All posts by Pierce W. Huff

Advocate sportswriter

Alabama receiver Amari Cooper says “I don’t really like New Orleans”

It’s less than a week away from the Sugar Bowl and the start of the College Football Playoff semifinals, but already Alabama has delivered the biggest hit.

After his team got off the plane at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, Alabama receiver Amari Cooper told reporters: “Me personally, I only speak for myself, no disrespect for the place, but I don’t really like New Orleans.”

Then, when asked why he isn’t a fan of the Crescent City, Cooper said: “Too much going on. I don’t really like Bourbon Street. It doesn’t smell good.”

The bad thing for Cooper is that he better get used to New Orleans, because the city will play a big part in his future.

Alabama plays Ohio State on Thursday, and until then Cooper and his teammates will have six days in New Orleans until the game.

Then there is the little matter of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Cooper, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior, is expected to turn professional at season’s end and enter the draft. Most draft experts project him as being one of the top selections.

The New Orleans Saints were slotted at the No. 11 pick in the draft before Sunday’s game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but could draft higher if they lose and other teams with worse records win.

The Saints picked a receiver, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, in the first round of last year’s draft.

But the team under coach Sean Payton is always on the look out for playmakers at receiver to pair with future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees.

So, fate could intervene and Cooper could be drafted by New Orleans next year.

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15 Rankings for the Week of Dec. 22-29

Here is The Advocate’s ranking of the Top 15 teams in the NBA for the week of Dec. 22-29.

Why the top 15? Because the bottom 15 teams in the NBA aren’t worth following.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

1. Golden State (Previous week No. 1)
The Warriors finally lost another game, as expected, but they have a Pacific Division showdown with the Clippers sandwiched between games with the Lakers and Timberwolves this week.

2. Portland (Previous week No. 4)
The Pelicans learned the hard way on Saturday that the Trailblazers are tough to beat when they make shots, but, of course, you can say that about every team in the NBA.

3. Memphis (Previous week No. 2)
The Grizzlies have a three-game losing streak as of Monday, but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about for now.

4. Houston (Previous week No. 3)
The Rockets play at Memphis and San Antonio this week with Dwight Howard not quite up to par, so don’t be shocked if they lose two in a row.

5. Dallas (Previous week No. 9)
Trading for Rondo was a “Shark Tank” type deal, but how long before he clashes with his new coach?

6. LA Clippers (Previous week No. 5)
The Dallas trade was yet another illustration of how the Clippers may be the Kings of LA, but they won’t be kings of the NBA.

7. San Antonio (Previous week No. 7)
The game of the week for the Spurs is not Christmas against OKC, but the next day at New Orleans.

8. Toronto (Previous week No. 6)
It’s tough to drop the Raptors after an 8-2 week, but right now these are the only “Headlines” they are good for with the Western Conference dominating.

9. Atlanta (Previous week No. 10)
The Hawks continue to win, but don’t be fooled.

10. Washington (Previous week No. 8)
The Wizards are better than the Hawks any day of the week, but this is a weekly poll.

11. Chicago (Previous week No. 12)
The Bulls have won 7 of their last 10 and are slowly coming around, and the Windy City needs a spark with the forget-a-bull Bears’ season coming to an end.

12. Cleveland (Previous week No. 11)
The Cavs have four easy games this week, but knowing them they will find a way to lose one of them.

13. New Orleans (Previous week No. 13)
The inconsistent Pelicans are getting better, but the player movement in the Western Conference could force them to make a move soon.

14. Oklahoma City (Previous week No. 15)
It’s only a matter of time before the Thunder rolls past the Pelicans into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

15. Phoenix (Previous week unranked)
The Suns have been a consistent .500 team all season long.

Don’t expect the Pelicans to enter the sweepstakes to get waived forward Josh Smith

The Detroit Pistons waived forward Josh Smith on Monday, but the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t expected to be one of the suitors to attain the talented, but often disgruntled player.

Smith was signed to a four-year, $54 million contract in 2013. He averaged 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season.

Smith, who still has two years at $26 million left on his contract, will be free to sign with the team of his choice after he clears waivers.

This Dec. 9, 2014 file photo shows Detroit Pistons' Josh Smith warming up before an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Detroit Pistons announced Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 the club has requested waivers on Josh Smith. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

This Dec. 9, 2014 file photo shows Detroit Pistons’ Josh Smith warming up before an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Detroit Pistons announced Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 the club has requested waivers on Josh Smith. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“I don’t think Josh Smith is a good fit for the Pelicans,” Advocate contributor Darrell Williams said. “I think he is not as disciplined offensively as the Pelicans require, and there also are questions about his attitude and getting along with coaches and teammates, which is definitely a red flag for the Pelicans.”

The Pelicans have a need for scoring with the torn left labrum shoulder injury to guard Eric Gordon, who has been out for more than one month.

