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May 31, 2012

Anthony Davis is bummed he won't be a Charlotte Bobcat

               Chicagoan Anthony Davis, who grew up rooting for then-Bull Michael Jordan, wears jersey No. 23 and Air Jordan shoes, is bummed he won’t be a Charlotte Bobcat.

               “A lot of disappointment inside my family. My mom wanted me to go to Charlotte. I have a lot of good friends in Charlotte,’’ Davis said during an appearance on the Dan Patrick radio show.

“At the same time, it wasn’t my call. A lot of guys are disappointed, but they have to move on and make the best out of New Orleans.’’

Davis was talking about the Hornets jumping into the top spot in the draft, via Wednesday’s lottery. The Bobcats, coming off the worst season in NBA history, will pick second. It seems a lock that the Hornets – or any team that had the No. 1 pick – would select Kentucky big man Davis, consensus college player of the year.

Hey, if the kid really wants to play for Bobcats owner Jordan, he should do something about it. Refuse to audition for the Hornets. Say Cajun food is the worst and the Saints (whose owner, Tom Benson, is buying the Hornets) are a bunch of bounty-setting cheaters. And top it off with a pledge that the only way he’d wear teal stripes is if the colors and nickname return to Charlotte.

One problem; from what I know about Davis, he’s way too classy, disciplined and respectful to be a holdout. Ah, well.            

Posted by Observer Sports on May 31, 2012 at 05:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

Reporter in the room: 'No way' NBA draft lottery is fixed

       Mary Schmitt Boyer, a veteran sports writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was one of three media members in the room Wednesday night when the actual drawings were held to determine who got the first three picks in the NBA draft.

               So, Mary, any chance the annual draft lottery is fixed?

               “No way,’’ said Schmitt Boyer, who witnessed the last two lotteries.

               Schmitt Boyer then went through a lengthy and detailed description of the process: How about 30 people – a representative from each participating team, some NBA officials, three media members and a representative of an accounting firm – are sequestered in a room about an hour before the lottery results are announced, to conduct the actual drawing.

               The whole process takes about 10 minutes: The Ping-Pong balls, labeled with numbers, are withdrawn from a briefcase and loaded into a machine for random mixing. The walls of the room are covered with charts, matching each team’s chances with the combination of four balls. How everyone’s cell phones, etc., are confiscated so that no one can communicate the results before the formal announcement.

               Speculation was rampant around Charlotte Thursday that it’s too much of a coincidence that the New Orleans Hornets – still technically owned by the NBA before a sale is completed to Saints owner Tom Benson – had jumped over the Bobcats, into the top spot in the June 28 draft. It seems inevitable the Hornets will choose Kentucky big man Anthony Davis, the prize of this draft.

               Schmitt Boyer finds such speculation far-fetched.

               “They never put those balls out of people’s vision. What happens is never not visible to everyone in that room,’’ Schmitt Boyer described.

               Schmitt Boyer noted that this particular lottery took slightly longer because five sets of numbers had be be drawn to get the top three teams:

        One of the Hornets’ number combinations came up first; a Bobcats combination came up second. The third set of numbers was a second Hornets combination, a duplicate that required a do-over. The fourth draw was another Bobcats combination, a second duplicate. Finally, on the fifth draw, a Washington Wizards combination came up, giving them the third pick and settling the lottery.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 31, 2012 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

May 30, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats' Higgins reacts to getting the No. 2 pick


               The Charlotte Bobcats finished a single spot shy of a franchise player Wednesday night.

               The Bobcats will pick second in the June 28 draft, based on the results of the annual draft lottery. The New Orleans Hornets will select first and it’s a virtual lock the Hornets will choose Kentucky big man Anthony Davis, the game-changer in this draft.

               Asked if it was a given the Bobcats would have chosen Davis – consensus college player of the year – Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said, “It’s hard to say he wouldn’t be the guy.’’

               Now the Bobcats will spread a wider net, in determining who should be No. 2. Is it Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Is it Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson? Higgins said the Bobcats would work out at least six players for the No. 2 spot. He also said they anticipate trade interest in the pick from other teams.

               “Some other teams are going to call us about No. 2,’’ Higgins said. “We’re going to
get some interest there until the pick is called’’ on draft night.

