Perhaps the fact that the preceding sentence counts as something of an accomplishment is a good indicator of the low bar MJ has set in his reign as team owner.
Outside of an impressive 2009-10 season that resulted in the organization's only playoff berth, there's been almost nothing to enjoy about the Bobcats. For example, two years ago, they posted the NBA's worst offensive and defensive ratings, per NBA.com, an ignominious dual accomplishment that'll forever be known as "Bobcatting."
Last season, they still had the NBA's most porous defense. But at least they improved their offensive rating to 28th in the league. Baby steps, right?
Despite a recent history of utterly terrible play, there have been signs of real change this season. A remarkable defensive turnaround is easily the biggest. At present, Charlotte is allowing just 97.9 points per 100 possessions, the third-best rating in the league, per NBA.com.
Take it away, Grantland's Danny Chau:
This is crazy; it's crazier still when you remember the Bobcats were the absolute worst defense in the league last year, and that the only major change made to the roster was adding a plodding, score-first big man with a nonexistent defensive rep.
Al Jefferson is the man to whom Chau refers, and he's actually been playing some pretty good defense for the first time in his NBA career.
Head coach Steve Clifford is the reason why.
Brought in over the summer after spending the 2012-13 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Clifford has bounced around the league since the 2000-01 season. He got his first assistant's gig with Jeff Van Gundy's New York Knicks, then followed the head coach to Houston. Later, he worked under Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic.
Based on his pedigree, there shouldn't be any questions about the source of his hard-nosed demeanor and "defend, or else" mandate.
Clifford's not just a guy who fell out of the Van Gundy coaching tree, though. He's also a forward thinker who has successfully married stern principles with cutting-edge ideas.
He's not a member of the old guard who shies away from numbers. On the contrary, Clifford is a coach who understands that ignoring new methods of evaluation is the quickest way to put a team at a disadvantage.
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford weaving points per possession stats and on/off court numbers in his pregame presser. Very impressive.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 1, 2013
At the same time, he's not afraid to set strict rules and enforce them.
Remember Steve Clifford saying transition defense was his "non-negotiable?" #bobcats give up fewest fast-breaks points in NBA (9.5 per game)— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) November 27, 2013
It's not easy to do what Clifford has done, especially with an organization that hasn't exactly fostered a winning culture.
This brings us back to Jordan, who has deservedly taken heat for his fickle decisions and perceived detachment from the franchise's day-to-day operations. Maybe he didn't have much to do with Clifford's hire. Maybe he was playing golf in the Bahamas when general manager Rich Cho and president of basketball operations Rod Higgins pulled the trigger on Clifford's hiring.
We can't know for sure.
But if we're going to blame Jordan for the Bobcats' myriad failures (which we do all the time), we have to give him credit for what appears to be a rousing success.
Per Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Jordan said of the hire:
I’m so happy about Steve. He’s a very professional guy. Professional in a way that the players can respond. He’s worked with some very good programs. I’ve watched him with the players. He has the right patience and rapport—he knows how to position himself with the players.
That’s a big move for us because no matter how we spend on players, it starts with the coach. I’m not putting down (predecessor) Mike Dunlap. He had some of the same qualities.
Jordan's faith has proved to be justifiable...so far.
Remember, the Bobcats still can't score and are at least one or two big additions away from being taken seriously, even in the abject disaster that is the Eastern Conference.
But they have one of the hardest tasks in team-building figured out. Charlotte has a great coach who has his team playing with purpose on the defensive end. There are plenty of teams who can't say as much.
Night and day difference in Bobcats' locker room....Clifford and his staff know what they're doing....players are all in!— Bill Ingram (@TheRocketGuy) December 4, 2013
Plus, a more careful, deliberate rebuilding effort has the 'Cats positioned to make as many as three picks in the first round of the 2014 draft. Maybe Jordan should also get some recognition for hanging on to his team's valuable assets while also getting his hands on the protected lottery picks of others.
Jordan doesn't need anybody's endorsement. He'll be just fine without encouragement. His confidence and personal satisfaction derives from a lifetime of immense success, so it doesn't really matter that there are some who think he might finally deserve a little credit for the way he's running the Bobcats.
But hey, maybe sometime when he's feeling low—perhaps on the 17th green, down three strokes and $10 million against some oil magnate in Dubai—he can call to mind this rare instance in which one of his managerial decisions met with unanimous praise.
Nice going, MJ. It looks like you finally got one right.