Bobcats Drop Sloppy, Winnable Game To Jazz

Standard

Photo Credit: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bobcats were defeated 83-78 by a shorthanded Utah Jazz squad on the road in Salt Lake City on Monday night.  The Cats were led by Stephen Jackson (24 points) and DJ Augustin (20) in the loss and fall to 20-27 overall.

AP Recap |  Box Score

After a day off to recharge in the middle of the road trip, this matchup looked ripe for the taking when Deron Williams was ruled out prior to the game with a wrist injury.

Besides, even with their all-star, Utah had been reeling recently, losing 7 of their last 8.  But the Jazz came out strong with an 11-0 run to start the game, and proceeded to outrebound (49-36) and outmuscle the Cats in the paint.  The Jazz front line of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko all had double doubles: Jefferson 21/11, Millsap 14/12, and Kirilenko 13/11.  Jefferson and Kirilenko each had 3 blocks; Millsap added one.

To contrast, the Bobcats were led by DJ Augustin and Stephen Jackson with 8 rebounds apiece.  Kwame Brown had a miserable night with just 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 fouls in 23 minutes.

CJ Miles provided some perimeter scoring for the Jazz off the bench with 20 points; Earl Watson, who started at the point in place of Deron Williams, ended with an inexplicable plus-minus of +26 for the game.

The Bobcats could never establish much flow and shot the ball miserably, finishing at 35.6% from the field.  Nonetheless, they were in the game until the final moments.  Stephen Jackson hit four straight free throws to bring the Cats within one at 79-78 with two minutes left.

But with the Jazz frontline dominating the paint, the Bobcats couldn’t go with their preferred small lineup to finish the game (DJ, Henderson, Jack, Wallace and Diaw) and instead went with Eduardo Najera instead of Henderson.  It’s understandable, as going small would have put Gerald Wallace on Paul Millsap.

But it didn’t work, as the Bobcats couldn’t generate any offense after Jack’s free throws and never scored again AND Millsap grabbed two back-breaking offensive rebounds down the stretch.

Notes

  • If you wanted to put together a reel of games to convince yourself that it might be time to trade Gerald Wallace, add this one to it.  Just didn’t bring anything to the table tonight.
  • In addition to the Jazz 11-o run to start the game, they had another 11-0 run to start the third quarter and a 10-o run to start the fourth.
  • Cardboard Gerald caught Jimmer Fredette, Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend, and Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend’s poof in the stands.
  • If you’re looking for a Bobcats highlight, it’s probably Najera’s trip into the courtside seats, as pictured above.  As he got up, he picked up one lady’s crushed, now empty cup and pantomimed ordering her a new drink.  Good enough for a bloopers video.  Oh, and DJ hit a pretty crazy reverse layup that should make the highlights.
  • Next game is Wednesday night as the Cats wrap up this six-game road trip in Detroit against the Pistons — 7:30 PM ET start.  A win will give the Cats a 4-2 road trip as they head into a tough stretch of home games.

-Dr. E

be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin, and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Bobcats Edge Sixers; Thomas Out 8 Weeks

Standard

AP/Chuck Burton

The Bobcats rode a career high 31 points from DJ Augustin and 3 clutch buckets by Gerald Henderson to a 100-97 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night at the Cable Box.  However, news that Tyrus Thomas has suffered a meniscus tear and will be out for 8 weeks certainly casts a pall over the warm glow of victory.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

News filtered out before gametime that Tyrus had woken up from a post-shootaround/pre-game nap with a balky left knee and wouldn’t play.  Then during the game, news broke that an MRI had shown a lateral meniscus tear.  Thomas will presumably have arthroscopic surgery in the coming days; the early estimate is that he’ll be out for 8 weeks.  It’s unclear when or how the injury occurred.

