I always love when a team unveils new uniforms, because it means we get these adorable, quasi-gay photos of the players fondling each other in them, looking as if they’re about to break into song. This latest sartorial change to the Bobcats has the added bonuses of a) looking cool, b) taking one step further away from the original toxic orange color that made Brevin Knight look as though he had been dropped in a vat of radioactive Fanta (or just actual Fanta). Even better, they’ve stripped the “Bob” out of the “Bobcats,” so we’re less reminded of original owner Bob Johnson, a man who remains genuinely miffed that fans weren’t more excited about his 30-win teams that had no regional cable deal, and that he couldn’t get more support from the community (other 100% funding for a brand new $260 million arena).
Now that the Charlotte Bobcats are officially in the offseason, it’s time to grade them. Over the next month, I’ll be giving every player and select non-players their grades for the season. But I’ll start with a general report card for the entire team. Enjoy!
When you can turn an aging, injured shooting guard on an expiring contract (Raja Bell) and a sorely overpaid, worthless, shooter playing power forward (Vladimir Radmonovic) into a Top 10 shooting guard (Stephen Jackson) and another tradeable asset (Acie Law IV), you automatically had an above average season. But Michael Jordan, Rod Higgins, and Larry Brown didn’t stop there. In the offseason, they signed Flip Murray to be a serviceable 6th man for just under $2 million. In essence, a bargain. But he wasn’t the only bargain. Stephen Graham, who filled as a starter 8 times, was signed for the league minimum. Not too shabby. The Bobcats also picked up Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown in the draft. While neither received much playing time, both showed flashes of their talent in limited minutes. When they received over 20 minutes in a game, Henderson averaged 11 points, Brown 9.7 points. But not even a solid draft, free agency, and a great trade to start the year would make the front office lazy. At the trade deadline, they picked up Theo Ratliff for what amounts to nothing and Tyrus Thomas came in for Murray, Law, and a protected 1st. Ratliff started 26 of his 28 games in a Bobcats uniform, and his 1.5 blocks per game in Charlotte helped propel the team to it’s first playoff birth. While the result of the Thomas trade has yet to be discovered, he showed stretches of brilliance on the road to the postseason. Not to mention, Bob Johnson sold the team to Michael Jordan. All in all, a great year in the front office
Final Grade: A
Obviously, if Larry Brown is coaching your team, you’ve got a chance to make some noise. Brown made good on that reputation this past season, turning Gerald Wallace into an All-Star and rebounding machine, keeping Stephen Jackson moderately in check, and improving just about everyone one the roster. And when Brown was ejected (twice in the regular season and once in the preseason), Lead Assistant Dave Hanners capably stepped up. The reason I bring up Hanners is because, unlike Coach Brown, Coach Hanners is aware that there are players sitting next to him who are able to play more than thirty seconds per game. That’s one of Larry’s weaknesses, and it showed. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson were among the league leaders in minutes, while rookies Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown played a COMBINED 890 minutes. That’s 60% of DeJaun Blair’s playing time. And need I remind you Blair went in the second round (just a few picks before Brown, but well after Henderson, a lottery pick) and was Tim Duncan’s backup? They received just 40% of Jonas Jerebko’s playing time, and he was both suspended for a game and taken after Blair. But, despite his rotation shortcomings, Larry did coach his way to a team record 44 wins. So, everything combined, a solid season for the journeyman coach.
Final Grade: B+
While this is a very broad grade, and there are underperformers and overperformers, in the end it’s the total sum of how your team plays that matters. While Gerald Wallace played better than just about anyone expected, he was countered by a lazy season from Boris Diaw. Talk all you want about how much Nazr Mohammed improved, but he was countered by the oft-injured Tyson Chandler, who had a horrible start to the season, and Theo Ratliff’s horrific showing in the playoffs. Raymond Felton may have skyrocketed his shooting percentages, but DJ Augustin’s plummeted. While Stephen Jackson stepped in and led the team in scoring, it took heaven and earth moving for 2008 first round pick Alexis Ajinca to even make the active roster. Larry Hughes joined the team to replace Murray, but somehow had a lower shooting percentage (and lower True Shooting for the stat geeks) than Murray, who had the green light from Coach Brown. While Tyrus Thomas had a huge impact on the team’s defense, he actually had a negative win shares on offense. So, if you look deeply, the team was a little bit above average, and it showed in their .536 winning percentage.
Final Grade: C+
Well, when you’re the only team to get swept, there’s not much good. But the Charlotte community showed up en masse for both of the team’s home games, and enjoyed booing JJ Redick. But outside of that and Tyrus Thomas’ impressive showing, there wasn’t much to like. The Bobcats only really contended in Game 3, and poor decision making doomed them then. A poor showing, and the better team won quickly.
