Michael Jordan

And-Ones: Postseason Awards, Fernandez, SLC Summer League, Players’ Poll

The NBA revealed the finalists for seven postseason awards on Sunday. The league will begin announcing the winners on Tuesday, the NBA’s communications department tweets.

The Most Improved Player award will be announced on Tuesday. Tyrese MaxeyAlperen Sengun and Coby White are the finalists. The Sixth Man of the Year award winner will be revealed on Wednesday, followed by the Clutch Player of the Year (Thursday) and Coach of the Year (Sunday).

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Nets’ hiring of Jordi Fernandez as their head coach won’t affect his status with Team Canada. Fernandez will coach their national team at the Paris Olympics, Canada Basketball tweets.
  • The Salt Lake City Summer League will take place July 8-10 at the Jazz’s Delta Center, according to a press release. The Jazz, Grizzlies, Thunder and Sixers will once again compete in the round-robin summer showcase, which precedes the Las Vegas Summer League.
  • The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Josh Robbins compiled poll results from 142 NBA players on a variety of topics. Nikola Jokic topped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for MVP, while Michael Jordan edged out LeBron James for Greatest Player of All Time. A majority of the players chose James Johnson as the player they’d least like to fight.

Latest On NBA’s Media Rights Negotiations

With the exclusive negotiating window for the NBA, ESPN, and TNT Sports set to close at the end of the day on Monday, Andrew Marchand of The Athletic checks in on where things stand for the league and its next media rights deal, with the current agreement set to expire at the end of the 2024/25 season.

As Marchand details, ESPN/ABC and TNT remain “intensely” interested in retaining their NBA rights and may well do so, but the league anticipates reaching deals on at least three separate TV packages – and possibly four – so at least one new partner is expected to enter the mix.

While the league will almost certainly talk to major streamers like Netflix, Apple, and Google/YouTube, the perceived favorite among those streamers is Amazon Prime Video, according to Marchand, who observes that Amazon has had success with an NFL Thursday Night Football package. Amazon is only interested in an NBA deal if it can secure a regular season and postseason package of “high-level” games, sources tell Marchand.

NBC, which was a key NBA partner during the era in which Michael Jordan‘s Bulls won six championships, remains interested in reuniting with the league, Marchand writes. NBC Universal chairman Mark Lazarus was with TNT when it brought the NBA to its network and has close ties with top league officials, per Marchand, who adds that NBC could incorporate its own streaming service (Peacock) into a potential agreement.

Back in 2014, the NBA struck a nine-year, $24 billion agreement with ESPN/ABC and TNT Sports well before their exclusive negotiating window closed, but the negotiations this time around are more complex, given the changing media landscape and the league’s desire to make streaming its principal distribution method, Marchand writes.

Here’s more from The Athletic’s report:

  • The NBA is seeking contracts of at least 10 years in its next media deal, according to Marchand.
  • The league is expected to look into the idea of partnering with a company like ESPN, Amazon, Apple, or Google/YouTube (or possibly more than one of them) to offer local games direct to viewers, Marchand says. The model the NBA is considering wouldn’t give those outlets exclusive local rights, but would be intended to give as many fans as possible access to games locally as cable diminishes.
  • Currently, ABC airs the NBA Finals, while ESPN and TNT show the conference finals. Those companies want to retain those high-end playoff series, but the idea of a streamer like Amazon getting the rights to conference finals or even NBA Finals games at some point in the next decade is a real possibility, says Marchand.
  • Given the increasing popularity of women’s college basketball stars, led by Caitlin Clark, there’s optimism about the WNBA receiving a significant bump in viewership in the coming years. WNBA media rights will be part of these negotiations, and – as Marchand puts it – the women’s league has “more currency in these negotiations than the last ones by a wide margin.”

Central Notes: Bulls Fans, Carter, Nesmith, Bolden

The Bulls intended to honor their history Friday night as they welcomed the inaugural class for their new Ring of Honor, but the ceremony was overshadowed by the fans’ reaction toward late general manager Jerry Krause, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Many fans at the United Center loudly booed at the mention of Krause, sparking an emotional reaction from his widow, Thelma, who was there to represent him.

“I’m telling you what, Chicago is a sports town, and what we witnessed today when Jerry Krause’s name was called and the people that booed Jerry Krause and his widow, who was accepting this honor for him, it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said former Bulls player Stacey King, who is now an analyst for NBC Sports Chicago. “I hurt for that lady. Brought her to tears, and whoever booed her in this arena should be ashamed of themselves.”

