Should the Hornets Re-sign Kemba Walker?

Opinion, Sports

By Noah Monroe

Kemba Walker, a three-time All-Star who was a third-team All-NBA selection in 2019, averaged a career-high 25.6 points per game (PPG) this year and is the Hornets all-time points leader. Unfortunately, he is now a free agent, and the Hornets have to decide whether to spend a lot of money to re-sign him or let him go elsewhere.

The Hornets have not made it past the first round of the playoffs since the 2001-02 season and have put themselves in contract purgatory. However, Walker is by far the best player the Hornets have had since Glen Rice was on the team more than 20 years ago. Charlotte and its fans NEED the Hornets to do everything they possibly can to keep Walker for numerous reasons.

Here is a snapshot of the Hornets roster for next year:

(snapshot taken from http://www.basketball-reference.com)

No player who is under contract for the 2019-2020 season will be able to fill Walker’s shoes if he leaves. Tony Parker might’ve been able to fill the leadership role, but he retired on June 10. Also, no one on the roster can be the dynamic player that Walker is unless a player like Malik Monk or Miles Bridges can significantly improve from last year.

In this year’s draft, the Hornets picked P.J Washington, a power forward from Kentucky. Washington’s potential has been described as a player who can stick around with team and come off the bench and start a few games here and there. This pick followed the trend of how the team has drafted in recent years, Washington won’t make an immediate impact, he might not even make an impact within the coming years. Nevertheless, the team will continue to be abysmal for seasons to come, making fans continue to wait for the team to be average again, if they can even achieve that. Having Walker on the team next year will not only provide a mentor for the younger players but will also provide a spark to the Hornets in their games.

Some believe that “But Walker deserves better” or “the city of Charlotte doesn’t appreciate him.”

Walker has been stuck on a team that has only produced two winning seasons in his eight years with the team, and he deserves to play for a playoff contender. However, the city of Charlotte does appreciate Walker. They are part of the reason he’s been selected to three consecutive All-Star games. The fans have loaded the ballot box with Walker’s name, and they have filled the arena consistently even when the team is underperforming. Yes, they may not appreciate Walker at all times, but you have to remember these are the same fans who criticized Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during his MVP-winning season in 2015. They just want Walker and the Hornets to be the best they can be.

Reports have linked Walker to the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers, two of the most prolific teams in the history of the NBA. However, the fan bases of these two teams are some of the most critical people in the history of sports. Notably, the fans of New York have failed to support players like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis in recent years and have run them out of town. In Anthony’s case, wasted their prime years, which Walker is still very much in as evidenced by his career-high in PPG last year.

The Lakers have one of the greatest players in NBA history, LeBron James. Albeit that James has carried teams to NBA Championships, he has also ruined the point guards that have played around him, most notably Kyrie Irving. Does Walker really want to risk his career for the slim chance that the Lakers have at winning an NBA Championship?

Instead of going to a city like New York or Los Angeles, he could stay in Charlotte where he is adored by the fans and will be the focal point of a team with aspirations of the playoffs. Walker could play his whole career for one team, a feat that is rare in today’s NBA and most important of all, he will surely have his number retired by the team, which would be just the second number retired by the Hornets.

Walker has said on multiple occasions that Charlotte is the place he wants to play. A few weeks ago at a youth basketball camp, Walker was asked if he would take less money to stay with Hornets. “Yeah, why not? I would take less, for sure,” he said. Will the Hornets offer Walker the max contract, will they offer Walker a little less than the max to give themselves a little more cap space or will they move on from Walker and go in a new direction for the future? Only time will tell as free agency starts June 30.

Behind Our Fascination with OJ Simpson

Sports

By Jackson Stone

It’s been 25 years since Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were infamously slain and football star-turned-media mogul OJ Simpson was shockingly acquitted of their murders in what became known as the Trial of the Century.

However, in 2019, “The Juice” is still as relevant as ever in pop culture, even with a generation that was not around to experience the hysteria that surrounded both the murders and the subsequent trial.

Recently, Simpson, who was freed in 2017 after a separate prison sentence stemming from armed robbery, joined Twitter, and in under a week has amassed nearly one million followers. His first tweet was a video of himself pledging to use Twitter to “set the record straight,” before informing his followers that he has “a little getting even to do.” Not exactly the words you want to hear from OJ Simpson.

The incentive is clearly there for Simpson himself to want to utilize social media as a platform, when virtually every media publication refuses to post anything positive about him.

“[Simpson’s use of Twitter] is very reminiscent of what President Trump does with Twitter,” says UGA social media and journalism expert Dr. Amanda Bright. “He sees it as a conduit for him to speak directly to the people and set the record straight.”

