Tom Sorensen

Think these Charlotte Hornets are bad? A reminder of vision Michael Jordan presented

In the midst of a 7-59 season in 2011-12, Michael Jordan sat down with the Observer and talked about the path to success. How did the plan work out?
In the midst of a 7-59 season in 2011-12, Michael Jordan sat down with the Observer and talked about the path to success. How did the plan work out? AP

Editor’s note: This column originally published on Dec. 15, 2011.

Michael Jordan talks to the Charlotte Observer for about 30 minutes Wednesday. He talks about several subjects, each of which comes back to winning.

I ask when this will happen – when will he win, and what will he have to do to get there.

“I want it to be today, “ says Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Bobcats. “But in essence there are certain things you have to take into consideration. Flexibility, one; cap space is another.

“Does that mean we have to get into the draft, a high draft pick this year? I don’t know. I’m afraid to admit to that. I want to be competitive now.”

The Bobcats aren’t competitive now. They’re following the model the Carolina Panthers showed us in 2010. Tired of mediocrity, the Panthers shed veteran talent and became bad.

Their reward was Cam Newton, the top pick in the 2011 draft, and opportunities for young players to play.

The Bobcats shed fan favorite, and All-Star, Gerald Wallace last season and talented and temperamental Stephen Jackson the night of the 2011 draft.

With the seventh pick in the draft they selected big man Bismack Biyombo, whom Jordan compares, even though he appears to try not to, with Hakeem Olajuwon. With the ninth pick, they selected guard Kemba Walker.

Jordan, who wears white basketball shoes, presumably Jordan Brand, and jeans and a white shirt and blue sweater vest, gets excited when he talks about Walker. He praises Walker’s confidence and will, his patience, ability to figure out a defense and ability to score.

Then he says Walker is 5-foot-10.

I stood next to Walker on Tuesday. I guarantee he’s taller than 5-10.

“Is he as tall as you are?” Jordan asks.

I’m a legitimate 5-9. Walker, I tell him, is 6-1.

Jordan uses a term that implies disbelief.

“He’s listed at 6-1,” Jordan says.

So, Jordan adds Biyombo and the taller-than-5-10 Walker to young talent such as Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin.

Then what?

“I also want to put myself in position that ... I can go out and vie for free agents and change the structure of where we are,” Jordan says.

“The time table for that, that’s hard to say. Depends on how fast these kids progress. But I think if you look at where we are in terms of financial flexibility, we could be OK (next season) and maybe we could pry some of these free agents away.”

First they have to pry Biyombo away from the Spanish team to which he’s tethered. Then they hope Biyombo and Walker evolve into the players they expect and that Henderson, especially, continues to progress and that a tall guy shows up to play center.

Then they parlay their bad season into a high pick in the 2012 draft after which they supplement their young talent by signing a worthy free agent.

Until then, what do fans do? Show up when Miami comes to town?

“I’m going through the same situation as our fans are,” says Jordan. “I want to win just as much as they. I’m willing to ... put money on the table as much as they are with their tickets. I’ll put my money on this organization. And I’m not afraid to. I believe in our team.”

Here’s what I believe:

You know how a father plays ball with his daughter or son beneath the hoop in the driveway? Most nights this season, Charlotte’s opponent will be the father.

But if Jordan is right about his talent you’ll look at the Bobcats next season and say, they grow up so fast.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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