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Charlotte Hornets

What was behind Michael Jordan’s ‘tap of endearment’ in weird ending of Hornets’ game?


It was a “big brother-little brother” thing, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan said.

It was a “teaching moment,” coach James Borrego said.

It was brain cramp that could have threatened the Hornets’ one-point victory Wednesday, and an instance guard Malik Monk should never forget.

Monk and teammate Bismack Biyombo both stepped onto the Spectrum Center court Wednesday, after guard Jeremy Lamb hit a jump shot with 0.3 seconds left to give the Hornets a two-point lead over the Detroit Pistons. Referees stopped the game to review video and called a technical foul that gave the Pistons a free throw, which when made cut the Hornets’ lead to one.

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, left, angry over a technical foul called against his team, shouts at a referee in the final seconds of Wednesday’s NBA against the Detroit Pistons. Hornets guard Malik Monk, right, looks on. Chuck Burton AP

Ultimately the Hornets hung on to win, 108-107, but Jordan - sitting next to his team’s bench - was sufficiently frustrated that he twice bopped Monk on the back of his head to emphasize the glitch and its potential consequences. After video of Jordan’s reaction - shot by Charlotte television station WCCB - went viral, Jordan’s spokesperson issued a statement.

“It was a tap of endearment - I didn’t mean to project anything other than that,” Jordan said through spokesperson Estee Portnoy. “It was like a big brother-and-little brother tap. No negative intent - only love!”

The end of the exchange shows Jordan smiling at Monk, so it was playful. But this also illustrated how costly Monk’s and Biyombo’s over-exuberance could have been.

Monk was asked at practice Thursday about the exchange with Jordan and played coy initially.

“Did he smack me in the back of the head? I don’t know,” Monk said. “He didn’t say nothing, it was really nothing. I don’t really know how to explain what you see with the media and all that, but it’s nothing. I don’t really worry about it.”

Told that Jordan had described this as a “big brother-little brother” moment, Monk laughed and said, “big, big, big brother.” Monk also said he understands anything involving iconic former player Jordan takes on a wider scope these days.

“It’s Mike. Whatever he do is going to make it’ national,” Monk said. “Nowadays, it’s all social media. Everybody has their phones out.”

Monk wasn’t alone in being on the court in celebration as the Pistons prepared to in-bound the ball. Reserve center Biyombo, in his eighth NBA season, appeared to step onto the court before Monk (though Monk strayed farther from the Hornets’ bench).

“I just got caught in the moment. Moments like that get you excited,” Biyombo said. “Not realizing there was still some time on the clock. Obviously, we watched film (Thursday) - the replay over and over. I was all the way out there and Malik was out on the court. We were way too high” emotionally.

Biyombo only realized his mistake when Lamb made a gesture of restraint.

“When J-Lamb pointed at the clock, we were all like, ‘Oh, shoot!’” Biyombo said. “The good thing is we still got a win, but we’ve got to be focused.”

That was certainly the message Borrego delivered during video study before the Hornets headed up to the practice gym Thursday.

Everyone was emotional and excited, but you have to remember there was still 0.3 on the clock!” Borrego said. “This is a great teachable moment for all of us. We’ve not been in that situation: made a shot with that short a period (before the final buzzer).

“It was a natural response, but you’ve got to react the right way. We’ll learn.”

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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