Associated Press

Michael Jordan on Superteams: “28 teams are going to be garbage”

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Michael Jordan was the heart of one of the NBA’s great super teams, a Chicago Bulls squad that dominated the 1990s with six rings. It also happened to be the NBA’s most popular era.

Today, Jordan is a smaller-market NBA owner (Charlotte is the eighth-smallest media market in the NBA), and from his new business perspective, he’s not a fan of NBA superteams. This summer saw a consolidation of power as Houston and Oklahoma City loaded up to go at Golden State, while Boston put itself in position for future runs at Cleveland. A lot of owners had hoped that the new CBA would flatten out the talent pool, but that has not happened.

Here is what Jordan told Cigar Aficionado (in an article where MJ says he smokes six cigars a day), with a hat tip to Ben Goliver of Sports Illustrated (who apparently is a cigar aficionado).

“I think it’s going to hurt the overall aspect of the league from a competitive standpoint. You’re going to have one or two teams that are going to be great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage. Or they’re going to have a tough time surviving in the business environment.”

Jordan isn’t the only small- or middle-sized market owner to make this argument, although few others use the word garbage. The argument is that the league is top-heavy with a few great teams and if smaller markets like Charlotte are merely “good” — and the Hornets should be a good team, a playoff team in the East, although the Nicolas Batum injury is a setback — it will be hard to draw fans, get big sponsors, get good local television deals, and make money.

Jordan’s concern also isn’t new. The NBA’s national television ratings always thrive when it can get its biggest names on its biggest platforms — LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry in the Finals last season meant the best ratings since the Jordan era — and that has always led to a challenge in other markets. Smaller market owners were making this very case in the 1980s when the Lakers and Celtics bi-coastal rivalry dominated the sport. Same during Jordan’s 1990s run (he’s just on the other side of it now), or when Shaq/Kobe dominated, or when LeBron was in Miami, or… you get the picture.

Some fans will argue this is different because the players are recruiting each other and teams aren’t “organic,” but it’s not because no matter how these super teams were put together the impact is the same.

Overall, I would argue super teams are good for the sport — and with that smaller market owners. Superteams drive popularity, and while Jordan may struggle to make an annual profit in Charlotte, those figures don’t include how much teams like Golden State and Cleveland (and Houston, and OKC) are driving up the value of all franchises in the league. The Rockets just sold for $2.2 billion. With a “B.” It is a rising tide that floats all boats — and it also leads to massive national television contracts that all owners share in.

And all that’s not even getting into the argument that Oklahoma City and San Antonio are small markets, but with well-managed teams they are doing just fine.

Jordan may be frustrated about team building and his Hornets not being in position to, or able to, draw a superstar player, but that’s not the system’s fault.

Thunder pick up Paul George in his return to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left, but George got a steal then hit a couple free throws.

The Pacers’ winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer’s blockbuster trade, didn’t go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn’t have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists.

The result: Both teams struggled.

Indiana led 27-22 after one but gave the lead right back by allowing Oklahoma City to start the second quarter on a 9-0 spurt.

After the Pacers answered with a 9-0 run, the Thunder closed the half on a 9-3 spurt to make it 51-46.

The trend continued in the second half.

Indiana charged back to take a 63-59 lead before the Thunder used an 11-2 run to pull out to a 73-69 lead going into the fourth.

Oklahoma City extended the lead to 92-81 with 5:16 to go but only scored six points the rest of the way. That was just enough to hold on.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Oklahoma City is 4-10 on the road. … Oklahoma City got its first series split with the Pacers since 2012-13. … Oklahoma City had 17 offensive rebounds and was 13 of 29 on 3-pointers.

Pacers: Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. … Made 11 3s but fell to 14-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season. … Center Myles Turner had three blocks, his 12th game this season with three or more. … Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. He’s in town for Thursday night’s NFL game between the Colts and Broncos.

ALL-STAR DAY

The Pacers got a win before they even took the floor.

A little less than three hours before tip, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Indiana would host the 2021 All-Star Game. It will be the first time the Pacers have hosted the marquee event since 1985.

The move comes seven months after Larry Bird hand-delivered the formal proposal at the league’s New York headquarters in an IndyCar.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Faces Philadelphia on Friday, trying to improve to 17-1 in the series since moving to Oklahoma City.

Pacers: Host Detroit on Friday, seeking a seventh straight home win in the series.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.