Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bobcats owner Michael Jordan talks and $100,000 walks after NBA fine

Former NBA star Michael Jordan claps during the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in their NCAA men's Final Four championship basketball game in Detroit in 2009. Photograph by: Mike Segar, Reuters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There are two firm rules for NBA owners during the lockout: Don't comment publicly about the negotiations and don't talk to or about current players.

Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan did both while being interviewed by an Australian newspaper, and that cost him a heavy fine.

The NBA did not confirm the size of the fine, but ESPN.com pegged the amount at $100,000.

The Herald Sun of Melbourne quoted Jordan last month as saying, "The model we've been working under is broken. We have 22 or 23 teams losing money, so I think we have to come to some kind of understanding in this partnership that we have to realign.

"I know the owners are not going to move off what we think is very necessary to put a deal in place that allows us to co-exist as partners. We need a lot of financial support throughout the league as well as revenue-sharing to keep this business afloat."

The newspaper also asked Jordan about Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut, the most prominent Australian playing in the NBA. Jordan was quoted as saying, "We have stars like Bogut, who are entitled to certain demands. But for us to be profitable in small markets, we have to be able to win ball games (affordably) and build a better basketball team."

A Bobcats spokesman declined comment on Jordan's fine Monday.

The NBA and the players association are scheduled to meet today in large groups, looking to bridge a huge gap between what the owners expect in concessions and what the players are willing to give.

The league wants a harder salary cap as a means to even the playing field between big- and small-market teams. If a deal isn't struck within the next two weeks, it likely will postpone the NBA preseason, scheduled to begin early next month.

It was no surprise the NBA fined Jordan for those comments. At least two other teams have been fined during the lockout for public comments about players or the negotiating process. And Portland Trail Blazers interim general manager Chad Buchanan was threatened with a hefty fine simply for lamenting the cancellation of summer league.

It's also no surprise Jordan would take a strong position on the labor impasse. The Bobcats, a small-market team losing millions annually, have a lot at stake in what form a new collective-bargaining agreement takes.

For the Bobcats, almost any new system would be better than the current one, where paying luxury tax is a virtual prerequisite to advancing in the playoffs.

Jordan and Bucks owner Herb Kohl reportedly made an impassioned argument to their fellow owners, advocating much greater revenue sharing. Teams like the Lakers, Knicks and Celtics make so much off local TV and radio revenue, and the smaller-market teams feel a need for help.

Jordan never has been timid about speaking out during labor negotiations. As a player, he once told Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin that if he couldn't afford to compete, he should sell his team. Ironically, Jordan later ran the Wizards' basketball operation for Pollin.

This isn't the first time Jordan has been fined by the NBA for comments as a Bobcats owner. Jordan received a $15,000 fine in 2007 after he commented about then-Texas freshman Kevin Durant in an interview with the Charlotte Observer.

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