CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was busy on Saturday defending his decision to trade Gerald Wallace and playing a major role in getting a reluctant Joel Przybilla comfortable with his new boss.
In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Jordan said “I love the trade” that sent the former All-Star Wallace to Portland. While the backup center Przybilla was the only likely rotation player Charlotte got in return, Jordan says it gives his club “flexibility” to make future moves because they acquired two first-round picks and cleared salary-cap space.
“I think it’s one of the best trades,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he’s not content with jockeying for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. He believes the deal puts the franchise in better shape ahead of perhaps a lower payroll ceiling in the next labor deal as he tries to build a contender.
“We’re all right,” Jordan said as he left the practice floor. “I like where we are.”
In the short term, the Bobcats must replace Wallace, who was their second leading scorer, and backup center Nazr Mohammed, who was traded to Oklahoma City in a separate deal Thursday.
That’s where the 7-foot-1 Przybilla comes in. He took a red eye flight from Portland early Saturday unsure if he’d be in Charlotte long. He thought he might be bought or released.
“They traded away an All-Star, and I’m an expiring contract,” Przybilla said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
“They were honest with me and told me they wanted me here,” the 31-year-old Przybilla said. “That means a lot, especially coming from Michael Jordan. He looked me in the eye and told me this. I’ve never, to be honest, had a general manager tell me that.”
Przybilla acknowledged his knee is still not 100 percent after twice tearing his patella tendon in the past year. He played in his first game Dec. 3 and was averaging just 1.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in just over 14 minutes a game with the Trail Blazers.
With the Bobcats, his minutes will likely increase significantly as he backs up starter Kwame Brown.
“I probably won’t be 100 percent for another couple of years maybe,” Przybilla said. “But every time I’m out there I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. If he wants me to play 40 minutes, 2 minutes, I just want to win.”
Concerned over how much Przybilla will be able to play, general manager Rod Higgins said they’re reconsidering their decision to waive center Sean Marks, also acquired in the Portland trade.
Przybilla and fellow newcomers D.J. White and Dante Cunningham were in Charlotte on Saturday. They join a team that lost a key player but also sat just a half game behind Indiana for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.