Charlotte Wins Big Thanks to Jordan

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Michael Jordan’s Clutch Move Brings the Hornets Home.

Four years ago Michael Jordan was inducted in to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Of the occasion, Jordan said that it was “simply a continuation of something that I started a long time ago.” During his induction speech Jordan called out a lot of the folks that he didn’t feel were helpful to his ambitions. He even claimed that there was a chance you “might look up and see me playing the game at 50.”

Now at the age of 50, Jordan’s made a huge play off the court for the city of Charlotte. His body might be too old to lace up those eponymous high-tops but Michael’s still the ‘alpha’ and the only one who could make the shot Queen City hoops fans needed someone to make. Say what you will about his past mistakes as an owner, MJ deserves a ton of credit for bringing back the Buzz.

The Long Road Back

Illustration by Mike S

George Shinn

In 2002, George Shinn moved his Hornets down to Louisiana. He sold the NBA on the idea that the Big Easy wanted a pro basketball team and that New Orleans was the only place where he could make ends meet. It worked so well the first time that Shinn tried the same story with the league just a few years later with Oklahoma City. Fortunately, Commissioner Stern and the Board of Governors finally wised up to Shinn’s tactics and took the Hornets off of poor Georgie’s plate for good.

Shortly afterward, the league office found a buyer for the club in Tom Benson, majority owner of the New Orleans Saints. As new owner of the neglected franchise, Benson vowed to make Louisiana proud of their NBA team. His first order of business was to begin the process of rebranding the club with regional ties, and steer toward a name (Pelicans) that meant something to the surrounding area. Along with evoking a sense of local pride, the rebrand will go a long way to separate the climate of new ownership from Shinn’s downtrodden and generic Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

For decades Shinn did his best to render the Hornets brand meaningless – trading players in their prime, disregarding the fan base, and keeping that wandering eye toward the next town’s cash. Yet somehow, twenty-five years since his birth and against all odds, Hugo the Hornet finds himself on the precipice of returning home to the city that once loved him and – as the last twelve months have revealed – still very much does.

The total cost of reclaiming the Hornets moniker and washing away the Bobcats experience will be substantial. It also comes with the risk of alienating the few faithful who’ve kept the franchise afloat. It’s a gamble, but MJ’s always been the gambling type. For the doubters who say the Hornets rebrand won’t matter, be ready to be proven wrong because that’s one of MJ’s two great gifts – proving people wrong. The other? Taking and making big time shots.

-Mike

Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part One

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Editor’s Note: What you are about to read is a grotesque lesson in abject NBA failure. It is not suitable for children under the age of 12, readers who are pregnant or for those weak of heart. If, by coincidence, any reader is to one day become involved with running a professional sports franchise, it is our hope that he or she would refer back to this epic tragedy in the hopes of avoiding the (seemingly obvious) pitfalls of this moribound organization. Finally, if this column is to ever appear in printed form, it is highly suggested that the publishers bundle it with a barf bag.

The Charlotte Bobcats will participate in their tenth NBA Draft on June 27th, 2013. In their previous nine drafts, the team has selected in the first round a total of twelve times, producing exactly zero All-Star appearances which have in turn produced a total of zero Playoff victories for the franchise. Think about that. The Bobcats organization has drafted in the first round a dozen times, ten of which were Lottery selections, and have produced not a single player who has sniffed an All-Star game. Once more: Ten Lottery Selections, Zero All-Star appearances. Needless to say, it takes a special sort of ineptitude to accomplish such a feat. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at how they did it:

Part One: ’04-’06 The Bickerstaff Era

In one of the few sound (and by sound, I mean not horrendous) decisions Bob Johnson ever made as owner of the team, longtime coach and personnel director Bernie Bickerstaff was hired to shape the newborn franchise in the combined role of general manager/coach during the franchise’s infancy. Bernie actually got the team off to a decent drafting start but, as we will learn, the success didn’t last for very long…

The 2004 Draft: Emeka Okafor F/C UConn, Bernard Robinson SF Michigan.

