Jordan faces career crossroads as he rebuild Bobcats
Posted: Wednesday July 18, 2007 12:50PM; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2007 12:50PM
Michael Jordan, the king of the comeback, is facing his toughest test of all.
A little more than a year after investing more than $10 million to become a co-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan has positioned himself to control his second NBA franchise. And while a team that has never even sniffed at the playoffs offers Jordan a lot of room for improvement, MJ, himself, has a lot of room to improve.
His first venture into management, a three-year run with the Washington Wizards that began in '00, could only charitably be characterized as mediocre. His first hire, head coach Leonard Hamilton, compiled a 19-63 record in his first (and only) season on the job. His prized first-round pick, Kwame Brown, turned out to be a bust after being selected ahead of front-line starters Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol and Eddy Curry. By '03 Jordan found himself in a position he never would have during his playing career: unwanted and out of work.
But after crashing and burning in Washington, Jordan has been given a second chance in Charlotte. And he has wasted little time putting his stamp on the team. He handpicked another first-year coach in Sam Vincent. He drafted Adam Morrison in '06 and Jared Dudley on '07. He signed off on acquiring streaky shooting guard Jason Richardson (as well as the staggering $51.1 million he has remaining on his contract), gave reserve guard Matt Carroll $27 million and re-signed Gerald Wallace to a six-year, $57 million contract.
The addition of Richardson alone should ensure that the Bobcats will improve on last season's 33-win club, but there are questions as to whether Jordan was a bit too eager to blow the Bobcats' salary-cap space (Charlotte had a league-low $38 million payroll last season) on a weak free agent class.
Richardson is a nice scorer but that's about all he is. Carroll, a solid teammate, is a one-dimensional reserve who was unlikely to earn those kind of dollars anywhere else. The Wallace-Morrison-Dudley troika will be vying for minutes at one position while Wallace will be earning the same dollars as Josh Howard. You tell me which player you would rather have on your roster.
In order to get Richardson, Jordan shuttled the Bobcats away from general manager Bernie Bickerstaff's youth movement when he dealt prospect and eighth overall pick Brandon Wright. Whether or not Wright develops into a star remains to be seen, but it's a stretch to consider Richardson, whose knee problems have made him primarily a jump shooter, a go-to, first-tier player. In Golden State, Baron Davis had that distinction.
This is a big year for Jordan. If Richardson morphs into an All-Star in the Eastern Conference, Wallace improves on his career-best 18.1 scoring average and Dudley turns out to be the steal of the draft, then Jordan has earned a pass for his mistakes with the Wizards. But if Richardson's knee fails, Dudley struggles and Wallace turns into a "contract year player" then Jordan will have hamstrung his second franchise this decade.
Don't expect a third comeback after that.