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April 29, 2011

NCAA sides with coaches over players

I’m disappointed, though hardly surprised, that the NCAA sided with coaches over players by further narrowing the window for underclassmen to decide whether they should make themselves available for the NBA draft.


          Unless there’s some reversal, starting in 2012, underclassmen will have to decide by some date in mid-April whether to give up their remaining college eligibility.

          This spring underclassmen have until May 8 to pull out of the draft and retain eligibility. Considering the NBA’s regular season doesn’t typically end until around April 20, there would be no real window for underclassmen to get feedback from NBA executives about where they’d stand in the draft order.

          It’s obvious what this is about: College coaches want to know definitively who’s coming back before they finish spring recruiting. But this will undoubtedly make it harder for underclassmen to make informed decisions on whether to turn pro.

          So, typically, the NCAA favored coaches’ housekeeping over helping kids make smart career choices. Sad.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2011 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 27, 2011

The great Cam blow-off

Today, Cam Newton blew off my colleague, Scott Fowler. I don't care that Scott got blown off, but it says too much about Newton's lack of common sense, leadership and presence that he wouldn't spend five minute being civil.

Let me tell you a little story from last June:

It was at the NBA Combine in Chicago. John Wall -- presumed No. 1 pick, checkered past, the guy who's job involves being a leader/a communicator/accountable -- shows up in the press room. He sits down and chats....and chats...and chats.

He stays there way longer than the alloted time. He exhausts everyone's questions (including those of the Washington Post, whose reporter had every reason to keep asking). He hangs out, watching ESPNU, televising silly drills that will never decide who's picked 30th, versus 50th.

When I heard Newton blew off a simple interview with Fowler today, this is the only thing I thought:

This kid can't be ready for what he's about to face.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2011 at 07:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

Draft well, but that's no longer No. 1

Just a thought on the eve of the Carolina Panthers executing the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft:

          If the top pick in the NFL isn’t a sure-fire quick fix for the Panthers (this is the wrong year to choose No. 1, in the absence of Andrew Luck), then it’s a mistake to assume choosing (probably) ninth and then 19th will turn around the Charlotte Bobcats.

          I’m not dismissing the draft. In fact, you’ll probably get tired of how much I write about the draft between now and late June, because they’ve pinned so much of their future around trading Gerald Wallace for two future firsts and payroll relief.

          I’m an unrepentant draftnik. People who are/were greats covering the NBA – Sam Smith and Dave D’Alessandro, to name two – used to call me like clockwork around 6 p.m. the night before the draft to compare their mocks to mine.

          I’m not blowing my own horn here. I’m instead saying if you work in the Carolinas, covering the NBA, you’re naturally more attuned to the connection between great college basketball and the NBA draft.

           But here’s how things changed: The NBA draft isn’t nearly as important as it once was. Some of you think that’s all about kids turning pro at their first opportunity, but that’s neither the only, nor the biggest, change.

          It’s market forces. There are only 15 spots on an NBA roster and concerted training means players stay viable longer than they once did. No way, for instance, Grant Hill lasts this long in an earlier generation.

          Here’s my point: Derrick Favors and Evan Turner – top-five picks – had very little impact, and I don’t know that they’ll have huge impact the next year or two. That doesn’t mean they were drafted higher than they should have been. It does mean the ability to work into the rotation is a lot tougher than it once was.

          Hey, you can say Larry Brown screwed up, not playing D.J. Augustin or Gerald Henderson, sooner than he did. Maybe some of that was Larry’s nature. I also know that these guys had a lot more to prove than they probably demonstrated initially.

          That speaks to my point: New is fun and exciting, and there will be a lot of hype around choosing two guys in the first 19. But this isn’t a particularly strong draft. And (were you paying any attention to the Summer of LeBron?) the best way in the NBA to make a dramatic improvement is to marshal yourself for a free-agent score.

          Miami did that, obviously. Chicago did that, subtly. And later New Jersey made that in the most subtle way possible. The Nets traded for Deron Williams, but that was really a gamble in free-agency: Wagering that they can re-sign him in a way Utah couldn’t because of their market size and the sexiness of the Nets taking on the Knicks within the boroughs.

