If We Have No Future, There’s No Reason To Live For Tomorrow

For those of you that believe this is a horrid trade and yet another example of the pathetic management skills of one Mr. Michael Jordan and company, feel free to go ponder Rob’s vial of pure vitriol.

First, a primer for the uninitiated.

I did a piece last year with several bloggers of rebuilding teams and through it I came to several central concepts. The first is that you need to trade your best remaining star player with the biggest contract over the age of 24. The second is that you need to invest in young players and not commit any longterm money to veterans until you have a solid basie of contributers. And the third is that you have to have patience.

From these ideas it’s easy to see why I would hate the moves that the Charlotte Bobcats this year. They added veterans, often with poorly rewared , longterm contracts, and haven’t done anything to clear space for them in 2010, AKA the Free Agent Auction Mana From Heaven.

Odd thing? I love the moves they’ve made. LOVE.

Let me take you back.

Back before Larry Brown was considered a team-hopping, no-patience, rookie-hating, get-off-my-lawn-with-your-rock-and-or-roll money grubbing lunatic, he was a coach in the ABA. Before that he was a player in the ABA.  The LB I read about in Loose Balls is nothing like the crabby man with a shotgun on the mountain I’ve known him as, or the scheister he’s made out to be following the New York debacle. And it explains a lot about why he’s done what he’s done this season in Charlotte.

Let’s start by disspelling a few myths.

First, the Bobcats aren’t by rebuilding.

To say they are rebuilding is like stating that taking a large pile of dirt, 2X4s, and a big metal sheet is a house. Sure, you have parts of a house. But I’m still walking down to the 7-11 to use the restroom, you know? This team had never put anything significant enough to have fallen down to a point of rebuilding. This was a building project. So if you remove any sense of legitimacy from the history of the franchise, you’re no longer dealing with trying to build a longterm project. Especially given Carolina’s notoriously flakey relationship with professional basketball. You need wins.

Second, let’s talk about 2010.  Charlotte is not on the list.  It’s just not. And I’m a small market guy, people. But Charlotte, by even their own fans’ admission, is not going to be on the list for the Free Agent Class of Doom. So if you’re not playing for 2010, why on earth would you concern yourself with clearing cap space? Don’t you want big contracts for medium players you can parlay into cap space when you can use it? Don’t you want veteran players that you don’t have to sign to longterm extensions for max deals? They have enough good players where they’re not going to get a top five pick. Isn’t it better to put some wins together so your team, doesn’t, you know, dissolve?

Now let’s look at what they’ve done this season. Raja Bell was considered a waste in Phoenix. But as we’re quickly finding out, that may have much less to do with Raja Bell and more with the fact that Terry Porter couldn’t coach his way out of a cardboard box and Steve Kerr kills the dreams of men. Boris Diaw was always forced into trying to be the best player on the floor at certain times, when there were always three better players on the floor. Hey, look, both of their numbers have gone way up in Charlotte! Amazing!

Now the Vlad Rad signing. Or as I screamed loudly in my living room upon hearing the news, scaring my dog to death, “THE SPACE CADET HAS LANDED IN CHARLOTTE!”

Let’s be honest. As, again, RoF points out, this trade wasn’t about Morrison. It was about Shannon Brown. For every positive moment Morrioson provided, you had a blown assignment, an airball, a useless possession. Brown hit some big shots, and in LA he’ll be told, “don’t do anything unless told to.” Same with Morrison. When you’re only expected to be a role player, it can accent your natural talents. Like shooting. And only shooting. But that’s the Lakers side. This is about Charlotte.

Vlad Rad’s a headcase. We know this. But Brown’s already proved that when the Bobcats are healthy (you know, theoretically), they have enough interior firepower to draw the defense in. What they don’t have are shooters. Morrison can’t catch and shoot. He bobbles, tries to dribble, works his way into the defense. Brown’s a touch better. But as much as I love young players, even I recognize that there are certain things veterans know to do that young players don’t. And those are things Brown craves. It’s why Augustin is flourishing under him, when Brown’s reputation is to destroy his soul. Augustin tries less to be a superstar, more to do the things Brown wants first.

So now Brown has players that know what their doing. All of them are movable. He still has young players to build around. Augustin. Okafor. Whoever they draft this year. Possibly Wallace if they don’t trade him. He has players that look infinitely more movable  now that they’re actually productive and their contracts won’t seem eternal after this season. And they have enough to be competitive. The Bobcats have the opposite problem that the Bucks have. The Bucks for almost a decade have vascilatted between terrible and “decent.” At some point, you have to look to actually compete. But that’s not where the ‘Cats are. They just need to be respectable. And that means being a solid team with fundamental strength that knows how to play.

Yes, I understood what I’ve just described seems exactly contrary to everything we know about Vlad Rad. But it’s not like Larry Brown’s going to ask him to run point. Radmanovic won’t be asked to defend Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. He needs to knock down shots and not do stupid things. And worst case, he’s gone in 2011, when everyone else will have already blown their payroll the summer before. Radmanovic doesn’t create any demands for playing time, or attention from the media. As long as he doesn’t go snowboarding, they’re good. Yeah, it’s six million. But it’s six million for one guy versus four million for several guys who will just frustrate you.

The Bobcats are one of the few teams below .500 who don’t need to try and get younger, who can benefit from a loose assembly of veteran role players. Brown’s not moving them towards a championship, he’s setting them for the ability to make the necessary move.

Now if he can just keep Jordan out of the draft room.

People doubted the Bell-Diaw trade, and when healthy, this team was above .500 with wins over the Celtics and Lakers. They were making a run at the 8th spot and still have a great shot at it if they can get healthy. Everyone’s going to mock this trade as well. And when it works out, there will be that awkward silence. It’s the sound of an old guy showing why he’s been around so long.

Get off his lawn.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.