Michael Jordan On Bobcats Insider
On Wednesday, March 7, Bobcats Insider aired a special edition with Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan on WMYT MyTV 12. Jordan talked openly with Bobcats Television play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin about his decision to invest in the Bobcats, his role in Charlotte and his vision for the future. Watch the interview with Jordan right here.
The following is the transcript of the interview with Michael Jordan:
Matt Devlin: Welcome to Bobcats Insider, I’m Matt Devlin. Over the next half hour, I’ll go one-on-one with an owner of the Charlotte Bobcats who also happens to be a North Carolina native and a Tar Heel legend by bringing the University of North Carolina the 1982 national title. He dominated the NBA for over a decade, guiding his Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships while capturing six NBA Finals MVP’s. He was a five-time NBA MVP, a 14-time All Star and the greatest player who ever played the game. Michael Jordan is an iconic figure whose drive and determination has led him to the pinnacle of his profession and the entire sports world.
Now he takes on a new challenge in his home state to build a winner and eventually bring an NBA championship to the Carolinas. This time as an owner...
First of all Michael, thank you very much for taking the time to join us. What led to your decision to get involved with the Charlotte Bobcats?
Michael Jordan: It was a lot of components. (Bobcats Majority Owner) Bob (Johnson) was on me for a couple of years actually, trying to get me involved. In the mix of that, I was still trying to find my own team and evaluate all of the different opportunities that were coming up. I felt like it would be somewhat of a compliment if I was looking for a team, then at the same time, trying to become a minority owner. Actually, I didn’t want to become a minority owner of a team because of what I just came out of with Washington, so I was looking for more of a control situation where I could give myself some time to develop the whole program that I felt like could benefit the franchise. You saw obviously what happened in D.C. and Bob came to me at the last minute saying that he would at least give me the opportunity to become a minority owner and still take a control aspect of the basketball portion.
Bob Johnson: It’s always been my dream to be partners with Michael in ownership of a basketball team. Michael’s dream on the contrary, was to be his own owner of a basketball team so our discussions have always been on “Bob, you want to be an owner, I want to be like you.” Instead of, “I want to be like Mike, I want to be like Bob.” I sort of constantly badgered him is the best way to describe it, about why we would make a great team.
Jordan: It was all of those components that kind of fell in place. In his other ventures, I looked at some of the things he was involved in at the time. I felt like it was a great opportunity to try to help him out if I was getting in some of those other ventures, help him out in the basketball portion and see if I could add some value to it.
Devlin: With your legacy as the greatest player in the game, how important is it to you to become an owner of an NBA franchise?
Jordan: Well, I felt like I still love the game of basketball. I wanted to be connected to basketball for a long time. I felt like I could influence the game positively, and hopefully my whole competitive nature was to try it, win and build a winning franchise, and that hasn’t diminished at all. I still feel like that’s my way of staying connected to the game of basketball, so ownership became a possibility. Once I got a taste of in D.C., it became part of my bloodline.
Devlin: You mentioned bloodlines. You’re from Wilmington, N.C. You won a title at North Carolina. It’s been 25 years. It’s hard to believe.
Jordan: I know time has flown by. Now you’re telling me my age. North Carolina has always been my home. Even though I lived in Chicago for 25 years, this is where my family is. This is where most of my friends are. Before I was Michael Jordan, I was known as Mike Jordan and everybody knew that. It gave me the opportunity to come home and be a part of this. I felt like I could add something to this franchise. A lot of things Bob may not understand about the South, I can probably understand about the South and help out. So far it’s been working out great.
Devlin: You mentioned earlier conversations with Bob, what is your specific role with the Bobcats?
Jordan: I’m an investor. I’m the operating manager of the basketball portion of the business, and what I do with that is I oversee all of the basketball decisions. I more or less have the final say-so of the basketball decisions.
Johnson: Our whole business approach is to find very talented people to work with and give them all of the authority that they deserve based on their ability, their skill and their commitment. Michael is the quintessential in that in terms of the basketball operations. So for me, to have a chance to have him as an owner (was great). He’s aligned with me financially in terms of his commitment. It’s not like he’s just working for me. He’s an owner working for himself, matter of fact. So to have him saying “I want to be responsible for all of basketball,” it’s like saying, “I want Michelangelo to be responsible for all of the painting of the Sistine Chapel.” It’s the easiest decision in the world.
Jordan: I stay in tune with the coaching and with the general manger and everything that happens with the basketball side of things. I’m involved in the drafting and the hiring of players and the signing of contracts and things of that nature, so I’m right into the basketball meat of the business. Even though I understand the marketing aspect, that’s not my expertise. I didn’t want that to be my expertise. I didn’t want to be part of the business. I have my own insight, but that’s not my strong point. My strong points are the basketball portion of the business so I control all of that.
