Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wheeling and Dealing

The Charlotte Bobcats pulled a pre-draft deal with Detroit on Tuesday, sending Corey Maggette to the Pistons for Ben Gordon and a protected 1st round pick to the Bobcats.  Sound good?

Well, yes and no.  It's good because Charlotte moved an $11 million dollar contract off the books, and picked up a future first round selection in the process.  It's not so good, because Gordon's deal still owes him $25+ over the next 2 years.

The way I understand it, the protected first round pick likely means the Bobcats won't see that pick until 2015.  Things would have to work out well for Charlotte to see that pick any sooner.

Still, stockpiling first round picks isn't a bad thing, since the Bobcats are a long way from being good.  Charlotte still has things to address, namely the big contracts of Tyrus Thomas and Gana Diop.  New Head Coach Mike Dunlap feels his team needs more perimeter shooters, which he would be correct.  The Bobcats also lack interior threats as well.  As mentioned, lots to be addressed.

I wouldn't think the Bobcats are finished with their pre-draft (or night of) dealings.  The deal with Detroit tells me that GM Rich Cho has been given some clearance to make moves he deems will help the club.  That's a huge positive in that the Bobcats seem to be letting their key people make key decisions.  How this will all work out?  Anybody's guess, but it appears the Bobcats are serious about sticking to the plan.  In the past, the plan never seemed to have a hard edge.  This one does.  That plan didn't involve a 7-win season, of course, but given the team's desire to free up cap space to lure free agents, and adding draft picks to their future, the course appears to be established.

The future of the franchise is being decided with each transaction, only with this club, every move they make MUST be carefully calculated, and executed.  So far, it looks like that is what is going on.

Mike Solarte

Late night footnote: Congrats to the Charlotte Eagles on a fantastic run in the Lamar Hunt Cup. Their journey ended in a 2-1 defeat to Chivas USA early Wednesday morning, on an extra time goal.  The Eagles scored in the 89th minute to draw even at 1-1.  Chivas USA scored on a set piece to take the game, and eliminate Charlotte from the tournament.  The Eagles return home Thursday to face the Los Angeles Blues at 7pm.  The game will be played at Charlotte Christian.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A few things before vacation....

I'll be taking some time off beginning this Friday, so I am emptying my brain before I go.  Starting with....

The Bobcats coaching search.  Reports are out the Bobcats are down to three coach candidates.  Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw, and Quin Snyder.  My gut says they go with Shaw, but I think Sloan is the right guy.  And for the record, these are only opinions.

All three have positives.  Snyder is young, and could be the spark to ignite a young team to get them going in the right direction.  Shaw has never been a Head Coach, but has been a solid understudy, and Sloan's record speaks for itself.

Here's the rub for the Bobcats.  They can not afford to miss on their next coach, or what they do with the number 2 pick later this month.  If this franchise is to move towards the goals set by owner Michael Jordan (contending for a top 4 spot in the Eastern Conference consistently, and threaten for a title after that), they have to hit it out of the park with every critical decision going forward.  That's a ton of pressure, but it is the reality.


Feel badly for NC State baseball in coming up short to Florida.  They may not have won the series against Florida, even if they had won game 2, but losing that second game the way they did was gut-wrenching.  I applaud Chris Diaz for being man enough to apologize for his actions after the called third strike (which was a mile out of the zone by the way).  Diaz showed himself to be a stand-up guy, a leader, and a true representative of what college sports are all about.  He showed passion, emotion, and as he felt he crossed the line, he manned up, and owned it, and apologized.  Me?  I didn't think the apology was necessary.  He had a legit gripe, the ump blew the call, and I likely would have done far worse.  Good on Diaz. 


Congrats to the Charlotte Knights on getting their assist from the City of Charlotte for a new stadium.  The Knights now face the chore of lining up remaining funding, getting a shovel in the ground, and putting a long overdue ballpark for Uptown.

If you follow me on twitter, you saw me going on and on about Monday's City Council meeting.  The one they voted in favor of the Knights funding.  That was the same meeting they voted down the city's budget.  I won't begin to try and explain all that is going on with the budget (not my lane), but when it comes to the stadium issue, I was amazed that Jerry Reese continued to stand behind a microphone, and lecture everyone about the need for a MLB stadium in Charlotte.

Calling Charlotte "a minor league city," is about as insulting as someone who makes a living here can be.  The National Football League's Carolina Panthers, and National Basketball Association's Charlotte Bobcats are on line one for you, Mr. Reese.  Last I looked the NFL and NBA were not Arena Football, or the NBDL.  NASCAR would also like to talk to you as well.  It's not ARCA, or other lesser known racing series that only race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  It's NASCAR.  You may have heard of them.

He also claimed that Charlotte was bigger than 12 other MLB markets.  12.  Well, since I have no idea what numbers he is using in that regard, let me just give you some of my data.  Charlotte is bigger than five other MLB TV markets.  FIVE.  Charlotte is 25th, Baltimore 27th, San Diego 28th, Kansas City 31st, Milwaukee 34th, and Cincinnati 35th.  By way of comparison, Orlando (19), Sacramento (20) and Portland, OR (22) also do not have MLB teams.  So I guess Orlando with the Magic, along with PGA Tour events is minor league.  Sacramento (the NBA's Kings live there), Portland (the NBA's TrailBlazers are there) are also minor league.  Orlando, Sacramento, and Portland all have minor league baseball teams, too.  They would like to talk to you as well, Mr. Reese. 