How It Played Out: Bickerstaff used his connections with the Clippers organization to swing a nice pre-Draft deal, moving the 4th overall selection (Shaun Livingston) and two future second rounders to L.A. for the 2nd overall pick (Okafor) plus Eddie House and Melvin Ely. The Clips were on a failed mission to sign Kobe Bryant and needed to clear cap space pronto. Bernie jumped at the opportunity to make Okafor the face of the league’s newest franchise.

Amazing as it sounds, Emeka probably ranks as the Bobcats most successful Draft choice to date despite little development beyond his Rookie of the Year season. A combination of management overpaying him for no apparant reason (bidding against themselves) in conjunction with the hiring of yoga-hater Larry Brown derailed what could have a been a long career in Charlotte. Okafor is no superstar but as a kind of poor-man’s David Robinson/rich-man’s Udonis Haslem, Emeka could have anchored the team’s interior defense for a decade or more. Intelligent and photogenic, Okafor was also the perfect PR representitive for a team trying desperately to connect with a reticent fanbase.

As the Cats’ inaugural second round choice, Robinson contributed few meaningful minutes and was out of league after just three seasons.

How It Should Have Played Out: The Okafor selection aside, the Cats missed out on a major opportunity to land another Lottery pick via a capped stretched Phoenix team who were shopping the Draft’s 7th overall pick for the very reasonable price of a protected future first rounder. The Suns ended up making a deal with Chicago for what ended up being the 21st pick in the ’05 Draft. The Bulls selected Duke freshman Luol Deng seventh; two picks later Arizona sophmore Andre Iguodala went to the Sixers. Given the team’s needs and talent available, it’s unknown why Charlotte wasn’t more aggressive with an offer; perhaps Bickerstaff felt the franchise’s top expansion draftee, Gerald Wallace, would develop into the long term starter.

GRADE: B-


The 2005 Draft: Raymond Felton PG UNC, Sean May PF UNC.

While most point to the 2006 Draft as THE PIVOTAL MOMENT that set the franchise back half a decade, I would argue that it was the 2005 Draft that had the greater impact.

How It Played Out: The seeds of destruction were planted that May, as the league’s Lottery system punished Bickerstaff for keeping the Bobcats competitive in their inaugaral season, pushing their 2nd worst overall record back to pick number five. There was a bit of good news however: as a result of an expansion draft day trade with the Suns, the Bobcats had acquired Cleveland’s 13th overall selection via Phoenix, giving the Bobcats two lottery picks in the same draft – more than enough ammunition to move up and grab one of college basketball’s elite Point Guards (Deron Williams, Chris Paul) should a deal become available. One did. And Bickerstaff turned it down.

You all know the story: Having been rejected by Charlotte, Portland instead traded the third overall selection to Utah for the 6th and 27th picks. The Jazz took Williams at three, New Orleans selected Chris Paul at four, while the Bobcats (in desperate need of a franchise PG) reached for Raymond Felton at number five.

At the time, Bickerstaff believed that the team was in need of quantity over quality. This made as little sense then as it does now. The NBA isn’t the NFL, there is no 53 man roster to fill out. Only five players can play at once. Regular season rotations max out at 10 and shrink even further during the postseason. It was a hugely obvious and irrepreable mistake.
Eight seasons later, Paul is the greatest PG on the planet, Williams is a sometimes-superstar and Felton is a solid player who the Knicks were able to sign off the street for a partial mid-level contract. To make matters worse, the “quantity” number 13 pick Bickerstaff was so excited about ended up being more “quantity” than his knees could ever handle.

Sean May had played his way into the Lottery with a big-time Final Four performance that landed he and teammate Felton a NCAA Championship (that’s three first round picks, three NCAA champions, Zero All-Star appearances if you’re counting), but the work ethic and health concerns that dinged May’s rep pre-Tourney showed up almost immediately into his pro career. Despite some solid performances in orange & blue (including two monster games against Cleveland and Orlando on national television), May ate his way out of the league in just a few seasons.