Devlin: What is your vision when you sit back and you look at this franchise? What is your vision for the Bobcats?
Jordan: Well, the focus that I’m trying to initiate here is that what’s been transpiring over the last couple of years, I felt like, was done backwards. With this city in Charlotte – they had just gone through the divorce with (Hornets owner George) Shinn and the way they dedicated themselves to the team. For them to come here and try and build around the business aspect with not having the team to support it was not the correct approach from my standpoint. And this has been the things that I’ve had conversations with Bob and Fred Whitfield on this issue – that I want to build a basketball team that can sustain the marketing aspect. When we go to this consumer here in Charlotte, we’re not selling them a bill of goods. We’re selling a product that’s going to continue to do better and better and you’re best to invest in it because you’ll be there when it all erupts. So I wanted to make sure that with this team, we have a good solid nucleus of basketball players and built around the nucleus are good people and great effort from the basketball team. Then the marketing aspect is easy. Because when you win, it’s easy to sell a winning team. When you’re losing it’s tough. It’s just harder from the marketing aspect to go out and try to sell the team. So I felt like initially how it was done here in Charlotte was a little bit backwards for how we want to do things.
I wanted to come in and make a sound basketball program that people could see the guys are working hard. Young guys each and every day that can come out and do whatever they can to entertain the fans. Then, you bring in a situation that’s going to put all of that together. Different players that you’ll continue to add and keep making that progress in the right direction. And I feel like we’re really sitting in a great position right now. We have a great young nucleus of players we drafted. (Adam) Morrison, who I felt like, if he evolves, he can be that key kind of player. But then you look at buying into free agency with the cap room that we have. The table’s set. It’s now applying the talent within the organization and getting every component from the coaching staff all the way down to the scouting and to the players, where they all are on the same unit so we can be successful.
Devlin: You touched upon it right there. You won a title at North Carolina. You won six in the NBA. How do you build now a championship caliber team?
Jordan: Well I mean, it’s exactly what I said. You find the right pieces that you build around and you start and plug in systemically these components that are going to make the overall picture a lot better. It happened in Chicago. Once I got into Chicago, then they starting plugging different people around me with Scottie Pippen and all of these other guys. Once you’ve got the nucleus of the team together, it doesn’t matter who you plug in after that. And then the coaching staff came through a situation where they applied individual talents and personalities and placed them into certain roles where everybody flourishes. I think that’s what needs to be done. It’s the same program. Obviously the problem in Charlotte is they don’t have a Michael Jordan.
Devlin: That’s hard to do. (Laughing) That’s hard to come by.
Jordan: It’s hard to find a player that in the fourth quarter that can take over a game. That’s one thing that this team is missing is that go-to player. If they had a go-to player, I think a lot of the games that they’ve played this year would have a different outcome. But those skills are hard to find. Vying through free agency to try to find that or going into the draft to try to find that, that would be a beneficial acquisition. As I said, what’s happening in Chicago and in North Carolina, it’s set. The stage is set here with a good nucleus of players. We’re missing a couple of components and the next thing you know, we’ll be winning. We’re really fortunate.
Devlin: I know you talk to (Bobcats General Manager & Head Coach) Bernie (Bickerstaff) on a daily basis. You’re at shootarounds. You’re at practices. You’re at games. You touched on this core of the team. What are your thoughts on the core right now? You look at them and there’s a strong nucleus?
Jordan: Yeah, there’s a strong nucleus. They’re still in a learning process. You can still see a lot of mistakes being made, and that’s going to happen. How Bernie’s coached has been a big help to understanding and evaluating what we have. He’s allowed everyone to openly compete for a job - see who really wants it and who doesn’t want it. At then at the end of the day, we have to either make trades or try and take that into what the concept is with this franchise.
Raymond (Felton) is an exceptionally good point guard. I think he’s going to continue to learn about his turnover-to-assist ratio. Those type of things, his decision making. You can see his heart and his desire is really strong. Gerald Wallace was a product that came over from Sacramento who’s shown he’s got the workman-like attitude. He’s going to do everything. He gets injured a bit, but I think that’s only because he’s trying so hard. (Sean) May is another big guy who can shoot and play inside/outside, has an unbelievable body, but he has to take care of his body because of the physical things he’s had to deal with. (Emeka) Okafor is the centerpiece. How often can you find a versatile center who can block shots, get up and down the court and play an up tempo style of game? Matt (Carroll) has proven to be the sunshine of what’s happened with this team because in a lot of situations, he’s proven to be our go-to guy on the court. He can shoot the basketball, get to the free throw line – he really tries hard to be a part of this whole franchise. When you look at Morrison, he’s going to learn. He’s getting an eyeful about what it feels like to have the target on your back. Every night, you’re going against someone who was a star player on their college team too, and either you compete with it or you don’t compete. He’s shown he can compete with it, and he’s going to continue to get better and better. Those are some good pieces right there that you can kind of build around. They’re going to grow. They’re going to get better, get better coaching, get a total understanding of what it feels like to be an NBA player. And then we’ll see where it takes us from that point.
