The Bobcats dropped their first game of the season in Houston on Wednesday night, but will look to get in the win column later today when they host the Cavs in Charlotte. In advance of tonight’s home opener, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan spoke to The Associated Press and the Charlotte Observer about a number of subjects related to his team. Courtesy of Steve Reed (AP) and Rick Bonnell (Observer), here are a few highlights from the six-time champion:
- Asked about tanking, Jordan said that’s not a path the Bobcats plan to go down. “I don’t know if some teams have thought of that,” Jordan said. “That’s not something that we would do. I don’t believe in that…. If that was my intention I never would have paid Al Jefferson $13MM a year.”
- More Jordan on tanking: “It’s not guaranteed [the player] you are going to get is going to be that star anyway. I did read that certain teams are thinking about doing it. But I’m not one of them.”
- Jordan referred to the amnestying of Tyrus Thomas as a statement that showed the Bobcats weren’t going to be shy about spending to improve the roster. Charlotte is still paying Thomas, and the cap space cleared in the move helped the club add Jefferson and re-sign Gerald Henderson.
- Initially, Jordan was unconvinced that the league’s new CBA was helping to level the playing field, but he has started to come around on its benefits. “We are still going through and seeing the full effects of it,” Jordan said. “From a business standpoint if you operate your team in the right way it gives you a chance to break even or be profitable. And it makes it more difficult for your talent to get up and go somewhere else.”
- Jordan singled out Josh McRoberts, who re-signed in Charlotte this past summer, as one of the keys to the club, expressing hope that he won’t opt out of his deal at season’s end.
Jazz rookie Trey Burke fractured his right index finger and will be evaluated on Monday tweets Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. Genessy notes, via Twitter, that Scott Machado has been given the most time behind Burke and John Lucas III at point guard this preseason.
Genessy also wonders, in a tweet, whether the Jazz will bring someone else in depending on the severity of Burke’s injury, and mentions Jamaal Tinsley as a possibility. Marc Stein of ESPN tweets that he’s heard of interest from the Jazz about the Bulls’ Marquis Teague, and postulates they may revisit that with Burke going down. The Jazz will find out Monday whether Burke’s fractured finger will require surgery, Stein adds (Twitter).
Here are a smattering of other links from around the league tonight:
- After the Bobcats‘ big free agent, Al Jefferson, severely sprained his ankle, he told the AP in Milwaukee that he’s trying to be back for opening night, tweets the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell.
- That’s 18 days away, Bonnell adds on Twitter, and he wonders in his next tweet whether the Bobcats might look to add a center in the interim.
- The Mavericks pickup of DeJuan Blair this summer might be huge for them, as we noted earlier tonight. Blair is looking forward to playing his former team, the Mavs intra-state rival Spurs, writes the Star-Telegram’s Dwain Price.
- Blair’s bitterness about his time in San Antonio is evident when he tells Price, “[the Spurs] didn’t give me nothing when I was there. I mean, the fans gave me everything, but everything else, it is what it is. I don’t look at that. I look for us to get a win.”
- Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reports that the NBPA will not pay their new union head the $3MM annually that former executive director Billy Hunter made before he was ousted. Union sources say the annual pay will be around $1.5MM for the new executive director.
- The Knicks lost to the Celtics by 30 tonight in preseason action, but Touré Murry and Ike Diogu both made a case for a roster spot, writes ESPN New York’s Ian Begley.
The Bobcats made their first big splash in free agency this summer by signing Al Jefferson to a 3-year, $40.5MM contract to helm the post for one of the league’s most disappointing teams over the last half decade. The Bobcats announced today that Jefferson sprained his ankle against Miami in last night’s preseason action, and will be in a walking boot for several days:
“[Jefferson] suffered a sprained right ankle in the second half of last night’s preseason game vs. Miami. X-rays taken at the arena proved to be normal. As a precaution, Jefferson is expected to be in a walking boot for several days in an effort to contain the swelling and not put any pressure on the joint. Once out of the walking boot, he will be re-evaluated and will begin the rehab process.”
Here are a few more notes tonight from around the Southeast division, including more on Jefferson:
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets that Jefferson was in extensive pain and because it’s preseason the Bobcats are likely to treat the sprain conservatively so as not to endanger the health of their new big man.
