Bobcats Extend Silas, Remove Interim Tag

Standard

Coach Silas & GM Rod Higgins (John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer)

The Bobcats announced Wednesday that they’ve removed the “interim” tag from coach Paul Silas and extended his contract through the 2011-12 season.  Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. From Mike Cranston:

The 67-year-old Silas brought a calming influence and a more uptempo, free-flowing style. He’s led the Bobcats to a 15-13 mark to get within 1 1/2 games of the Indiana Pacers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Silas believes the Bobcats have a “very good shot” at making the postseason for the second straight season.

“My main goal when I took this job was to change the atmosphere, change the attitude and make the team more confident,” Silas said. “I think we’ve begun to accomplish those goals.”

In a story posted by Cranston on Tuesday as news broke that the Bobcats and Silas were talking extension, Silas reveals that he had dealt with some scary medical issues in recent years:

The 6-foot-7 Silas, a bruising and elite rebounder who played 16 seasons in the NBA, first fell ill after a colonoscopy in 2008. He said doctors performed exploratory surgery to determine why he was feeling poorly, which led to blood clots in his lungs.

The clots then moved to the quadriceps muscle in his left leg.

“I would walk down steps and I would just fall down,” Silas said. “It was touch and go.”

Things got worse and Silas was hospitalized on Christmas Eve 2008 and sedated as doctors tried to solve his medical problems.

“I was in intensive care for about six weeks,” Silas said. “I was out. It was scary for my family. I don’t remember anything during that six-week period.”

Eventually blood thinners eliminated the blood clots and Silas slowly got back to his feet after later problems with his liver. After gaining a lot of weight in part due to the medication, he’s lost 50 pounds and feeling better daily. Doctors later determined the cause of his initial illness was being allergic to anesthesia.

Silas said it wasn’t until about a year ago that he felt good enough to coach.

Kind of a bizarre story, and explains why Silas was out of coaching those years.  Also helps to explain why the Bobcats were careful with initially putting the “interim” tag on Silas.  Clearly, the newly svelte Silas has been able to hold up amidst the travel and daily grind of coaching in the NBA.

Overall, it’s hard to question this move.  The Cats have clearly responded to Silas; he is well-regarded amongst the fanbase; his health appears in order; and (speculation alert) he likely comes at a very reasonable price — not an unimportant concern for the Bobcats.

Not extending him might have undermined the team’s tenuous recent improvement and confidence.  So does this mean the Bobcats are committed to this squad making a playoff run instead of blowing it up at the trade deadline?

It’s a reasonable inference, especially with the absence of trade chatter around the league and the seeming lack of buyers for contracts like Stephen Jackson’s, but not necessarily.  Silas has had a more dramatic effect on the younger players like DJ Augustin, Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson who would be part of a new core anyways.  I still wouldn’t rule out a Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw or Nazr Mohammed trade next week if a great deal comes along.

Lastly, Ron Green Jr. (via Rick Bonnell’s blog) delivers an endorsement by Silas of his son, Assistant Coach Stephen Silas:

“He’s at a point now where he could take over,” Silas said. “He’s helped me immensely. He’s been in this thing for 10 years now. His time is coming. He’ll just have to wait it out… I told him I’d be his assistant behind the bench.”

I’m wary of nepotism, but in certain businesses where the pool of candidates who can get their foot in the door is so limited, it’s unavoidable.  The younger Silas seems to be a good new-school foil for his father at this point.  He’s more of an Xs and Os guy, and is generally the one diagramming plays and schemes during timeouts.  If he’s also got his father’s gift for people skills, he could be an excellent candidate for a head-coaching job in the near future.

-Dr. E

The Argument for the Bobcats to Shed Paul Silas’ Interim Status to Become Head Honcho

Standard

“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!?” (Credit to The Simpsons)

If there’s one Simpsons quote to describe this 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats season, it’s probably that one, though it would fit better if it were reversed.

Regardless, this season for Charlotte fans has practically been a tale of two extremes. While during some games, they’ve looked like the worst team in the NBA, other nights they look like they’re a talented and competitive team.

Undoubtedly, the largest catalyst for this turnaround has been the coaching change from former head coach Larry Brown to interim head coach Paul Silas.