How It Should Have Played Out: One can only imagine the impact drafting Paul (a local guy with family in the Charlotte area) would have had on the team’s success and reputation, on Okafor and Wallace’s development and on the development of the fanbase. Even if CP3 would have forced his way out as he did in New Orleans two summers ago, the Cats would have likely received major assets in return — unlike the bounty they received for May and Felton, which was absolutely nothing. Future NBA GMs of America take note: Quality ALWAYS wins out over Quantity.

GRADE: F-


The 2006 NBA Draft: Adam Morrison SF Gonzaga, Ryan Hollins C UCLA

How It Played Out: Let’s put it this way, the team’s 2nd round pick in ’06 (Ryan Hollins, 50th overall) is still in the league three years after their 1st round pick (Adam Morrison, 3rd overall) hopped a one-way train to Eastern Europe. In fairness to Bickerstaff, the Ammo selection was likley influenced by Michael Jordan, who had only weeks prior to the Draft purchased a significant portion of the team from Johnson. MJ’s “great white hope” certainly didn’t start out as a bust. I was there opening night when Morrison nailed his first NBA shot, a near half court buzzer beater that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Morrison spent the next 81 games doing basically what everyone thought he’d do coming out of Gonzaga: score in bunches and play terrible defense. Overall, it was an up and down season in which Ammo would typically go for 20 points one night, followed by a 2 point, 1-10 night the next. His brightest moment came in a late December game against Indy in which the rook dropped thirty on 9-17 shooting, earning an impressive ten points from the line.

Cut to Los Angeles, ten months later: Morrison blows out his ACL guarding Luke Walton in a pre-season game, effectively ending his NBA career. The following season Charlotte would ship Ammo (along with Shannon Brown) to the Lakers for Vladimir “Radman” Radmanovic, leaving Morrison to ride out his rookie deal on L.A.’s high-profile pine. (SIDE NOTE: Being that Hollywood is the land of happy endings, Phil, Kobe and Pau made sure to slip a couple of Championship rings into Morrison’s Euro-bound suitcase as a parting gift.)

How It Should Have Played Out: The pick was a disaster for two reasons: 1.) The other players the Bobcats seriously considered drafting were Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. 2.) The team already had a young SF prospect in Gerald Wallace.

This second point is key: Just 12 months earlier, Bickerstaff was preaching quantity over quality yet by selecting Morrison, Bernie doubled up on a position of strength. Had Bickerstaff stuck (or been allowed to stick) to his philosophy, the Cats could have simply selected Roy and slid him next to Felton, Crash and Okafor to form a nice young core. Four amazing seasons with a healthy Roy (which included a Rookie of the Year campaign and three All-Star selections) could have ignited the dormant local fanbase and put the team on the national NBA map. Instead, Morrison cemented the laughing stock status of both the Bobcats as a franchise and MJ as an Exec. Place the blame on Bernie or his Air-ness, either way this Draft was a fail of epic proportions.

GRADE: F-


NEXT UP IN PART TWO: ROD HIGGINS TRIES TO OUT-SUCK THE BICKERSTAFF ERA… AND SUCCEEDS!

 


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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End of the Gana Diop Era

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Gana Diop Illustration

As NBA enthusiasts across the globe get ready for the exciting action and intense competition of the Playoffs, Charlotte Bobcats fans should take pause to reflect on the end of an era – The DeSagana Diop Era. It’s not often that a team says goodbye to one of its Big Three (salary bandits). So, this is a great opportunity to survey the impact that the giant’s departure will have for the club.

Oh, how time and paychecks fly by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Bobcats were pressured by Larry Brown and duped by the Dallas Mavericks into swallowing Diop’s ridiculous contract in exchange for Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. Since then, ‘Gana has eaten up over 11% of the team’s salary cap with few contributions to justify it. Acquiring the Senegalese seven-footer immediately hamstrung the ‘Cats efforts to retain their much better Center, Tyson Chandler in the 2010 off-season. Regrettably, Charlotte had to take back Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and Erick Dampier’s contract in a financially-driven trade, delivering Chandler to the Mavs where he went on to win the championship. Oh, and then Tyson picked up the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012. But, those wiry ol’ Bobcats still had Diop on their bench! Another fun fact – Ryan Hollins is a contributor off the bench for the Playoff-bound LA Clippers and played over three-times as many minutes as ‘Gana did this season.

