Charlotte Bobcats Trust Michael Jordan’s Vision?
In nearly two years since Michael Jordan became the majority owner of the Bobcats, Charlotte made the postseason out of the gate in 2010, but now find themselves at the bottom of the standings and embracing a youth movement with a roster full of young, raw talent.
Realizing that the core of Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace wouldn’t be enough for this team to ever be true title contenders, Jordan shipped off the team’s two best players last season after letting Felton walk as a free agent. It’s debatable at to whether Charlotte got equal value in those deals but, using the pieces from those two trades (one at the trading deadline (Wallace) and Jackson at the draft), Charlotte acquired two of the top-10 picks in the 2011 draft.
With those two picks, Charlotte acquired Bismack Biyombo (7th overall) and NCAA-Title winner Kemba Walker (9th overall) – both of whom have started games this season and are expected to be key contributors moving forward. When the dust settled, the Bobcats had 10 players on the roster age 25 or younger to start the 2012 season.
So far, the results have not been pretty for the seventh-youngest team in the NBA (average age 25.63).
Charlotte is dead last in the league in both points per game (87) and field goal percentage (41.5 percent). Defensively, the Bobcats aren’t much better at 27th in both points allowed (100.2) and field goal percentage allowed (46.7 percent).
Not surprisingly, Charlotte has the worst point differential in the NBA at a whopping -13.2 – a good five points worse than the next closest team.
Contrary to popular opinion, this was the plan all along for the Bobcats going into the season. This team has bucked mediocrity in favor of going all in for the future with hopes that this team can be more than just an also-ran in the Eastern Conference in the years to come.
One of the players expected to lead this turnaround, last year’s NCAA-Championship MVP Walker, says he’s grateful to be playing for Jordan and confident in the Bobcats future.
“It’s exciting to have the greatest player of all time to be around,” Walker said. “So when you need advice or anything about basketball you can go to [Jordan] and talk to him. As far as [Jordan’s personnel decisions], we’re young right now but in the future we’ll be solid.”
Bobcats head coach Paul Silas says he is “absolutely” confident in Jordan’s direction for the team.
“Mike wanted to rebuild this team and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Silas said. “He’s got a good plan as to what he’s going to do and I like it and I know it’s going to work because we’re all [on the same page].”
Silas also acknowledged that it’s difficult at times to keep this team upbeat with all of the losing the Bobcats have endured this season. The hope is that Charlotte can gel and produce the type of turnaround that propelled the Oklahoma City Thunder to having the best record in the Western Conference after years of growing pains with a young squad.
“We really could [be a contender in a few years] and I think that’s what everyone’s kind of looking at but I basically look at right now and this is what I’m mostly concerned with is who’s playing hard and who’s getting it every night and where do we go from here,” Silas said. “It’s fine but long term I really believe that the guys we have: Kemba, Bismack and some of the other guys are going to be the core of this team. You keep adding on to that and then we have a chance to make a good team out of this team.”
“That’s definitely our goal [to turn potential into a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder],” Bobcats starting point guard D.J. Augustin said. “We have a very young team. We work hard every day even though things are not going the way we want them to right now we’re still going out every night playing hard and getting better and we see what we can be capable of.”
The difference between the Thunder and a team like the Bobcats is that OKC possesses a superstar talent in Kevin Durant. While it’s still unknown if the Bobcats have that type of player currently on the roster, the team will likely have a top-5 pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Trying to secure yet another young talent to lead this team in the future is at the forefront of Charlotte’s plan.
“I think that we did very good on the draft [and] we’re going to get a very good draft pick this year,” Silas said. “I think we have some solid players that can be the core of a team and that’s what you build from. But it’s like any other team. San Antonio, for instance (with Tim Duncan), you’ve got to get lucky and get a great player and that’s what we’ve got to do. If we can get lucky and get a great player it changes your whole outlook.”
Gerald Henderson, who has the potential to be an All-Star and is now considered one of the veterans on the team at the ripe old age of 24, believes this team is heading in the right direction with the pieces they have.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Henderson told HOOPSWORLD. “We’re going through a tough time right now, so it’s easy for a lot of questions to be asked, but I think our management has it taken care of. We do have a young group now, but we have talented players who are going to continue to get better. Obviously, at the point we’re at right now it can only go up, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Even if it’s just fear or admiration, Bobcats’ players and coaches have fallen in line behind Jordan’s vision for this team. For fans and media outlets however, Jordan has got a lot of work to do to prove to Charlotte that this is the right course of action.
Hiring former Portland Trail Blazers general manager Rich Cho was a good first step for Charlotte, and Cho was hired because he believed starting from scratch was the Bobcats’ best move going forward. The problem is that Jordan has final say on all Bobcats’ personnel decisions – which some believe is too much power for any one member of an organization to have.
What Jordan says goes for the Bobcats and few, if any, within the organization have the courage to voice their opinion to Mike.
It’s imperative that Jordan is ready to fully utilize his assets and that Cho, along with President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins, each have a say in terms of the future of this franchise.
In terms of the future, because of the time it’s going to take these young guys reach their potential, it’s going to take at least two to three years to tell if Jordan’s moves have been on the money or will be added to the list of MJ’s failures as majority owner of this team.