“Anything is possible, but I don’t expect them to go after Josh Smith,” Williams said. “If anything, they are in the market for a good backup point guard or a guy who can play shooting guard and small forward – a 6-6 guy who is athletic.”

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15 Rankings for the week of Dec. 15-22

Here is The Advocate’s ranking of the top 15 teams in the NBA entering the week of Dec. 15 to Dec. 22.

Why only the top 15 teams in the NBA?

Because the bottom 15 teams in the NBA aren’t worth following.

The Golden State Warriors are looking down on the rest of the NBA. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) pauses during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

The Golden State Warriors are looking down on the rest of the NBA. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) pauses during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

1. Golden State Warriors (Previous week No. 1)
The Warriors are on the winning pace of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, but 72 wins is out of the question unless their interior defense improves.

2. Memphis Grizzlies (Previous week No. 2)
The more the Grizzlies win the more suitors figure to lineup for free agent Marc Gasol next summer.

3. Houston (Previous week No. 5)
Injured center Dwight Howard is back and Rockets continue to win, but they face trap games against New Orleans and Atlanta this week.

4. Portland (Previous week No. 3)
The Trailblazers figure to get San Antonio’s best shot in a game in the Alamo City on Friday, which could tell everyone how good they really are.

5. L.A. Clippers (Previous week No. 7)
The Clippers are next to last in the NBA in opponent blocked shots per game, which shows how vulnerable their interior defense can be at times.

6. Toronto (Previous week No. 4)
The Raptors are tied with Cleveland for the most wins by an Eastern Conference team against the Eastern Conference, which isn’t saying much.

7. San Antonio (Previous week No. 6)
Looking for the gift that refuses to keep on giving, download the “Best of Coach Pop” in Youtube.

8. Washington (Previous week No. 8)
The Wizards are second in the NBA in fewest opponent made field goals – playing in the Eastern Conference has its perks.

9. Dallas (Previous week No. 11)
The Mavs lead the NBA in scoring (110 points per game), but if a deal was determined by them beating the best teams in the Western Conference even Mark Cuban would pass.

10. Atlanta (Previous week No. 10)
The Hawks have the third best record in the Eastern Conference, so why is everyone waiting on the clock to strike midnight on them?

11. Cleveland (Previous week No. 8)
There is no way the Cavs should have lost to the Pelicans last Friday.

12. Chicago (Previous week No. 13)
The Bulls have a forgeta-bull 4-5 record at home entering this week.

13. New Orleans (Previous week unranked)
The Pelicans have improved and are in the No. 8 spot, but the Eric Gordon injury situation is holding the team back from doing more.

14. Milwaukee (Previous week No. 4)
The Bucks are what they are – a mediocre team that benefits from playing in a week Eastern Conference.

15. Oklahoma City (Previous week unranked)
The Thunder have been lighting it up recently and should continue to climb up the Western Conference standings.

Pelicans’ Anthony Davis is tied for the NBA lead in scoring

It is a milestone on a stat sheet that can change for the better or the worse the next time Pelicans forward Anthony Davis plays a game, which in this case will be Tuesday when New Orleans hosts the New York Knicks in the Smoothie King Center.

But at the present time it is worth savoring as much for what it means as well as what it symbolizes.

After scoring 23 points to lead the Pelicans to a 104-87 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Davis is in a three-way tie with Houston’s James Harden and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for NBA lead in scoring at 25.2 points per game.

New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis, right, drives against Los Angeles Lakers' Wayne Ellington, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, right, drives against Los Angeles Lakers’ Wayne Ellington, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Davis already leads the league in blocks per game (2.9) and is seventh in defensive rebounds (7.9) and ninth in rebounds (10.7).

But being tied for the lead in scoring means so much more.

It another example of how much and how fast Davis has come in his three years in the NBA to proving himself as one of the league’s best and most versatile players.

Three seasons he has increased his scoring average from 13.5 (rookie season) to 20.8 (last year) to 25.2.

It means his teammates and fans can count on Davis to be more than just a rebounding and shot-blocking menace, but an offensive presence who can score at will at all times of a game.

“He is just special,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after the Lakers’ win. “Nothing fazes him.”

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15 rankings

Here is The Advocate’s rankings of top 15 teams in the NBA entering the week of Dec. 8 to 15.

Why list the top 15 teams in the NBA?

Because the bottom 15 teams in the league aren’t worth following.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talks with guard Stephen Curry (30) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. The Warriors won 112-102. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talks with guard Stephen Curry (30) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. The Warriors won 112-102. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

1. Golden State (Previous week No. 2)
The Warriors enter the week with a 12-game winning streak, and were 17-2 after 19 games. At this rate the 1996 Chicago Bulls may want to start paying attention to them.

2. Memphis (Previous week No. 1)
The Grizzlies came back down to earth last week, but they remain the best of the three 16-4 teams entering this week.

