Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan had no intention of being in Las Vegas in July for summer league.
Then he got a call from his front office that free-agent Lance Stephenson was serious about signing with the Hornets. So Jordan jumped on a plane from Utah to gauge Stephenson’s outlook and interest.
Jordan said he was candid with Stephenson about his strengths and weakness and pressed the point he wasn’t going to be manipulated. Stephenson had to decide that night whether he’d be a Hornet.
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Jordan told Stephenson he could do without the antics, like blowing in LeBron James ear, but there was plenty else he found appealing.
“I like his competitive drive and the way he challenged LeBron. Because if we’re ever going to get out of the East, you have to get past LeBron,” Jordan said. “(He’s) not afraid of anybody.”
The deal was done that night: A three-year $27.4 million contract that added scoring and ball-distribution to a team in need of both.
Jordan discussed a variety of other topics in a 15-minute interview Tuesday with the Observer:
On Jeff Taylor’s arrest on a domestic violence charge: “I would never want to harm a woman at any time no matter how angry I am. As it pertains to the Taylor situation, there is a legal case going on, and we have to let that take its course.”
On whether the Hornets can now be profitable after years of financial losses: “Are we making a substantial amount of money? No. Are we getting closer to breaking even? Yes.”
On the public-private partnership with the city regarding the arena and the prospect of the All-Star Game returning to Charlotte: “Great relationship with the city… (To pursue an All-Star Game) it was deemed we needed to do some things with the arena. We collaborated all summer – six to seven months until we came to an agreement where we made a contribution and the city made a contribution.”
On losing Josh McRoberts (who Jordan had called this team’s “connector”) to the Miami Heat in free-agency: “I was a little disappointed in how that happened. I talked to Josh myself about how much he meant to the team and how we wanted him back.
“It wasn’t a financial scenario, it wasn’t that we didn’t want him. At the end of the day he wanted to do something else, go to a team where he might win a championship a lot faster.”
On coach Steve Clifford: “I like the way he pays attention to detail. … He’s an open and honest guy. He yelled at Lance today and Lance responded. That’s what great coaches do: They yell at their best players just like they yell at the 13th man. At the end of the day, that’s great coaching.”
On the risk/reward in drafting P.J. Hairston in June: “We did our due diligence on him ... And when things happened during the summer (the fight with a teenager at a Durham YMCA), we dove in even deeper.
“Everybody has to step forward and take responsibility for him doing the right thing. ... If it fails, it’s not because we didn’t try. Then it’s up to that kid that he didn’t take responsibility.”