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May 26, 2009

Fielding your questions

 "What do you think?''

I hear and read that a lot these days. Whether it's my email or out for a jog or at my son's baseball game, people keep asking me what will be the final result, after I wrote in Friday's Observer that Bob Johnson is looking to sell controlling interest in the Charlotte Bobcats.

Here's what I think (and keep in mind this thing is a moving target: Don't punish me if tomorrow things change, because they always could.)

Question: "Is he really serious about selling this thing?''

Hell. yes. I heard rumors in October that part of the incentive for the layoffs was Johnson cleaning up the balance sheet in anticipation of a sale. Not saying that's so, but I also wouldn't be surprised. This is a rotten time in the whole economy, and certainly so if you own car dealerships and hotels. Much of Johnson's wealth was or is concentrated in those areas. Not good. He wants to liquidate.

Question: Are there buyers out there?

Actually, yes. I'm told by someone in a position to know (and no reason to lie) that it's surprising how many people with the huge resources necessary to buy an NBA team have inquired, even in this economy. If Johnson is sincerely interested in cashing out, he can do so. The real issue is whether he'll be realistic about what this team is worth. I'm told he's coming around to the reality of the Bobcats' true value at this point.

Question: Is the team moving?

I strongly doubt it for three reasons. First, I'm told all the inquiries have been from groups wanting to keep an NBA team in Charlotte. Those people apparently understand that they'd be inheriting a great uptown arena in a good market. Second, the financial penalties within the lease for moving this team are huge. Third, there just aren't many places to move an NBA team that could be profitable.

Question: Should the Larry Bird group have gotten the expansion franchise in the first place?

I keep reading that stuff, and it wreaks of ignorance. There's an assumption that Johnson was handed the franchise because he was black. In reality, the money behind Bird was insufficient. I laugh every time I read that if the Bird group had been in charge, everything would have gone great.

Question: So, in the end, the city gets ripped off, right?

I understand the frustration. Many of you think the city never should have replaced the Charlotte Coliseum. Others think it's about time Charlotte got itself a quality NBA owner. Here's the deal: The city gave away virtually everything in the arena deal. (And, by the way, that was a negotiation with the NBA, NOT Johnson). However, there was one deal-breaker: Mayor Pat McCrory told the city's legal staff to make it as difficult as possible for a team to break that lease. The financial penalties are huge and cross over from the team to the owner's personal wealth.Is there some bankruptcy strategy that could breach those terms? Probably. But I would bet, with confidence, that this franchise is in Charlotte 10 years from now, under new ownership and better for the change.

Question: So Jordan buys the thing?

I think Jordan wants to own it. I also think he's being coy and sly (wise strategy). But Johnson didn't make a billion dollars being dumb. If someone else is willing to pay more, that's who gets this team. Jordan shouldn't spend too much time playing hard to get.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 26, 2009 at 06:58 PM | Permalink



Nice article, thanks for your insight on a variety of topics. What do you think Jordan would change if he became the majority owner (besides nix the Horse Show)?

And when are the workouts going to begin? I've seen where Courtney Fells (6'6" SG, NCSU) is suppose to come in on next Thursday. Or is the lack of workouts consistent with the Bobcats trying to package all their picks for a veteran (that way they'd save on the cost of the workouts).

Posted by: BlockParty | May 26, 2009 8:59:41 PM

BlockParty: Bobcats didn't see much sense in workouts before this week's combine in Chicago. That's consistent with how they've always done things.

Posted by: Rick Bonnell | May 27, 2009 8:50:22 AM

johnson is said to want back what he paid for the team but he is kidding himself. how much do you/the people that live in the world of reality think the team is worth bonnell?

Posted by: the voice | May 27, 2009 8:53:08 AM

Thank you for clearing up the Larry Bird ownership nonsense that has been floating around. The illinformed comments I have been reading are getting out of control.

I hope this change of ownership happens quickly so the focus can return to the product on the court.

Posted by: Token | May 27, 2009 8:58:24 AM

nice job Rick:))

Posted by: fdfd | May 27, 2009 9:19:42 AM

But if Bob Johnson sells - won't we lose the Charlotte Jumper Classic? How will the city survive?

Posted by: Musson | May 27, 2009 9:46:50 AM

Voice: I think that Forbes estimate -- $284M -- is in the ballpark. A huge portion of that purchase price will in fact be taking over the debt associated with the franchise.

