The Cats finish a nearly perfect week 3-1, a span that saw the team:
Beat up the talented Kings in the Queen City, 95-87.
Win a stunner at the buzzer in Toronto, 104-102.
Play the greatest quarter in Bobcats history in a comeback victory in Detroit, 116-106.
Drop a disappointing home gimme against the Jazz on Hornets Reveal night, 85-88.
Still Growing Up
After the Jazz loss, Coach Clifford broke down the current state of the Bobcats succinctly:
They are executing on defense and taking the right shots on offense.
Effort isn’t the problem.
They give up too many “ranged” – aka three point – shots on defense.
They are challenged by their lack of “ranged” shooting on offense.
As usual, Clifford was frank and generally upbeat about the team’s progress towards becoming a consistent winner. He didn’t throw anyone (including the front office) under the bus and his point about the team learning to win was accurate. As much as we would like for a nineteen year old NCAA freshmen to save the day, in the NBA there are no shortcuts. Clifford and his staff are instituting the type of system and culture of responsibility that the Bobcats haven’t had in a decade; one that will eventually allow for the team to properly develop and maximize future draft prospects to their utmost. The Jazz loss, like the Magic and Lakers losses before it, was tough but with 13 wins in late December, we can already see progress happening in real time.
#NBA Ballot Kemba Walker
After an abysmal November in which he shot a 2011-like 36% from the field, Kemba Walker has absolutely erupted in December. In eleven games this month Kemba’s shooting 40% from three, nearly 51% overall and averaging 22ppg, 5apg, 4rpg. There’s a legitimate argument that he’s having a better season than either Kyrie Irving and John Wall – both of whom have had a lot more offensive talent around them yet sport fewer wins. With Derrick Rose out for the year and Derrick Williams perpetually nursing an ankle, the East’s PG slots will come down to Wall, Irving, Kemba, George Hill and Jeff Teague. If the Cats enter the break around .500 with Walker leading the way, expect him to earn a spot as the second All-Star in Bobcats team history.
The Greatest Quarter in Bobcats History
Detroit. December 20th, 2013. Charlotte was playing on the road against a physical team that was somehow nailing every three pointer they launched (even JORTS went 2-3 from deep). They lost their backup-turned starting SF Jeff Taylor to season ending achilles injury six seconds into the game. Nothing was going their way. Then the bench trimmed a twenty point lead to thirteen points at the end of the third. Then to eight on a Cody Zeller strip ‘n slam. Then the starters checked back in and Al Jefferson went off, dropping 15 points on a series of And-1’s and twenty footers that played like a YouTube highlight reel in real-time. Charlotte scored 41 points in that quarter while only giving up 17. It’s the kind of quarter you’d expect from a contender like the Spurs or Heat. It was magic. The comeback obviously took its toll the next night against Utah but long-term, the Cats can use that experience as proof that it’s not over until it’s over.
Expect a Trade
If I had a wing I wanted to flip for future assets/picks, I’d be on the phone to Charlotte today.
Clifford talked up Anthony Tolliver and Chris Douglas-Roberts’ work filling in for Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist but I guarantee you that behind the scenes, the front office is searching for a “range shooting” wing who can play some defense. Tolliver is best used in spot situations, not the 25+ minutes he’s logged in the last two games. Douglas-Roberts is a decent enough end of the bench guy but there was a reason he started the season in the D-League. The Cats could either go big name (Luol Deng), mid name (Wilson Chandler), or no name (Brandon Rush) in their pursuit depending on what they’re willing to give up. One thing is for certain: in order for Charlotte to have any success long-term, they CANNOT start two non-three point shooting wings. I’d be shocked if both Gerald Henderson and MKG are on the roster this time next season.
The Bugs Are Back
The TWC went absolutely insane during the Hornets Logo Reveal on Saturday night. Hats off to the organization for delivering a fantastic halftime show MC’d by Michael Jordan and four original Hornets (Dell Curry, Muggsy Bouges, Rex Chapman, Kelly Tripucka). The video package debuting the logo was good enough but it was the BUZZZZZZ sound effect and the sea of teal glow sticks that moved the crowd into a frenzy. If this is a preview of the new Hive’s decibel level, the Hornets are going to have a helluva home court advantage next season.
