(MCT) — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A 7-59 record drove owner Michael Jordan out of his courtside seats, but he says last season won’t drive him away from owning the Charlotte Bobcats long-term.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer on Thursday morning, on the eve of his team’s season opener against the Indiana Pacers.
“You’re not going to run me out that easily. Losing is not something I take well, but it’s not something I run from, either. It’s my nature that when someone says I can’t do something, I focus on trying to do it. So when people say we can’t win here, it drives me nuts and gets me motivated to do everything I can to bring a winner here.”
Jordan sounded humbled by last season, when his Bobcats finished with the worst single-season record in NBA history. Since then the team hired a new coach and has added five new players. Jordan recently addressed the players, telling them to get used to new coach Mike Dunlap’s long practices and strict approach.
“I felt the need 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,’ “ Jordan said.
“You can’t sit here and look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘We don’t need this stuff.’ If that was the case, we shouldn’t have been a 7-59 team.”
During a wide-ranging, 23-minute interview, Jordan addressed free agency, changing the Bobcats’ culture, the decision to draft Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second overall pick and whether the franchise might eventually bring the Hornets’ nickname back to Charlotte.
— A grass-roots campaign in Charlotte to return the Hornets’ nickname to the Queen City picked up steam last spring when New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson bought the Hornets. Benson has indicated he’d like to switch nicknames to something more attached to Louisiana.
Jordan said he’s open to a name change, but it’s premature to say much more.
“It’s definitely an interest down the road. But right now it’s still the New Orleans Hornets. We’re really not at liberty to discuss something owned by someone else,” Jordan said. “We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”
— Jordan once said he believes shooting guard Gerald Henderson has All-Star potential. Does he still think that highly of Henderson, who becomes a restricted free agent after this season?
“He’s a captain this year… To be a captain is a responsibility of leading by example. Don’t talk about it, do it. Be there every day in some capacity. If your shot’s not there, then rebound or play defense,” Jordan said.
“These are the things I’m expecting to see from Gerald. He’s shown the signs. Now can he take the next step? I’m pretty sure this is the year he’s going to sit in my office and ask for a raise. These are the things I need to see. I don’t like to overpay for things I don’t see. I come from a whole different background. We’ll see.”
— On whether the Bobcats pursued shooting guard James Harden, who the Oklahoma City Thunder recently traded to the Houston Rockets:
“We made a couple phone calls. That’s all I can say.”
— On whether he believes the Bobcats will ever be a desirable destination for a difference-making free agent:
“I do. I also understand we’ve got to get our house in order, so that it becomes attractive to certain people. Right now we’re getting our house in order; we’re getting the coaching that we need. Someone will want to be a part of this culture.
“At the same time, I can’t sit back and wait — we have to nurture what we have. You never know; that person could be outside the organization or right here in the organization.”
— On drafting Kidd-Gilchrist, who will start Friday night in his first regular-season game:
“If he succeeds as everybody expects him to, he’s going to be a connector. He can connect a lot of different talent together and be successful,” Jordan said.
“I’ve said this in the past and I say it loosely obviously: He reminds me of (ex-Bulls star and Jordan teammate) Scottie Pippen because he can do so many different facets and he can connect a lot of different, talented players . . . I looked at (Kansas’ Thomas) Robinson, who I think is going to be a great player — but can he connect? Can he connect the different pieces?”
— On his expectations for the season:
“I want to see us getting better each and every day. If you want to put it in numbers, in terms of how many games we can win, I can’t say that. I’m not playing. If I was playing, I could tell you what we could do. But in essence, I’ve got to live vicariously through my team and my coaching staff.”
— On his relationship with the players:
“I don’t have direct dialogue with them as much as I used to. I created a little bit more of a distance. I came from a different era. I look at things totally different than the way they do. I send subtle messages. I try to.
“But If I sit here and debate with them, I’m bringing myself down to their level in a sense. And I don’t want to get there.”