Simpson’s name popped up in the news quite a bit in 2016 as two different TV productions—one an extensive documentary by ESPN and one an FX mini-series—aired around the same time that cast a light on the racial aspect of the trial. The trial took place in Los Angeles, a city whose police department’s reputation had been severely damaged by events like the Rodney King beatings and the subsequent riots. The defense used these racial tensions to suggest that Simpson was the victim of systematic injustice in law enforcement, and this aspect was a big reason why they won the case. Of course, police brutality is still a topic that is prominent in today’s society, so this may be a reason why the story of Simpson still resonates so heavily with people.

“I would say that he is still relevant because his case touched on so many issues that are still with us today, especially domestic violence and race relations,” said UGA public relations and media expert Karen Russell. “The trial was a television sensation, but everyone already knew who he was before that because of his football career and TV endorsements, so there was a celebrity angle as well.”

In 2017, rapper Jay-Z released “The Story of O.J.,” a song commenting on Simpson’s alleged belief that his fame and wealth could transcend his race. This song, along with the accompanying music video, also brought Simpson’s name back into the limelight, which could contribute to how younger social media users may be familiar with him now.

It doesn’t reflect well on our society that Simpson is now treated as more of a joke or a meme by younger audiences, despite the tragedy surrounding the murders he may or may not have committed as well as the racial tensions with which he is associated. A quick scroll through his Twitter comments will lead you to find hundreds of puns to the effect of, “you’re really killing it on Twitter, OJ!”

“You look at the replies, and it’s a bunch of people making memes and joking about how he’s on Twitter,” said high school student and Twitter user Noah Monroe. “The whole thing is just a funny situation.”

What makes people today so willing to joke around with a man whom many suspect of being a murderer?

“For the younger group, there’s really no cultural relevance; they don’t remember the verdict being handed down, but they know the general concept of it,” said Bright. “I think it’s easier to make fun of when you’re a step removed.”

Even beyond the jokes and memes, there is still an undeniable fascination with the man who was once a loveable athlete and media darling and then became associated with cold-blooded murder.

“I think that desire to hear from someone who has been closeted for so long is overwhelmingly attractive,” says Bright. “All of his [Twitter] videos are poolside…he looks like he’s from a place of luxury, and you juxtapose that with the 25th anniversary, and you think ‘oh my God, this guy’s living the life.’”

Preview of the 2019-20 Georgia Men’s Basketball Season

News, Sports

By Jackson Stone and Noah Monroe

Head Coach Tom Crean’s first season as the Georgia Bulldogs head coach fell below many people’s expectations as the team finished 11-21 and 13th in the SEC. Crean’s job this year will not be any easier with the loss of star sophomore Nicolas Claxton to the NBA Draft.

“Nic [Claxton] was unbelievable for us,” assistant coach Chad Dollar said. “It’s going to be a group effort for everyone to raise their level of play up and come together as one to replace him.”

Despite the loss of Claxton, the Dawgs bring in one of the top prospects in the country in Anthony Edwards. “Getting a guy of his caliber definitely upgrades our program from a national level and from a state level… It shows that the best players in the state of Georgia can stay in-state and play at their home schools such as the University of Georgia,” Dollar said. “We aren’t not going to do anything different from what we do with any other freshman but the publicity he brings and the excitement he brings is definitely something that will jumpstart our program.”

In addition to Edwards, the Dawgs have six other recruits coming in that help make up the 8th ranked recruiting class according to 24/7 Sports. This highly touted recruiting class has many Georgia fans excited for the upcoming season. However, Dollar knows there will still be a learning curve for the young talent. “They’re still high school kids,” said Dollar. “We’re taking their old habits and trying to build new habits and getting them adjusted to college, whether it’s on the basketball court or in the classroom… Summer is really a development stage.”

Under Coach Crean, the Dawgs take an unorthodox approach to many traditional basketball practices, which helps in many instances, such as when the NCAA recently announced it would be moving the college 3-point line back several inches. “We play with a four point line [in practice],” says Dollar. “That line is farther back to give us spacing, so the line being moved back won’t affect our offense at all; in some aspects, it will help us, because now it will open up even more and the defense will have to come out farther to guard us.”

The Dawgs coaching staff taped on a 4-point line (far right white tape) in practice to help with spacing

The Dawgs have on their schedule a trip to Hawaii for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, a tournament showcasing some of college basketball’s elite programs. “We are going to use Maui like any other tournament,” says Dollar. “Obviously it will be publicized more on ESPN, there will be more coverage, but we want to use Maui as a way to get exposure for our program, but also to help us get ready for SEC play which is always competitive.”

The high expectations surrounding the program after an excellent recruiting class are certainly exciting, but Dollar knows that the Dawgs can’t get too far ahead of themselves. “I would preach patience. Even though we do have a talented group of young men and we’re excited about them being here at the University of Georgia, they’re still young. Once these guys get older and mature, then you will see a great product.”

The fans hope to see the team mesh together quickly into the season and compete for the SEC Championship. The Dawgs start the season off in Atlanta against Georgia Tech on Nov. 20.