As we enter the final “Bobcats” season, perhaps no one in the organization has more to prove than owner Michael Jordan. Throughout the summer, League pundits and comment-thread snarks have been quick to point out that MJ’s latest offseason was yet a further demonstration of his ineptitude:
Nepotism Part 1: Jordan promoted his brother Larry to “Director of Player Personnel” back in July. MJ’s son, daughter and a host of other long-time friends are already employed by the team in various capacities.
Nepotism Part 2: Jordan brought in old friend Patrick Ewing to serve as the team’s associate head coach, continuing the Bobcats tradition of using their bench as courtside seats for friends & family (J.B. Bickerstaff, Stephen Silas, Charles Oakley, Cory Higgins).
Coaching Carousel: Jordan hired the team’s fourth coach in five seasons in June.
Draft Dunce: Jordan ignored two highly touted prospects, Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel, and instead “reached” for Indiana’s Cody Zeller with the Draft’s fourth overall pick.
Free Agent Foibles: Jordan over-paid an offense-only, aging free agent, forgetting that his young team was the worst defensive squad in the league the season before.
Tank Timing: With an super-hyped 2014 Draft Class looming, Jordan picked the wrong offseason to improve the team and lower their Draft Lottery odds.
Perpetual Screw Up: Jordan presided over a tone-deaf, scattershot Hornets re-brand announcement that left just as many confused as excited.
@recceice I’m complaining about the half-assd nature of the entire news conference, which fits long-running pattern of the franchise.
While I can’t defend MJ’s continued fascination with nepotism, I believe the other accusations to be mostly pre-conceptions in search of evidence. Pretend for a moment, that Jordan didn’t have the decade-worth of “bad owner” baggage and look at it from another perspective – MJ might be figuring this ownership thing out:
Quick to Learn: Jordan owned up to his mistake of hiring the inexperienced Dunlap and moved quick to bring on highly respected veteran NBA assistant Steve Clifford.
Outside the Circle Part 1: Jordan hired Clifford even though he wasn’t part of or recommended by someone from MJ’s inner circle (Larry Brown, Dunlap via George Karl).
Outside the Circle Part 2: Jordan further committed to another outsider by supporting GM Rich Cho’s decision to draft Zeller – an EXTREMELY risky position for someone with MJ’s draft reputation.
Shrewd Businessman: Jordan fought hard for the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement back in 2011, then leveraged the new economics in his team’s favor. MJ immediately re-invested the revenue-shared funds back into the team, amnestying PF Tyrus Thomas ($16m in off the book salary).
Free Agent Closer: Jordan signed former Utah center Al Jefferson, who, outside of being a nightly double-double machine, is also the biggest free agent signing in Charlotte’s 25 year NBA history.
Populist: Spotty announcement aside, Jordan had the insight to Bring Back the Buzz, an incredibly popular move in the region that has re-invigorated a large part of the Hornets’ dormant fanbase.
Long time NBA fans probably remember MJ’s killer fadeaway jumpshot – the one he rode to six Larry O’Brien trophies. Some may have forgotten that Jordan didn’t have that shot until he’d been in the league for ten years. There’s a good chance that MJ is at it again.
Charlotte’s signing of “Big” Al Jefferson is monumental in so many ways
A few semi-coherent ramblings on today’s big news from halfway across the globe:
The Biggest Name Free Agent Signing in Charlotte Hoops History.
Derrick Coleman, Bobby Phills, Johnny Newman, Kenny Anderson, David Wesley and Ramon Sessions. Together these players make up the biggest “name” unrestricted free agents the Hornets and Bobcats have ever lured to the QC. Until today. Al Jefferson is one of the league’s best offensive centers and was a highly coveted free agent coming into the offseason. And Charlotte signed him. It actually happened. You can complain about Jefferson’s defense or his “fit” with the team but at the end of the day, a perpetually moribund, off-the-map franchise closed on a guy who had interest from Dallas and the Lakers. This is huge because:
Removes the glass “Free Agents Won’t Sign with Charlotte” ceiling. There’s a new precedent now. Live with it. Charlotte can lure big name free agents. I can’t believe I’m typing this.
Dispels the “Michael Jordan is too cheap to sign good players” myth. Bye-bye. Move on to something else please.
Signals the end to purposeful losing AKA tanking. Blowing it up for one year can be rationalized. Stinking in perpetuity? Nope. It is a disgrace to the league, the fans, the city and to the game itself. And the Horncats are done with it. Hallelujah. Also, every other team in the league is tanking this year so it wouldn’t have worked anyway.
