The Bobcats are back and here’s a sentence that will probably never be written again.
It’s the end of December and the Charlotte Bobcats haven’t lost a game this season.
Yep, the Cats took care of of the visiting Milwaukee Bucks last night in their home opener and now stand undefeated. We can’t count on too many wins this year, so let’s savor this one. The Bobcats are in a really awkward stage right now. They have a bunch of young guys that may or may not be professional basketball players. None are stars. Yet, those of us that tuned in or attended their first game of the 2011 season saw an energetic bunch overtake a much more talented and experienced group of players.
It was great to read how Coach Paul Silas was so casual with the press before the game, letting them know that “Stephen Jackson is going to try to kill us…” Silas had an inexperienced roster that was supposed to face the likes of Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, and Stephen Jackson on opening night. It’s clear that the Bucks are probably going to be pretty good this year. They may not be a contender, but they’ll make the Playoffs. They’ll likely advance into the second-round. Surely, Scott Skiles will get this group in order and they’ll operate like a well-tuned machine. Luckily, the Bobcats caught them before the machine could get running.
Here are the some of the things I noticed in last night’s introduction to the 2011-12 Bobcats:
Kemba Walker could contend for Rookie of the Year. He’s going to be good. Can he be great?
Byron Mullens knocked down a couple of outside shots. What can he do in the paint?
DJ Augustin was playing like a real point guard. Nice to see his progress continue under Silas.
Gana Diop found a way to contribute – or Silas found a way to make him somewhat useful.
Boris Diaw is going to do a lot to help the team and that might help him land a big contract this summer.
Nice touch by the club to find courtside seats for Cam Newton (the most popular guy in town).
Gerald Henderson looks healthy and ready to be a big part of the team.
Corey Maggete isn’t so bad, after all. I might not rush out to buy his jersey, but he’s alright.
Bismack Biyombo Is The Reason For The Existence of The Charlotte Bobcats.
Think back to all that the Charlotte Bobcats have been through. Nothing has come easy for this team, and the tough job of starting over has begun before they even accomplished much of anything. Still, we must remember that in everything there is a purpose. Seven solid years of struggling has led the franchise to this place in history.
Destiny has delivered the Bobcats to the precipice of the 2011 NBA Draft, where they hold the honor of selecting the greatest athlete that will ever wear their uniform. His name is Bismack Biyombo.
Charlotte has never seen anything like Biyombo. Honestly, our eyes may not be ready.
If Michael Jordan’s club fails to select Bismack Biyombo, the organization could be set back a full decade. It’s actually far more likely that the team will be forced to fold due to the backlash that’s certainly guaranteed for passing up such a phenomenal, once-in-a-generation type of talent.
The Bobcats have a final workout scheduled on eve of the Draft. This will be an historic event, as Bismack Biyombo sets foot onto Carolina soil for the first time. Just to entertain the unparalleled big man from the Congo, Rich Cho has structured a workout between Biyombo, Chris Singleton, and Maurice Morris. It’s clear that the Cats are putting on a show, trying to appear as if they’re simply evaluating their options for the 9th pick in a thorough manner. Michael Jordan knows not to show his hand this early. Ultimately, this posturing will fade away after the unfathomable defensive showcase that Bismack will bring to town. What Coach Paul Silas will see Bismack Biyombo do on the basketball court will probably make him cry.
Due to his propensity for rebounding, blocking, and strong defense, Biyombo has been described as “the next Ben Wallace.” I think Ben Wallace should take that as a compliment and Bismack should be outright insulted. How can anyone be compared to Biyombo? This young man will not only lead the NBA in rebounds and blocks, but he’ll make us all wonder what basketball was like before the Bismack Biyombo Era.
