“Michael Jordan is a sellout!”, The Lost Season and Other Thoughts on the NBA Lockout

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Decertification, Ultimatums and BRI. Not exactly the sort of basketball news you’d expect to be reading about in October. The Great War of Billionaires vs. Millionaires has moved on to the next stage, a nasty PR nightmare with a potentially nastier outcome: A LOST SEASON.
I say bring it on.

Our own resident team owner, G.O.A.T. and Global Icon Michael Jordan, has over the past week been cast as the quintessential hardline antagonist — the Severus Snape, turning against his own at Hogwarts. He’s been subsequently made the media’s whipping boy as he dared turn his back on the players in search of greedy profits…“MWUA-HA-HA!”

Too bad because MJ is absolutely, positively right on this. This is Anti-Kwame Logic. Anti-AMMO. He should be applauded for his perseverance and foresight. He should be celebrated. But he’s not. Let us look at the reasons why…

PART I: The Lost Boys.

A quick list of those effected by a potentially LOST SEASON:

1. The Fans. NBA basketball is great. I love it. I’ve devoted a ridiculous amount of hours in my life to it. From Tripucka to Biyombo. From Salt ‘N’ Peppa on Inside Stuff to salt and pepper in my beard. I sometimes write about it. I don’t get paid a dime. In fact, I spend a chunk of my income just to catch the games. I’m like a lot of you out there. Busy with life, goals to be achieved, work to be done. Watching hoops is a great cherry on top at the end of the day during those dark winter months. But that’s it. It’s just the cherry. The whipped cream, nuts, fudge, and two scoops are still there. We will find other cherries during a lost season.
VERDICT: MINIMAL EFFECT.

2. The Owners. This a diverse group ranging from ultra-achievers like Mark Cuban to professional scumbags like Donald Sterling. Two major things in common: WEALTH and NON-BASKETBALL RELATED INCOME. The outside income also brings outside interests. These guys love basketball, sure, but they didn’t achieve this level of wealth sitting on their asses waiting for TNT Thursday Nights. Even Jimmy Dolan has to run a massive telecom business. They have plenty to keep themselves occupied with and financially comfortable during a lost season.
VERDICT: MINIMAL EFFECT.

3. The Players. So let me get this straight, Kevin Garnett marches into a safe, public environment (conference room) and stares down slash yells at people who he knows won’t fight back? Hmmm…KG would never do that on the court now, would he?
For every KG or Kobe or Paul Pierce — guys who’ve pocketed near or over nine digits during their playing careers — there are ten times as many Stephen Grahams, D.J. Whites and Kemba Walkers. Guys who haven’t struck it rich on a big contract or, in Kemba’s case, haven’t been paid a dime. Unless Garnett, Kobe and Pierce start handing out game week checks to all of the other players who pass them the ball then I doubt there’ll be a happy players coalition for much longer.
VERDICT: MAJOR EFFECT

4. The Agents. Blll Simmons brought this up a few weeks ago and nobody else picked up on it (for reasons I’ll get to soon enough). The agents get paid on percentages. A lower BRI percentage combined with a “flex cap” results in agent fees going down. Top that off with an end to sign-and-trades with limited Bird Rights and agents lose BIG in what would amount to an INVERSE Tony Montana Equation: “First you lose da money. Chu lose da money, then you lose da power.”
The halcyon days of agents strong arming teams into dealing or signing players? Long gone friends. If Stern, Jordan and company are acting to neuter the agents in order to prevent a MLB Scott Boras situation from ever occurring, then I stand and applaud. NEWSFLASH: Agents do not act in or care about the best interest of the fans (aka NBA’s customers). Starve the leeches gentlemen.
VERDICT: MAJOR EFFECT

5. The Media. This, folks, is the wagon driving the cart. The guys who cover the NBA for a living, many of whom I admire, are ABSOLUTELY dependent on the NBA playing a season. These guys make less than Stephen Graham. They have mortgages. They have families. Their future prospects are wholly dependent on how popular the NBA is. They don’t want the season to be cancelled and in some cases, can’t afford for it to be. Their employers could potentially furlough them without pay. The overextended could find themselves in financial ruin.
While this is very sad and I do feel for these individuals, I can’t help but wonder if their own circumstances have colored their reporting. We should keep this in mind as we read the news coverage.
VERDICT: MASSIVE EFFECT

PART II: Why Michael Jordan is Right.

