Bobcats on pace to become the worst NBA team ever
CHARLOTTE — Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan continues to struggle as a league executive.
The Jordan-owned Bobcats are 3-26 and flirting with NBA futility.
Because of the lockout-shortened season Charlotte won't challenge the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' record of 72 losses. However, the Bobcats have lost 16 straight games and have a worse winning percentage (.103) than that infamous 76ers team.
"Everybody wants to make history but you don't want to make history that way," said Bobcats guard Matt Carroll, currently in his second stint with Charlotte. "You don't want to be that team."
Jordan isn't talking as the losses continue to mount. He declined an interview request through the Bobcats media relations department.
Jordan isn't the only NBA executive having a tough time. There are only nine wins between he and Commissioner David Stern — the league-owned New Orleans Hornets have just six victories.
The Hornets and Bobcats are two of six teams that have failed to reach double digits in wins in a league that, despite efforts to push toward parity during the recent labor negotiations, seems to have a broadening gap between haves and have-nots.
But none seem as low as the Bobcats.
"They've totally bottomed out," said Steve Kerr, an NBA analyst for TNT and a former Jordan teammate. "They are a total disaster right now. They are going to have to get lucky in the lottery and be really strong as an organization in the next couple of years to get out of this."
Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins previously said the key is to be patient with the building process and avoid kneejerk reactions.
The Bobcats expect to be more than $20 million under the salary cap next year so they should be active in free agency. They'll also likely get a top pick this year, although not necessarily the No. 1 overall because of the NBA's lottery system.
"It's up to us to go out and get that player, or those players, to help turn this team around," Higgins said recently.
But the biggest question is whether or not they can do it as Jordan's track record hasn't been very good.
Since being named minority owner of the Bobcats in 2006 and being given full control over the basketball operations, Jordan has selected eight players in the first round, but only four remain with the team. Three are no longer in the league.
Arguably the biggest draft day blunder was selecting Gonzaga's Adam Morrison with the third overall pick in 2006 when they could have had Rudy Gay. Drafting Alexis Ajinca 20th overall in 2008 was another flop, especially after giving up a first-round pick to Denver to get him.
The Ajinca trade is just one of 17 in the Jordan era, more than any team in the league over the last six years. Those dealt include Emeka Okafor, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Jackson and All-Star Gerald Wallace.
Who's left includes Carroll (who was actually traded in 2009 and then reacquired a year later), Corey Maggette, journeyman Eduardo Najera and forward Tyrus Thomas — who received a five-year, $40 million contract and isn't even starting anymore.
The Bobcats still owe Chicago a protected first-round draft pick as part of the Thomas trade.
Bad deals aren't the only thing that have hurt the Bobcats, however, injuries have also played a role in their demise.
Charlotte's three leading scorers — Maggette, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson — have missed a combined 38 games due to injuries. Coach Paul Silas refused to call this a bad team and has repeatedly said that if all three had been healthy throughout the season the Bobcats wouldn't be the league's doormat.
"I think if you take the three leading scorers off any team that's going to make a huge difference," Silas said. "I think if we had them we would be very competitive."
But they don't have them and of late the Bobcats haven't been very competitive. They have lost their last eight games by an average of 22.5 points.
They've been outscored by 14.4 points per game for the season, by far the most in the NBA this season. That puts them on pace for the second-worst margin of defeat since the NBA-ABA merger.
"Some nights it's embarrassing, especially when we lose by a lot," said rookie Kemba Walker. "No one likes to lose by that many points."
Former Bobcat Steve Smith, now an NBA TV analyst, said Charlotte is has to rebuild from scratch.
"It comes down to (this): Do they draft the best talent? And right now the Charlotte Bobcats are a team that is looking to rebuild," he said.
They basically have no choice.
Still, Carroll won't say they're a bad team.
"We still have talent on this team and can still win games but I think it will take more guys to get healthy," Carroll said. "As the season goes along we're going to get better."
In the meantime, the mildly superstitious Carroll is trying everything he can to help end the losing streak which began Jan. 16.
"I switched shoes a couple of times. I've worn two socks on each foot," he said. "I've worn socks two days in a row, which I've never done before... but nothing has worked. I'll keep trying.
"Something has to work eventually — and hopefully soon."