Missteps behind him, Silver senses Jordan's strides as an owner


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We all know who Michael Jordan was as a player. He was one of the most decorated athletes to ever pick up a basketball. But what about Jordan, the Charlotte Bobcats owner?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is intimately familiar with both. As a Duke student, he watched Jordan as a collegiate at North Carolina. Again, as Silver worked in the NBA office, he watched Jordan terrorize defenders and rule the league.

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So, what does Silver, who has been there for much of Jordan’s journey from the court to the front office, think of the experience of watching the NBA’s greatest player serve as an owner? “It’s a thrill,” he said.

While Jordan has experienced some growing pains as an owner, Silver said can see Jordan making strides as the leader of a franchise. Jordan is not always front and center, but he makes his voice heard on all league matters, Silver said.

"I would say behind the scenes he's ferocious fighter,” Silver said. “He’s had a major role in our collective bargaining process and our revenue sharing discussions."

It wasn’t long ago that Jordan channeled that energy toward making basketball decisions. Time and again, those decisions turned out to be the wrong ones. Bad draft picks and trades kept the Bobcats in the league’s cellar for years.

Now that they’re on the precipice of peeking out of that franchise-long downturn, Silver said he can sense Jordan handling his team with more patience. He’s no longer exercising the quick-fix mentality that cost the Bobcats in money and time in the past.  

"I think it can get a little frustrating for him at times because he's learning it's not like taking over a game,” Silver said of Jordan’s approach. “It's a process building a championship team. If Michael were a player, he'd still be in his rookie-scale contract right now in his fourth year as an NBA owner. But he's learning on the job. I think he'd admit he's learning every year."

This season the Bobcats sit at 34-37 on the season and occupy the No. 7 slot in the Eastern Conference standings after Monday's 100-89 loss to t

he Rockets.

A large part of that that push came through the draft, with Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller all playing solid minutes. But the biggest move came in free agency, where Jordan has either taken gambles or been asked to sit out in the past. Tyrus Thomas’ five-year, $40 million deal comes to mind.

This time the Bobcats picked up a player capable of changing their fortunes in Al Jefferson, and they picked him up for $41 million over three years. He’s already made an impact in year No. 1.

Silver credits Jordan for adding key pieces to his team, but he also credits the system put in place with the new collective-bargaining agreement, which tolls out harsher penalties for taxpaying teams.

"While we don't have the perfect system,” Silver said, “we put the teams like the Bobcats in the position where they could compete for championships and run a sustainable business. That was the goal, that teams should be judged by how they're managed, not just their market size.

“We still have work to do to get closer to a more equitable system. We've made a lot of progress and Michael is doing a great job competing within that system."

It appears that Jordan has learned from his many missteps, but he wasn’t alone in employing that knee-jerk approach.

There are other owners frustrated with their place in the league. And, as Silver said, because of the success each of them has experienced in other endeavors, it can make losing in the NBA a tough pill to swallow.

"It is a zero-sum game,” Silver said. “There can only be one champion every year and roughly half the teams are going to be winners and roughly half the teams are going to be losers. That's not easy to accept for a lot of people."

Jordan hasn’t been as vocal with his frustrations as other owners. He doesn’t exactly express the same fire of a Mark Cuban, and he’s not at the end of the bench as often as he was in years past.

"Michael, while he doesn't always wear his frustration sometimes and he's not the move emotive owner in terms of seeking the camera,” Silver said of Jordan’s intensity, “he had that (as a player) and continues to have that as an owner and an endorser."

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