By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Fear the Stache, Charlotte.

That first part, of course, was Gonzaga's battle cry last season. Fear Adam Morrison and his don't-you-dare-make-fun-of-it mustache, which took on a life of its own. It was the Pippen to Morrison's Jordan, the McHale to his Next Larry Bird.

Now Charlotte Bobcats fans should fear the new EA Sports "NBA Live" commercial that aired during Wednesday night's NBA draft. Like Morrison's underlying appeal, it's done in black and white. It begins with a close-up of the Stache, then the camera pulls back as Morrison deadpans:

Adam Morrison
Jeff Siner/AP Photo
Well Bobcats fans -- here's your new hero.

"My mustache speaks to me … it says, 'Together, we will return the NBA to the glory of its mustache days. Pistol Pete, Kurt Rambis and Clyde Frazier.' And in the offseason, my mustache and I will drive around in a muscle car solving mysteries. Times will be good. My mustache is very wise."

Clever commercial. But how wise was it for the "Next Bird" to make it before he was even drafted?

At least he was wise enough not to include Bird in his references to glory-days mustaches. Bird had one that was just as scraggly as Morrison's. But that might be the only thing Morrison winds up having in common with Larry Legend.

Well, that and skin color.

Which brings us back to the Bobcats and Bob Johnson, the first black majority owner in this predominantly black sport, who just signed off on taking a white guy with the draft's third pick.

What a strange world we live in.

It got a little stranger as I listened to my friend Stephen A. Smith talk during ESPN's draft coverage about a man he's very familiar with -- Johnson.

Stephen A. endorsed the selection of Morrison by saying: "Morrison is box office. And we're talking about a man in Bob Johnson … who's all about making money first and foremost. Losing is second to him. Making money is first."

And although his team moved into a new uptown arena last season -- Year 2 of expansion -- the Bobcats' paid attendance fell 19.7 percent. Bad sign. Five team executives recently have left -- or been asked to leave.

So Johnson: (1) Finally persuaded the Greatest Player Ever, Carolina's own Michael Jordan, to join the franchise as a minority investor and adviser; and (2) he and Jordan blessed the selection of, by far, the most marketable player in an all-time lackluster draft -- the Stache.

Which begs the question: Did Johnson and Jordan and their talent evaluators truly believe Morrison is the third-best player in this crop? Do they honestly think he can be the give-him-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way scorer this team needs?

Or did they draft a guy they believe will sell tickets in NASCAR country? A guy who plays basketball with the same crazy courage fans see at the track from Tony Stewart or Dale Jr.?

A guy who might as well have a halo around his head because he's a hero to thousands of video game addicts whose parents can afford NBA tickets? A guy who has won lots of mothers' hearts because he has to give himself insulin injections during games?

Did Johnson and Jordan consider the players who were still available -- Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, Brandon Roy, Randy Foye and Rudy Gay -- and say, "They all might end up being better than Morrison. But that much better? Probably not.

"The local media will love Morrison and start convincing people they'd better buy season tickets to watch this kid. He'll generate millions worth of free publicity."

That's basically what I believe they decided. And I can't condemn that strategy.

But I can ask Mr. Johnson: If you're all about making money, shouldn't winning be your No. 1 goal? Sure, it helps to win with an exciting brand of basketball. But if you give fans a playoff team that looks as though it has a chance to contend for a championship, your new arena will be full and you'll no longer have to worry about the one color you despise.

Red, as in ink.

Once more, I believe Morrison will be a starter but never an All-Star. He'll be pretty good, never an all-time great -- a championship component, never a ringleader. Keith Van Horn, never Larry Bird.

I could be very wrong, but I still can't remotely see Bird's first-step or ball-fake quickness or slickness or Bird's stature and strength as a rebounder and inside scorer or Bird's 3-point range or Bird's ability to control a game and get teammates easy shots or Bird's Clint Eastwood leadership aura.

This draft gave us one more fitting irony. The real Bird took the player who most exposed the "Next Bird." Yes, with the 17th pick, Indiana GM Bird took Shawne Williams, the 6-foot-9 freshman from Memphis.

On Dec. 27 at Memphis, Morrison had hung 34 on the Tigers when coach John Calipari switched Williams onto him with 9:30 left. Williams is much longer and quicker than 6-8 Morrison, who didn't score another point. Gonzaga lost 83-72.

So which Morrison will we see in the NBA? The one who scored 34 in three-quarters of a game at Memphis? Or the one Shawne Williams snuffed?

Williams, sniffed Bird on Wednesday night, was the player the Pacers wanted "all along."

Adam Morrison
Jeff Chiu/AP Photo
Remember when this tearful face was the most identifiable one in college hoops?

Forgive me for even putting Morrison in the same sentence or paragraph or Web site with Bird. But commentators and fans keep bringing it up, so for Morrison's good, let's try to keep him in honest perspective.

He's going to have a tough time living up to his buildup.

Bird had the great fortune of being drafted by a Boston Celtics team stocked with vets who could show him the NBA ropes -- Dave Cowens, Cedric Maxwell, Tiny Archibald, Chris Ford, Gerald Henderson, even Maravich. And Bird was able to share top rookie billing with the guy who beat him in the national title game -- Magic Johnson, who had the great fortune of joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon and Michael Cooper on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Morrison will be hailed as the savior of a team featuring Gerald Wallace, who has played five years … and Emeka Okafor, who's a two-year vet … and Raymond Felton and Sean May, who will be sophomores, although May was injured for all but 23 games last season.

By the way, Johnson signed off on drafting May and Felton, two stars from North Carolina's NCAA champs. Instant box office? Uh, no.

Charlotte fans must really know their basketball. Not many of them bought into May and Felton picking right up in pro basketball where they left off at the Final Four. But will the more casual (and gullible) fans fall for Adam Bird, diabetic video-game king?

Fear the Stache, Charlotte.

Good news for Morrison could be bad news for him and for you, Bobcats fans. He fell into a draft without a LeBron or even a Carmelo, in talent or marketability. So Adam Morrison became the Reggie Bush of the NBA draft -- the Madison Avenue poster boy.

But Reggie hasn't been overhyped. He's that good. Reggie can handle being a marked man by defenders who will be thinking, "What has that punk kid done to make all that money and all those commercials?"

I'm not sure about Adam. He has trouble controlling his emotions during games -- his temper or his tears. His emotions often will be pushed to the edge next season by defenders wondering just who the hell he thinks he is.

Morrison, of course, ended his college career crying -- flat-out bawling -- with time left in what turned out to be a loss to UCLA.

And of course, this was something Bird or Jordan would never, ever have done.

Yet EA Sports already is repositioning Morrison's tears in another new black-and-white commercial that aired during the draft. Morrison says: "Yeah, I cried. I cried on national TV. So what? Failure hurts … I'll cry again. I hope I never lose that intensity. More people should cry.

"And when I get to the NBA, more people will cry."

This kid had better be really good.

A Bobcats insider says the coaching staff was impressed when Morrison, during his predraft visit to Charlotte, was asked whether he'd mind playing Roy in some one-on-one.

"Bring the mother on," Morrison spat back, also using the back half of that expression.

But you wonder: Is Morrison really that tough -- or does he just talk and act tough?

You wonder whether Roy will be much better than Morrison -- and whether Thomas will be way better.

You wonder whether the people Morrison will make cry in the NBA will be Bob Johnson's customers.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.




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FEAR THE STACHE