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Charlotte Signs Jefferson

July 11, 2013

I spent time in these pages last week reviewing how the Charlotte Bobcats have fared in the free agent market in recent years. I spoke of the virtually countless mistakes that have been made of late by the franchise. History tells us that Charlotte overpays free agents and that the overpaid free agents they do sign are usually on the downside of their career. I went on to list a few 2013 free agents who I felt fell into that category. One of those I mentioned was center Al Jefferson. Guess what? Jefferson got a big contract and will be wearing a Charlotte uniform next season.

Though I am obviously not thrilled with the signing, it was undoubtedly a big move for the Bobcats, possibly the most noteworthy free-agent signing they've made during the short history of their franchise. But will it end up being a positive signing?

Jefferson will be getting $14 million per year and can opt out of the contract after the second season if he does not like what transpires with the franchise. Another positive for Jefferson is he, for the first time in his career, is 'the man' now on his team. While playing for the Utah Jazz last season, he shared that title with Paul Millsap. As I mentioned last week, Jefferson is all about offense. He is far from being a force on defense. But the Bobcats need offense, especially during crunch time in the fourth quarters.

Al Jefferson

After averaging 15.8 points per game during the 2012-13 season while surrounded by solid offensive options, Jefferson could very well break past the 20-point barrier that he hasn't reached since leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves. If the Bobcats could add one more shooter to space the court out, he'd be even more effective in the post.

I wondered aloud last week if Jefferson is on the downside of his career. The Bobcats, conversely, are hoping that he is beginning the prime of his career. They hope that he starts playing like a franchise centerpiece.

I do think the move means that the Bobcats will no longer finish with the worst record in the NBA. Kemba Walker and Jefferson will form a dynamic inside-outside offensive duo. Second year off guard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed signs of a future star. If Charlotte either brings back Gerald Henderson or adds one more quality piece, it could be an average team.

NBA Free Agent Frenzy

While Charlotte made some news with the signing of Al Jefferson, there were numerous bigger moves within the Association.

The biggest news was that Dwight Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers to sign with the Houston Rockets. He got $88 million from a four year contract. The trio of Howard, James Harden, and Chandler Parsons makes Houston instant title contenders.

Utah took a hit last week as Paul Millsap, along with Jefferson, left the Jazz. Millsap is now with the Atlanta Hawks. He got a two year deal for $19 million. This is actually a steal for Atlanta compared to other signing’s. I would have preferred Millsap over Jefferson. He is a proven power forward who can do anything that is asked of him.

Dwight Howard

The Detroit Pistons overspent on Josh Smith. Millsap is so much better then Smith but the Pistons chose to spend $56 million over a four-year span.

The guy I liked was Tyreke Evans. He would have been the man in Charlotte. Instead, he will be the man in New Orleans. The Pelicans got him for four years at $44 million.

Lastly, Golden State made itself much better with the signing off Andre Iguodala. The versatile wing player will make $12 million a year over the next four years. Iguodala can defend. He can drive and dish to shooters Steph Curry and Tristan Thomas. The Warriors can say they have All-Star talent at all four starting positions. Not many teams can say that.

What Is The NFL To Do?

The Aaron Hernandez situation has put the NFL back in the news for reasons other then football.

The number of player arrests, some of them multiple times, is skyrocketing at a high rate of speed. They're coming too fast, literally one after another. And now, people are dying. Hernandez is the third NFL player to be held responsible for the death of another person since Dec. 1, after the Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher and the Dallas Cowboys' Josh Brent.

The easy solution is to lay all the blame on the player and hold him fully responsible for his own problem and the taint it gives the league. But the growing numbers of arrest has led to many questioning the teams who evaluated, drafted, signed, and paid the players million dollar contracts.

Critics of the NFL point out that the harsh punishments of such players by Roger Goodell from the time he became commissioner seven years ago have failed. There is now a lot of talk about having the teams pay for signing lawbreakers and felons.

The thinking here is that these teams are knowingly drafting and signing players who have histories of serious legal or criminal problems, or questionable associations or untimely appearances in the wrong place at the wrong time? It seems that the franchises are choosing to look the other way and hope for the best. Critics say that the franchises should take a financial hit for the discretions.

Aaron Hernandez

I read one blog that asked if a fine of $2 million garner attention from franchise owners. It spoke of levying the fine every time such a risky player with a documented history of violence is convicted or pleads to a violent crime, or one that involves guns or other weapons or alcohol. It went on to say that repeat offenders losing a draft pick. A high one, depending on the severity of the case.

Lets review the Hernandez story. In 2010, Hernandez was considered a first-round talent but slipped to the fourth round due to questionable behavior that was uncovered during the vetting process. Since then, until last month anyway, everyone thought the New England Patriots got a steal in the draft.

Put that rule in place now, if and when Hernandez's case runs its course in the criminal justice system, and then take a fourth-round pick from the Patriots. Or higher, in case he's found guilty of murder. Do the same for conviction for intoxicated manslaughter, for which Brent is facing charges in the death of teammate Jerry Brown while Brent was drunk behind the wheel.

Brent was a seventh-round pick — and he had a DUI case in college that was pleaded down. If he were convicted, a corresponding deduction of a seventh-round pick would not be remotely strong enough a price for the Cowboys to pay.

It is not like Goodell has not fined teams in the past. Just ask the Patriots about Spygate and the New Orleans Saints for Bountygate. I remember David Stern of the NBA fining the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers $500,000 each after a fight between the teams worked its way into the stands. I read an old quote where Stern telling his league that if teams continue to employ players who engage in certain behavior, they will have to pay for their decisions.

I am not sure if I am totally with the critics. And I am not sure our court system will allow professional leagues dictate who teams want to employ. But I do know that this is a crisis, whether Goodell, NFL owners, the players or the fans in denial want to admit it or not. One month before training camp begins, the majority of stories and discussion involves someone accused of a heinous crime.

If there were a price to pay for those players decisions when they backfire so tragically teams might re-think them at evaluation time. Maybe they would settle for a receiver that's not quite as fast and sure-handed, but has nothing close to the shady past. Or a lineman without a DWI rap sheet.

It is all about accountability says critics. What do you think?


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