          The Bobcats’ best shot at being relevant is a similarly gutsy move. Drafting well is important, no doubt, but what happens with those two picks won’t be nearly as important as what they do over the next two or three years to sell a great young veteran on their vision.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2011 at 06:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

April 25, 2011

NBA calendar works for Higgins

I’m off this week, but wanted to pass on something I raised with Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins recently:

          To the best of Higgins’ knowledge, there’s nothing about the specter of an NBA lockout that would preclude him from dealing away or acquiring a veteran leading up to, or during the draft.

          Rod was a bit taken aback I’d ask the question, until I mentioned that’s different from what Marty Hurney, Higgins’ counterpart with the Carolina Panthers, is experiencing. If Hurney wanted to trade out of that No. 1 overall spot in Thursday’s NFL draft, he could accept only draft picks – not existing player contracts.

          Higgins knows of no such restrictions on what he could do, and that speaks to the difference in the two leagues’ calendars. The NFL holds its draft long after its season ends, and AFTER its free-agency period would have begun, if not for this lockout.

          The NBA holds its draft shortly after the end of its playoffs (June 23 this year). Free-agency wouldn’t begin until July (and won’t, unless there’s a miracle agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement). But in the meantime – the span leading up to the draft – it’s business-as-usual, as far as Higgins knows.

          That could be important, because the Bobcats have two first-round picks: Their own (a lottery pick – mostly likely ninth or 10th – that will be determined May 17) and the 19th pick (from New Orleans, via Portland).

          Maybe the best thing is to keep those picks, but if I’m the Bobcats I’m working the phones – looking for young veterans or to unload a bad contract – and one or both of those picks might be more valuable as a commodity.

          At least that option exists in a way Hurney can’t explore with the same spectrum of options this week.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 25, 2011 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

April 17, 2011

"Positive'' versus "Negative''

I get a bunch of emails about how "negative'' I can be about the Bobcats, and how the Observer in general (Scott Fowler, Tom Sorensen) is negative.

That's wrong, but that's not the point. I wrote a story today about the unique relationship between Paul Silas and his son, Stephen,  the lead assistant. And there were all of five comments in the on-line version. That's sad. It's also predictable. People say they want uplifting stories that inspire. But, sadly, so many really want gossip and fabricated controversy.

Stephen Silas evolving into a viable NBA head coach is a cool story, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to write it. The problem is people keep telling me to tell more of those stories, but it's apparent that's not what you actually want.  

Posted by Observer Sports on April 17, 2011 at 10:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

April 15, 2011

Pick acquired in Wallace trade is No. 19

The pick the Charlotte Bobcats acquired from Portland in the Gerald Wallace trade is No. 19, the NBA has announced. That pick, which originally belonged to New Orleans, will be the second the Bobcats will have in the first round of June's NBA draft. Where the first pick will fall, likely around No. 10, will be determined by the NBA draft lottery on May 17.

Charlotte also has a second-round pick, No. 39 overall.

The first three picks in the draft will be determined by the lottery and the remainder of the “lottery teams” will select in positions 4 through 14 in inverse order of their consolidated standings at the end of the regular season.

The draft order determined so far:

15. Indiana

16. Philadelphia

17. New York

18. Atlanta (To Washington)

19. New Orleans (To Charlotte via Portland)

20. Memphis (To Minnesota via Utah)

21. Portland

22. Denver

23. Orlando (To Houston via Phoenix)

24. Oklahoma City

25. Boston

26. Dallas

27. L.A. Lakers (To New Jersey)

28. Miami (To Chicago via Toronto)

29. San Antonio

30. Chicago


Second Round

31. Minnesota (To Miami)

32. Cleveland

33. Toronto (To Detroit)

34. Washington

35/36. x-New Jersey

35/36. x-Sacramento

37. Detroit (To L.A. Clippers)

38. L.A. Clippers (To Houston)

39. Charlotte

40. Milwaukee

41. Golden State (To L.A. Lakers via New Jersey)

42. Indiana

43. Utah (To Chicago or to Golden State via Chicago)

44. Phoenix (To Chicago or to Golden State via Chicago)

45. Philadelphia (To New Orleans)

46. New York (To L.A. Lakers)

47. Houston (To L.A. Clippers)

48. Atlanta

49. Memphis

50. New Orleans (To Philadelphia)

51. y-Portland

52. z-Denver

53. Orlando

54. Oklahoma City (To Cleveland via Miami)

55. Boston

56. L.A. Lakers

57. Dallas

58. Miami (To L.A. Lakers)

59. San Antonio

60. Chicago (To Sacramento via Milwaukee)

x-Teams that finished the regular season with identical records will select in the second round in the reverse of the order in which they select in the first round. The order may change based on the results of the Draft Lottery.

