Capitals

Jordan: I'm committed to Bobcats for long haul

Jordan: I'm committed to Bobcats for long haul

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Michael Jordan could no longer hide his frustration midway through the Bobcats' dismal season last year. Not wanting anyone to see how angry he was, Charlotte's owner moved from his seat at the end of the team's bench to his more secluded luxury suite high above the court.

Still, he didn't give up on his club then and he isn't now.

The ultra-competitive Jordan said despite watching his club ``hit rock bottom'' during the most miserable season in NBA history, he's ``in it for the long haul'' when it comes to seeing his struggling franchise transformed into a consistent winner.

He knows it won't be a quick, easy process.

``Are we a playoff team? C'mon, we can't expect that,'' Jordan said Thursday. ``But we need to get the ball rolling in the right direction. I'm not real happy about the record book scenario last year. It's very, very frustrating.''

Charlotte finished 7-59, recording the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history.

Jordan, who won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, believes he has the right man to turn things around in new coach Mike Dunlap.

Dunlap has taken a no-nonsense, back-to-basics approach to coaching basketball - something Jordan said has been missing in Charlotte.

``For years those steps have been skipped,'' Jordan said. ``We don't have a star that can carry the team, so you've got to learn to play together. That is what I love about (Dunlap). He's going to get back to the basics with good passes, pivots, boxing out, running, taking care of the ball and taking good shots. All of the things that were lost.''

Jordan said the challenge has been getting players to buy in, particularly when it comes to Dunlap's grueling three- to four-hour marathon practices.

But he's there to make sure they do.

Jordan saw what he perceived as ``resistance'' from some players to Dunlap's ways earlier this week, pulled them aside after practice and dressed them down. He told them he fully supports Dunlap's philosophy and if they don't agree with it, they won't be around for long.

That seemed to get the players' attention.

Jordan said the next day he saw a change in attitude.

``I want to establish a culture within this organization so that when you plug a guy in, the culture is sitting there and no one guy is bigger than that culture,'' Jordan said. ``You either fit in or you don't fit in. When you look at organizations that are established they have a winning culture.''

Jordan said once the Bobcats establish that culture more big-name free agents will want to come to Charlotte.

``Last year we went through the process of stripping down the organization and trying to build that back up,'' Jordan said. ``And this is another step toward that. Getting a young coach who understands our vision about what type of team we want to be and then being able to go pluck some of these (free agents) to mesh with what we have.''

The Bobcats added some veteran leadership to a young team this offseason, claiming center Brendan Haywood off waivers, trading for guard Ben Gordon and signing free agent Ramon Sessions from the Los Angeles Lakers.

While all three are proven commodities and bring various skills, none are considered franchise players - certainly not the way Jordan was with the Bulls.

Jordan would love to have a marquee player.

And if that player does comes available in free agency or via trade - and if he wants to play in Charlotte - Jordan said he's willing to go to great lengths to get him.

``I'll spend money, that's not even a question, if a person fits what we want to do and it makes sense,'' Jordan said. ``But I don't think it makes sense for us to be in a luxury-tax situation and fighting for the eighth spot in the playoffs. That doesn't make any sense. You have to spend money wisely.''

Jordan won't say when he expects the Bobcats to make the playoffs or even how many wins it would take for him to consider this a successful season.

He only told Dunlap he expects the team to be much better on Feb. 1 than it is Friday night when Charlotte opens the season against the Indiana Pacers.

``Our (long-term) success is predicated on a lot of things, especially this year,'' Jordan said. ``First, how will the (young players) adapt to the process we're going through. We'll know what holes we have to plug at the end of the year because we have some key contracts coming up'' with Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens becoming free agents.

``We will start to plug some of that,'' Jordan said. ``But it's hard for me to make that suggestion of two or three years we're going to be in the playoffs. I hope we are.''

The Bobcats should have significant salary-cap space next year, and Jordan hopes the new CBA will prevent players jumping to what he calls ``mega-teams'' and create more parity throughout the league.

Any way you look at it, Jordan and the Bobcats have a long way to go. But Jordan wants to see it through.

``I don't anticipate getting out of this business,'' he said. ``My competitive nature is I want to succeed. It's always been said that when I can't find a way to do anything, I will find a way to do it.

``I didn't get in the business to try to get out. Granted I want to turn this thing around as fast as possible but this is obviously a process. I'm committed to it and I want to pass it down to my family members or my kids. I want this to always be in Charlotte.''

Quick Links

Caps’ dominant power play comes through yet again in win over Rangers

capsothriller.png
USA Today Sports

Caps’ dominant power play comes through yet again in win over Rangers

It seems so simple. The Capitals have one of the best goal-scorers of all-time in Alex Ovechkin and on the power play, he’s almost always in the same spot. He sets up in the “office,” the faceoff circle on the left side of the ice, and waits for one-timers. Everyone knows the Caps are trying to get him the puck, everyone knows the shot is coming.

But nobody can stop it.

“It’s still pretty unique,” Matt Niskanen said after the game. “Basic logic tells you it’d be easy to stop, but it’s not.”

Even Ovechkin has no explanation. “It’s all about luck,” he said.

New York Rangers head coach David Quinn had another word for it.

“Sickening.”

Quinn’s Rangers were the latest victims of a power play that has been among the league’s best units for several years. Since 2005, no team in the NHL has a better power play percentage than the Capitals’ 20.8-percent. They once again look lethal this season with the unit currently clicking at an incredible 39.1-percent.

Ovechkin tallied two power play goals Wednesday, both from the office, to help power the Caps to a 4-3 win over New York. Both of Ovechkin’s goals looked pretty similar with John Carlson on the point feeding Ovechkin in the office for the one-timer.