The first Ring of Honor class included 13 former players, coaches and executives, along with the entire 1995/96 team. Ex-coach Phil Jackson received the loudest cheers of the night, while franchise legend Michael Jordan didn’t attend the event but submitted a video message. Krause is blamed for breaking up the 1990s Bulls, who won six titles during the decade, a point that was emphasized in “The Last Dance” documentary.

“I’m devastated for Thelma and for the Krause family,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was part of those title teams. “I cannot believe that the fans — and you have to understand, when you hear boos, it’s not all of them. The fans who booed, they know who they are. To me, it’s absolutely shameful, and I’m devastated by that. Whether people liked Jerry or not … we’re here to celebrate that team. Jerry did an amazing job building that team. … And I’m so disappointed in the fans — and I want to be specific because there were lots of fans who I’m sure did not boo. But those who booed, they should be ashamed.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Jevon Carter, a free agent addition last summer, appears to have fallen out of the Bulls‘ rotation, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Carter got his second straight DNP-CD against Golden State on Friday as second-year guard Dalen Terry was used ahead of him.
  • Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith was able to play after being listed as questionable Friday night, but he will miss Sunday’s game at Denver due to bilateral shin soreness, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Nesmith has started the last 10 games at small forward, and Dopirak notes that Indiana’s defense has improved since his move into the starting lineup.
  • After waiving Marques Bolden from their NBA roster last weekend, the Bucks have acquired his G League rights in a trade, the Wisconsin Herd announced (via Twitter). The Herd sent the rights to Gary Clark and a pair of 2024 G League draft picks to Salt Lake City in exchange for the 25-year-old center.

Hornets Notes: Miller, Jordan, Smith, McGowens, Martin

Hornets forward Brandon Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 draft, has been named in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Jamea Jonae Harris, per Chris Low of ESPN. Harris was shot and killed on January 15 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Miller attended the University of Alabama during his lone college season.

The others named in the lawsuit are former Alabama player Darius Miles and Michael Davis, both of whom are facing capital murder charges for Harris’ death.

Miller has faced scrutiny for his connection to the shooting. He brought former teammate Miles the gun that was used in the killing of Harris, but insisted that he didn’t know the weapon was in the car. He cooperated in the investigation and was not charged with a crime.

According to Low, the lawsuit alleges that Miles, Davis and Miller “knew or should have known that bringing a dangerous weapon to a dispute and discharging said weapon would likely result in harm.” The complaint also alleges that the “negligence or wantonness” of the three men led to Harris’ death.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • In an interview with Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer, Miller says his veteran teammates have been “welcoming” and he’s been working on building rapport with the Hornets since he was drafted. “Like I’ve said since day one when I came here, it’s really all about the bonds with everybody,” Miller said. “I feel like the stronger the bond, the better play on the court, just as far as knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But getting to know each other off the court is kind of more important too, just to see what kind of person everybody is.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic spoke to 12 current and former Hornets for an oral history of what it was like to play for Charlotte with Michael Jordan as the team’s majority owner. Jordan sold his majority stake over the summer, but remains a minority shareholder.
  • Veteran point guard Ish Smith, who was recently signed as a backup with Frank Ntilikina sidelined, says he was considering retirement before he received an unexpected call on Saturday, according to Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “I was driving up to a Wake Forest football game,” said Smith, a North Carolina native. “I got the phone call from (assistant general manager) Buzz (Peterson) and my agent was like, ‘Man, do you still want to play?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. It’s home and it’s the perfect situation.’” As Boone writes, Smith worked out for Charlotte on Monday and was signed on Tuesday. The 35-year-old suggested this might be his last season. “I wasn’t going to any other state and I preferred to be here, and be home with family, friends … I was born and raised here and it will be a great story to close out here,” he said.
  • Wings Bryce McGowens (left ankle sprain) and Cody Martin (left knee soreness) will be sidelined for Wednesday’s season opener against Atlanta, the Hornets announced (via Twitter). It’s a discouraging start to 2023/24 for Martin, who only played seven games last season following knee surgery.

Hornets Notes: Schnall, Plotkin, Jordan, Roster

New Hornets co-chairmen Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin gave an exclusive interview to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer on Thursday following their introductory press conference.

