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  • Bernie Bickerstaff
    General Manager & Head Coach, Charlotte Bobcats
    On Oct. 16, 2003, the expansion Charlotte Bobcats entrusted NBA veteran Bernie Bickerstaff to build their basketball team from scratch. Bickerstaff brings nearly three decades of NBA experience to guide Charlotte's basketball operations.

    Bickerstaff, who will also be the Bobcats' first coach, was the last man to take Washington and Denver to the NBA playoffs. Bickerstaff has been a busy Bobcat since last Oct., scouting numerous NBA games, conducting clinics, reading to children, returning countless phone messages and accommodating media requests. But with this blog, he'll take time out here to let into what's going on with him and the Bobcats.

    State of the Bobcats
    With the two free agent signings and the trade announced today, we've done everything we set out to do in terms of our first roster and we picked up two future first round draft picks from the Expansion Selection.

    We've addressed every position, so what remains now is we're going to give these guys an opportunity to prove that they can get it done. For instance, there are six guys on our roster that are 6-9 or taller who fit and our athletic.

    Plus, the one thing that we still have is cap room.

    We're going to be very patient, we're going to sit and see what falls through the cracks and if we find somebody who makes a difference on our basketball team we are going to pursue it. But we're very happy with the roster. We have versatility, size, athleticism and a young point guard. We'll be an exciting basketball team, and I guarantee we'll compete, we'll share the basketball and we'll defend.

    One thing to point out is that the guys we took in the expansion selection were guys from teams that were winning. Whether you're talking about San Antonio, New Jersey, Sacramento or the Lakers, we have guys who have been in a winning environment and that is important.

    I'm happy with the way we came out of the drafts and free agency. We picked up some former first round picks in the expansion and another today. I think what you have is a defensive group anchored by Emeka Okafor. That's why we like Jason, that's why we like Tamar and that's why we like Melvin. We want to be a defensive team and I think right now that's what we are.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Jul 14 2004 7:04PM

    Summer League is Here
    We wrapped up our first week of mini-camp yesterday and caught an evening flight to Minnesota, where we begin play in the Minnesota Summer League tonight. We'll play games each of the next five days before heading back to Charlotte to prepare for the Rocky Mountain Revue in Utah from July 16-23.

    It's a different kind of test for our players now. They toss the ball for real in these games. I have always thought that you have different stages as you prepare for a season. You have summer league, training camp, exhibition games and each one of them brings on a different intensity. From the coach's standpoint, they are all different opportunities to evaluate what you have.

    We will use these games to look at different lineups, different match-ups and different rotations. We'll try to find out which of our guys play well together and basically experiment a little bit. We obviously aren't putting in everything that we want to put in offensively. We just put in some basic stuff and I just want to see the guys go play and see if they compete.

    I want to see if they share the basketball and I want to see their defensive intensity. Most of all, the one thing we will definitely look for is that each player plays hard that has to be the one consistency.

    Wins and losses are always important but here in summer league we will be looking at personnel and how they play together. You can see two of our games in Minnesota on NBATV on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Jul 6 2004 12:11AM

    Draft Recap
    It's been a busy two weeks since I last checked in. During that time, we have put together the first group of Charlotte Bobcats through the expansion and rookie drafts.

    We were glad to get the expansion process behind us, but we spent our time over ten days working to get that together. Finally, we submitted that list and we ended up getting a couple of extra draft picks because of that. We think we've got some nice young players who just need an opportunity to play. They've got skills, athleticism and talent and we just feel they need the opportunity.

    The one thing we think is that cap flexibility is really important. That's why we took a lot of restricted free agents. Now there are some of the restricted free agents that we want on our basketball team and when the appropriate time comes, we will negotiate with them, but it is important that we have that flexibility.

    After completing the trade with the Clippers, we got to a point where we really felt comfortable that we were going to get a good player in the rookie draft, whether it was one or two. It's fortunate that we got a player in Okafor with experience in terms of what we wanted and we've got a great building block. The guy just represents everything that we would like to become in terms of his competitiveness.