Other wonderful cities would be minor league too, I guess.  Indianapolis (26), Nashville (27), Columbus (32), and Oklahoma City (44) are on the list without MLB teams.  All of them, however, are home to pro teams that have competed for (and in the case of the Colts won) league titles.  All four of these cities also possess a AAA baseball franchise.

Another point about MLB in Charlotte.  Filling the stadium that many dates in the season.  If you watch Sports Night (like I know you all do), there are nights we show highlights of an MLB game, or NBA, or NHL, and the stands aren't full unless it's the playoffs.  The Atlanta Braves had trouble selling out playoff games when they were in the 14 year run of division titles.  I'm not knocking Braves fans about that, I'm just trying to prove a point.  If a team that enjoyed so much success had trouble filling their own place for a playoff game, what is there to suggest a new MLB team in Charlotte will get close to filling a new place on a nightly basis?  Bobcats games do not sell out, in part because the team has had one playoff run in its existence, and that was more of a warm-up than a run, since it ended in four games.

I know, I know...trying to talk sense is pointless at times.  Would I love another big league team to call Charlotte home?  Certainly.  Makes my unbelievable job even better.  Do I think MLB would be the right fit?  Not at all.  Too many variables, costs too high.  Guess that makes me minor league, too, eh Jerry?

The time has come for Reese to simply go away, or come clean with what he stands to gain from a MLB team coming to Charlotte.  He isn't doing this for the good of the community, because he has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in lawsuits filed to prevent this park from coming up out of the ground, a delay of what, four years now?  I know he won't do that, but it's nice to at least ask.

Mike Solarte

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the writer, and do not represent the views of News 14 Carolina, Time Warner Cable, or anyone not named Mike Solarte.  If you agree, or even disagree with the blog, feel free to leave a comment

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kurt Busch, NBA, and more

I said on Saturday, and I will say it again.  I want to see a former Cup series champion do well, but when he behaves the way he has, those feelings go out the window.  I am talking about Kurt Busch, a guy that can be as charitable and giving on one day, and down right ornery the next.

Busch is suspended this week after taking a reporter, Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News, to task after a question following the Nationwide Series race at Dover.  The question, regardless of Kurt's opinion at the time, was racing related, and Busch fired off a terse reply.  The reply was unnecessary, and unprofessional, and NASCAR called him on it.  Busch was on probation at the time, and that probation has been extended through to the end of the year.

Was Kurt wrong?  Absolutely.  Should he have been suspended?  I don't know.   In my opinion, Kurt did not threaten the reporter.  He just acted like a jerk.  There are no rules or laws in place for people behaving like the back end of a thoroughbred, provided no one is physically injured.  NASCAR is protecting its brand, however, and that is likely why Busch got the weekend off.

The harsh reality is this: Busch has moved from Hendrick Motorsports to Roush-Fenway Racing, to Penske Racing in his career.  Three highly respected organizations within stock car racing.  He left Hendrick to go to RFR to begin his Cup career, left RFR (on shaky terms to put it nicely) for Penske, and was let go by Penske.  He is burning bridges left and right.  Will another high profile organization bring him on?  Looking at it now, the odds are long that it would happen.

I want to see him succeed, but when he behaves the way he has, those feelings go out the window.  Kurt, shut the window for me.

The NBA playoffs have gotten to the conference finals, and at long last, we have outstanding action.  Oklahoma City and San Antonio have played some of the most entertaining basketball I have seen all season long.  Miami and Boston is turning into a grudge match, and that, too, is entertaining.  In the last post, I picked the Heat in 6, but I'm not so certain of that anymore.  Tied at 2-2 after four games, Boston is showing some veteran savvy, and Rajon Rondo has been exquisite.

In the west, Oklahoma City is on the brink of the NBA Finals, after handing the Spurs their first three-game losing streak since Gregg Popovich had dark hair.  OK, it's been more recent than that.  Still, the fact that the Thunder has responded the way they have could signify a changing of the guard in the West.  No, I am not anointing the Thunder as the next dominant team in the West, but the make-up is there for this team to be a contender for a while.

The NCAA baseball tournament has provided some thrills and spills.  First off congrats to Appalachian State on their best season in program history.  They finish 41-18, after falling to Oklahoma twice in the regional final at Charlottesville, Va.  The Mountaineers had an impressive year, and this could be the start of something very special on the mountain.  Also, congrats to North Carolina.  Their season came to a disappointing end, but credit Mike Fox and company for recognizing that their run over the past, say decade, has been nothing short of incredible.  Making it to Omaha is not as easy as they have made it look.  Props to the Heels on the direction of the program.

NC State remains alive, thanks to a performance that would have made Jim Valvano smile.  Trailing 7-3 into the top of the 8th, the visiting Wolfpack (on their home field--strange), managed a 3-spot in the 8th, and tacked on three more in the 9th for a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt.  The win keeps their season alive, and a weekend series with the Florida Gators is on tap.  If the Wolfpack can manage to upset the top seeded Gators, they head to Omaha.  Having known Elliott Avent for a long time, it's tough not to pull for him.  He's a good guy, and runs a good program.  Would be nice to see the Pack dancing in Nebraska in a few weeks.  First things first, the Gators.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings are one win away from their first Stanley Cup.  I called it a five game series before it started, and now I fear it will be a sweep.  The Kings have been just a little better in all areas against New Jersey, and that was the difference in the first two games.  The 4-0 final in game three was all about Jonathan Quick and the Kings speed.  This has been an impressive playoffs for L.A.  They will be deserving champs.

Let's just hope that Game 4 isn't the last hockey we see for an extended period of time.  NHL labor talks have yet to begin with their Collective Bargaining Agreement set to run out in September.

Mike Solarte