agent acquisition, Lance Stephenson.

    I’m kidding of course, but it’s probably not far off. Reports said Cho and Jordan did not give the Pacers an opportunity to counter their offer, indicating it was a take-it or leave-it offer. Stephenson elected to go with Hornets, and a fan base which was beginning to experience a bit of a hangover from the name change and playoff appearance due to a lack of offseason moves and a rookie shooting guard with a penchant for questionable life decisions was suddenly rejuvenated.

    Yes, Hornets fans. I am going to address how Lance fits in with the Hornets next week, but for now I want to address the Hornets fans. They are a unique breed. Not a mutt, but far from a purebred. More a stew of fascinating eras of the NBA in Charlotte. There are the revisionist Hornets historians that choose to only remember the good times and the days when the Charlotte Coliseum was sold out nightly and the crowd as loud as any in all of sports, much less the NBA. To them, Lance is the Larry Johnson to go along with Kemba Walker as Muggsy Bogues and Al Jefferson as Alonzo Mourning. Everything is perfect in the mind of this ingredient in the Hornets fandom pot.

    You also have the apprehensive Hornets fan, still scarred from being spurned by the league when the original Hornets left in 2002 and wary of everything NBA. They remember the half-empty playoff games in the early 2000’s and George Shinn’s sexual assault case more than they do Glen Rice’s All-Star Game MVP performance or a young, athletic and springy Baron Davis. These fans view Stephenson with similar caution. On one hand he is a good, potentially great player but his antics and troubled off-the-court past could lead to similar public relations nightmares caused by the likes of Shinn and Derrick Coleman. On the flip side, who is to say Stephenson won’t leave or be traded after he grows his star in Charlotte, much like Mourning and the franchise itself?


    Next, there is the beaten down yet creepily optimistic Bobcats fan. This is easily the toughest and meatiest portion of the mixture. They’ve been witness to the worst team in NBA history, one of the worst owners in professional sports history and some horrendous, and I mean really horrendous, uniforms. They saw a starting lineups that featured Byron Mullens, Dasagna Diop, Derrick Brown, Matt Carroll and a very fat Boris Diaw, and tried to justify them. That’s how optimistic they are.

    Through it all they maintained their faith like any good sports fan should, experienced the bottom and are on a ride to what they hope is somewhere near the top. I think that’s a Drake line. Nothing in sports beats going on a journey from worst to first alongside your favorite team. Nothing. And while the Hornets aren’t at the top and are unlikely to ever reach the top due to the NBA’s power structure, this feels similar to those fans. This is a finely aged ingredient that took a while to finally blossom. Stephenson to them is the piece that brings the team to another level. If Al Jefferson turned the ship around, Stephenson will speed it up. They have the upmost confidence that his antics will be embraced by Charlotte fans, much like those of Steve Smith, and that his play on the court will win out in the end.

    Finally there are the bandwagon fans. Full disclosure, I despise bandwagon fans, but when you’re a Bobcats / Hornets fan, you take whatever you can get. These are the spices and herbs that go in the blend. They make things more exciting. They viscously scour the Internet like pirates to attack those who speak ill of the Hornets name. They destroy mentions of beat writers and columnists on Twitter. Everybody hates them, except their own. They are a reprehensible alone, but necessary ingredient for the whole. To them, Lance Stephenson is pretty much the next Michael Jordan and if you question that, you’re just obviously just a hater.

    In the end who knows how this mixture will turn out. It could sour and blow up in everybody’s faces or it could marinate into a meal fit for, say, a Queen (City). Either way, it is exciting and the most important factor is that all of the ingredients are now in the pot. Every piece of the fandom puzzle is interested, involved and cares one way or the other. This was demonstrated by the reaction to the Lance Stephenson acquisition. When people care in all directions, the ingredients are all there. It’s now just a matter of how well the team can stir them together.

    I’m hungry.

    Go Heels Go America

  • June 30, 2014 9:07 pm

    North Carolina Should Be Wary Of Wounded NCAA

    Even though I do not want to, it is my civic duty as the blog-of-record for Tar Heel athletics to address the reopening of the NCAA investigation into academic fraud at UNC. Maybe it’s my civic duty or maybe it’s to move my now irrelevant previous post from the top of the page. Either way, here I am and here is UNC, staring down the barrel of the wounded animal that is the NCAA.

    Despite what the national media or uninformed pundits might say, it’s a safe assumption to say the NCAA is not back due to Rashad McCants. While his media parade certainly caught the eye of national journalists and neutral fans, and potentially put a bit of pressure on the NCAA to do something, he is not why the NCAA has taken up refuge at the Carolina Red Roof Inn once again.


    The reason for the NCAA’s reemergence is most likely due to the sudden cooperation of former AFAM department chair Julius Nyang’oro and his assistant Debbie Crowder. They did not cooperate with NCAA officials the first go-around when investigating academic fraud as it related to athletes and AFAM courses. A few weeks ago, former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein said both Nyang’oro and Crowder are cooperating with his investigation of the matter, the third such investigation commissioned by the school and believed to be the most thorough.

    Naturally, the NCAA wants to hear what those two have to say, so why not listen to what they tell Wainstein, who today said he has shared his findings so far with the NCAA. So essentially it seems like the NCAA is piggybacking on Wainstein’s investigation, ironic considering it’s being funded by UNC.

    Few people know at this point what Nyang’oro or Crowder have said or are going to say, and those that do are surely not sharing that information anytime soon. That is really what this all comes down to. The question everybody wants an answer to is whether or not AFAM classes were created for athletes. Prior investigations said they were not and students from all walks of life took advantage of courses. Shocking, I know. College kids took easy classes. They probably smoked pot and drank underage too. What is this world coming to?