Larry Brown, though one of the greatest NBA head coaches of all-time, just was not effective as the head coach of the 2010-11 Bobcats. He made questionable lineup and substitution decisions and the team that was once known for swarming defense had acquiesced to a very mediocre status. The promising, much-anticipated season declined into a depressing elongated sigh of a year. The team began with a figurative stumble over their own shoelaces, starting the season with a 1-6 record. Then in December, the stumble became a full-fledged fall onto their face as the team dropped games by 20+ points to teams like Memphis, Philadelphia, Washington, not to mention the elite teams like Boston and Oklahoma City.

Change was necessary. Larry Brown was much more melancholy at post-game press conferences. He seemed to no longer enjoy coaching the games and often had a look of resignation plastered on his face.

That look of resignation shortly transformed into a real resignation, as Larry Brown and the Bobcats came to the decision as what was called a “mutual decision” (*raises single eyebrow*) for him to step down from his head coach position.

And so began the momentous organization transition. Paul Silas was hired as interim head coach with Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas (Paul’s son) and Ralph Lewis as assistant coaches.

The effect was nearly immediate. The Bobcats, though playing the dregs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, were playing more efficient on offense and defense. Interim head coach Silas had decided to try to develop the rotation’s young talent more than his predecessor and gave Gerald Henderson more playing time. Since Silas’ arrival, the Bobcats are 12-10, a respectable record (especially with two recent games against elite teams). More impressive was their 4-2 record on their recent road trip. Considering the Bobcats have suffered a couple of significant injuries during this time, Paul Silas’ record is all the more remarkable.

And that leads me to the point of this article: the Bobcats should offer Paul Silas a contract to become the official head coach and not just on the current interim basis.

I understand that the CBA negotiations complicate the situation, but at any rate, the Bobcats should get Silas to coach in the following seasons.

Just look at the change in the players’ attitudes from Larry Brown to now under Silas. D.J. Augustin has been unleashed, as he flourishes in a faster, more free-flowing offense. The players are more comfortable because Silas is encouraging the players to have more feedback so he can respond and teach them how to better themselves. Plus, look at the coaching staff that surrounds him. They’re doing an outstanding job helping Silas coach up the players. Just look at Charles Oakley’s work with Kwame Brown: about 9 points per game and 9 rebounds per game in the month of January. And that’s just one example; this team’s success is a testament to their coaching ability.

Another quality of Silas’ coaching that can’t be overlooked is his experience. Since his first year as a head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, Silas has compiled an impressive coaching record of 289-240, or about a 55% winning percentage. Winning 55% of your games is usually good enough to get in the playoffs as the 6th or 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Speaking of playoffs, Paul has also been to the playoffs four seasons, helping the Charlotte Hornets reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001. Don’t doubt the man’s experience.

On the flip side, if there was one main qualm I had about Larry Brown’s coaching style, it was his mule-like stubbornness when it came to playing veterans over the young guys. After all, it’s not often when a coach doesn’t play a first round draft pick more than 355 minutes in his rookie season without injury playing a large part in hindering their season (Henderson). And in this domain, Silas exceeds Brown by miles upon miles. Gerald Henderson already has 250 more minutes of playing time this season than he had all of last season. Even in this season alone, Henderson’s minutes per game under Larry Brown doubled in the Paul Silas era (11.78 to 22). And Henderson has responded, dropping double digit point totals in four of the last nine games. Silas has even managed to get Sherron Collins some experience lately, as well as Derrick Brown. Coach Silas inspires confidence in his young players which encourages their development as NBA players.

For those out there who think there’s someone better out there, who do you think is superior that’s also available? Jeff Van Gundy? Puh-leez. Jeff enjoys his cushy job at ESPN too much to leave it for a developing small-market team. Mike Brown? He’s basically Larry Brown Lite – strong defensive principles and very limited offensive coaching. I can’t think of any other coach with as much experience or versatility as Paul Silas.

How about we just ask D.J. Augustin? “I would love to see him be the permanent coach. He’s great for this team organization and the whole city.”

So there you have it. We’ve already seen the blurst of times. With Paul Silas at the helm, I think he gives the Bobcats their greatest shot at getting to the best of times.