This past season for the Charlotte Bobcats served up an entertaining mixture of speculation, anticipation, disappointment, surprise, frustration, and a general sense of curiosity. Heading into it, the team had made a deal to unload the financial burden of Tyson Chandler and had no Draft selections to boost their roster. The team’s training camp began with real questions around DJ Augustin’s ability to lead the team as a starter and the growth of Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown in their second year in the NBA. It was assumed that Tyrus Thomas would build upon his success from a previous late-season run after arriving in Charlotte, and most thought he would eventually replace Boris Diaw as the team’s starting power forward. The Bobcats looked to have their strongest players, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, on the wings and aimed to make it through the year with a cobbled assortment of players at the center position.
That was all pre-season talk, though. Larry Brown was trusted to take the team further than the quick sweep we witnessed in their first Playoff appearance. If Larry saw a roster need that had to be filled in order to reach the post-season, it seemed only logical that the organization would find a way to give him what he demanded. Eventually, that logic evaporated as the team seemed to lose games and lose interest in running Larry’s system. Interestingly, the only roster acquisitions that seemed to satisfy Brown were the minor free agent signings of Dominic McGuire (D-Mac) and Shaun Livingston. Otherwise, the Hall of Fame coach was expected to plug in the likes of Matt Carroll, Kwame Brown, Eduardo Najera, and Sherron Collins to forge a better on-court product.
Stumbling Out of The Gates
Early on in the season, it seemed that the Bobcats were just taking a little longer to “mesh” than most other squads. Those following the team could have argued that the level of talent on the roster was deeper than ever before. With so many middle-tier players on the payroll, it appeared that the front office had planned to either make due with a roster below the salary cap or leave some flexibility to make a trade to improve the team. As the Cats stumbled in the standings, speculation over the next move certainly followed. Coach Brown had set a pattern in place since his arrival. If he didn’t like what was happening with the team’s play, he would find a way to shake up the roster. Fans knew this and it was expected that a roster move was sure to happen. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson, or DJ Augustin that were shipped out. The organization decided to send Larry Brown out of town.
While it was easy to support Brown when the team had experienced an increasing level of success, the Bobcats management seemed to catch on to the “Next Town Brown” template. With the team struggling and playing less and less entertaining basketball by the week, it only felt naturally to look to the future. Raising the question of “How does this team get better” probably shook GM Rod Higgins to face the tough truth that the Bobcats were financially frozen and their on-court product was on the decline. Perhaps, the team reserved a bit of blame for Larry Brown. Overall, it seemed that the team’s performance had slid far too much and improvement wasn’t going to be delivered by the old, griping, and disheartening coach. The Cats had no money to really improve the team, and needed to begin to develop their young guys – players that Larry Brown had glued to the bench.
The arrival of Paul Silas brought an equal dose of curiosity and excitement to the team. After recurring blow-out losses under Brown, the Bobcats quickened the pace and let DJ Augustin play to his strengths. Surely, Michael Jordan had to have felt some comfort in his decision to switch coaches. Not only had the team become better and more entertaining on court, but the younger talent on the roster had begun to show improvement and playing time under Coach Silas. The improved play of DJ Augustin was astounding, and it just seemed to be a bit confusing as to why no one had seen this from the young guard until Brown’s departure.
As the Bobcats had crossed the mid-point of the season, they were finding a way to improve their record despite their ailing big men. Gana Diop was shelved for the season with a tough achilles injury, and Nazr Mohammed seemed to have run out of luck with several nagging injuries. The All-Star break came and went for the team, as the club had no participates (Rufus doesn’t count) in the Association’s annual celebration of peak performers. So, most of the club returned from the short vacation to talk big about making a run at the Playoffs. Actually, that didn’t seem so outlandish at the time. Despite the 9-19 hole that they had dug for themselves to begin the year, Charlotte was sitting around the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. With plenty of games to go, it was expected that the club could rebound and save their season. Heck, some thought the Cats might even try to nab someone to help make that push before the trade deadline.
Well, things really went in the opposite direction. Once again, Michael Jordan’s Bobcats were active at the league’s trade deadline. Though, this time around the team wasn’t looking to acquire talent.
