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20.6.11 1951
The 7 - Basketball - Charlotte Bobcats To-Do List
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#1 Posted on 10.3.04 1254.20
Reposted on: 10.3.11 1254.21
From ESPN Insider:

It's exactly 104 days until Charlotte Bobcats GM Bernie Bickerstaff gets to do something ... official.
The team already has an office, staff, head coach, scouts, marketers, ticket salespeople and a web site. It even has a bright orange Bobcats logo to get your attention. But nothing in Charlotte really happens until June 22. That's when the Bobcats add the real bricks and mortar of any NBA franchise -- players -- in the upcoming expansion draft.

Two days later, June 24, the Bobcats will make their first-ever lottery selection with the fourth pick in the NBA draft. Exactly one week after the draft, they officially can begin wooing the free-agent class of 2004.

"You get a little stir crazy waiting around," Bickerstaff said. "You've got to be patient and make sure you're prepared."

Bickerstaff has hardly been waiting. He and his staff have been cavorting through the league, college basketball arenas and Europe for six months searching for the right 15 players who will eventually become the Bobcats.

The process began in training camp in October and has extended through the season. Bickerstaff and a slew of scouts and front-office types have a major task ahead of them.

Not only do they need to evaluate the 100 or so prospects who will become available in the NBA draft and the 150 or so free agents who will flood the NBA market this summer, the Bobcats also have to be well versed on every player in the league in order to be ready for the expansion draft.

That's a lot of players to track.

"What we've done is, we ranked all of the players on every team in order of preference to us," Bickerstaff said. "Then we go through the rankings looking at restricted, unrestricted, early termination options and the like. We wanted to get a good handle on just who will be available to us."

The Bobcats have very little choice but to do that kind of homework. Teams can wait until June 12 to reveal their expansion rosters, giving the Bobcats only 10 days to plot a draft strategy.

Why doesn't Bickerstaff just pick up the phone and call the league's 29 other GMs and jump start the process a little? Because NBA rules prohibit Bickerstaff from even talking to other teams about players or potential deals until May 5. Until then, all he can do is project hypotheticals on dry-erase boards.

Every time there's a trade, injury or sudden shift in the balance of power in the league, the Bobcats have to react.

"We just have to try to map out all of the different scenarios out there," Bickerstaff said. "Things have changed since the trade deadline, which means we'll probably have to make another round of visits to make sure we've seen everyone on our list."

Such uncertainty makes it tough to predict what the Bobcats are going to do in June. But Bickerstaff claims there are a number of core principles that will inform the decisions the Bobcats make this summer.

Build through the draft: Bickerstaff said his team is least concerned with free agency right now. The team is looking for young players and thinks the best place to get them is in the expansion and amateur drafts. Bickerstaff said he doesn't expect to be a big player in free agency this year unless something special comes around. That means that, unlike previous expansion drafts, the Bobcats will be looking for core players they can begin building around.

A young core: Bickerstaff said the team will focus on developing a core group of young players. "We want to go with youth," Bickerstaff told Insider. "We want a young group of core players. We don't feel there are going to be any dominant players out there [in the expansion draft or free agency]. Therefore you focus on a core group of young players and build."

Veteran support: Much like the Nuggets did this year, Bickerstaff wants to make sure his young core is surrounded by a handful of patient, unselfish veterans who can show the rookies how to win and be professionals. "It's also important to find veteran players who understand their role, who are there to be positive in your locker room, to show professionalism, work ethic, to build those young players," Bickerstaff said. "You've got to be very selective. They have to understand why they're there."

Cap flexibility: Don't expect owner Robert Johnson to break the bank on draft night. The Bobcats will be given the flexibility to select players in the expansion draft regardless of the size of the players' contracts. An owner like Mark Cuban could easily spend $50 million to $75 million in the expansion draft and come away with an impressive veteran core. Bickerstaff said he would resist that temptation. "Cap management is really important. We've got to be very careful who we give our money to." Bickerstaff understands most teams get in trouble when they lose their cap flexibility. He's trying to maintain it early on (despite being limited to only two-thirds of the salary cap this season and three-fourths next season) so the Bobcats can capitalize on an opportunity if one presents itself.

Let's make a deal: The Bobcats can expect to hear from several teams looking to enrich them if they're willing to select an undesirable player or two in the expansion draft. Teams like the Suns, Wizards and Pistons are looking for major cap room and might be willing to offer cash and draft picks if the Bobcats take a troublesome contract off their hands. Bickerstaff said that the idea, in theory, was interesting, but claimed he hasn't been able to talk with GMs around the league about it, so he couldn't really comment. "We're good listeners," Bickerstaff said. "I think we're going to be open to hearing what people want to offer."

Patience: The Bobcats know the fans in Charlotte aren't normal expansion fans. The Hornets' team that left two seasons ago was a playoff team. The city's NFL team just went to the Super Bowl and previously made it to the NFC Championship Game in only its second year in the league. Will Bickerstaff & Co. feel pressure to put a good team out on the floor right away? "No," Bickerstaff said bluntly. "We've got to be patient. Do the right things for the basketball team. It's important to have a young team. ... We want to build a product that has sustaining value."
Bickerstaff realizes that some attractive players will be put on the expansion list. He claims Charlotte can resist the temptation, unless, that is, someone dangles a star in their direction. "I know teams are going to put players on list with big salaries. If there's a player that makes a difference, you consider taking them. If that player makes a difference." What is a difference-maker? Bickerstaff said only a handful of players in the league qualify. In other words, you won't be seeing a difference-maker in this year's expansion draft.