Gana Diop Era Highlights

Okay, let’s take a moment to look at some Gana Diop highlights:

Next Step for Diop

It’s highly likely that Diop will step away from the NBA, and walk off into the sunset (after he collects the last of his $7,372,200.00 from the Bobcats this month). Despite the pain that he’s caused Michael Jordan’s wallet, it looks like the guy has actually done some pretty good things off the court with the NBA Cares program.

Nevertheless, ‘Gana is gonna leave a big hole on this team’s payroll. It’s fair that fans have concerns about how the team will use their salary cap numbers to improve this summer. But, when the time comes to announce the next signing, Charlotte’s front office needs to measure their offer and ask, “Is that guy worth Gana Diop money?”

-Mike

Rosterpalooza ’13 | Version 1.0

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No Lottery Luck for the Bobcats

Here’s what the Rich Cho era’s taught us thus far:

1. Full on tanking only works if you absolutely NAIL the Lottery.
The easy part is when Kevin Durant falls into your lap. The challenge is in the mid-Lottery and late rounds, where you find and groom a Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka. Charlotte hasn’t done that.

2. Full on tanking without NAILING the Lottery = Toxic Reputation = Lost Opportunities.
Think Brian Shaw would’ve been a better coach than Mike Dunlap? Think James Harden is a slightly better player than MKG? These two missed opportunities are the direct result of the team’s lowly reputation. Desirable free agents, scouts and executives aren’t going to risk their careers in a situation doomed for failure.

Dispelling the Myth

“But we have to be bad to get good!!!” Eh, not exactly. Bottoming out for a year can sometimes work in a Duncan or Lebron Once-In-A-Generation Lottery but good organizations can find and develop guys like Roy Hibbert, Nicholas Batum, Paul Milsap and Ty Lawson late in the first round. “But we want to build a championship team, not a mediocre one!” Newsflash: Only eight franchises have hoisted a Larry O’Brien since 1984, averaging out to a “new” champion every 3.75 years. At this rate, the Queen City can plan on throwing a parade sometime after June 2095. In the meantime, the Bobcats/future Hornets should strive for the more modest goal of being consistently competitive. With name-brand free agents and coaches refusing to lower themselves to the Bobcats current level, maybe we should be saying “You have to be relevant to have a chance at being good” instead.

Two Assumptions

Before I begin the shameless public rosterbating, let’s set the ground rules.

1. The 2013 NBA Draft is superstar-free. Like all drafts, there’s probably a couple of All-Stars tucked away but the mass consensus is that there is no instant franchise changer this year.

2. Big name free agents won’t sign with the Bobcats unless they SEVERELY OVERPAY them. The team will have up to $20m in cap space with little to no chance of signing anyone that matters. Again, if you’re a name free agent and the money was equal (or even slightly better) why on earth would you put yourself in a potentially miserable situation?

So the Bobcats will enter the offseason with $20 million that nobody (of substance) wants and a Top 4 pick in a Draft with no superstars. How in the heck are they supposed to improve?


Bobcats Baseline Presents: Rosterpalooza ’13 – Version 1.0

Part I: The Draft

With the worst record in the league, the Cats are guaranteed to pick in the Top 4. The good news is that there are a few potential All-Stars (Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel) and a few good starters (Otto Porter, Alex Len, Victor Oladipo), all guaranteed to be there when Charlotte picks. The bad news is that players like Porter and Noel basically duplicate what Charlotte already has in MKG/Biyombo so the organization better pray they score in the top two. For Rosterpalooza 1.0, we’re going to assume they pick 1 or 2.

The Case for Marcus Smart.

At one end of the Draft’s risk spectrum sits Noel, a seven footer with no real basketball skills coming off a major knee injury; at the other end a 6’4″, 225 pound, 19 year old point guard/artillery vehicle: Marcus Smart combines Russell Westbrook’s intensity and explosion with James Harden’s strength and handle, he has the potential to be an All-world combo guard in a league that caters to All-world combo guards. Like Westbrook coming out of UCLA, Smart’s shooting and court vision need work – which you can teach. What you CAN’T teach is Smart’s aggressiveness and size. He’ll figure the rest out. You can play him alongside Kemba Walker at the beginning and eventually transition Kemba to his perfect role of 3rd guard/6th man/Closer once Smart gets comfortable running the team. Boom. That’s a hell of a one-two punch.

