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June 29, 2012

Kentucky coach John Calipari's emphatic endorsement of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

    You would expect Kentucky coach John Calipari to endorse his players to the NBA. But Calipari expressed abundant conviction Thursday that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would have big impact as the Charlotte Bobcats’ No. 2 overall pick.

               Calipari, to some Kentucky media, at the draft:

    “I think he could be the face of their organization. He’s 18 years old. He’s the youngest player here. So now all the sudden you bring a fierce competitor who’s going to drive practices up, that wants to win in the worst way, will do anything to win. That’s what a winner’s about.

    “Then all of a sudden that franchise goes up to 40 wins, and then they go to 50 wins, and then in his fifth and sixth years, they’re one of those final four teams competing for a championship. Now you’ve got to put a lot of pieces with him, but he is a winner. That’s what he does.’’

    Calipari on how Kidd-Gilchrist will handle the inevitable losing:

    “He’ll figure it out and he’ll drag them farther than they should go, and he’ll go crazy that they’re losing. It will rip him apart, but that’s the only way you get better. When you get used to losing, you accept losing. He’ll never get used to it.”

Posted by Observer Sports on June 29, 2012 at 06:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Bobcats introduce Ben Gordon

Ben Gordon addressed the media on Friday in Charlotte after the Bobcats acquired the guard along with a future first-round pick for Corey Maggette. Gordon was the 2005 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Posted by Observer staff on June 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 28, 2012

Bobcats take Kidd-Gilchrist second overall

               After spending hours considering trade offers, the Charlotte Bobcats used the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to select Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

               That came after the New Orleans Hornets selected Kidd-Gilchrist’s college teammate, Anthony Davis, first overall. This was the first time in NBA history that the first two picks came from the same school.

               Kidd-Gilchrist is known as an intense defender, somewhat similar to former Bobcat Gerald Wallace. However, he’s quite limited as a jump-shooter and ballhandler for the small forward position.

               The Bobcats were deep in trade discussions in the hours leading to the draft, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, among others. The Cavs, picking fourth, were apparently looking to trade up to the second pick to select Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. Beal went third overall to the Washington Wizards.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 28, 2012 at 07:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (48)

June 27, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats' Higgins, Cho talk about draft, trade and Ben Gordon

Some headlines from the pre-draft media availability with Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho.

--They said Tuesday’s trade that sent small forward Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons and acquired combo guard Ben Gordon was irrelevant to how they would use their first-round pick. I take that to mean having Gordon doesn’t eliminate Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal as an option at No. 2. And likewise, losing Maggette doesn’t obligate them to draft a small forward like North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes or Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Higgins said it would be “shortsighted’’ to let the current roster dictate how to use such a high pick. He said there are other avenues, such as trades or free-agency, that could be used to fill the hole at small forward.

--Both Cho and Higgins went out of their way to say they highly value the No. 2 pick. Cho said it would take something “really enticing’’ to trade down or out of that spot.

--Higgins and Cho were both excited about Gordon in a way that sounded more than perfunctory. Higgins called Gordon “a very valuable player to help us.’’ Cho called Gordon a “consummate professional’’ and a “big-time worker who will mesh well with (coach) Mike Dunlap’s plan.’’

Dunlap said his biggest desire regarding the roster was better 3-point shooting. Gordon is a career 41 percent shooter from 3-point range.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 27, 2012 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Bobcats get a do-over, with a trade like the Hinrich near-miss in 2010

Sometimes you get a do-over. Apparently that happened for the Charlotte Bobcats Tuesday when they traded Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for Ben Gordon and a future first-round

You might recall from my Sunday column in the Observer a conversation I had with Bobcats vice chairman Curtis Polk. Polk was describing various uses for space under the salary cap, and he relayed this anecdote:

In the summer of 2010 – the great LeBron James free-agent class – the Bulls were offering a first-round pick to any team willing to absorb guard Kirk Hinrich’s remaining contract. The Bobcats wanted both that pick and what Hinrich could still contribute.

“Hinrich was still a hell of a player at the time. We were dying,’’ Polk recalled. “We wanted a guy like Hinrich because we weren’t re-signing Raymond Felton, and we couldn’t do it because we had no flexibility.’’

Instead, the Washington Wizards made the deal with Chicago.

“The Wizards ended up with the 17th pick, who ended up being (French big man) Kevin Seraphin,’’ Polk described. “He had a heck of a second half of the season when they got rid of JaVale McGee.’’

The decision to accept the $25 million-plus contract for Gordon – a guy who can still hit big 3s, a Bobcats weakness – and get a future first-round pick from Detroit greatly resembles what the Bobcats wanted to do with the Bulls, but couldn’t.