Final Grade: D
Charlotte Bobcats 2009-2010 Season Final Grade: B+
The team accomplished its goal of making the playoffs, but now they have to show it wasn’t a fluke.
Thanks a million to Bobcats Director of Corporate Communications Michael Thompson for taking the time to answer our questions!
From JamieMcNeill on the forums: What types of changes can we anticipate being made once Michael Jordan becomes majority owner? Is it mostly staying status quo or does Mr. Jordan have many changes he would like to make?
MT: I think you’re going to see Mr. Jordan put his touch on every facet of this organization. Obviously the basketball team is already a product of his work and vision, but you’ll see changes in everything from our game presentation to the overall experience at the arena. Some changes will happen right away and some will take a little longer to implement. But this franchise will definitely be a reflection of him and what he’s about.
Teej: With the change in ownership, it’s been reported Bob Johnson is staying on as a minority partner. What does this entail for Mr. Johnson, both business wise and as a member of the Charlotte community?
Michael Thompson. It means he wants to continue to invest in the team that he founded. Let’s not forget the substantial financial commitment he has already made to this city and this business. None of what we’re enjoying this season – the wins, the playoff push, the All-Star appearance, the 20+ franchise records – would have been possible without his support. Now he’s in a position to provide support to Mr. Jordan as this franchise takes the next step.
From Polarcat on the forums: Is there any chance of the marketing and promotions becoming a bigger focus moving forward to help spread the Bobcats throughout the Carolinas and regain that buzz that Charlotte was known for? For example — Improved TV coverage, re-energizing Charlotte with murals on buildings (ala the Hornets in the late ’80′s), etc.
MT: Mr. Jordan has said that he wants to make the Bobcats a regional draw, but the television situation is not something we control. FSN South owns our broadcast rights, and they are working with every cable and satellite provider in North and South Carolina to carry our games. Unfortunately, not every cable and satellite provider is willing to carry our games, and that is a source of frustration for all of us.
It’s virtually impossible to replicate what Charlotte did for its very first professional sports team. The city has matured since then and the kind of blindly loyal support that team enjoyed simply by virtue of being first is not something we’ll ever experience – or want to experience. Mr. Jordan has said repeatedly that he wants to earn our way in this community. He doesn’t want it to be handed to us and he doesn’t want it just because he’s the owner. He’s focused – and he has every person in the organization focused – on earning the support of this community. When that happens then maybe you’ll start to see that outpouring of support from local businesses who want to do things like put giant murals of our players on the sides of their buildings. But we want to earn it first.
Teej: In the press conference today, Mr. Jordan said establishing a consistent winner was his goal, yet he’s also said multiple times that at the moment, going into the luxury tax is not viable for this team. With the current salary system, that would appear to tell fans one of either Tyrus Thomas or Raymond Felton will not be re-signed, and the team highly likely will not have any draft picks. How should fans expect the team to be a winner next year?
MT: Your question assumes there’s a correlation between paying the luxury tax and winning. Over the years a number of teams have done a remarkable job of managing the cap and putting a championship contender on the floor, and a few others have spent well past the tax only to end up in the lottery repeatedly. We’ve made huge strides as a basketball team over the past 2 seasons without exceeding the tax, and I think that trend will continue. If there’s one thing Mr. Jordan demonstrated as the Managing Member of Basketball Operations, it’s that he was open to any and all ideas that would make us better on the court. Look for that to continue as he relies on his senior management team and head coach to make recommendations before he makes the final decision.
Teej: Mr. Jordan said he was planning on being active in the Charlotte community, yet he also appears to want to stay away from the local and national media. Should fans expect to hear from Mr. Jordan often, or will he keep a behind the scenes role?
MT: Mr. Jordan said those words during a press conference carried live on 4 local TV stations, FOX Sports, NBATV and SportsCenter. That day alone he did individual interviews with FOX Sports Carolinas, ESPN and CNBC before sitting down with 2 reporters from the Observer, 1 from the Gaston Gazette, 1 from the Charlotte Business Journal and 1 from Associated Press. He did a question and answer with bobcats.com. He reached out directly to Season Ticket Holders through voicemail blasts and email, and appealed directly to this community through an open letter to Charlotte. Next up is the New York Times. I’m not sure that qualifies as staying away from the local and national media. And it’s worth noting that we’re only 12 days (as I write this) into his tenure as owner. You’re going to see him. You’re going to hear from him. He wants to hear from you. So when we reach out with surveys and questions of our own, it’s because he’s engaged and wants to know what you think.
Teej: Larry Brown has been rumored to both the 76ers and Clippers as a coach next season, yet MJ says he’d like Larry to stay. Is Larry in the franchise’s long term plan, and is the franchise in Larry’s?
MT: Mr. Jordan has said that Larry Brown is our coach for “as long as he wants to stay here”.
