Gerald Wallace Is Gone, Who’s To Blame?

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Three months into my self-imposed NBA exile and the Bobcats had to go and blow up the team. I just couldn’t resist. It’s time for a State of the Roster.

PART 1 – WHO’S TO BLAME?

To say that fan sentiment over the trade has skewed negative would be an understatement. Gerald Wallace, the player we all watched grow from an expansion draft castoff to best-kept-NBA-secret to All-Star has been gifted to Portland for what amounts to cap space and a couple of mid first round picks. On the surface this seems both cheap and defeatist. The Bobcats currently sit just a few games outside of the Eastern Conference’s top eight while resting comfortably below the League’s luxury tax line.

So who’s to blame for this sudden and seemingly irrational transaction?

THE SUSPECTS:

1. Larry Brown.

The former coach and (by his estimates) de facto GM kvetched incessantly until ownership added millions in dead weight veteran contracts then griped again when he couldn’t add any more. The moves overwhelmed a cash strapped organization as they found themselves well over the luxury tax line last summer. Owner Michael Jordan isn’t stupid, he looked at the past few seasons and came away with the conclusion that he’d most likely traded five plus years of fielding competitive teams for a one and done with the Orlando Magic.

2. Gana Diop & Matt Carroll.

No, these two weren’t involved in a clandestine operation to overthrow the co-captain; at least not directly. Jordan made a major mistake when he signed Carroll to a then six-year $27 million deal. MJ immediately realized the folly so decided to compound the problem by trading Carroll for Gana Diop’s $31 million albatross contract in a Larry Brown inspired transaction back in ’08.

In an ironic twist, the trade ended up handcuffing the team to the point where they had to take back Carroll’s contract from Dallas simply to get under the luxury tax this summer (see Dampier, Ericka). The two player’s salaries combined make up what the Bobcats would have owed Wallace over the next two seasons at around $10 million per. Ouch.

3. Stephen Jackson

Pretty simple here. The Bobcats’ two best guys played the same position. JAX isn’t getting any younger and the whipper-snappers playing NBA two guard these days aren’t getting any less athletic.

Less obvious is this Dirty Secret: Jackson is the better player, or at least the more indispensable one. More on this later.

4. Draft Picks

During the Larry Brown era, the Bobcats gave away first rounders like they were T-Wolves tickets. The team didn’t have a pick in last June’s draft and won’t have a first round selection in a potentially loaded 2012 class. By getting New Orleans’ first rounder in 2011 and Portland’s number one in 2013, the Bobcats will have four picks in the next three first rounds. Given that MJ hasn’t made a turrible pick since ’06, we can at least expect a few solid rotational players to come out of this stash.

5. Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson & Josh Howard

What do these guys have to do with any of this? All three were All-Star small forwards who rode their elite athleticism to big stats and massive contracts. The cautionary tale of course is that once these guys crept closer to the big three-oh, their games took a major downturn for the worse. Marion is the oldest and most relevant of the bunch at 32 but hasn’t played like “The Matrix” since “The Matrix” was a cool nickname to have. He’s now a role player on a veteran team.

Jordan must have looked at Gerald Wallace’s declining production, his age, the number of major injuries and the $22 million due and decided to gamble before it was too late to get anything of significance in return.

6. Bruce Bowen & Ray Allen

Defensive ace Bruce Bowen was ostensibly finished as an NBA player at age 36. Sharpshooting Ray Allen turns the same age in June yet played in last weekend’s All-Star game. Guys who make their name on defense (unless you’re a nimble 7-footer like Dikembe or Theo Ratliff) just don’t last as long which pretty much negates the whole “The Nuggs got way more for Carmelo” argument. As little as I care for Melo’s game or his trade demands, his skill set is much more suited for the long haul.

This brings us back to Suspect #3. Efficient, dependable scoring is worth its weight in gold in today’s NBA. Stephen Jackson, despite his flaws, is the only Bobcat currently worth scheming for on either side of the ball. He’s going for around twenty every night in a variety of ways and may even drop 40 on you if he gets hot. Last I checked, the team that scores the most points still wins games and that has never been more true than it is today.

7. Gerald Henderson

It’s only been a month but Henderson has shown enough in his short time as a rotation player to warrant an expansion of the experiment. The other Gerald has looked spectacular at times. His defense against Kobe, Allen and Derrick Rose allowed the Bobcats to notch some wins over the League’s elite. His jump shot has started to fall consistently and by putting up 18, 22 and 15 going into the All-Star Break, Henderson gave management enough confidence to move Wallace while making a sincere run at the postseason.