Nice when you get a second chance to employ a strategy.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

June 25, 2012

Syracuse's Dion Waiters this draft's mystery man

031512syracuse_jg10Syracuse’s Dion Waiters has become this NBA draft’s out-of-sight/out-of-mind guy.

Waiters, a 6-4, 215-pound shooting guard, basically dropped off the radar when he unexpectedly left Chicago during the pre-draft combine. He hadn’t completed all the physicals and weights-and-measures they do in Chicago and he cancelled individual workouts later.

It’s been widely reported he dropped off the grid because the Phoenix Suns have promised to draft him 13th. The Suns have long had a reputation as a player-friendly franchise in a great Sunbelt city. Apparently Waiters bought that pitch enough to stop marketing himself to other NBA teams.

That doesn’t mean he’ll end up a Sun. I think there’s a strong possibility teams like Portland (picks 6 and 11), Golden State (7) and Toronto (8) will consider drafting him without workouts. A scout I know believes Waiters could be the second-most talented player in this draft.

He’s got great upper-body strength, he’s explosive off the dribble and he makes big jump shots. I think the Dwyane Wade comparisons I’ve heard are overstated, but at minimum he’ll be a better, stronger version of Keyon Dooling.

I think the Suns realize sitting at No. 13 no longer gets them Waiters. Phoenix is looking into trading up, and it will be interesting to see just how far they’d have to move to get their man.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 25, 2012 at 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

June 23, 2012

A Bobcats-Cavs swap of picks makes sense

               After calling some sources with lottery picks Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers swap draft picks in Thursday’s draft. In that sort of a deal, the Bobcats would pick fourth and 24th and the Cavs would move up to No. 2.

               From the day he became part of this front office, general manager Rich Cho has talked about gathering extra assets, and that generally means extra first-round picks. It’s a strategy the Oklahoma City Thunder leaned on when Cho was part of that front office.

               Generally I’m not a fan of swapping quality for quantity in the NBA draft, but this might be the exception. Three long-time draft scouts all told me roughly the same thing; that after Kentucky’s Anthony Davis goes No. 1 to New Orleans, there won’t be a big difference between the next three to five players chosen.

               I think picks 2 through 4 will be some order of Kansas’s Thomas Robinson, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Florida’s Bradley Beal. (Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could fall to, and perhaps past, the Sacramento Kings at No. 5).

               Say, for the sake of argument, that the Bobcats don’t have a huge preference between Robinson, Barnes or Beal. Coming off a 7-59 season, the Bobcats have holes to fill everywhere, so adding a second first-round pick could be worth dropping from 2 to 4. Cho’s Thunder sure made out well in 2008, picking Serge Ibaka 24th overall.

               Why might the Cavs do this? Just a guess, but I wonder if Cleveland has a strong preference for one player (Beal?) who they see the Washington Wizards drafting third. Cleveland has a potential superstar in point guard Kyrie Irving and a young big man in Tristan Thompson. A wing scorer is logically next on the to-do list.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 23, 2012 at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

June 19, 2012

Some Day II thoughts on Mike Dunlap and the Charlotte Bobcats

VpOgx.Em.138The Charlotte Bobcats face a lot of scrutiny today for hiring St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap as their head coach. That’s understandable – when you elevate a college assistant to NBA head coach, it causes fans to scratch their heads.

I have an open mind to this being a good hire because Dunlap comes so strongly recommended by Denver Nuggets coach George Karl. Dunlap worked two seasons for Karl, drawing raves for his defensive principles. Along the way Dunlap became tight with former Karl assistant Tim Grgurich, and I hear Grgurich might end up on the Bobcats’ bench. That would be a great move.

I get all the attention on Dunlap, but the next five seasons won’t rise or fall on this coaching hire.  How the Bobcats use the No. 2 overall pick June 28 and how they employ up to $21 million in salary-cap space will be far more important than which plays Dunlap runs or whether the players like the way he dresses.

It’s brutally tough to win in the NBA without stars. A glance at the rosters of the Thunder, Heat, Celtics and Spurs shows why those four teams advanced to the conference finals. And the Bobcats are as starless right now as any NBA team in recent memory.

People talk about what a genius Phil Jackson is, but he’s never coached an NBA team that wasn’t loaded with talent. Had Jackson coached the Bobcats, he would have had the same miserable experience last year that Paul Silas did. Except Jackson wouldn’t consider doing such a thing.

Dunlap is getting this chance to grow with an organization, and at 54, I’m sure he’s thankful for that. But if they don’t get him some help on that roster, and quickly, he’ll fail. As would Jerry Sloan or Brian Shaw or any of those flashier names once connected to this job.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 19, 2012 at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

June 11, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats narrow coaching search to Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw and Quin Snyder

               The Charlotte Bobcats have narrowed their coaching search to three candidates: Former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Quin Snyder, an NBA source confirmed Monday night.

