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July 30, 2011

Stray thoughts on lockout, etc.

-- Some of you have asked me what's the significance of FIBA not clearing Bismack Biyombo to sign an NBA contract. It's about money and leverage. That Spanish team doesn't mind losing Biyombo to the Charlotte Bobcats, but they want every bit of a buyout of about $1.4 million to release him.

The Spanish Federation and, by extension, FIBA is backing the team. So Biyombo and the Bobcats will eventually have to pay up to get this resolved.

This is the pitfall of using high picks on International players. But as Dirk Nowitzki, the Gasol brothers and Tony Parker all demonstrate, foreigners can have huge impact on an NBA team's success.

-- I think the NBA was wise to compromise about letting players go overseas during an extended lockout. I doubt the NBA could have done much to stop that, and the deal they cut with FIBA secured the two most important things -- that overseas contracts get voided at the end of a lockout and players assume any risk associated with injury.

-- College scouting would seemingly be one of the few aspects of basketball operations not affected by the lockout. However, I'm told NBA scouts have been barred from attending practices, on the off chance they'd run into current NBA players back at their alma maters.

Essentially, teams have been told they can scout only events open to the general public (as in games, not practices). The scouts I know find practices important in evaluating players' work habits and how they interact with coaches.

One scout I spoke with said it's absurd the NBA doesn't trust its player-personnel folk to practice common sense in these situations. As he put it, "So Mark Cuban can appear on the ESPYs with his players, but I can't do my job on college campuses?''

The man makes a point.

-- Did you notice the Carolina Panthers signed all but one of their draft picks by the start of training camp, and that included No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton?

The NFL just discovered how handy a rookie pay scale is. The concept, which the NBA has used for years, limits rookie salaries. It also narrows what's negotiable in a rookie contract. Thus, there will be fewer holdouts among rookies.

The NBA almost never has a rookie miss training camp. Now that should be true for the NFL as well.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2011 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 29, 2011

FIBA denies Biyombo clearance

My story in tomorrow's Observer on FIBA turning down the NBA's request, concerning Bobcats draft pick Bismack Biyombo:

By Rick Bonnell


            The NBA lockout isn’t the only thing keeping the Charlotte Bobcats from signing their top draft pick.

            FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, recently declined to provide the NBA clearance to sign forward Bismack Biyombo, the Observer has learned. Biyombo, drafted seventh overall in June, is still under contract to a Spanish team and the Spanish Federation is enforcing that contract.

            In an email reply to an Observer inquiry, FIBA spokesman Andrew Robotham wrote:

“The NBA has indeed requested a Letter of Clearance (LoC) for the Player Bismack Biyombo. In accordance with the NBA/FIBA Agreement, FIBA has contacted the Spanish Federation in order to obtain the LoC.

“However, the Spanish Basketball Federation refused to issue the LoC in view of the fact that the Player is still under contract with a team in Spain. ‘’

That Spanish team, Fuenlabrada, reportedly has Biyombo under contract for the next two seasons and expects a buyout of about $1.4 million to release Biyombo to the Bobcats. Though Biyombo expressed great confidence he’d be a Bobcat once the lockout ends ( “I’m going to play in the NBA next season for sure, 100 percent,’’ he said the day after the draft), FIBA’s recent action suggests things could get sticky.

A mediation session between Fuenlabrada and Biyombo’s representatives was scheduled for early July. The results of that session have not been made public.

The Observer was unsuccessful in reaching Biyombo’s agent, Igor Crespo, for comment. Bobcats officials are barred by the NBA from commenting on their players during the lockout, under the threat of a million-dollar fine.

While FIBA’s recent action could complicate things, this can’t come as much of a surprise to the Bobcats. When asked about Biyombo’s contract situation on draft night, general manager Rich Cho commented, “He’s got a dispute with his Spanish team. It’s something we’ll have to address. It’s a little bit complicated.’’