               No. 2 will match the highest draft pick in the Bobcats’ eight seasons. Before their
initlal season in 2004, then coach/general manager Bernie Bickerstaff swung a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that jumped the Bobcats from fourth to second in the draft order. They used that pick to select Connecticut center Emeka Okafor, now with the Hornets.

               Higgins didn’t linger on what might have been. Davis could be a once-a-decade player –
an impact shotblocker/rebounder with an expanding offensive game.

               “What can you do but move on and try to help this basketball team?’’ Higgins said of
the letdown.

               Other possibilities for the No. 2 pick could include Connecticut center Andre Drummond, North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, Florida shooting guard Brandon Beal and Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb.

               Drafting No. 2 expands the Bobcats’ pre-draft workload considerably. As veteran player
agent David Falk described to the Observer recently, this is a “one-player draft’’ where the difference in picks 2 through 8 might be “miniscule.’’

               Under the weighting system the NBA employs, the 7-59 Bobcats (worst single-season
winning percentage in NBA history), had a 25 percent chance of the first pick and a 21.5 percent change of the second pick. They could finish no worse than fourth in the draft order.

                The next big step in draft preparations is the annual combine in Chicago June 6-8. Simultaneously Higgins and general manager Rich Cho (who represented the Bobcats at the lottery) are conducting a coaching search to replace Paul Silas. Higgins said he expects to hire a coach “soon,’’ which he described as the next couple of weeks.

               Higgins confirmed a Yahoo report that Bobcats owner Michael Jordan told Orlando Magic assistant Patrick Ewing he likely would not be getting the job. The Bobcats have interviewed at least eight candidates and are expected to interview at least two more – Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Quin Snyder.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 30, 2012 at 09:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

Charlotte Bobcats finish second -- behind New Orleans Hornets -- for top pick

The Charlotte Bobcats fell one pick short of the big prize, Kentucky big man Anthony Davis. They’ll select second overall in the June 28 draft, based on Wednesday’s annual draft lottery.

               At 7-59, the Bobcats had the worst record in the NBA, in fact the worst winning percentage in league history. They had a 25 percent chance at the top pick – a virtual lock to be Davis.

               Now they’ll pick from a handful of other prospects in a draft where there seems little difference between the next seven players.

               Among those likely to be considered:

               Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson: A physically and mentally tough and experienced player who led the Jayhawks to the national championship game. Toughness was an issue all last season for the Bobcats.

               Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: He plays with great intensity and can be
a superior defender, but he needs to improve his jump-shooting and ballhandling to excel as an NBA small forward.

               Andre Drummond, Connecticut center/forward: He has the model body for an NBA big man, but he did little as a freshman to suggest he’s ready to do this for a living. The Bobcats need help inside, but Drummond is a project for sure.

               Harrison Barnes, North Carolina small forward: One of the better shooters in college
basketball and at 6-8 has good size for his position. But his development seemed to stagnate last season; he needs to be better off the dribble to create his own shot.

               Bradley Beal, Florida shooting guard: Has fine jump-shooting mechanics and is a good
athlete, but needs to extend his shooting range.

               Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut shooting guard: He has a knack for scoring and great length
(a 7-1 wingspan), but he was often passive in his last season with the Huskies.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 30, 2012 at 08:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

May 29, 2012

Jeff Van Gundy believes Charlotte Bobcats tanked last season

ABC/ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes the Charlotte Bobcats, as an organization, tanked last season.

Speaking on a media conference call Tuesday, the former coach of the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets said he believes the organization assembled “a very poor roster by design.’’ Van Gundy also said he wouldn’t reward bad teams with extra chances in Wednesday night’s draft lottery.

“I don’t think the players and the coaching staff (tanked). I think the organization did by not getting the best roster’’ available, Van Gundy said. “You could make the case at any position that they did not have a top-15 player’’ at that position in the league.

Van Gundy said the Bobcats’ “get bad to try to get good’’ strategy is common among NBA teams, but their 7-59 finish last season – worst by winning percentage in league history – wasn’t happenstance.

“What they’re doing, most (front office) people would do. But it’s by design,’’ Van Gundy said, adding he would do away with the weighting system that gives the Bobcats the best chance (25 percent) at the top pick in Wednesday’s 8 p.m. lottery.