This is a big blow for several reasons.  First, even though Thomas’s raw stats aren’t all that impressive (21 minutes per game, 11 points/6 rebounds), advanced statistics show that he’s arguably the Bobcats most efficient player (Hollinger’s PER has him at a team-high 19.7).  Second, though Thomas doesn’t start, he almost always finishes games and has proven to be a clutch player, especially on the defensive end.  Third, with Gana Diop already gone for the season, this makes the Bobcats precariously thin in the middle.  Boris is going to have to play some 5, and Gerald Wallace and Dom McGuire are going to have to pitch in at the 4.

Back to the game.  DJ came out red hot, hitting three three-pointers in the opening minutes, then repeatedly getting to the hole for layups.  He finished the first half with 25 points on 10-11 shooting.  Isn’t Jrue Holiday supposed to be a really good defender?  In the second half, the Sixers adjusted by trapping DJ, who was only able to add 6 more points to his tally.  Nonetheless, a masterful performance and career high for DJ, with 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 8 assists/3 turnovers to boot.

As you might guess, this one was pretty close the whole way.  The Cats led by 8 a couple of times, including as late as with 8:30 left in the fourth, but couldn’t put it away.  Without Tyrus Thomas, the Cats were going with a small crunchtime lineup of DJ/Henderson/Jack/Wallace/Diaw.  With around 4 minutes left, Thaddeus Young took advantage with two straight buckets off offensive rebounds to put the Sixers up one.

From there, Gerald Henderson emerged as the unlikely hero.  Henderson had already hit a jumper from the right elbow off a simple curl play earlier in the quarter.  Down one, 1:40 left, the Cats run the same curl play for Henderson, who hits.  Sixers miss, then Henderson hits again from the right elbow, this time after dribbling around a Diaw screen.  Cats up 94-91, under a minute left.

Henderson almost blows it on the ensuing Sixers possession by fouling Igoudala on a three attempt, but Igoudala only hit two of the three free throws to pull the Sixers within one.  The Bobcats stayed with the hot hand on the following possession, feeding Henderson on the right wing again on the same curl play — and he hit again to push the lead back out to three and effectively end the game.

The comfort level and confidence that Henderson had in the fourth quarter was really nice to see.  Especially because it looks like that, whenever feasible, the Bobcats will likely go with a small lineup including Henderson in the fourth quarter while they’re without Tyrus Thomas.

Notes

  • Best game from Nazr Mohammed in awhile: 15 points on 7-12 FG and 7 rebounds.  Obviously it would be nice if Nazr can step it up over the next few weeks.
  • Stephen Jackson’s shooting slump continues: 5-16 FG and 0-3 3 PT.  Quiet game from Gerald Wallace also: 6 points, 3 rebounds.  (/////Dr. E drums fingers on desk, looks around, wonders if anyone is thinking what he’s thinking.)
  • Bobcats are 17-24 — good for 7th place in the East currently.
  • Next game is Saturday night, at home, against the Hawks, 7 PM ET tip.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Knock Off Bulls In Impressive Fashion

Standard

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats notched their best win of the season in defeating the Chicago Bulls 96-91 on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats are now 15-21 overall and 6-2 since interim Coach Paul Silas took over.  The previous five wins had only resulted in tempered enthusiasm due the the marginal quality of the opponents; but the Bulls are a bonafide contender, and the Cats took them down.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

The Bobcats came out red-hot to start the game.  Gerald Wallace looked good in his return from an ankle injury, DJ and Boris hit some early threes, and Kwame Brown (yes, seriously) dominated Kurt Thomas inside for 10 first quarter points as the Bobcats staked a 36-22 lead after the first frame. Now is a good time to note that the Bulls are playing without Joakim Noah, who’s in the midst of an 8-10 week hiatus after having surgery on a torn thumb ligament.

The Cats would go on to push that lead up to 17 early in the second, only to see it dwindle away.  The Bulls battled back behind Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and eventually took a 80-75 with 8 minutes left in the fourth.  From there the Cats ratcheted up the defensive intensity and DJ, Jack and Tyrus Thomas took the game over.

