As we enter the final “Bobcats” season, perhaps no one in the organization has more to prove than owner Michael Jordan. Throughout the summer, League pundits and comment-thread snarks have been quick to point out that MJ’s latest offseason was yet a further demonstration of his ineptitude:
- Nepotism Part 1: Jordan promoted his brother Larry to “Director of Player Personnel” back in July. MJ’s son, daughter and a host of other long-time friends are already employed by the team in various capacities.
- Nepotism Part 2: Jordan brought in old friend Patrick Ewing to serve as the team’s associate head coach, continuing the Bobcats tradition of using their bench as courtside seats for friends & family (J.B. Bickerstaff, Stephen Silas, Charles Oakley, Cory Higgins).
- Coaching Carousel: Jordan hired the team’s fourth coach in five seasons in June.
- Draft Dunce: Jordan ignored two highly touted prospects, Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel, and instead “reached” for Indiana’s Cody Zeller with the Draft’s fourth overall pick.
- Free Agent Foibles: Jordan over-paid an offense-only, aging free agent, forgetting that his young team was the worst defensive squad in the league the season before.
- Tank Timing: With an super-hyped 2014 Draft Class looming, Jordan picked the wrong offseason to improve the team and lower their Draft Lottery odds.
- Perpetual Screw Up: Jordan presided over a tone-deaf, scattershot Hornets re-brand announcement that left just as many confused as excited.
@recceice I’m complaining about the half-assd nature of the entire news conference, which fits long-running pattern of the franchise.
— Mike Cranston (@mikecranston1) May 22, 2013
While I can’t defend MJ’s continued fascination with nepotism, I believe the other accusations to be mostly pre-conceptions in search of evidence. Pretend for a moment, that Jordan didn’t have the decade-worth of “bad owner” baggage and look at it from another perspective – MJ might be figuring this ownership thing out:
- Quick to Learn: Jordan owned up to his mistake of hiring the inexperienced Dunlap and moved quick to bring on highly respected veteran NBA assistant Steve Clifford.
- Outside the Circle Part 1: Jordan hired Clifford even though he wasn’t part of or recommended by someone from MJ’s inner circle (Larry Brown, Dunlap via George Karl).
- Outside the Circle Part 2: Jordan further committed to another outsider by supporting GM Rich Cho’s decision to draft Zeller – an EXTREMELY risky position for someone with MJ’s draft reputation.
- Shrewd Businessman: Jordan fought hard for the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement back in 2011, then leveraged the new economics in his team’s favor. MJ immediately re-invested the revenue-shared funds back into the team, amnestying PF Tyrus Thomas ($16m in off the book salary).
- Free Agent Closer: Jordan signed former Utah center Al Jefferson, who, outside of being a nightly double-double machine, is also the biggest free agent signing in Charlotte’s 25 year NBA history.
- Populist: Spotty announcement aside, Jordan had the insight to Bring Back the Buzz, an incredibly popular move in the region that has re-invigorated a large part of the Hornets’ dormant fanbase.
Long time NBA fans probably remember MJ’s killer fadeaway jumpshot – the one he rode to six Larry O’Brien trophies. Some may have forgotten that Jordan didn’t have that shot until he’d been in the league for ten years. There’s a good chance that MJ is at it again.