    Still, those findings were always a bit hollow without the testimony of Nyang’oro and Crowder. Nyang’oro faces a felony charge for his involvement in the administration of the AFAM classes in question and with recent rumors that the district attorney may drop the charges, his cooperation seems conveniently timed.

    In short, I believe the NCAA merely wants to hear what Nyang’oro and Crowder have to say to Wainstein and move from there. I have no inherent problem with this, as it is simply a matter of being thorough. Still, considering the failures and missteps of UNC’s leadership in managing this issue, it would be the ultimate dumb move if it is Wainstein’s report, which UNC commissioned, funded and continually cites, is the reason for the NCAA’s return and potentially new sanctions.

    It would be somewhat surprising if that happens, but the NCAA is wobbling in the crosshairs this summer thanks to poor publicity from the highly publicized Ed O’Bannon case among other issue, and wounded animals are usually the most aggressive and dangerous.

    Go Heels Go America!

  • June 26, 2014 3:23 pm

    Doug McDermott is Not Adam Morrison

    The NBA Draft is tonight and there is wide speculation that National Player of the Year and four-year Creighton star Doug McDermott will the be selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the ninth pick.

    The selection of a consensus All-American and 6-foot-8 deadeye shooter is typically met with optimism and hope. However, the response of many Hornets fans regarding McDermott potentially wearing the purple and teal (swoon) is tepid at best. Some bring up valid arguments about McDermott’s deficiencies on the basketball court as it relates to the NBA game. However, many are taking a lazy route and bringing up one name as a comparison: Adam Morrison.


    You know Morrison, or Ammo as he was so lovingly called. The floppy headed scorer from Gonzaga set the college basketball world on fire as he battled J.J. Redick for player of the year honors in 2005-06. He was drafted by the Bobcats with the third pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. After a mixed rookie campaign in which he averaged 12 points per game on a putrid 37-percent shooting, Morrison tore his ACL and missed the entire 2007-08 season before being traded along with Shannon Brown to the Lakers for Vladimir Radmanović (you like that accent on the c, don’t you?) in his third season. Morrison was averaging just 4.5 points per game at the time of the trade. In short, big bust that Morrison. Big bust.

    Oh yeah. Morrison is white, 6-foot-8 and played at a mid-major in college. McDermott is white, 6-foot-8 and played at a mid-major as well. Clearly, McDermott is Morrison. They must be the exact same thing because they are white, tall and didn’t play on national television every other night in college. While McDermott could very well end up being a disappointment in the NBA, that comparison is lazy and foolish.

    I know it is hard for Hornets fans to ignore the scars caused by Morrison. The pick was a disaster and while it likely doesn’t give Michael Jordan night terrors, it should. Still, if you’re going to judge the potential selection of McDermott, do some from a basketball point of view, because that is what he will be doing. Playing basketball.

    Morrison was expected to be the go-to scorer for a young Bobcats franchise that featured Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor. With those pieces in place, Morrison sounded like a good fit to aid a severe lack of scoring punch. It didn’t happen. Morrison broke down physically and was unable to thrive under the pressure of carrying such a significant load.

    McDermott will not be faced with such a burden. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are the stars of the Hornets. McDermott will not be forced into a role he is not comfortable with as early as Morrison was. Throw in the veterans Charlotte is likely to bring in thanks to a ton of cap space and the pressure on McDermott lessens even more.


    Additionally, McDermott and Morrison aren’t the same player on the court. While I have questions about his ability to maneuver down low in the NBA, McDermott scores in more ways than Morrison did, who largely relied on shooting, be it from distance or midrange. When it comes to shooting, Morrison made some pretty dramatic shots, but shot just 36.8-percent from deep in college. McDermott shot 45.8-percent and shot 49-percent in back-to-back seasons. Whoa. Not to mention, McBuckets is more inclined to grab a rebound or two or the 7.5 he averaged in college.

    Now don’t get me wrong, the Missouri Valley Conference is not the NBA. McDermott is not my preferred choice for Charlotte at No. 9. I’d rather the team go with Nick Stauskas or any of the consensus top-8 players that might fall to No. 9. I have little doubt that McDermott will be able to shoot and score in the NBA. What I do doubt in addition to his inside offense that I mentioned earlier is his ability to guard… well… anybody in the NBA. He for sure cannot stay in front of any starting three in the NBA. I’m not even talking LeBron James. I’m talking about the likes of Jeff Green and Chandler Parsons. Good players, but typical starting NBA small forwards. He will also likely struggle to guard scoring power forwards like Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap and Greg Monroe, who can either take him outside or body him up down low. If the NBA were full of a bunch of Reggie Evans’ then I’d take my chances with McDermott on defense. It’s just tough to see where he fits in defensively with the Hornets roster.

    In the end, the Hornets probably won’t draft McDermott, potentially rendering this post a huge waste of my time. But if I can convince just one lazy armchair analyst to take a look at actual basketball ability rather than simpleton observations about looks and schools, then it was worth it. I won’t jump off a building if McDermott is the Hornets pick. I won’t shoot off fireworks in celebration either. I surely won’t call him Adam Morrison.

    Go Heels Go America

  • June 25, 2014 2:29 pm

    Why Soccer For America?

    Soccer isn’t coming. It isn’t a movement preparing to sweep the country in a few weeks, months or years. No, soccer has arrived. It is here and it is big time.

