Michael Jordan

Southeast Notes: Walker, Jordan, Parker, Wizards

Despite leaving the Hornets in free agency this past summer, Kemba Walker still holds a positive relationship with owner Michael Jordan and the city of Charlotte.

Walker, who spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Hornets, opted to sign a four-year, maximum-salary deal worth $141MM with the Celtics in early July.

“MJ is always going to be a special guy in my life,” Walker said last week after his return to Charlotte, as relayed by Steve Reed of the Associated Press. The Celtics wound up winning the game 108-87. “He’s one of the reasons I am where I am today.”

Jordan drafted Walker No. 9 overall in the 2011 draft, starting his professional career in a Hornets uniform. Walker has rapidly improved since his rookie season and is currently known as one of the league’s elite point guards, holding per-game averages of 24.5 points and 4.5 assists with Boston on the season.

“He gave me the opportunity to flourish as a basketball player,” Walker said of Jordan. “He gave me the opportunity to grow as a man in this community. So, MJ definitely has a special place in my heart for sure.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Count Jordan and former Hornets head coach Steve Clifford among those who aren’t jumping on the NBA’s “load management” bandwagon, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. “Our guys aren’t used to sitting on the second game of a back-to-back.… We’re not sitting guys just to sit,” said Clifford, who currently coaches the Magic. “For me, my background frankly, it all goes back to expectations. Being with Michael in Charlotte, Michael used to tell them every year, you’re paid to play 82 games.”
  • K.L. Chouinard of NBA.com profiles Hawks forward Jabari Parker, labeling the sixth-year player as “the NBA’s oldest 24-year-old.” Parker has displayed a respectable amount of maturity in recent seasons and has interests typically shared by his elders, including older music and cars, Chouinard explained. Parker has averaged 16.4 points and five rebounds per game for the Hawks this season, starting in three of his eight contests.
  • The Wizards are working to find a difficult balance between developing young players while still competing in today’s league, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. Washington has young players with high potential such as Rui Hachimura (21) and Thomas Bryant (22), along with established veterans such as Bradley Beal (26), Isaiah Thomas (30) and others.

Michael Jordan Sells Part Of Hornets

SEPTEMBER 27: The transaction has been approved by the NBA and is effective immediately, according to a team press release.

SEPTEMBER 14: Hornets owner Michael Jordan has reached an agreement to sell a portion of the franchise to two investors from New York, but he will retain control of the team, reports Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

The buyers are Gabe Plotkin, a founder of Melvin Captal, and Daniel Sundheim, a founder of DI Capital. They must receive league approval, but a source tells Bonnell that process is already under way and the sale is expected to be finalized in about two weeks.

The percentage that Plotkin and Sundheim will acquire and the price they will pay were not revealed. Jordan presently controls roughly 97% of the team. Another source indicates that he plans to run the organization for “a good, long time.”

“I’m excited to welcome Gabe and Dan as my partners,” Jordan said in a statement tweeted by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “While I continue to run the Charlotte Hornets, make all decisions related to the team and organization, Gabe and Dan’s investment in the franchise is invaluable as we continue to modernize, add new technology and strive to compete with the best in the NBA.”

Despite being considered a small-market organization, the Hornets have appreciated greatly in value since Jordan bought them in 2010. The purchase price was about $180MM, and Forbes estimated in February that the franchise is currently valued at $1.3 billion.

A source tells Bonnell that Jordan wanted to find investors who could help guide the team with technological advances. The Hornets also have a few smaller investors who owned part of the team before Jordan purchased it.

Eastern Notes: Smart, Winslow, Heat, Jordan

As part of his new autobiography, “I’ll Show You”, former NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose praised Celtics guard Marcus Smart, lauding the tenacity, aggression and intensity he brings to the court every night with Boston.

Smart, who’s coming off a stint with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, is expected to be one of the Celtics’ key leaders on the defensive end this season.

“I always said I’m a hooper, and hoopers can do anything, I feel,” Rose wrote in the autobiography, according to Taylor Snow of Celtics.com. “It don’t matter. Like, Marcus Smart is a hooper. Analytics, you would say no way you want him. But when you go out there and watch the game, you say, ‘Of course I want him on my team.’ Makes shots, period. That’s a guy I love playing with.”

Smart is coming off a season where he averaged 8.9 points, four assists and 1.8 steals in 27.5 minutes per game, shooting a career-high 42% from the floor and 36% from 3-point range in 80 contests. His scrappy play has helped him earn the respects of fellow players around the league, with the 25-year-old set to enter his sixth NBA season this fall.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

NBA Conducting Investigation Of Tampering

In response to tampering complaints, the NBA is investigating some of the earliest agreements reached in free agency, according to Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The process will include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees as well.

Suspicions were raised as some free agent deals were announced immediately upon the arrival of the negotiating period, which began at 6:00pm Eastern Time on June 30. A few agreements were leaked ahead of that hour, prompting questions about the legality of the process.