Cancel out all the noise and you can find the lockout’s seminal question: “Is the NBA a business or is it not?” The owners put up the non-guaranteed capital at a risk and in turn receive a profit or are burdened by loss. The players guaranteed salaries are wholly dependent on the Association’s infrastructure to package and deliver the basketball product. Without a majority of the world’s best players, the NBA could no longer charge for a world-class product. They must strike a healthy balance between operational cost and product quality. Simple.

The fundamental difference between the two sides is that the players don’t see the Association as being a business but as a “Mega-Agency”. They conveniently forget that agents take money off the top and are paid regardless whereas the Association must generate all income with little to no guarantee of profit. They run a business, the players are professional salarymen. The risk/reward ratios are currently unbalanced. MJ and the other hardline owners want to stand pat until the balance is within reason. Of course not all owners are created equal. Some of the mega-rich see their teams as luxury yachts to be flaunted. Still, in the end, we are dealing with businessmen and while they may be accused of being greedy, they aren’t stupid and will thus tweak the Association’s business model until it becomes financially sustainable and financially attractive for all.

Ultimately, the owners will win this War and the NBA will be much different because of it:

  • Agent powers will be diminished. Maverick Carter and “Worldwide” Wes will go back to being “Those dudes who are always trying to hang out with Lebron.
  • Some players will go overseas to earn more, most will stay here and play harder — incentivized by shorter contracts.
  • Competitive balance will be restored; parity will find more teams hoisting Larry O’Briens.
  • This in turn will create more league-wide popularity, boosting revenue as teams in all markets attract more fans to the arenas for intense, competitive basketball. TV revenues will follow suit.
  • High profit franchises will entice new ownership groups seeking to profit through professional basketball — thus innovating upon the product, improving the experience for fans.

Sit tight Bobcats fans and don’t believe the hype, a Lost Season may hurt short term but long term could elevate a marginal domestic business into an international phenomenon that will yield terrific results for everyone involved.

-ASChin

Bismack Biyombo Will Save The Bobcats

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Bismack Biyombo Is The Reason For The Existence of The Charlotte Bobcats.

Think back to all that the Charlotte Bobcats have been through. Nothing has come easy for this team, and the tough job of starting over has begun before they even accomplished much of anything. Still, we must remember that in everything there is a purpose. Seven solid years of struggling has led the franchise to this place in history.

Destiny has delivered the Bobcats to the precipice of the 2011 NBA Draft, where they hold the honor of selecting the greatest athlete that will ever wear their uniform. His name is Bismack Biyombo.

Charlotte has never seen anything like Biyombo. Honestly, our eyes may not be ready.

If Michael Jordan’s club fails to select Bismack Biyombo, the organization could be set back a full decade. It’s actually far more likely that the team will be forced to fold due to the backlash that’s certainly guaranteed for passing up such a phenomenal, once-in-a-generation type of  talent.

The Bobcats have a final workout scheduled on eve of the Draft. This will be an historic event, as Bismack Biyombo sets foot onto Carolina soil for the first time. Just to entertain the unparalleled big man from the Congo, Rich Cho has structured a workout between Biyombo, Chris Singleton, and Maurice Morris. It’s clear that the Cats are putting on a show, trying to appear as if they’re simply evaluating their options for the 9th pick in a thorough manner. Michael Jordan knows not to show his hand this early. Ultimately, this posturing will fade away after the unfathomable defensive showcase that Bismack will bring to town. What Coach Paul Silas will see Bismack Biyombo do on the basketball court will probably make him cry.

Due to his propensity for rebounding, blocking, and strong defense, Biyombo has been described as “the next Ben Wallace.” I think Ben Wallace should take that as a compliment and Bismack should be outright insulted. How can anyone be compared to Biyombo? This young man will not only lead the NBA in rebounds and blocks, but he’ll make us all wonder what basketball was like before the Bismack Biyombo Era.

