NBA: Four years as an owner for MJ
By Steve Reed
CHARLOTTE — Michael Jordan didn’t exactly shed any tears when the proposed trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers was nixed.
The Bobcats owner likes the idea of competitive balance in the NBA.
And while Jordan never expressed his opinion to NBA Commissioner David Stern on the trade, he said Wednesday that such moves simply don’t help smaller market teams.
“As a small market (owner) I’m very supportive of being able to keep your star player,” Jordan said. “That whole market is determined by that one individual. You want to make it very difficult for that guy to leave. Not that he can’t leave, but to understand the circumstances if he does leave.
“I can’t imagine if I’m in the Hornets scenario that I would want Chris Paul to leave. You want to keep your star.”
That said, Jordan would like to land a headline player — someone like Paul.
“I would definitely go after a guy like that,” Jordan said of the Hornets star guard. “Obviously we have the cap space next year to do so. I would do everything I can get to try to get a player like that.”
Jordan said he wants every team in the league to have a chance to win the NBA championship including the Bobcats, who haven’t won a playoff game since coming into the league in 2004.
He also likes the revenue sharing aspect of the new CBA, saying it too will help the smaller markets succeed.
It all comes at a good time for the Bobcats.
Now in Jordan’s fourth year as owner, the Bobcats are essentially starting over.
Marred in what he felt like an endless cycle of mediocrity — battling for the final spot in the playoffs every season — the Bobcats decided to trade away their two best players last year in Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson and began to build with an eye toward the future.
They’re banking on lottery picks Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo being cornerstones of the franchise.
And they’re expected to be very active next summer in free agency.
They currently have in excess of $20 million available under the 2012-13 NBA salary cap.
“We were vying for that eighth and ninth spot and we looked at that and said, ‘How can we get to be one of those one, two, three or four teams?’” Jordan said. “To do that you have to grab assets and that’s what we did. We had to create flexibility.”
Jordan said the Bobcats don’t have much room to maneuver under this year’s cap, but that will change next year.
“Our flexibility next year is going to be pretty good,” Jordan said. “It puts us in a very good place.”
Jordan doesn’t believe his stance in labor negotiations will keep free agents from signing in Charlotte.
However, on paper, the Bobcats don’t look like a very talented team. And that could be a deterrent.
Coach Paul Silas knows that, but he’s not concerned about it.
Silas has a knack for getting the most out of players. Last year he helped jumpstart Kwame Brown’s career and instilled a needed measure of confidence in point guard D.J. Augustin following the departure of former Bobcats coach Larry Brown.
“The attitude of the team is just tremendous,” Silas said. “Guys are working hard and there is no nonsense going on. Every time we’re out here, we’re working hard and that says a lot. It will give us a chance.
“Talent-wise it’s going to be difficult. But I want them to understand that winning is hard and you have to come with it every night. Come with it.”
Guard Gerald Henderson said he thinks the Bobcats can become a perennial playoff team, but added “it won’t happen overnight.”
“We have some good talent and we’re looking to rebuild,” Henderson said. “We did lose two of our best players last year so that makes more opportunity for guys this year. We feel like we have enough talent to compete in this league… Our goal this year is to make the playoffs. We feel like we can do it.
“Sure, everybody is counting us out, but it’s all on us. We have to come together as a team and focus on that.”
Henderson said he tries not to listen to the naysayers in the Charlotte community who argue the Bobcats will struggle while in rebuilding mode and be irrelevant.
He believes that’s a defeatist attitude.
“People know the really good teams in the league and people know some of the other teams,” he said. “Where we fit in between there is up for interpretation. But the numbers at the end will determine that. We just have to win as many games as we can.”
Just because the Bobcats are young — and not particularly tall by NBA standards after losing Brown to the Golden State Warriors this week — doesn’t mean Jordan is writing off this season.
He thinks the Bobcats will win more games than a lot of people think.
“I think this is not a wasted season because who knows how good we can be?” Jordan said. “We’ve got some good pieces that can help us get to the playoffs. I’m not waiting until next year. I think we have a good quality basketball team this year.”