No one expected that the 09 summer solstice would offer the kind of star power that makes teams mortgage away their immediate futures for a shot at blue giants like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. But even though we haven't seen a realignment of NBA mega stars, we have seen the repositioning of a few red dwarfs.
Rasheed Wallace was relocated to Boston, once again establishing them as an intergalactic super-power. Burnt out in New Jersey, Vince Carter is hoping to reignite his career in Orlando. The Lakers acquisition of Ron Artest has the L.A. world clamoring for a few more rings. And The skys the limit in Cleveland. In literally the biggest move of the summer, Shaquille ONeal was united with King James, the leagues reigning M.V.P.
But with all the reshuffling of the leagues talent, the Hornets have been content with just star gazing. That is until they recently jettisoned center Tyson Chandler (again) for Charlottes Emeka Okafor. Though light years away from the vast improvements around the NBA, the trade has improved the Hornets-marginally at least.
Last season Okafor averaged a double-double with 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds a game (Chandler only averaged 8 and 8). Okafor will give New Orleans some semblance of a post presence, and hopefully unclog the lane for Paul in addition to freeing up some of New Orleans three-point shooters.
But At 6-foot-10, transitioning from the centers of the Eastern Conference to the giants of the Western Conference will be a difficult task. Chandler, on the other hand only played 45 games last year, limited by injuries like turf toe and a sprained ankle. But when he did play, 7-foot-1 Chandler could compete with the likes of Tim Duncan and Paol Gasol and he and Paul led the league in alley oops.
"I'm missing a great friend," said Paul. "A brother. TC was my man. Not just during the basketball season. His wife, his kids, his in-laws, he was somebody I could talk to about anything, and he made me a better player."
Along with Chandler, went the power behind Crescent City Connection. Statistically Okafor holds the edge, but chemistry takes time to develop and even then theres no guarantee. So was the trade a bust or a success? Ask me in March.
It's another busy weekend around New Orleans. Musicians are tuning up for Satchmo SummerFest in the French Quarter. Artists and gallery owners and retailers of linen toggery are prepping for the Whitney White Linen Night in the Warehouse District.
And in gyms across the metro area, guys who can dead lift a Mini Cooper are gearing up for Beauty and the Bench, while their female peers must be practicing the catwalk strut in heels.
It's a bench press weightlifting contest, combined with a "best bikini hard body" contest -- all part of an outdoor expo/block party on Sunday, Aug. 2 at 4413 Chastant St. in Metairie. Details are here.
The Baton Rouge Advocate comes out swinging in an editorial about Gov. Bobby Jindal's much-vaunted transparency:
Gov. Bobby Jindal has gone on record opposing President Barack Obamas health-care plan because it isnt transparent enough.
Were all for transparency, but we were surprised to see the governor criticizing someone else for not practicing it.
Perhaps we shouldnt have been surprised. This is a governor, after all, who has favored one standard of transparency for members of the Legislature and other public officials, but another, more secretive standard for himself....
This is clearly a governor whose guiding philosophy is Do as I say, not as I do."
The Hill reports the White House is leaning on Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao:
Rep. Joseph Cao voted against the economic stimulus measure, climate change legislation and President Barack Obamas budget, but that hasnt stopped the White House from trying to get his vote on healthcare reform.
The vulnerable GOP Louisiana lawmaker told The Hill that the White House legislative liaison assigned to lean on Cao, Jim Papa, recently contacted his office. But Cao says the White House will have to wait because he is still reading the bill, which is over 1,000 pages long....
Was Kanye West behind the Reggie Bush/Kim Kardashian split?...
Roger Wilson, the New Orleans actor who starred in the first two Porky's movies and was also famous for dating model Christy Turlington, has been working as a bartender for a while, according to the New York Post's Page Six...
Looks like the Dollar Bill jurors will be ending their second day of deliberations with no verdicts. Court reconvenes on Monday.
So the day finally arrived when the Saints opened their training camp at their facility in Metairie and would you look at the turnout? I've never been to a Metairie training camp but some of the press veterans said that todays turnout of a couple of hundred could swell to double or triple the size this weekend. Where all those people will fit is anyone's guess seeing as how every seat seemed to be taken already.
And much credit to the fans. It was hot and muggy all morning long and seeing this many people line up to sit on hot aluminum bleachers and with no shade for 2+ hours to watch grown men working out deserve some sort of credit (not sure what, exactly, but they deserve something. Free cold water?).
Alas, the press doesn't have to worry about such things. No, we get ponder over how many balls Jeremy Shockey will drop in one practice (at least five this morning) or how the offense is going to amp up the running game to match Drew Brees' passing (by running a lot of inside-run drills, apparently). But really, how much can you tell about a team after one practice?
A few things actually, and most of them revolve around this man:
This sweaty, scowling piece of pudge is Gregg Williams (but you knew that already) and he was stalking the sidelines today as he's been all off-season long. He's emphasizing aggression, activity and forcing turnovers. The defense today was happy to oblige and continued their practice of "scooping and scoring" every ball that hits the ground - dead ball or not. All these changes have come much to the delight of defensive players.
