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For all of Michael Jordan’s draft failures as an NBA executive, the Charlotte Bobcats owner had the right idea on that June night in 2008. Stanford’s Brook Lopez(notes) had slipped to ninth, and Jordan and his top basketball executives prepared to select him. So sure of the choice, one team official called Lopez’s agents and told them to prepare the 7-footer for the walk to the podium. Michael Jordan had his man.
Only, Larry Brown wouldn’t stop his protesting in the draft room. For some reason – who knows, because Brown didn’t scout these players – the coach wanted to take D.J. Augustin(notes), a small point guard over a skilled 7-footer. He didn’t want Raymond Felton(notes), Brown bellowed. Finally, Jordan relented. The Bobcats notified the league they were taking Augustin and left Lopez stunned when the commissioner didn’t call his name.
Less than three years later, Jordan could’ve had a rising Eastern Conference power with Lopez and Felton. He could’ve had a contender. Now, the Bobcats are back on the brink of irrelevancy, and the owner has no one to blame but himself. He fired his Carolina Tar Heel savior on Wednesday, ultimately tiring of Brown’s belligerence the way everyone else did in his previous several jobs. Brown relentlessly ripped the roster of these 9-19 Bobcats, endlessly debated his desire to stay on the job, and never won a playoff game.
Jordan has poured his own money into these Bobcats, immersed himself deeper into the day-to-day duties, and his tolerance for losing has never been lower. How low? Jordan didn’t just fire Brown and his coaching staff on Wednesday, he fired Brown and his Tar Heel coaching staff. For now, Jordan will go with Paul Silas, an old-school tough guy and popular figure in Charlotte’s NBA history, to coach the rest of the season.
Silas is a long way removed from the NBA – and longer from his late 1990s success in Charlotte. And if bringing back Silas isn’t retro enough for everyone, how about Silas’ old Hornets point guard, Baron Davis(notes)? Jordan is considering a trade proposal that would send Augustin, DeSagana Diop(notes) and Matt Carroll(notes) to the Los Angeles Clippers for Davis, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.
The Clippers have desperately tried to trade Davis and have included him in proposals with center Chris Kaman(notes), league executives told Yahoo! Sports. Brown could’ve never coached Davis, but Silas allows a different freedom for his players. Whatever moves Jordan makes now, he can’t tear these Bobcats apart and start over again. No way can Jordan sell this market on another cost-cutting revamping of the franchise.
When Jordan purchased the majority share of the Bobcats, he promised to be visible in the market. He promised to be accessible, to use his stature to sell the franchise in a market that had long ago felt burned and betrayed by the despicable George Shinn and the cheap Robert Johnson. Incompetence reigned forever here, and Jordan ceded more authority to Brown than he had with a coach. They fought over everything, including Brown’s desire over the summer to get out his contract and coach elsewhere.
Now, Silas comes back to the bench, and one of the owner’s old buddies, Charles Oakley, is joining Silas' staff, league sources said. Silas' son, Stephen, and Ralph Lewis also will be on the staff and team officials have spoken with former Hornets P.J. Brown and Muggsy Bogues.
This coaching staff won’t win all of its games, but it won’t lose any fights. On his way out, Brown gave Jordan this advice, a source said: Make sure you hire coaches that are your friends, because it won’t work anyway else with you. Oakley was telling friends on Wednesday that he planned to toughen up that Charlotte frontline, and no doubt that’s what Jordan wants out of him.
In the end, this is Michael Jordan’s money sinking into the Bobcats, his post-playing legacy on the line. Still, nothing’s gone right for him. Two-and-a-half years ago, Larry Brown had nowhere to go, and Jordan had no one to hire. They tried one of those Carolina reunions with the blessing of their beloved coach, Dean Smith, but they were too stubborn, too sure of themselves, to ever work together. From Kwame Brown(notes) to Adam Morrison(notes), from Washington to Charlotte, Jordan never gets the important draft picks right. And when his scouts and instincts told him to take the 7-footer less than three years ago, his coach kept yapping until he changed his mind and took the tiny point guard.
Yes, Jordan tried to recapture his old Carolina Tar Heel roots to make these Bobcats matter again, and that all ended on Wednesday. Now, he goes back to Charlotte’s NBA roots with Silas and perhaps even Davis. However it ends up, these Bobcats belong to Jordan and there’s no one else to blame. He always wanted control, wanted the ball in his hands and everything on the line.
His mess, again.