Nets-Bobcats Preview

The Charlotte Bobcats emerge from the All-Star break knowing

they could soon have a new owner, as well as their first playoff

berth.

The Bobcats look for their 11th win in 13 home games Tuesday

night when they face the league-worst New Jersey Nets, losers of 15

in a row on the road.

Charlotte (26-25) is sixth in the Eastern Conference, in

position to reach the playoffs for the first time in their six-year

history after falling four games shy in 2008-09.

By the time the Bobcats find out if they will be in the

postseason, they also may have a new owner. Bob Johnson is expected

to sell the franchise after becoming the first black majority owner

of a major professional sports team when he paid $300 million for

the expansion franchise. The Bobcats have struggled to sell tickets

and sponsorships, and Johnson has lost millions of dollars.

The prospective owner is unknown, and so is the involvement of

Michael Jordan, a minority investor who has run the Bobcats’

basketball operations since 2006 and has the right of first refusal

on any sale.

Though he won’t say if Jordan will be buying the team, NBA

commissioner David Stern feels a deal is imminent.

“I think that might happen sooner rather than later,” he said,

“within the next 60 days or so.”

While ownership may be clouded, the Bobcats are becoming a

strong team at home, going 19-6 – four wins shy of the franchise

record set last season.

Nazr Mohammed helped Charlotte enter the All-Star break with a

second consecutive victory, scoring 21 points and grabbing a

career-high 20 rebounds in Wednesday’s 93-92 win at Minnesota. The

Bobcats wasted a 21-point second-quarter lead, but Mohammed’s dunk

with 5.3 seconds left helped secure the win.

“It’d be a huge amount of regret if we’d lost this one,”

Mohammed said. “We’d have hated to look back and be one game away

from making the playoffs … one game away from the seventh or

sixth seed or whatever it may be just because of a game you lost

here in February.”

One reason Charlotte nearly lost is Gerald Wallace had only five

points on 1-of-9 shooting. Wallace, seventh in the league with 10.9

rebounds per game while averaging 18.8 points, became the first

Bobcats player to appear in the All-Star game Sunday.

The forward had a career-high 20 boards and 24 points in a 79-68

home win over the Nets (4-48) on Nov. 2. He also grabbed 20

rebounds at New Jersey on Dec. 4, but had 13 points as the Bobcats

fell 97-91 and the Nets ended the worst season-opening slide in

league history at 18 games.

The Nets are looking to end another skid. Their 15-game road

losing streak is their longest in a single season since dropping 20

in a row from Jan. 28-April 13, 1991. They’re 1-27 on the road this

season.

Overall, New Jersey has dropped eight in a row after falling

97-77 to Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Brook Lopez, who had nine points against the Bucks, had 31

points and 14 rebounds in the last meeting with Charlotte. The

center leads New Jersey with averages of 18.8 points and 9.0

boards.