The most finish went like this: with the Bulls up 89-88 with 1:15 left, Tyrus Thomas hit an insane prayer of a reverse layup.  Calling it a reverse layup is probably kind; seriously, check the picture.  That shot went in.  Next play down DJ forced Derrick Rose into the teeth of the defense where Boris Diaw was able to get a piece of his layup attempt.  Now under a minute to go and the Cats iso Stephen Jackson in the post on Luol Deng; Jack comes through with a pretty turnaround J to put the Cats up three with 30 seconds to go.

The Bulls take a timeout and come out with their best play: give it to Derrick Rose.  But as they had done numerous times before, the Cats seemed to sense exactly when to give DJ help.  Jack collapsed on Rose while Tyrus Thomas moved into the lane to cut off Deng as he flashed to the rim; Rose then forced a bad pass behind Deng that was picked off by Diaw.  From there, DJ hit a few free throws to finish it off.

And so the Cats move into the 8th spot in the East with this, their fourth straight, win.  If nothing else, this little streak serves as vindication for Jordan, who made the undoubtedly tough call to stand pat with the roster and fire Larry Brown instead of listening to his calls for more trades. Jordan gets bagged on a lot for his track record in the front office (rightfully so, and he’s still going to have to make more difficult decisions about how to rebuild this team eventually), but he deserves credit for seeing that the Bobcats are much better than how they were playing under Larry Brown and that they needed to exhale with a player’s coach at the helm.

Notes

  • So DJ really seems to get up for playing against Rose, huh?  22 points (6-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 8-9 FT), 12 assists/1 turnover for DJ tonight, while Derrick Rose was held to 17 points (5-17 FG), 7 assists/4 turnovers.  I seem to recall another time when DJ had a particularly stellar game against Rose — during their rookie year maybe?
  • Best game for Tyrus Thomas in a couple weeks: 30 minutes, 17 points (7-14 FG), 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.  Nothing like the little charge you get from facing your old team, huh?
  • Tweet of the night goes to Bobcats AP beat writer Mike Cranston: “Suggestion on press row next CHA ad campaign feature Augustin breaking out of chains and Jack driving a bus over LB’s body”  Sounds like a job for Mike and/or Deesdale.
  • Next game is Friday night in Boston to face the Celtics, who used to bring out the best in the Bobcats, but lately have just owned them.  7:30 PM ET start.

-Dr. E

Follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Bobcats Top Grizzlies On Snow Day

Standard

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 95-82 at the Cable Box on Monday night to improve to 5-2 under coach Paul Silas and 14-21 overall.  Stephen Jackson led the way with 27 points (11-23 FG, 3-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals as the Bobcats continued to play without injured starters Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Beyond the continued renaissance of the Bobcats under Paul Silas (albeit against marginal competition) and the general listlessness of the Grizzlies (how have they won 17 games?) the other big story was the weather.

Charlotte was hit with six inches of snow Monday, which is more than enough to shut this city down.  As the snow transitioned to sleet and then rain this afternoon, I decided to venture out to the game.  Not many others did.

The Bobcats pulled the curtains on the upper deck and invited everyone down to the lower bowl.  I settled into some sweet club seats along with about 1000 other fans.  It’s always takes me about a quarter to adjust to the view whenever I don’t sit in my regular seats — tonight it was doubly weird with the curtains drawn on the upper deck and the sparseness of the crowd.

But a good time was had by all.  The crowd seemed to appreciate the extraordinary nature of the proceedings and cheered extra loudly.  The hecklers had a field day (primary targets: Zach Randolph and Boris Diaw).  And the Bobcats complied by taking care of business on their home court much like they did during last year’s run to the playoffs.