y-May be conveyed to Detroit via Denver.

z-May be conveyed to Portland or to Detroit.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 15, 2011 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (85)

April 14, 2011

Jackson on Larry Brown's negativity

Remarkably candid quotes by Charlotte Bobcats captain Stephen Jackson on how ex-coach Larry Brown lost the team with his negativity in the preseason:

“When I had my beginning-of-the-season meeting, he basically told me we weren’t going to be good, that we weren’t going to be a playoff team. You know me, I’m not going to accept that from anyone – telling me before we even get to see what happens that we aren’t going to be any good. He lost me there.

 "The captain of your ship being unconfident in his abilities and the team’s abilities, before you even get a chance to play – that kills everything.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on April 14, 2011 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

Diaw: Exercise option; play in France?

Charlotte Bobcats forward Boris Diaw said he would definitely exercise his $9 million player-option for next season. He also said if the lockout draws well into next season, he intends to play for the French pro team he owns, JSA Bourdeaux

Posted by Observer Sports on April 14, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Kwame wants to come back here

Center Kwame Brown is the unrestricted free agent the Charlotte Bobcats would logically want back most. Coach Paul Silas has said he anticipates other teams pursuing Brown, which would drive up his price.

          Who knows what the future holds, but it’s obvious Brown enjoyed his season here and wants to come back.

“I had success here – it’s the first time I played in a while. I saw an opportunity and I had a good time,’’ Brown said after cleaning out his locker the day after the season ended.

          There’s a sense of vindication to this, both for Brown – a former No. 1 overall pick who failed in Washington –and for Bobcats owner Michael Jordan – who drafted Brown while running player-personnel for the Wizards.

“I know I put a lot of pressure on M.J. by coming here. I know it had to be a tough call for him to do that again,’’ Brown said. “I appreciated him and the opportunity.’’

And he greatly enjoyed playing for Silas:

“I think Paul understands me and my temperament. I know what he wants from me. The game slowed down and it was fun.’’

          That’s a dramatic improvement from what he left as a Detroit Piston.

“A year ago, I wasn’t even playing,’’ Brown recalled. “The game is at 7 and I’m there at 3:30 working out, asking coaches why I’m not playing: ‘Can I get a look-see somehow?’ That’s why I wanted to hurt them so bad every time I played them.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on April 14, 2011 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Jordan sure believes in free-agency

I really like a response Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan gave Wednesday, when I asked if he thought Charlotte would be a destination for big-name free agents in the future.

          “Why can’t Charlotte be that destination?’’ Jordan said. “It has been in the past. It was (when the Hornets were here). Why not now? I like to think we have the organization to do that. And I will do everything I can.’’

          Great. I’ve never met a great salesman who didn’t believe, rock-solid, in his product. If there really is a shot at convincing a Chris Paul or a Dwight Howard that he should build his future here, the icon-in-residence has to make the primary pitch. If Jordan doesn’t believe there’s no better NBA market, then why would Mr. Wonderful?

          Having said that, my job is more realistic, less hopeful. I think Jordan knew precisely why I posed that question (and certainly general manager Rod Higgins did). It was Higgins who acknowledged, the day after they traded away Gerald Wallace, that it’s an open question whether (Higgins’ words), Charlotte is a “destination of desire’’ for the superstars.

          Don’t knock Higgins for that; he was admitting the obvious. There are two things those primo free agents typically want – great teammates and a cosmopolitan setting. You combine New York and Amare Stoudemire, and you attract Carmelo Anthony. You combine Miami and Dwyane Wade, and you attract LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

          That’s not to say other teams can’t make free-agency work. Orlando, never confused with Paris, attracted Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Rashard Lewis. There’s something to be said for a Sunbelt city full of golf courses and affordable, attractive housing.

          I sure hope Jordan makes this sale. I’m just not sure a 20-something who wants Manhattan will see our skyline as just as pretty.



Posted by Observer Sports on April 14, 2011 at 12:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)