Edit: More than just a few readers have brought up Silas’ age. I don’t see it as much of a factor. I’m not saying we wrap up Paul for the next ten years – just three or four. I haven’t heard any talk of Jerry Sloan ever stepping down, and he’s a year older than Silas. Also, George Karl has had some serious health concerns and he’s currently in negotiations with Denver to re-up his contract for another three years.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

Boris on the Rebound?

Standard

Boris Diaw Improves Under New Coach

At first blush, Boris Diaw is not the all-around good player he was once thought to be. After being traded to Charlotte in December of 2008, he flourished while putting up nice stats, including 15 ppg on 50% FG and 42% 3P with 5 apg and 6 rpg. But after that season, his play declined, partially due to the Stephen Jackson trade which eliminated some of his value. It seemed that with the pressure to score lifted, Diaw mentally shrugged at the idea of scoring and even being aggressive. He didn’t work as hard in the paint, taking about three fewer shots per game than the previous season but still taking the same number of three pointers per game despite dropping nearly a full ten percentage points in shots from downtown.

But most of all, he was inconsistent. However, this was still the Larry Brown era so as long as Boris played solid defense at just about any position, it didn’t matter. He was going to start every game, which he did. But while his defense was strong, his offense was, as mentioned above, inconsistent. His shooting was off and on and for the most part, he just seemed… out of it. Bobcats fans deemed him ‘nonchalant,’ which is an apt word to describe him. He’s not the Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace who basically wear their emotions on their sleeves. But then again, he doesn’t have to be. It’s just who he is. The fans who get upset that he doesn’t show emotion are also the ones who say things like, “Diaw doesn’t care.” While he doesn’t have the athleticism to have the chase-down blocks like Crash, nor the outward emotion, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, as some people infer. He just needed to play with more aggression.

Exit Larry Brown.

Enter Paul Silas and Charles Oakley.

When news broke about the new head coach and assistant coach, I was very interested to see what would happen to Diaw. Silas and Oakley both were very good power forwards (emphasis on the POWER) during their respective NBA careers with both averaging about 10 rebounds per game for their career. Obviously, Diaw, an unorthodox PF, doesn’t really fit that mold that Silas and Oak had and probably would prefer. While a trade seems like an obvious solution, I much preferred to see how the new coaching staff would develop Boris’ post play and rebounding. Although it is still early in Silas’ interim coaching tenure, I think 12 games are enough to make some analysis.

So far, I’ve seen marked improvement in Diaw’s aggressiveness on offense, specifically in the paint. He used to get the ball in the post, make a three quarter-assed attempt to muscle into the paint before kicking out to a teammate. Now he’s just so much better. He’s become more assertive and in the post, utilizing spin moves, his underrated baby hook and just plain using his behind and forcing himself into the pain. And yet, his scoring average in the Silas Era (S.E.) has not improved over the Larry Brown Era (L.B.E.). But that’s just fine! In the first six games in the S.E., Boris only had one game where he took more than 10 attempts from the field. Since then, he’s had five of six games with field goal attempts in double digits. While Boris’ FG% has marginally decreased in the S.E., I’m not concerned if he takes 10+ attempts. Why? Because he’s not taking shots from Augustin, so these extra attempts are Stephen Jackson’s or Gerald Wallace’s, which is fine by me as Diaw is more efficient on offense than either of them, unless Jackson has one of those games (COUGHnearfortypercentfg%COUGH). Oh, and I guess it’s worth noting that Diaw is getting to the line more often and hitting a MUCH better percentage of his free throws. Anyway, so color me tickled pink about Boris’ newfound aggression on offense.

As for defense Boris has been fine, as usual. Against Memphis, he helped hold Zach Randolph to 15 points on 17 attempts. His main struggles so far have been with David West and Carlos Boozer (pre-injury). Eh, that stuff doesn’t worry me too much. Boozer was averaging near 23 points anyway.

