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February 25, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats' trade exception could come in handy

I have a wide-ranging interview in Sunday’s Observer with Charlotte Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho. One of the things they emphasize in that interview is they don’t intend to do anything panic-driven or short-sighted to make the team cosmetically better between now and the Mar. 15 trade deadline.

            That doesn’t mean the Bobcats would necessarily sit out the trade deadline, which comes a month later than usual due to the lockout delaying the season. The Bobcats would certainly listen to a deal that would send them an asset (a draft pick or a young player) in return for another team or teams borrowing some of their salary-cap flexibility.

            The Oklahoma City Thunder often did that sort of deal when Cho was with that organization. Here’s how such a deal could work, concerning the Bobcats:

            The Bobcats created a $3.5 million trade exception – Shaun Livingston’s salary this season – when they included Livingston’s salary in the June deal that brought the No. 7 pick and Corey Maggette to the Bobcats. That trade exception expires on June 23, a year removed from the day Livingston was dealt to Milwaukee.

            That means the Bobcats could acquire a player with a salary comparable to or smaller than Livingston’s without sending a salary to the other team. The Bobcats’ current payroll is just under the $58 million salary cap, so they’re more than $12 million below a payroll requiring them to pay luxury tax.

            All that’s important this way: Say there’s a team looking to get below the luxury-tax number. (By my count, seven teams are currently above the $70.3 million tax threshold.) Maybe they’d be willing to send a first-round pick to the Bobcats in return for parking a veteran salary on the Bobcats’ payroll. Such a team could even compensate the Bobcats, up to $3 million, for what remains of that veteran’s salary.

            Or say there are two teams that want to make a trade that doesn’t quite conform to cap rules. But that deal would work if a third team would absorb up to $3.5 million in salary. The Bobcats could facilitate that deal in return for some sort of compensation, like a draft pick.

            By my count, the Bobcats are one of just eight NBA teams under the salary cap. I’m thinking that Livingston trade exception could be pretty handy, as they look to pick up an extra draft pick.

            ON THE PICK THEY OWE THE BULLS: I’m often asked about that first-round pick the Bobcats eventually owe the Chicago Bulls, as compensation for acquiring Tyrus Thomas two years ago. According to an NBA document I saw, there are various levels of protection on that pick that could push it out as far as the 2016 draft. The first-round pick the Portland Trail Blazers still owe the Bobcats in the Gerald Wallace deal could be conveyed as early as 2013 and as late as 2016.

            The Bobcats owe the Thunder a second-round pick in 2013.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

February 24, 2012

Bobcats general manger Rich Cho on pain and patience of rebuilding

Rod Higgins and Rich Cho, the Charlotte Bobcats’ top two player-personnel executives, say the 4-28 record at All-Star break won’t change their plan: There won’t be some panic move that eats up major salary-cap space or bargains away assets for a quick-fix.

If you’re wondering why they wouldn’t panic, Cho offers a good answer: Because he’s been there, in a remarkably similar circumstance, when he was No. 2 in the front office of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Let him describe, harkening back to the summer of 2007:

“OKC has the best record in the league right now, but people forget how hard it was when we started out that first year of the rebuild. There are a lot of parallels’’ between that and the Bobcats now, Cho described Wednesday.

“We traded Ray Allen (to Boston) and drafted Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. People forget we won only 20 games that year. We had a 14-game losing streak, an 11-game losing streak and an eight-game losing streak. We started out the season 9-36.

“So we go back into the lottery and draft (Russell) Westbrook. And we start out 3-29. We have another 14-game losing streak and an eight-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak. Wind up the season 23-59.

“So we go back into the lottery and draft James Harden. There’s a whole process and it’s not easy going through this process.’’

Cho’s point: Without a plan and the patience and conviction to stick to it, the Bobcats won’t get markedly better. That plan is about drafting wisely, managing the salary cap and looking for
trades that add draft picks or young prospects.

“Rod and I are definitely on the same page as far as where we are with the team,’’ Cho said. “We’re fortunate to have an owner who is very supportive and on the same page. It’s not easy going through it, but that’s part of the process.’’

What about the criticism in the short run?

“If you don’t have a thick skin, you shouldn’t be in the business,’’ Cho replied.

Much more from Higgins and Cho in Sunday’s Observer about the season so far, coach Paul Silas’s job security, Tyrus Thomas’s struggles and how realistic is it that a big-name free agent would choose to sign with the Bobcats?

Posted by Observer Sports on February 24, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

February 21, 2012

VIDEO: Will the Charlotte Bobcats make a deal before the NBA's trade deadline?

Can fans expect the Charlotte Bobcats to make a trade before the NBA trade deadline? Rick Bonnell discusses that, plus the latest on Gerald Henderson and Tyrus Thomas,with Cinesport's Noah Coslov.


Posted by Observer Sports on February 21, 2012 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

February 17, 2012

NCAA draft deadline is pure hypocrisy

According to Jonathan Givony of the website DraftExpress.com, the NCAA will set an April 10 deadline for college underclassmen to decide whether to enter the NBA draft, thus forfeiting remaining college eligibility.

That means college kids will have all of eight days between the end of the Final Four and that deadline to make a potentially life-changing decision. Ridiculous and grotesquely unfair.

I helped cover the NCAA tournament last season when it was in Charlotte. Every press conference referred to players as “student-athletes,’’ as if that was the most sanctified title a person could receive.

So I ask you: Where else in our society would we hold a kid’s….excuse me, “student-athlete’s’’…decision-making to a higher standard than we would the adults who supervise these kids?

