Last February the Brooklyn Nets acquired forward Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for their first-round draft choice in 2012. The Nets would give the Trailblazers other consideration if they were fortunate enough to get one of the top three picks in the draft which would be determined by a lottery at the end of May.
Nets General Manager Billy King made the controversial deal in a desperate attempt to placate point guard Deron Williams, who made no bones about the fact that he felt that the Nets had better upgrade their roster if they expected him to re-sign with them.
King set his sights on acquiring one of the game’s superstars, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who was unhappy in Orlando for a variety of reasons and longed to play in a big media market (meaning big corporate endorsement money) such as New York. When King was unable to strike a deal with the Magic at the trade deadline, he decided to roll the dice with the Trailblazers.
Wallace is a very good NBA player but not a great one. His teams never seem to make the playoffs, and I never heard anyone say that they were going to buy a ticket or tune into a game in the hopes of seeing him play. Even more importantly for the Nets, Williams did not seem overly impressed with the biggest transaction of King’s tenure.
The dice came up snake eyes last Thursday for King and the Nets when they got the sixth pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, which immediately became Trailblazer property. King later admitted to the media that he is still unsure of Williams’ future plans, though they do have a cordial relationship.
Rangers fans upset their team lost to the Devils can take some solace that a couple of members of the LA Kings, Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis, share their pain. Last week, Richardson and Lewis said they would much rather be in New York City for a week than be marooned out in Short Hills, NJ facing the Devils instead of the Rangers.
LA Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi grew up in Bethpage and was a die-hard Islanders fan. “I still follow them and my parents still buy tickets to watch them play at the Nassau Coliseum,” he said. Asked if the decrepit condition of that building is a detriment to the Islanders’ ability to sign quality free agents, Scuderi replied, “If they were a playoff contender, then the arena would not be a major factor in attracting talent.”
He did not disagree, however, with my premise that there is a Catch-22 in that the Islanders owner will not invest serious dollars in new talent without a new venue.
The New Jersey Devils players I spoke with at the Stanley Cup media day claimed that they don’t mind the fact that they are relatively anonymous and rarely receive any kind of endorsement opportunities even though they play their home games a mere 20 miles away from Madison Avenue.
“I am happy just to come to work and come home to my wife and five boys,” said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is arguably the best to ever play that position in hockey history. “We’re not the Rangers!” sneered his backup, Johan Hedberg. I detected that he may be a bit envious of his countryman, Rangers star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Even though it was the Devils and not the Rangers representing the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League in the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL is using the Westin Times Square as its media headquarters and held a reception for the press at the swanky Stone Rose Lounge at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. NHL execs had better hope that New Jersey governor Chris Christie doesn’t find out!
Tom Benson, who has owned the New Orleans Saints since their inception in 1967, and is involved with several other businesses in the Crescent City, is about to become the owner of the city’s NBA franchise, the New Orleans Hornets. Perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but Benson’s Hornets were awarded the top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, and it’s a no-brainer that they’ll select University of Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis.
Benson was less sanguine about the prospect of New Orleans losing its lone daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, whose owner, the Newhouse Corporation, is threatening to publish it only three days a week beginning this fall. “New Orleans’ population is rising and they want to cut back? It doesn’t make sense. I am trying to rally the New Orleans business community,” Benson said defiantly.
Johan Santana showed a keen sense of humor at his press conference following his no-hitter Friday night. When asked if he had ever thrown a no-hitter before, he replied with a smile, “Never! Not even in a video game!”
Mets starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner told me that he doesn’t get kidded around too much about sharing the same surname of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. “People ask if we’re related and we’re not. My nickname, though, is ‘Hef,” said Jeremy. When I asked him if he would visit the Playboy Mansion in LA if given an invitation, he laughed, “I’d love to, but I don’t think that my wife would give me permission!”