    I think what we have to do is get us a core group of players and try to build around that core. We've got to get players who we want to build this thing from a defensive standpoint and we want guys who are going to be unselfish.

    The summer doesn't slow down any for our basketball staff. We're hosting open tryouts for free agents this weekend and then we go right into preparation for our summer league, which we will participate in Minnesota and then in Utah. Some of the expansion players and hopefully our rookies will be taking part in the summer league games. We'll also have a list of free agent players that we will decide on soon.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Jun 27 2004 1:55PM

    The Process Begins
    Today (Monday) is the first full day for us as a basketball staff to meet as a full group. I came back on Thursday night (from the Chicago pre-draft camp) to get the unprotected lists on Friday with Ed Tapscott and Gary Brokaw, while the rest of the scouts and coaches watched the remainder of the camp. So we met this morning for a good three hours and just broke for some pizza.

    In our initial meeting, we did two things. First of all, we talked about second-round picks. We have the fourth pick in the second round and we may pick up some additional picks through the expansion selection. We talked about the players we saw in Chicago and we tried to get a consensus on what we thought of those guys. So, we just came up with different names and talked about the qualities of those guys and what different people thought of the same guy.

    Later on, we did the same thing with the expansion list. We took a group of maybe 20 to 25 players and we started to delete names. What we like about the expansion draft is the flexibility we have because of the large number of restricted free agents left unprotected. We could conceivably end up with eight to nine roster spots that are open if we pick that many restricted free agents. Those open spots will give us a better chance to be facilitators with some of the big contracts that we might trade because we have the ability to bring back multiple players. So today, from that standpoint, was basically a starting point where we talked about restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents, and later draft picks. We just went the gamut today and it was a starting point.

    Now I have to finish this pizza and hit the phones to talk to the other teams and see what deals may be out there.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Jun 14 2004 3:00PM

    A productive trip
    This year for me the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp was really fruitless in terms of looking at players. But that's part of the reason why we brought our entire staff, including the scouts and the coaches. So they had an opportunity to watch the players.

    The trip was very beneficial, though, to be able to interact with the other general managers and ascertain some of the needs from the other teams. I spent about 80% of the time out here talking and getting information from other GMs and about 20% really evaluating and paying attention to the players who were participating on the court.

    I didn't really have the opportunity to get a true rating on the players who were competing because I was so busy talking with everyone. Some of our staff kidded me by saying I could get any date to the prom because I was so popular out here.

    In my discussions with others, they laid out plenty of scenarios for the expansion selection. There were several offers that caught my attention and we'll see where they go and if they actually come to fruition. Until you get down the deadline there is a lot of posturing going on. It was a deadline for the other teams because they have to submit their protected lists on Friday. I'm sure they were agonizing over the decisions. It's easy getting up to the point where you actually have to make the decision, but then you have write it out and turn it in. And that's the difficult part.

    From this point on, it's going to be 24 hours a day, seven days a week for us. We're sitting here in Chicago with a three-hour delay because of some poor weather. I'm anxious to get back to Charlotte because tomorrow (Friday) we'll start looking at the lists from the teams as they file in. The rest of the staff returns from Chicago on Saturday and we'll meet together on Monday. We're going to look at the lists and try to put a basketball team together between now and June 22.

    I'm going to be bunkered up here for a while, but when I catch a short break I'll catch up with you.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Jun 10 2004 9:45PM

    My Kind of Town
    Our basketball staff leaves for Chicago today to attend the annual pre-draft camp over the next four days at the Moody Bible Institute. The majority of our group will stay until the event concludes, but three of us will come back early on Thursday night to get ready for the list of protected players for the expansion selection that will be delivered on Friday.