Notes

  • A quick look at the East standings after the game provides a (weak) argument for not blowing the team up/rebuilding.  With the win, the Bobcats are percentage points out of the 8th playoff spot and only 1 game back in the loss column from the 7th spot.
  • Quintessential Boris Diaw night: 40 minutes, 6 points (3-6 FG, 0-2 3PT), 9 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers, great defense on Zach Randolph, and several moments of superficially lackadaisical play that had some fans pulling their hair out.
  • Tyrus Thomas fouled out in 17 super-aggressive minutes — got a big hand when he left because of the 4 blocks he had.  Speaking of, can you imagine if you could give Boris some of Ty’s athleticism?  Or give Ty some of Boris’s savvy/pace/control?  Can we combine them?  Scientists?
  • Next game is Wednesday night at the Cable Box against the Bulls, who are 25-12 overall, but only 8-9 on the road.

LeBron, Wade Overpower Bobcats

Standard

The Miami Heat’s duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were way more than the shorthanded Charlotte Bobcats could handle on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Heat posted a 96-82 victory behind 38 from LeBron and 31 from Wade.

AP Recap |  Box Score

To recap the Bobcats injury report, Gerald Wallace re-aggravated his left ankle injury at practice at Sunday and will miss a couple games.  Gana Diop is done for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State on Friday.  And Nazr Mohammed had to sit out tonight’s game after developing soreness in his right knee after a collision in the Golden State game.

So despite having to start Kwame Brown and Gerald Henderson, the Bobcats came out aggressive and played a superb first quarter.  Henderson and Stephen Jackson were hitting early while Heat looked to be going through the motions.  Problem is, a superb first quarter for the Bobcats is 28 points; going through the motions for a quarter for the Heat is still worth 23 points.

Towards the end of the second quarter the Heat grabbed control and took a 47-43 lead into halftime.  The Bobcats looked flat coming out in the third quarter — and then LeBron went off.  Wade had done much of the damage for the Heat in the first half, but LeBron just owned the third quarter.

With Stephen Jackson trying to guard him, and the crowd electric with a mix of spite and growing awe, LeBron handed out 2 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, and tallied 17 points (on 6-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, and 4-4 FT).  Lebron personally outscored the Bobcats for the quarter (17-16) and pushed the Heat lead out to 78-59 heading into the fourth.

The Bobcats made a small run to start the fourth, cutting the Heat lead briefly to 80-69, but LeBron ended that with his next two plays.  First, he hit a crazy 37-foot three with the shot clock winding down — pretty much with his normal shooting form.  Next trip down the court he intercepted a Bobcat pass and went in for his patented breakaway reverse jam (see above photo).  That pretty much did it.

Despite the 14 point loss, this was easily the most fun Bobcats game I’ve been to this year.  Without Gerald Wallace, and down to Kwame Brown as their only true big, the Cats didn’t have much of a chance.  But they came out and threw some big punches early in the game, landing enough to force LeBron and Wade to take them seriously.  The close-to-sellout crowd was vociferously anti-Lebron/Wade.

And as little as I think of LeBron’s decision to join forces with Wade, I have to hand it to them for accepting their villain status.  Now other LeBron’s pregame chalk toss, neither he nor Wade will ever do anything overtly dastardly on the court — anything too gratuitous and you can’t sell sneakers, see — but they might as well.  Everything about their body language and play, even down to their running trash talk with courtside fans tonight, reminds me of professional wrestling’s “cool heels” — like The Rock or Ric Flair (who was conveniently courtside tonight, by the way).

The more lathered up the crowd gets, the better they perform.  And they perform so damn well that the boos eventually have to give way to “did you see that” gasps and begrudging respect for their talent.  It’s the perfect angle for them; I’m glad they’re playing the part.  They put on a good show tonight and I’m already looking forward to the rematch next month.

