I love the movie Bull Durham. Kevin Costner calls Tim Robbins “meat” the whole time. You know what he means but “Nuke” doesn’t. My old roommate and I started calling Chuck James from the Braves “Meat” a couple years ago. Every time he’d step out there it was like, “How long before somebody just rocks him and he’s got that holy-crap-did-that-just-happen-AGAIN looks on his face?” You just knew the guy was set up to lose or something but you knew he had a few flashes or hopefully wouldn’t be out there long enough to matter.
That’s what everyone thinks of the Bobcats front office, at least from the outside looking in. ”Meat.” When you look at the history, brief as it is, you tend to think that the Bobcats have never gotten the better end of a trade and certainly haven’t added any large talent through free agency. So with that in mind, not the forefront but it’s a mindset as a fan – ”We’re getting screwed.” – my initial thoughts were just that: Holy crap, we got screwed by the Hornets, this is garbage and I’m freakin pissed. Okafor to New Orleans for Chandler…come on! Okafor will be a full on All-Star next year and the Hornets will make a deep run into the playoffs…it will happen.
It’s not about what we lost. It’s a trade. Yeah, we’re out the first ever draft pick, face of the team, consistent every night, 13,10 and 1.5 blocks, ladies and gentlemen: Emeka Okafor.
Take the fan hat off for a minute. Pretend you’re Larry Brown, Michael Jordan or Rod Higgins. (Does it drive you crazy that there isn’t one guy that you can blame/congratulate that’s pulling the strings?) You are responsible to the ownership and the fans for producing wins and an enjoyable basketball/on the court experience. Does Emeka Okafor make or break you on any of that? Is he irreplaceable? Does he hold the key to the playoffs? What has he done to deserve to stay? You had to sign him last year because he is a legit PF/Center as a starter in this league and probably for a long time to come. He played all 82 games the previous year after being somewhat injury prone. He got a big, long contract that some thought was way too large and his production didn’t exactly equate to the numbers. On the other hand, he’s what you’ve got and you know he’s good for a double double every night and some solid defense.
So Larry, you have this guy for a full year. He plays pretty hard. He isn’t dominant. He’s not a game changer. But he’s good for a double double and he’s the first and best guy that’s been around for all 5 years in Charlotte. But I’m Larry Brown and I just got here. I didn’t pick him. He’s not my guy and he frustrates the hell out of me sometimes. Oak “gets an A in yoga and pilates but we want him to get an A in basketball.” You know what? Maybe we don’t want this guy until halfway into the next decade. He’ll get $14 million one of those years. Is he going to be worth it?
I’ve got the scenerio in my head: in that final exit interview at the end of the season, let’s say that Larry Brown, Rod Higgins and Michael Jordan say “We’ll listen to offers for Mek.” Hell, they probably said they’ll listen to offers for anyone including Rufus (somebody wash that dude’s costume and fluff it out a bit. He’s lookin all matted). Then our dear old pal, Mr. Excitement, Mr. Charlotte, Mr. Billionaire, Mr. AK, Mr. NWA, Mr. Y’all Better Make Way, Robert Johnson says plainly, “I want to sell the team. I’m not into it.” The dude who signs your paycheck right now wants out. To keep your job under the next guy you have to have the best product available for the lowest costs. He’s less attached than anyone, as a buyer. And they’ve got to start thinking, really we are paying who? How much? For that long huh?
I know we’ve had some serious questions at trades. We have had some seriously questionable FA’s brought in. I would venture to say that this team has had holes in the starting line up and first 3 guys off the bench the entire history of the franchise. None of the trades have helped fill a hole, but that’s not what a trade really does, unless you “win” the deal.
Listen, I’m talking myself into a trade that I didn’t like at first. I hated it. My exact quote on the message board was:
I saw the title and wanted to punch whoever was floating this idea. Turns out it’s Rod Higgins and Jeff Bower. If George Shinn screws us with this garbage, I will drive to New Orleans and drag him out by his ear and kick him in front of the Super Dome. Come one come all, if this actually goes down. BigCat Vs. Smilin George Shinn Crescent City Showdown. No for real, Okafor’s pedigree far exceeds anything Chandler may or may not be able to do that this shouldn’t be a discussion.
I have been talked into it. Emeka Okafor has had 5 years in Charlotte. No drastic improvements. One more piece wasn’t coming. Dude isn’t any more dynamic than Tyson Chandler. We didn’t get screwed. We traded. That’s why I’m behind this center swap and why I think that this move proves that there is a plan in place and the Bobcats front office is a bit more than meat.