It appears the Charlotte Bobcats are ready to put a full-court press on returning to relevancy, and they just might use a somewhat unconventional approach to get there.
But hey, when you win seven of 66 games as the Bobcats did this past season, there’s clearly a lot of fixing that needs to be done.
The Bobcats, owned by Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, currently possess the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft. By all indications, they will hold onto the pick, although few within the league are getting an early feel for how they might use it.
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Certainly, the prospects are there – from Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Kansas forward Thomas Robinson to Florida guard Bradley Beal and beyond.
Regardless, sources out of the Chicago Draft Combine are saying the Bobcats’ plans include more than just a lottery pick. They also may turn to free agency, the goal being to get veteran players to guide the youth movement while contributing on the court.
The target list could include the likes of forwards Antawn Jamison and Grant Hill, who spent the past few years with Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively. Both are former All-Stars with strong North Carolina connections – Jamison played his high school ball in Charlotte and collegiately at North Carolina, while Hill played just down the road at Duke.
Both are also said to have a good relationship with Jordan, which might override the fact they’re considered at least slightly past their primes (Jamison turns 36 next week, Hill turns 40 in October). So the scuttlebutt is both might be willing to help Jordan out at a bargain basement price.
“Michael is sick of hearing the talk about being a less-than-stellar evaluator of talent, and who can blame him? He’s sick of his team getting throttled,” said a Western Conference executive. “You couldn’t fault him and his front office for just plugging the dyke for a year. Signing some veterans might do that.”
That GM makes a valid point, as anyone who scans the Bobcats’ roster can see there are holes everywhere. Former coach and current analyst Jeff Van Gundy even stated recently that they don’t have a top-15 player at any position, which would be hard to argue.
“As far as trades go, there aren’t a lot of options,” said one scout. “I mean, you’d have to move (Bismack) Biyombo or Gerald Henderson or Kemba Walker, and those are the three pieces you really want for the future.”
Same goes for the second overall draft choice.
That leaves free agency, and while the Class of 2012 isn’t exactly bringing GMs and fans to the edge of their seats, it does include more than its fair share of solid veterans who are likely on the verge of a pay cut.
“Jamison, Hill, Ray Allen … the list isn’t over the top, but it is serviceable,” said one GM. “Under most circumstances, guys like these wouldn’t even consider an option like (the Bobcats). But a lot of these guys grew up idolizing Michael. They might be willing to end their careers helping his franchise get on the right track.”
More Bobcats Stuff
— There’s been talk that the Bobcats might be willing to move the No. 2 pick to Memphis in a package for small forward Rudy Gay, but according to sources, it’s just been talk. “It seems the rumors about Gay (being on the trading block) are true,” one source said. “And the Bobcats are one team that could take on his salary. But a trade would be complicated.”
— Jordan has taken plenty of grief for his previous drafts, which include selecting Kwame Brown with the No. 1 overall pick when with the Wizards in 2001, and injury-prone forward Adam Morrison third with the Bobcats in 2006. But several sources say former GM Bernie Bickerstaff was the one who sold Jordan on Morrison, and that Jordan’s role in the draft process in Charlotte has been minimal.
— The Bobcats still need to hire a coach, and those in the know feel Jerry Sloan is the frontrunner should the plan actually involve adding a few of the aforementioned (or not mentioned) veteran pieces. Sloan, the former longtime coach of the Jazz, is said to be the lone candidate to have met face-to-face with Jordan during the interview process. Sloan turned 70 in March.
— It’s possible the Bobcats’ nickname may also change, according to reports in the Charlotte Observer. If it does, it will be because New Orleans owner Tom Benson has been following through on his attempts to change the Hornets nickname. The Hornets once played home games in Charlotte, and the current franchise would simply take its old nickname back if Benson is successful in changing the one in New Orleans.
— Cavaliers fans may want to keep an eye on what happens with Michael Redd. The veteran shooting guard spent this past season with the Suns and is an unrestricted free agent. The Cavs will need to replace the leadership of Jamison and Anthony Parker, and Redd is a born-again Christian who fits into the type of culture GM Chris Grant is trying to implement. “Every team needs veterans, regardless of the process,” said an Eastern Conference executive. “Redd would be a good fit there coming off the bench.” Redd, 32, is a Columbus native and Ohio State product.
— Harrison Barnes has been mentioned as a real candidate for the Cavs with the No. 4 draft pick, with one basketball analyst going as far as a “done deal.” But not so fast, said a Western Conference scout. “The Cavs may really, really like him, but nothing is a done deal when you don’t know who is getting picked before you,” said the scout. “We haven’t even had the (Chicago) combine or individual workouts, so don’t try to tell me we know who teams are picking outside of Anthony Davis (being drafted) No. 1 by New Orleans.”
— Davis is a 6-foot-10 forward out of Kentucky and considered the lone impact player in a deep draft. The day after the lottery, Davis said on the Dan Patrick radio show that he and his family were rooting for the Bobcats to get the first overall pick. “A lot of disappointment inside my family. My mom wanted me to go to Charlotte. I have a lot of good friends in Charlotte,” Davis said.