3. Portland (Previous week No. 3)
Look for the Trailblazers to continue their winning ways. Their toughest game of the week is at Chicago on Friday.

4. Toronto (Previous week No. 4)
A true test of how good the dinosaurs are will be when they play at a much-improved Cleveland on Tuesday.

5. Houston (Previous week No. 6)
The Rockets continue to soar without injured center Dwight Howard, but they can’t beat the real good teams without him starting on Wednesday at Golden State.

6. San Antonio (Previous week No. 7)
With the best teams in the Western Conference off to a sprinter’s pace, the Spurs have been forced to pick up the pace to keep them in their sights.

7. L.A. Clippers (Previous week No. 10)
The Clippers enter the week with a seven-game winning streak and lead the NBA by shooting 48.6 percent from the field.

8. Cleveland (Previous week No. 12)
The Cavs, who are the biggest movers in the rankings this week, are figuring things out. No team has a better combo than LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

9. Washington (Previous week No. 8)
The Wizards have hit a rough stretch lately, but they remain one of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference.

10. Atlanta (Previous week No. 11)
Until they get a premiere player everything with the Hawks is fool’s gold, but their six-game winning streak entering this week can’t be overlooked.

11. Dallas (Previous week No. 9)
The Mavs enter the week a consistent 8-3 at home and 8-3 on the road.

12. Phoenix (Previous week No. 13)
The Suns are the same as they were last year – barely-in playoff team that lacks the players to advance to the second round.

13. Chicago (Previous week No. 5)
It’s hard to get a good read on the Bulls, and ranking them based on potential is starting not to make sense.

14. Milwaukee (Previous week No. 14)
The Bucks are 9th in the NBA in fewest personal fouls drawn per game, which best illustrates their perimeter style.

15. Miami (Previous week unranked)
The Heat may be better off trading their assets before the trading deadline and starting over than languishing in mediocrity.

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15

Here are The Advocate’s Top 15 rankings of NBA teams entering the week of Dec. 1 to Dec. 8.

It’s always the top 15, because the bottom 15 teams in the NBA aren’t worth following.

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, from Spain, left, loses control of the ball as Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, from Spain, left, loses control of the ball as Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

1. Memphis (Previous ranking No. 1)
The Grizzlies have won nine of their last 10 and have a five-game winning streak, but more impressive than that is their 11-0 record against Western Conference teams.

2. Golden State (Previous ranking No. 3)
The Warriors are the hottest team in the league with a nine-game winning streak and lead the NBA by shooting 48.7 from the field, but what will they do when the shots don’t fall?

3. Portland Trailblazers (Previous ranking No. 4)
Portland doesn’t face a decent team until it plays at Chicago on Dec. 12, so look for the wins to continue to pile up fast.

4. Toronto Raptors (Previous ranking No. 5)
The torn left adductor longus tendon injury to DeMar DeRozan will test the Raptors resolve.

5. Chicago Bulls (Previous ranking No. 2)
The Bulls have one of the best road records at 9-3, but the questions about the health of Derrick Rose persist to the point where the annoying Stephen A. Smith of ESPN is starting to make sense.

6. Houston (Previous ranking No. 7)
The Rockets can’t beat an upper echelon team until injured center Dwight Howard returns, but there are reports that suggest that day could be sooner than later.

7. San Antonio (Previous ranking No. 8)
The pick-your-spot Spurs have won nine of their last 10 and have a seven-game winning streak.

8. Washington (Previous ranking No. 9)
It’s hard to ignore what the Wizards have accomplished, but games against Miami (Monday) and Denver (Friday) could test Washington’s resolve.

9. Dallas (Previous ranking No. 6)
Struggling to beat the Knicks and the 76ers in the same week is an automatic reason for dropping in an NBA poll.

10. LA Clippers (Previous ranking No. 10)
The Clippers are coming around, and you can easily make the case for moving them up in the poll, but they have middle of the pack rankings in too many NBA team stats right now.

11. Atlanta (Previous ranking – unranked)
There is nothing special about the Hawks, but they are playing well right now having won seven of their last 10, and that is too hard to ignore.

12. Cleveland (Previous ranking No. 13)
The Cavaliers enter the week with a three-game winning streak and are slowly starting to figure things out.

13. Phoenix (Previous ranking No. 11)
The Suns are 6-4 in their last 10, but look for them to drop out of the rankings when play Dallas, Houston and the Clippers Dec. 5-8.

14. Milwaukee (Previous ranking – unranked)
OK, so coach Jason Kidd was right to leave Brooklyn for Milwaukee, but that just shows they he know personnel and not coaching.

15. Sacramento (Previous ranking No. 12)
The Kings have a three-game losing streak, but they are still capable of putting up a good fight on most nights and are too talented to be overlooked.

Out of the poll: New Orleans, Miami.