Arrives in conjunction with the Tyrus Thomas amnesty. Thomas was the final remnant of the Larry Brown/Rod Higgins era of short term gain for long term pain. The draft pick owed to the Bulls for T-Time still looms but hopefully Charlotte will be good enough to place that pick in the mid-late teens sooner than later.
Allows the teams’ young prospects to play with a bona fide scoring threat. When was the last time Kemba Walker or Gerald Henderson weren’t the focal points of an opposing team’s defense? Between Jefferson and Cody Zeller, the Bobnets will have the most scoring punch in the frontcourt since Jamal Mashburn and Elden Campbell anchored the low block in the late ’90s. I can’t wait to see this team play together and what it will do for Kemba, Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist offensively.
I’ll update this post tomorrow once I sleep the delirium away. Until then, enjoy the holiday Bobcats/Hornets fans. Your team is relevant again.
Turns out the rumors were spot on. Cody Zeller wasn’t at the top of any mock draft (at least not this year) but Rich Cho & Co worked him out, ran the numbers and made the call. And I like it.
MJ & Cho
The pick shows that MJ has given Cho carte blanche to run the team. Whether Zeller works out or not, this is massive step forward for MJ as an owner: Hire smart people, let them do their job. If not, hire even smarter people and allow them to do better ones. MJ is the greatest basketball player of all time, now it’s time to create opportunities for others to excel at their careers be it Rich Cho or the team’s next GM.
You may not have heard for all the uniform (or uninformed?) boos but Cody Zeller is a tremendously skilled 7-footer who is ready to step in and contribute right away. A pick ‘n pop weapon, Cody can shoot the mid-range or roll to the rim off the bounce. He’s the fastest, quickest big in the Draft and will be fantastic in the Kemba-led transition game. UPDATE: Cho, Higgins and Clifford said as much in their post-draft pressers; while Kemba Walker was apparently a big fan of the pick.
Belief in Biz
The Zeller pick also shows a ton of faith in 2011 first rounder Bismack Biyombo. The Bobcats have given up on prospects all too often throughout their history. Biz won’t turn 21 until August and exhibited a much wider array of skills in his sophomore campaign. Pairing him with a skilled big like Zeller will take a ton of pressure off Biyombo to dominate offensively. New head coach Steve Clifford and associate HC Patrick Ewing will have a lot of young talent to mold over the next couple of seasons.
Where He Ranks
Remember also that Cody Zeller would have gone Top 3 in last year’s vaunted Draft class had he declared. Zeller’s game was picked apart much like Harrison Barnes during his sophomore season. They say familiarity breeds contempt and that has been true in the Draft for a while. Nerlens Noel only managed half a season with Kentucky; fans and scouts salivated over what their imagination projected him to be next year, not who he is or will be.
I’d imagine the Zeller selection only helps the team’s decision to bring back another Indiana-born and raised big man: Josh McRoberts. McBob played great for the Cats after coming over from Orlando at the trade deadline and should come somewhat reasonably priced. Josh does a lot of the same things Zeller can and will aid in Cody’s transition to starter.
Additionally, the pick can only mean good things for Gerald Henderson fans. By passing on Kansas guard Ben McLemore, Charlotte has to fill the SG spot by either re-signing Hendo or bringing in someone else via free agency. Bank on Gerald coming back. UPDATE: The team announced earlier today that Henderson would be extended his qualifying offer, while Byron Mullens would not. This opens the door for both Henderson and McRoberts to return next season. We’ll know for certain once the free agency period begins in couple of weeks.
Humphries Trade Rumor
UPDATE: SI.com’s Chris Mannix tweeted after the Boston/Brooklyn mega-swap that PF Kris Humphries could be re-routed to Charlotte. A proposed Ben Gordon for Humphries trade was rumored during February’s deadline. There are a few over-priced veterans entering expiring years floating around the league so a Hump/Gordon swap could be expanded into a three team deal to include others (Danny Granger for example). Keep a look out for this one. A hard-nosed, down and dirty rebounder, Humphries could be the perfect complement to both Zeller/McRoberts when Biyombo is out of the game.
Here’s What Baseline Readers Thought Before the Draft:
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
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.