The Case for Ben McLemore.

Imagine Ben Gordon if he were 6’5″, incredibly long and a plus defender. That’s Ben McLemore. He’s not going to put the ball on the floor and create but as a catch and shoot Ray Allen type, McLemore will open up driving lanes for Kemba and MKG, bust zones and double teams and roll off screens for set plays. AKA: all things Charlotte desperately needs.
VERDICT: McLemore’s elite skill (shooting) make him the slightly safer pick and yes, the Bobcats certainly could use some floor spacers but consider this: spot-up shooting is relatively cheap and fairly abundant – skip down to the free agent shooters list below to have a look – you don’t need to spend the 1st or 2nd overall pick in the draft on it. Most of all, Marcus Smart’s size and position could be franchise-defining. He could legitmately be the Westbrook of the Eastern Conference. You can’t pass up that opportunity. If he’s on the board, pick Marcus Smart.

RESULT: Charlotte drafts Marcus Smart, G Oklahoma State.


Part II: Trades

What’s the best way to fill up $20 million in cap space with quality players who wouldn’t sign with you otherwise??? Why, trading for them against their will, of course. But first, a little housekeeping…

$8,000,000.00 per season.

Amnesty Tyrus Thomas.

Like Thomas himself, this move is a no brainer – and also a litmus test. If the Cats don’t amnesty T-Time, we know that Michael Jordan isn’t serious about the team – which would work out just fine for us, we can all check out and follow the Heat, Celtics or Lakers like most NBA fans in Charlotte. That said, I fully expect Tyrus to be gone at the soonest possible moment. And to that I say, good riddance.

Trade Ben Gordon to Chicago for Carlos Boozer (and a little something extra).

A salary dump for the Bulls, shedding Boozer’s deal gives them big cap space next July to re-sign Luol Deng or another near max player. Even if Chicago refused to give Charlotte’s 1st round pick back outright, perhaps they’d be willing to tighten the restrictions to virtually guarantee the Bulls would never receive it in the Lottery. That may seem like small compensation for taking on Boozer’s final two years/$30 million but consider that:

A. The first year is only $2 million more than the Cats would have to pay Gordon anyway – a guy who has attempted to sabotage the lockerroom along with half the games he’s checked into AND…

B. Boozer’s skill set and position are exactly what Charlotte needs: rebounding and post scoring. Think of it this way, would you rather pay Al Jefferson $60 million over 4 years AND pay Gordon $13 million next season OR only pay Boozer $30 million over two? Not to mention that Boozer’s contract expires the very same July the Cats will need to re-sign Walker. Did I mention Boozer instantly becomes the best Power Forward in Bobcats history?

RESULT: Charlotte acquires PF Carlos Boozer via trade.

Trade Portland’s First Round Pick to OKC for Kendrick Perkins and Jeremy Lamb.

Perkins is a one-dimensional player overpaid by at least 40% and with the Thunder approaching the tax line, his final two years, $17.5 million will need to go. So why are the Bobcats giving up a first round pick to take him on?

One of the many photos of Kendrick Perkins squeezing a basketball really hard.

For one, Perk would help bring some real interior defense (as opposed to “defensive potential” defense) to a team that desperately needs to get better on that side of the ball. Again, his contract is perfectly timed with Bismack Biyombo’s extension so the team could make their decision after Biz learns a thing or two apprenticing under Kendrick (first lesson: “defense” is more than just trying to block every shot).

But the real prize here is Lamb. Charlotte gets a Ben McLemore without having to draft one. Long and rangy, Kemba’s former UCONN teammate, has vast defensive potential and can score off the dribble or in the mid-range game. Acquiring Lamb would allow Charlotte to let Gerald Henderson walk, replacing Hendo at around 1/6th the cost.
It’s a deal that nets the team two quality starters and all they have to give up is a mid-round pick and cap space nobody wants. Win-win.