Signability often makes drafting international players more complicated than drafting U.S. college players. It’s commonplace these days for foreign teams to include buyout clauses in player contracts, in case those players develop into NBA prospects. In most cases, an NBA team can pay no more than $500,000 toward a buyout, leaving the player to pay the rest. Under the rookie pay scale the NBA has used in recent seasons, Biyombo would make about $2.4 million next season as the seventh pick.

This is a complicated time in the relationship between the NBA and FIBA, due to the NBA lockout. Many prominent NBA players -- notably the Nets’ Deron Williams and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant -- have begun discussions with teams overseas about playing there if the lockout drags into the regular season. Each of those players would have to receive a letter of clearance from FIBA, to override their existing NBA contracts.

While it seems unlikely the NBA could keep players from playing elsewhere in a lockout, the legal arguments haven’t yet been tested with FIBA.

The Bobcats have already invested heavily in Biyombo’s potential as a shotblocker and rebounder. They made a draft-night trade with Sacramento and Milwaukee, giving up Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and the 19th pick, to acquire the draft rights to Biyombo, a Congo-born big man.

Cho, hired last month as No. 2 in basketball operations behind Rod Higgins, strongly advocated the acquisition of Biyombo.


Posted by Observer Sports on July 29, 2011 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

July 28, 2011

Any good questions for Tyrus?

Charlotte Bobcats forward Tyrus Thomas would like to have a conversation with the fans.

He's reaching out, through one of his marketing representatives, for questions you might have. They approached me, so here goes:

What would you like to know, that he might offer, about being a pro athlete? If you're curious, then email your questions to me at rbonnell@charlotteobserver.com.

We'll look to post Thomas' responses in future blogs.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2011 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

I loved Kasay, but...

I'm curious, and I think this is a valid question:

Is John Kasay, Gerald Wallace, Dell Curry or Muggsy Bogues the best "original player'' in Charlotte's three tries at major-league expansion?

Does Kasay's longevity take it? Is it unique that Wallace became an All-Star? Dell and Muggsy have become distinctive NBA characters, based on their separate, but both legitimate, legacies as survivors.

Answers, please: With descriptions. I'm thinking it's a great bar bet....

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2011 at 12:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

July 26, 2011

Temple headed to Italy

Garrett Temple will become the first Charlotte Bobcat to commit to playing overseas next season, in the wake of the lockout.

Temple's agent, John Hamilton, told the Observer today that Temple is signing with Casale, a team in Northern Italy. It's a one-year deal with no out, should the lockout expire. Temple is taking this option in part due to the lockout, but primarily for the chance at steady playing time.

"We were not actually pursuing overseas, because we felt he had such a good situation in Charlotte,'' Hamilton said. "But this will let him really focus on what he needs to do to be a rotation play, and that's play steady point guard.

"Obviously the lockout was another element'' in the decision. "We would not be doing it otherwise. But this was the right opportunity, given the lockout.''

Temple was signed by the Bobcats midway through last season as a third point guard behind D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston. At 6-6, his best attribute was as a long defender. He was still adapting to being a playmaker, after playing mostly shooting guard.

Despite being a free agent, Temple had been a constant at off-season workouts at the Bobcats' training facility before the lockout ended all contact between the players and team personnel.

Under rules of the lockout, the Bobcats management and coaches can't discuss current players.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 26, 2011 at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 25, 2011

Brown on T'Wolves' list

Interesting, but hardly surprising, news that former Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown will interview for the vacant Minnesota Timberwolves' coaching job.


Brown is extremely close to Timberwolves general manager David Kahn, going all the way back to when Brown coached UCLA and Kahn was a reporter on UCLA's student newspaper. Brown had mentored Kahn through much of his career.

If Brown does get the job, he'd be very excited about coaching Timberwolves All-Star (and former UCLA star) Kevin Love. Brown told Love before the 2008 draft that he was that best player available in that class.