The chat covered a number of topics, including the duo’s desire to build a sustainable winner, fan engagement, the team’s roster, and their respect for former majority owner Michael Jordan, who retained a minority stake in the franchise and recently penned an open thank you letter following the finalized sale.

Here are some highlights from Boone’s interview, with is worth checking out in full for Hornets followers:

On Jordan initiating the conversation about selling the team last August:

The way he has dealt with us in this process — he told us a year ago, ‘You two guys are the right guys to buy the business,'” Schnall said. “You are basketball guys. I believe you can do this, and I want you to do this.’ And he stuck to his word. He was committed. That’s when we started down this path.”

How Schnall’s experience as a minority owner of the Hawks will impact his decision-making with Charlotte:

I think being in and around the NBA for eight years, watching how owners make decisions, how general managers make decisions, how the CBA works, how trades work, how you build a roster. And I’m a business builder as a living, and I take all that in to think about and work with Gabe, and the rest of the group on how do you build a team? What’s the strategy for building a team over the long term, and create success over the long term?

Obviously, I wasn’t making the decisions in Atlanta, but I was in the room. And we went through a rebuild. We made a decision to break it down. … Now you can debate if we did everything right. I don’t think we did. But we did a lot of things right. We had the right idea at that time.

“… I think all of that is information and Gabe and I spent a lot of time talking about it. Now that we are in the position of making those decisions or helping make those decisions, what are the right decisions to make at different times in order to try to build a sustainably successful franchise. And that’s what we are trying to do. We are not trying to win the title in one year and then be terrible two years later. Like any sustainable business, how do we build something that is a contender year-in and year-out.

Plotkin’s thoughts on the current state of the roster:

I think it will be a competitive team. When you look at the Eastern Conference, it’s pretty powerful at the top of the conference and there’s a bunch of teams somewhere in the middle parts where I think we can compete within. And we’ll see how that plays out. I think there are really a lot of good parts on the roster. Really, we liked what we saw out of Brandon (Miller) at summer league. His shot wasn’t falling, but that is not something that we are really worried about. He’s got great mechanics, he’s got a great release, he shot the ball incredibly well at Alabama.

And we just signed LaMelo (Ball) to the max. And he was playing great basketball last year before he got injured. Usually that third, fourth year is an inflection year and we just didn’t get to see it from him because he wasn’t really on the court. And we were just speaking with Mark Williams. When he came into the starting lineup, there was a palpable difference on how this team defended. Being a part of this team for the last four or five years, there’s been no rim protection.

And so to anchor yourself with a really high basketball IQ player on the back end of your defense, who can alter shots and shoot the basketball a little bit and rim run, that’s really important. The pieces are all there. We’ll see how Miles (Bridges) looks as he comes back. He was great the last season we had him, and there are other young parts that can elevate. And, of course, you have Gordon (Hayward) and Terry (Rozier), who are kind of consummate professionals. There’s a lot of pieces. They’re young and we think they will continue to develop.”

Sale Of Hornets Finalized

The purchase of Michael Jordan’s majority stake in the Hornets by a group led by Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall has been finalized, the team announced in a press release. The sale was approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors last month.

Plotkin and Schnall will immediately take over controlling interest in the team. They will serve as co-chairmen of Hornets Sports & Entertainment and will rotate the governorship every five years, starting with Schnall.

“Our vision is to take the Hornets to the next level, both on and off the court,” the new owners stated in the release. “We will look to build a highly competitive basketball team, develop innovative business practices, give back to our community and connect with our fans. We plan to further invest in the team, the facilities and the fan experience, with the goal of delivering a winner to our fans throughout the Carolinas. We are confident that our successful business backgrounds and our previous experience as NBA minority owners will be beneficial as we shape the future of the franchise as a best-in-class organization.” 

Schnall had been a minority owner of the Hawks and an alternative on the league’s Board of Governors since 2015. Plotkin has held a minority stake in the Hornets since 2019 and served as a Board of Governors alternate as well. Their ownership group includes entertainers J. Cole and Eric Church, who are both from North Carolina.

Jordan, who has owned the team since 2010, will remain a minority owner and an alternate governor, the press release confirms. The purchase price isn’t disclosed, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the franchise is being valued at $3 billion for the sale.

“The opportunity to be the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets in my home state of North Carolina for the last 13 years has been a tremendous honor,” Jordan said. “I’m proud of all that the organization accomplished: the exciting on-court moments, the return of the Hornets name, Charlotte hosting the 2019 NBA All-Star Game and HSE becoming a true pillar of this community. Through the years, the unwavering commitment, passion and loyalty of our Hornets fans has been incredible.

