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Jordan’s Bobcats hope for repeat trip to playoffs
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Fans buying the new NBA video game with Michael Jordan on the cover have the option of adding the former superstar to their favorite team.
In real life, Jordan knows it’s not that easy to upgrade the roster. Not with a salary cap, luxury tax and a balance sheet full of red ink.
Jordan’s first full season as majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats begins next week after an offseason that saw point guard Raymond Felton leave in free agency, center Tyson Chandler dealt essentially for cap space, and two potential trades to improve the backcourt fall apart.
It’s left uncertainty and depth issues as coach Larry Brown begins his third season charged with getting Jordan’s club back to the playoffs while playing in the same division as the superstar-filled Miami Heat and powerful Orlando Magic.
“We’ll be OK,” Jordan said. “Obviously, we don’t have the marquee three All-Stars, but we’ve got a good young nucleus with something to build upon.”
Buoyed by a trade early last season for Stephen Jackson, the Bobcats rode the eccentric Captain Jack and All-Star Gerald Wallace to a 44-38 record and the franchise’s first playoff appearance. But not long after Jordan bought the team, Orlando quickly ended Charlotte’s season with a four-game sweep in the first round.
Soon the salary cap-strapped Bobcats made no attempt to keep Felton, who signed with New York. They also traded Chandler, acquired last year for Emeka Okafor, to Dallas for Erick Dampier and his $13 million, non-guaranteed contract.
The Bobcats couldn’t find another taker for Dampier and waived him. It got the Bobcats below the $70.3 million payroll threshold that would have triggered the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax _ something Jordan said he wouldn’t pay _ but made journeyman Nazr Mohammed the starting center.
“I’m always looking to better the scenario if any other All-Star point guards become available,” Jordan said. “Sure, I’d be willing to talk but as of right now I’m happy with what I have.”
The good news is Augustin is having an impressive preseason. After acknowledging his confidence was shot last season, he’s making better than 50 percent of his shots, something Charlotte never enjoyed with the poor-shooting Felton.
“He’s in much better shape. He’s much stronger and quicker than he was,” Brown said of Augustin. “He’s got to facilitate more and the only way that’s going to happen is for him to be more aggressive offensively. But I’m sure that’s going to come. He’s had a terrific preseason.”
Behind Augustin is uncertainty. Shaun Livingston is returning from a devastating knee injury in 2007 and has missed most of the preseason, and Sherron Collins is an undrafted rookie.
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