The announcement of the investigation came after a “tense” owners meeting in Las Vegas in which everyone present was encouraged to express their grievances. Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who lost Kemba Walker to a quickly-announced deal with the Celtics, suggested the need to alter the way free agency is conducted in the next collective bargaining agreement. Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who could have the top free agent in 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo hits the market, discussed “gray areas” of the current rules against tampering.

NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan reminded teams that they are all expected to abide by the rules and promised a revised set of regulations that will be strictly enforced. He mentioned “seizing servers and cellphones” to track any illegal contact that teams might make.

Other possible solutions being considered by the league include:

  • Allowing teams to negotiate with their own free agents after the Finals have concluded. Some executives and agents admit that the free agent process now unofficially begins at the draft combine in May when meetings over potential picks expand into talk about free agent clients.
  • Holding free agency before the draft. The Rockets submitted a formal proposal to enact this change last year, but only got support from 10 teams, sources tell Lowe and Windhorst.
  • Cutting back the moratorium, which extended this year from June 30 to July 6. It exists to give the league time to account for all its revenue from the previous season and set an accurate salary cap.
  • Granting teams more time and more freedom to talk with free agents before they officially reach the market.

Several teams also complained about the new trend toward family members serving as virtual agents and making requests not covered by the CBA. Some used Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle, Dennis Robertson, as an example, but the authors point out that there have been many other similar cases. Commissioner Adam Silver admitted that “things are being discussed that don’t fall squarely within the collective bargaining agreement.” There was sentiment at the meeting to require family members who assume that role to go through the union’s agent certification process.

Hornets Notes: Jordan, Kemba, Quiet Deadline

Michael Jordan‘s successes as a player and as a Nike ambassador outshine his track record as an NBA team owner, but the transaction that allowed Jordan to buy a majority stake in the Hornets was one of the best deals the six-time NBA champion ever made, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

As Windhorst details, despite a reported sale price of $275MM, Jordan put up just $30MM in cash to buy the then-Bobcats in 2010, in an arrangement the league likely wouldn’t approve today. Since then, Jordan has continued to purchase more shares in the franchise and now owns about 90% of the team. Forbes’ franchise valuations, released last Wednesday, suggest the Hornets are currently worth $1.25 billion.

While Charlotte isn’t a huge market and the Hornets haven’t had much postseason success since their inception, the NBA’s revenue sharing model has paid off in a big way for the club. According to Windhorst, league documents show that the organization received more than $130MM in revenue sharing money between 2012 and 2017.

Windhorst’s piece, which includes a look at how LeBron James wants to follow in Jordan’s footsteps when it comes to owning an NBA franchise, is worth checking out in full.

Here are a few more Hornets-related notes:

  • In an interesting piece for USA Today, Jeff Zillgitt spoke to Hornets players and head coach James Borrego about what it’s like to have Jordan as the team’s owner. “It’s actually really cool,” Marvin Williams said of playing for Jordan. “It’s not like people think. For the most part from what I hear, most people think it’s a lot tougher playing for him than it really is. He’s the total opposite. … He just wants you to compete. That’s not a lot to ask. If you compete, he’s going to live with the wins and the losses.”
  • After a fairly quiet trade deadline, Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak looked ahead to the rest of the season and the upcoming offseason in his comments to reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak believes Charlotte can make the playoffs and spoke in positive terms about the odds of re-signing Kemba Walker in the summer. “I’m optimistic and I’m hopeful, as I always have been, that Kemba starts his career in a Hornets uniform and ends it in one,” Kupchak said.
  • In a post-trade-deadline mailbag for The Charlotte Observer, Bonnell answered questions on whether a quiet trade deadline would have an impact on Walker’s free agent decision, why the Hornets elected to claim Shelvin Mack off waivers using their open roster spot, and why Kupchak didn’t make any deals at the deadline.

Hornets Notes: Kidd-Gilchrist, Howard, Bridges, Jordan

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely have a reduced role under new coach James Borrego and may not last the entire season with the Hornets, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in a question-and-answer column. Since being taken second overall in the 2012 draft, Kidd-Gilchrist has started all but four of the games in which he has appeared during his six seasons in Charlotte, but his position may be in jeopardy.

Bonnell cites “offensive limitations” that will make him less appealing with Borrego in charge. In a league where most forwards are expected to help stretch the defense, Kidd-Gilchrist only attempted two 3-pointers last season and is 7 for 36 from long distance for his career.

With a $13MM contract for this season and a $13MM player option for 2019/20, Kidd-Gilchrist won’t be easy to move. Bonnell speculates that GM Mitch Kupchak might have more success around the trade deadline, but still may have to take on long-term salary in return.