“As I transition into a minority ownership role, I’m thrilled to be able to pass the reins to two successful, innovative and strategic leaders in Gabe and Rick. I know the Hornets organization is in great hands moving forward. I’m excited about the future of the team and will continue to support the organization and the community in my new role in the years ahead.” 

NBA’s Board Of Governors Approve Sale Of Hornets

The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved the sale of the Hornets to a group led by Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Michael Jordan agreed to sell his majority stake in the franchise last month after a 13-year run as the team’s majority owner. The Hall of Famer is expected to remain involved with the franchise as a minority shareholder.

The completed sale of the team, which was purchased at an approximate $3 billion valuation, is expected to be formally executed within the next two weeks. Jordan, who had been the league’s lone Black majority owner, paid $275MM for a majority stake in the franchise in 2010.

Schnall, the co-owner of a private equity firm, and Plotkin are not newcomers to NBA ownership. Schnall had been a minority owner of the Hawks, while Plotkin had a minority share of the Hornets. They’ll now serve as the franchise’s co-governors.

Plotkin, founder and chief investment officer of Melvin Capital, acquired his minority share from Jordan in 202o. Another minority owner of the franchise, Daniel Sundheim, is also part of the purchasing group.

Bulls Notes: Ball, Free Agency, White, Dosunmu, Jordan

It doesn’t appear that the Bulls will be getting their starting point guard Lonzo Ball back anytime soon. In remarks made to reporters after Thursday’s draft, team president Arturas Karnisovas poured cold water on the idea that he could return to the hardwood in 2023/24 at all.

“Going into the offseason, our [expectation] is that he’s not coming back next season,” Karnisovas said, tweets Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Since agreeing to a four-year, $80MM sign-and-trade deal with Chicago in the summer of 2021, Ball has appeared in a grand total of 35 contests for his new team.

If he so chooses, Karnisovas could opt to file for a disabled player exception. The exception would be worth half of Ball’s salary and would give the Bulls another tool to sign or trade for a replacement. It would only be granted if Ball is deemed more likely than not to remain sidelined through June 15, 2024.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Speaking of free agency, Karnisovas indicated that he hopes to add more long range shooting to the Bulls’ spacing-challenged roster this summer, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re trying to change our shooting profile,” Karnisovas said. “Being last in the league in rate from 3 and 3-point makes, we’re going to try to address that in the offseason.”
  • According to Johnson, Karnisovas also indicated that Bulls ownership is amenable to entering the luxury tax in pursuit of improvement, something the team has only ever done once. The Bulls’ president of basketball operations also suggested that Chicago would extend qualifying offers to guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, making them restricted free agents. White showed significant strides at the end of the 2022/23 season, and makes sense to retain. Dosunmu, meanwhile, regressed considerably during his second season, to the point where he became virtually unplayable in Chicago’s two play-in contests this spring, suiting up for an average of 5.5 MPG.
  • With former Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan in the midst of selling the franchise, it’s high time he bought a stake in the team where he became a Hall of Famer, opines Jon Greenberg of The Athletic. Jordan intends to continue to hold a minority stake in Charlotte for now, but Greenberg argues that the former Chicago shooting guard could divest from the Hornets to buy a solid share of his old team. As Greenberg notes, nowhere is Jordan more beloved than in the city where he cemented his legend, winning six titles in eight seasons while being widely heralded as the greatest player ever.

Draft Rumors: Miller, Hornets, Blazers, Pacers, Magic, More

The Hornets appear to be leaning toward selecting Alabama’s Brandon Miller with the second overall pick in tomorrow night’s draft, according to reports from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link via ClutchPoints), Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link), Jeremy Woo of ESPN (Insider link) and Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Wojnarowski, Givony, and Woo have all heard from sources who say Miller performed much better in his second workout on Monday in front of Hornets brass, including owner Michael Jordan. Wojnarowski goes so far as to say Miller “further solidified his standing as Charlotte’s choice at No. 2.”

For his part, Miller said in a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview (Twitter video link) that he didn’t feel intimidated by working out in front of Jordan, noting that he didn’t grow up watching the Hall of Famer. He also said he had a “fun time” exchanging verbal jabs with Jordan.