- With so much speculation about what LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will do this coming summer when they can opt-out of their contracts with the Heat and become unrestricted free agents, Chris Bosh will have the same opportunity. But he’s grown comfortable with his role on the team as the third wheel of a champion, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
- Winderman also reports that Magic CEO Alex Martins said before their preseason matchup against the Heat, that he’d like the Magic to have their own D-League affiliate in Jacksonville.
- Sources say Heat center Greg Oden will be cleared to practice next week, and could see action for the first time in four years in one of the Heat’s final preseason games, reports Michael Wallace of ESPN (by way of the Toronto Sun).
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel profiles Magic camp invitees, Mickell Gladness, Manny Harris, Solomon Jones and Kris Joseph. None of the four will see a dime unless they make the Magic’s final roster, which means overcoming the long odds against them, Robbins adds.
Mark Stein of ESPN.com reports, via Twitter, that according to the "eyes of a spy I trust," Derrick Rose looks even better now than he did in the past.
Here are a few Eastern notes as fans eagerly await the return of Rose when the Bulls and Pacers tip off at 7 p.m. EST tonight in the first preseason game for each team.
A few notes from around the Eastern Conference.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer spoke to Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and GM Rich Cho today about a few of the team's offseason moves, including the signing of Al Jefferson. Let's dive in to Bonnell's piece and check out the highlights from the Bobcats brass….
- Kemba Walker, who shares an agent with Jefferson, played a significant role in helping to recruit the former Jazz center to Charlotte, reaching out to him prior to the July free agency period. According to Higgins, when the team president told Walker that Jefferson had agreed to sign with the Bobcats, the point guard said that he "almost shed a tear."
- Higgins suggested that Charlotte's decision to amnesty Tyrus Thomas opened up the door to land Jefferson: "Once we decided to amnesty Tyrus Thomas, ownership gave us the green light to find a difference-maker. [Jefferson] is a difference-maker."
- Discussing Cody Zeller, Cho raved about the big man's basketball IQ, and said the NBA player who reminds him most of Zeller is LaMarcus Aldridge.
- Signing Jefferson and drafting Zeller doesn't mean the Bobcats are losing faith in the development of Bismack Biyombo, according to Higgins. "Biz fits in well with us. He’ll get opportunities to grow," Higgins said. "Biz still has a tremendous upside."
Zach Lowe's latest column for Grantland.com focuses on the Bobcats, and the efforts the team is making to move toward playoff contention. As Lowe notes, it's hard to see how the current players and assets held by the Bobcats point to a future as a 55-win team, but that's not necessarily every club's number one goal. For Charlotte, the short-term goal is returning to respectability, and the team feels like signing Al Jefferson this offseason is a step in the right direction. Here are a few of the most interesting tidbits from Lowe's piece:
- The Bobcats considered sitting on some of their cap room, like the Sixers have done, or using it to absorb salaries and gain assets, like the Jazz did, but ultimately decided to spend it on Jefferson. "Of course, we had discussions about those options," said team president Rod Higgins. "We could have just sat on that money. But we've had a lot of losses over the last two years. We've gotten to the point now where we just want to compete. We have to send that message to our fans."
- Jefferson didn't meet with any other teams in free agency besides the Bobcats and Jazz. Utah told Jefferson on July 1st that they weren't interested in re-signing him, which came as no surprise. "I told my teammates all season, 'Utah would be a fool to bring me back, with Enes [Kanter] and Derrick [Favors]," Jefferson said.
- The Jazz did offer to sign-and-trade Jefferson to a team that didn't have room to sign him outright, but the big man was quickly sold on the Bobcats' pitch.
- Lowe suggests that moving Kemba Walker in a Jrue Holiday-esque deal for a 2014 first-rounder could benefit the Bobcats, but the team doesn't appear to be seriously mulling that kind of move. Still, Higgins isn't ruling anything out, telling Lowe, "If there are opportunities to make this team better via trade, we will do that."
- Higgins also denied that the Bobcats ever seriously discussed trading 2012's No. 2 pick (which became Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) in a deal for James Harden.
- Lowe points out that, since none of the Bobcats' young players like Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson, Cody Zeller, and Bismack Biyombo project as franchise guys, the team should have the flexibility to keep most or all of them long-term. That could put the club on a path similar to the Nuggets, who put together a collection of solid players worth between $6-11MM since moving Carmelo Anthony.