Unbelievable. The Charlotte Bobcats organization actually made a great decision. As first reported Friday evening by CBS Sports, the Queen City’s original (and best) NBA team monikor is coming back home, likely beginning in November of 2014. Great news but if the franchise has to wait eighteen months for the teal & purple, what on earth is their on-court game plan between now and then? Here’s the dilemma:
Remember when Miami won 27 games in a row earlier this season? The Bobcats have won just 28 games OVER THE PAST TWO SEASONS COMBINED. As if their early history wasn’t terrible enough, the Cats have cemented their status as a national joke since launching OPERATION TANK twenty-four months ago. The franchise can’t afford to begin the Hornets Era as a re-skinned farce in new duds. Credibility must be nurtured and harvested before Super Hugo dunks from his first trampoline.
Simultaneously, no Draft since 2008 has featured a bigger potential superstar than 2014’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins. Do you bet the franchise on bottoming out for a third consecutive season in the slim hopes that Lottery ping pong balls bounce in your favor? Or, do you use this offseason’s cap space, draft pick and coaching search to further upgrade your roster, disregarding Lottery odds in order to build excitement through actual wins and player development?
No mistake, Andrew Wiggins is going to be very good, perhaps awesome. He’s been compared to a young Tracy McGrady and for those who don’t remember, young T-Mac was a stud. But here’s the problem: there is absolutely ZERO guarantee, no matter how many games you throw, you’ll be able to get him.
A Little NBA Draft History
Since 1985, only FOUR times has the league’s worst team won the Lottery. That’s four times in twenty seven years. The FIFTH WORST team has actually had more luck, winning it five times. Betting your franchise’s future on the Draft Lottery is just slightly less irresponsible than betting your personal financial future on the Powerball.
Worse yet, if the team tanks and doesn’t wind up winning a Top 3 Pick, they’ve essentially sacrificed an entire season — in which they could further develop players and nurture local fans — for the measley reward of drafting Marcus Smart or Aaron Gordon. Note to pro-tankers, this scenario is by far the most likely given the Lottery’s odds.
In fact, this type of scenario is the very the reason Commissioner Stern implemented the Lottery system to begin with. Franchises should be forced to remain competitive because it turns out that you can royally piss off a fanbase by purposefully trying to lose.
Finally, two outstanding articles on the Draft were published shortly after the Hornets news broke.
Take a few minutes to read each of these if you haven’t already. Then go back and scan our Draft Retrospective Part I (Part II will be published later this week). Notice a pattern here?
Perhaps four times in a decade, a ready-made NBA star enters the Draft. No amount of organizational dysfunction can prevent that player from achieving greatness. Lebron, Durant, MJ, Bird, Magic. But the vast majority of the time, it is the organization itself that must shape the talented clay into All-Stars and Superstars, especially now that most top picks are one-and-done 19 year olds. The Indiana Pacers enter the Eastern Conference Finals with not a single Top 5 pick on the roster. Paul George, D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough were late Lottery selections while Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, David West and George Hill all arrived in the NBA via the mid-first round or later.
Meanwhile, what have the Bobcats accomplished with their ten Lottery picks in nine years? At some point, after noticing the differences in all of the team’s “failed prospects”, you begin to realize that the one constant in all of this nonsense is the Bobcats organization itself.
In the great David Mamet stage and screenplay “Glengarry Glen Ross”, we are introduced to two primary types of salesmen. The Ed Harris/Jack Lemmon types, perpetually moaning about the quality of their sales leads – yearning for the day in which they’ll finally land those precious ripe prospects, the “Glengarry leads”. In contrast we have Al Pacino’s character, Ricky Roma, whose leads are no better than Harris’ or Lemmon’s but through shrewdness and skill, coasts to being the agency’s top rep month after month. When Alec Baldwin’s head honcho character arrives to deliver the Glengarry leads midway through the film, he teases Harris and Lemmon with this:
“These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they’re gold, and you don’t get them. Why? Because to give them to you would be throwing them away. They’re for closers.”
The Bobcats have never been closers. The Hornets, for all of their mistakes, were. If Michael Jordan, Rod Higgins and Rich Cho want to truly turn this franchise around, they need to focus less on where they pick their Draft prospects and more on building an organization that can actually develop one.
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.
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.
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.
NEXT UP IN PART TWO: ROD HIGGINS TRIES TO OUT-SUCK THE BICKERSTAFF ERA… AND SUCCEEDS!