Bonnell passes on more Hornets information in the same piece:

  • Borrego emphasizes quick decision making on offense, which is among the reasons Dwight Howard was traded away after a productive season. The new coach wants constant movement and doesn’t like to see players holding onto the ball while deciding their next move. Howard is often criticized for slowing down the offense with his low-post game.
  • The Hornets may not be in a hurry to make trades before training camp opens next month because Borrego would like some time to evaluate his players to see who best fits his system.
  • First-round pick Miles Bridges will be used primarily at small forward, but Borrego may experiment with him as a stretch four during preseason. Bonnell notes that Bridges dropped about 20 pounds between college and Summer League, where he showed that he can distribute the ball and create mismatches.
  • Team owner Michael Jordan shouldn’t be judged harshly for the Hornets’ failure to attract free agents. The organization is well over the salary cap, and Charlotte doesn’t offer the natural advantages that some other cities do. Bonnell states that if Jordan were running the Lakers, he would have been just as successful as Magic Johnson when it came to luring LeBron James.
  • Jordan can’t circumvent the salary cap to give extra money to impending free agent Kemba Walker through his shoe deal. Walker is a paid endorser of the Jordan Brand, as are some other Hornets, but the league laid out rules against using that to get around the cap way back when Jordan first got a stake in the Wizards.

Hornets Expand Search For New GM

The Hornets are expanding their search for a new GM even though former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak remains a leading candidate, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

The Hornets are looking to replace Rich Cho after announcing last month they wouldn’t extend his contract.

The club has received permission to interview Sixers VP of Player Personnel Marc Eversley, Rockets Executive VP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, league sources told Wojnarowski.

However, Kupchak’s longstanding relationship with owner Michael Jordan could still tip the scales in his favor, Wojnarowski adds. The Lakers replaced Kupchak with Magic Johnson last season.

Assistant GM Buzz Peterson is currently running the day-to-day operations for the Hornets and is expected to remain with the organization once a new GM is hired. Charlotte hopes to fill the position by the end of the regular season, Wojnarowski adds.

Michael Jordan Explains Stance On Kemba Walker

With trade rumors swirling around Kemba Walker over the last several days, Hornets owner Michael Jordan spoke to local beat reporter Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer on Monday night to set the record straight. While Jordan acknowledged that Walker’s name has come up in trade talks, he told Bonnell that he’s not looking to trade his star guard unless he gets a marquee player in return.

“Obviously, the season has been a disappointment so far, and there have been teams asking about players. Also, we’ve been asking about players,” Jordan said. “We ask teams who they like on our roster and they always say Kemba. … It’s not like we are shopping him. We would not just give him up. I love Kemba Walker. I would not trade him for anything but an All-Star player.”

Although they’ve played a little better in January, the 19-26 Hornets remain out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference for now. Acknowledging that the club’s record is disappointing, Jordan tells Bonnell that he has not given up on the season yet. In other words, he’s not looking to sell off Walker in order to kick-start a full-fledged rebuild. In fact, the Hornets’ owner reached out to Walker on Friday to assure the 27-year-old that the franchise is “not predisposed to moving him,” according to Bonnell.

Still, while some teams would deny the trade rumors outright, Jordan did admit that there have been some discussions centered around Walker — and some of those talks were instigated by the Hornets, Bonnell writes. If Jordan and the Hornets really hope to attach an unwanted contract to Walker and land an All-Star caliber player in return, a deal may not be realistic, but the club isn’t closing the door on the possibility of moving its best player.

“We bred him, we chose him, we groomed him to be a good player for us,” Jordan said of Walker. “I’m not looking to trade Kemba, but I would listen to opportunities.”

And-Ones: Ayton, Thunder Trades, Wagering, Ball

Arizona freshman center DeAndre Ayton could be the No. 1 overall pick in June, according to Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. The 7’1” Ayton has proven to be a highly productive for the otherwise disappointing Wildcats, averaging 20.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 1.4 BPG in his first eight college games. He has a 7-foot-5 wingspan and has shown a high basketball IQ, Brigham continues. At worst, Ayton should be a top-three lock, Brigham adds.

In other news involving the league:

  • The trade packages the Knicks and Pacers received from the Thunder in blockbuster deals this offseason have proven to be far better than expected, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton notes. Center Enes Kanter, the best player the Knicks got back in the Carmelo Anthony trade, is a good fit as Kristaps Porzingis frontcourt partner, while Porzingis has thrived as a No. 1 option in Pelton’s analysis. Victor Oladipo has actually outperformed Paul George in his expanded role with Indiana, according to Pelton’s metrics. The other player the Pacers received in the deal, center Domantas Sabonis, has improved sharply while playing more often in the post than he did in Oklahoma City, Pelton adds.
  • The league and several owners have positioned themselves to cash in on expanded betting on its games, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst examines in an in-depth piece. The league would prefer changes in current federal laws and the creation of a unified commission to oversee the expanded betting operations, Windhorst continues. The Hornets’ Michael Jordan, the Wizards’ Ted Leonsis and the Mavs’ Mark Cuban have recently invested in a company focused on real-time data distribution, which would facilitate in-game wagering, Windhorst adds.
  • Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother LiAngelo Ball has no chance of being selected if he declares for next June’s draft, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. LiAngelo Ball would have trouble finding a spot in any professional league, including the G-League, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links). UCLA announced on Monday that the younger Ball intends to leave the program, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic tweets. The freshman was arrested along with two teammates in China on shoplifting charges and suspended by the school after being allowed to return to the United States.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.