    There's always a player at the camp that enhances his positioning in the draft, but I think this year it will probably be a distraction for us in terms of players. We've had a lot of conversations with teams that want to talk in Chicago about potential deals because they will have to make their decision about which of their players to protect for the expansion draft while we are there. We've got some appointments set up where we are going to talk to people about actually getting down to what do they want us to do to help them ­ whom would they want us to take in the expansion selection.

    We are not going to tell one team what is on another team's protected list. The way we¹ll handle any disclosures is that we may ask a team, "Is there somebody on Team A or somebody on Team B's roster that you're interested in?" And if they give a name and it's there, then fine, but we won't disclose any other names.

    We've received some offers already where teams want us to do certain things, but we haven¹t agreed to anything at this point. I think we¹re all going to get down to the point where the verbiage will subside this week in Chicago and we'll all be honest with what we're trying to accomplish.

    With us right now, being that we don't have any players on the board, every conversation is useful.

    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Jun 8 2004 1:59PM

    The time is now
    Yesterday was a big day for our franchise. We announced the hiring of our lead assistant coach in Sam Mitchell and the draft lottery was held in New Jersey. Now that the draft order has been determined, we can attempt to figure out which way the top three teams (Orlando, LA Clippers and Chicago) will go in terms of their needs. It is also possible now to have concrete conversations with teams about what they'd like to do, about players they like and whether there is anything we can do to enhance their situation and our situation whether it be through trades or the expansion draft.

    I am a little ambivalent about the fact that the first pick went to a team in our division because if you look at the Magic, they are a player away from being pretty good since they already have an All-Star in Tracy McGrady. But that may entice them to do something in the expansion selection that could really help them.

    I like that Atlanta and Washington will pick behind us? that's strictly a selfish thing. Those are two other teams in our division and we probably like a lot of the same players. With the Clippers having the number two pick, it sends one of the top players in the draft to the Western Conference. In my opinion, after the first pick, the Clippers are the wild card in terms of which direction they will go and which way the draft will go.

    We are looking for the best possible players for the Bobcats, and I think there are some things, the way the lottery went, that offer some pretty intriguing scenarios. We are going to explore all of our options over the next four weeks.

    As for our coaching staff, I am very excited about welcoming Sam Mitchell to our group. He brings years of experience as both a player and coach to our organization and really gives us a well-rounded group with John Outlaw and Gary Kloppenburg.

    I was very impressed with the work Sam did as a member of Terry Porter's staff in Milwaukee last year. The Bucks were a very unselfish ballclub that exceeded all preseason expectations. He also brings the experience of having played for the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves when they joined the league back in 1989. He will be able to share with our players the knowledge that can only come from previously having been a part of the expansion process.

    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - May 27 2004 6:08PM

    My 2003-04 Review
    The regular season is now over and the playoffs are set to begin. What a final night of the regular season. I felt bad for Milwaukee, who had Jalen Rose's shot move them from fourth to sixth in the East. They were slated to play Miami with home court but now they have to go to Detroit. And Miami got homecourt but a tough matchup against New Orleans. Plus the Lakers had to go to double overtime on the last game of the season but earned the second seed with that win at Portland.

    I think the NBA regular season was good this year. There was an influx of young talent that came into the league and they have really played well for their respective teams. I think Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kirk Hinrich and Jarvis Hayes and some other guys that were taken late in last year's draft have really done well.

    With all the media voting for league awards, I'll give you a sample of my choices.

    Most Valuable Player: Kevin Garnett has been the most consistent player this season and his team is on top of the Western Conference. He probably, in past seasons, should have gotten more consideration for the award but it didn't fall his way. The way he prepares to play, not just in the games, but in the practice sessions, makes him a valuable candidate and judging by the way he has handled himself, I think he has represented the NBA and Minnesota Timberwolves very well.

    Rookie of the Year: I'm going with Carmelo Anthony simply because Denver qualified for the playoffs but I would really say there should be co-Rookies of the Year. LeBron had a wonderful year, especially with all the pressure and expectations he had throughout the season.

