The contrast was striking.
A little more than a year ago, just before the 2010-11 NBA season began, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was full of bravado. In a town-hall type meeting with 700 of the team’s best customers, he said: “At minimum, we should make the playoffs. And I think we should go deep in the playoffs.”
But on Wednesday, when Jordan met with Observer reporters and editors just before the 2011-12 Bobcats season, he came across more as a wiser and more world-weary NBA owner who has taken a couple of lumps over the past year.
There was the NBA lockout. There was the fact the Bobcats didn’t make the playoffs at all last season, ending with a 34-48 record. There was the reality that Jordan, despite his undeniable magnetism, has not been able to stem the red ink flowing from the Bobcats and has yet to attract the superstar player the team so badly needs.
A year later, Jordan remains optimistic – he wouldn’t rule out the playoffs for this bunch and compared rookie Bismack Biyombo to a young Hakeem Olajuwon -- – but also sounded more realistic. He told us he wanted to win “today” but tempered that quickly by saying “there are certain things you have to take into consideration, like (salary) cap space.”
Since Jordan made the “deep in the playoffs” remark in October 2010, the team has changed coaches (Larry Brown to Paul Silas) and traded away its two best players (Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson).
The Bobcats are going young this season, with two top-10 draft picks joining Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin. They will absorb losses by the dozen this season, and although Jordan won’t say it, I will: If these Bobcats make the playoffs, it will be an utter miracle.
Still, it’s apparent Jordan has a plan. He wouldn’t say it like this, but ultimately to get better, the Bobcats are first going to have to get worse.
Their ceiling with Jackson and Wallace at the forefront was never high enough to win a single playoff game. So Jordan is trying to do something different, and I commend him for that. He still believes he can fly.
But he also now understands how difficult – although not impossible -- it is to build a pair of wings big enough to lift an entire franchise.