    Want proof? Require evidence? Well, numbers never rarely lie and the television ratings indicated 24.7 million people in America watched Sunday’s match between Portugal and the United States. Comparatively, that was more than the average viewership of the most recent NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and World Series and barely below the 2014 BCS National Championship Game between Auburn and Florida State (25.57 million). That’s only the biggest game in America’s second most popular sport, college football. Yes, I’m a separating college football and the NFL in this case. The NFL is king, even though the Portugal - USA match did beat the average ratings of an NFL regular season game.


    Now, lets not kid ourselves here. The World Cup provides the height of soccer popularity in the United States. The Women’s World Cup does as well. In fact, the second most watched soccer game in American history behind the game on Sunday was the 1999 Women’s World Cup final in Pasadena, Calif. between the United States and China. It will be interesting to see the ratings for the Women’s World Cup in Canada next summer, but back to the point.

    The World Cup is the top of the popularity mountain for soccer in America. It can’t get much higher, given there is no grander scale for international soccer. It also helps to field a competitive team with a flair for the dramatic, as the United States does.

    The difference between soccer now and in years past is the valley’s between the peaks of the World Cup are not as low. People are tuning into the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League even though there is no American-based team and very few American players involved. NBC Sports paid $250 million for the rights to broadcast Premier League games and that is sure to skyrocket when bids likely come in from ESPN and Fox Sports in a year or so.

    Not coincidentally, a recent survey indicated MLS is now tied with MLB as the favorite league of American teenagers, behind only the NFL and NBA. That is remarkable and certainly a daunting look into the future for baseball.


    While all the stats, surveys and television deals tell a story of the rising tide of troughs in soccer popularity, what I am interested in is why this country has taken to the World Cup and this American team.

    I think there are numerous factors. Wanting to be part of something incredible on a global scale like the World Cup is important. Americans like to be the leaders, and if we’re not going to be the center of attention at the World Cup, we’re damn well going to act like we are. Also, there is national pride that comes into effect. Anytime you see somebody with an American jersey on, be it soccer, basketball, badminton, bowling or competitive eating, this country gets behind him or her. This just happens to be the most popular sport in the world so a lot of people get behind the athletes.

    A reason that goes unspoken and unnoticed is that this team and the World Cup in general offers America a chance to be the underdogs for once. Maybe it is my cocky American attitude, but we are leaders in a lot of categories. Badass-ness, hamburgers, fake tits and military budget just to name a few. Regardless of what GDP numbers or other economic indicators say, we are still the most powerful nation on this particular planet. Sorry, deal with it.

    One thing we aren’t the leader in? Soccer. Futbol. La joga bonita. The US Men’s National team in the early 1990’s was known as the “Underdogs” but that was before all the factors mentioned above took soccer to the heights in currently occupies. Also, those teams were underdogs but they were a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament type underdogs. The current team is more like an 8-seed. Still the underdog, but they have a chance to do some damage. An underdog worth America’s time, as shallow as that is to write.


    Americans love frontrunners. Just ask fans of the 1990s Cowboys, 2000s Patriots and the Miami Heat. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be associated with a winner. It’s natural. However, nothing beats being along for the ride of a Cinderella story, from start to finish. Even the most ardent Heat fan would agree.

    For so long now, Americans have been the Heat. We / They (what do I say there?) have been the leaders and the favorite in everything the country does and if America isn’t the favorite, we like to think we are anyways. We can’t even fake our supremacy in the World Cup. We aren’t the favorites.

    For a country that was built by underdogs at the expense the preeminent power in the world in England, this team and soccer allows the nation to return to those roots. We want to eventually be the best. That’s the American attitude. However, based on the numbers, even if American soccer never reaches the pinnacle of the game, millions are still enjoying the journey.

    Go Heels Go America!

  • June 12, 2014 1:05 pm

    McCants Can Make A Difference, But Not Like This

    I went back and forth about addressing this whole Rashad McCants fiasco. For starters, I am pretty much numb when it comes to the academic scandal at North Carolina. Nothing really causes my ears to perk up anymore, not even McCants. On the other hand, the comments by McCants received more publicity than facts regarding the issues at UNC revealed by investigations by the NCAA, a former governor, a former federal prosecutor or whoever. That is likely due to the platform on which McCants presented his allegations, as well as that this involves the sacred cow of Tar Heel athletics, the basketball program.

    The latter is why I felt it necessary to share my thoughts on this whole situation. Tar Heel basketball is popular, not to mention that we are entering the sports desert that is the summer and I want to save my “Hornets draft preview” and “United States: World Cup Champions” posts for later on. Plus, this continues my now three-year streak of addressing some sort of North Carolina athletics misery during the summer.


    In case you need a refresher, McCants said that he received A’s in AFAM classes that he did not attend, tutors wrote papers for him and Roy Williams knew about it all. Williams as well as pretty much every Tar Heel basketball player ever, including 16 of McCants teammates from the 2005 National Championship team, challenge or disagree with McCants’ allegations. McCants says he is doing this to protect the education of future college athletes. Others say he has an axe to grind. Around and around we go.

    I believe there is some truth to what both McCants and Williams said. To McCants comments, I believe he received grades that weren’t deserved. There is no denying that the AFAM department at North Carolina had its issues with shady classes. Students from all walks of campus-life partook in these courses. Athletes, frat stars, Morehead scholars, stoners, nerds, everybody. It’s a pretty simple formula to figure out. College students are attracted to easy courses like free beer (bad joke, sorry). Word gets out and they, along with their friends, hop on the bandwagon for an easy A.