"It's just trying to create the mentality and make it habitual: every time the ball's on the ground, that's our ball," linebacker Scott Fujita said.
Jonathan Vilma, who's coming off surgery to fix a sports hernia in his abdomen, said that he was pleased with where the defense is in implementing Williams' schemes. "We're still not satisfied," he added, though. And will all the promise the defense showed you still have to take everything with a grain of salt. The offense was visibly rusty and that sure made the defense's job easier. All in all though, fans have to be happy to see this team in pads again.
And yet, how much has really changed with this team? Several players and Sean Payton talked about enjoying the fan presence on their first day of practice. Payton said that some of the "advantages of being here is the facilities", which are markedly better than those at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. But after just one practice, word is the schedule has already been changed: the afternoon practice has been moved inside and fans will NOT be allowed in. Anyone who was planning to take off work early to catch practice should cahnge their plans.
The Saints sure know to make people feel welcome.
The weekend is full of entertainment options, including Terence Blanchard premiering material from his forthcoming CD at the Ogden Museum's Taylor Library tonight and White Linen Night in the arts district tomorrow. But among the options is the New Orleans Fringe Festival's mini showcase at Marigny Theatre. It contains a gem of entertaining madness by the Black Forest Fancies. The singing puppeteer duo of Pandora Gastellum and Nina Nichols (pictured) reprise their November Fringe show, The Tragical Ballad of Black Bonnet, an audience favorite. Black Bonnet is a mysteriously sexed biological anomaly who works as a housemaid in the home of a 16th century Scottish noble. She stumbles into love with the lord's sequestered daughter Lilliana. Gastellum and Nichols work the marionettes, at times play Black Bonnet and Lilliana themselves, and sing throughout the three-act puppet musical. It's a vividly clever and fun fairy tale. It's grouped with two other items, including an off-kilter human puppet drama about a man who seeks fulfillment with a top of the line blow-up doll. Musician Ratty Scurvics and aerialist Oops the Clown combine to stretch the work into a sort of lounge act/trapeze enhanced mash-up. It has some good moments. There's also a set of short films, which you'll have to endure. But the Fancies are worth the wait. Remaining shows are at 8 p.m. tonight and 8 p.m. & 11 p.m. Saturday.
The pop country band Williams Riley's management booked a free show at the House of Blues tonight to expose the band to radio station managers brought in for the performance. The band recently signed to a Nashville label. Lead singer Steve Williams is a native of Larose. Benton Blount opens. The show starts at 9 p.m.
Part of the reason that Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank is so often frustrating is that his ego-driven antics too often conceal real talent; in other words, when the man's on, he's damn good -- as he is today in his wrap of the Bill Jefferson trial:
As defense attorney for the congressman who stashed the bribe money in his freezer, Robert Trout had an unenviable task. So in his closing arguments Wednesday, Trout adopted a different client: He acted as if all of Washington were on trial.
"We all occupy the gray area -- it's just part of human nature," Trout explained, as if former congressman William Jefferson's proposal to bribe the vice president of Nigeria were an everyday occurrence.
"We're going to make mistakes . . . we may do reckless things," the lawyer continued, as if having $90,000 of the FBI's money in Pillsbury pie crusts in the Louisiana Democrat's house was tantamount to exceeding the speed limit.
To illustrate this curious analogy, Trout displayed a graphic for jurors. On one side of a yellow line, in bold red letters, was the word "CRIME." On the other side of the yellow line were the words "recklessness," "negligence" and "mistakes" -- and a headless man in jacket and tie raising his hands in a shrug ...
The whole thing is here.
Filling the void of an atypical lack of worthy summer blockbusters, The Prytania Theatre wraps up its Summer Classic Movie series in a couple short weeks catch the remaining noontime runs of My Fair Lady (Aug. 2-5) and Some Like It Hot (Aug. 9-12).
The Omni Royal Orleans hotel is promoting a contest to come up with a new name for the bar at its restaurant, the Rib Room.
It's been called the Rib Room Bar since the hotel opened as the Royal Orleans in 1960, but now management wants something with a little more panache.
My first idea was "The Elbow Room." But no, that's taken already. How about "Adam's Rib?" Maybe too biblical for a watering hole, but it would be a fun conversation piece if they ever do a ladies night. Or not.
Maybe you can come up with a better idea. Contestants can submit entries on the Rib Room's Web site until Monday, Aug. 3. A panel will pick ten finalists, and the public can vote online for the best entry from Aug. 6 through Aug. 13. The winner will be announced during a party at the bar on Aug. 14.
Besides bragging rights for naming a French Quarter hotel bar, the winner gets:
One night stay in the Penthouse Suite
Dinner for Two at the Rib Room
Two Hour Poolside Social for 20 friends
A plaque on the bar denoting your permanently reserved seat
If you're looking for a little inspiration to concoct your entry, the bar still known as the Rib Room Bar has a new happy hour promo in effect, weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., when $9 gets a "flight" of three cocktails from a list of 30 drinks and house wines are $5 a glass.
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