Devlin: Michael, you look at third-year expansion teams going back to 1980. This team is on track to be one of the most successful third-year expansion teams. The Orlando Magic won 31 games. They’re the most successful team. What are your thoughts on the season to date?
Jordan: Well, I think that barring from all of the injuries that may have occurred over this time of the season, I think they’re ahead of the game. We got on a nice little streak without Brevin Knight and even when Wallace wasn’t playing. We went out and somehow sucked it up and found ways to win. (February), I think has been a .500 month for us. The guys are finding ways to overcome a lot of the injury situations, so I think the team with that aspect is ahead of the game. Will we get to 31 games? I think so. I think the way that the guys are playing and getting healthy, with the guys coming back, I think we can definitely do that. Staying healthy and being about to complement each other when someone goes down and I think Bernie has done a tremendous job of rearranging the roster to where he gets that effort every single night. With me, if the effort is there, then you’re going to be able to get your chance to win ball games. This team has put forth the effort every night. They’ve had their nights when they just haven’t played well, but it wasn’t because the effort wasn’t there. It was just because the talent of the team they were facing was a lot better or whatever, but you’re going to have nights like that. But the team that plays hard is always going to end up winning games people don’t expect them to win. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams. We beat L.A. (Lakers) twice. We beat San Antonio. We’ve beaten teams that are some of the elite in the league so we can see the effort. We can see the capabilities of what this team can do.
Devlin: You mentioned Matt Carroll and it’s interesting because I had a great conversation with Matt.
Carroll: (Prior to the November 22 game against Boston) was sort of the first time when he came up to me and kind of said something directed to me rather than just saying, “How are you doing, what’s up?” or something like that.
Jordan: I remember thinking because up to that point, I honestly had some conversations with Bernie. I kept saying, “Bernie, you keep telling me this kid can shoot,” yet he had been shooting almost 35 percent. I said, “I’ve yet to see him hit a jump shot.” And he said, “He’s the shooter on the team.” I asked (Matt), “When are you going to wake up so I can see?”
Carroll: He kind of said to me, “C’mon M.C. You’re a shooter man. I’ve never seen you hit any shots. What’s going on?”
Jordan: I joked with him that day and told him, “They tell me you can shoot, but I’ve yet to see you make any jump shots.” From that point on, I think he had the attitude to prove me wrong.
Carroll: And I then kind of said, “Okay, we’ll see then.” And it was like a natural reaction to for me to say back to him, but coming from him it meant a lot more than if someone else kind of just said, “Hey man, hit some shots.” When he said it to me, since we hadn’t had that much dialogue, that much discussion between each other… when he did say something, even if it was just a few words, that meant something to me. I kind of took that to heart and said, “Alright, I’m going to show you then Mike.”
Jordan: Ever since then, he’s made a believer out of me. Whenever he gets his feet set, he’s one of the best shooters in the game.
Carroll: That night, I was thinking about that and went to the game and just said, “Hey, I’m going to knock some shots down. I’m going to be aggressive.” And I remembered that. I remembered what he said. And something that little that took a few words really kind of got to me and triggered me to start playing well.
Jordan: All he needed was someone to say, “You’re doing a great job and it will come around. It will happen for you. Just keep working hard, keep working hard and keep working hard.” I think that catapulted him into believing that he belonged. He’s received well. His efforts don’t go unnoticed.
Carroll: He came up to me, slapped me five, gave me a little hug and said, “Now that’s how you’re supposed to play. Like that.” And that made me feel pretty good.
Jordan: As long as he has that confidence, it will be a really big aid for this franchise long-term. His accuracy is something that every championship team needs. We had Steve Kerr. We had John Paxson. To me, he’s more like that. I did it at North Carolina and did it in Chicago. I’ve learned in the process too because some people can take it in different ways. You can be harder on people and they don’t know how to receive that. With that learning, I’ve applied those type of talents very gingerly so that I don’t ruin someone’s confidence, but instead give them a sense of confidence. I did it the same with Raymond. I’ve done it the same with Sean and even with Okafor.
