I am kind of an academic when it comes to professional or amateur sports. I like looking at stats and analyzing and predicting based on fact. I like looking at the history of a team and the game because I truly believe you need to know where you came from to know where you are going. Let's face it, there are a ton of people out there who will give you their opinion, flapping their lips about something - NBA-related or not- and you can usually tell if they are full of it. This is why I was a little apprehensive to take on this gig because some of the blogs out there are just that - people flapping their lips - just insert ego and the internet. My career up until this point has been the who, what, when, where, why and how of sport and for the past little while, I was told to throw those rules out the window. What a fantastic feeling to have people read your "inside voice" in words and truly embrace what you are doing. I know some of you have told me I AM full of it but at least you are reading and I have kept you coming back. Comments - whether positive or ridiculous - are proof nonetheless that people are paying attention to what you are doing. So thank-you to both. Now let's get down to business.
The Other Elephants in the Room
I know James mentioned Chris Bosh as the elephant in Dino Nation discussions early this week, however, I think another large land mammal needs to be invited to that party: Lebron James. Think about it. Lebron will be 25 years old in 2 years and will also become an unrestricted free agent. When he signed on for an extra three years in 2006, there was an opt -out option in his contract which he could choose to use after this season. Then every team in the NBA would be all over him like syrup on a pancake - love it. Like maybe the Chicago Bulls? Lebron did file the paperwork recently to change his number 23 to 6 (his number with the USA Olympic Basketball team) "out of respect to" Michael Jordan. Or maybe this was a move knowing MJ is the big boss man now in Charlotte and wants to reside in North Carolina working under one of the greats. Even Arsenio Hall would say 'hmmmm'. I am just trying to get you to think outside the box, remember? Man, I can feel my inbox filling as we speak.
Now think back to the draft class of 2003. Remember who was also invited to that party? Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. They both signed similar contract extensions. Sure, for the most part we think these guys will stay put. But is your heart or your head doing the thinking. As fan neither is bad, but in the business world of the NBA, you need to be thinking with the latter. Dwayne, Chris and Lebron are hot commodities and if there is even a hint that teams with money want them, there's a very good chance they are at least listening.
A breathe of Fresh Air in Charlotte
Just when you think we would never see him in the spotlight again, there goes Michael Jordan buying the Bobcats and making us all feel giddy again. So his first item of business since getting the team from previous owner Robert Johnson, was to play a little game of H.O.R.S.E. with guard Gerald Henderson. Showing up to the shoot around, talking trash and losing those two games of H.O.R.S.E. proves the old adage: "Attitude reflects leadership, captain". Anyone who has seen the movie Remember the Titans understands how important this is and how the atmosphere of a club really reflects what's going on at the top of the pyramid. This may be a sign of a more hands-on approach for Michael to be seen as just one of the boys and not just a "suit" that makes decisions. But to be sure he keeps his focus, here's my 'New Boss Top 5 List' (in case he calls on my services):
#1 - Rename the Bobcats. Open the contest lines now. With the new excitement brought on by Michael's take over, this club needs a make-over. And he knows a thing or two about marketing. Right around the time Toronto fans were asked to name their club, Jurassic Park was in theatres. I wonder whats on tap in Charlotte?
#2 - Have lunch with Bobcats Head Coach Larry Brown. Continuity is so important. But even Larry knows that with new ownership comes evaluation and sometimes, movement. I don't think he is on his way out since Larry and Michael have at least one thing in common besides their love for basketball. Family. Both of them have extended support in the area and Larry also signed on with the Bobcats knowing Michael's growing involvement at head office. That has to count for something.
#3 - Get used to being the boss. Showing up to a shoot around and talking trash with Gerald Henderson was great and actually opens the lines of communication by just being around. But players and public alike still see him as MJ the great and not Michael the boss. I have so much respect for super star players giving back to a sport they love. However, taking on a new challenge like this, opens the door to taint that image. It's a risk, yes but I think Michael is up to the task.
#4 - Fans will expect more. Charlotte Hornets fans were devastated when the team moved to New Orleans in 2002. When you have someone like owner George Shinn setting ultimatums back then what do you expect? So he alienates fans and the team is out of Charlotte. Now you a a situation where basketball fans in Charlotte learn to distrust who manages their professional clubs - especially ones with an uncertain furture. Insert Michael Jordan and a weight seems to lift and fans are getting excited again. Positive but guarded, fans will want to see the proof before the pudding.
#5 - Talk to the media. I was a little disappointed he refused to talk to the media at that shoot around. I suppose he wanted to have time for the steak to marinate so-to-speak and get away from the "Does this mean you are coming out of retirement" type of questions but they are always going to be there. He has every right to choose when and where he talks but the average fan can't really walk up to the guy and exchange 'wasuups' at the grocery store. So it is our job to tell the story and bring the game to life. It is a little hard to do that without the main character.
James (The Dino Blogger not Lebron) was on The Team 990 in Montreal talking about this and other things NBA on the weekend have a listen.