-Mike

More Info:

ESPN.com Story on Biyombo
NBA.com Story on Biyombo
HoopsHype.com – Bismack Biyombo Rumors


Waiting for The Next Good Hand

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Although we’ve seen a lot of huffing and puffing recently from Bobcats fans and local media, the team’s latest stretch of road beat-downs and lackluster efforts shouldn’t be so hastily bundled into last month’s Gerald Wallace salary dump (cue Abraham Lincoln voice) “for this was their path all along.”

You see, there’s a very good reason why the Charlotte NBA franchise dropped five consecutive road games to solid Western Conference teams and that reason is that the Bobcats aren’t very good. They aren’t good without Gerald Wallace and they weren’t good with him. They were simply adequate.

But they were tearing up the league once Sugar Bear Silas took over,” you contend. Yes, they were putting notches in the win column but the vast majority of those wins came against the lowliest of Eastern Conference opponents and most of the quality victories came at home. To “beast it” in the Association, a team must be able to not only beat good teams at home but also occasionally on the road and, most importantly, must do both of these things consistently. *

Combine the Bobcats lack of talent with the early season Larry Brown-orchestrated funk, the loss of Tyrus Thomas and the unexpected lights-out play of Philadelphia and Indiana and you can see why Michael Jordan pulled the plug. A seasoned gambler looking at these Playoff odds would fold and wait for the next hand. That’s exactly what MJ has done and while it might not be pretty now, the ‘Cats are in a much better position long-term to be relevant.

ROSTERBATION NOTES:

-It’s been a pleasure watching Gerald Henderson go through the ups & downs of a young starter. Some nights the guy looks like a keeper and on others he looks rather lost. His jumper is still not as consistent as it needs to be and I’m hoping that he and his family enlist a specialist to work with him on the skill during the summer. The athleticism that Henderson leans on so much now won’t be there in six or seven years. Hopefully Gerald fulfills his potential as a Kobe-lite by rounding out his skill-set over the next few offseasons.

-I don’t think it’ll be too difficult finding a taker for Boris Diaw’s expiring contract if he puts up a few more performances like the one he did against the Clips last evening. My gut (pun intended) feeling has always been that Boris is simply bored with Charlotte and the systems in place. He’d be much better off in a more metropolitan city. Moving him this summer (along with one of the first rounders acquired in the Wallace trade) would put the Bobcats in the position to take on a max-level star via trade or signing for the first time in a very long while.

-In my opinion, Jordan’s rebuilding plan was hinted at the day the team extended Coach Silas’s contract for next season. It was a clear move to the coach that the blame for the team’s struggles wouldn’t be placed exclusively on his shoulders. Unless the ‘Cats can recruit top notch talent to come to Charlotte this summer, the team will most likely struggle for another season as they build their young nucleus of players for a successful run in ’12-’13.

-ASChin

*Let’s go ahead and call it “The Dallas Test.” The day that the Bobcats go into Big D and scalp the previously unscalpable Mavericks easily on the road, they’ll have made the jump. Until then, they’re either bad or not good enough.

Gerald Wallace Is Gone, Who’s To Blame?

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Three months into my self-imposed NBA exile and the Bobcats had to go and blow up the team. I just couldn’t resist. It’s time for a State of the Roster.

PART 1 – WHO’S TO BLAME?

To say that fan sentiment over the trade has skewed negative would be an understatement. Gerald Wallace, the player we all watched grow from an expansion draft castoff to best-kept-NBA-secret to All-Star has been gifted to Portland for what amounts to cap space and a couple of mid first round picks. On the surface this seems both cheap and defeatist. The Bobcats currently sit just a few games outside of the Eastern Conference’s top eight while resting comfortably below the League’s luxury tax line.

So who’s to blame for this sudden and seemingly irrational transaction?

THE SUSPECTS:

1. Larry Brown.

The former coach and (by his estimates) de facto GM kvetched incessantly until ownership added millions in dead weight veteran contracts then griped again when he couldn’t add any more. The moves overwhelmed a cash strapped organization as they found themselves well over the luxury tax line last summer. Owner Michael Jordan isn’t stupid, he looked at the past few seasons and came away with the conclusion that he’d most likely traded five plus years of fielding competitive teams for a one and done with the Orlando Magic.

