Welcome to Michael’s Minute, where BCP checks in with Bobcats Director of Corporate Communications Michael Thompson. We’ll be doing this regularly throughout the season. Today we get into Larry Brown, the TV Situation, the possible sale of the team, and more.
BCP: Bill Ingram from Hoopsworld says Larry Brown is quote “livid” the team hasn’t signed a Power Forward. With his candid past, is there any concern about the Front Office being badmouthed by the coach?
MT: One interesting thing I’ve noticed over the last 18 months about the way the national media covers Coach Brown is that a lot of what they write or say is presumptive. I think they sometimes feel like Coach has been around for so long that they already “know” what he’s thinking on a given topic, and they can write or say that without ever actually hearing him say it. They figure that if he felt a certain way on a given topic back in San Antonio 20 years ago, then he must feel the same way today. If he “badmouthed” the front office at one of his previous teams, then the perception is that he must be “livid” about the situation here.
Yes, Coach is a straight shooter, but to the best of my knowledge he has never “badmouthed” the Bobcats’ front office. In fact at Media Day he remarked at how different the roster is now in comparison to a year ago, and when answering a question about additional roster moves he said that it’s great to have players that other teams want. He asked for guys that play his style of basketball and he’s getting them. At camp last week he looked focused and energetic as we would expect, but he seemed to be enjoying things as well, and the whole camp had a really good vibe about it. I expect that to continue into the season, and I expect us to continue to look at the roster and find ways to get better, because that’s what Coach Brown is all about.
BCP: Do you know what TV companies are carrying the Bobcats this year besides TWC, Dish Network, and DirecTv, and what if anything can the Bobcats do to resolve this issue?
MT: To date, the following cable providers have opted to carry the broadcasts of our games on Fox Sports Carolinas and SportSouth; Time Warner Cable in Charlotte, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Winston-Salem; Mi-Connection in Mooresville; SkyLine Communications in West Jefferson, NC; Southern Coastal Cable in Georgetown, SC; AT&T in Charlotte, Raleigh and Columbia; and Comcast in Charleston. Satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network have also opted to carry our games in the NBA-designated inner market, a roughly 75-mile radius around the city of Charlotte.
Here’s the thing that everyone has to remember about our games appearing on television: we don’t get to decide where they air. When we sold our broadcast rights to Fox Sports Net we gave up that right. But a big factor in our decision to sell our rights to FSN was the promise they made to make our games available to every cable and satellite provider in North and South Carolina, and they have done that. Unfortunately, not every provider wants to give our games to their subscribers and that’s where the problem lies. As an organization there is not much we can do – what kind of leverage does an NBA team have with a cable provider in Greenville or Myrtle Beach? The people with the most power in this equation are the subscribers of the providers that have made a decision to not carry our games. In the television industry, change is usually a product of consumer demand. When enough subscribers call and email and threaten to leave, providers tend to listen and make changes. We saw it happen with a couple of providers last season who finally got on board after enough subscribers said they wanted to see our games. Subscribers have more power than anyone, and the best we can do as an organization is to give them the information they need to have an informed and intelligent conversation with their provider.
BCP: Is Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan going to have a more active presence at games this year?
MT: I don’t think I’m supposed to take this question literally because there’s really not much Mr. Jordan can do to “have a more active presence at games” other than what he’s already doing: sitting in his courtside seats and sharing his opinions with referees or trying to rattle opposing players with his legendary ability to, shall we say, engage in dialogue with them.
I’m guessing that the real question is more about his public presence at team functions. On Draft Day he handled media availability after the selection of Gerald Henderson. A few weeks later Rod Higgins and team president Fred Whitfield hosted a fantasy camp for premium Season Ticket Holders who renewed by a certain date, and he attended both the morning and afternoon sessions of that event. When it makes sense for him to do something in public he has always been eager and available to help out. But appearance just for the sake of appearance isn’t the best use of his time. He’s an owner, not an employee, and his area of interest is the basketball operations side of our company so that’s where his focus is every day. He and Rod are on a roll right now with the drafting of D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson and the trades that brought Raja, Boris, Vlade and Gana to us. I think the best thing he can do for the Bobcats is to continue to make decisions like those and put a great product on the court.
BCP: Will the Bobcats introduce any extra social media guidelines outside of those handed down by the NBA?
MT: I’m not aware of any restrictions on our players using social media outside of the guidelines established last week by the league. We have a couple of tweeters in Nazr and Gerald Henderson, and bloggers in Tyson and Gerald Wallace, but other than that we don’t have a lot of guys who operate in the social media world right now.
BCP: Is the team still for sale, or has Mr. Johnson taken it off the market as indicated by The Charlotte Observer?
MT: The lesson here is tried and true, but worth repeating: don’t believe everything you read or hear. Newspapers, radio talk shows and television news programs are all in the same business: sales. Their product is information, and they profit when they “scoop” the competition on a story. The problem, of course, is that in an environment like that the emphasis is far greater on being first with news than being right with news. In this particular story there’s one really important piece of information that seems to be missing: at no point did Mr. Johnson ever come out and say he was selling the team. The local newspaper’s stories (and subsequently everyone else’s because they all stemmed from what they read there first) were all based on the word of an unnamed source. Mr. Jordan remains the only person who has gone on record in this whole saga, and he confirmed an interest in increasing his share of the team. Everything else you’ve read and heard on this topic is simply rumor or speculation. But when the goal is to post the story first, even if it’s based entirely on the word of someone who refuses to be named (and therefore refuses to be held accountable when the information turns out to be less-than-accurate), then we get “he’s selling” and “he’s not selling” stories sitting, literally, side-by-side in the same news outlet. So as long as it’s more important to be first than to be right, Bobcats Sports & Entertainment will continue to refrain from commenting on rumors.