It’s not a bad gamble. Henderson is on a great rookie deal and looks to be at worst a quality starting two guard.

PART 2 – THE LONG RUN

FISCAL SANITY

If we look at the trade from a cap perspective, we can see that the Bobcats set themselves up for some incredible leverage going in to the offseason.

By shaving nearly $10 million from the payroll next year and the year after, Charlotte can now be a major player in free agency or in landing a star player via trade. The team will be around ten million under the cap come June and potentially in the mix for a max guy if they can find a team willing to absorb Boris Diaw’s expiring deal.

If MJ strikes out this summer, he’d still be in position the following summer of 2012 to try again.

STATE OF THE ROSTER

With the trade of Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats have made their philosophy public:

  • A. They feel that they have enough talent currently in place to challenge Philly, Indy and Milwaukee for one of the East’s bottom seeds.
  • B. At the same time, they are setting themselves up for a potential long-term jump into the top four.
  • C. That they have at least partially learned their lesson when it comes to throwing away future picks and cap space for a few extra wins in the present.

Moving forward, it’s best to look at the roster in the following tiers:

TIER I: PROTO-NUCLEUS

Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin

TIER II: PRODUCTIVE VETERAN TRADE CHIPS

Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw

TIER III: INTRIGUING PIECES

Shaun Livingston, Dante Cunningham, D.J. White

TIER IV: EVERYBODY ELSE

The Expiring and the Overpaid

WHAT TO EXPECT

Look for the ‘Cats to continue their run under Silas. If Tyrus Thomas returns on schedule and can get in game shape fast, then the Playoff odds go up. Same goes for Gerald Henderson. If he blossoms with the increased playing time and if the ‘Cats can get something out of either Cunningham or White then maybe they sneak into the postseason.

Realistically we can only measure the success of this trade once we see what Jordan & Rod Higgins are able to do with the picks and cap flexibility over the next couple of summers. Losing Wallace hurts now but we may look back and see that it’s the best deal MJ ever made.

Until Next Time…

Enjoy the Change Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

The Morning After

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Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer (Click to go to an Observer slideshow of Gerald Wallace: The Bobcat Years))

To recap, at yesterday’s trade deadline, the Bobcats:

  • Traded Gerald Wallace to the Trailblazers for Joel Pryzbilla, Sean Marks, Dante Cunningham, New Orleans’ 2011 1st round draft pick and the Trailblazers’ 2013 1st round draft pick.
  • Traded Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder for Morris Peterson and DJ White
  • Waived Derrick Brown, Sherron Collins and Dominic McGuire to make room on the roster.  It is anticipated that Marks and Peterson may eventually be waived as well.

The Wallace trade is admittedly hard to swallow.  It’s difficult to write about him without sounding histrionic.  Forget that he was the last “original Bobcat” from the inaugural season of the franchise or that he had become its “face”.  The face is superficial.  Wallace embodied the franchise.  Underappreciated, grinding away to overcome obstacles, sacrificing to offset shortcomings, eventually achieving a modicum of success and respect, only to reach a plateau that wasn’t high enough, Wallace’s arc mirrored the Bobcats’.

Though I’d been an advocate of rebuilding, I’d harbored a fantasy that that the Cats could keep Wallace around and do more of a “reboot” on the fly by moving Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and/or Mohammed.  Ultimately, it seems as if the market for those guys wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it might be.

And so faced with a bloody bottom line, a capped out roster, and no better than a 50% chance at making the playoffs this year (indeed, statistical models pegged it as more like 25%), Jordan made the difficult but correct decision to initiate a rebuild by trading the most beloved player on the team for the financial relief he needs and the draft picks this team requires for the future.

Pryzbilla’s contract expires after this season, so the Bobcats effectively saved the $21 million that would have been due Gerald Wallace over the following two season.  And most importantly, the Bobcats get two first round draft picks.  Yes, both of these picks will likely be mid-late first round.  Yes, the 2011 draft doesn’t look particularly strong.  Yes, the Hornets pick won’t come around until 2013.  And yes, Jordan’s history with the draft is anything but sterling.

But the object is to build a winner.  Building a winner in the NBA takes stars.  And small-market teams have only one way to get stars — the draft.