    Coach of the Year: I think I'm going with three guys, Hubie Brown, Jerry Sloan and Terry Porter. I'm going with Hubie because of the rebuilding job he did with the Grizzlies; Jerry Sloan because he really got a group of unheralded players to come together as a team and play hard and well together; Terry Porter did a nice job in his first season.

    I think Milwaukee is the surprise team of the season and maybe Memphis. Hubie has done a great job and I don't think anybody would have said they would be where they are right now, but Milwaukee has been the biggest surprise and possibly Utah.

    Enjoy the playoffs. I know I will and we're getting close to assembling our team. It's less than three months until the expansion draft and the NBA Draft.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Apr 16 2004 10:29AM

    Adding some staff and visiting Portsmouth
    We recently announced some of the members of our coaching staff, with Gary Kloppenburg and John Outlaw joining the Bobcats. We still have two slots left within our coaching group and we'll fill those after the season.

    In choosing our coaching staff, we evaluate much like we evaluate players in that we want to find people that are familiar with what we like to do and are of the same philosophy. We also want people who understand what your system is all about and I think we have done that in adding Gary and John. It's important to have people who are loyal, who are able to develop good relationships with players and, most of all, are sound professionals.

    Because we have had time this season with extended preparation, we've had the advantage of doing a lot of things that we would normally not get a chance to do. I'm talking about the detail in watching the other teams systems of operation and how prospective players and coaches interact with one another. It has been a great opportunity for us to observe all of those different type situations. That has allowed us extensive evaluations of both players and coaches.

    I just got back from a scouting trip to the annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where we got a chance to see players who will most likely be second round picks or free agents. Some of these players we'll see again in Chicago at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in June. We had a pretty heavy contingency of Bobcats personnel in Portsmouth and we got varied opinions from the staff and how they competed. We also had an opportunity to watch guys that could possibly slip through the cracks come draft time, but overall, what we saw were mostly second round picks and free agents. There have been guys like former NBA players Larry Nance and Dennis Rodman, who have gone through these types of situations like the PIT and other pre-draft camps and have really enhanced their value by attending.

    College seniors usually miss these types of tournaments because I think what happens is that we don't have that many seniors available with the influx of the young players from college underclassmen, high school and international players coming into the NBA. What occurs as a result is the college seniors are in a unique position, in terms of leverage. They now feel they don't have to come out and play in the pre-draft camps because they have already let their play speak.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Apr 12 2004 7:13PM

    Picking up Frequent Flier Miles
    Sorry I've been on the down low for a while, but I've been traveling all over the place and checking out all different types of players. In the NCAAs I went to Orlando and then to Milwaukee. From there, I drove down to Chicago to see the practices for the Roundball Classic High School All-Star Game. I came back to Charlotte and once I landed immediately drove a few hours over to Fayetteville to catch an NBDL game. Now I'm in Oklahoma City for the McDonald's High School All-Star Game and after this move on to San Antonio for the Hoops Summit surrounding the Final Four. A busy time for us, but really fun. No complaints here.

    2004 is a different time as it relates to high school basketball. When I coached a number of years back we didn't concentrate on the high schools like we do today. But last year Amare Stoudemire won Rookie of the Year out of high school and LeBron was the number one pick and can make it two years in a row for that award. Plus, Kwame Brown was the top pick a few years back and this year's #1 or #2 pick could be a high schooler. So we have to do our due diligence all the way into the high schools. If not, we will get passed by. And that's not an option.

    Watching the practices for the high schoolers is important just like we talked about it being important for others. We can see how the players respond to coaching and how quickly they pick up the teaching they are receiving and the nuances of the game, what their retention abilities are. It also shows how they get along with others and attitudes in general. I've been impressed with the structure and the coaching these youngsters have received in these practices.

    The one thing about high school players these days that I dislike is that kids don't have the opportunity to grow up. They're thrust into everything so quickly that there is not time to enjoy the maturation process. Kids haven't had the time to enjoy life because the pressure is so big for them to be really good.