Can the fans be that patient? Rebuilding in the NBA sometimes takes years. The Grizzlies, the league's last expansion team, have never been to the playoffs (though it looks like that will change this season). Before the Hornets finally left Charlotte, fans were staying away in droves. Most of their issues were with team owner George Shinn. Now that new management is in town, Bickerstaff says the response from the fans has been "very positive."

The Bobcats' plan is generally endorsed by GMs around the league. Insider talked to several about Bickestaff's blueprint, and all of them agreed that going young and maintaining cap flexibility is the way to go.

"The biggest problem that teams have right now is a lack of financial flexibility," one NBA GM said. "I think many of us would give our right leg to start with a fresh slate like Charlotte has. The temptation will be there to go grab an established player or two, because you do need stars in this league to win a championship. Having said that, I don't see any reason why the Bobcats can't be successful on the court doing what they're doing. Milwaukee and Utah have proved that you can be a playoff team with a collection of mid-priced veterans and young people. If I'm Bernie, I follow the same path they did."

Fortunately, the Bobcats should be in a better position than the Bucks or Jazz when it comes to recruiting free agents. Players are generally interested in playing in Charlotte. The team should have a broad appeal for the numerous former ACC players in the NBA.

"The weather's pretty good, Charlotte is a great city, we're going to have a new arena and we have a great fan base," Bobcats P.R. director Scott Leightman said. "I think we won't have a hard time at all finding players who want to be here. When I go around the league and introduce myself as a member the Bobcats, they really light up. I think it's a great place to play basketball."
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#2 Posted on 12.3.04 1527.27
Reposted on: 12.3.11 1528.04
In addition to starting with a clean slate, the expansion draft rules for the Bobcats are particularly interesting.

If they take a player with an undesirable contract (in exchange for a bribe, like a draft pick or cash), the Bobcats can then release that player with no penalty, taking them off the team's salary cap number. The Bobcats would still have to pay that player, but there would be no salary-cap ramifications for either the Bobcats or the player's original team. So the Bobcats could conceivably have several draft picks this year, and some players with undesriable contracts could be taken off their teams' hands.

This would provide better salary cap flexibility for those teams, and be mutually beneficial because Charlotte would get the draft picks.
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#3 Posted on 13.3.04 1401.32
Reposted on: 13.3.11 1402.51
I like that idea ekedolphin. Grab a couple of first rounders and either trade up or trade them into next years draft. Anyway you work it the team will be lousy the first year but if you work it right you can accumulate a bunch of young draft picks, draft a core group of young players, let them develop over a year or two and fill in the team with smart free agent signings.
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#4 Posted on 13.3.04 1704.00
Reposted on: 13.3.11 1706.18
Okay, dumb question. How do the Bobcats get compensated if they take a bad contract? Take another player (desired by the other team) and trade?

I'm with eke too. Don't be dumb, build young with the right vets, and win.
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#5 Posted on 14.3.04 0106.15
Reposted on: 14.3.11 0106.52
Actually, Dr. J, it's not a stupid question at all. It's just that the rules for this expansion draft are very strange compared to those in past years.

“How do the Bobcats get compensated if they take a bad contract?”

Let's say you're the GM of the Orlando Magic. You call up Bernie Bickerstaff, GM of the Bobcats, and say, “Hey yo... if you guys take Grant Hill for us, we'll give you a second-round pick and $2 million cash. Whaddaya say?”

The Bobcats could draft Hill (who, in addition to having an undesirable contract, has played extremely sparingly due to his injury), but then they could release him immediately. It'd take Hill off the Bobcats' salary cap number, and the Bobcats would still have the second-round pick and cash. The Bobcats would still have to pay Hill the remainder of his contract, but he'd be a free-agent, and would clear cap room for both the Magic and Bobcats.

I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of undesirable-contract guys get drafted and released by the Bobcats in this manner. I'd be very surprised if it happened more than two or three times, though, 'cuz remember, they've still gotta build a team. And a first-round draft-pick, Joe Schmoe from the Washington Wizards and five second-rounders don't amount to a hill o' beans in this crazy world. That's why you're gettin' on that plane.

If the Bobcats play their cards right in the expansion draft and college draft, though, they might have as good a shot as anyone at actually winning their division title in their expansion year. One, they're playin' in the Eastern Conference, also known as the Pacers/Pistons/Nets (and a buncha other teams) Conference. And two, they're playing in the new Southeast Division, consisting of Miami, Atlanta, Orlando and Washington. Of those five teams, only Miami's in any danger of getting a playoff berth this year.

Of course, the fact that they can't use the full NBA salary cap their first three years in the league will be a problem. But on the other hand, they're eligible for the #1 draft pick in 2005 if they somehow do manage to hit rock-bottom in that piss-poor division.

Look out folks... my guess is the Bobcats will be in the playoffs by 2008 at the latest, unless they get a lot of bad breaks or their management doesn't have the damndest idea what it's doing.
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