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Don’t blame Lance Stephenson, especially on a message board

Rick Barnes, here with his wife, Candy, was introduced as Tennessee’s new basketball coach after parting ways with Texas. A good move for the Volunteers, says Tom Sorensen.
Rick Barnes, here with his wife, Candy, was introduced as Tennessee’s new basketball coach after parting ways with Texas. A good move for the Volunteers, says Tom Sorensen. AP

A few years ago, or maybe a few decades, I wrote a column called Tom Talks. I’d make up a name, attach a town and have the fake reader ask a fake question. Among them were Mike from Morganton, Alice from Albemarle and, of course, Will from Rock Hill.

I’d like to bring back the concept but omit the fake names. Some people wake up looking for a reason to be angry (thus message boards). If I randomly chose their name and their town I might be sued. I don’t like to be sued.

▪  DO YOU BLAME LANCE STEPHENSON?

Blame him for what – Charlotte’s suddenly abysmal traffic? I was surprised to hear Charlotte Hornets’ coach Steve Clifford (and I admire Clifford’s work) say that signing Stephenson was his idea. We like to blame Stephenson for his poor and inconsistent work. But, based on his first season, the people that hired him should be blamed. The Hornets needed a scorer who can hit from the outside. Stephenson is a passer and a rebounder and a scorer, but he’s not a shooter. He’s a New York player, and to put himself in position to be effective he needs the ball. So does Charlotte’s New York point guard, Kemba Walker. That’s his ball and this is his team, and should be. Maybe Clifford will find a way to integrate Stephenson next season. But this season, Stephenson never had a chance.

▪  WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST MESSAGE BOARDS?

Message boards are where the perpetually put-upon gather. I get it. When I was in college I worked to be cynical. Then I grew up. Message board writers are mad at referees, the media, the government, the school board, rival teams that get all the breaks and the world. If your job is at all public, you hear from them. In the old days I responded to their emails and Tweets. But I got nothing out of it. They were angry on rainy Mondays and on sunny Saturdays. So I created a No Troll list. If I see certain names or Twitter icons I skip to the next. My system works.

▪  WAS RICK BARNES A GOOD HIRE FOR TENNESSEE?

I’m not a proponent of re-treads. Every time there’s an opening for a Panthers’ coach, the candidates for which readers campaign are Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. I like the idea of hiring the man who is going to be good rather than a man who once was. I like the Mark Price hire at Charlotte. Before I realized he was a candidate, my choice was LaVelle Moton of N.C. Central. I talk to Moton on Twitter. He’s an excellent coach and a class guy. Barnes is 60 and was canned by Texas. But as retreads go, he’s worthy. I ran into him at a Davidson practice last season. He’s a friend of Davidson’s Bob McKillop’s and worked with him when both were Davidson assistants. Barnes didn’t play the role of the big-time big-school coach. He watched pratice and took notes on a legal sized yellow pad. When practice ended, I asked about the notes. He said McKillop is the best coach in North Carolina. I told him I was taping him. He said McKillop is the most underrated coach in North Carolina. Barnes, who is from Hickory, comes to Knoxville with drive and knowledge and little ego. That’s a fine start.

▪  HOW IS BB&T BALLPARK?

It’s breathtaking. On Thursday the deep green grass and smooth infield dirt looked as if they had never been used. I tried to stay in the home dugout but stood up, dropped to one knee and put my hand on the grass. It was perfect. It felt as if we’d won. We finally had attained spring.

▪  WHAT’S THE DUMBEST THING YOU’VE DONE – LATELY I MEAN?

I was shooting pool with a buddy at our corner table at Dilworth Billiards, a 1946 Brunswick. We were playing 8-ball, and I hit six straight shots, some of them difficult. And I thought: I finally know how to do this and what happens? Dilworth Billiards will shut down this month. Anyway, I spent the rest of the night thinking that I was good. So, on the biggest shot of the night, I took the kind of gamble superior players take. If I hadn’t scratched, the shot would have been really good. When the bill came, I paid. The reckless shot was dumb. But the evening was a bargain.

▪  FLOYD MAYWEATHER OR MANNY PACQUIAO?

Floyd is one of the great boxers from any time at any weight. He controls a fight with defense. He’s an artist. He doesn’t take clean shots. Manny, however, has a more versatile attack than anybody Floyd has faced. Floyd is two years older but Manny has been hit much more. In the ways that count Floyd is the younger man. I asked Roy Jones Jr. to pick a winner when he was in town last month headline a fantastic fight card at Cabarrus Arena & Events Center. Roy said the obvious, praising Floyd’s boxing ability and Manny’s offense. He then offered the not so obvious. He said the intangibles favor Manny. The May 2 fight is such that people who care little about boxing will pay $89.95 to watch on pay-per-view. I hope they see Manny win. And I think they will.

▪  TOM, THIS IS WILL FROM ROCK HILL.

No, it isn’t.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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