2. Gana Diop & Matt Carroll.

No, these two weren’t involved in a clandestine operation to overthrow the co-captain; at least not directly. Jordan made a major mistake when he signed Carroll to a then six-year $27 million deal. MJ immediately realized the folly so decided to compound the problem by trading Carroll for Gana Diop’s $31 million albatross contract in a Larry Brown inspired transaction back in ’08.

In an ironic twist, the trade ended up handcuffing the team to the point where they had to take back Carroll’s contract from Dallas simply to get under the luxury tax this summer (see Dampier, Ericka). The two player’s salaries combined make up what the Bobcats would have owed Wallace over the next two seasons at around $10 million per. Ouch.

3. Stephen Jackson

Pretty simple here. The Bobcats’ two best guys played the same position. JAX isn’t getting any younger and the whipper-snappers playing NBA two guard these days aren’t getting any less athletic.

Less obvious is this Dirty Secret: Jackson is the better player, or at least the more indispensable one. More on this later.

4. Draft Picks

During the Larry Brown era, the Bobcats gave away first rounders like they were T-Wolves tickets. The team didn’t have a pick in last June’s draft and won’t have a first round selection in a potentially loaded 2012 class. By getting New Orleans’ first rounder in 2011 and Portland’s number one in 2013, the Bobcats will have four picks in the next three first rounds. Given that MJ hasn’t made a turrible pick since ’06, we can at least expect a few solid rotational players to come out of this stash.

5. Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson & Josh Howard

What do these guys have to do with any of this? All three were All-Star small forwards who rode their elite athleticism to big stats and massive contracts. The cautionary tale of course is that once these guys crept closer to the big three-oh, their games took a major downturn for the worse. Marion is the oldest and most relevant of the bunch at 32 but hasn’t played like “The Matrix” since “The Matrix” was a cool nickname to have. He’s now a role player on a veteran team.

Jordan must have looked at Gerald Wallace’s declining production, his age, the number of major injuries and the $22 million due and decided to gamble before it was too late to get anything of significance in return.

6. Bruce Bowen & Ray Allen

Defensive ace Bruce Bowen was ostensibly finished as an NBA player at age 36. Sharpshooting Ray Allen turns the same age in June yet played in last weekend’s All-Star game. Guys who make their name on defense (unless you’re a nimble 7-footer like Dikembe or Theo Ratliff) just don’t last as long which pretty much negates the whole “The Nuggs got way more for Carmelo” argument. As little as I care for Melo’s game or his trade demands, his skill set is much more suited for the long haul.

This brings us back to Suspect #3. Efficient, dependable scoring is worth its weight in gold in today’s NBA. Stephen Jackson, despite his flaws, is the only Bobcat currently worth scheming for on either side of the ball. He’s going for around twenty every night in a variety of ways and may even drop 40 on you if he gets hot. Last I checked, the team that scores the most points still wins games and that has never been more true than it is today.

7. Gerald Henderson

It’s only been a month but Henderson has shown enough in his short time as a rotation player to warrant an expansion of the experiment. The other Gerald has looked spectacular at times. His defense against Kobe, Allen and Derrick Rose allowed the Bobcats to notch some wins over the League’s elite. His jump shot has started to fall consistently and by putting up 18, 22 and 15 going into the All-Star Break, Henderson gave management enough confidence to move Wallace while making a sincere run at the postseason.

It’s not a bad gamble. Henderson is on a great rookie deal and looks to be at worst a quality starting two guard.

PART 2 – THE LONG RUN

FISCAL SANITY

If we look at the trade from a cap perspective, we can see that the Bobcats set themselves up for some incredible leverage going in to the offseason.

By shaving nearly $10 million from the payroll next year and the year after, Charlotte can now be a major player in free agency or in landing a star player via trade. The team will be around ten million under the cap come June and potentially in the mix for a max guy if they can find a team willing to absorb Boris Diaw’s expiring deal.

If MJ strikes out this summer, he’d still be in position the following summer of 2012 to try again.