    As far as Williams, I believe he knew that AFAM courses were easy and didn’t exactly match the academic rigor of chemistry, journalism or business courses. To me this is no different than Coach K’s understanding of the sociology major at Duke or Nick Saban recognizing that general studies is a major that allows his players to focus as much time on football as possible. However, I don’t believe Williams, or any of these coaches, know, or want to know, exactly how the classes operate. They just know the reputations of the courses.

    Be that good, bad or otherwise is up for debate. I’m of the opinion that players should be allowed to major in “football” or “basketball” considering that is the industry they hope to make a living in. What’s the difference between that and journalism majors, business majors or law students? That is neither here nor there, as is my speculation about who is telling the truth. As with most things, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

    To this point, I tend to be wary of McCants. It’s hard to ignore the reputation of McCants versus that of Williams. I don’t need to go into great detail other than to say there is a reason McCants flopped out of the NBA just one year after averaging 15 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His quote from college comparing North Carolina to jail because of having to go to class and follow rules also doesn’t shed the best light on his current argument.

    Williams on the other hand, while stubborn, has never been mistaken as an immoral and win-at-all-costs kind of guy. He stays away from recruits with shady backgrounds and handlers for this very reason, much to the chagrin of many Tar Heel supporters.

    It’s clear that McCants is not completely in-tune with the issue as he questioned why the university has not responded to his allegations, given it is an academic accusation. He must have missed Chancellor Carol Folt’s statement this week as well as the numerous other investigations and changes made by the school over the past few years.

    Folt referenced the ongoing investigation by Kenneth Wainstein. The former federal prosecutor will issue his findings later this summer with a pledge from UNC to take heed to the conclusions and make changes in addition to those already implemented. As Brian Barbour of Tar Heel Blog says, “Until Rashad McCants Talks to Kenneth Wainstein This is a Sideshow.” When asked about Wainstein, McCants responded “who” and said he should talk to his teammates.

    If McCants really wants to make a difference, he needs to talk to Wainstein and lay out each of his accusations so there can be a better understanding of what went wrong and how to fix it. Cooperating with Wainstein would help McCants achieve his stated goal more than appearing on national television and answering softball questions with prompted responses in a protesting T-shirt. Until then, his comments are nothing but red meat for banner chasers and headline grabbers and not, as he says, for future generations.

  • June 4, 2014 9:55 pm

    My Annual LeBron James PSA

    It is quickly becoming a tradition for me to dedicate one post every year to LeBron James and the complicated manner in which he is viewed by the public, be it by diehard basketball fans or casual sports observers.

    Since I started this blog in July 2011 (holy hell!), LeBron James has won everything there is to win in basketball. Two MVPs, one Olympic gold medal and two, going on three, NBA titles and championship MVP awards. James has dominated his sport like nobody else on earth over that stretch and, not coincidentally, I have dominated the North Carolina Ives family bloggersphere during that span. At least I think my parents used to read it.

    Anyways, I feel it is my duty to inform my lovely readership and whoever lands here thanks to some nice search engine optimization tactics that it is OK to enjoy watching LeBron James play basketball.

    When he blows by a quick point guard at the top of the key and then finishes through the contact of a mammoth center, feel free to drop your jaw. No need to furiously demand a replay claiming he might have traveled. When James whips a one-handed no-look pass across the court to an astonishingly wide open Ray Allen, nod in approval. No need to refer back to that time he might have flopped last series in order to bring him down.


    I’m not saying you need to drop your pants after every great play by James, but that’s at least better than sulking, complaining and bashing.

    I understand many of you simply aren’t fans of James. If you claim it’s because of the way he plays the game, that’s a lie, because James plays with the same passion, fire and childlike exuberance that he did in Cleveland when he was arguably the most beloved player in the game. He also plays the game the right way by passing to the open man and rarely forcing a bad shot, which is refreshing in the NBA.

    Folks don’t like James because of one of three things. First is if you’re from Cleveland and I can’t blame you there. Second is “The Decision” and third is because he is actually starting to accumulate titles and ascend the mythical list of all-time greats.

    No need to say much about “The Decision.” It was nearly five years ago, was a bad move on James’s part and he admits that. People need to move on and I think they have. They have found a new reason to dislike James.

    The perceived threat that James poses to the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and, dare I say it, Michael Jordan on the made-up subjective list of great basketball players is what now irks people about James. They don’t want him to be the best, because “their guy” is the best. I’m as big of a Tar Heel supporter as they come, but I’m looking at you, North Carolina fans. It’s OK to like Jordan and LeBron. Nobody is forcing you to make a choice, so why not enjoy both?

    Notice I didn’t say cheer for both. You don’t have to hope for James to win. That is your right as a fan. However, it serves you no purpose to forcibly disdain every commercial, play or breath that involves LeBron James. Appreciate what we are watching.

    I’ll admit it. I loathed Michael Jordan when he played for the Chicago Bulls simply because he torched my beloved Charlotte Hornets seemingly every other week. (Ironic / fitting that he now owns the Charlotte Hornets) I regret my disdain for Jordan to this very day. Why? Because it blinded me from soaking in and enjoying what I was witness to. I was in the presence of somebody doing something better than anybody else on earth. That, whether it be sports, music, art or whatever, is something to behold and cherish.

    By no means am I asking you to cheer for James. It’s perfectly natural to pick sides in sports. In fact, if you don’t pick sides then you’re an unsullied or an incredibly loyal member of the sports media. Maybe both. What I do hope you do, starting with the NBA Finals tonight, is appreciate what you are watching. Not only James, but Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade and Tony Parker as well. We want to watch the best in the world because we want to see greatness. You might as well enjoy it.

    In short, don’t be a hater. Spurs in 6.

