NBA: Trade the whole team? Brown’s trying with Bobcats
CHARLOTTE ó The joke began circulating minutes after Michael Jordan hired Larry Brown: The demanding Hall of Fame coach will want to trade everybody on the Charlotte Bobcats’ roster before opening night.
A little over a year later, Brown is more than halfway there.
Emeka Okafor became the latest ex-Bobcat under Brown ó joining a growing list that includes Jason Richardson, Adam Morrison, Sean May, Jared Dudley and Matt Carroll. Tyson Chandler, acquired from New Orleans Tuesday for Okafor, becomes the 27th player to dot Charlotte’s roster since the start of last season.
It’s uncertain if the moves will be enough to make the Bobcats a playoff team in the improved Eastern Conference. But while Jordan and general manager Rod Higgins sign off on personnel moves, clearly Brown has been given plenty of power.
“The biggest thing when you’re building a team and you don’t necessarily have the depth of the more established teams, you’ve got to find guys that can play more than one position,” Brown said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. If you look at our team, Boris Diaw can do that, Gerald Wallace can do that, Tyson can do that. I think the more guys that can be in that kind of situation the more flexibility you have.”
No Bobcat has been sacred in Brown’s record ninth NBA head coaching job. While the athletic Wallace has become a Brown favorite, he was nearly traded last summer. Top scorer Richardson and Dudley were dealt early last season for Diaw and Raja Bell. After two other in-season deals that sent poor Brown fits Morrison and Carroll packing, Brown turned to Okafor.
The expansion team’s first draft pick brought consistency ó he hasn’t missed a game in two seasons and is good for a double-double nearly every night ó but his flaws ate at Brown. While chiseled and in great shape, he’s not a great athlete. He struggled against big centers and was a liability defending on the perimeter. He’s not a good ballhandler, either.
For Brown, it was worth gambling that Chandler’s history of toe and ankle problems won’t limit him. Chandler is three inches taller and a better ballhandler. While he hasn’t played much at power forward, Brown is adamant Chandler can fill in there, too.
“Some of the things Emeka does, maybe Tyson can’t do in terms of being physically strong down low,” Brown said. “But there are some things Tyson can do in terms of maybe getting out (defending) the pick-and-roll a little bit better, and being a little more mobile out on the perimeter that might be a plus.”
Chandler, who has twice led the league in offensive rebounds, is eager to play for his fussy new boss.
“There are some coaches out there that I really feel highly about, and he’s been one of them,” Chandler said. “I think that he understands and knows how passionate I am about the game and winning and I know he is the same way.”
Charlotte still has holes. Even if Chandler plays some power forward, there are few options behind Diaw after the injury-prone May signed with Sacramento. Higgins said talks with restricted free agent point guard Raymond Felton have “stalemated” after a meeting earlier this month in Las Vegas.
“Rod’s statement is on point,” Felton’s agent, Kevin Bradbury, said Wednesday.
It’s why the Bobcats, the lowest scoring team in the NBA last season, may not be through dealing.
“Teams that finished behind us, Washington and Toronto just to name a couple, have improved,” Brown said. “Then the teams that finished ahead of us have gotten a whole lot better. So you’ve got to keep up.”
The 68-year-old Brown’s tinkering helped turn around New Jersey, San Antonio, Philadelphia and even the Los Angeles Clippers. He won an NBA title in Detroit and an NCAA title at Kansas.
Of course Brown’s demands have created plenty of problems with players and management, too, highlighted by his ugly departure from New York in 2006.
It appears Brown is still getting along with Jordan, who has agreed to most of Brown’s requests. That’s created a roster that now includes only five players ó Wallace, Felton, D.J. Augustin, Alexis Ajinca and Nazr Mohammed ó who were in Cleveland for last season’s opener.
“I think it’s obvious when teams around you are improving,” Brown said, “that you can’t afford to stand pat.”