Tom Sorensen

Short takes: The appeal of Panthers rookie camp; that Hornets pick that slipped away

Carolina Panthers second-round draft pick Donte Jackson, left, and undrafted free agent Phil Mayhue practice during last week’s rookie minicamp. The camp gives the undrafted rookies a place to get noticed.
Carolina Panthers second-round draft pick Donte Jackson, left, and undrafted free agent Phil Mayhue practice during last week’s rookie minicamp. The camp gives the undrafted rookies a place to get noticed. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

One play stood out at the first session of the Carolina Panthers’ rookie camp last week. DJ Moore was on the field, on the right. Quarterback Marcus McDade (Sacramento State) dropped back to throw, and his pass sailed.

His target stuck one hand in the air, deflected the ball and caught it cleanly with the other hand. The receiver, of course, is — Phil Mayhue, a rookie out of Memphis.

The appeal of rookie camp for me is that players who have been names and pictures and highlights suddenly become real. You watch the ones that were drafted high. You see good work from those that weren’t. …

▪  You don’t have to be a fan of boxing to be a fan of Vasyl Lomachenko. No fighter in history has won titles in as many weight classes as Lomachenko has in as few fights. He’s had 12 fights. He’s won three titles.

The most recent of them was at Madison Square Garden Saturday when he stopped a bigger man, Jorge Linares, in round 10. Lomachenko knocked Linares down with a hard hook to the liver. Linares got up before he was counted out, but was in no condition to continue.

Lomachenko, 30, began to box when he was 4. His dad, who got him started, pulled him out of boxing when he was 9 and put him into dance. For five years, Lomachenko danced. When he returned to boxing at 14, his footwork was extraordinary. It still is.

Linares, a good fighter, knocked Lomachenko down with a clean right in the sixth. Lomachenko got up and did what champions do.

He doesn’t dance the way Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard did. He moves in powerful little steps, in and out, back and forth, changing angles and getting close enough to unleash punches at improbable speed.

In boxing, there is art. Lomachenko proves it. …

▪  When I think of the NBA lottery I think of a trip to Secaucus, N.J., where the lottery was held, with the old Charlotte Hornets. I think also mostly about a 2012 party at what is now Spectrum Arena. The party was for executives and some season-ticket holders. I asked if I could come and and was told, sure. Hey, look. There’s owner Michael Jordan.

The Hornets were coming off a legendarily bad season, and the lottery was their reward. In a just world, they get the first pick.

As the names of the other teams in the lottery were called on the room’s television screens, the evening went the way the Hornets hoped. The Sacramento Kings were assigned a spot. Then the Cleveland Cavaliers were. Then there were three teams left.

Guests ordered drinks, ate appetizers, murmured excitedly and waited. Some years, the No. 1 pick is more valuable than others. In 2012, it was a pick of exceptional worth.

The winner of the pick would get the opportunity to take Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, a 6-10 forward and center who could score from inside and out. This is a player around which a team builds.

The Washington Wizards were called. They would draft third. Only two teams remained.

People that had been munching ate more quietly. Talk ceased. Here came the announcement. Drafting No. 2 would be – the Hornets. New Orleans would go No. 1 and take Davis.

Many of the troubles with which the Hornets contend are of their own making. With the exception of Kemba Walker, who has worked and willed himself into becoming a star, their roster is a testament to mediocre picks.

Losing Davis was not their fault. The lottery gods willed it. …

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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