So, what would you have thought if someone had told you back in September that during the 2010-2011 season the Bobcats would fire the best head coach that the franchise had ever seen, trade away the All-Star that fans loved, and still close the season with Stephen Jackson on the roster? Well, it played out just about like you would have thought. The team was shaken apart, as to leave Larry Brown’s “vision” in the dust and adjust for the future. Gerald Wallace was about as heartbroken about being traded to Portland as his Charlotte fans were. And, good ol’ Cap’n Jack made it through the season with a load of technical fouls, showed his clutch abilities throughout it all, and his body fell apart in late March after carrying the team for most of the year. Oh, and the guys that were expected to help Stephen Jackson never did come through as the Cats surrendered to the Draft Lottery by April. Tyrus Thomas was unable to return from his knee surgery and fellow power forward Boris Diaw brought it once in every four or five games. The team limped through the end of their schedule with Kwame Brown as the only true center.
Oh, and what would you have thought back in the Fall if someone told you that the Bobcats would be starting Kwame Brown? Surprisingly, he wasn’t as bad as you would have thought. Let’s not consider him the franchise center, but he was valuable for the team on both sides of the floor.
Quiet Close to the Season
So, the Bobcats headed down the last weeks of the season with a fading hope of another Playoff appearance. Though, what may have been more important for the team was the manner in which their younger and newer players seized the opportunity in the playing time given to them by Paul Silas. During the final games of the season, Gerald Henderson was often the team’s primary offensive option. He showed his strengths, while learning to become an efficient guard. Clearly, young Gerald had big shoes to fill with the departure of “Crash” Gerald. Luckily, the team didn’t see him recoil.
Looking forward, Charlotte has a lot of decisions in front of them. Clearly, the organization has made a concerted effort to enter the “rebuilding” stage. The off-season should provide the team with the ability to improve as they hold a load of salary cap flexibility, young talent, and Draft selections. Still, it’s apparent that the team has holes, and will work to fill them as they build. Next season’s rookies can’t be expected to carry the team, and the free agent class isn’t all that “star-studded” this summer. With Jordan’s efforts to free up his options, he’ll want to make the most of each of his assets whether it be Draft picks, cap room, or promising players on the Bobcats roster. The 2011-12 season could just serve as a stepping stone for the club as they continue to develop, grow, and wait for the right additions via free agency. So, a short season due to a lock-out might just be exactly what Jordan and Co. are forecasting. If the rebuilding Cats are going to be really bad next year, let’s hope it’s only for 40 games or so.
POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?
Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
Despite reading through loads of articles and blog posts intended to justify last month’s Gerald Wallace trade, I haven’t been able to shake my emotional “gut” reaction about the whole thing. I’m still a little sick that it happened, and pretty disheartened by the way it all went down.
Gerald Wallace was the reason I got into the NBA. Yeah – I really liked the Hornets when I was a kid, but I didn’t really watch any pro or college ball through most of my later teenage years. After college, I moved back to the Charlotte area to take a job with an employer that happened to have great seats to the expansion Bobcats (at the old Coliseum building). I didn’t really know a thing about the state of the NBA, and I couldn’t have cared less. Emeka Okafor was billed as the top draw for the Charlotte Bobcats, but it was definitely more fun to watch Gerald Wallace. It became evident to me that the Bobcats were horrible, but they had a seriously entertaining player in Wallace. So, I was hooked pretty quickly and consider Crash to be the reason why I watched the Cats (leading to my unhealthy NBA obsession).
On Friday night, Gerald is set to step on the court at Time Warner Cable Arena for the first time as a visitor. I’ve got to be there to see it, however odd it may feel. Surely, other fans will show up ready to recognize Crash with their support. But that will likely be most of the noise generated by the home crowd during the game. The remaining Bobcats aren’t much to cheer about these days, and the Trailblazers are absolutely stacked (both Wallace and Brandon Roy are listed as reserves for Portland). Gerald has spoken to reporters and made it absolutely clear about how much he had wanted to stay in Charlotte. The Queen City has never had a player so loyal, yet the Bobcats leadership chose to ship Crash to the Northwest and live with the consequences.