STATE OF THE ROSTER

With the trade of Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats have made their philosophy public:

  • A. They feel that they have enough talent currently in place to challenge Philly, Indy and Milwaukee for one of the East’s bottom seeds.
  • B. At the same time, they are setting themselves up for a potential long-term jump into the top four.
  • C. That they have at least partially learned their lesson when it comes to throwing away future picks and cap space for a few extra wins in the present.

Moving forward, it’s best to look at the roster in the following tiers:

TIER I: PROTO-NUCLEUS

Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin

TIER II: PRODUCTIVE VETERAN TRADE CHIPS

Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw

TIER III: INTRIGUING PIECES

Shaun Livingston, Dante Cunningham, D.J. White

TIER IV: EVERYBODY ELSE

The Expiring and the Overpaid

WHAT TO EXPECT

Look for the ‘Cats to continue their run under Silas. If Tyrus Thomas returns on schedule and can get in game shape fast, then the Playoff odds go up. Same goes for Gerald Henderson. If he blossoms with the increased playing time and if the ‘Cats can get something out of either Cunningham or White then maybe they sneak into the postseason.

Realistically we can only measure the success of this trade once we see what Jordan & Rod Higgins are able to do with the picks and cap flexibility over the next couple of summers. Losing Wallace hurts now but we may look back and see that it’s the best deal MJ ever made.

Until Next Time…

Enjoy the Change Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

The Morning After

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Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer (Click to go to an Observer slideshow of Gerald Wallace: The Bobcat Years))

To recap, at yesterday’s trade deadline, the Bobcats:

  • Traded Gerald Wallace to the Trailblazers for Joel Pryzbilla, Sean Marks, Dante Cunningham, New Orleans’ 2011 1st round draft pick and the Trailblazers’ 2013 1st round draft pick.
  • Traded Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder for Morris Peterson and DJ White
  • Waived Derrick Brown, Sherron Collins and Dominic McGuire to make room on the roster.  It is anticipated that Marks and Peterson may eventually be waived as well.

The Wallace trade is admittedly hard to swallow.  It’s difficult to write about him without sounding histrionic.  Forget that he was the last “original Bobcat” from the inaugural season of the franchise or that he had become its “face”.  The face is superficial.  Wallace embodied the franchise.  Underappreciated, grinding away to overcome obstacles, sacrificing to offset shortcomings, eventually achieving a modicum of success and respect, only to reach a plateau that wasn’t high enough, Wallace’s arc mirrored the Bobcats’.

Though I’d been an advocate of rebuilding, I’d harbored a fantasy that that the Cats could keep Wallace around and do more of a “reboot” on the fly by moving Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and/or Mohammed.  Ultimately, it seems as if the market for those guys wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it might be.

And so faced with a bloody bottom line, a capped out roster, and no better than a 50% chance at making the playoffs this year (indeed, statistical models pegged it as more like 25%), Jordan made the difficult but correct decision to initiate a rebuild by trading the most beloved player on the team for the financial relief he needs and the draft picks this team requires for the future.

Pryzbilla’s contract expires after this season, so the Bobcats effectively saved the $21 million that would have been due Gerald Wallace over the following two season.  And most importantly, the Bobcats get two first round draft picks.  Yes, both of these picks will likely be mid-late first round.  Yes, the 2011 draft doesn’t look particularly strong.  Yes, the Hornets pick won’t come around until 2013.  And yes, Jordan’s history with the draft is anything but sterling.

But the object is to build a winner.  Building a winner in the NBA takes stars.  And small-market teams have only one way to get stars — the draft.

After trying the Larry Brown team-building model for a couple of years, it appears that Jordan has come around to the above reality.  It was time, folks.

Notes

  • So the Bobcats will get a look at two young power forwards.  Dante Cunningham is signed to a minimal deal through the rest of the season, while DJ White is on his rookie contract through next year, with a reasonable qualifying offer for the 2012-13 season.  White is the better prospect, having been selected late in the first round in the 2008 draft, but has been saddled with injuries and caught in a numbers game at the 4 spot in Oklahoma City when healthy.
  • Speculation now turns to the coming offseason and whether Stephen Jackson and/or Boris Diaw can/will be traded as the next step in the rebuild.  Frankly, now that Gerald Wallace is gone, I’d just as soon prefer the Cats go ahead and do that.
  • The Bobcats will face Wallace and the Trailblazers next Saturday, March 5th in Portland.  Then the following Friday, March 11th, the Cats will host Wallace and the Trailblazers here in Charlotte.