    As for the NCAA Tournament, I'm not surprised by what has happened. Even Nevada's run. There is parity in the college game now and as long as a team has some talented players they have a chance. I can see any of the four teams left winning on Saturday and also lifting the trophy on Monday night. The tournament is usually guard-oriented so we'll see this weekend if a quality big guy makes a big difference.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Mar 31 2004 8:00PM

    It's tournament time
    To me, this time of year explains why young men should go to college. To be in that environment, to experience the support from the student body, the tradition of some of the schools. When I was on campus at University of Connecticut, I thought every young man should experience the collegiate life and the different facets of life that you encounter during those years.

    The ACC Tournament showed you can get right at the right time. Gary Williams has been pretty good about getting Maryland to play better as the season progresses and peaking at the right time. That's what everyone talks about. They had a young basketball team and what it showed was the improvement of that team. Things looked pretty bleak for them at one point but they kept the faith, listened to the coaching staff and kept giving maximum effort. That proved that you should never give up in the face of adversity but to attack and take advantage of what opportunities you do have.

    As a coach you want to see improvement at all time. With a young team, it's going to take time. And we're likely to have a young team here with the Bobcats. You need synergy amongst the players and in the NCAA you can get hot at the time and you never know what can happen. That's what's great about the tournament, you have to bring your best all the time because one bad night and you're out. The teams that play good defense really stand out at this time of year because you can have an off shooting night but get over the hump.

    The travel last week and this week becomes difficult because the games begin so early in the day with four games per day. I went from New York to Greensboro to Atlanta and on Thursday and Friday saw four games each day. The ACC had some great games with Georgia Tech winning at the end and Maryland also winning by one point. This week, I visit Orlando and Milwaukee for those regionals. I will see NC State again, along with Rick Pitino's Louisville team and Mississippi State, before checking out Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and Pitt.

    It should be exciting. I'm looking forward to it and I hope you also will have fun watching it all unfold.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Mar 18 2004 10:54AM

    Living out of a suitcase
    Earlier in the week I traveled to Cleveland and Atlanta to see my first NBA games in person since returning from Europe. Now that the trade deadline has passed we need to revisit some teams since the rosters are different. Some teams also have injuries and that allows different players to see more time on the court.

    The schedule is so crazy that I flew to Cleveland on Saturday to see the Cavs play Milwaukee and then went to Atlanta to watch the Hawks and Cleveland. I have seen Atlanta several times this season but I had to see them again because the personnel are very different. Those are teams that we have to revisit because of the additions to their squads. We need to see the players perform and also see how they react to the new environment.

    I came back to Charlotte on Tuesday and went into the office. When I got there, Gary Brokaw told me he was going over to Asheville to check out an NBDL game. So I hopped in the car with him for the two-hour ride through the mountains. I was a winding drive, up and down some hills and the trees were bare. I bet that drive is really pretty in the fall when the leaves are changing colors.

    When I came back from Europe I had a bunch of e-mail messages, too numerous to count. Just from the short trip to Cleveland, Atlanta and Asheville I had around 100. But the phone calls haven't been too overwhelming. That's because we are prohibited from talking to players, other coaches, GMs and such until May 5. That is an area that will really start to hop when the gates are open.

    Right now we haven't fallen in love with too many players and that's good. We can keep an open mind as the drafts approach. We have to find guys who can play in the NBA if given the chance and there are plenty of guys who fit that bill.

    The college basketball tournaments are coming up and I will be seeing a lot of different teams. I'll be at the Big East in New York on Thursday, the ACC back here on Friday and then down to Atlanta for the SEC Tournament on Saturday and Sunday. We have our complete staff around the different regions.

    With the college players, we can compare notes very easily through our XOS computer software. A scout can file a report into the system and anyone can access it. So Kenny Williamson can watch a player on a Monday and if I am going to see him on Wednesday then I can call up the report that Kenny wrote from Monday's game. If I take my laptop on the road with me, then I can use it on the road.

