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May 29, 2009

Strange question, lame answer

The Charlotte Bobcats, like so many major-league teams, ask some bizarre questions in a job interview. So says Arizona forward Chase Budinger.

Budinger met with Bobcats management at the Chicago combine, and said he was asked the following: If you were sent to a deserted island, and could bring just one thing, what would it be?

Budinger went the politically-correct route, and answered a basketball court and a ball. Beyond the fact that's two things, you know he was fibbing. I mean, come on, the kid's 21 and lives in Tucson; he'd bring along a University of Arizona sorority house.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 29, 2009 at 10:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

May 28, 2009

A Curry-Lawson bake-off?

 The way I hear it from someone who should know, New York's eighth pick might come down to a bake-off between Davidson's Stephen Curry and North Carolina's Ty  Lawson.

I can't believe Lawson is the eighth pick in this draft, but let's play this out because it's an interesting exercise: Lawson is dramatically superior as an athlete. Curry is dramatically superior as a basketball player. Do you want the triple-jump champ or the kid from the movie "Hoosiers?'

My gut: Curry will be a better pro over the entire course of his career.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 28, 2009 at 11:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

Some long-overdue frugality

The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets are making the very practical decision to hold some joint workouts of draft prospects.

Isn't this absurdly overdue? Sure, each franchise might value different things and prefer to run a workout in a precise and unique order. But are you compromising all that much if you save some money in these times and, as a bonus, not further wear out these kids in their auditions?

It's an idea that has found its time in this economy. Should have happened a long time ago.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 28, 2009 at 11:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Henderson, Curry in Charlotte Thursday

 Sound like next Thursday -- June 4 -- will be a relatively big day in the Charlotte Bobcats' draft preparations.

Hometown kid Stephen Curry says he's working out for the Bobcats that day, as will Duke's Gerald Henderson. North Carolina's Danny Green also said he's scheduled for Charotte that day.

The key audition in that group could well be Henderson, since the Bobcats are very much in the market for a shooting guard at No. 12. Henderson met with Bobcats coach Larry Brown and general manager Rod Higgins in Chicago, and they expressed to him that a backup to Raja Bell is a priority.

"They made it clear they need someone,'' Henderson said, referring to Bell's late-season injury problems.

Henderson grew up in Philadelphia and has known Brown since he was in middle-school and Brown was the 76ers coach. One of Henderson's close friends in high school is the son of Randy Ayers, who worked for Brown in Philadelphia.

"That would be a great place for me,'' Henderson said of the Bobcats.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 28, 2009 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

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 | Comments (19)

May 22, 2009

It all comes down to price

By now, many of you have read my story about Bob Johnson hiring an investment banker, looking to sell much, if not all, of his majority control in the Charlotte Bobcats.

 A caution: Just because you put out a "For Sale'' sign, doesn't mean you'll sell your house.

 The way I hear it, Johnson is clinging to the idea he can recoup his initial investment -- about $330 million -- as the current value of this team. Just to offer an analogy, how many of us have two-year-old home appraisals that don't vaguely resemble the current value of our homes?

 For reasons both macro (go try to get a $300 million business loan in this economy) and micro (plenty of empty seats at most Bobcats home games), selling this team for a price Johnson would accept will be challenging.

One NBA source told me he'd be surprised if Johnson owned this team by the start of next season. I asked that source what could keep a sale from happening. His answer was brief and direct:

Price -- Johnson has to be realist about the price.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 22, 2009 at 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

May 20, 2009

Some post-lottery thoughts

Some tumble-down from last night's draft lottery:

-- Los Angeles Clippers coach-general manager Mike Dunleavy told the Los Angeles Times they definitely plan to draft Blake Griffin with the No. 1 pick. I don't doubt Dunleavy will do that if the Clippers retain the pick. The question becomes what other teams will offer the Clippers, a franchise already overloaded with big men.

Griffin is the best player in a mediocre draft. That's different from lucking into the chance to draft a Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan. So I bet the Clippers explore all their options before committing to Griffin as a franchise player.

-- There's a lot of chatter on the Internet this morning about how much the Memphis Grizzlies like Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet, to serve as a defensive complement to scoring big man Marc Gasol. If the Grizzlies take Thabeet at No. 2, that would leave Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio for the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 3.

In a roundabout way, that could help the Bobcats, in dealing with Raymond Felton's restricted free-agency. If the Thunder already has Russell Westbrook and Rubio, why get in the bidding for Felton?

-- The New York Knicks not jumping into the draft's top 3 could be good news for Davidson's Stephen Curry. I never bought the speculation that the Knicks would "promise'' to take Curry, but I do think he's a good fit in coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style. The Knicks could justify taking Curry eighth. I strongly doubt they would have considered him at No. 3.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 20, 2009 at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

May 19, 2009

Trade 12th pick to dump Mohammed contract?

I'm going to throw out an idea, and some of you will think I'm crazy, but hear me out:

If I ran the Charlotte Bobcats, I'd trade the 12th pick to any team willing to completely absorb Nazr Mohammed's contract.

That's a hard one to swallow, the idea of giving away a lottery pick to undo a mistake. But the value of moving the remaining $13.2 million-plus owed Mohammed over the next two seasons could exceed whatever the Bobcats get at No. 12.

The current front-office regime made two bad calls  -  drafting Adam Morrison third overall and trading two expiring contracts (Primoz Brezec and Walter Herrmann) for Mohammed. They addressed the Morrison mistake by dealing him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic. But to do so, they added to their long-term payroll.

If some team with abundant cap space would completely absorb Mohammed's salary, in return for the 12th pick, I'd do it in a second. I'm not a huge fan of this draft, so I don't know how reliable anyone at No. 12 will be. I know for sure that over $6 million a season in cap relief would be a big benefit, particularly as the Bobcats figure how to (a.) re-sign Raymond Felton and (b.) pay their bills while losing tens of millions annually.

I raised this notion in an interview Tuesday night with Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins. Understandably, Higgins isn't usually quick to speculate on hypothetical questions. So I found Higgins' reply intriguing; he said the Bobcats front office isn't "afraid of any scenario."

The center position is overcrowded and expensive. Barring a blockbuster deal, Emeka Okafor is the starter for the long haul and they made a major investment with the trade for DeSagana Diop. That makes Mohammed extraneous, costly and unhappy. He made it clear, the day after the season finale, that if the Bobcats don't want to play him, he'd rather be elsewhere.

I've found Mohammed to be a smart and classy veteran. I don't fault him for sounding frustrated. He should be somewhere else if that option is available.

You could call this idea a money-dump if you want, but it's far from unprecedented. The Denver Nuggets traded center Marcus Camby to the Los Angeles Clippers last summer, essentially for $10 million in payroll relief. As I write this blog, the first game of the Western Conference finals is taking place.

That Camby salary dump didn't work out so badly for the Nuggets, did it?

Posted by Observer Sports on May 19, 2009 at 11:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)