Thursday, May 31, 2012

I was at Icehouse in South End last evening attending a tweetup event when the NBA Draft Lottery special came on ESPN. Around 8:15 p.m., I made my way downstairs and planted myself square in front of a TV. Like many of you Charlotte Bobcats fans and Charlotteans, I had my fingers crossed that the home team would win the first pick. A female friend walked by and asked what all the frenzy was about. I said: "Imagine that the Bobcats have the opportunity to do what the Carolina Panthers were able to do last year by drafting Cam Newton number one." Her face lit up.

But sadly, it was not meant to be. As I'm sure you know by now, the New Orleans Hornets (Charlotte's former team) won the first pick in the draft and the Bobcats secured the second pick. So the Hornets will undoubtedly select the player just about everyone from serious sports analysts and critics to casual observers believes will be number one, 19-year-old Anthony Davis, a 6-10 forward from the University of Kentucky. He's the one player most believe a team can build a winning franchise around.

Fortunately I was at the bar ordering a much-needed drink during this moment of anguish, when Bobcats GM Rich Cho congratulated Hornets head coach Monty Williams.

With the second pick, there isn't a whole lot of excitement in the players the Bobcats have to choose from. The NBA drafts just aren't as strong as they used to be. There was a time when teams were almost guaranteed to draft a future all-star if they landed a top-five or sometimes even top-10 pick or beyond (in the 1996 draft, for example, Ray Allen was the fifth pick, Kobe Bryant was the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets but traded to the L.A. Lakers, and Steve Nash was the 15th pick). Many believe the Bobcats will select Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an 18-year-old, 6-7 forward who was a teammate of Davis's on the national championship-winning Wildcats.

So with the unlucky bounce of a lottery ball, the Bobcats, who finished 7-59 this past season, accumulating the worst winning percentage in NBA history, have missed out on the chance to draft a future superstar for the first time in their eight-year history. "Two is not a winner and three nobody remembers," as Nelly famously rapped on "Number One" (Nelly, coincidentally, was a part of the original ownership group of the Bobcats, but that reportedly ended when Michael Jordan bought majority control in 2010).

Or, you can look at it more optimistically for the Bobcats. One doesn't have to go back too far to recall the 2007 NBA Draft, when the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden with the first pick. With the second pick, the Seattle SuperSonics, which later left Seattle and became the Oklahoma City Thunder, drafted Kevin Durant. Oden is a great young man, whom many rooted for, but he's been plagued with injuries in his five NBA seasons, only playing 82 games during that whole time, which is the amount of games in a single NBA season. Meanwhile, Durant has become one of the best players in the league, the NBA scoring champion the last three seasons, and currently leading his team in the Western Conference Finals.

I certainly don't wish that Davis becomes the next Oden. Not at all. But it would be great if Kidd-Gilchrist, or whoever the Bobcats pick, becomes the next Durant. They need it desperately. And the Bobcats do, after all, have as their general manager for the past year, Rich Cho, who was the assistant general manager for the Sonics/Thunder for many years, helping orchestrate the deals, trades, and picks that are credited with putting together a Thunder team full of young, talented players who are poised to be dominant for most of this decade.

The second pick is the highest the Bobcats have ever received in the draft. In 2006, they won the third pick, shortly after Jordan had become the top executive under then-team-owner Bob Johnson. Jordan and his braintrust picked Adam Morrison, considered one of the worst draft moves in recent memory, and a decision that still haunts them until this day. Last year, I wrote an article for Charlotte magazine, where I interviewed ESPN analyst Jay Bilas and we broke down the history of the Bobcats' first-round draft picks.

This became the cover photo on the Bobcats' Facebook page last night.

The team wants to put the dark days behind them. And Rod Higgins, Bobcats president of basketball operations, wasted no time by emailing this letter to fans last night, about 30 minutes after the NBA Draft Lottery had concluded. See below.
May 30, 2012

Dear Jarvis,

As you may have heard by now, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver announced tonight at the NBA Draft Lottery that the Bobcats will have the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. We are extremely excited about having the opportunity to add a quality player to our growing young nucleus.

I'd also like to say thank you to our General Manager Rich Cho and Vice Chairman Curtis Polk, who were our team's representatives in New York tonight.

Our basketball operations staff has already begun preparing for what we consider to be one of the most important offseasons in our team's history, and tonight's announcement makes this summer all the more significant. Our scouting staff has been hard at work to identify the best possible players for us to add to our team, not only through the draft but also through other avenues such as free agency and trades, as we proceed with molding this franchise into one that our fans can be proud of and that can compete at the top levels of the NBA.

We know that many people will be watching as we work toward the NBA Draft on June 28. We hope you will enjoy this exciting time with us.

On behalf of the entire Bobcats organization, thank you for your continued loyalty and support.


Rod Higgins
President of Basketball Operations
Charlotte Bobcats
And finally, the Bobcats have announced an unbelievable ticket offer where if you buy 2012-13 season tickets at regular price, you'll receive the 2013-14 season for free. Has this ever been offered by an NBA franchise?


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