Sorensen: Bobcats owner backs his coach's old-school approach

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.comNovember 2, 2012 

Bobcats Camp Basketball

Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan looks on after practice at NBA basketball training camp in Asheville, N.C., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

CHUCK BURTON — AP

Michael Jordan says twice during a 23 1/2-minute interview Thursday with The Charlotte Observer that he comes from a different time.

His message: Players have changed since he was winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

The team he owns, the Charlotte Bobcats, is far from competing for a title. To have a chance to someday get there, says Jordan, they’ll have to borrow from his time.

They’ll have to employ the fundamentals he learned at North Carolina and president of basketball operations Rod Higgins learned at Fresno State. They both watched practice Monday, and Jordan met with players afterward.

Most NBA practices are as long as a TV drama. First-year coach Mike Dunlap’s practices often resemble a mini-series. Jordan, 49, heard complaints from players about the duration. Some players also were less than thrilled with the remedial component of Dunlap’s sessions.

“I felt good about what coach Dunlap was actually doing, all the little things that seemingly have been our biggest issue in the past,” says Jordan.

What little things?

“Boxing out,” he says. “Making good passes. Utilizing each others’ talents. Understanding basic basketball. Pivots. Things that basketball fans don’t see as often, but if you look at good teams, those are good things that happen in the game. And one of the reasons I felt compelled to speak to the team was, ‘Look, I endorse what coach is talking about.’

“Unfortunately we had some guys who were not receiving it that way. Either they were not (or) they didn’t want to do it. And I felt like I had to step in and say, ‘Look, this is how we’re going to do this. The culture of what’s happening in Charlotte is going to be this. Either you buy in or you’re not going to be here.’ ”

At Tuesday’s practice, says Jordan, “It seemed like everybody was on board. So I think they got it.”

Jordan, who wears a checked jacket, cuff links and earrings, usually meets with the media at Time Warner Cable Arena before the season. On Thursday he sits behind a table in a soft blue chair.

We have chairs, too. But his is better.

I ask Jordan if he intimidates his players. Jordan might come from a different time but his work is timeless. The Bobcats know who he is and what he did and what they so far have failed to.

Some are intimidated, he says.

Who isn’t?

“(Gerald) Henderson doesn’t get intimidated,” says Jordan. “But that’s a Dukie for you. He doesn’t get intimidated but he listens. There are certain guys you can go at and say, ‘I think you’ve been playing (poorly). I think you need to focus on being more consistent. He likes that criticism.”

Jordan once planned to play in a two-on-two game with President Obama whom, like Henderson, he was unlikely to intimidate.

I ask if the game came off, would he play basketball with Governor Romney, and for whom he plans to vote.

“First of all I didn’t play ball with Obama,” Jordan says. “I watched him shoot, which didn’t give me any motivation to play. I don’t know if Romney can shoot hoops or whatever. But I think there’s bigger things that we need to be focusing on than whether they can play basketball or not.

“And my vote I keep private. When I get behind that curtain, then I vote. I’m going to support whoever is President, obviously.”

Jordan supports the Carolina Panthers at least to the extent that I’ve seen him on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

I ask if he has advice for Panther quarterback Cam Newton, whose team is 1-6.

He asks if I mean from the perspective of an athlete.

“Yeah,” says Jordan. “Obviously he’s trying to put a lot of things on his back and that’s human nature. Sometimes when you expect so many great things you want to carry that burden yourself. And it’s virtually impossible.

“He’s going to have to get the support of his team – obviously the organization is supporting him – and grind through this. He’s got to look at himself in the mirror. Every leader in any scenario always must look himself in the mirror and say, ‘Can I do more?’ or ‘What can I do to do enhance the scenario with my teammates to pull them along,’ or ‘Do whatever I can to try to make the situation better.’

“That would be my advice. Look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘OK, evaluate what I’m doing, evaluate what needs to be done and see what I can do to help.’ ”

I ask if he knows Newton.

“He lives in my building,” says Jordan.

He lives in your building or you live in his?

“I was there first,” Jordan says.

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