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April 30, 2013

Bobcats receive permission to interview Cleveland assistant Nate Tibbetts

    The Charlotte Bobcats asked for and received permission to interview Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching job, the Cavs confirmed Tuesday.

            Tibbetts, 35, was retained by the Cavaliers after they fired head coach Byron Scott and replaced him with Mike Brown last week. Tibbetts also interviewed with the Bobcats last spring before they hired Mike Dunlap.

            Dunlap lasted a single 21-61 season in Charlotte before the Bobcats fired him last week.

            Before joining Scott’s staff, Tibbetts was a successful development-league coach. He took the Tulsa, Okla., franchise to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons before coming to Cleveland in December of 2011.

            The Bobcats place a priority on player-development and Tibbetts got high marks in that regard from Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. The day Irving was named rookie of the year last spring, he singled out Tibbetts for the constant attention and advice Tibbetts delivered.

            “Coach Tibbetts would pull me over at the start of the season. I was always a shy guy, all I did was come to practice,’’ said Irving, a former Duke star. “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.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2013 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

April 29, 2013

Relocation vote on Sacramento Kings a stunner if you recall Charlotte precedent

    I’m stunned an NBA relocation committee voted unanimously to recommend against the sale and move of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.

            This is certainly not how things worked in 2002 under similar circumstances with the Charlotte Hornets. Back then Ray Wooldridge and George Shinn were no more popular among the other owners than the Maloofs are now. New Orleans wasn’t nearly as solid a landing spot as Seattle would be this time.

            Yet the Hornets were allowed to exit Charlotte, and the only thing Charlotte got was an indication from commissioner David Stern that an expansion team could be in the offing. Eventually, after some tough negotiations on an uptown-arena deal, the Bobcats came to be in 2004.

            I got to know many people in the NBA power structure through covering the arena mess and here’s what most of them said: No matter how unsavory Woodridge/Shinn might have been, no matter how healthy an NBA market Charlotte was, owners always side with owners.

            Owners side with owners out of fear someday they’ll be the ones leveraging a city for a new arena. The less portable a franchise appears, the less valuable that franchise becomes. Seemingly if the Maloofs are forced to sell only to a Sacramento-committed buyer, the Kings’ value is diminished.

            Best I can tell, there’s only one difference between how Sacramento and Charlotte city governments behaved:

    Sacramento mayor (and former NBA point guard) Kevin Johnson was proactive throughout the process in offering an alternative to moving to Seattle.

            Then Charlotte mayor (now North Carolina governor) Pat McCrory was more reactive. McCrory showed up in New York at the 11th hour of the relocation process, pitching that the city would build a new arena, while stating (understandably) that negotiating with Wooldridge was getting nowhere.

            That’s when Stern came up with his split-the-baby tactic: Give the Hornets permission to move, while opening dialogue on an expansion team for Charlotte. Does the NBA now point Seattle toward expansion? Because it sure looks like the money and momentum are there for Seattle to finally replace the SuperSonics.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2013 at 07:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Michael Jordan's house in Illinois for sale

Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan's nine-bedroom, 15-bathroom mansion in Highland Park, Ill., is for sale. It has seven acres, a putting green, a full-court basketball floor, and three climate-controlled garages that hold 15 cars. Asking price: $29 million. 

The photos were put on HGTV's website in February. 

For the record, I don't see anything decorated in purple and teal. 

See the pictures here.

-- Mike Persinger 

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2013 at 06:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 23, 2013

Ex-Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap mentor George Karl on the firing

    Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, one of Mike Dunlap’s mentors, was saddened but not particularly surprised Dunlap didn’t get a second season as Charlotte Bobcats head coach.

            Dunlap’s only NBA experience previous to the Bobcats hiring him was two seasons as one of Karl’s assistants. Dunlap was fired Tuesday after a 21-61 initial season.

            “His team, I think, fought hard,’’ Karl said during the media availability prior to game two of the Nuggets-Golden State Warriors playoff series. “(But) I can’t deny when they got cracked in the face they gave up on the game.’’

            The Nuggets beat the Bobcats by 22 and 14 points last season.