After trying the Larry Brown team-building model for a couple of years, it appears that Jordan has come around to the above reality.  It was time, folks.

Notes

  • So the Bobcats will get a look at two young power forwards.  Dante Cunningham is signed to a minimal deal through the rest of the season, while DJ White is on his rookie contract through next year, with a reasonable qualifying offer for the 2012-13 season.  White is the better prospect, having been selected late in the first round in the 2008 draft, but has been saddled with injuries and caught in a numbers game at the 4 spot in Oklahoma City when healthy.
  • Speculation now turns to the coming offseason and whether Stephen Jackson and/or Boris Diaw can/will be traded as the next step in the rebuild.  Frankly, now that Gerald Wallace is gone, I’d just as soon prefer the Cats go ahead and do that.
  • The Bobcats will face Wallace and the Trailblazers next Saturday, March 5th in Portland.  Then the following Friday, March 11th, the Cats will host Wallace and the Trailblazers here in Charlotte.

-Dr. E

POLL : What's your reaction to the Gerald Wallace trade?

  • Anger: Screw MJ, I'm done as a fan of this team! (14%, 23 Votes)
  • Sadness: I can't even talk about it... (16%, 26 Votes)
  • Acceptance: I'm disappointed, but understand. (51%, 83 Votes)
  • Shoulda been Jack. (19%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Bobcats To Cut Derrick Brown, and Teammates

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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.

Link: Yahoo! Sports Story on Bobcats Trades

Gerald Wallace Traded To Portland? Updated X3

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A Potential Dark Day In Bobcats History

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.

Links To The Rumors :

HoopsWorld.com Report

NBC Sports – ProBasketballTalk Story

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski Reports via Twitter

-Mike

UPDATE:

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.

-Dr. E

UPDATE #2:

Just as I was set to post this, here’s Mike Cranston via Twitter at 10:30 PM ET:

Talks between #Bobcats and #Blazers still ongoing. Lot of scenarios being discussed.

So much for “dead”.  Look for this to go right up to the deadline Thursday at 3:00 PM.

-Dr. E

UPDATE # 3

2/24/11  – 4:30pm EST

Well, it looks like this morning’s report from the Observer gave us some hope that Gerald Wallace wouldn’t be moved by the deadline.

Then, this news pops up on ESPN.com – Gerald Wallace to Blazers

-Mike

Bobcats Down Raptors; Trade Deadline Approaches

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DJ (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Bobcats handily defeated the Toronto Raptors, 114-101, on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  DJ Augustin led the way with 23 points and 8 assists/o turnovers, while Gerald Wallace relentlessly drove at Toronto’s weak interior defenders en route to 14-15 FTs and 20 points.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The Bobcats took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back.  They stretched the lead out to double digits in the second and nearly out to 20 briefly in the third.  A meaningless Raptors rally cut the Cats lead to 11 midway through the fourth before Gerald Wallace closed the door for good by getting to the line for 5-6 free throws on three consecutive possessions.

Boris Diaw had a strong game with 16 points (6-10 FG), 9 assists and 4 steals.  Gerald Henderson added 15 points (5-11 FG) and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.

The Raptors are pretty much a mess, and it starts with their best player.  7’0″ center Andrea Bargnani is about as soft as they come, and his nonexistent defensive ability and effort set the tone for the rest of the young team.

Notes

  • Stephen Jackson left the game in the third quarter after taking contact and landing awkwardly during a layup.  Jackson left the floor limping and holding his left hamstring.  He soon returned to the bench, but did not re-enter the game.  Jackson said after the game the injury was not a concern and that he could have played if called upon.
  • Nazr Mohammed did his best Kevin Love impression, grabbing 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Boris capped his night of with a breakaway dunk that was rather out of character.  After a feed from DJ, who had stolen the ball in the backcourt, Boris cocked it back behind his head before stuffing it two-handed.  I would say that he was inspired by this past weekend’s slam dunk contest, but you and I know there’s no way Boris watched that.
  • Weird line for Jerryd Bayless.  He was about as relentless going to the rack as Gerald Wallace and had 11-12 FT, but was 0-4 from the field.   He also tallied 10 assists, but gave up 4 turnovers and committed 4 fouls.
  • The Pacers took care of the Wiz tonight, so maintain their one game lead on the Bobcats for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Bobcats don’t play again until Friday night when they host the Kings at the Cable Box, 7 PM ET start.  The Kings will be without Tyreke Evans, who is missing time with plantar fasciitis, and Carl Landry, who is about to get traded to the Hornets for Marcus Thornton.