As for the Bobcats, I know I’m beating a horse I already killed here, but with Gerald Wallace having re-aggravated his bad ankle and the frontcourt so thin, this would be a perfect time to dismantle and start to rebuild.  Announce that Gerald Wallace needs 4-6 weeks to let that bone bruise heal — that takes him through the All-Star break.  Meanwhile, find a taker for Stephen Jackson (getting back cap relief and draft picks) and let Silas do his thing with the rest of the roster.  If only…

Extra Notes

  • After that cool highlight “spin out of the doubleteam back toward the basket” dunk in the second quarter, Tyrus Thomas was pretty brutal the rest of the way — 4-14 FG.  I know he’s been hurt, but still surprised he hasn’t looked better since Silas took over.
  • Shaun Livingston had the highlight of his season — maybe his career — with a huge driving dunk in the second half that inexplicably isn’t in the ESPN.com or NBA.com highlight reel.  Too bad it was lost in the midst of LeBron’s huge second half.
  • Must read from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on the dilemma that small-market (low-revenue) teams face, using Danny Granger and the Pacers as the protagonists.
  • Nice puff piece on Boris Diaw from the Observer.
  • On the other hand, can anyone find the point in this Tom Sorenson column on the Heat game?  I hesitate to criticize because I know I couldn’t write under deadline like the pros do, but still…
  • Next game is Wednesday night in Minnesota, 8 PM ET start.  Likely no Gerald Wallace; unclear if Nazr will be ready either.

-Dr. E

Jackson’s 38 Lead Bobcats To Win Over Cavs

Standard

Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats moved to 2-0 under Paul Silas as they cruised to a 101-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  Stephen Jackson and DJ Augustin continued to flourish under Silas with 38 and 28 points, respectively, to lead the Cats.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The Bobcats starters went on a 21-6 run during the bulk of the first quarter to set the tone against the shorthanded Cavs, who were playing without Mo Williams.  Rookie Manny Harris got the start instead and but a tough time keeping up with DJ and Jack.  Jack hit from three (3-7 3PT), was able to get to the free throw line at will (13-15 FT), and took care of the ball (only 2 turnovers) in an excellent all-around game.

The Cavs eventually made their run in the fourth quarter on the back of Ramon Sessions, who carved up the Cats defense and finished with 22 points. A three-point play by Antawn Jamison with two minutes left cut the Cats lead to just 94-90, but a Jack three on the next possession effectively closed the door on the Cavs comeback.

So the Cats continue their mini-revival under Paul “Huggie Bear” Silas and against the dregs of the Eastern Conference.  The level of difficulty will increase as the Cats continue their homestand, though, with the Warriors on Friday afternoon and the much anticipated visit by the Heat next Monday night.

Extras

  • Only 11 turnovers tonight — better.
  • DJ had a really strong offensive game: 28 points (10-14 FG, 5-6 3PT, 3-3 FT) and 6 assists/1 turnover.  He is clearly benefitting from the coaching change.  However, his defensive shortcomings can’t be overlooked.  Ramon Sessions was practically dragging him around en route to almost single-handedly bringing the Cavs back.
  • On Monday night, Gana Diop and Tyrus Thomas were able to compensate for the Cats poor perimeter defense with good backside help.  Tonight, with Tyrus Thomas out, that responsibility fell to Diop alone, and he didn’t exactly come through.  As he got to the rim, Sessions seemed to be particularly adept at getting Diop off balance and out-of-sync in his block attempts.  The result: Sessions went 10-11 from the free throw line and Diop stayed in foul trouble.  And when Diop wasn’t in there, Sessions right went right at the less-imposing Nazr Mohammed for the dunk of the night.
  • Speaking of Tyrus Thomas, who sat out with a wrist sprain, can someone give me the name of dude’s tailor?  I would have never pegged him for it, but Tyrus is a sharp dresser.  Nice to see, especially when we’re used to the Adam Morrison/Sean May “inactive” look of jeans and a baggy, ill-fitting blazer here in Charlotte.

-Dr. E

follow Dr. E, ASChin, and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Dr. E’s Treatment Plan For The Bobcats

Standard

How (and Why) to Break Up and Rebuild the Team

The firing of Larry Brown and his staff was a step in the right direction for the Bobcats.  Brown put his typical stamp on the Bobcats franchise; which is to say he turned over nearly the entire roster while sending the franchise deeper into salary cap hell, but coached the hell out of the players and pushed them into the playoffs, only to completely lose touch with them soon after that.