    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Mar 11 2004 10:29PM

    Back in the USA
    I'm back home after the 10-day trip to Europe and it really feels good to be back. Our day on Saturday was spent mostly in the air but it was a terrific trip and great day for flying. But it's always good to set my feet back on U.S. soil. It makes you appreciate what we have here.

    The one thing that I can say about the entire trip is that we will probably be First-Team All-Restaurant with the group of guys we were with. I don't now if there are any franchises that will out-eat us. All the food was terrific, with none really better than another. There was diversity in the types of food that we ate which is similar to the type of players that we like, very versatile.

    Our day started pretty early on Saturday for the trip home, and was just like our other travel mornings with 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. wake-ups to get to the airport with security and everything. The trip home was about 10 hours in the air when you consider 2½ hours from Seville to London and close to eight hours from London to Washington, D.C.

    In terms of the basketball aspect, I thought it was a very rewarding trip for gathering information and getting a feel for international basketball and what transpires in those different venues. In terms of the history from the places that we visited I was just amazed at how involved the fans were and it was really eye-opening. The atmosphere at those games is nothing like I had seen before. Fans from the different teams are divided and seated on opposite ends of the arena and the way they cheer back and forth is amazing.

    As far as the European players are concerned, the one thing that they do well is shoot the basketball. They work on those areas a lot and I think it is a terrific place for players to go and acquire experience. It's a physical game and the players are fundamentally sound and they work on their games. I think it's a nice stepping stone to prepare for the NBA for those who wish to pursue that level but aren't quite ready yet.

    This trip was good as a first step for me because I had never done a European scouting "mission" before. There is no way in eight days of competition that I could go over and become a connoisseur of European basketball. It has to have more depth than that but what we've done is laid the groundwork for the future as we grow as an organization.

    One of the interesting moments was in Italy when one of the team's general manager actually sat on the team bench. He had his scarf tied around his neck the whole time and I was a little worried about him. I can't really imagine that happening in the NBA but I'm glad I'm the GM and head coach here!

    There was some humor on this trip with our COO Ed Tapscott missing his luggage for mostly the entire trip, among other things, but it was interesting to see how our group dealt with adversity. Everyone kept moving forward and what was most impressive was the people we had working the international circuit. We have to take our hats off to them because they had everything set up for us in a really first-class manner and I salute the people that made the arrangements. I like things that are organized and this whole trip was really put together well.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Mar 2 2004 5:48PM

    From Pasta to Paella
    Buenas dias. That means good day in Spanish and I am speaking Spanish because we are now in Spain after traveling from Italy. Our day today (Thursday) started at 4:30 a.m. in one country and ended after midnight in another country.

    We began in Bologna with a wake-up call in the hotel and once we finally got our eyes open (remember we watched an Italian Cup doubleheader the night before and then got something to eat afterward), we headed to the airport to fly to Seville, Spain, with a stop in Madrid. Seville is in the southwest portion of Spain in the Andalucia region and is full of history.

    It seemed like half the plane was filled with NBA team representatives who were following the same itinerary we were. It was the Italian Cup one night and the Spanish Cup the next night. The flight attendants on Iberia commented that they had never seen anything like this before.

    In Italy, our COO Ed Tapscott was missing his luggage after his trip from America to Italy but he finally had the bags delivered to the hotel. Well, he didn't learn. He checked one of his bags again from Italy to Spain and, sure enough, when we got here to Seville, his bag did not. Poor Ed.

    After we left the airport (without Ed's luggage) we were hungry and had lunch at a restaurant in Seville. When we arrived the people at the restaurant asked us if we were famous actors because they were expecting some actor but we told them we were basketball people. Sure enough we turn around and Jeremy Irons walked into the restaurant because he is filming a movie here in town.

