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Ball Don't Lie

Michael Jordan answers the tough questions about his 16-52 Charlotte Bobcats to season ticket-holders

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Michael Jordan, looking relatively demure (Getty Images)

Quietly, the Charlotte Bobcats have gone on what constitutes a “run” for a team like the Charlotte Bobcats. The team has won two straight, and three of five overall. Modest numbers, to be sure, but confetti-worthy considering the 7-45 swoon that came before this last week.

Good timing, too, because team owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho recently had to explain their lost season away in the face of 100 of the team’s more prominent season ticket holders. In a back and forth that was moderated, weirdly, by former San Antonio Spur (and current ESPN bow-tie enthusiast) Bruce Bowen, Jordan pointed out that wholesale changes could be coming in the offseason. Though we’re a little dubious as to how much movement the Bobcats can take part in.

[Also: The top 10 NBA prospects playing in the NCAA tournament]

From longtime Charlotte go-to guy Rick Bonnell’s report in the Charlotte Observer.

Media were not allowed to attend, but one season-ticketholder described what happened, on condition of anonymity. Jordan declined, through a team official, to elaborate on his Tuesday comments.

Jordan told the audience he’s as frustrated as anyone by the team’s 15-52 record, worst in the NBA, following a 7-59 lockout-shortened season a year ago.

During a question-and-answer session, Jordan was asked specifically about the performance of first-year head coach Mike Dunlap. The customer said he could see progress in some of the team’s younger players but that Dunlap didn’t seem to be getting much from the veterans (i.e. Ben Gordon, Brendan Heywood and Tyrus Thomas).

Jordan was non-committal in his assessment of Dunlap. But that’s when he made the general statement that everyone in the organization will be re-evaluated at the end of the season.

(At least Dunlap agreed to take on the head coaching gig in Charlotte, unlike Brian Shaw.)

Basketball-obsessed Twitter followers have no doubt heard the most recent NBA anecdote to make the rounds – the one that relays how the Miami Heat have won more games during their current month-and-a-half winning streak than the Charlotte Bobcats have over the last 700 days, and you can believe the season ticket holders were mindful of this malaise as they sent their queries up to Jordan and company.

[Also: Heat rally from 27 down to beat Cavs, extend win streak to 24]

With that depressing stat in place, it’s important to remember that the Bobcats never planned on doing anything but lose a whole lot in 2012-13. After years of win-now moves, usually encouraged by Jordan as he ran the team’s personnel department, the Bobcats fully submitted to a bottoming-out process last summer, following a 2011-12 campaign that Jordan wanted nothing to do with.

MJ wanted nothing to do with 2011-12 partially because, as one of the more hawkish types during the NBA’s 2011 lockout, MJ’s financial minders would have preferred to see the entire season canceled. Still, it was mostly because the Bobcats set an all-time NBA record for futility last year, registering the lowest winning percentage in league history.

The response to that was to hire Cho, and chase Jordan off of the top of the player-pickin’ pyramid. Cho didn’t attempt to work around the fringes, as Jordan did, pulling in disparate talents in an attempt to shoot for 41 wins. Instead, he held back, signed off on deals that would add draft picks to replace the ones Jordan traded away, drafted 19-year old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and settled in to begin the beginning of what was certain to be another terrible season.

As a result, the Bobcats will be significantly under the salary cap this summer, even before they predictably use the amnesty provision on disappointing forward Tyrus Thomas. The team will pay through its teeth to keep Ben Gordon around this season and next, but they’ll grab an upcoming Detroit Pistons lottery pick – because Detroit is terrible – for their suffering. And though the 2013 draft will be nearly as terrible, the team will have multiple options in place for the 2014 draft, in spite of the protected first round selection that Jordan sent away in return for Thomas.

[Also: A fan runs onto the court in Cleveland and approaches LeBron James]

None of this is of any significant interest to those that are paying big money to watch the team in March of 2013, though, while considering their ticket options for 2013-14. And though everyone respects Kidd-Gilchrist’s potential and drive, it is worrying to note that even after years of suffering, there isn’t a knockout franchise-level player on this roster, with that awful 2013 draft looming.

MKG is a real comer, but even five months into his NBA career his jump shot mechanics still need series work. Kemba Walker, at times, is one of the league’s more entertaining guards – but as Zach Lowe pointed out earlier this week he’s in real danger of turning into a shoot-first type mainly because he has nobody to pass to. Josh McRoberts remains one of the worst help defenders in the NBA despite his athleticism, though it is encouraging to note that he looks like his interests include magnets and little green ghouls and I bet his favorite food is milksteak. Gerald Henderson is a thing that plays in the NBA. Jannero Pargo is currently employed by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Because of this stasis, it’s easy to understand why Bobcat backers might be demanding major movement. And because of such demands, it’s easier to understand why Jordan might be promising summertime overhauls that would fly in the face of the team’s obvious long-term planning.

What we don’t get is why Bruce Bowen was there. That’s all.

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