March 09, 2010
Jerry Krause never did this, Michael. Not even close.
You ranted and raved and cursed and called Jerry Krause every name in the book for infringing on your little jockish scrap of territory when Krause ran the Chicago Bulls, and you were probably right. You were definitely right. It's his team, he runs it, but he doesn't have to be using the team bathroom just minutes before tipoff when the players usually do. He didn't have to be on the players' bus, desperately craving approval from the guys that didn't pick him in high school. He didn't have to be around.
Could you have handled it - as a professional, a team leader, a father, a CEO - better? Of course. Did your immature potshots make it so Scottie Pippen, taking your lead, nearly submarined your final season with the Bulls with a back-of-the-bus rant against Krause and subsequent trade demand in December of 1997? Of course they did. You laid the template, big boy.
But were you right? Sure. Players play, coaches coach, personnel chiefs track the transactions and owners lord over in an entirely appropriate manner, if they wouldn't mind. A decade into his distinguished and wildly successful (on several fronts) stewardship of the Dallas Mavericks, I'm still uneasy every time I see Mark Cuban barreling over the towel boys to meet the players after a dead ball. Can't we not do that? Isn't this a little embarrassing to anyone else?
Of course, a soon-to-be 10th playoff appearance in 10 full years of running the Mavericks makes it go down a little smoother. Your Bobcats, Michael, haven't won anything. Even in their best season with a hot shot coach squeezing everything he can from this roster, this win-now rotation with absolutely no hope for future glory or even future savings, the Bobcats are fighting for one of the East's last playoff seeds with the Bulls and Heat, teams littered with expiring contracts.
And yet, this hasn't stopped you from making a show of yourself as de facto Bobcat personnel head for the last few years. Showing up at Madison Square Garden with Charles Oakley. Pumping fists right next to the Bobcat bench in North Carolina. Showing up about thrice per year and acting all the part of the deadbeat dad that jumps the turnstile just before the second inning for the first time all season, telling his son to "choke up" after his little league coach just spent six weeks working on the poor kid's swing.
You've never worried about making us uneasy, Michael. You've never cared that we thought your post-retirement behavior churlish, spoiled, embarrassing, pathetic, sad, sad, sad. That never bothered you.
But it's going to have to, if you're going to hang on to the one thing you have left. Your money.
Your dignity? Come on. You're still challenging 12th men to HORSE contests and losing. The internet is littered with stories of your pathetic attempts to prove your 1992-ness, challenging white-collar types for pickup games and stealing girlfriends for sport, raising the roof at two in the morning and stiffing every server in sight. The sight of Michael Jordan in a ridiculous blazer parked over pre-torn jeans exhorting a group of Bobcats you feel like he's seen a dozen times a year (TV and in-person combined) is to be expected now. Along the same lines of Stephon Marbury's(notes) latest foibles. You're that bad to us, Michael. And you're the reason I do what I do.
You're going to have to get it together, though, Mike.
You're going to have to grow up, first and foremost. Nothing starts until your childhood ends, and there's nothing more childish than a game of freakin' HORSE. You think Bill Gates is playing jacks in the mailroom? Trying to best the water delivery guy at Minesweeper?
From there, you're going to have to act like a proper owner or a GM. You can't be both. You're either going to have to cede control with some input to Rod Higgins, or you're going to have to take over fully and deal with the idea of someone else acting as principal owner. The job is too complicated, and no person could pull it off in 2010. No man, not even you. Once you've grown up, then I'll believe you can understand that. I'm not holding my breath.
As owner, you're going to have to show the same initiative and hands-on interest that made you such a successful businessman in the 1980s and 1990s. No, you didn't build the Nissans or make the Nikes, but you knew how to run things. Sometime, around the time of your second retirement (and, say, MVP.com), that went away.
Now, that's OK. That's what retirement is - not having to really answer to anyone, and turning 18 holes into 36 holes. There's nothing wrong with that, you've certainly earned that, but you're not retired anymore. Your input was on point back in your heyday because you had a set schedule. Meetings to attend, shootarounds to show up for, close to a hundred games a year. You don't really have that anymore, even with your supposed commitments to the Bobcats. Those days are over.
And if you continue to play the role of the retired guy who isn't? You'll fail. Because this organization is set to fail.
The Charlotte Bobcats treated the Charlotte fans to the expansion experience back in 2004, and in the years that followed. Win now, from the beginning. Penny-wise, pound-foolish, gun for 44 wins in the East as soon as possible.
The problem with that is that Charlotte is not an expansion city. They'd had a second-round playoff team as recently as 2002. They knew the NBA inside and out. They saw right through Robert Johnson, those terrible uniforms and this middling personnel plan. To say nothing of the borderline - from coach to slow-down coach - unwatchable basketball that sustains to this day.
You need to get out there. You don't need to charm the masses. You need to build a successful basketball team.
You need to hire a personnel boss who isn't beholden to you in any way, who will stand up to you and one that will do nothing but feed fake phone numbers to Larry Brown. Larry Brown is a team's best friend and a GM's worst nightmare. He'd trade for Tyrone Hill if Hill didn't have such a nice seat to Hawks games. Good god, I mean, you just traded for Theo Ratliff(notes). Take a hint. Aaron McKie(notes) can't be far behind.
You've never backed down from anything, but because standing up to the idea of what's right ("what's right" isn't .500 in the East), and standing up to Brown would be too much work, you've backed off the Bobcats. And that has to stop. You have to catch up. I mean,
KD: "Base-year compensation."
You have to sell this team, in this market, and that means starting over with fans that absolutely know better. That means no Stephen Jackson(notes), no Tyson Chandler(notes) and no "win-now." And if Larry Brown doesn't like it, then he's more than welcome to turn in the rest of his salary and quit. I think he'll come around.
Challenge it up however you want. Whatever you have to do to put in honest hours. Wear some tinted glasses that turn every white mug you see into Jeff Van Gundy and every black dude around into Bryon Russell. Work like you used to work. Earn some real holes in those jeans.
The most telling thing I can say about you at this point, Michael, is that I spent the first 18 years of my life knowing nothing but your domination of the sport. Knowing and understanding that if your team fell short, it was never really your fault and just the vicissitudes of a team game. I watched you win and win and win and surprise and own and dominate and win some more.
It's been just 11 years since your retirement from the Bulls and somehow that's all gone. I've absolutely no faith in you turning this around, MJ. Not while watching you embarrass yourself on the sidelines. Not with so much growing to do. If the Bobcats do get better, it'll be because of the players, Brown and possibly Higgins. I doubt you'll have put in the work.
So add me to the list. With the high school coach, with Isiah, Van Gundy, with Russell, with whomever else. And prove me wrong.
It starts with leaving the bench.