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September 24, 2013

The backstory on Kemba Walker successfully recruiting Al Jefferson for the Charlotte Bobcats

29w3d.St.138When Charlotte Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins texted his point guard, to tell him the team was signing center Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker replied this way:

“I almost shed a tear when I saw this.”

A low-post scorer like Jefferson can make Walker’s job so much easier. Higgins detailed Tuesday how central Walker was to successfully recruiting Jefferson, a potential game-changer for the Bobcats.

At Walker’s post-season exit meeting with Higgins and general manager Rich Cho, Walker was asked what upcoming free agent might be most helpful. Walker pulled out his phone, called up a list of those players, and said Jefferson was clearly at the top of his choices.

So Higgins reminded Walker that he and Jefferson share an agent, Jeff Schwartz, so it was now Walker’s job to start the sales pitch, months before Jefferson officially became a free agent July  1.

Walker went to work, scheduling a meal with Jefferson in New York City to express what a good fit this could be. The Bobcats followed up on that effort by immediately making a pitch at midnight the first day of free-agency. Jefferson flew in for a visit, expressed his desire to sign here and the deal was done.

What are the Bobcats getting?

“Al addresses so many needs for us,’’ Higgins said a week out from the start of training camp at UNC Asheville Oct. 1. “Once we decided to amnesty Tyrus Thomas, ownership gave us the green light to find a difference-maker. He is a difference-maker.”

Jefferson will force opposing teams to double-team him in the post, which should create better shot opportunities along the perimeter. New coach Steve Clifford says Jefferson “instantly’’ becomes the Bobcats’ best offensive player.

Higgins said the cherry on top, in regard to Jefferson, is he should be good for young big men Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo.

“Al is also a mentor. He said he loved working with Enes Kantor and Derrick Favors (on Jefferson’s former team, the Utah Jazz),” Higgins said. “He can be a big plus for Cody and Biz.”

Some other comments from Higgins and Cho Tuesday:

 -- Cho said the NBA player Zeller reminds him of most is Portland Trail Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge.

Cho on Zeller: “He’s a pretty unique player with his size – a legit 7-foot – and he can run as well as any 7-footer out there. He can hit a perimeter shot; 18-20 feet and out beyond the arc. He has a very, very high basketball IQ.”

-- Both Higgins and Cho said they’re pleased, but not surprised, by how well Jeff Taylor played in Las Vegas Summer League and at Eurobasket (where he led the tournament, averaging 21 points for Sweden).

“He really works hard,’’ Cho said. “He’s in here all the time. Right after the season he was in here a lot.”

-- Higgins said signing Jefferson and drafting Zeller doesn’t mean the Bobcats have lost enthusiasm for developing Biyombo.

“Biz fits in well with us. He’ll get opportunities to grow,” Higgins said. “Biz still has a tremendous upside.”

-- Asked about Clifford, Higgins said, “He’s a very smart guy, a great competitor. His philosophy is going to stand out right away.”

-- Higgins wouldn’t identify a goal, in terms of wins this season, but he said, “I would presume we’ll be much improved.”

Posted by Observer Sports on September 24, 2013 at 03:38 PM | Permalink


Headline reads "When guard Kemba Walker heard that the Charlotte Bobcats signed center Al Jefferson he "almost she a tear."

- Proof reading is hard.

Posted by: Proof Reading For Dummies | Sep 24, 2013 4:14:46 PM

worst story ever. walker didn't have to convince jefferson, they overpaid the ish out of him.

13.5/year was all the convincing al needed.

Posted by: charlottean | Sep 24, 2013 4:25:06 PM

6 players in the NBA have averaged 17 and 9 the past 5 seasons. Can anyone name them?

Posted by: dabo | Sep 24, 2013 4:34:37 PM

backstory? Ha! There is absolutely nothing new here. Great coverage of the team!

Posted by: TJ | Sep 24, 2013 4:35:52 PM

money talks....no one else would pay Jefferson....

Posted by: Scott | Sep 24, 2013 4:48:11 PM

So they haven't lost enthusiasm for Biz, yet they have made it a priority to go out get guys to replacement him. This organization is pathetic.

Posted by: Smitty | Sep 24, 2013 5:11:56 PM

I don't know all the players, but I know Jefferson was one of the few players in the NBA to average at least 17 and 9 the last few years. Best low post free agent scorer this year and probably next.

Posted by: Jimmer | Sep 24, 2013 5:37:43 PM

I guess you can't add good players any more? Who cares if Biz starts or plays. If he is good enough he will play. If not, he won't. Nice to have some compeition for a change at some of these positions. Deepest team they have ever had and Jefferson is by far the best low post scorere in their history. Huge improvement in this roster.

Posted by: BMOC | Sep 24, 2013 5:40:25 PM


1. Bonnell mentions Taylor's summer in Europe after being scolded by PR-NC 2006 in another blog post about a week ago.

2. Bizmack is 100% an afterthought at this point -- totally buried on the depth chart.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Sep 24, 2013 8:44:31 PM

Before signing with the Bobcats, Al Jefferson played on a $65 million/5 years contract, which he got from the Timberwolves, and under which the Jazz traded for him. As for other options for him this year a. he didn't wait to check the market and b. what any teams offer depends both on their needs and their salary cap situation, not just on the player's worth.