-Dr. E

POLL : What's your reaction to the Gerald Wallace trade?

  • Anger: Screw MJ, I'm done as a fan of this team! (14%, 23 Votes)
  • Sadness: I can't even talk about it... (16%, 26 Votes)
  • Acceptance: I'm disappointed, but understand. (51%, 83 Votes)
  • Shoulda been Jack. (19%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Bobcats Knock Off Bulls In Impressive Fashion

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats notched their best win of the season in defeating the Chicago Bulls 96-91 on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats are now 15-21 overall and 6-2 since interim Coach Paul Silas took over.  The previous five wins had only resulted in tempered enthusiasm due the the marginal quality of the opponents; but the Bulls are a bonafide contender, and the Cats took them down.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

The Bobcats came out red-hot to start the game.  Gerald Wallace looked good in his return from an ankle injury, DJ and Boris hit some early threes, and Kwame Brown (yes, seriously) dominated Kurt Thomas inside for 10 first quarter points as the Bobcats staked a 36-22 lead after the first frame. Now is a good time to note that the Bulls are playing without Joakim Noah, who’s in the midst of an 8-10 week hiatus after having surgery on a torn thumb ligament.

The Cats would go on to push that lead up to 17 early in the second, only to see it dwindle away.  The Bulls battled back behind Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and eventually took a 80-75 with 8 minutes left in the fourth.  From there the Cats ratcheted up the defensive intensity and DJ, Jack and Tyrus Thomas took the game over.

The most finish went like this: with the Bulls up 89-88 with 1:15 left, Tyrus Thomas hit an insane prayer of a reverse layup.  Calling it a reverse layup is probably kind; seriously, check the picture.  That shot went in.  Next play down DJ forced Derrick Rose into the teeth of the defense where Boris Diaw was able to get a piece of his layup attempt.  Now under a minute to go and the Cats iso Stephen Jackson in the post on Luol Deng; Jack comes through with a pretty turnaround J to put the Cats up three with 30 seconds to go.

The Bulls take a timeout and come out with their best play: give it to Derrick Rose.  But as they had done numerous times before, the Cats seemed to sense exactly when to give DJ help.  Jack collapsed on Rose while Tyrus Thomas moved into the lane to cut off Deng as he flashed to the rim; Rose then forced a bad pass behind Deng that was picked off by Diaw.  From there, DJ hit a few free throws to finish it off.

And so the Cats move into the 8th spot in the East with this, their fourth straight, win.  If nothing else, this little streak serves as vindication for Jordan, who made the undoubtedly tough call to stand pat with the roster and fire Larry Brown instead of listening to his calls for more trades. Jordan gets bagged on a lot for his track record in the front office (rightfully so, and he’s still going to have to make more difficult decisions about how to rebuild this team eventually), but he deserves credit for seeing that the Bobcats are much better than how they were playing under Larry Brown and that they needed to exhale with a player’s coach at the helm.

Notes

  • So DJ really seems to get up for playing against Rose, huh?  22 points (6-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 8-9 FT), 12 assists/1 turnover for DJ tonight, while Derrick Rose was held to 17 points (5-17 FG), 7 assists/4 turnovers.  I seem to recall another time when DJ had a particularly stellar game against Rose — during their rookie year maybe?
  • Best game for Tyrus Thomas in a couple weeks: 30 minutes, 17 points (7-14 FG), 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.  Nothing like the little charge you get from facing your old team, huh?
  • Tweet of the night goes to Bobcats AP beat writer Mike Cranston: “Suggestion on press row next CHA ad campaign feature Augustin breaking out of chains and Jack driving a bus over LB’s body”  Sounds like a job for Mike and/or Deesdale.
  • Next game is Friday night in Boston to face the Celtics, who used to bring out the best in the Bobcats, but lately have just owned them.  7:30 PM ET start.