Ovechkin obviously is what powers the team’s power play. With him on the ice, other teams need to account for him at all times.

But the real key to the Caps’ success with the extra man is not Ovechkin, but the other weapons around him.

“In order to completely take [Ovechkin] away other guys are just too open and they’re good enough to score,” Niskanen said. “Are you gonna leave [T.J. Oshie] open in the slot from the hash marks to cover [Ovechkin]? Our power play is set up well with what hands guys are and their skill sets so we have a lot of different options. Guys are good at reading what’s open. It’s pretty lethal.”

“Nobody knows who's going to take a shot when we play like that,” Ovechkin said. “And it's fun to play like that, to be honest with you. When [Nicklas Backstrom] and when [Evgeny Kuznetsov] feeling the puck well, they can find you in the right time and the right place -- same as [Carlson]."

With so many weapons on the power play, teams are forced to choose between playing Ovechkin tight and leaving other players like Kuznetsov and Oshie wide open, or trying to play a traditional penalty kill and risk giving Ovechkin too much room for the one-timer.

The Rangers chose the latter on Wednesday and they suffered the consequences.

“I don't think many teams have played him like they did tonight,” Carlson said. “They gave him a lot more space.”

And Carlson certainly took advantage as well.

Washington’s power play seems to have found a new gear now with the emergence of Carlson. He took his game to a new level last season and he seems to have picked up right where he left off. On Wednesday, as part of a three-point night for him, Carlson provided two brilliant setups for Ovechkin on the power play.

“He dominates the game, I think,” Niskanen said of Carlson. “Moves the puck well, skates well for a big man, can defend. He’s got that offensive feel for the game and offensive touch. Big shot. He’s a good player.”

For many years, it looked like the only thing missing from the Caps’ power play was Mike Green. Carlson has always been good, but no one was able to setup Ovechkin quite as well as Green was in the height of the “young guns” era of the Caps. Now that Carlson seems to be coming into his own as a superstar blueliner who can both score and feed Ovechkin with the best of them, that makes an already dominant Caps’ power play even more lethal.

That was certainly on display Wednesday as the Caps fired eight shots on goal with the extra man. Ovechkin’s two goals tie him for ninth on the NHL’s all-time power play goals list with Dino Ciccarelli at 232.

Even with Ovechkin now 33 years old and after several years of dominance with the extra man, the Caps’ power play may be better than ever.

“They don’t get rattled,” Quinn said. “There’s a confidence to them and a swagger to them, which they should have.  They’ve been playing together a long time and they’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, so they should play with a swagger.”

 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

The Caps gave up a 2-1 and 3-2 lead, but ultimately came away victorious on Wednesday in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers thanks to an overtime goal from Matt Niskanen.

Here are five reasons why the Caps won.

1. Djoos saves a goal

With the Caps already trailing 1-0 in the first period, they were about an inch away from going down by two. Luckily, Christian Djoos was there to make the save.

Yes, Djoos, not Braden Holtby.

A diving Jesper Fast got to a loose puck before any of the Caps defenders and beat Holtby with the shot. Djoos, however, was there to sweep the puck off the goal line and out, saving a goal.

That play turned out to be a two-goal swing as less than two minutes later, the Caps scored to tie the game at 1.

2. Carlson off the faceoff

The Caps emphasized the importance of the faceoff this week and worked on it specifically in practice on Tuesday. That practice turned out to be very prescient as Washington’s first goal of the night came right off the faceoff.

Nicklas Backstrom beat Ryan Spooner on the draw cleanly in the offensive zone, feeding the puck back to John Carlson. With the players all bunched up off the draw, Carlson benefitted from Brady Skjei standing right in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Carlson teed up the slap shot and beat Lundqvist who never saw the puck.

Of the five combined goals scored in the game, three were directly set up off a faceoff.

3. Hand-eye coordination

With the Caps on the power play, Fast tipped a pass meant for Carlson that looked like it was headed out of the offensive zone. Carlson reacted to the puck then stretched the stick and somehow managed to control the bouncing puck and keep it in the zone.

Fast charged Carlson at the blue line so he chipped the puck to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin managed to hit the puck just as it hit the ice and somehow beat Lundqvist with the shot.

Ovechkin was by the boards at the very edge of the circle. It was an amazing shot and it was set up by the great hustle play from Carlson. Both showed tremendous hand-eye coordination to control that puck.

4. Braden Holtby

Lundqvist entered this game with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage, but he was outplayed by his counterpart from Washington.

Holtby had himself a night. He was particularly strong down low with the pads as he made a number of key pad saves throughout the game, particularly in the second period when he recorded 17 saves including a shorthanded breakaway save on Kevin Hayes as time expired.

Of the three goals Holtby allowed, the first he made a great save on Chris Kreider who looked like he had an empty net to shoot at. Mike Zibanejad would score on the rebound. The second goal came as a shot deflected off Devante Smith-Pelly and went right to Jimmy Vesey for an easy tap-in. The third was a deflection goal from Kreider to redirect a shot that was going wide.

Can’t blame Holtby for those.

5. Working from the office

The Caps had three power play opportunities on the night. They scored on two of them and those two goals looked pretty darn similar.

There was the one described above in which a hustle play by Carlson at the point kept the puck alive and he fed to Ovechkin in the office. The second goal came with Carlson on the point feeding Ovechkin in the office.

Those two goals give Ovechkin 232 power play goals for his career, tying him with Dino Ciccarelli for ninth on the NHL’s all-time list.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: