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Monday, February 19, 2007
Jordan writes state of Bobcats letter to fans

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Bobcats part-owner Michael Jordan says he's disappointed with his team's record this season and vows that management will "spend what it takes" to attract top talent in the offseason.

In a letter to be mailed to season ticket holders this week, Jordan went into detail about the state of the team for the first time since he bought a minority stake last June and was given final say in all personnel decisions.

The Bobcats are 19-33 this season -- last in their division and fourth worst in the Eastern Conference.

"As excited as I am about the future, if you know anything about me, you know how much I hate to lose -- and I speak for all the owners in that regard," wrote Jordan, the team's managing member of basketball operations. "But we are able to temper this disappointment with thoughts of our youth and inexperience, and the idea that we will continue to improve -- hopefully, more quickly than even we expect.

"With that said, we remain committed to our plan to grow the franchise through the draft and the addition of key free agents."

Despite his iconic status in his home state of North Carolina, Jordan has remained behind the scenes in Charlotte. He has not talked to local media in nearly nine months and even instructs arena staff not to show him on the video board during games.

His stance has left many wondering about the franchise, which has struggled to win over fans since the Charlotte Hornets' ugly departure for New Orleans in 2002.

Some fans worry that majority owner Bob Johnson won't spend enough money for players to make the team competitive. The Bobcats, in their third season, largely avoided last season's free agent class and have the lowest payroll in the NBA, by far. In addition, leading scorer Gerald Wallace can opt out his contract after this season and become a free agent.

"As widely reported, we currently 'enjoy' the lowest payroll in the NBA -- which in essence means we have the most salary cap room in the league," Jordan wrote. "And it is our intention to spend what it takes to attract the 'right' talent to our team, whether through free agent signings or trades. We will add players that not only will contribute on the court, but fit into our hard-working and team-oriented culture."

Jordan didn't mention Bernie Bickerstaff, the team's coach and general manager, in the letter. Bickerstaff was hired to run the basketball operations shortly after the Bobcats were formed, but now must run all decisions through Jordan. It's unclear whether Bickerstaff will return in either role next season.

But Jordan did applaud moves made before he arrived -- including the drafting of Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton and Sean May.

Jordan also believes Adam Morrison, Charlotte's first-round pick last year, will develop into a solid NBA scorer despite shooting woes this season.

That is the hope for Jordan, a five-time MVP who won six NBA titles in 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and is now getting a second chance at running a team. He was hired as president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards in 2000, but fired in 2003 after the team struggled.

Jordan says this time he wants to focus on basketball and not be part of the "dog-and-pony show" of marketing.

"I write this letter not only to provide you with an update on the status and direction of the team, but also to ask you for your continued support and commitment," Jordan wrote. "We not only need to keep our team's solid core together; we need to keep the nucleus of our fan base together, especially our season ticket holders -- the lifeblood of our future.

"So, please maintain the same drive, passion, and commitment that I have. Work with me and the entire organization to help our team excel beyond all of our dreams and expectations. It won't be easy -- greatness never is -- but, with dedication, effort, and teamwork, I am confident we will get it done."