RESULT: Charlotte acquires C Kendrick Perkins, SG Jeremy Lamb via trade.


Part III: Free Agency

Quick roster assessment after the moves:
Guards: Ramon Sessions, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jeremy Lamb
Wings: MKG, Jeffrey Taylor
Power Forwards: Carlos Boozer
Centers: Kendrick Perkins, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood

There’s an obvious need for depth at Power Forward and you’d love to have a long distance shooter at the SF spot, thus…

Sign a Shooter.

Free Agent Gunners Available this Summer: Kevin Martin, JR Smith, Rip Hamilton, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Nick Young, Carlos Delfino, Martell Webster and… RAY ALLEN HIMSELF! Who needs “the next Ray Allen” when you can get the original at a discount.

THIS IS ANOTHER REASON WHY YOU DON’T DRAFT BEN MCLEMORE!

Why not sign this guy?

All these guys can absolutely light it up from beyond the arc, all will be available in July and a few will come dirt cheap. Of the bargain gunners, I like Delfino. He’s 31 and probably has another season or two of quality game left. Carlos gives the team another ball handler who can play either wing positions and is an underrated defender who can absolutely stroke the 3-ball when he gets hot. He signed a one year $3 million deal with Houston last July, so another one year, $3.75 million overpay from Charlotte will probably get it done.

RESULT: Charlotte signs G/SF Carlos Delfino.

PF Depth.

Byron Mullens or Josh McRoberts? Do we even need to have this conversation? Josh McRoberts has been a perfect fit since his arrival. His abilities as a ball handler, floor spacer and playmaker have vaulted the former Dukie from the end of Orlando’s bench to Charlotte’s starting five. Two years, $7m should do the trick and you could even go three if the team was sold on him as their Nick Collison – Josh is amazingly only 26 years old.

RESULT: Charlotte re-signs PF/C Josh McRoberts.

Let’s Roster-Assess Once More:
Guards: Walker, Sessions, Smart, Lamb
Wings: MKG, Delfino, Taylor
PF: Boozer, McRoberts
C: Perkins, Biyombo, Haywood

That’s a quality 12 man roster that, depending on the young players’ development, could certainly challenge for a Playoff spot in the East and could be one of the Conference’s best teams for a decade. Check out the salary structure:

Nerd Numbers

In July of 2015, Charlotte could have up to $30 million in cap room. Some of the money will go towards re-signing Kemba but the team will have enough prospects and wins under their belt to lure the big name, max-players that they can’t today.

In the meantime, Charlotte goes into next season with:
+ An incredible young backcourt of potential All-Stars Walker and Smart, a veteran playmaker in Sessions and a major prospect in Lamb.

+ Gerald Wallace 2.0 (MKG) improving at the 3 spot with a change of pace ballhandler/shooter in Delfino to back him up.

+ A real deal post presence slash double-double guy in Boozer with McRoberts as a solid backup at Power Forward.

+ One of the league’s elite defensive centers (Perkins) mentoring a still young defensive prospect (Biyombo) with Haywood staying on as an emergency big.

+ Better protection on their 1st round pick owed to Chicago should Charlotte not make the Playoffs and a likely Lottery selection from Detroit still owed to them. They can use either of these picks on a young big to eventually replace Boozer/Perkins.


Part IV: The Final Step

Decide if Dunlap is the guy.

I don’t know the specifics of Mike Dunlap’s contract but it’s doubtful someone at his experience level has any guaranteed money in year two. Dunlap has done his best and is obviously someone who works hard and loves the game but this franchise must decide if he’s the leader this young squad needs or if the job is better left to a veteran coach like Jerry Sloan, Mike Brown, Nate McMillan or Stan Van Gundy: All of whom may find this much-improved Bobcats roster to be surprisingly enticing.