Okafor: His word’s as good as gold. It’s the source and where it’s coming from that means so much. You know what he’s done, so you feel good about what he sees – he must be right. You just take it to heart and try to improve.
Felton: He had a little joke one time – told me (former UNC) coach Dean Smith told me to tell you to cut down on those turnovers. Little things like that, which I know he did say that because Dean Smith used to get on me all the time about that. Cut down on those turnovers. Mainly, he just told me to use what you got. Use your speed, use your strength and use quickness and just go with the ball.
Jordan: I hope I can instill that. That’s one of the reasons that I’m here, that I can give someone that type of confidence. They’re good players and they can become better just by believing in themselves. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you’re obviously wasting a lot of people’s time, not just yours.
Devlin: With the foundation set for the franchise, this is a big summer for the Bobcats. The NBA draft will quite possibly be the deepest in years and the Bobcats will have cap room to be active in the marketplace. You mentioned Adam Morrison. I know you were heavily involved in the draft last year. Take us through that process of what you saw in Adam Morrison as a young player.
Jordan: Well, I think what we really want here in Charlotte is we want people who are willing to take that effort of being a better basketball player. The thing that I saw about him is you can see a lot of skillful people coming out of college and some kids that are not as skillful. I think he’s very skillful, but his heart and his desire to become the best was something you can’t give kids. It’s hard to give people that type of attitude and he has it. Now can that translate into being a successful NBA player? We think he can. That’s one of the things that we saw in him. He’s a gym rat. He loves being around the game of basketball. He’s tough. He can learn. He listens. His demeanor, his attitude about failure is something you can’t really find. He wants and accepts what failure is and wants to turn it around into something successful. That’s hard to find in kids today.
Devlin: You look at this draft. I know you can’t specifically comment on underclassmen at this time, but there are a lot of people who believe that this draft could even be deeper than the 2003 NBA Draft, and that included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh. The last player chosen in the first round was Josh Howard by the Dallas Mavericks. Your thoughts on the upcoming draft? Does it have that sort of potential?
Jordan: It has potential. Obviously, you’ve got to wait and see who’s going to be in the draft of the underclassmen, international players – things of that nature. All of those will come into play in the scouting aspect of what we’re trying to do, but it has the potential to be a really, really deep draft. We’re in a good situation. Hopefully we can continue to get more draft picks. We can buy into that and feel comfortable getting in that environment. But this could very well be a very deep draft. Right now, where we’re sitting, we’re sitting in the lottery area, which you can look at it in two different ways. It can be a good thing because you can get a good pick, but obviously I would like to make the playoffs. I don’t like to sit around and throw games just so you can get more balls in the hopper. If it’s meant to be, its going to happen. I think what’s important is to show a winning attitude here to Charlotte. If we can go out and win games, compete and play hard, that’s what we do and let the chips fall where they may. If we have a No. 1 pick wherever it is, we’re going to utilize our education about the draft and get a sound player. If we feel like we can’t get anything within the draft and can trade that pick to get some established veteran, then that’s what we’ll do. We’re going to explore all of the options. We’re not going in with a closed mind. We’re going in with an open mind. We’ve got money. We’ve got a lot of situations where we can better this franchise.
Devlin: Another thing you touched upon earlier was cap space – an absorbent amount of cap space for this franchise. Do you see the Bobcats being active in the free agent market? And then there’s obviously the ability to do a sign and trade?
Jordan: There’s flexibility we’re going to have. I like to have that flexibility because it gives us a lot of options. If a marquee player comes on the market that I think can fit this program, then we’re going to get him. If there’s something out there that we think is not worth it, then we’re not going to waste money just make a move. I know the franchise. I know everybody wants to win, but you’ve got to make sound decisions for this franchise too. To go out and spend money and not with the education of knowing what you’re going to get, it doesn’t make any sense. I can look at a lot of teams in the league that are making moves and soon they have no flexibility. They’re stuck with the same team for five to six years. What we did in Washington was we were able to unload contracts, build flexibility with our cap. The next thing you know, they walked into a great situation where they can build their franchise in getting a marquee player. We’re kind of in the same situation. We have a good nucleus of players. We’ve got great cap room. Now we’ve got to look and see what’s out there to see what’s going to fit with our franchise.
Devlin: It’s an exciting time for the Charlotte Bobcats. The core of players is in place. The organization is poised to make an impact in the offseason and they are currently on pace to have the most successful third year in expansion history. We would like to take a moment to thank Michael Jordan for joining us here on Bobcats Insider. I’m Matt Devlin, and thank you for watching.