               ESPN.com first reported those three as the Bobcats’ finalists from an original list of 10 candidates.

               The Bobcats are expected to hold a second round of interviews soon for Shaw and Snyder, so that each of them can speak with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. Jordan was present in Salt Lake City when the team initially interviewed Sloan.

               The Bobcats are hiring a replacement for Paul Silas, after the team announced in late April that Silas’ contract would not be renewed following 1 ½ seasons as coach.        

               Sloan, 70, is a Hall of Fame coach who twice got the Jazz to the NBA Finals. Both times the Jazz lost to Bulls teams starring  Jordan.

               Sloan coached 19 Jazz teams to the playoffs. His regular-season record (he also coached the Bulls three seasons from 1979 to 1982) is 1221-803, a 60.3 winning percentage.

               Sloan has been out of coaching 1 ½ seasons after resigning from the Jazz. He’s made a point of saying he’s not deterred about taking over a Bobcats team that went 7-59 last season.

               Neither Shaw nor Snyder has been a head coach in the NBA. However, Snyder coached Missouri previously and was also a head coach in the NBA’s development league.

               Shaw was the last of 10 candidates interviewed, as the Bobcats waited for the Pacers to be eliminated by the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. If Shaw gets the job, he’d likely install the Triangle offense he learned while playing and coaching for Phil Jackson. Jordan ran the Triangle while playing for Jackson as a Bull.

               Shaw might also be a candidate for the coaching opening with the Orlando Magic once that franchise hires a new general manager. Shaw has deep ties to the Magic organization.

               Snyder, a former Duke point guard, is a bit of a wild card in this process, as he’s not currently lead assistant with the Lakers. However, he’s a high-intellect guy who’s known to be an innovator offensively. The Bobcats were among the NBA’s worst teams last season in offense, as measured by both points-per-game and field-goal percentage.

               The Bobcats hope to have a coach hired in time for him to have input on what to do with the No. 2 overall pick in the June 28 draft. However, team management said from the start of the process that it felt no time pressure to make a hire.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (65)

Glenn Perry -- an MVP team doctor

Let me tell you a story about Dr. Glenn Perry:

               This was so long ago it was inconceivable the Hornets would leave Charlotte. Alonzo Mourning broke his thumb and opponents kept chopping down on it, busting up the healing.

               Perry told Zo that if he didn’t see signs of healing in a week, Perry would shut down Mourning for the rest of the season. Zo being Zo, he said no one shuts him down with a playoff spot at stake.

               So Perry told Zo, you’re not going to threaten your career for a handful of games. This is about us protecting you.

               Zo listened. So much so that years after the trade to Miami, Mourning made Heat medical staff phone up Perry for second opinions. Twenty-four years after signing on as Hornets team physician, Perry is retiring as primary doctor for the Charlotte Bobcats.

               Many of you tell me no one in Bobcats management has a clue. I get that emotional reaction. But Glenn Perry is the best team physician in the NBA and has been for a long time. Call that fortunate coincidence, but it’s true.

               Another Glenn Perry story:

               In 2003 Ed Tapscott was the first and only employee of the later-to-be-named Bobcats. He invited me into his office, which wasn’t an office at all: An empty space at Hive Drive with no desk or chairs. Just a phone. We sat on the carpet.

Tapscott threw me the media guide from the Hornets’ last season in Charlotte. He asked if there’s anyone he should hire.

               “Only one certainty,’’ Tapscott declared. “I’m hiring Glenn Perry ASAP.’’

               I’d heard Tapscott was smart. That proved it.

                High-level sports medicine is different from medicine in general. It’s as much psychology as surgery. An alpha male trying to keep playing is absurdly different from a grandma needing a hip replacement. So way back when, Perry convinced the Miller Clinic (his former employer) to build space for a separate sports medicine center.

               At the time it was a radical concept. Now it’s standard practice. The needs of the athlete – whether it’s Tyrus Thomas with a torn meniscus or the mom with a torn muscle from a yoga class – is different. Treating those unique ailments and mindsets has become a specialty and Perry understood it was a growing practice in a health-conscious society.

               For much of the last quarter-century Perry has done surgery all morning, seen patients all afternoon, and then shown up at Hornets or Bobcats home games in case something happens. In the meantime he’s had a second family, and I can’t imagine how he’s juggled all this this for so long.

               One more Glenn Perry story: In 2009 I scheduled an appointment because a cramp in my calf wouldn’t go away. I was coughing a lot, but that’s typical of my asthma in the summer.

               One minute we were joking about the Bobcats and the next minute Glenn was running out of the examination room, shouting “Stat!’’ because he diagnosed a blood clot headed toward my heart.

               Glenn might have saved my life that day, but that’s not only why I’m writing this.  It’s because anyone who walks through his doors gets that expertise and care daily.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 11, 2012 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)