I know that there are plenty of explanations of why Charlotte wanted to make that move, but it kind of feels like a load of excuses. When someone does something wrong, you always hear a bunch of excuses to justify it. Clearly, the Bobcats are not a better team without Gerald Wallace. Nor are they a more entertaining team without him. As a fan, watching the Cats without Crash just doesn’t feel right. Seeing Gerald enter the game, wearing the red and black of the Blazers, on Friday night will feel absolutely bizarre for me.
Yahoo! Sports has posted a report that the Charlotte Bobcats will waive reserve Point Guard Sherron Collins, in addition to Forwards Derrick Brown and Dominic McGuire.
The team is set to receive veteran guard Morris Peterson and Forward D.J. White from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for veteran Center Nazr Mohammed (who holds an expiring contract). With replacements arriving at their positions, the Bobcats will discard the young talents of Derrick Brown( Forward) and Sherron Collins (Guard). While Derrick Brown showed a few glimpses of ability, the other pair of Bobcats rarely fit into the team’s rotation. McGuire was valued to previous head coach Larry Brown, but had made little impact after the coaching change.
While Charlotte sent fan-favorite Gerald Wallace on to a winning club in Portland and Mohammed to a contender in OKC, the team is set to cast off Brown, Collins, and McGuire in order to make room for the load of unimpressive ballers. It’s unknown if the team will retain or has plans to resign any of the waived players in the event of a retirement or buy-out of newly-acquired Center Joel Pryzbilla.
So, the internet rumor reporters are spreading the word that the Charlotte Bobcats have nearly completed an agreement to trade Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trailblazers. The reports vary about what the Bobcats will receive in return.
We can only hope that the team will bring in some type of player that will outweigh the backlash that Jordan and Co. will face upon sending Wallace, an entertaining and respected fan-favorite, off to the Northwest.
The barrage of rumors this afternoon were not followed by any confirmation, and now we have it on good authority that the Portland/Charlotte talks for Gerald Wallace are, in fact, dead. The Bobcats will not be sending Wallace to Portland for Joel Pryzbilla’s expiring contract in a salary dump.
Around 6:00 PM ET, we began seeing Tweets from various reporters that the deal was “not done” and that others had “jumped the gun” in reporting it as nearly done. Then word spread that Gerald Wallace was present and accounted for at an autograph session the Bobcats held this evening for season ticket holders (DJ Complete breaking news AND rockin the party!), making it highly unlikely that anything was going down tonight.
And just after 9:00 PM ET tonight, Rick Bonnell posted that the talks are indeed dead. I’ll note again, as I have before here, that Bonnell is careful and conservative when it comes to addressing stories like this. If he says it’s dead, it’s dead.
The implication here is that GM Rod Higgins was authorized to shop Wallace, but that Michael Jordan nixed this particular trade as the talks got serious. Maybe that frustrates teams looking to deal with the Bobcats — remember how public and how far along the talks with the Raptors (Diaw/Calderon) were this offseason before the Cats pulled away? But if Jordan gets a reputation as Mr. Cold Feet for nixing bad trades, then so be it.
The fact remains that Wallace and/or Jackson and/or Diaw are available, and that the Bobcats are considering dumping salary. But apparently they won’t make a bad trade just to do so.
Seldom does a professional game come down to one single call by the referees, and never have I seen a more obvious instance of the referees influence on the outcome of a game than during Charlotte’s visit to Indiana on Wednesday night. The NBA officials sent a message to Stephen Jackson and erased the Bobcats comeback efforts in the fourth quarter when they decided to look the other way, shirk their responsibilities, and leave the floor without reviewing the final seconds of the contest. It was clear that Pacers guard Darren Collison made contact with Jackson’s arm as he attempted a long-range shot to win the game. Although one official was quick to blow an “inadvertent whistle” earlier in the 4th, no member of the officiating crew was willing to exert enough lung power to call this obvious foul on the player with the ball in the closing seconds.