Teej: With the recent change in uniforms, would the team be allowed to change the name in the near future, and if so, how quickly would this happen if Mr. Jordan decides it’s worth doing?
MT: Mr. Jordan has said that he’s open to anything, and he is looking for feedback from fans on what they think about a wide range of issues including the team name. But it’s worth noting here that changing a team name is an extraordinary step that would take significant time and money, so it’s not something that can happen overnight.
NOTE: I asked Michael about the Bobcats use of analytics and on James Worthy, but as he is not a member of basketball operations he could not answer these for us.
I know, I know, it’s not Saturday, and none of this actually happened on Saturday to begin with. But I decided with this glut of information to throw at you I should just make a Godfather post, starting in the Queen City and ending in Disney World. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
The beginning would be in Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday night. Your Charlotte Bobcats played the much-maligned Los Angeles Clippers, one of the most poorly managed franchises in all of sports. They didn’t play like it for much of the game, though, keeping pace with the Bobcats. However, part of that likely had to do with former Charlotte Hornet Baron Davis drawing a flagrant foul on Gerald “Crash” Wallace in the 2nd quarter, which left Wallace out for this game and likely a while longer, but we’ll get to that later. In the short term, that didn’t matter, with Stephen Jackson’s 24 points and 6 assists leading the ‘Cats to a 106-98 victory. Jackson had assistance from Raymond Felton’s near triple double (10 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds), Boris Diaw’s 16 points and 5 assists, and Tyson Chandler’s spectacular 13 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. Wallace had 17 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals in 21 minutes. Michael Jordan was not present, missing his first game since it was announced he’s buying the team. He was with his son Jeff, who is on the Illinois basketball team that was competing in the Big Ten tournament.
Wallace has been diagnosed with a sprained ankle, and missed the entire second half of the Clippers game, tonight’s game against the Magic (recap below) and is out for Tuesday’s game in Indiana. His status after that is “day-to-day” and he will take off the protective boot upon arrival in Indianapolis. When asked about Wallace’s condition, Stephen Jackson simply said “Pray.” In other injury news, Center DeSagana Diop had dizzy spells during a Thursday practice and is out until at least Atlanta, possibly longer depending on tests. No word on Center Nazr Mohammed’s progress, though with the tremendous play lately by Theo Ratliff and Tyson Chandler, no rush to either Gana or Naz. Get well, guys.
We learned over the weekend that another injured player has been added to the Bobcats roster. That would be former 76ers first round pick Larry Hughes, who played for Larry Brown in Philadelphia and for Michael Jordan and Bobcats GM Rod Higgins in Washington, along with being a teammate of multiple current Bobcats. He is expected to be able to play within 7-10 days, and will be a backup shooting guard and the emergency third point guard if DJ Augustin or Raymond Felton were to get into foul trouble or be injured. Hughes will be playoff roster eligible, and since he will likely be able to adequately replace Flip Murray, the trade for Tyrus Thomas becomes that much more of a steal. Hughes has also played for Golden State, Cleveland, Chicago, and New York. He averaged 22 points per game with the Wizards in 2004-2005, and was the inaugural recipient of the Austin Carr “Good Guy” Award, for being helpful to the Cleveland media and community.
The last major update takes us to Orlando, where the ‘Cats were on the road tonight to face the Orlando Magic. Without Crash, Stevie Graham made his 6th start of the season, and Captain Jack took over the load once again, with 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists to help get the ‘Cats their sixth straight win, 96-89. Graham added 12 points and 6 rebounds, Ray Felton put in 16 and dished out 7 assists, Theo Ratliff had 10 points and 9 boards, and Tyrus Thomas had 9 points and 9 rebounds. The Bobcats held the free-shooting Magic to 11-32 three point shots, or 34%. Sharpshooters Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, and J.J. Redick combined to go an abysmal 1-12 from behind the arc. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 27 points on 12-14 shooting, but was 3-10 from the free throw line. Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said postgame “We weren’t very good at anything.” While that might be a bit harsh, he’s right in that the Bobcats are on a roll and have been playing excellent basketball, with or without their All-Star. Yankees Ace C.C. Sabathia drove up to see good friend Stephen Jackson play against the Magic despite pitching earlier in the day.
Rick Bonnell noted recently that
“All you fools who made fun of me for writing it would be a huge mistake for the Bobcats to sign Allen Iverson (you know who you are; I can look up the responses) can send me your heart-felt apologies soon as possible.”
While I assume Rick was just being trivial or attempting humor, he was not only wrong to begin with (what else is new) but he called his readers fools, which in jest or not, none of us here at BCP will ever do. Now, let’s look at why Mr. Bonnell is wrong. When the discussion for this signing was being made, Stephen Jackson was still playing in California, Bob Johnson seemed to be well in control of the team and Gerald Henderson was the only backup shooting guard. What many of us were asking for was what Memphis did very well. Sign Iverson, sell a ton of jerseys and tickets, and if he doesn’t work out, waive him with a minimal hit to the team. What’s so “wrong” about that, Rick?