But where Boris has really improved since Silas and Oakley, et al. began working with the team, is rebounding, assists and limiting turnovers. Believe it or not, according to Queen City Hoops, the Bobcats pace has not sped up under Silas, as he had said at the beginning of his tenure. What this means is that Boris isn’t getting more rebounds just because there are more rebounds to go around. Diaw is averaging a little over a rebound more per game more than with LB as head coach. What’s more is that that extra rebound is mostly offensive rebounds, which means the Bobcats are getting another possession on offense. As for assists and turnovers, this is less of Boris’ development than Silas’ offense development from Brown’s anemic, umm… “non-defense.” Silas has allowed the young players to become comfortable, notably Augustin and Henderson, who are both getting more time than ever. Whereas Larry Brown would berate D.J. until a puddle of urine formed around his feet (kidding!), Silas is taking the “catch more flies with honey” approach. And while there are setbacks and stumbles along the way, they’re making much more progress than Larry Brown was. But I digress. Anyway, Silas has the team playing more efficiently – though that’s not saying much. Whoever gets an open look better take it, in short. So when Boris drives and pulls a second defender, he can easily find Augustin or someone else spotting up for a shot. Bingo, more assists. And because the players aren’t afraid to shoot anymore, the turnovers that result from extra, extra passes are phased out for the most part, eliminating a full turnover per game for Diaw.

And all this improvement is mostly coming from the last six games. As a Bobcats fan, of course I hope his play continues to get better, but more than that, I hope that this indicates how well Silas and Oakley are coaching and instructing players on improving the game’s fundamentals.

And here’s my spreadsheet (which is correct as of Jan. 19, 2011) so y’all know I’m not just blowing smoke:

Click once, and then again on the following page to enlarge

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

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

The LBs Were Just Too Much – a Reflection on Larry Brown’s Work in Charlotte

Standard

"I wonder if I can get a coach's discount on beer during this game." (AP Photo)

Being able to admit when you’re wrong is a difficult thing to do, especially when your genes conspire to make you stubborn, like mine do. I was a complete proponent of Larry Brown the past couple years – and that’s putting it very lightly. In retrospect, I think I put a twist on many of the Bobcats’ moves to give Larry Brown the benefit of the doubt. And now, I’m reaping what I sowed. The team is floundering with a future that will take franchise-altering moves to improve. Luckily, the Bobcats took a Roald Dahl BFG-sized step in the right direction by coming to a mutual decision with Larry Brown for the high profile coach to step down from his position (read: canned). I had been calling for this for a few weeks and now that it’s here, I’m left with some very mixed feelings that in the end make me feel like a complete fool.

The Bobcats had been stewing in mediocrity for years before Larry Brown but it seemed they were building each year until Sam Vincent pooped the bed. While outclassed in talent on nearly a nightly basis, the team consistently put forth their best effort while a city conceitedly ignored them.

It would take a huge splash to divert attention from Charlotte’s darling NFL franchise, the Panthers.

Then the Bobcats’ Managing Member of Basketball Operations and minority owner, Michael Jordan, would use his Carolina connections to make such a Louie Anderson-sized cannonball by signing the only coach to win an NBA Championship and an NCAA Championship, Larry Brown.

Without a doubt, it was the best hiring in the Bobcats’ short history. And many wondered how he would change this team that was not built for his style of basketball. It didn’t take long as the Bobcats drafted D.J. Augustin (at the behest of Brown) and traded a future first round pick for the draft pick that would become Alexis Ajinca. Then they traded Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and the Bobcats’ second round pick in 2010 for Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Sean Singletary. While I maintain that that trade is essentially a push, considering J. Rich’s defensive liabilities, the following trade relinquishing Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins for DeSagana Diop was an utter mistake, inadequately trying to fill a glaring need at the center with a bloated contract. They also rid themselves of Adam Morrison via a trade with the Lakers that gave up the mustachioed marauder and Shannon Brown for Vladimir Radmanovic.

And yet, Larry Brown pushed that 2008-2009 Bobcats team to a playoff push that would ultimately come up short, playing (and losing) six of their final eight games on the road due to Bob Johnson’s equestrian garbage (no offense equestrian readers!). The team was playing “The Right Way,” which consisted of strong defense and an offensive strategy of forgoing mid to long range jump shots in favor of slashing to rim for higher percentage shots and getting to the line for free throws.

Going into the next season, the Bobcats were looking to build on their near-miss off the playoffs from the previous season. They drafted Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown and then traded the Bobcats first-ever draft pick, Emeka Okafor to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler.