            Karl and Dunlap traded text messages Tuesday. Karl indicated Dunlap is headed to Hawaii for a vacation and “I would recommend he go there and spend an extra week.’’

            Karl said that being fired in a situation like this is mostly a disappointment but also
somewhat of a relief.

            “About 80 percent of Mike Dunlap is sad and despondent because he wants to…continue coaching in the league,’’ Karl said. “There will be a piece of him that is relieved.

            “In general, we get paid a lot of money to do a very difficult job. Sometimes it’s not an appropriate or thankful job.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on April 23, 2013 at 10:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Transcript of Bobcats executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho, following firing of head coach Mike Dunlap

    Transcript of the interview Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho did Tuesday with the Charlotte Observer and Associated Press:


Why did you decide to fire Mike Dunlap as coach?


Higgins: “After getting through the course of an 82-game season, getting through our exit interviews with our players, meeting with Mike (Dunlap), Rich and I came to the conclusion we needed to make a change. At that point we went to ownership – Michael and Curtis (Polk, the vice chairman) – and made the suggestion of the change. And the change was allowed.’’


How did Dunlap handle the news?


Higgins: “I would say he was very professional and thanked us for the opportunity.’’



Was he surprised by this?


Higgins:  “I can’t speak for Mike but that’s always a tough situation for anybody on either side – organizational side or individual side.’’


How much did the player interviews factor in this decision?


Higgins: “It was part of the process. But not the only indicator.’’


Did he have a difficult time evolving from the persona of a college coach to the interactions  NBA coaches have with their players?


Higgins:  “There were times where that could be perceived. We knew when we hired Mike there were
going to be some uncharted waters, so to speak.’’

Cho: “I just don’t think he was a great fit. Probably best that we go in a different direction.’’


An agent for one of your players suggested Dunlap remaining coach could have impeded your pursuit of free agents. Was that a concern?


Higgins:  “I don’t feel that. No. Players want opportunities – meaning financial gain, playing time, probably the third one would be a winning scenario. That’s what we’re planning to be – a wining team.’’


What qualities would you prioritize in picking the next coach?


Higgins: “A great leader, the player development aspect is still vitally important to us because of our youth. Obviously you want a fantastic X-and-O coach. Someone who can make our players better and help us win games.’’


Do you need a more experienced coach?


Cho: “We don’t want to limit ourselves to a model. We’re pretty open-minded. Right now we’re putting a list together.’’


Fans want to know why you would fire a guy who tripled the win total from last season and finished strong. Why?

Higgins: “You can characterize the season in different buckets. We started pretty strong and we finished pretty strong. But through the middle part of those two buckets we had some inconsistencies. So when Rich and I reviewed the season we came to the conclusion we needed a change.”

How did he do coaching vets?

Higgins: “I thought the veterans we had on the roster got opportunities to play. Maybe not Reggie Williams but the other veterans had opportunities to play and that’s the most important thing. If you look at Tyrus (Thomas), he was playing the most competitive position on the team and coach probably didn’t feel the need to give Tyrus as many minutes as another power forward. But Tyrus did have an opportunity to play as well as Ben (Gordon). (Ramon) Sessions and (Brendan) Haywood.’’

Surprised you have to find a new coach after hiring one last year?

Higgins: “In the NBA, you’re not surprised by a lot because so many different things happen. It’s the business and we’re preparing for what tomorrow may bring.”

How appealing do you think this job is?

Cho: “I don’t think there will be any shortage of interest in this position. Both our phones have been ringing off the hook so far so I think it’s an appealing situation.’’

Any timetable?

Higgins: “We’ll go fast but we won’t hurry.’’

As in-depth of a search as last time?

Higgins: “I couldn’t say that right now. Just to piggyback on what Rich said, since the release our cell phones have been blowing up. It lets you know that there is interest in this job, a high level of interest.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on April 23, 2013 at 06:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Mike Dunlap's firing: The reaction on Twitter

Fans and others react to the Charlotte Bobcats' firing of first-year coach Mike Dunlap, who tripled the team's win total to 21 in his only season.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 23, 2013 at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

April 15, 2013

New Orleans video makes name-change buzz louder

If the Charlotte Bobcats aren't about to become the Charlotte Hornets again, someone in New Orleans has a sick sense of humor. Or they're trolling you. Or both.

