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

7 Comments

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.
 

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
2 Comments

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.

Zion Williamson signs shoe deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

Russell Westbrook. Jimmy Butler. Blake Griffin. Chris Paul.

And now Zion Williamson has joined them as a Jordan Brand athlete. Williamson announced that he had signed with Jordan on his Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Let’s Dance #JUMPMAN

A post shared by Zion Williamson (@zionwilliamson) on

Williamson was probably the biggest shoe free agent on the market this summer. While still a rookie, he already is a huge marketing presence — Summer League in Las Vegas sold out to see him the first two nights (people ended up disappointed) — and it was estimated he would make north of $10 million a year on his rookie shoe deal.

While we have not heard official numbers yet, the rumors are he did get that money.

If true, this is the second-largest rookie shoe deal in history. LeBron James got seven-years, $87 million, however, Williamson is second and bumps Kevin Durant to third (seven years, $60 million).

There are rumors Puma had offered even a larger contact, but Williamson wanted to be a Jordan brand guy.

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family,” Williamson said in a statement. “Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league & having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had & continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to.”

“Zion’s incredible determination, character and play are inspiring,” Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He’s an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future. He told us he would ‘shock the world,’ and asked us to believe him. We do.”

Nike continues to dominate the NBA and basketball shoe market, with more than two-thirds of NBA players wearing Nikes. Even still, landing Williamson — who will play for the New Orleans Pelicans — was such a big score that Nike stock jumped up one percent on the news. He has the potential to be the next LeBron or Durant for Nike, if he can live up to the hype and weight of being the most discussed No. 1 pick in a decade.

He’s the kind of player who could sell a lot of shoes, and Jordan is betting on just that.

Al Horford calls Celtics’ reported tampering allegations ‘ridiculous’

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

The Celtics have reportedly complained about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford.

Horford opted out, and it seemed he could return to Boston. But more than a week before free agency officially began, a report emerged he’d leave the Celtics while expecting a four-year, $100 million contract elsewhere. He committed to the 76ers on the first day of free agency, getting $97 million guaranteed and up to $109 million over four years.

What did Horford make of tampering allegations coming from Boston, where Danny Ainge runs the front office?

Horford on The Dan Patrick Show:

It’s pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is. Danny – I love Danny. Danny was always really good to me. I know that he’s definitely frustrated with things didn’t work out with us.

Notice the lack of a denial.

But Horford is right: It’s ridiculous. Because the Celtics are hypocrites who locked up Kemba Walker before free agency officially began.

Though Boston’s specific complaints don’t hold water, there are legitimate issues with the wider landscape.