Michael Jordan doesn’t talk a lot – media-wise, anyway – but when he does talk, he says a lot.
Friday he did a half-hour sit-down with the Observer. I was particularly interested in what he thought of the collective-bargaining agreement two years removed from the lockout that shortened the 2011-12 season. Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, was a small-market hawk for management, so much so that some current players viewed him as a former player betraying them.
I asked Jordan if he agreed with Commissioner David Stern that the changes – primarily greater revenue-sharing and a more punitive luxury tax – would give any well-managed franchise the chance to be competitive and make money. Jordan said yes, and went a step further:
He thinks the new CBA has gone a long way in discouraging future big-market super teams. Put another way: Death to the next Miami Heat.
“The rules are in place to eliminate these star players from jumping from team-to-team, to end up on one big team. That kills the parity within the league,” said Jordan, who has lost millions from owning the Bobcats the past three years.
The new luxury tax is intended to be so severe teams will blink at the prospect of cherry-picking multiple stars off other rosters and paying three maximum-salary contracts. There are still big spenders (see the Brooklyn Nets), but it’s much harder to justify.
What Jordan wants, as much as anything, is some expectation that if the Bobcats draft and develop well, it’s not a given the New York and Los Angeles franchises will steal away that talent.
“If a team has nurtured a player, and he has grown, the chances of him leaving are a lot less than it used to be,” Jordan said. “The CBA has been working to create some parity within the league. You’re starting to see that happen. You see that in Golden State, you’re starting to see that in Cleveland. We’d like to see ourselves in that light. There are still great teams, but you’re starting to see others grow.”
Speaking of drafting and development, it frustrated Jordan last spring that as holders of the No. 4 overall pick, the Bobcats didn’t get more opportunity to audition top players. Cody Zeller, who the Bobcats eventually chose, was the only lottery pick to work out for them.
There were some extenuating circumstances – Anthony Bennett, Nerlens Noel and Alex Len were all hurt – but Jordan can’t imagine why players’ agents would snub teams picking that high.
“Very frustrating because you’re asking us to roll the dice on a product we don’t really see,” Jordan said. “These days you only see them one year (in college), and then you try to get them in to work out. It’s already a tough process. It’s even a tougher process when you can’t get them in to work out.
“I’d like to see some rules changes about that. This is a business and no one gets a job without an interview.”
Five passing thoughts on the NBA and the Bobcats
• This new rule that a player touching the ball in any way after it passes through the rim is delay-of-game is well-intended, but it’s driving some players nuts. Players jumping up for a possible put-back have to duck or shimmy to avoid unintentional contact. It’s NBA dodge ball.
It’s apparent Bennett, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ No. 1 overall selection, is grossly out of shape. His shoulder surgery was a factor in that, I’m sure, but he’s so slow right now it appears impossible for him to guard without frequent fouling.
• If the New Orleans Pelicans’ intent, in the look of new mascot “Pierre,” was to scare the jeepers out of every child in Louisiana, they succeeded. I read a funny tweet where someone described Pierre as the killer clown.
• The schedule is sure working against the Bobcats in managing center Al Jefferson’s ankle injury. They’re in a span right now where they play five games in eight days. Coach Steve Clifford said Friday, when Jefferson sat out the Cleveland game, that complete recovery time for Jefferson is six to eight weeks. That means he started playing halfway through the span.
• The Heat lost two in a row last week. If those guys played in the NFL, can you imagine the pseudo-crisis this would create on sports-talk radio?