The Charlotte Bobcats were extremely busy at the 2011 NBA Draft.
At the end of the process, Bobcats President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho got the players they were targeting in Connecticut Huskies point guard Kemba Walker and Spanish forward Bismack Biyombo.
Before that happened, the Bobcats took part in a three-team trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings. In the three-team deal, Charlotte received the No. 7 pick and forward Corey Maggette. The Kings used the No. 7 selection to get Biyombo, and Charlotte took Walker two picks later.
In the deal, Charlotte sent point guard Shaun Livingston and leading scorer Stephen Jackson to the Bucks. The Bobcats also sent their No. 19 pick, Tennessee forward Tobias Harris, to the Kings. And the Bobcats sent their No. 39 pick, forward Jeremy Tyler of Tokyo Apache, to the Golden State Warriors for cash considerations.
Higgins said Jackson loved playing for Charlotte and handled the trade like a “pro.” Jackson understands the business, Higgins added.
“We all know what Stephen brought to the table,” Higgins said. “His positives were he was tough minded, he could make a clutch shot, he could put up a lot of points for you, he had leadership qualities. And I think the one thing people don’t see is he was a very good teammate. He has always been with his guys, and I’m sure that is going to be missed.”
Higgins said Maggette and guard Gerald Henderson will help fill the scoring void. But Cho and Higgins disagree with those who claim the Bobcats are rebuilding. Higgins said what the Bobcats did in trading there best two players from their 2009-10 playoff team is part of acquiring assets such as first-round picks.
Cho and Higgins insisted the Bobcats are trying to get in position to “sustain success for many years.”
“If you were to walk into our locker room and say, ‘We are rebuilding’ to one of our players like a Gerald Henderson or D.J. Augustin, those young vets, or Tyrus Thomas, they feel they are capable of competing every night.”
What is obvious about the Bobcats’ transactions Thursday night: Charlotte believes it is time to move forward with a new cast of younger players. Higgins even said he expects Biyombo and Walker to become leaders in the locker room.
After the draft, Cho and Higgins were excited about what the Bobcats had done. Higgins said he believes that Biyombo can play power forward and center. He praised Biyombo’s defensive skills and his ability to run the floor. But he said Biyombo’s offensive skills are “untapped.”
Despite the enthusiasm, Biyombo has a contract dispute with his Spanish team. He would get into the details of Biyombo’s contract or a buyout. But Cho believes Biyombo will be in Charlotte next season.
Last month, Cho went to Spain and worked out Biyombo. He said they had dinner. Cho called him a wonderful person who has a ton of upside as a player. The numbers guy Cho is, he brought up Biyombo’s 7-7 wingspan and athletic ability.
With much of the attention directed at Biyombo, Cho and Higgins were happy with Walker too.
“It is rare you get two guys in the top 10, and if we had just one (pick) it would have been tough to pick between the two,” Cho said about having the ability to select Biyombo and Walker.
Higgins said the competition between Augustin and Walker will be good for the team. He said it will make both players better. It will be interesting to see who emerges from the competition, Higgins said.
“We will see what happens,” Higgins said. “I think both of them are very good players. I’m sure the competitive spirit will come to the forefront, and coach will figure it out.”
In a conference call, Walker spoke a lot about his willingness to compete at a high level. He said he is excited to play for a team owned by Michael Jordan. He said he wasn’t surprised to be selected by Charlotte, and he is excited about the opportunity to play for the Bobcats.
Walker said he will to do his best to do whatever coach Paul Silas wants. Even though Jackson has been sent to the Bucks, Walker is open about what is required beyond scoring.
“I don’t know, but if that is what they want me to do then I will do it,” Walker said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and just do what they ask me to do.”
Asked about his height and playing with Augustin, Walker said neither situation would be a problem for him. And he said his ability to play hard makes up for what he doesn’t have in height.
“I’m going to play hard, Walker said about competing against Augustin. “I’m going to fight hard, and I’m going to try my best to push him also, so he can be the best player he can be since we are teammates. So, whatever we can do to make that team better I’m with it. Even if it means me playing less minutes behind D.J. Whatever it is I’m going to do it.”
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