    The Spanish Cup is called the Kings Cup and we saw a doubleheader tonight. The first game was between Badalona and Manresa, with Joventut winning in overtime, 90-87. After that was a big game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, which Barcelona won by one point, 80-79.

    Barcelona is the team that Memphis' Pau Gasol played for when he was in Spain and his younger brother Marc is currently on the team. Barcelona also the "Spanish Magic Johnson," Dejan Bodiroga, and Juan Carlos Navarro, a second-round draft pick by Washington, so Ernie Grunfeld was watching with particular interest as he had 24 points.

    It was interesting to see the difference in the game presentation in the Spanish ACB League and the Italian League. The games here in Spain were more like the NBA with halftime shows, dance teams, mascots and advertising signage, while in Italy is was more about the game itself. Also different were the uniforms, which had less advertisements than the ones in Italy which were a little too much.

    The fans here in Europe chant back and forth, just like they do at soccer matches. One team's fans will have a cheer and then on the other side of the arena the other team will cheer. It's neat. Also, at the end of the game, win or lose, each team waves and gives thanks to its fans that cheer so hard for them. These teams competed hard tonight, it was unbelievable.

    Well, I need to go get some rest to be ready for another doubleheader on Friday night. Adios.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Feb 26 2004 9:25PM

    European Travels
    Well, we're here in Europe. This is my first European scouting trip. I've done clinics in Milan and other European cities, and when I was with Washington we took a team to Israel and a team to China before it was chic to go to China. My other visits out here were vacations, so this is my first scouting mission.

    We landed in Pau, France, on Saturday and watched a French League game on Saturday night. I came over with Gary Brokaw, our director of player personnel, and we met our director of international scouting, Tim Shea.

    On Sunday, we moved from France to Italy and this is where the adventure begins. When we flew here to Italy, we went right over the Alps mountain range. Let me tell you something, it's a sight you've never seen before. It's full of beautiful, never-ending mountains that just pop up. It's breath-taking. We were flying into Milan, which is in the northern portion of the country. There was a major snowstorm that delayed our flight arrival and cancelled the game we were supposed to see in Varese, so we just drove down to our next stop, Bologna.

    We watched the Fortitudo Skipper Bologna team practice on Monday and Tuesday. The team jersey is filled with advertisements and the team name can best be described by explaining that Fortitudo is the team nickname (similar to Bobcats), Skipper is the team sponsor (a big orange juice company over here) and Bologna is the city where the team plays. The Skipper team is filled with familiar names: A.J. Guyton (played collegiately at Indiana), Milos Vujanic (draft rights held by Phoenix), Carlos Delfino (draft rights held by Detroit), Hanno Mottola (played collegiately at Utah)

    On Tuesday, our team COO Ed Tapscott arrived. But he arrived without his luggage, which is missing. So he's here freezing because it's so cold and he has no warm clothes. He did warm up today as we had a five-course lunch before heading to practice. It was one of the best meals I've had in years. That made Ed a little happier because he is definitely a food connoisseur. But he's still freezing and waiting for his clothes to arrive.

    Bologna is a wonderful, bustling city that is mix of old and new. It has 100-year old churches and buildings located right next to a McDonald's, which is like how a lot of European cities are. This city is where lasagna was invented and then they added Bolognese sauce to complement the pasta, of course. The people here have been very nice and accommodating to us and that has been extremely helpful.

    Tomorrow (Wednesday) we are driving down to Forli to watch some Italian Cup games and on Thursday we head over to Seville, Spain, to watch Spanish Cup games on Thursday and Friday.

    Hope you all are doing well back in the States and I'll check back when we get to Spain. Ciao.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Feb 24 2004 4:15PM

    Trading Deadline
    Yesterday was the NBA trade deadline and it did not disappoint. There was plenty of activity in what really started last week when Rasheed Wallace went from Portland to Atlanta. Then you throw in the Keith Van Horn/Tim Thomas trade over the All-Star weekend and there was lots going on before the trade deadline.

