Jordan actually present this time around, and it's not a good thing

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Michael Jordan’s majority ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats was announced just over a week ago, but his approach is already drastically different. Namely, it seems like he actually cares. I’m not necessarily sold that he does, but for once, post-retirement Jordan is trying to sell us on himself the way he’s always tried to sell us on his shoes, on Hanes, and on Gatorade.

Head of basketball operations Jordan didn’t even bother to be in the city for home games, much less care what anyone had to say. Part-owner Jordan didn’t often go to watch his team in person, much less care what anyone had to say. And now, after the announcement that Jordan will be the official owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, he’s suddenly sitting right there at the end of the bench, posturing like all hell for the cameras, and still doesn’t much care what anyone has to say.

He still wants to be visible because he’s still Michael Jordan. And though he’s enjoyed his stint away from the constant bright lights, let’s not for a minute pretend that he doesn’t like the attention. Jordan’s afforded the opportunity to be callous because he knows that no matter what he does, the lights will find him. The cameras will find him. And before it may have taken a glance around the luxury boxes to see him glad-handing a potential sponsor, but now with his name in the headlines once again, Jordan is making himself completely visible yet again.

Take this quick hit from Ira Winderman in his recap of last night’s Heat-Bobcats game:

Michael Jordan, Charlotte’s impending majority owner, not only is
becoming more of a fixture at Bobcats games, but now sits at the end of
the team’s bench. Somehow, we couldn’t envision Pat Riley sharing fist
pumps with Yakhouba Diawara.

I know that’s Mark Cuban’s shtick, but here’s the difference: in all of Cuban’s years as Owner of the Dallas Mavericks, I’ve never once questioned his commitment or sincerity. He lives and dies with that team. It’s why he’s outspoken, it’s why he sends in tapes that showcase bad refereeing, it’s why David Stern takes a long sigh before answering a phone with Mark on the other end. The Mavs were his team long before they were his team, and for an owner of that mentality, sitting on the bench and being more involved makes sense.

But for Jordan? Grow up, man. We’ve seen you try to run the show before, and I don’t expect to see you jumping up and down after a Raymond Felton three-pointer. Hell, I didn’t even really expect for you to show up for the games at all. But here you are, gracing the Bobcats’ bench with your presence, and making everything considerably more difficult and awkward in the process.

As Kelly Dwyer notes in the link above, it doesn’t have to be this way. Michael doesn’t have to be part of the reason why Larry Brown will leave the Bobcats this summer, and he doesn’t have to be the reason why the players in Charlotte grow increasingly agitated with the act. It could all end here and MJ could do a fine job of not only running the team, but conducting himself in an appropriate manner that isn’t a complete betrayal of everything we’ve known about Jordan since his playings days came to a close.

If he wasn’t already a parody of himself before, Jordan certainly is now. I just wish he wouldn’t do it at the expense of a franchise that’s always been dangerously close to ruin, but has seen their first flash of hope in the team’s young history. 

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”

 

Report: Hornets’ center Cody Zeller out six weeks following knee surgery

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Charlotte just cannot get over the injury bug this season, and we found out last week it had struck again.

Now we know how severe the damage is, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Ouch.

Zeller has been solid off the bench behind Dwight Howard this season, averaging 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in just under 20 minutes a night. He plays around the basket, 75 percent of his shots come at the rim, but his efficiency has dipped a little this season and he is shooting just 50 percent inside the restricted area.

The Hornets had to start the season without Nicolas Batum, and Michael Carter-Williams has missed time as well. On top of that, coach Steve Clifford had to take a leave of absence from the team for personal health reasons. Stephen Silas has stepped in to replace him.

Report: LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball have deal to play professionally in Lithuania

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This feels like a publicity stunt. Whatever the under/over is on how long it will last, bet the under.

That said, the two younger brothers of Lonzo Ball — LiAngelo, 18, and LaMelo, 16 — have reached a deal to play for a team in the highest level of the Lithuanian league. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN (before the signing became official).

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are in serious discussions to sign professional basketball contracts with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, sources told ESPN.

The club plans to decide in the next 24-to-48 hours whether to finalize agreements with the two American teenagers, sources told ESPN.

If signed, the franchise has hopes that the Balls – including their father LaVar — could be a marketing boon for the fledgling franchise, sources told ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports the deal is done.

Lithuania is a hoops-mad Baltic country of an estimated 2.9 million people who has three players currently in the NBA — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total, including Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis. You might remember the Lithuanian National Team wearing Grateful Dead inspired uniforms and taking the bronze medal in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics.

This is a country that takes its basketball seriously, and the Balls are a traveling circus and reality show. The Lithuanian league doesn’t have NBA-level players, but they guys they suit up have a real feel for the game and play a disciplined style. This could be a real culture clash, the kind of thing that ends quickly and spectacularly poorly. Here is some insight into the team from FIBA’s Lithuanian hoops writer.

Don’t expect the Ball children to play much, especially not at first.

The pay at this level is reportedly north of $1,500 a month, but that could be higher if the brothers are seen as a draw. With the report of the tight financial squeeze, this is likely a gambit on the coach’s part to boost revenue (in Europe, coaches are the CEOs of the organization, much more akin to the power top college coaches have than an NBA coach).

This is a league where men play and the game is taken seriously, it has produced not only Lithuanian players but Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes played there. This team apparently does not run the (suprisingly standard in Europe) two-a-day practices on non-game days, but their practices are longer and harder than most American versions. There are a lot of quality players — former American college/D-League guys, as well as good Europeans — who would love a shot like this. Who deserve a chance like this. If the younger Ball children do not perform and do not take this seriously, it will turn on them quickly.

LiAngelo Ball had gone to UCLA to play basketball this season, but after being suspended for shoplifting in China, his father LaVar pulled him out of college, designed a “Gelo 3” signature shoe for his son from the Big Baller Brand, and started looking for a professional contract. I’m not sure LiAngelo belongs at this level. As one scout told me last summer, LiAngelo was only at UCLA because Lonzo was a top recruit and LaMelo had a lot of potential. That scout wasn’t sure LiAngelo could stick in Europe.

LaMelo is a generally highly-rated recruit with NBA potential, a guy with crazy shooting range for a high-school Junior and good handles, but scouts had a lot of questions about his defense and most of his game outside of just shooting. LaMelo put up 70 points in an AAU game, but he cherry-picked the entire time, and the sense is there is a lot of that in his game. His father LaVar pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills High School this season after a new basketball coach said he was going to push his guys to play within a system on both ends. How well LaMelo adapts to a very different culture on and off the court at his age is a big question.

Maybe this works out. Maybe the Ball children are more mature in personality and game than I think, maybe this is the financial boost that Prienu Vytautas needs and it works for them. It’s possible. I just don’t expect it.

Matt Barnes announces retirement from NBA after 15 seasons

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When too many fans think of Matt Barnes, they think of the guy who tried to fight Derek Fisher, the nightclub incident in New York, the guy who was a pest on the court and racked up more than his share of technicals and fines in a 15-year NBA career.

Ask Barnes former teammates about him, and they loved him — off the court and on. He was the quintessential guy you wanted on your team and hated to play against.

Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.

Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well for the team after signing in Golden State — Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes stepped up his role and play. He earned that ring. However, this season there seemed to be no fit for him in the league.

Barnes was drafted in the second round out of UCLA by the Memphis Grizzlies and went on to play for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

I’m going to miss him. While he had a rough exterior and was plenty chippy on the court, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off. I wish him the best and know he’ll enjoy life after basketball.