Here are four thoughts on the world of sports as we await Selection Sunday and three of the best weeks on the sports calendar.
(NOT SO) BIG MONEY: This was last Sunday in Los Angeles. Golden State had just taken a beating at the hands of the normally awful L.A. Lakers. I was in Golden State’s locker room, waiting for Steph Curry’s press conference, when the former Davidson star said hello and motioned me over.
“I was a little surprised about Charles Johnson,” Curry said. “Do you think we can re-sign him?”
Curry had just had one of the few really bad games of what should be his second straight MVP season, going 1-for-10 from three-point range in a 17-point defeat. But Johnson was on his mind, and as always, Curry’s instincts were good. After I explained how devastating the last year of Johnson’s contract would be to the Panthers’ salary cap if Carolina hadn’t released him, Curry persisted.
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“But there’s no NFL rule saying if you release a guy that you can’t bring him back, right?” he said. “Don’t you think the Panthers will do that?”
I had my doubts. But sure enough, that’s what happened, and kudos to Johnson for taking a $3 million, one-year deal with Carolina instead of what could have been twice as much somewhere else. There’s no doubt Curry – the No. 1 celebrity Panthers fan in the world and the man who banged the “Keep Pounding” drum before the Super Bowl – is happy about it. Carolina fans should be too.
CAM’S HAT: I knew Cam Newton has completely returned from the “Super Bowl mourning” stage when I saw that hat he wore in Los Angeles while watching Kobe and LeBron battle for the last time on Thursday night.
That Pharrell Williams-inspired hat was big enough to host its own postgame Super Bowl press conference. (Too soon?) I am only sorry he did not wear it in combination with his pre-Super Bowl golden travel pants and a foxtail.
ACC SWITCH: I like the ACC’s switch to a Saturday night men’s basketball finale. While I had trouble getting my arms around the idea of those early-week games, having the final the day before Selection Sunday makes all kinds of sense and gives the tournament winner a full day to bask in its victory instead of just three hours.
THIS IS THE YEAR: Since Charlotte got its NBA franchise back in 2004, one thing has stayed the same through the name change from Bobcats to Hornets and through the churn of players and coaches. The Bobcats/Hornets, in this incarnation, have never won a playoff game.
That changes this season. The Hornets are about to make the playoffs. And while I wouldn’t necessarily predict they are going to win a playoff series, they aren’t going to get swept.
Even if the Hornets drop to the No. 8 seed and have to play old nemesis LeBron James in the first round, I don’t see another 4-0 playoff sweep happening. These Hornets are too well-positioned to collapse totally in the playoffs once more, even if they suffer another injury to one of their key players like the one that happened in 2014 with Al Jefferson.