Winderman: Celebrating all that has gone wrong in Charlotte (and still making the playoffs)

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Brown_Jordan.jpgToday, we salute the Charlotte Bobcats.

No, not for any front-office wizardry (in fact, far from it), but rather for the fact that the franchise, somehow, is coming off its first-ever playoff berth.

Because today we also celebrate all that has gone wrong with the franchise.

It is the day we learned that Adam Morrison had a recent tryout with the Boston Celtics (we’re assuming Antoine Walker was unavailable).

And it is the first day of the two-day waiver period for just-released center Erick Dampier.

So how do the two tie together?

By how they have tied the hands of a franchise that required Larry Brown’s divine intervention for that playoff berth last season.

By now, the Morrison misstep has been well-chronicled, how Michael Jordan squandered the No. 3 overall selection on the one-dimensional, defensively lacking forward in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Ahead of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay and even Thabo Sefolosha.

But Dampier also speaks to a failure just as pronounced.

No, there was nothing unsound with the selection of Emeka Okafor with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft. It’s not as if the Bobcats had any input to what, at the time, was the debate over whether Dwight Howard should go No. 1. And it’s not as if Charlotte missed out on all that much, with the best of the lottery lot that year including Ben Gordon, Devin Harris, Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala. Big men always go higher.

But it’s how the Bobcats then flipped Okafor’s contract last summer to New Orleans for the shorter contract of Tyson Chandler. And how Jordan then flipped that contract this summer to Dallas for Dampier’s non-guaranteed and just-dumped contract.

The sum total of a pair of top-three selections over a two-year span?

An argument could be made that Stephen Jackson  resulted, in an obtuse way, from the dumping of Morrison. But that was more about matching salaries (for Vladimir Radmanovic who was acquired for Morrison from the Lakers).

Closer to reality is that absolutely nothing was gained, two prime pieces of draft real estate squandered.

Oh, Larry Brown may yet get the Bobcats back to the postseason, the Bobcats stifling in their halfcourt defense.

Actually, another playoff berth would do more than save face.
 
It also might save future embarrassment, considering how little the lottery has produced for Charlotte, where No. 2 plus No. 3 have equaled zero.

(And that’s not even getting into Raymond Felton going at No. 5 in 2005 and then leaving this past offseason as a free agent to New York for nothing in return. Another story best left for another day, when the likes of D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson also can be measured.)

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.
 

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.