Thoughts at the Trade Deadline

Bonus trade deadline thoughts!  Now that the Carmelo deal is done, some other smaller deals are starting to go down.  The deadline is at 3 PM ET on Thursday.  Several sources have indicated that the Bobcats have been active on the phones.

But Paul Silas has been quoted both Monday and Tuesday as saying that he doesn’t think the Bobcats will be making a trade; his quote from Tuesday made it sound as if the Bobcats had only received ludicrous proposals from other teams: “We’re not just going to give people away and that’s what most teams want you to do.”

That’s basically code for: “You know who we’ve got on the block.  We’re ready to deal, but you’re going to have to step your offer up.”

And while I agree that the Bobcats should only trade Gerald Wallace if they get a Godfather offer, and should be pretty picky about giving Boris Diaw up, I wouldn’t be as choosy about a Stephen Jackson trade.  I’d jump on a mix of an expiring contract and a draft pick in a heartbeat, but that’s probably not happening.

Whatever the case, despite Silas’s proclamation that “nothing’s happening”, expect to hear the Bobcats continue to come up in deadline buzz over the next day and half.

-Dr. E

POLL : What should the Bobcats do at the trade deadline?

  • Trade Gerald Wallace (23%, 12 Votes)
  • Trade Boris Diaw (17%, 9 Votes)
  • Trade Stephen Jackson (34%, 18 Votes)
  • Stand pat and make a playoff push (26%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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The Emergence of Gerald Henderson

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Gerald Henderson (Photo Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

One of the primary knocks against the Charlotte Bobcats has been the lack of young talent on the roster.  The Bobcats draft history is littered with busts that will not be rehashed again here.  The lack of success in the draft has forced the Cats to rely on trading for players with considerable baggage (Stephen Jackson, Tyrus Thomas) and signing third tier free agents (Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire).

But since the coaching change from Larry Brown to Paul Silas, Charlotte’s recent drafts are looking a little better.  The improvement of DJ Augustin immediately after the arrival of Silas was well noted (though DJ has slumped recently as opponents have adjusted and he’s dealt with a wrist injury). But an even newer development has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson, the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.

Buried Under Larry Brown

Henderson played little his rookie year and showed little when he did.  But if you looked hard enough, you could see some strengths: driving/slashing/finishing and defense, both on-ball on the perimeter and help from the weakside.

This season, Henderson was on a roller coaster for the 28 games that Larry Brown coached — he played regularly to start the season, but then found himself in Brown’s doghouse and didn’t get off the bench for 14 straight games from mid-November to mid-December.  Henderson did make his way back into the rotation for a few games during Brown’s last days in December.

Here are Henderson’s per game numbers and shooting percentages for the 14 games he did play in under Brown this season:

  • 11.6 mpg  |   2.6 ppg  |  37.5 fg%  |  58.3 ft%  |  1.5 rpg

Nothing worth writing about, but again there were flashes of his strengths with no team-killing weaknesses to speak of, which made it all the more frustrating that he was in the doghouse instead of on the court getting the “royal jelly”.

Emerging Under Paul Silas

At the All-Star break, Paul Silas has now coached 28 games and has played Gerald Henderson in all 28.  Henderson has been increasingly productive over this time.  Let’s break up those games into three chunks and look at the trends (unfortunately, 28 is not evenly divisible by three, so I’m splitting it into the first 10, second 9 and third 9 games).

First 10 games – Henderson immediately sees increased playing time and responds:

  • 21.9 mpg  |   6.6 ppg  |  46.7 fg%  |  66.7 ft%  |  2.9 rpg

Second 9 games — Henderson increasingly becomes a legitimate option on the offensive end.  He goes from averaging 6 shots per game to just under 8 and maintains his field goal percentage.

  • 21.8 mpg  |   8.2 ppg  |  44.2 fg% |  73.3 ft%  |  3.0 rpg

Last 9 games (which conveniently coincides with February, meaning I didn’t have to tally these numbers myself, thanks to Basketball-Reference.com’s monthly splits) — the whole reason for this article.

