Bobcats start rebuild with draft
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE — The slow trickle of player departures began last summer. Now owner Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats are leaving no doubt that they’re in rebuilding mode.
And it could be a slow, painful process.
A dizzying three-hour stretch Thursday virtually eliminated the final elements of the Bobcats’ last and only playoff team in 2010. What’s left over makes Charlotte one of the youngest, thinnest and inexperienced teams in the NBA.
A person familiar with the deal said the Bobcats agreed to send top scorer Stephen Jackson and backup point guard Shaun Livingston to Milwaukee in a three-team trade that netted the No. 7 pick from Sacramento and forward Corey Maggette from the Bucks. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the NBA hadn’t announced the deal.
Charlotte used the seventh pick on athletic forward Bismack Biyombo. The 18-year-old Congo native could be years from being a significant contributor.
The Bobcats used the ninth selection on Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker, who at 6-foot-1 seemingly doesn’t fit in a backcourt that already includes the undersized, 6-foot D.J. Augustin.
Of course, without Jackson, the Bobcats have no true small forward, either.
In the span of less than a year, the Bobcats have traded Jackson, sent former All-Star Gerald Wallace to Portland for draft picks, dealt Tyson Chandler to Dallas for salary-cap space and made no effort to re-sign point guard Raymond Felton.
Left over is no true, healthy center, a giant hole at small forward and no proven, consistent scorer on a team that went just 34-48 last season — a year that also included coach Larry Brown’s dismissal.
The moves do mean the Bobcats will have plenty of salary-cap space next summer when a crop of players that could include Chris Paul and Dwight Howard might become free agents.
In the short team, coach Paul Silas will have plenty of work and teaching to do as he enters the last year of his contract.
Biyombo, who has an uncertain contract situation from his professional club in Spain, is an athletic, shot-blocker and rebounder with limited offensive skills. He also looked much shorter than his listed 6-9 when he worked out for the Bobcats Wednesday.
“I was with Michael Jordan (Wednesday) and I had a great practice,” Biyombo said. “It was so exciting to have him watch me practice. I’m so excited to meet him again.”
Walker, the star of this spring’s NCAA tournament, averaged 23.5 points and put on a dazzling display in leading the Huskies to the Big East and NCAA titles. Without Jackson, the Bobcats will need to find scoring in any place they can find it.
But in giving up Livingston, the Bobcats are left with two point guards each 6-1 or shorter, which could lead to major matchup problems on defense.
“Now that I’m with Charlotte I’m going to try to bring a winning attitude,” Walker said. “I’m going to work extremely hard to get better. I’m not 6-3, 6-4, but I have a big heart.”
Jackson’s departure leaves Charlotte without its captain and leader. A volatile player who collected technical fouls but also wasn’t afraid to take big shots, Jackson stayed away from off-court problems that had plagued him in earlier stops and averaged 18.5 points last season despite several injuries.
Maggette, who has a similar contract to Jackson and is owed just over $21 million over the next two seasons, failed to become Milwaukee’s sixth man last season following ankle surgery. It’s uncertain what kind of role the former Duke star will play on a team that will need scoring.
The Bobcats gave up the 19th pick to the Bucks in the Jackson trade. Charlotte also owned a second-round pick, 39th overall.
The Bobcats, who brought in former Portland general manager Rich Cho to the front office last week, made it clear they were looking to deal before the draft. And the moves may not be finished.