    Go Heels Go America!

  • May 20, 2014 9:23 am

    NFL Draft Grades Are Dumb

    I understand the purpose of “grading” teams following the NFL Draft. It hits at the core of what makes sports so fun. Predictions, projections and prognosis. Trying to guess what is going to happen in an upcoming season is sometimes as hyped and eventful as the games themselves. It drives ratings for networks and gets clicks for online media. It is good business and that is fine.

    That is why there are early top-25 polls revealed the day after the college basketball and football national championship games. That is why folks across the country, from seasoned scouts to crazy message board guy, feel the need to share his or her “grade” of a team’s picks following the NFL Draft.


    However, just because it gets people talking and is good for the sports media industry doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid. How the heck is anybody supposed know how good a single player drafted by a team will be, much less the whole lot of them?

    The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted four future Hall of Famers in the 1974 NFL Draft and if they graded drafts back then, I bet some dolt would have given the Steelers a C or a D because they reached on a wide receiver out of Alabama A&M in the fourth round by the name of John Stallworth.

    The point is you never know how the players will turn out, so assigning a grade to them before they even practice seems pointless. Not many folks thought Steve Smith would be the greatest Carolina Panther of all time when he was selected in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft. I’m sure some praised the pick of the tough nosed lightning quick Smith and others likely bashed the selection of an undersized pouty wide receiver.

    It’s all a bunch of guessing. Anybody can like or not like a pick and provide perfectly legitimate evidence to back up their opinion. With that in mind, let me demonstrate why grading drafts is dumb by providing you with two perfectly reasonable sides to a few of the Panthers selections in the 2014 NFL Draft.


    Round 1: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

    Dr. J. Gruden Jekyll: Boy, I tell you what. This kid is going to be an unbelievable weapon for Cam Newton. His 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame will immediately provide a huge redzone target as he quickly develops into a No. 1 receiver for Carolina. They needed a big wide receiver and Benjamin is as good as it gets.

    Mr. Mel Hyde Jr.: This is a bit of a reach for me. While he is big, Benjamin runs poor routes and really struggles with the drops. With Marquise Lee still on the board and the need for a fast downfield threat, Carolina dropped the ball here. That’s assuming Benjamin doesn’t drop the ball first. I got jokes, Todd.

    Round 2: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

    Dr. Jekyll McShay: It seems unlikely that the Panthers will be able to keep both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy without tying up nearly 20 percent of the teams cap space on two defensive ends. Therefore, Ealy is a great pick because he provides depth and can slide into a starting role as a pass rusher once Johnson or Hardy departs. I had a first round grade on Ealy, so this pick fits both value and need.

    Mr. M. Mayock Hyde: The Panthers already boast one of the best defensive lines in football and led the NFL in sacks next year. Management appears to be ignoring an obvious need at offensive tackle by simply adding to an already full stable of pass rushers. You want your top picks to contribute, if not start, immediately, not play a backup role. This pick confuses me.


    Round 4: Tre Boston, S, North Carolina

    Dr. Bucky Jekyll: As a fellow North Carolina alum, I saw a lot of Tre Boston this year. He is not scared to mix it up at the line of scrimmage and has good instincts once the ball is in the air. With the Panthers ability to get after the passer and force bad throws, Boston might be in position to snag a couple. If not, he should make a fine special teams player.

    Mr. B. Polian Hyde: I know the Panthers are moving former safety Charles Godfrey to cornerback, but the team signed veteran safety’s Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper in the offseason. Cornerback is a bigger need in the secondary. Boston is a risk taker that Carolina wants to stay away from given the prowess of its front seven. The secondary wants to avoid the big mistake, which Boston was prone to in college. Haruki Nakamura anybody?

    Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford

    Dr. Rang Jekyll: Similar to the defensive end position, the Panthers are likely to be without one of their top two running backs, DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart, following the upcoming season. My guess is Stewart. Running backs are a dime-a-dozen nowadays in the NFL, so it makes sense to pick one with a solid build similar to Stewart late in the draft so he can be groomed before he’s forced into action.

    Mr. T. Hyde Dilfer: The Panthers already have three perfectly capable running backs and in a league that doesn’t emphasize the position anymore, the Panthers might have been better served just picking up an undrafted free agent rookie at the position. Also, there were better options available than Gaffney, such as Ryan Williams. Why not take a shot at a position of need like offensive tackle?

    So what did we learn here? We learned that no matter the pick, there are sensible arguments as to why it might turn out to be a good pick or a bad pick. Seeing that, what is the point of grading a draft before anybody plays? Every grade should instead read like the dreaded elementary school marking of “INC.” “Incomplete: See me… in three years.”

    Go Heels Go America!

  • May 1, 2014 9:23 am

    I’ll Say It… Thank You, Bobcats

    How will the Charlotte Bobcats be remembered?

    There are plenty of hilariously depressing answers to this question. Worst team ever, zero playoff wins and Adam Morrison are all acceptable yet painful responses. A combination of such failures will probably be the most common refrain whenever the Bobcats are discussed years from now.

    While that is fine and certainly fair, there is more to it than just jokes and sadness. While watching the story unfold on a daily and game-by-game basis was disheartening and a struggle, in the end there is plenty to be appreciated and thankful for regarding the Cats. In a way, this feels like an ode to Charlie Brown.

    Therefore, I’ll say something that you’re about as likely to hear as you are to run into a native Charlottean in Ballantyne.

    Thank you, Bobcats.

    I will remember a few moments on the court, because I’ve watched many a Bobcats game over the past decade. However, as we move into a new era of NBA basketball in Charlotte, my recollection of the Bobcats will center around the loyalty the Bobcats showed towards a cold city and the refreshing willingness to listen.