“I don’t think you should get extra odds in the lottery for being bad,’’ Van Gundy said. “To consistently reward bad teams with extra (chances) is bad.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on May 29, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

May 25, 2012

Jerry Sloan's age shouldn't detract from his Charlotte Bobcats candidacy

Some of you have emailed or tweeted me saying Jerry Sloan’s age causes you misgivings about whether he’d be right to coach the Charlotte Bobcats.

The man is 70. I don’t think that’s reason to dismiss him as an option.

Sloan is scheduled to meet with Bobcats management today to discuss the job. He’s a Hall of Fame coach who guided the Utah Jazz to two NBA Finals and got the Jazz to the playoffs 18 times. He’s well-known for his teaching skills, particularly in developing big men (for instance, Mark Eaton and Felton Spencer), who weren’t exactly can’t-misses before playing for Sloan.

My intent here is not to advocate Sloan’s candidacy. I don’t know whether he’s the best option. But if he proves to be in every other regard, I wouldn’t let his birth certificate dissuade me from hiring him.

The counter-argument I hear is the Bobcats should hire a young assistant who can grow into the job, kind of the way a former defensive coordinator, John Fox, gave the Carolina Panthers a long run with numerous playoff appearances. In a perfect world, yes, but is it realistic to assume longevity in making this hire?

The Bobcats have had four coaches in their eight-season history. Bernie Bickerstaff lasted three seasons, Sam Vincent one, Larry Brown 2 ½ and Paul Silas 1 ½.

Past performance might not guarantee future results, but that’s a good indication the next coach probably won’t be in the job in five years. So if I knew Sloan was committed to at least three seasons, I’d probably conclude he’d leave the Bobcats far better than he found them.

I’m also intrigued by Sloan’s interest in a rebuilding job others might shun. Sloan wouldn’t be naïve about the challenges or intimidated by them. Experience and security are attractive traits when you’re trying to climb out of a hole as deep as the one the Bobcats are in.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 25, 2012 at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

May 21, 2012

Would blunt, intense Stan Van Gundy be the right fit for the Charlotte Bobcats?

The Charlotte Bobcats hiring Stan Van Gundy as their next coach would be great for me. I suspect the players wouldn’t enjoy him quite so much.

The Orlando Magic fired Van Gundy Monday is what seemed like a foregone conclusion from weeks ago. In a made-for-TV-moment, Van Gundy had told assembled media at a pre-game shoot-around that he knew superstar center Dwight Howard wanted him fired. Howard, not privy to what Van Gundy just said, sauntered up to his coach, theatrically embraced him, and asked where all this speculation started that he was railroading the coach.

Watching the look of shock on Howard’s mug, when he heard what Van Gundy just said, was classic. But it left Magic management with little option but to consider this a “Stan-or-Dwight, one’s got to go’’ dynamic. Booting the coach, even one who won 66 percent of his Magic games, was easier than further alienating the best big man in the NBA.

Van Gundy is a media joy – candid, available, articulate on subjects wide-and-far. I’d love to cover him, just to get 20 minutes a day to talk hoops, coaching, underclassman eligibility or the economy.

But the things that make Van Gundy a winner – intensity, persistence, a perfectionist’s demands – can grate on players over time.

Sports Illustrated annually does an anonymous survey of NBA players. This season one of SI’s questions was which coach would you want to play for least? Van Gundy topped the list, at 22 percent of respondents.

I bet Van Gundy couldn’t care less about that. He’d rather be respected than liked, and that quality makes him all the more worthy of respect.

The Bobcats interviewed Van Gundy once before, in 2007, before ultimately hiring Sam Vincent. I would think they’d want to interview him again, but I’m not sure they’ll get the chance. I hear indications Van Gundy might sit out next season, recharge, then re-enter the coaching market for the 2013-14 season.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 21, 2012 at 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Nate McMillan in town to interview with Charlotte Bobcats

Probably the most prominent name attached to the Charlotte Bobcats’ coaching search – former N.C. State star Nate McMillan – will be in Charlotte tonight and Tuesday to interview with Bobcats management, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to the Observer.

The Bobcats were also set to interview assistant coach Stephen Silas Monday. Silas served as lead assistant to his father, Paul, whose contract was not renewed last month.

McMillan was fired in March as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, following a 42-point road loss to the New York Knicks. He was 266-269 as coach in Portland and preceded that with a 212-183 record as coach of the then-Seattle Supersonics.

