The Saturday Six Pack, June edition:
1. Pelicans get their big man: In Omer Asik, the team has added a needed element — a rebound-minded physical presence in the middle who will help create space for Anthony Davis on offense.
A four-year veteran who was unhappy in Houston after being relegated to a backup role behind Dwight Howard, Asik should be motivated in his contract year to prove that he’s a viable starter in the NBA, either with his new club or somebody else in 2015. The cost — the Pelicans’ 2015 first-round pick — is well worth it.
Of course, there are drawbacks, mainly financial. Asik’s $8.4 million salary-cap number means another veteran is going to have to be disposed of. But Eric Gordon’s contract plus delicate physical status makes him difficult to move, leaving Austin Rivers the most likely player to be traded.
Rivers made great strides late in his second season, and dealing him would mean the team has basically wasted a lottery pick just at the time he’s showing that he merited being the 10th player chosen in 2012.
The bottom line: The Pelicans are closer to being a playoff team than they were a week ago, but they’re not there yet.
2. Payton’s Orlando-bound: And we don’t mean Disney World.
Point guard Elfrid Payton, from Louisiana-Lafayette and John Ehret High, completed his meteoric rise up the draft board Thursday by being picked 10th by Philadelphia, then fetching a protected first-round pick in 2017, plus a second-rounder in 2015 along with Dario Saric, this year’s No. 12, from Orlando.
Orlando made the deal because the Magic feared Denver, picking 11th, would take Payton and send him to Utah. The bottom line is that the rebuilding Magic sees Payton as its point guard for the future, one who with 2013 first-round pick Victor Oladipo makes up a young but dynamic backcourt.
Orlando invested considerable time in evaluating Payton, and nothing gets you off to a better start with a team than truly feeling wanted. For a deserving young man, that’s a good place to be.
3. Saints on summer break: There isn’t much downtime in the NFL, but the Saints at least have another four weeks before training camp begins in the tony surroundings of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
The team went through OTAs without any major injuries or any off-the-field problems, which seem to strike every team this time of year. That’s not the only reason the team is a near-unanimous favorite in the NFC South.
Among other things, rookie receiver Brandin Cooks gives Drew Brees a dynamic target; an already-solid defense has been juiced by the addition of both veteran and rookie talent; and the schedule features only one road game against a 2013 playoff team, Carolina.
So stay safe, guys.
4. No decision on Graham: By now, it was expected arbitrator Stephen Burbank’s ruling on Jimmy Graham’s grievance against the NFL challenging his franchise tag as a tight end would have been announced.
But Friday passed without any word out of any of the parties, so now it won’t happen until early next week. Once it does, regardless of the way it falls, it’s in the best interest of all involved to hammer out a deal before the July 15 deadline. Graham has been circumspect in his comments during the entire process, and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, is a pro’s pro. That should bode for no hard feelings — at least no public ones — to come out of this.
5. Dolphins going modern: New Orleans’ hopes for hosting another Super Bowl soon may have taken another hit this week.
The Miami Dolphins are taking on the responsibility for $350 million worth of improvements to Sun Life Stadium without any government assistance. In return, the Miami-Dade County commissioner is rewarding the Fins for securing major events — like a Super Bowl — for the facility over the next 20 years.
With Minnesota nabbing the 2018 Super Bowl as a reward for building its new stadium and Atlanta expected to get the 2019 game for doing the same, Miami — which last hosted in 2010, when the Saints defeated Indianapolis in SB XLIV — could jump ahead of New Orleans for the 2020 game.
6. LSHOF look-ahead: With the exception of the family and friends of Beryl Shipley wanting to turn the induction of the late USL basketball coach into a vindication vendetta and a disappointing turnout of past inductees, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame enjoyed another successful induction weekend last week in Natchitoches.
Catholic High track coach’s Pete Boudreaux’s acceptance speech, in which he praised the other inductees, was as classy as it gets. For next year, there will be some strong first-year candidates: football’s Kevin Faulk and Jake Delhomme along with softball coach Yvette Girouard, along with a lengthy list of worthy holdovers.
The committee never runs short of choices.