The New Orleans Hornets, who are about to become the New Orleans Pelicans and make the Hornets nickname a free agent, created a farewell video for Hugo, the team's buzzing mascot from its inception in Charlotte in 1988.

The video in itself isn't that unusual -- highlights from mascot antics through the years -- but the background music is interesting. I won't spoil it for you, you can listen for yourself. 

The team also created a Facebook page, with the title "What's next for Hugo?"This comes on top of last week's conversation about the release of a retro collection from team owner Michael Jordan's Jordan Brand, in purple and teal, that team president Fred Whitfield told Scott Fowler was a "total coincidence."

NBA commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver is scheduled to be in town for an annual visit with the Bobcats to meet with some season-ticket holders. 

I have been told that nothing regarding a name change is imminent, but all of these little things, taken as a group, sure are making things interesting.

It might be more interesting what another occurrence today means -- the Bobcats and obsessive coach Mike Dunlap canceled a shootaround. Hmmmm.

But it seems everyone is focused on Hugo, who could become the biggest free agent signing in team history. 

Or not.


-- Mike Persinger



Posted by Observer Sports on April 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

April 11, 2013

Nickname change to Hornets coming soon?


The New Orleans Hornets will become the Pelicans next season, leaving the Hornets nickname as somewhat of a free agent.

The Charlotte Bobcats are holding a "town hall" meeting Monday with season-ticket holders, one that will include NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver.

Two days later, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan's company, Jordan Brand, is re-releasing some purple and teal gear and sneakers that harken back to the old Charlotte Hornets.

The Bobcats have reportedly invited some to a Wednesday event, tied to the season finale against Cleveland, to "discuss the Bobcats' future," and Thursday the team will host an open house.

Two fan blogs are reading the tea leaves of all this and coming to the conclusion that the team has decided to change its nickname back to the Charlotte Hornets, the name the city's NBA expansion franchise took in 1988 and held until 2001, when the Hornets bolted for New Orleans after failing to get a new arena.

And while "Bring Back the Buzz" notes that this could all be "one giant, big, huge, coincidence,"  Bleacher Report goes far enough to suggest that the sneaker release is a sign Jordan and the Bobcats front office have made up their mind.

Except they're saying they haven't. A Bobcats source told The Observer on Wednesday that nothing is "imminent" on a possible name change.

Not that it won't ever happen. Jordan, and the franchise leadership, might well decide a change is well worth the $3 million cost. But they might not. Some argue that the Bobcats, who have the NBA's worst record, can improve their financial situation more by winning consistently, regardless of the nickname.

The team has yet to make public the results of its scientific survey of ticketholders and others, which is almost certain to be more evenly split than the unscientific landslides -- including the ones we have measured at charlotteobserver.com -- touted by name-change supporters.

But there isn't a name-change announcement scheduled for next week.

Incidentally, if you want to read tea leaves, the first 5,000 fans Monday receive Bobcats jersey coolers from Sprite. If they announced a name change Wednesday, would those be retro-cool by next Thursday?

-- Mike Persinger 


Posted by Observer Sports on April 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

April 10, 2013

Video: Charlotte Bobcats' road skid reaches 13 after 94-75 loss to Memphis

The Charlotte Bobcats lost their 13th straight road game, 94-75 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. Charlotte trailed by just three in the fourth before Memphis ripped off a 15-0 run. Kemba Walker scored a team-high 19 for the Bobcats.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on April 10, 2013 at 01:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 07, 2013

Video: Brooklyn Nets 106, Charlotte Bobcats 96

The Charlotte Bobcats rallied in the fourth quarter but came up short in a 105-96 loss to the Nets. Ben Gordon led the Bobcats with 27 points while Gerald Henderson added 22 in the losing effort.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on April 7, 2013 at 01:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)