Posted by: Rick Bonnell | May 27, 2009 10:59:03 AM

Rick, Nice article. Are the Bobcats considering any free agency moves next summer? It would seem that Jordan understands their need for a superstar (or a tandem of stars). Ofcouse the money is short, but is it realistic to think the franchise could position themselves to have enough cap room to go after a young, athletic superstar?

Posted by: The Future | May 27, 2009 11:05:32 AM

Future: I think you answered your own question. They're already committed to a core of players. Signing a high-impact free agent of the sort you're describing would likely require cap room they don't currently have.

Posted by: Rick Bonnell | May 27, 2009 12:52:59 PM

if you had a spare $284 million just laying around bonnell would you buy the bobcats or do you see the team as a sinking ship?

Posted by: the voice | May 27, 2009 1:26:04 PM

The key is to get an owner that wants to serve the fans, build partnerships with companies, and compete at the highest level in the sport understanding they're going to lose a lot of money in the first five years or so. This city will get behind someone who truly participates in the local community individually and brings championship-caliber basketball here; what we're used to at the college level. Man, I hope that guy or group is out there. Wouldn't it be awesome to be an Orlando Magic level team here right now? I've got to believe that's realistic for our market.

Posted by: Mike K | May 27, 2009 3:17:40 PM

dont ask for much do you?

Posted by: the voice | May 27, 2009 4:22:33 PM

Rick...I have a simple question: When are the Cats going to unload Sean May? At what point is enough is enough? In your opinion (and feel free to weave in a few opinions of your colleagues and others in the NBA)what, after all the injuries, lack of stamina and ostensible lack of drive, is it that causes the Cats to hold on to this guy?

Posted by: Mike | May 27, 2009 5:37:03 PM

I certainly appreciate your frustration with Sean May's lack of productivity this past season. I wouldn't blame the Bobcats for moving on. However, let me play contrarian for a minute:
Sean is going to have to play (relatively, at least) on the cheap the next season or two if he aspires to repair his reputation as an NBA player. The Bobcats still need a backup power forward. Based on what Larry Brown said at the end of the season, Michael Jordan has some concern that if they turn May loose now, some competitor will reap the benefits of the Bobcats' patience the past two seasons.
I don't know what I'd do about May if I were running the Bobcats. But I do think it's more complicated (and less emotional) than it's sometimes portrayed by fans.

Posted by: Rick Bonnell | May 27, 2009 6:46:59 PM

Mike - on Sean -

Bobcats have to provide the Qualifying Offer by June 30, otherwise Sean is a free agent on July 1.

So if the Bobcats want to cut Sean lose, it happens by default on July 1 by not offering the Qualifying Offer.

There is really no active decision to 'unload' him (unless they can figure out a trade); it's really a passive decision at this point.

Posted by: Bobfan1 | May 27, 2009 10:43:21 PM

Thanks fellas...I think the frustration in May is more that just performance but the image he portrays on the bench. As a Club Seat owner from the beginning, I've gotten into the bad habit of just watching May on the sidelines with the team. At any given time its hard to tell if he's sleeping or in a coma. At least Morrison when he was benched would get up with the team, go into the perimeter of the huddle, walk out on to the court great his team back to the bench. In May's case, I swear in the time it takes him to stand up he looks tired again.
In short, his apparent lack of motivation or alternatively his apparent lack of "fear for his job" doesnt seem to concern him. In the end, he really is still a rookie and if all the rookies showed his apparent lack of drive, my guess is there wouldnt be too much hype to the Draft.
But I appreciate both your points. Guess we just wait (again) and see....

Posted by: mike | May 28, 2009 1:38:29 PM

Great Article... I found this very interesting.

Posted by: flanahan32 | May 28, 2009 2:36:07 PM

To some earlier comments. I think this year would be a great year to try to sell all our picks for a vet. This draft is about 2 picks deep

Posted by: flanahan32 | May 28, 2009 2:38:19 PM


When are you going to tell your boss to give some of your co-workers a big cup of "shut-the-hell-up" when spouting off their uninformed opinions on the Bobcats and the NBA?

I don't agree with everything you write, but you at least have done your research, that at least I can respect...Washburn and Sorenson are pitiful in their attempts to talk knowledgably about the Bobcats.

Anyway, your boss needs to grow a backbone.

Posted by: BlockParty | May 28, 2009 9:16:15 PM

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