    Thank you for sticking with Charlotte

    The end of the previous relationship between the NBA and Charlotte was messy. Folks tend to have selective memories when it comes to the first version of the Hornets. It wasn’t always Muggsy, LJ and 10-story building-side murals. The Charlotte Coliseum was maybe two-thirds full for the final game at the Hive, a loss to the New Jersey Nets in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    There was no desperate plea for the team to stay or outrage surrounding their departure. No need to leave in the cover of night like the Baltimore Colts once did. The passive aggressive attitude of “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” was the pervasive feeling throughout the region, though not by one particular 14-year old.

    Just two years later the Bobcats showed up. The franchise was met with about as little fanfare as the Hornets left with. Charlotte was turned off by the NBA. Picture a child pondering whether or not to eat brussel sprouts. That was how Charlotte looked at the Bobcats. They simply weren’t going to get along. In fact, rumors of the Bobcats inevitable departure surfaced just a few years into the teams existence.

    Yet, the Bobcats stuck with Charlotte and did its best to embrace the city. Despite its repeated poor performances on the court, egregious front office decisions and laughable owner in Bob Johnson, the franchise engaged fans and were active in the community. Led by president and COO Fred Whitfield, the Bobcats frequently participated in community events, fundraisers and volunteered their time, a must for a professional sports team in a town with still relatively deep traditional Southern roots.

    This laid a foundation of goodwill that didn’t necessarily mask the failures on the court, but did open lines of communication between the team and the public.

    Thank you for listening

    After Michael Jordan purchased a majority share of the team in 2010, there were concerns that he would be aloof and stubborn, commonly resisting advice. This was the overwhelming portrayal of Jordan during his time as an executive with the Washington Wizards.

    Instead, Jordan was very much the opposite. He moved to Charlotte, frequently attended games, was a part of the team’s community outreach events and could often be found hanging around town, playing golf or at a local bar, mingling as much as somebody like Michael Jordan can with his constituents. He listened to what fans had to say and it wouldn’t take long for them to speak up.


    As I have documented on this blog before, a grassroots movement pushing for the return of the Hornets name to Charlotte erupted just a few months after Jordan took control of the team. Business owners and leaders oftentimes pay no means to the wants and needs of fans, consumers and the society they live in. They operate in their own bubble, separated from the commoners and real world. This can be a fatal flaw not only for a business, but also as human being as we’ve seen recently with Donald Sterling.

    Jordan and the Bobcats did not have that problem. As Jordan said during the unveiling of the new Hornets logo, “You asked and we delivered.” What a refreshing thing to hear from a man of that stature and power and from the sports world in general. The customer got what it wanted.

    The Bobcats arrived in Charlotte a decade ago. They started with sparse support and were never truly embraced by the city. Along the way there were terrible personnel decisions, masked only by the even worse play on the court. There were 293 wins, 519 losses, no playoff wins and just one All Star player.

    All of that should lead to an even further disconnect between a team and its community, especially given Charlotte’s history with the NBA. However, because the Bobcats stuck with Charlotte and because they listened to the community, the enthusiasm is back. Call it “buzz” if you like.

    There is more excitement surrounding professional basketball in this region than at any point in the past 15 years. And for what? Sure, Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are a big part of it, but it’s really because a franchise understood the importance of embracing and listening to a community, no matter how disheartened it appears to be.

    In the end, maybe the Bobcats will be viewed as nothing more than a placeholder. A bridge connecting the old and the new Hornets, reconnecting a city to its first love. A matchmaker that reminded a city of better times and reignited a flame that still burned in the belly of Charlotteans. For that, the Bobcats, warts and all, deserve our appreciation and thanks.

    Go Heels Go America

  • April 16, 2014 4:24 pm

    A Timeline of My First Masters

    Folks like to share their personal experiences on blogs. That has never really been my thing here on Thrown Away To Worthy. I typically share my thoughts and opinions on sports, but rarely offer you a glimpse into my lavish and plush blogger / journalist lifestyle. Well, I’m changing it up this week and opening the curtain to share my thoughts on my first trip to Augusta, Ga. for the Masters.

    First, some background. When I was in fifth or sixth grade, a friend of mine invited me to Augusta for a practice round and the first round of the Masters. My parents thought missing a day of language arts, social studies and Spanish was too detrimental to the rest of my life to let me go. My friend returned with a flag autographed by Tiger Woods and roughly half the field. My father calls it the worst parenting mistake of his life and I’ve made sure to let he and my mother know about this occurrence every April. Now, he can rest easy.

    Saturday, April 12, 2014

    5:45 AM: The alarm on my iPhone (that’s a fancy phone only journalists have) goes off. I can’t even tell you what noise my alarm makes, because I don’t remember the first 20 or so minutes of my day. I’m in a fog like you wouldn’t believe. Throw in that pre-6:00 a.m. wake-up and all I know is that something woke me up. I don’t really know how, but it did.

    6:00 AM: After sleeping in the shower for 10 minutes, maybe washing my hair, probably brushing my teeth and apparently getting dressed, I’m in my car headed to meet my buddy, lets call him Ben (because that’s his name), at an exclusive hotel on the outskirts of Charlotte.


    6:20 AM: Even though I’m worried my 12-year old Ford Explorer will stick out amongst the luxury vehicles and supped-up SUV’s that litter the parking lot of the Clarion Hotel at Carowinds, I leave my car there and hop in Ben’s vehicle to continue the journey towards Augusta, as he has been many times and actually knows what he’s doing. As an aside, there was a fine looking Mexican establishment attached to the Clarion. I’m sure it’ll cure what ails ya.