Michael Jordan had to let Brown go before the disintegration of the team got any uglier on the court and before Brown talked him into another short-sighted trade off of it.  Pricey veterans, whether they come via trade or free agency, are good short-term fixes for teams that have a superstar/championship core and are making money — not for fledgling small-market teams that barely have a playoff-ready core.

Unfortunately, by the sounds of all the recent rumors, Jordan is apparently considering just such a short-sighted trade.  Even without Larry Brown in his ear, Jordan is ever the gambler, unable to stop himself from doubling down even when he’s only holding 8.

I have a different plan; a smarter plan.  It might be painful, but in the end it’s the best strategy for a small-market team to achieve long-term success and have a chance at a championship.  Let’s start from the beginning and go step-by-step through my plan to break up and rebuild the Charlotte Bobcats.

1) Pick the Right Interim Coach

Alright!  Done and done.  Jordan is already one step ahead of me with the hire of Paul Silas.  The Bobcats don’t get lucky much (ever?) but it works out pretty well that you have a beloved former coach who has semi-retired in your town and has made it known that he’d love to coach the local team again.  Huggy Bear makes a great foil for the departed Larry Brown, and has wasted no time instituting an uptempo offense.

Now I’m sure that Jordan has let Silas know that he still intends to make the playoffs, and Silas would like to prove himself worthy of shedding the interim label, but let’s face it, the pressure is pretty low here.  Mostly, the Bobcats should just be happy that such a nice fit for an interim coach was so available and that they avoided any ugliness with Larry Brown.  The players will get a temporary (maybe sustained?) kick out of playing for someone so different than Larry Brown.  And Paul Silas gets a shot at coaching Charlotte again.  It’s a win-win-win.  And if the team improves on the court, you can add another “win” for us fans.

2) Trade Stephen Jackson for Cap Space/Draft Picks/Young Talent

Here’s where we get get down to business.  The Bobcats are not going deep into the playoffs with a top three of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Many, if not most, fans have accepted this.  The best way to kick off a proper tear-down would be to trade Stephen Jackson for cap space/draft picks/young talent.  Jack is making $8.5 million this season, $9.6 in 2011-12 and $10 in 2012-13.   He’s enough to keep a mediocre team competitive on some nights, but not enough to make us great.  He would be great as the final piece to a team that’s looking to make a serious run at a championship this year or next.

I’m thinking mostly Chicago or New York here.  Chicago runs Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at 2-guard amidst Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  Enough said.  The Bulls don’t have any good expiring contracts, so the Cats would have to take back a couple of young role players to make salaries work.  Most importantly, the Cats would look to get back the future first round pick that we sent to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas.

As for New York, suppose the Nets really are able to secure Carmelo’s services.  The Knicks would have to move on from their fantasy; wouldn’t adding Stephen Jackson to Felton, Stoudemire and Gallinari in D’Antoni’s offense be a nice reality for them?  The Knicks could offer Eddy Curry’s huge expiring deal; if the Cats threw in another salary maybe we could have a look at the enigmatic Anthony Randolph?  Or better yet, Wilson Chandler?

And I’m sure there are some Western Conference teams that might work, too.  Or maybe it’s Boris Diaw who goes out?  Just not Gerald Wallace if it can be helped — that might even test my limits as a fan.  Whatever the case, the idea is that the current core isn’t going to get it done and we need to get cheaper and collect young talent and/or draft picks in exchange for them.

3) Play the Young Guys

This is the easiest, most no-brainer part of the plan.  No doubt, the psyches of DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown must be traumatized by their time with Larry Brown; but they’ve also learned a lot.  And there is talent there.  Paul Silas is the perfect coach to loosen the reigns and instill confidence in this crew.

I would try to limit Gerald Wallace’s minutes to around 30-35 per game to preserve him and to give Brown and Thomas a little extra run.

Hopefully everyone emerges as a better player for the long haul; on the other hand, if someone flames out, at least you know.