Here are more rumors on the draft, which is less than 24 hours away:

  • It would take a “significant return” for the Trail Blazers to part with the No. 3 pick in a draft that many view as having a consensus top-three prospects, but they’ll continue to listen to offers up until it’s time to make a selection, Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s NBA Today (YouTube link). “Certainly, they want to build around Damian Lillard, Wojnarowski said, per RealGM. “That’s been their focus. Damian Lillard says he wants to continue to be in Portland. So I think they’ll go right up to the clock on Thursday night. Offers and outreach from teams tend to get more serious the closer you get to the deadline…Portland may not have gotten the best offers that will come to them, but they will here in the next 24 hours or so. This is a significant decision for this organization, for Damian Lillard’s future in Portland.” If Miller gets picked No. 2, the Blazers would almost certainly select Scoot Henderson, Woj added.
  • Fischer confirms a recent report that the Spurs are inquiring about adding a second lottery pick and have been linked to French wing Bilal Coulibaly, who played with projected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama on Metropolitans 92. Interestingly, sources tell Woo that Coulibaly hasn’t unilaterally granted access to his medical details, indicating he may have a preferred destination in mind.
  • Cam Whitmore‘s stock may be falling due to medical concerns, sources tell Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, who has Whitmore going No. 9 to the Jazz in his latest mock draft. Whitmore had been viewed as an option for the Rockets (No. 4) or Pistons (No. 5).
  • Although Ausar Thompson canceled a workout with the Pacers (No. 7) last week, he still had a meeting with team officials, he told Fischer. Indiana sent a “select group” of personnel to Atlanta to meet with Thompson over the weekend, Fischer writes.
  • Anthony Black‘s camp “initially showed resistance” to the idea of working out for Orlando due to the Magic‘s guard depth, sources tell Fischer. However, he wound up leaving a strong impression on the team and now thinks he could be picked No. 6 overall, he told Fischer. If the Magic do pick a guard, they’ve given rivals the impression they’d consider trading Cole Anthony, who has a “great relationship” with the front office, or Jalen Suggs. “They didn’t tell me that,” Black said, “but that’s what I figured they’d do if they picked me.”
  • The Lakers have been exploring all kinds of options with their first-round pick (No. 17), including possibly moving up a few slots, Fischer writes. Keyonte George could be a target — the guard has also been linked to the Raptors at No. 13, per Fischer.
  • According to Fischer, Jarace Walker believes he could go as high as No. 5 (Pistons), with a floor possibly being Indiana (No. 7); Taylor Hendricks believes he could go anywhere from No. 5 to No. 12 (Thunder); and Dereck Lively II has been told he could be picked anywhere from No. 10 (Dallas) to No. 20 (Houston).

Hornets Notes: Miller, Henderson, Clifford, Kupchak, Jordan, Cole

Before making a final decision on the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Hornets have invited Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson to return to Charlotte on Monday for a second round of workouts and interviews, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Team owner Michael Jordan will be present at the workouts and will get his first in-person look at the two prospects, the authors add. Jordan has agreed to sell his majority stake in the team, but he remains in charge until the sale is finalized.

Miller is still considered the favorite to be selected by the Hornets, sources tell Wojnarowski and Givony, but Henderson made a strong impression during his session with the team last week. Their sources also say Miller didn’t exhibit the same intensity or conditioning level that Henderson did in their first workout, Givony tweets, so Monday’s gathering might be viewed as a second chance for him.

Wojnarowski and Givony also hear that both players are hoping to be selected by Charlotte because the city is much closer to their homes than Portland is, and they are excited about the new ownership group.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The pending sale shouldn’t affect the jobs of either head coach Steve Clifford or general manager Mitch Kupchak, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Clifford was hired last June and had to deal with numerous injuries to key players this season. He’s expected to get at least one more year on the job before a coaching change is considered. Kupchak signed a multi-year extension last year, and Boone states that this offseason will be important to his future, starting with making the right choice in the draft.
  • The high prices being fetched by sports franchises, along with Jordan’s legendary competitive nature, were likely factors in the sale, Boone adds. Jordan will reportedly sell the franchise for a $3 billion valuation and will get to retain a minority share of the team. Boone also suggests that Jordan doesn’t want his legacy to be affected by being associated with a losing franchise, as the Hornets have compiled a 423-600 record under his ownership.
  • Victoria Hernandez of USA Today looks at three potential ways that rap star J. Cole, who is part of the new ownership group, can use his connections in the music industry to benefit the team.