Since then, Love has expanded his game where he's equally adept at grabbing rebounds or making threes, and is a great passer. Brown is all about versatility, so Love is definitely his kind of player.

Brown isn't the only ex-Bobcats coach to interview for the opening. Bernie Bickerstaff, the Bobcats first coach and general manager, has also spoken with Kahn. Bickerstaff is currently lead assistant to Portland Trailblazers coach Nate McMillan.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 25, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 22, 2011

"Cheap?'' Try another word

Frequently in recent months, I've heard talk-radio callers describe the Charlotte Bobcats as "cheap'' for trading away co-captains Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, primarily for draft picks.

Now, I respect it if you think those deals were wrong-headed. But "cheap?'' No. That word is laughably simplistic, in describing what happened. Let's look at some numbers, particularly some released by the NBA late Friday:

Even though there's not currently a collective-bargaining agreement -- and a resulting salary cap -- the NBA still did the league-wide audit that set a salary cap figure under the old system. The league announced its 30 teams collectively generated $3.643 billion last season in what is defined as "basketball-related income.'' That's not every cent of revenue, but it's the vast majority, and how the cap is determined.

The league also announced that while revenue was up 4.8 percent last season, player salaries rose by that same 4.8 percent. Also, the league said player salaries represented 57 percent of basketball-related revenue.

(The lockout is, in part, about the fact that that number needs to be closer to 50 percent of BRI).

Anyway, the league only provides those figures league-wide. I think it would be fascinating to see what the Bobcats generated in revenue, relative to their player-payroll. They don't release those figures, although we know they paid over $60 million in player salaries for the 2010-11 season.

My point: 57 percent league-wide is a high number, and I'd bet a lot that $60 million-plus far exceeds the 57 percent of the revenue the Bobcats generated. Michael Jordan is running this team in the red, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

We don't have to run any fundraisers for Jordan, and he's not looking for anyone's sympathy. But the idea that rebuilding, by trading Wallace and Jackson, is an effort to be "cheap,'' is so knee-jerk and simplistic, it's particularly unfair.

You can question whether they spend money well (trading for Gana Diop, exercising a team option on Adam Morrison), but I see no evidence they're unwilling to spend.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 22, 2011 at 06:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

July 19, 2011

Kemba Walker on lockout

Some interesting comments from Charlotte Bobcats rookie Kemba Walker on what he's doing during the NBA lockout, in an interview with ESPN's Andy Katz:


Posted by Observer Sports on July 19, 2011 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

10 key dates on Bobcats sked

Nov. 4, vs. Bucks: Stephen Jackson will be pumped against former team.

Nov. 16 at Cleveland: Bobcats first look at top pick (and former Duke player) Kyrie Irving

Nov. 21 vs. Portland: Homecoming for Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton.

Nov. 27 at Sacramento: Three games in four nights out west.

Dec. 9 vs. Lakers: Can the Bobcats continue owning Kobe and Co.?

Dec. 17 vs. Golden State: Stephen Curry's homecoming.

Dec. 26 vs. Hornets: Wouldn't Chris Paul look good under Bobcats' tree?

Dec. 28 vs. Miami: Come boo the evil triangle...I mean the Heat's big three.

Jan. 18 at Orlando: Start of nine of 11 on the road.

Mar 23 vs. Dallas: Only Charlotte appearance for defending champs.


Posted by Observer Sports on July 19, 2011 at 03:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

No national TV for Bobcats

Hardly a shocker, but the Charlotte Bobcats have no appearances on ESPN, TNT or ABC in the 2011-12 season. That's what happens when you blow it up to start over with youth.

And speaking of blowing it up, did you notice the home opener will be against Stephen Jackson's new team, the Milwaukee Bucks? Somebody at the NBA has a sense of humor. What are the odds of Jackson getting T'd up in that game? I make it a 5:4 proposition.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 19, 2011 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)