- According to Lowe, executives around the league still aren't sure who makes the final calls on basketball decisions in Charlotte, with owner Michael Jordan, GM Rich Cho, and Higgins all involved in the process.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post spoke with John Wall today about his expectations for this upcoming season, which will be Wall's fourth in the league. Wall was matter-of-fact about his focus for next season tell Lee (via Twitter):
"My whole goal is, this is my 4th year & I need to be in the playoffs. Nothing more & nothing else needs to be said about that.”
Wall will make $7.259MM this season with the Wiz and if he and the team don't reach a deal on an extension by October 31st this year, the Wizards have the option to extend him a QO of $9.698MM in the spring.
Here are some more notes from around the Southeast division…
As teams clear cap space to finalize signings and trades, it may mean renouncing Early Bird or Bird rights to their own free agents, in order to remove cap holds from the books. Once a player is renounced, his previous team has no more claim to him that any other team — he could still be re-signed, but it would have to be done using cap space or an exception. Some of those decisions are more notable than others, but for completion's sake, we'll track the latest of these cap-clearing moves right here:
- Mo Williams is the most prominent name among the several whose rights the Jazz renounced today, according to the RealGM transaction log. Al Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Earl Watson, who already have deals to join other teams, are also on the list, as are the long-retired Brevin Knight and Greg Ostertag.
- Bobcats are set to re-sign Josh McRoberts, but they won't be using their Early Bird rights to do so, as they've renounced his rights, RealGM shows. The team also renounced their rights to Reggie Williams, who's heading to the Rockets, and it cut ties with DeSagana Diop, Byron Mullens and Jannero Pargo, too.
- Golden State will sign Jermaine O'Neal, so the Suns have renounced his rights, as well as their rights to Wesley Johnson and Diante Garrett, as RealGM notes.
- The Hawks have cleared out unwanted cap holds from their books, renouncing their rights to Hilton Armstrong, Erick Dampier, Devin Harris, Dahntay Jones, Randolph Morris, Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro, Josh Smith, and Etan Thomas, according to RealGM.com's transactions log.
- RealGM.com also has the Trail Blazers renouncing multiple players, including Luke Babbitt, J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, and Nolan Smith.
- Most interestingly, according to RealGM.com, the Bucks have renounced their rights to Monta Ellis. That doesn't necessarily preclude a sign-and-trade, but it would mean the team would have to use cap space rather than Ellis' Bird rights to accommodate a deal.
- The Pelicans have renounced their rights to Louis Amundson, Xavier Henry, and Roger Mason Jr., the team announced today in a press release.
- In order to clear cap room for their signings, the Pistons renounced Will Bynum, Jose Calderon, Vernon Macklin, Corey Maggette, Jason Maxiell, and Ben Wallace, according to RealGM's transactions log. The Pistons plan to re-sign Bynum, but removing his $6MM+ cap hold and signing him to a smaller figure using cap space makes the most sense.
- After renouncing their rights to Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom, the Clippers have also renounced Bobby Simmons, according to RealGM.com's transactions log.
After a bid to relocate the NBA's Kings failed, Seattle-based investors also reportedly explored the possibility of moving the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes to the city. Although the franchise appears to be staying put in Phoenix, Seattle wasn't the only city interested in relocating it. According to Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com, Paul Allen and the Trail Blazers were also interested in buying the Coyotes and moving the team to Portland's Rose Garden.
Here are more odds and ends from around the NBA on a very busy Wednesday:
- The Kings have named high-ranking NBA executive Chris Granger as their new team president, according to Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee. Granger, who had been the executive VP of team marketing and business operations for the NBA, will oversee the team's role in the development of a new downtown sports arena and its business operations, says Lillis. It doesn't sound like Granger will be involved much, if at all, in the Kings' basketball operations.
- Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports (via Twitter) that Anthony Tolliver is in talks with five teams, including the Hawks, and hopes to make a decision soon.
- The Lakers have had conversations with Josh Powell's representative, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. McMenamin adds in a second tweet that the team has also spoken to a couple more former Lakers: Sasha Vujacic and Lamar Odom.
- As Monta Ellis continues to seek a free agent deal, there doesn't appear to be a clear favorite to sign him, writes Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld. News broke today that Ellis has parted ways with his longtime agent.
- Elton Brand and Brandan Wright are still talking to the Mavericks about a potential return, but Rodrigue Beaubois is almost certainly headed elsewhere, as GM Donnie Nelson told reporters today, including Bryan Gutierrez of ESPNDallas.com.
- Before he agreed to sign with the Bobcats, Al Jefferson received interest from the Mavericks and Pelicans, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.