    7:15ish AM: We stop for a bathroom break in the middle of South Carolina. I have no clue where we were, but it wasn’t Charleston and that is about the extent of my South Carolina knowledge. The locals look at us like we’re from the moon. Most of them are stocking up on liquids for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Darlington, S.C. (which doesn’t begin for another 12 HOURS!) We are pretty much going to the exact opposite on the sporting event spectrum.

    8:15 AM: We arrive, and after Ben speaks parseltongue or something to the parking attendant, we get to park really close to the back gate. Walking in, it immediately strikes me as an incredibly nice Disney World. The grass alongside the walkways towards the food and shopping areas might as well have been cut with scissors. It smells like cigars and moist grass. The attendants are outrageously nice, enthusiastically welcoming you to the Masters as they direct you through metal detectors and scan your badge. Take note, airport security. We’re off to an amazing start and I haven’t even seen the course.

    8:30 AM: I buy everything in the golf shop. That’s how I roll.

    8:50 AM: Breakfast time, which includes a $2 chicken biscuit that, while not Chick-fil-A, is pretty darn good. I pair the biscuit with something you cannot get at Chick-Fil-A, a beer. An import at that. The most expensive item on the menu at $4. Only the best.

    9:00 AM: Off to walk around the course. We walk an empty back nine with perfect views of Amen Corner and other famous settings. We stand where Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson hit the two most famous shots of their careers and marvel at how difficult they must have been to pull off. Watson pretty much made a 160-yard shot with his gap wedge take a 90-degree right turn and land on the green. I did that once. Playing Mario Golf on my Nintendo 64.

    People often say that Augusta National, or “The National” as locals like me call it, is the most beautiful place they’ve ever been. It’s certainly a candidate for me, but it’s hard to beat a sunset over a sound or view of the mountains. However, I don’t think it is possible to find a more gorgeous setting for a golf course. It’s hard to notice this on television, but the landscape is incredibly hilly and the low grass of the course allows you to see every mound and hill, highlighting not only the difficulty of the course, but the natural beauty of the land. The low lying pinks azaleas, in full bloom like they’re on a clock all year, the white dogwood trees and tall ominous green pine trees give the impression that you are inside a naturally created stadium. I’m sure there has been an analogy written somewhere comparing the colors of the surrounding vegetation to the plethora of pastels worn by the patrons. Sure, there is some absurdly detailed gardening that goes into making the course what it is, but it really is breath taking, especially when you consider one of the greatest sporting events on earth takes place in this setting.


    But enough of the Garden & Gun-esque descriptions.

    9:45 AM: We walk by the clubhouse, where Billy Payne and the rest of his green-jacketed brethren crowd the windows to try and get a glimpse of the prominent banker and bodacious blogger. We were invited in for mimosa’s, of course, but we are men of the people. We stuck with our Stella Artois and headed to check out the Par-3 course. It’s like The Nationals version of putt-putt, only slightly nicer than Pirate’s Landing in Myrtle Beach.

    10:00 AM: To the driving range we go. Miguel Angel Jimenez, my personal favorite, performs his famous pre-practice routine (or war dance) of gyrations and twirls while managing to keep an unlit cigar in his mouth the entire time. I assume it’s an attempt to intimidate the competition. I don’t see how it ever fails.

    10:30 AM: After watching Billy Horschel miss virtually every putt on the practice green, we head to the fourth hole, a lengthy par-3, and await the arrival of the first group of Jeff Knox and some guy named McIlroy. In case you weren’t aware, Knox is a member of Augusta National and since there were an odd number of players after the cut, he played with Rory to keep up the pace of play and prevent Rory from getting lonely. Rumor has it he holds the course record from the members tee’s at 61 or 62. He’s pretty much the Ty Webb of Augusta. Knox beat Rory on Saturday by one stroke.

    11:30 AM: Ben and I meet a couple of friends from college somewhere on the course. At this point, I’m just enjoying my surroundings. One of the friends is from Augusta, so he introduces us to a few people before we head towards the 11th, 12th and 13th holes. While there, we watch a few groups come through while reminiscing on college and discussing important global issues like Mary Willingham and the Bobcats.

    1:30 PM: After a barbecue sandwich, chips and a beer or two or three more, we walk towards the hill across the pond from the 16th hole, the famous par-3 where Tiger chipped in on his way to winning in 2005. On our way, we stop and watch a couple of groups from the tee box. It’s crazy how different the perspectives are when you’re actually there. It’s hard to explain, but 16 always seemed like it was tucked into a quiet corner of the course when I watched on television, but it is actually in the middle of a lot of foot traffic, grandstands and people in general. There are a lot of distractions when hitting that tee shot.


    2:30 PM: We arrive at the hill, unashamedly nicknamed “Frat Hill.” It offered a view of the greens on 6 and 16, giving you plenty of golf to watch. Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Fred Couples, Bubba and all the big names came through during our two or so hours sitting on the hill. The golf, landscape and people watching was top-notch. The crowd at Augusta is different than any other tournament I’ve been to, which includes numerous events at Quail Hollow and the US Open at Pinehurst. Maybe it’s due to fear of execution by sweet tea and dogwood lashings, but there are never any yips, yells or gasps from the patrons. It’s all very polite, but does get loud and appreciative after, and only after, somebody hits a great shot.

    3:30 PM: During a beverage run, I managed to see Alonzo Mourning, John Isner and a character decked out in Nike that appeared to be Johnny Manziel. Just thought this post needed a name drop or three.