-ASChin
@bobcatsbaseline

Stay tuned for Rosterpalooza ’13 Version 2.0 aka “The Re-sign Gerald Henderson Edition”

“I’d Like to Welcome Back Some Old Friends”

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Some Crazy Speculation on Draft Night 2013

In a little less than a year – February 1st, 2014 to be exact – David Stern will retire from his post as NBA commissioner after an overwhelmingly successful 30 year reign. Stern’s marketing driven sports philosophy propelled the league from near extinction into an insanely lucrative global brand. The poster child (quite literally) for Stern’s multi-decade strategy is Charlotte Bobcats’ owner and G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan, who ruled both the court and the cameras during the league’s exponential growth period during the ’90s. Stern created the conditions for an international phenomenon like MJ to exist and Jordan took full advantage, elevating the game and league to heights Stern quite possibly couldn’t have imagined.
Which brings us to Thursday, June 27th 2013: David Stern’s final NBA Draft. It is the one night of the NBA year in which Stern himself is the center of attention and it represents a perfect PR opportunity to do some final executive housecleaning:
The Commissioner struts out from backstage to a roar of ironic boos and earnest applause, handling it in style with his trademark smirk and snark. He thanks the fans, the players, the owners, everyone involved in the league for making it what it is today. Then a surprise: “Before I go, I’d like to welcome a new friend into the Association.” Tom Benson joins him at the podium with a freshly minted New Orleans Pelicans jersey. Smiles and handshakes. “And I’d also like to use this opportunity to welcome back some old friends.” Steve Balmer (or one of his minions) joins the group with a crisp Supersonics size 48. “After a brief hiatus, we’d like to officially welcome Seattle back to the NBA.” More smiles and handshakes, cheers from the crowd. Stern lets the moment linger… “Speaking of old friends…”
The one and only, Michael Jordan struts in from stage right holding a jersey of his own. Nearly thirty years later to the date, Stern and MJ shake hands at the Draft podium for a second time. “Michael, it’s been an amazing run.” Crowd going nuts. Jordan unveils the teal and purple. “Finally, we’d like to welcome the Hornets back to their home in Charlotte.” Boom.

A former player – an African-American mega-star – standing equally alongside two white billionaires and a Jewish attorney representing the NBA’s past, present and future – this is Stern-ian theatrics at its best.
Crazy speculation? Certainly. Does it fit with the Commissioner’s thirty year modus opperandi? Without a doubt.
Finally: Just as ESPN’s cameras cut away, Stern leans into the microphone, turns towards MJ: “Michael, your team is up, the clock’s ticking down. Some things never change.”
-ASChin

It’s Time to Hit the Turbo Button

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Nine bungling seasons and countless blowouts later, the Charlotte Bobcats have done nearly everything in their power to incite and enrage the few remaining loyal fans who’ve stuck with the team. Each regime has gotten their punches in – from Bob Johnson to Michael Jordan to Sam Vincent to Larry Brown – each blow more punishing than the last. The franchise’s sole purpose seems to – like some misanthropic Starship Enterprise – perpetually explore the boundaries of that infinite space called “rock bottom”.
I’m starting to wonder if it has ever occurred to anyone in the Bobcats’ front office that the very PURPOSE of professional sports is ENTERTAINMENT, which is an admittedly fuzzy concept to define, but thanks to a near decade of Bobcats ineptitude I sure as hell can tell you what entertainment IS NOT.

It Isn’t Cho’s Fault But It Is His Responsibility

Rich Cho knew he was walking into an ugly situation when he took the GM job two years ago. Larry Brown had strip-mined the team bare of assets in exchange for the franchise’s lone Playoff appearance – a four game beatdown at the hands of the Orlando Magic – after which the team was capped out with ZERO star prospects and low on draft picks: AKA an unmitigated disaster. Like any other progressive-minded GM, Cho’s first move was to break out the analytics playbook, understanding that in order to re-acquire precious assets like picks and prospects, he’d have to pull out the sledgehammer and start swinging. Nearly two years and over a hundred losses later, the roster, the brand and the fan-base have been successfully beaten to a pulp.
I won’t argue against the strategy, it was the only card left in the deck. Consider this: In a DEVESTATING fourteen month stretch from June of ’08 to July of ’09 an MJ-enabled Larry Brown traded a future first rounder for Alexis Ajinca, forced the team to take D.J. Augustin over All-Star Center Brook Lopez, traded cap space for Gana Diop and tossed another future first round pick to Chicago for free-agent-to-be Tyrus Thomas. After re-signing Thomas to a $40 million contract the following July, the capped out Cats had to salary dump future Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and former number five overall pick Raymond Felton. Today’s putrid, blowout-addicted squad was sown from these very seeds.

