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In My Opinion

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Bobcats don’t need $10 million man, yet

By Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

I hope the Charlotte Bobcats’ interest in Al Jefferson is a public relations move.

See, fans? We’re tired of waiting. We want to improve now. That’s why we’re bringing Jefferson, the second-best big man in all of free-agency, to Charlotte Wednesday. We’re going to pick up his airfare, put him up in a nice hotel, buy all his meals – the man weighs 289 pounds – and maybe throw in Jordan Brand gear. And it’s all on the house except the Jordan Brand gear, which we’ll sell him at cost.

Jefferson, 6-foot-10, will average about 17 points and nine rebounds for whomever he plays. He’s smart and effective and would be the best big man Charlotte has ever had.

The Bobcats could use him next season.

But they don’t need him next season.

Next season is the season the Bobcats have to go through to reach 2014-15. That’s all it is.

I’m not suggesting that Charlotte tank. You don’t tell Kemba Walker and his teammates to tank. You don’t tell new coach Steve Clifford and his staff to tank. The Bobcats will charge full price for tickets and fans are entitled to maximum effort from players and coaches.

Maybe they win five or 10 more games than the 21 they won last season. Maybe Jefferson is worth an additional five. Is that worth the $10 million (or so) a season Charlotte will pay him?

In June, 2014, in a draft that could be full of dazzling difference-makers, the Bobcats will have as many as three first-round picks. Yes, Charlotte performs better with a basketball than it does with ping pong balls. And, yes, getting lucky in the lottery is probably not the most mature strategy for building a franchise.

But fans of the Bobcats have been waiting since 2004 for something good to happen. As long as the team hustles and entertains, they can wait one season more.

Let’s see what associate head coach Patrick Ewing can do with big men Bismack Biyombo, who will turn 21 next month, and Cody Zeller, who will turn 21 in October. Cede the middle to the young guys and allow 28-year-old Jefferson to enhance the roster of some other team.

The Bobcats ought to be way under the cap a year from now – I can’t be specific because I don’t know how much they’ll offer (or pay) free-agent guard Gerald Henderson or if they’ll make a run at free-agent forward Josh McRoberts.

The Bobcats will dump the contract of Tyrus Thomas under the amnesty clause.

So after they sign their draft picks in 2014, they’ll have the money to go after a good free agent or free agents.

Imagine. They can fly the candidates to Charlotte, put them up, feed them and sign them, too.

Every recent move the Bobcats have made is about 2014-15.

The move they don’t make should lead there, too.

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