Jordan builds bridges, Bob Johnson goes River Kwai

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NBA_jordan.jpgMichael Jordan wrote an open letter to the people of Charlotte Sunday, basically saying “give me a chance.” He talked of commitment to the area, of Carolina roots and passion.

It’s what you say to a city when you are trying to build a bridge. Particularly to the business community — fans in the upper bowl make for a great basketball experience, but NBA teams live and die by suite and executive seat sales, and by sponsorships. That is where the big money is to pay player salaries.

But as fast as Jordan can build a bridge, former owner Bob Johnson comes behind him and blows it up, all the while whistling the theme from Bridge On The River Kwai. Take his comments Saturday, as reported in the Charlotte Observer.

The (Urban Leadership Institute) presented Johnson with an award moments before he spoke, though the crowd’s reaction was mixed after he made his comments.

“Charlotte is a very, how would I call it, close-knit, arrogant, sometimes incestuous town.

“…It’s close-knit, and if you come to this town, and you look like you’re one of those people that might break some glass … it’s going to be tough for them to relate to. The thing that concerns me is that I’m just surprised that the city doesn’t do more for African-American small businesses. And I don’t really understand that.”

Does Johnson really know the Charlotte business community, or Charlotte for that matter? It probably seems like a closed-knit business community to him because it works on a more personal basis — you need to spend time in the city and get to know people before they do business with you. It’s not about breaking glass as much as a trust and a relationship. You know, do little things like buy a house in the city. Or not run your team from Washington D.C. Or becoming seriously involved in local charitable causes. Or showing up to games.

In some markets, that personal touch doesn’t matter much. In others it’s everything. Charlotte is in the latter group and Jordan gets that. He grew up in the area. He wants to build the bridges, if Johnson would stop blowing them up.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.