Stephen Jackson has gotten a load of crap from the local writers about being too preoccupied with the officiating. The Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler had written a particularly silly piece about Jackson’s paranoia – only to be proven wrong by the officials clear dismissal of the foul that would have determined the outcome of the game (which also has Playoff position implications). Fowler’s article opens with “Grow Up, Stephen Jackson… The world is not out to get you.” With that storyline running, the Pacers game felt a lot like the WWE, actually.
Like most wrestling bad guys, “heels” as they call ‘em, Jack is known to blow up at the officials but he’s a hell of a player that can’t be overlooked. The fans know his character, and they expect to see him called for a technical foul or break the rules in someway. After Jackson’s tirade and ejection from the Boston game, the local media framed a tale in which the fans could turn on Jackson for his impulsive and argumentative nature. The basic logic of the argument against Jack is that he should not question the authority, because the authority is not to be questioned (of course, they would never fix a game or make preferential calls). The big flaw in this setup is that the NBA officials are out to get Stephen Jackson. Maybe not every one of them is after Jack, but it’s clear the majority of the refs would never give Jackson the kind of calls that they would give equally high-performing shooting guards in the league.
Would Paul Pierce have gotten the foul call against the Pacers? Would Dwyane Wade have gotten that call? Would Joe Johnson have gotten that call?
We all know that just about any other guy in the league would have gotten the foul call, and received free throws to close that game. The problem isn’t so much that the Bobcats were screwed against the Pacers, it’s that Stephen Jackson was screwed under the lights, in plain sight and the team just has to live with it.
After the game, Stephen Jackson said very little about the call, “I’ll let you look at it.”
Now under the story patterns of the WWE, this is when Jackson can undergo the “face turn” – making the once hated heel into the “babyface” good guy. It’s clear that he’s playing against the refs every night. He can step up and win games for the Bobcats despite the officials’ disrespect of him or he can focus on that disrespect and let it consume him. I think most wrestling fans would enjoy that he do both (win the title belt, and hit the ref with a chair). In the NBA, it seems that he’s only got one path available. Jackson will never win the respect or adoration that the refs have for Lebron, Kobe, or Wade. But, he can fight through the officiating and to win some games.
Quick Game Notes
The Bobcats got out to a quick 8-0 lead, but then handed the momentum to the Pacers who ran off 11 points and held the lead until the final period. For most of the game, Charlotte seemed to be in 2nd gear and waiting for the last 10 minutes to step it up. The Cats showed much more energy in the 4th and pulled within a score. Then, an “inadvertent” whistle punished the Bobcats for great defense (trapping Danny Granger in the corner) and the Pacers countered with four points in a single trip down court. The “inadvertent whistle” didn’t seem so much like an intentional call to assist Granger, just a really big, obvious error by the official. You could have felt sympathetic for such a screw up, had the last seconds of the game not been such an outright slap in the face to the rules of basketball. Still, the apparent injustice may have fueled the Bobcats as they continued to fight, closing on the Pacers until the final possession.
Gerald Wallace played strong throughout the game, and it was great to see Gerald Henderson showing assertiveness.
DJ Augustin is really showing moments of leadership on the floor. His time with Larry Brown had to end, but I think he’ll have gained something from it. I’m glad to see his new presence and improved performance. D.J. 2.0 is for real.
Eduardo Najera got serious minutes down the stretch, with the absence of Kwame Brown. Eddie hit a big three and hustled for crucial rebounds and smart defense. Najera has really seized the opportunity to contribute, and it’s nice for the Cats to have a veteran like this on the roster.
While Stephen Jackson was the team’s high scorer, he looked horrible until crunch time – where he was as clutch as usual.