    Then the trade deadline came yesterday. This year, we looked at it from the outside looking in. There was nothing we could do to get involved. You'd like to be a player in all the talk and activity, but our time will come soon. So we just watched with interest what the other teams did.

    Now that the trade deadline has past, we can seriously look at teams. We now have to rework our scenarios because of all the activity and player movement. For instance, Michael Doleac is now on his third team in a week and Rasheed Wallace has been on three teams in 10 days.

    We need to take another look not because of the players ? we still have the same rankings of them ? but we have to put them on their new teams and solidify them. The rosters should be locked in now and give us a better understanding of who will be available in late June for the expansion draft.

    So I'm happy the trade deadline has come and gone. I'm sure the other coaches feel that way also. There's always uncertainly among teams at the trade deadline because no one knows what's going on with the trade possibilities. Everyone can lock in now and get down to business as the season winds down toward the playoffs.

    But, nothing surprised me. You always expect something to happen at the trade deadline.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Feb 20 2004 5:18PM

    All-Star Weekend
    Last weekend was the NBA's annual All-Star Weekend in the city of stars, LA, but I didn't head west because I was out on the scouting trail. With our first drafts coming up in June I had to see some players. But I did catch some of the action on television.

    Once again the NBA did what they always do, put on a show. It was very entertaining. The All-Star Game on Sunday was exciting and the guys were having fun but also were competing. The best in the game competing at the highest level against each other.

    One moment that stood out for me from the weekend was the one dunk that Jason Richardson made. It was phenomenal. It was the one where he threw the ball off the backboard and went through his legs and threw it down? that was phenomenal.

    For me, I remember the All-Star Game back in Detroit in 1979. That was before it was an All-Star Weekend and just the big game. It was the year after we won the championship in Washington and Dick Motta and I went to coach the East. We were around some of the best players in Maravich, Moses, Dr. J and our own Elvin Hayes. Being in that environment, watching the guys, and you were there with the very best. That moment with the players was incredible.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Feb 19 2004 7:01PM

    My first blog
    When I was first asked to write a "blog," I had to ask what that meant. They told me what it was a short internet diary and that Doc Rivers was part of the "Blog Squad." The NBA has come a long way, indeed.

    I got started in the league in 1973, a young buck from the country in Kentucky who went to college and got started in coaching in San Diego. The NBA has been great to me and my family, taking me to places I would never have had the opportunity to visit.

    This year has been a different experience for me, and I thought I had done everything in the NBA. I was fortunate enough to be the youngest assistant coach in the league when K.C. Jones hired me in Washington at 29 years old. We then went to the NBA Finals three times in Washington, winning it all in 1978. Since then I have had the opportunity to be a head coach, general manager and team president and represent some fine organizations, including now with the Charlotte Bobcats.

    But building a team from the start is unique, and that is our task in Charlotte. Right now we have no assets. So I'm out hitting the road in what we call our five-tiered evaluation program. Our staff is scouting the NBA, the minor leagues (such as the NBDL), colleges, high schools and we can't forget about the growing talent pool of international players. That's a lot of ground to cover, but we were fortunate to get on the road early when Bob Johnson and Ed Tapscott hired us in October.

    I'm in Minnesota right now, where I'm staying in the gym to escape the cold temperatures outside. During my stay in Minneapolis, I'm seeing two Timberwolves games, a college game and a practice in a three-day stretch. That's the type of activity all of our scouts are doing.

    When we pick out our schedule, we try to pick a region where we can catch as many games as possible of all types. We'll try to get an NBA team on a homestand so that we can see four games in a short span and not have to travel too much. But you also have to move around to make sure you've got it all covered. Before I came here, I was in New Jersey watching a high school tournament and I'll leave here to watch another college game and then another high school game.

    I'll check back in a few days. Thanks for reading.
    Posted by Bernie Bickerstaff - Feb 10 2004 3:32PM