-Dr. E

Follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Dr. E’s Treatment Plan For The Bobcats

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How (and Why) to Break Up and Rebuild the Team

The firing of Larry Brown and his staff was a step in the right direction for the Bobcats.  Brown put his typical stamp on the Bobcats franchise; which is to say he turned over nearly the entire roster while sending the franchise deeper into salary cap hell, but coached the hell out of the players and pushed them into the playoffs, only to completely lose touch with them soon after that.

Michael Jordan had to let Brown go before the disintegration of the team got any uglier on the court and before Brown talked him into another short-sighted trade off of it.  Pricey veterans, whether they come via trade or free agency, are good short-term fixes for teams that have a superstar/championship core and are making money — not for fledgling small-market teams that barely have a playoff-ready core.

Unfortunately, by the sounds of all the recent rumors, Jordan is apparently considering just such a short-sighted trade.  Even without Larry Brown in his ear, Jordan is ever the gambler, unable to stop himself from doubling down even when he’s only holding 8.

I have a different plan; a smarter plan.  It might be painful, but in the end it’s the best strategy for a small-market team to achieve long-term success and have a chance at a championship.  Let’s start from the beginning and go step-by-step through my plan to break up and rebuild the Charlotte Bobcats.

1) Pick the Right Interim Coach

Alright!  Done and done.  Jordan is already one step ahead of me with the hire of Paul Silas.  The Bobcats don’t get lucky much (ever?) but it works out pretty well that you have a beloved former coach who has semi-retired in your town and has made it known that he’d love to coach the local team again.  Huggy Bear makes a great foil for the departed Larry Brown, and has wasted no time instituting an uptempo offense.

Now I’m sure that Jordan has let Silas know that he still intends to make the playoffs, and Silas would like to prove himself worthy of shedding the interim label, but let’s face it, the pressure is pretty low here.  Mostly, the Bobcats should just be happy that such a nice fit for an interim coach was so available and that they avoided any ugliness with Larry Brown.  The players will get a temporary (maybe sustained?) kick out of playing for someone so different than Larry Brown.  And Paul Silas gets a shot at coaching Charlotte again.  It’s a win-win-win.  And if the team improves on the court, you can add another “win” for us fans.

2) Trade Stephen Jackson for Cap Space/Draft Picks/Young Talent

Here’s where we get get down to business.  The Bobcats are not going deep into the playoffs with a top three of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Many, if not most, fans have accepted this.  The best way to kick off a proper tear-down would be to trade Stephen Jackson for cap space/draft picks/young talent.  Jack is making $8.5 million this season, $9.6 in 2011-12 and $10 in 2012-13.   He’s enough to keep a mediocre team competitive on some nights, but not enough to make us great.  He would be great as the final piece to a team that’s looking to make a serious run at a championship this year or next.

I’m thinking mostly Chicago or New York here.  Chicago runs Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at 2-guard amidst Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  Enough said.  The Bulls don’t have any good expiring contracts, so the Cats would have to take back a couple of young role players to make salaries work.  Most importantly, the Cats would look to get back the future first round pick that we sent to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas.

As for New York, suppose the Nets really are able to secure Carmelo’s services.  The Knicks would have to move on from their fantasy; wouldn’t adding Stephen Jackson to Felton, Stoudemire and Gallinari in D’Antoni’s offense be a nice reality for them?  The Knicks could offer Eddy Curry’s huge expiring deal; if the Cats threw in another salary maybe we could have a look at the enigmatic Anthony Randolph?  Or better yet, Wilson Chandler?

And I’m sure there are some Western Conference teams that might work, too.  Or maybe it’s Boris Diaw who goes out?  Just not Gerald Wallace if it can be helped — that might even test my limits as a fan.  Whatever the case, the idea is that the current core isn’t going to get it done and we need to get cheaper and collect young talent and/or draft picks in exchange for them.

3) Play the Young Guys

This is the easiest, most no-brainer part of the plan.  No doubt, the psyches of DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown must be traumatized by their time with Larry Brown; but they’ve also learned a lot.  And there is talent there.  Paul Silas is the perfect coach to loosen the reigns and instill confidence in this crew.

I would try to limit Gerald Wallace’s minutes to around 30-35 per game to preserve him and to give Brown and Thomas a little extra run.

