Charlotte Hornets

July 12, 2013

Kemba Walker helped sell Charlotte Bobcats to Al Jefferson

It appears point guard Kemba Walker played some degree of matchmaker when it came to center Al Jefferson becoming a Charlotte Bobcat.

It appears point guard Kemba Walker played some degree of matchmaker when it came to center Al Jefferson becoming a Charlotte Bobcat.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Walker identified Jefferson, a low-post scorer, as the unrestricted free agent best suited to filling a team need. So the team encouraged him to reach out to Jefferson in the offseason to gauge his interest.

Walker and Jefferson share an agent, Jeff Schwartz, so they had a connection. When Walker ran into Jefferson in New York, he lobbied Jefferson to consider the Bobcats, with Jefferson’s contract expiring with the Utah Jazz.

Apparently Walker did a pretty good sales job: The Bobcats scheduled a visit with Jefferson as soon as the formal free-agent recruitment period began July 1. He was in town July 2 and 3, and agreed to a three-year, $41 million contract midday on July 4. Dallas and New Orleans both expressed interest, but the Bobcats were the only team Jefferson visited.

L.J. loves nickname change: Arguably the most famous Charlotte Hornet ever – Larry “Grandmamma” Johnson – says he’s all for the Bobcats’ nickname change, which should become official at the NBA Board of Governors meeting July 18 in Las Vegas.

Johnson, one of the best players in Nevada-Las Vegas history, was on campus Friday for the start of summer-league games. He sees nothing but good in the Bobcats becoming the Hornets.

“It’s been there for a long time – we started out as the Charlotte Hornets – so that would be a great idea,” Johnson told the Observer. “It should be a step in the right direction for those guys.”

Though Johnson was long gone, having been traded to the New York Knicks, he said he was saddened by the Hornets’ departure for New Orleans in 2002 and the Bobcats’ struggles in their first decade as a replacement team.

“It’s North Carolina – basketball heaven – (so) they’ve got to have a team and a good one. A productive basketball team fans can get behind,” Johnson said.

“I was a little sad. We led the attendance for five years. So for those fans, I hate to see it.”

Johnson retired as a player in 2001, but still looks trim enough to play now at 44. He says he took up golf when he retired and now plays constantly.

Henderson talks: The Bobcats spoke by phone with representatives for restricted free agent Gerald Henderson on Friday. A source familiar with the situation said discussions were positive and it’s still the Bobcats’ preference to re-sign Henderson, their starting shooting guard and co-captain last season.

With the Dallas Mavericks reportedly finalizing a deal with Monta Ellis, one of the Bobcats’ potential alternatives at shooting guard might be off the board.

Here and there: Former North Carolina Tar Heel Reggie Bullock had a big first game with the Los Angeles Clippers, with 18 points on 8-of-15 shots from the field. Quin Snyder, the former Duke point guard and one-time head-coaching candidate with the Bobcats, is coaching the Atlanta Hawks’ summer-league entry. Kevin Eastman, once Belmont Abbey coach and longtime Doc Rivers assistant, moved with Rivers from the Boston Celtics to the Clippers.

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