There is no way a college sophomore or junior can make his best decision within eight days of the Final Four. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to audition for NBA teams. It compacts the time to even reach out to NBA front offices for feedback.

It’s no secret what this is really about: In the absence of that NCAA rule, underclassmen would have until June 18 – the NBA’s deadline – to extract their names from the draft process and return to college basketball. Some elite college coaches hated that because they were in limbo between April and June about whether some of their best players were staying or going.

It’s what I call the NCAA’s “Golf Weekend’’ rule, because the coaches were babysitting their current players or half-recruiting potential replacements when they’d rather be in Hilton Head.

What bothers me most about this is how the NCAA restricts these kids, yet lets coaches do whatever is in their best interest, career-wise. An example:

A week before national letter-of-intent day, Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano resigned to become
coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Can you imagine worse timing for the school? Everyone rolled their eyes at Schiano’s departure, but there were no lasting consequences for him.

So it’s acceptable for a coach to ditch the football program a week before landing a recruiting class. But it’s not OK for a 20-year-old to leave the basketball program in limbo an extra few weeks in the spring?

What hypocrisy.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 17, 2012 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

February 16, 2012

Mark Cuban says if Jeremy Lin played in Charlotte, no one would know about him


New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images


Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is good for the NBA because he’s so unfiltered. You need someone that unorthodox to balance a room full of Brooks Brother’s suits at the owners meetings.

So I wasn’t surprised Cuban would tell ESPN of the Jeremy Lin phenomenon: “If it was happening in Charlotte, no one would know.’’

He’s wrong. The Harvard-educated, twice-cut, Asian-American Lin would be a national story the past two weeks whether he played in Sacramento, Portland or -- yes, even Charlotte. But, as Cuban was trying to say, it’s that much bigger because of the juice excelling in New York represents.

“New York is still kind of the mecca of the media for basketball,’’ Cuban added.

Of course it is, and of course the five newspapers that cover the Knicks rev up “Linsanity’’ daily. But Cuban disregards that Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant are on late-night television as much as David Letterman. He also disregards that if point guard Lin was putting up these numbers in Charlotte, the Bobcats would not be that team losing 16 straight.

No one thought Charlotte was an NBA outpost when the Hornets were annually setting home attendance records. Ancient history? Perhaps, but there’s nothing wrong with this basketball market that the right product wouldn’t fix.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

February 14, 2012

VIDEO: Augustin shakes up Bobcats lineup

Does D.J. Augustin's return mean a trip to bench for Kemba Walker? Rick Bonnell says yes, but it's not what you think.


Posted by Observer Sports on February 14, 2012 at 05:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Augustin ready to play for Bobcats

Charlotte Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin plans to play Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the first time Augustin has been available since aggravating a toe injury Jan. 22 in New Jersey.

Augustin looked so good in practice Tuesday that coach Paul Silas said he’s seriously considering starting Augustin against the T’Wolves. That’s a departure from Silas’s original plan, to work Augustin back slowly.

Augustin has suffered from severe inflammation in his right big toe. Tuesday was the first day he has cut and burst off that toe in weeks.

Returning Augustin to the starting lineup would likely make Kemba Walker the backup point guard, rather than revert to a system where rookie Walker plays big minutes at shooting guard. Walker told the Observer about a week ago that he anticipated being a reserve once Augustin returns and he’s fine with that role.

Augustin is the team’s best playmaker and its most reliable shooter, Silas said. His return should perk up an offense that has struggled to shoot 40 percent or reach 80 points in several recent games.

The Bobcats hope to get back shooting guard Gerald Henderson (hamstring strain) by the end of this three-game road trip to Minneapolis, Toronto and Indiana.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

VIDEO: Walker, Maggette combine for 43, but ...

Kemba Walker and Corey Maggette can't get Bobcats past Sixers:

Posted by Observer Sports on February 14, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 13, 2012

Collins: Bobcats losses must be brutal on Jordan

Doug Collins coached Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls and coached for Jordan when Jordan ran the Washington Wizards’ front office.

So now-Philadelphia 76ers coach Collins knows well as anyone what drives Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Collins volunteered Monday morning that a 14-game losing streak must be brutal on a man of Jordan’s makeup.

“The most competitive human being I’ve been around in my life – bar none – is Michael Jordan. I just know from his standpoint, how difficult this is,’’ Collins said.

“The No. 1 thing for him is compete every single moment. I’m sure that’s the message he’s trying to send to this franchise: ‘We do have some young pieces, we’ve had some injuries, but you have to compete every single moment.’ ’’

Collins has a tie to the worst team in NBA history – the nine-win ’72-73 Sixers. They used the resulting No. 1 overall pick to draft Collins.

“To go 9-73, I can’t even fathom it,’’ said Collins. “You lose two or three games in this league and you feel like you’ll never win again.’’

Collins said he felt extra pressure his rookie season, since Philadelphia bore such scars from the preceding season. That dynamic was amplified by a preseason injury.

“I sat out the six weeks prior to training camp,’’ Collins recalled. “My foot was still broken, the doctor told me, (but) I came out of a cast and two days later tried playing.’’

Collins eventually re-fractured his foot and played just 25 games his rookie season.

“ ‘That (next) summer I was so driven to come back and say, ‘I hope they know that’s not the player they’re getting.’ That was very motivating,’’ said Collins, who finished a three-time All-Star over an eight-season career.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on February 13, 2012 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

February 12, 2012

VIDEO: Clippers vs. Bobcats highlights

Posted by Observer staff on February 12, 2012 at 02:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)