Who's smiling now?

Brown will find work, but Jordan's stuck in Charlotte

December 25, 2010

It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature or Michael Jordan.

Or it wasn't.

Still an icon, Jordan owns the woebegone Bobcats and makes hollow gestures like leaking word he fired coach Larry Brown ... after announcing Brown resigned ... two months after saying he wanted to extend him but kept getting put off.

Obligingly, the Charlotte Observer reported: "Jordan gets last word; Brown ousted."

Good thing for both of them Brown didn't sign that extension.

Whether or not Mike can make things work in Charlotte, he can't do it for free, having just lost Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler, while bringing in no one.

On that budget, Jerry West couldn't do it.

Brown gets $8 million in severance and will work more miracles, however brief.

Mike has to stay.

Day 1 — The Dwight Watch: The light bulb went off over everyone's heads with the Magic's big trades making it all but official: With Dwight Howard's contract up in 2012, they know they must perform to keep him.

So much for speculation about Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul as supporting players next to the NBA's lone superstar big man.

At Howard's age, 24, Shaquille O'Neal blazed a trail for superstar Magic centers, and it led out of town.

The Magic had just gone from a Finals appearance to a loss in the East Finals when the fun-loving, attention-devouring Shaq left.

The team has just gone from a Finals appearance to a loss in the East Finals, and the fun-loving Dwight devours attention, too.

Aside from that, no worries.

Blaze of ... Not only are the Trail Blazers well into Sam Bowie-instead-of-Jordan II, with Greg Oden out, as usual, and Kevin Durant taking off, but Brandon Roy is breaking down, too. Sidelined for the second time this season with a bad knee, it looks as Roy's career is either over or he'll need surgery.

And like Oden, Roy is an exemplary young man who was on his way to becoming a great player. This makes it that much more difficult a reality for the Blazers and their fans.

Said coach Nate McMillan, whose days are inevitably numbered, too: "Everybody is writing him off. They're saying that he should retire or that we should move on.

"Well, we're not ready to do that."

Paying the price: If the Magic's deals pay off, it was essentially GM Otis Smith trying to undo damage already done. Smith signed Rashard Lewis for an eye-popping $118 million, traded for Vince Carter's $17 million salary and let crunch-time playmaker Hedo Turkoglu go because ownership wouldn't pay him $9.8 million per year before taking him back after sloppy, whiny bust-outs in Toronto and Phoenix. Of course, he was sloppy in Orlando too, when he wasn't taking over in the clutch. Noted Magic VP Pat Williams: "Maybe Orlando is the only place he can play."

Things could be worse: Despite doom-and-gloom projections ahead of collective bargaining, the eagerly awaited season is off to a big start with ratings up 30 percent. Heat games are up 69 percent — but even taking out those games, ratings, which had been going up for two seasons, jumped another 23 percent.

mheisler@tribune.com

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