4) Be Prepared to Miss the Playoffs This Year… and Next

And here’s the real problem.  Jordan is in a tough spot here; you have to believe that at some level he knows that it’s time to blow it up and rebuild the right way.  But he doesn’t have the stomach for losing, even temporarily if it’s in the service of a bigger goal.  And he can rationalize what is really his inability to stomach losing by saying that the Bobcats’ cache with the fans in Charlotte is so tenuous that they couldn’t stomach losing either.  That they’d just turn away for good if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again this year.  So he needs to keep finding expensive band-aids; but for what?  First round playoff blowouts?

Bull.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be painful to watch a rebuilding team for a couple of years — the Bobcats would probably fall back to the 25-30 win per season range for this season and the next.  And it would hurt Jordan financially, I’m sure.  But I would argue that it would be more painful to watch a patched-up, veteran core muddle through a couple more 35-40 win seasons — and that the financial reward Jordan would reap from building an upper echelon team in the long run would more than offset a couple of lean years.

5) Draft the Right Guys

And here’s the lynchpin of my thesis — the most important part is also the most difficult.  In my plan, the Bobcats would have lottery picks, potentially high ones, in the next two drafts (even if we didn’t get the Tyrus Thomas one back from the Bulls, it is lottery protected in 2012).  The Bobcats would need to find a superstar — or at least a new blue-chip core — in those drafts.

I know you’re all laughing, and rightfully so as visions of Adam Morrison and Sean May dance in your heads.  But eventually, sheer luck dictates that Jordan will make the right call one of these days, right?  Doesn’t it?  And even if he doesn’t get so lucky as to have a superstar fall into his lap, he must have learned something about scouting/evaluating players over the past few years that will help him to make better picks, right?  Even if the lesson is as simple as: “I shouldn’t be a part of this — lemme hire some better scouts.”

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe the Bobcats are doomed to be poor drafters forever and ever.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the draft is how small-market teams become contenders.  Whether it’s San Antonio with Tim Duncan, Orlando with Dwight Howard, Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past with Lebron, a small-market team has to get a game-changing player near the top at the draft to become a contender.  That guy’s presence then allows you to utilize trades and free agency to shape the team around him.

Only LA (Lakers, that is), Chicago, Boston, New York, Miami, Phoenix, and possibly Dallas and Houston could realistically hope to construct the core of a contending team without the benefit of a great draft pick.  And despite that, most of those teams do indeed count a player they drafted among the core of their team (Rose & Noah for Chicago, Pierce for Boston, Wade for Miami).

So it’s time for Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins to abandon their plan of building through trades.  If they were aware of and taking advantage of some sort of market inefficiency, we’d have seen better results.  Instead, the Bobcats need to get back into the lottery to get back into the playoffs.

6) Hire the Right Long-term Coach

To boot, here’s one more thing Jordan has struggled with as an executive: hiring coaches.  As noted above, Paul Silas as a placeholder is fine; and the Larry Brown hire is/was defendable.  But going back to Sam Vincent, and further back to Leonard Hamilton, Jordan has struggled to evaluate coaching potential as much as he’s struggled to evaluate player potential.

Again, we have to hope that he’s learned something from his mistakes.  The rumor mill has suggested that Jordan contemporaries/current NBA assistants Patrick Ewing and Tyrone Corbin are in line for a shot at a head coaching job.  And Nate McMillan might be divorced from Portland by the time the Bobcats would be looking.  Would Phil Jackson recommend any of his assistants to Jordan?

Anyways, if the Bobcats followed a comparable blueprint and got to the point where hiring the right coach seemed like a crucial piece to the puzzle, I’d be overjoyed.  As it stands, we’re a long way off.

Unless the Bobcats come out like gangbusters for Paul Silas (and he does have a favorable slate with home games against Detroit, Cleveland and Golden State this week) I think you’ll see Jordan pull the trigger on a big trade soon.  What the Bobcats get back (a pricey veteran versus expiring contracts/draft picks/young talent) will tell you whether he’s sticking to the same M.O. — or moving on to a proper rebuilding plan as I’m suggesting.

-Dr. E