CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Corey Maggette has played 12 seasons in the NBA and been to the playoffs only once. Now he’s about to join a team that’s never won a postseason game and has spent the past year getting rid of most of its veterans and scorers in a rebuilding movement.
But Maggette insists he was thrilled to be traded to Charlotte for three reasons: He’s about to start again, play his natural position and, most importantly, suit up for Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.
“If you understand Michael Jordan’s game _ and I’m from Chicago _ you know that he’s a winner,” Maggette said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “And eventually he’s going to get to that point where he’s winning.”
As Jordan prepares for his sixth season in charge of the basketball operations in Charlotte and his second full year as majority owner, he’ll lean on Maggette to provide immediate scoring and a much-needed veteran presence on what is now one of the NBA’s most inexperienced teams.
“If you know Michael, he’s definitely starting in this field as an owner and still understanding about the business of basketball,” said Maggette, who got to know Jordan while growing up. “But he’s an incredible winner. He knows how to win. He has incredible drive and that’s something Michael will never let go.”
Jordan last week sent another veteran packing in a deal he hopes gets the Bobcats closer to becoming a perennial playoff team, something he’s been unable to attain as an executive with two teams.
Top scorer Stephen Jackson was shipped to Milwaukee in a three-team deal that netted the seventh overall pick in the draft from Sacramento. Included was Maggette, in large part because the $21 million he’s owed over the next two seasons closely matched Jackson’s contract.
But the Bobcats now need the 31-year-old Maggette to mentor a team that will feature two rookie draft picks in Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker, a shooting guard in Gerald Henderson who become a starter in February, and a point guard in D.J. Augustin who’s been a starter for one year.
“We talked and let him know that we expect him to be a leader on and off the court,” coach Paul Silas said. “He can score, but he’s got to play defense. He’s got to lead by example. I think he’s all for it.”
After a disappointing year in Milwaukee in which he was slow to recover from ankle surgery, was forced to play power forward and failed to be a factor in another non-playoff season, the 6-foot-6 Maggette has already been given the starting small forward job in Charlotte.
“He did not want to play the 4 spot. He wanted to play the 3 and that’s what he’s going to do,” Silas said. “And he’s going to start. He wasn’t starting before so we’re giving him everything he needs to be successful.”
Maggette, who played one season at Duke before being the 13th pick in the 1999 draft, expects to be able to again become the player who three times averaged over 20 points a game when he played for the Los Angeles Clippers.
A career 82-percent free-throw shooter, Maggette averaged 19.8 points with Golden State in 2009-10 before sinking to 12 points in 21 minutes with the Bucks.
“Coming off ankle surgery, I didn’t really get the momentum that I needed early on,” Maggette said. “And definitely (coach) Scott Skiles kind of played with the guys he was accustomed to playing. So it was a different experience, but it was also an opportunity for me to grow and mature as a person.”
Maggette was initially confused about the trade that brought him back to North Carolina.
On a flight to Chicago to attend a wedding, Maggette was awoken by a friend who told him only that he had been traded to Charlotte. Maggette immediately was happy because he thought he’d be reunited with Jackson, his friend and former teammate with the Warriors.
Maggette didn’t know until after he got off the plane Jackson was headed to the Bucks in another shake up to Jordan’s roster.
“Jack wasn’t happy about it,” Maggette said. “He was really happy about being in Charlotte and the fans there and the organization as well as Michael.”
Now Maggette and Jordan are paired. A Duke guy will try to help a North Carolina guy during a transition period for a franchise that’s been to the playoffs as many times as Maggette.
Yet Maggette is confident Jordan will soon attract free agents _ “Who wouldn’t want to play for Michael Jordan?” _ and compared some of his struggles as an executive to Dallas owner Mark Cuban’s resume.
“He pushed, he pushed and pushed and now he’s got that opportunity where he got himself a championship,” Maggette said. “So I know Michael is going to be in the same position where he’s going to do that as well.”
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