Still, Cho knew what he was getting into when he took the job and now after a truly EMBARRASSING, SOUL-CRUSHING stretch of bad basketball, it is his responsibility to turn it around.

The Turbo Button Is Not The Panic Button

First, let’s define “turning it around” as simply being competitive. Quantitatively, let’s say over 30 wins and a -3 point differential or better. That puts you in nearly every game. And yes, I know this goes against the “worst place to be is in the Not-tery” theory (©2011, me) but this is a special situation; call it franchise triage. The Bobcats should aim to have a winning home record next season and minimize blowouts (20 point losses or more) to less than eight.
The fans should feel as if EVERY TIME they attend a game at TWC or tune in via FOX Sports/League Pass the team has a LEGITIMATE SHOT at winning. Every single game. The organization owes this to the people who hand over their hard earned money and valuable time.
Entering the summer, Cho will have a small stash of first round picks, an attractive expiring contract and up to $20 million in cap space to play with: the equivalent of a full nitrous boost in Need for Speed or pocket Aces in Texas Hold ‘em. It’s what you’ve been waiting for: HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON.
Is there a chance Danny Ainge would trade Rajon Rondo for Kemba Walker, cap space and a Top 3 pick? HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON. Convinced that free agents Tyreke Evans or Al Jefferson are All-Stars? HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON. Do the Bulls want to salary dump Carlos Boozer or Luol Deng? As long as you can send back Ben Gordon, HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON.
Will any of these guys get you a Championship? Outside of Rondo, probably not, but the Bobcats are so far from the Playoffs right now that the NBA Finals may as well take place in Middle Earth or Hogwarts. Remaining competitive while building a winner has worked for Houston and Indiana, there is no reason the same strategy can’t work for Charlotte.
I won’t go into my usual roster-bation manuevers until we get closer to the offseason. In the meantime, I can’t express enough how important it is for the franchise to regain a semblance of dignity. To be a joke is one thing but to be a stain on the city and the league? That may take decades to wash off if ever at all.
-ASChin

Dunlap’s Dilemma

Standard

It’s late at night. Way too late to still be awake, but you just can’t sleep. These kind of nights are something of an addiction for you. You work harder than nearly anyone you’ve ever known, and that might just be the only reason you’ve got this job. You’ve let yourself dream about getting here. You should be proud of how far you’ve come. But that’s not you. You outwork your problems. There will never be an opportunity to grant yourself the rest you need.

You let the weight of your failures settle for the night, just details lost in the darkness. It’s time to rest, but there’s that sound. There’s always that sound. The steady, deliberate pace only gets louder and louder against the silence of the night. As if someone is turning the dial just to drive you mad –  Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

No Coach Dunlap, that’s not your favorite R. Kelly track looping in your mind. That’s your insubordinate, disrespectful, and arrogant offensive weapon trying to undermine your authority. His intentional disregard for your position only strikes harder each time the ball hits the hardwood court in your mind. No, it’s not going to stop. You can’t even make it stop. You question your abilities, you question your profession, and you question yourself. You’re powerless.

“You need to humble yourself.”

Those words resonate in your head. All you can do is close your eyes, undoubtably envious of Tyrus Thomas and the calm pond of bliss that ripples around through his skull.

-Mike

Reference Links:

Ben Gordon Incident – Adrien Wojnarowski

Tyrus Thomas Salary Info – HoopsHype.com


POLL : Most Overwhelmed Bobcats Rookie

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (35%, 57 Votes)
  • Jeff Taylor (11%, 18 Votes)
  • Mike Dunlap (51%, 82 Votes)
  • Jeff Adrien (3%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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