Notes: Larry Brown has been rumored to both the Philadelphia and LA Clippers Head Coaching jobs, even though neither is technically available, but he said that him staying is “up to Michael (Jordan).” For right now, it appears MJ wants Larry around, and no changes are imminent…The Bobcats sale to Michael Jordan is expected to go through by the end of this week, at which time we will have a special ownership edition of Michael’s Minute with Bobcats Director of Corporate Communications Michael Thompson. If you go to the forum, you can submit a question you’d like answered.
Nights like tonight are when I remind myself why I suffer through losing streaks, ownership issues, bad tv deals, and all the other problems of being a Charlotte Bobcats fan. Being a Bobcats fan means all that, but it also means an annual win or two against the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers, in front of a packed house sprinkled with fair-weather Kobe-lovers, Ric Flair, Bob Johnson, and MJ himself. Tonight was no different, and Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and crew led the Bobcats to a win, 98-83.
After a disappointing road trip out West and two poor games this week, it seemed the ship was taking on water at the very least. But for tonight, if not the future, Gerald Wallace returned to his pre-All Star Game form with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, and Stephen Jackson did his part with 21 points and 4 steals. But while the stars were part of the story, the Bobcat Bench was the glue that sealed the win, led by Tyrus Thomas (14 pts, 9 rbds, 2 blks) and DJ Augustin (12 pts, 5 ast, 2 st) but supported very well by Gerald Henderson and newly-returned Tyson Chandler, who had been out with the foot injury that’s hurt him all season long. Augustin, who had been a miserable 2-27 in a 5-game stretch prior to the Boston game Wednesday, went 5-8, and 2-3 from 3 point range, which is encouraging for all ‘Cats fans. Henderson received his first meaningful playing time of the year (albeit someshort), and delivered with Raja Bell-like defense on Bryant, who scored 26 on 9-21 shooting (0-4 on threes). The rookie had 6 points and 2 rebounds along with a steal and a block. Larry Brown said afterwards “I was proud of Gerald Henderson. The first time we played the Lakers in LA he said ‘Coach, I’d like to play against them,’ and I was a little nervous about that, but I saw him play in Boston; If he makes mistakes, if he takes a bad shot, it’s not because he isn’t trying so I think I’m gonna put him in more, give him a chance.” In the locker room post-game, Michael Jordan came up to Henderson and congratulated him. Perhaps that highly publicized game of HORSE, which Henderson called a “blessing in disguise,” had a major impact? Coach Brown also said that Tyrus Thomas would be a “helluva player” and said his attitude was comparable to Gerald Wallace in terms of wanting to learn. Speaking of Gerald, he summed up the night rather well with these words on the sporadic Laker jerseys in the stands:
“We want them to come with whoever they want to go with, as long as when they go home they’re Bobcats fans we’re good with that.”
So are we.
I owe Rick Bonnell and apology. The Bobcats have been sold, or rather a controlling interest in the team has shifted from Bob Johnson to Michael Jordan. Details are slow in coming but it appears that Bob’s Cats have become Jordan’s Bobcats.
I am not sure what this means right now. I believe it will grow the sponsorships, I think that it will draw a bit of attention at first and that it’s going to be very interesting for all of us. Michael Jordan is a huge, huge personality and a looming presence for any area, let alone the NBA. He has been somewhat “absentee” as manager of basketball operations. Then again so has Mr. Johnson.
MJ has always been able to pull in sponsorships and I hope that can carry over to the Bobcats. I’m interested to see the level of activity he’ll have here in Charlotte. While he is a North Carolina “native” (Born in New York but grew up and went to college and his parents lived here throughout) Jordan has been known for his time in Chicago, making a home there. As a very wealthy person he can live and basically be wherever he wants whenever he wants. Rumors have him spending most of his time in South Florida and who could blame him, with an apparent girlfriend from the area and a huge new home.
Charlotte will be the home of his most visible and largest stake of any of his many and varied interests. All eyes will be on him, whether it’s due or not. Charlotte as a sports town started with George Shinn and continued with Jerry Richardson, two semi-retired men whose only interest were their respective teams. Bob Johnson’s short comings were possibly the product of his misunderstanding of the Charlotte market. He tried things others wouldn’t and people saw them as mistakes. They were gambles.
I doubt things will change that much as it’s a minority owner coming to be the controlling partner. You certainly won’t see immediate changes and likely nothing sweeping.
One thing I do know for sure: I was wrong and didn’t expect this to happen. I certainly didn’t think Bob Johnson to take a loss.