Had dinner with the folks last night and somehow, inexplicably, we got on to the subject of the Suns/Bobcats trade that only a handful of people know anything about. In fact, my dad actually broke the story to me as I was watching Sportscenter (what, I didn’t have remote control, swear). I have never known my dad to have anything to do with the league. He hates it. He hates the travelling. He hates the egos. He hates the GMs (smartly) and everything else. But, more than anything, my dad hates UNC, Michael Jordan and any connection between those two and running an NBA franchise in our state. (I am sure this explains so much to the people who read HP).
So, in discussing the trade, I was amazed at the clarity my dad had on the entire situation. He was expostulating about how Kerr’s micro-managing and intrusiveness was to blame for Phoenix’s lackluster appearance and performance. He widely denounced the Shaq trade (and, unlike me, he did not try to give it any silver lining when it went down last year – I’m so stupid).
But after all that was settled, he made a couple pointed jabs at the Bobcats. He feels that Jordan is the worst GM in the league – no question. Fine, some people would probably agree. He also said that the best thing to Bobcats could do would be to take Felton, May and Morrison out in a boat and drown them. Harsh I know, but not any more insane than the trade we had been discussing. And thirdly – this the most telling – was, and I quote:
“If it came down in next year’s draft between (Tyler) Hansbrough and (Blake) Griffin, Jordan’s stupid ass would take Hansbrough. No question.”
Now, on the surface, even the most logical NBA fan would think this to be completely false. It is widely assumed by any single person that follows basketball on any level that Griffin could very well be the #1 pick in the upcoming draft while Hansbrough, though magnificent in college, will most likely end up a late lottery to early 20s pick and that his style won’t fly in the league. But, when you think about it, I’m not so sure that I disagree.
From what I have seen of the Bobcats, Robert Johnson and Jordan care more about finances than they do about winning games. Of course, this trade would not suggest as much, but I don’t think they see it that way. They only care about tickets, tickets, tickets. Charlotte is densely populated with UNC grads and uber-fans and the feeling amongst those in the offices above Bobcat arena is that people will come to see those heroes of (recent) UNC lore. They took Felton and May. They took Adam Morrison, who though not a Tarheel, was the widely suspect, but flamboyantly odd hero of college basketball in 2005-06. He was the other side of the coin to the hated J.J. Redick who was setting records in Durham, which is good enough.
What the Bobcats have no feel for is marketability. Jordan, the king of sponsorships, cannot seem to find players or a team concept that lends itself to fiscal prosperity. So, he digs his heels (no pun intended) in with UNC alums like Brown, assistant coach Phil Ford, Felton and May. He even got rid of Jeff McInnis because everyone, even UNC grads hate McInnis – with just cause. He helps overpay drastically for Emeka Okafor, thinking they can still sell him as the “original” Bobcat and team anchor, but no one bases their fandom for a team that is “anchored” by a guy with no offensive game, charisma or passion. They have this underground, alt-superstar like Wallace, but they have been dangling him as trade bait all year. This is the franchise that is so dysfuntional that Tyler Hansbrough and his recent celebrity just might get a nod over the athleticism, offensive wizardry and awesomeness that is Blake Griffin. For a global icon, Jordan’s focus is terminally nearsighted to North Carolina, its university and its people. Raise your hand if you can ever remember Larry Brown winning anything without a talented, veteran, self-disciplining team? Yeah, me neither. But there he is, roaming around, killing this young team in the papers.
This is why you don’t let a local geography major try and turn your team into a nationwide force. It’ll be nice those first 10 games when Bobcats Arena is jumping for Tyler next year. And it will make it that much more sad when all those “fans” leave to watch the Heels every night and leave those seats, predictably, empty.
For what its worth, I dont think the above scenario will happen. It won’t even have the chance of happening, unless a sea change happens amongst the entire NBA scouting regime about Hansbrough’s capabilities in the league. But if it did, I think the choice would permanently define the homerism, short-sightedness and arrogance of Jordan and Johnson in clipping this franchises wings before it could even fly.
And boy, wouldn’t that make my dad proud.