Despite the end, McMillan had strong seasons in Portland, winning 54 games in the 2008-09 season and 50 in the 2009-10 season. He told the Observer last month that he had interest in the Bobcats situation.

He certainly wants another coaching job.

“I’ve never been fired. I’ve never been cut, and this was the first time I have been without a team,’’ McMillan told the Seattle Times after his firing. “I’ve never been out here before where I’m not working…To be fired, it’s just a word that is hard to swallow.’’

McMillan played 12 seasons in the NBA, mostly at point guard. His No. 10 jersey was retired by the then-Sonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder.)

McMillan does still have a coaching gig of sorts; for the second straight Olympics he will serve as an assistant on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Team USA staff.

McMillan was dealt a bad hand this season; in training camp shooting gurd Brandon Roy retired and center Greg Oden, the former No. 1 pick, had a setback in his recovery from knee surgery. Around the time the Blazers fired McMillan, they purged the roster, trading ex-Bobcat Gerald Wallace to New Jersey and cutting Oden.

McMillan is known for being quite firm for holding players accountable. Bobcats management will have to decide if that approach is best for a young team whose confidence was beaten up by a 7-59 season.

Clearly McMillan’s playmaker experience could come in handy in tutoring Kemba Walker in the nuances of NBA point-guard play.

McMillan’s local ties – he grew up in Raleigh and then played for the Wolfpack – would come be helpful to a team still trying to establish itself in the Charlotte marketplace.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 21, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

May 16, 2012

Kyrie Irving speaks highly of Nate Tibbetts, Bobcats coaching candidate

    I don't know whether Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Nate Tibbetts is ready to be an NBA head coach, but I do now appreciate why the Charlotte Bobcats thought enough of him to bring him in for an interview.
    Tibbetts was the first guy former Duke star Kyrie Irving thanked at the press conference Tuesday to announce Irving was NBA rookie of the year.
  "I'd like to thank the coaches, .. coach Tibbetts and coach (Byron) Scott,'' Irving began.    
    "Coach Tibbetts would pull me over at the start of the season and I was always such a shy guy, all I did was come into practice. I was here three hours early, getting my shots up because I was so nervous to come in and I wanted to make everything perfect...
    "Coach Tibbetts told me what to do and what not to do every single day after practice...He told me to work hard at my profession and be the best every day.''
    Like I said, I don't know enough about Tibbetts to say if he's ready. But Irving's quotes suggest traits -- teacher, patient, encouraging -- that the next Bobcats coach will need in what figures to be a challenging rebuild.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 16, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

May 14, 2012

Agent David Falk: Huge gap between Anthony Davis and the rest of the draft

               Agent David Falk has represented some of the best NBA players ever, including center Patrick Ewing, scoring guard Allen Iverson and now-Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.

               So he knows the draft, and Falk says the 2012 draft will fall off precipitously after a single pick.

               “This is a one-player draft,’’ Falk told the Observer Monday, referring to Kentucky freshman big man Anthony Davis. “Picks two through eight, there’s not a lot of separation. There’s just not a lot of difference between (Michael Kidd-)Gilchrist, (Andre) Drummond or (Harrison) Barnes.

               “A lot of teams will be looking to trade down because the difference from two through eight is miniscule.’’

               After finishing with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, the 7-59 Bobcats will have the most chances in the May 30 draft lottery. But that still gives them only a 25 percent chance at the top pick. The draft is June 28 in Newark, N.J.

               Falk, who no longer represents Jordan, said the Bobcats did the right thing by deconstructing the team that went to the playoffs in 2010 with Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. But now, Falk said, the Bobcats have to get lucky, just the way the San Antonio Spurs were in getting the top pick when Tim Duncan was available in 1997.

               Falk said Jordan has always been a risk-taker, as in when he tried to play minor-league baseball during a hiatus from his NBA career. Falk said this was the right risk, as opposed to limping along with a veteran team that was swept out of its only playoff appearance by the Orlando Magic.

               “This process needed to happen,’’ Falk said. “They’re not trying to run on a patched-up tire. Now they’re getting a new tire.

               “Step one is admitting you’re bad. But the good news is, in the NBA if you get to draft that one guy and you sign a decent free agent, you’re two-thirds of the way there’’ to viable.

               Falk runs a relative small business now, with about a dozen clients. His two first-round prospects in the June draft are former Duke freshman Austin Rivers and former Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 14, 2012 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)