Anyway, Rick explained very well, in several articles - loaded with quotes from Kemba Walker, coach Clifford and Higgins (who acted together and in full agreement with Rich Cho on this issue) - what Jefferson's impact on this team can be. Those are some very strong and valid points, and I see no need to argue on them. I'll just say that seeing the sneering and negativity in several comments here - that's what is pathetic.

And to all of Biyombo's well-wishers: actually, I also hope he'll continue developing. Coach Clifford said it more than once already: the main task with Biz is to improve his defense, because that's his main strength area. I totally agree.
Biz has ways to go to improve his man-to-man defense - both in the paint and outside. The more he'll achieve in this regard, the more valuable a rotation player he'll be.

There is nothing like having to go against Al Jefferson in practice that can help Biz become a better player. Al will push him (to be at his best in defense) as much as he can take, and then some.
So yeah, for Biyombo's development too, getting AJ here will be the gift that will keep on giving.

Posted by: Sandy | Sep 24, 2013 10:12:51 PM

Kemba Walker led the team with 6.6 points in the paint last year.. To say they addressed a glaring need with Jefferson is an understatement, they are finally making some moves that actually make sense. Go Bobnets!

Posted by: Bingo | Sep 25, 2013 2:11:41 AM

Kemba has shown that he will put in the effort to improve. Jeff Taylor is coming off a strong summer and could possibly have a breakout season. Cody Zeller looks intriguing. Big Al was a huge signing. New coaching staff that includes Mark Price (shooting) and Patrick Ewing (bigs). This season should be fun. I predict 33 wins, which is a nice improvement but still places us in the lottery.

Posted by: apauldds | Sep 25, 2013 11:18:28 AM

this isn't fantasy league.......17 and 9 on losing and mediocre teams isn't something to pay 13.5 a year for.

he'll earn it if the mentoring aspect comes to fruition or if he somehow becomes a trade asset. otherwise it just placates the fans with a few more wins and a splashy name. doesn't get us closer to becoming a contender - unless he's part of developing the young bigs.

ultimately......long term success hinges on development of walker, taylor, mkg, biz, and zeller. future looks bright but i don't trust the "brain"-trust in charge with seeing it through. they'll trade everyone on the roster for a lineup in the vein of detroit's if you gave them that option. and to be clear - i too would like to have monroe/drummond but not along with josh smith and brandon jennings. that just doesn't add up.

Posted by: charlottean | Sep 25, 2013 11:19:05 AM

^^^That makes zero sense. If they were going to make those trades they would have. Each trade over the last couple of years has been about the future except for the McRoberts deal which was fine. I like the devleopment plan and augmenting it with the right veteran. They got the low post scorer and mentor they needed. They have shown no indication of deviating from the plan for the last couple of years.

Posted by: BMOC | Sep 25, 2013 12:31:42 PM

When will we win a playoff series?

Air Minimum is in his 8th year of control now, don't forget that.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Sep 25, 2013 2:09:29 PM

There's a chance, although small that we might sneak into the playoffs this year. I certainly hope not because next year's draft should be a good one. As for winning a series, that depends on the match-ups.

Posted by: apauldds | Sep 25, 2013 3:31:02 PM

@ apauldds @ Sandy--Correct, great insight and writings!!!

Posted by: BobcatsFanD | Sep 25, 2013 8:15:01 PM


since cho has been here, they have. but when higgins was calling the shots......they made a RASH of ignorant (that's putting it nicely) moves that I still have a form of basketball fan whiplash that makes me think one is about to come any minute.

the jefferson signing doesn't strike me as "the right veteran" the way a david west for indiana or a kendrick perkins for OKC or whoever. he would be if we were ready to go RIGHT NOW. but we aren't. so we're going to be marginally better 1 year too early.

I understand that with foresight they could see that there aren't any quality free agent bigs next summer, and no guarantees with the draft. but jefferson has never won ANYTHING as "the man" so to pay him 13.5 a year for 3 years is way more aligned with the old regimen than the new.

and everything clifford is saying seems like preparation for "the plan is over and I'm coaching for my job, not for the good of the franchise" and if that's the case......fully expect rich cho walking out at some point and clifford demanding some larry brown type trades to inch us into an 8 seed next year instead of building a perennial contender.

maybe it's the whiplash effect. but it's a scary ground we're in. are we actually building or are we prematurely in win-now mode again?

walker and biz's minutes compared to sessions and jefferson will be strong indicators. zeller vs. mcroberts too.

obviously sessions/henderson/taylor/mcroberts/jefferson is probably going to net more wins THIS season. but playing walker/henderson/mkg/zeller/biz together as much as possible is insanely valuable long term.

i don't want them to win 35 games every year. but yea....al jefferson can do that perfectly. 17 and 9....and 35 wins.

Posted by: charlottean | Sep 25, 2013 9:04:03 PM

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