Hopefully everyone emerges as a better player for the long haul; on the other hand, if someone flames out, at least you know.

4) Be Prepared to Miss the Playoffs This Year… and Next

And here’s the real problem.  Jordan is in a tough spot here; you have to believe that at some level he knows that it’s time to blow it up and rebuild the right way.  But he doesn’t have the stomach for losing, even temporarily if it’s in the service of a bigger goal.  And he can rationalize what is really his inability to stomach losing by saying that the Bobcats’ cache with the fans in Charlotte is so tenuous that they couldn’t stomach losing either.  That they’d just turn away for good if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again this year.  So he needs to keep finding expensive band-aids; but for what?  First round playoff blowouts?

Bull.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be painful to watch a rebuilding team for a couple of years — the Bobcats would probably fall back to the 25-30 win per season range for this season and the next.  And it would hurt Jordan financially, I’m sure.  But I would argue that it would be more painful to watch a patched-up, veteran core muddle through a couple more 35-40 win seasons — and that the financial reward Jordan would reap from building an upper echelon team in the long run would more than offset a couple of lean years.

5) Draft the Right Guys

And here’s the lynchpin of my thesis — the most important part is also the most difficult.  In my plan, the Bobcats would have lottery picks, potentially high ones, in the next two drafts (even if we didn’t get the Tyrus Thomas one back from the Bulls, it is lottery protected in 2012).  The Bobcats would need to find a superstar — or at least a new blue-chip core — in those drafts.

I know you’re all laughing, and rightfully so as visions of Adam Morrison and Sean May dance in your heads.  But eventually, sheer luck dictates that Jordan will make the right call one of these days, right?  Doesn’t it?  And even if he doesn’t get so lucky as to have a superstar fall into his lap, he must have learned something about scouting/evaluating players over the past few years that will help him to make better picks, right?  Even if the lesson is as simple as: “I shouldn’t be a part of this — lemme hire some better scouts.”

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe the Bobcats are doomed to be poor drafters forever and ever.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the draft is how small-market teams become contenders.  Whether it’s San Antonio with Tim Duncan, Orlando with Dwight Howard, Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past with Lebron, a small-market team has to get a game-changing player near the top at the draft to become a contender.  That guy’s presence then allows you to utilize trades and free agency to shape the team around him.

Only LA (Lakers, that is), Chicago, Boston, New York, Miami, Phoenix, and possibly Dallas and Houston could realistically hope to construct the core of a contending team without the benefit of a great draft pick.  And despite that, most of those teams do indeed count a player they drafted among the core of their team (Rose & Noah for Chicago, Pierce for Boston, Wade for Miami).

So it’s time for Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins to abandon their plan of building through trades.  If they were aware of and taking advantage of some sort of market inefficiency, we’d have seen better results.  Instead, the Bobcats need to get back into the lottery to get back into the playoffs.

6) Hire the Right Long-term Coach

To boot, here’s one more thing Jordan has struggled with as an executive: hiring coaches.  As noted above, Paul Silas as a placeholder is fine; and the Larry Brown hire is/was defendable.  But going back to Sam Vincent, and further back to Leonard Hamilton, Jordan has struggled to evaluate coaching potential as much as he’s struggled to evaluate player potential.

Again, we have to hope that he’s learned something from his mistakes.  The rumor mill has suggested that Jordan contemporaries/current NBA assistants Patrick Ewing and Tyrone Corbin are in line for a shot at a head coaching job.  And Nate McMillan might be divorced from Portland by the time the Bobcats would be looking.  Would Phil Jackson recommend any of his assistants to Jordan?

Anyways, if the Bobcats followed a comparable blueprint and got to the point where hiring the right coach seemed like a crucial piece to the puzzle, I’d be overjoyed.  As it stands, we’re a long way off.

Unless the Bobcats come out like gangbusters for Paul Silas (and he does have a favorable slate with home games against Detroit, Cleveland and Golden State this week) I think you’ll see Jordan pull the trigger on a big trade soon.  What the Bobcats get back (a pricey veteran versus expiring contracts/draft picks/young talent) will tell you whether he’s sticking to the same M.O. — or moving on to a proper rebuilding plan as I’m suggesting.

-Dr. E