Entering the 2009-2010 season, the Bobcats stumbled out of the gate like a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson kids movie on opening weekend. Raja Bell suffered what would ultimately be a season-ending injury and the Bobcats were 3-7 with wins over a terrible Knicks team, the god-awful Nets and (somehow) the Hawks. Seeing a need for change, the Bobcats decided to trade Vladimir Radmanovic and Raja Bell for Stephen Jackson and Acie Law IV. The move would pay off in dividends as Stephen Jackson would help lead the Bobcats to their first playoff appearance. With Larry Brown’s defensive mind, he would also help form a dangerous defensive backcourt with Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton as the three would all finish in the top fifteen in steals that season. And before the trade deadline, the Bobcats completed two trades: 1) Acie Law IV, Flip Murray and a future first round pick for Tyrus Thomas; and 2) a future conditional second round pick for Theo Ratliff.

During that season especially, I was essentially a Larry Brown sycophant. As a small Jewish kid who loves basketball and particularly is fervent about the defensive side of the game, I was big on Larry Brown. He had helped make my favorite Bobcat an all-star and he had brought the Bobcats to the forefront of Charlotte’s mind after a disappointing Panthers season. He didn’t dance around questions or mince words like Panthers coach John Fox. Some of Charlotte’s skyscraper’s lit up orange at night for the playoffs. It seemed he was making Charlotte basketball-crazy once again, for which I have been waiting for years. I even made the below sign, choosing to ignore that I knew at least one of these players would be gone the following season.

OUR TOWN OUR TEAM

I think I'm most proud of the Boris Diaw in this poster. I really captured his essence.

But I was ignorant. And when I wasn’t ignorant, I was shrugging off the obviously horrible decisions.

Let’s discuss where the LB era went wrong.

Drafting D.J. Augustin – Don’t get me wrong, drafting Augustin wasn’t the problem, although drafting Brook Lopez would have been a much better decision. The problem is that Larry Brown made this draft pick and then in the years that followed, eroded the point guard’s confidence by holding Augustin back in his sophomore slump season.

Trading for the Pick and Then Drafting Alexis Ajinca – If you’re trying to win now and get to the playoffs ASAP, why would you trade for a pick to be used on Alexis Ajinca, a project if there ever was one? The guy was unheard of and raw. DeAndre Jordan would have been a much better pick. And we gave up a future first round pick for him. What became of Alexis Ajinca? We traded him for zilch. To sum up this move, the Bobcats traded the #16 overall pick in the 2010 draft for nothing in return. EVERYONE, FACEPALM NOW.

Trading For DeSagana Diop – This was just bad all around. The Bobcats sinned first by re-signing Matt Carroll in 2007 to a mind-boggling 6 year, $27 million deal. Then they remembered they had a huge defensive problem in the frontcourt so they decided to take on more salary by trading Carroll and Ryan Hollins for the Big Diopper. But don’t worry everyone, we got Matt Carroll back later, basically free of charge!

Trading Okafor – This trade could be a push but we got essentially nothing in return for Okafor. He was and still is one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, though a smidge undersized. The Bobcats traded him for Tyson Chandler. This wouldn’t have been bad if Chandler could have stayed healthy. However, he couldn’t and struggled with problems throughout the season, usually coming off the bench and often contributing more fouls than rebounds.

Refusing to Develop Young Talent – I hoped Larry Brown would change. I knew that he had the reputation of not playing his young players, but in his first year, he gave D.J. Augustin a good amount of playing time. Maybe he would abandon that trait while coaching the Bobcats? Alas, it was to no avail. The following year, Brown played Augustin sparingly and didn’t play Henderson much at all, opting for the world-beater, Stephen Graham. But even that was somewhat understandable – Graham had some defensive fire and played the Larry Brown slasher offense, although he was mistake-prone and had a very low ceiling. Mild frustration became mild anger for me the next year when developing rim-rocker Derrick Brown was not given much of any time off the bench, choosing to play little-known forward Dominic McGuire much more minutes. This move was not anticipated by anyone (outside of Larry Brown). A slightly above-average rebounder and defender with an anemic offense, McGuire was scraping his ceiling in the present while Derrick Brown was stuck on the bench. For those who don’t know, Derrick Brown is a high-flying forward that can get to the rim at will with some decent defense and a mediocre jump shot. It is important to note that while Derrick may never be an all-star, he has the potential to be a starter in the NBA within a few years – IF he is given time on the court to develop his game against the rest of the NBA.