    5:00 PM: After another stop at the urination station and a trip by the golf shop to pick up the damage from our shopping spree, we are on the road home.

    5:30 PM: We call friends on speaker phone on the way home and laugh at them because they weren’t at the Masters.

    6:30 PM: I fall asleep for like 10 minutes and Ben snapchats a picture of me to the world. Of course.

    7:15 PM: My car is where I left it. What a great day and one I will never forget. I cannot thank Ben enough for the opportunity of a lifetime, even if I do expect to become a member before I turn 30.

    Go Heels Go America!

  • April 7, 2014 5:10 pm

    The Charlotte Bobcats are the Best Sports Story in North Carolina

    First off, let me clarify. (I guess it doesn’t speak highly of my headline writing skills if that is the first sentence of a post.) This is purely, as the title implies, regarding sports as they are played. I’m sure there are numerous wonderful human-interest and overcoming adversity tales throughout the sporting landscape of North Carolina, but in this post I am writing solely about what happens inside the lines of the pitch, course, diamond, gridiron, hardwood or any other odd synonym used to replace field and court.

    The Charlotte Bobcats are the best sports story in North Carolina this year. It’s not that difficult to explain why, but I’ll do my best to make it seem that way.

    Two years ago, the Bobcats were on their way to a 7-win season. At 7-59, it was the worst season in NBA history in terms of winning percentage. I’d argue that the Philadelphia 76ers as currently structured are a worse team, but I’d have to be really bored to write a post comparing those two teams. The point is that less than 24 months removed from achieving the mantra of “worst team ever,” the Bobcats clinched a playoff berth with two weeks still remaining in the regular season.


    There have been great turnarounds in recent North Carolina sports history. The 2003-04 Carolina Panthers, two years removed from a 1-15 season, made it all the way to Super Bowl XXXVIII. Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott suffered through the worst season in North Carolina Tar Heel basketball history as freshmen only to win the national title as seniors.

    While the Bobcats end-result is unlikely to be as glamorous as those Panthers or Tar Heels squads (it is the NBA, after all), the turnaround is just as impressive. If Charlotte is able to go 3-2 in its remaining five games and finish 42-40, that would be 14 more wins than the prior two seasons combined, including six-times more than the win total from 2012 and double the 21 wins from last season. That simply doesn’t happen in the NBA.

    It also doesn’t happen to a small market team like Charlotte that is unable to draft a superstar. The turnarounds by Indianapolis and Seattle / Oklahoma City are a result of amazing success in the draft. Kevin Durant, Paul George… you know the names. In the past two seasons, Charlotte has picked below lottery projections, which included the 2012 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, and selected solid, but flawed contributers Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller. I will remain bitter about that Davis screw-job until the day he retires.

    In addition to fairly anonymous draft picks, the team was strapped with salary cap issues thanks to hilariously dumb contracts and personnel moves. Tyrus Thomas immediately comes to mind, as does Ben Gordon, but at least Gordon came to Charlotte from Detroit along with a future first-round pick.

    So, to sum it up, the Bobcats were a cap-strapped, lottery-liability, small market team without a star player. Oh yeah. They also happened to be the worst team ever. Good luck.

    As Charlotte began to purge itself of garbage salaries, luck finally turned Charlotte’s way. The Bobcats struck gold. Twice. First with head coach Steve Clifford, who, if he doesn’t win Coach of the Year will likely finish second to Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns. Charlotte ranked second-to-last in the NBA in defense last season. This year, Clifford’s first as head coach, the Bobcats rank fifth with virtually the same cast of characters, save for one who I’ll get to soon. That turnaround speaks to Clifford’s ability to refocus NBA players, a task easier said than done, and is why many liken him to his longtime friend, defensive mastermind and Chicago Bulls coach, Tom Thibodeau.

    The second stroke of luck came with arguably the biggest free agent signing in Charlotte sports history. Al Jefferson is not a household name to many casual NBA fans. That’s because he spent much of his career thus in Minnesota and Utah, forgotten and obscure markets just like Charlotte when it comes to the NBA worldview. However, during his previous nine NBA seasons Jefferson slowly became one of the premiere offensive big men in the world, implementing an old school style that leaves the likes of Moses Malone as proud as it does the Alexis Ajinca’s of the modern NBA befuddled.

    Even with a proven pedigree, many balked at the 3-year, $41 million contract Charlotte gave Jefferson, ignorantly chalking it up as another poor personnel move by owner Michael Jordan, even though Jordan no longer makes such decisions.

    Kemba Walker said he nearly cried when he found out Jefferson signed with Charlotte. Many joked they were tears of sadness. Joke is on them now. By definition, Jefferson, is one of the most valuable players in the NBA this season. He is the only player in the Eastern Conference averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game and is the first player in Bobcats history to win Player of the Month. In less than one season, the signing of Al Jefferson has transformed from a premium to a bargain and transformed a franchise.

    All of this is independent of the much publicized name change from the Bobcats to the Hornets. It goes without saying that it was important to the city and, along with the teams performance, helped rejuvenate the NBA fan-base in Charlotte. As evidence, Fred Whitfield, Bobcats president and chief operating officer, recently confirmed that the Charlotte Hornets lead the NBA in new season ticket sales.

    It seemed impossible two years ago, let alone five months ago, but the Charlotte Bobcats will participate in the NBA playoffs for the second, and final time, in a couple of weeks. It’s been a rough ride for most of the franchise’s existence, but supporters should finally be excited about the future and proud to call themselves fans of Charlotte Bobcats, even if it is just for a few more weeks.

    Go Heels Go America!