Jordan builds bridges, Bob Johnson goes River Kwai


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.

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.