So, combined with Larry Brown handicapping the Bobcats future by refusing to give the young players playing time to develop their game and eroding their confidence, Larry Brown’s coaching/GM style put the ball & chain on the organization by making cost-increasing moves that kills cap space and by trading away first round picks.

That said, he brought the Bobcats their first playoffs, which I’ll remember forever. Larry, thanks for the good times and hopefully in the future, I’ll forget the bad times. But I don’t count on that being any time soon.

- Cardboard Gerald

Feeling Nostalgic? Charlotte Considers Baron Davis

Standard

Baron Davis - Charlotte Hornets

Well, the Cats are in the course of another mid-season overhaul after the departure of Larry Brown. It looks like owner Michael Jordan had seen enough of the losing, and had been pushed to the limit of bickering with Brown about how to run this team. Now, the Bobcats have made the low-risk decision to give Paul Silas a chance to show us if he can still coach at an NBA level. We’re still not sure how the team will respond to the change or Silas’ style, but it’s clear that the team wasn’t going to play any better under Larry Brown. It should be nice for Jordan to have a grateful coach around for a while. I’m sure Silas will have his opinions, but it’s likely that he’ll work to say all the right things in order to get a real contract after this season.

Now, it looks like a few more changes are on the horizon for Charlotte basketball. Yahoo! Sports’ full-time “hater” and NBA columnist, Adrian Wojnarowski just typed and published a report about a potential trade between the Bobcats and the L.A. Clippers. So for all of you out there needing a little more nostalgia about the old (ex-Charlotte) Hornets, an early Christmas present might be coming to town – former fan-favorite, and always-injured point guard Baron Davis! Yep, Paul Silas reuniting with Baron Davis. Probably didn’t see that coming in 2010-2011, did you?

Wojnarowski’s  rumor goes like this – Bobcats will send promising offensive talent D.J. Augustin, misfit shooter Matt Carroll, and rarely-used backup center Desagana Diop to the Los Angeles Clippers. In return, the Los Angeles Clippers will send Baron Davis, an aging, injury-riddled point guard that is about a decade past his prime. Don’t get me wrong, here. I really loved watching Davis play in his last season in Golden State. He was dominant during their Playoff run, and so was J-Rich, and so was Stephen Jackson. But, that train has left and none of those players are what they were as a team several seasons back.

I’m excited about the coaching change for the team. Considering the state of things, I’m open to changes on the roster, too. But, taking on a player with a big contract at the end of his career seems like a big mistake. Nothing can go well in a trade between organizations as confused as the Clippers and the Bobcats. Two wrongs, can’t make a right. Can they?

-Mike

Breaking News: Larry Brown Steps Down

Standard

AP/Bob Leverone

Just prior to 4:00 PM ET, the Charlotte Bobcats announced that Larry Brown has stepped down as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.  Here are some initial links:

Official Press Release |  Letter to the fans

Sam Amick of AOL is reporting that the entire coaching staff has been let go.  Amick goes on to report that the new coach will be in place tomorrow.

This is a bit of a surprise.  I honestly thought that if Brown left, assistant coach Dave Hanners would get a chance as an interim coach.  I have no idea who will be stepping in.  Keep an eye out on this post and our Twitter feeds (Dr. E, ASChin, Cardboard Gerald) for updates and further discussion.

-Dr. E

UPDATE 5:00 PM: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com are reporting that former Hornets and Cavs coach (and current Charlotte resident) Paul Silas is the leading candidate to take over as coach of the Bobcats.  Former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, current Magic assistant/former Jordan rival Patrick Ewing, and current Pistons assistant Darrell Walker are also under consideration.

-Dr. E

Update 7:00 PM: And it’s official.  The Bobcats have named Paul Silas interim head coach.  Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Charles Oakley is likely to be added as an assistant coach.  Silas will be meeting with the media tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET and will have more details about the rest of his staff at that time.

Official Press Release re: Silas

-Dr. E