  • 23.4 mpg  |  11.4 ppg  |  51.5 fg%  |  78.0 ft%  | 4.1 rpg

In the 9 games thus far in February, Gerald Henderson has increased his shooting to 51.5% from the field and 78.0% from the free throw line.  He’s  averaging 11.4 points per game, which projects to 17.5 points per 36 minutes.  With DJ Augustin slumping, Stephen Jackson frequently more engaged with the refs than with the opponent, and Boris Diaw fading in and out of relevance as he is wont to do, there have been nights when it’s felt like Henderson’s been the second best offensive option.

Scouting Gerald Henderson

Henderson’s offensive game is limited, but fairly polished, and certainly evolving.  His two greatest strengths are his mid-range jumper and his driving/slashing ability.  He readily hits the mid-range jumper curling off of down screens, but also strokes it nicely off the dribble moving to his right. Here are some great examples from the January 20th win over the 76ers that Henderson played a huge role in:

Henderson is also blessed with a quick first step to his right (ask Kobe Bryant, who was victimized a couple times in the Bobcats recent win over the Lakers) and above-average leaping ability and strength once he gets to the rim.  He gets a fair amount of dunks and layups and trips to the free throw line.  Here’s an example (stick around for the Gerald Wallace alley-oop, too):

Henderson lacks range out the the three-point line, and doesn’t have much of an iso/one-on-one/post-up game — these are both areas that can be developed.  His ballhandling is OK for a 2-guard, but it’s not good enough that you’ll ever see him slide over to the point like some 2s can.

Defensively, Henderson is very good.  He’s quick with his feet and strong, making him an solid on-ball perimeter defender.  Here’s a great example from the January 18th win over the Bulls.  Watch the whole highlight package and note how many times Derrick Rose abuses DJ Augustin. With the Bulls down one with a chance to win at the end, Silas inserts Henderson in the game specifically to check Rose.  Watch Henderson hound Rose on the last play, forcing him out into taking a fading, off-balance, 22-footer that he misses.  Aren’t many people can do this to Derrick Rose:

And if you do get a half-step around Henderson, please remember the aforementioned leaping ability:

82games.com only has their advanced stats updated through the January 19th games this year, but even without the last month in the sample, Henderson’s defense shines through.  With Henderson on the court, Bobcats opponents average 102.4 points per 100 possessions — with Henderson OFF the court, opponents average 108.1 points per 100 possessions.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but compare it to Stephen Jackson, starting and playing ahead of Henderson.  With Jack on the court, Bobcats opponents average 109.4 points per 100 possessions; with Jack OFF the court they average 100.0 points per 100 possessions.  Wrong direction for Jack. This particular statistic deserves more attention as the season goes on and the numbers are updated.

So, What Does This Mean?

As I’ve said many times in this space before, nothing is more important to a small-market/low-revenue franchise’s overall success than drafting well. Big market teams in desirable locations can afford to botch drafts, then save themselves with A-list free agent signings and forced trades (see: Miami Heat, New York Knicks, etc.).  But when a team like the Bobcats has a productive player on a rookie-scale contract, it’s something of an equalizer.  It gives you a fighting chance.  It also gives you flexibility.

As the trading deadline approaches, the Bobcats (currently one game out of the 8th playoff spot in the East) will undoubtedly be listening to proposals involving Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and possibly even Nazr Mohammed.  Contending teams like Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles will be looking for a veteran piece to put them over the top in their championship drive.

From the Bobcats perspective, you have to look at those guys and ask:  Whose game is declining (especially if their contract is still inclining)?  Who’s not fitting in, either from an Xs-and-Os or a chemistry standpoint?  And, who has a backup that’s starting to push them for playing time?

Stephen Jackson is the answer to a lot of those questions (so is Boris Diaw, but that’s for another day).

Now in fairness, Jackson’s offense isn’t overtly declining, and it’s still vital for the Bobcats from and Xs-and-Os standpoint.  He’s a volume shooter with range to the three-point line, a good post-up/isolation game and a barely-still-there ability to attack the basket.  He’s also got the swagger to be the go-to guy for a team that otherwise doesn’t have one.

But Jackson’s defense is almost certainly on the decline (if it ever was very good, I’m not sure). Chemistry-wise, his preoccupation with the referees is a huge negative.  There aren’t any stats for this, and credit the rest of the Bobcats for not ever publicly throwing Jackson under the bus, but there’s no way it doesn’t affect the morale/chemistry of this team.

It also hurts from a sheer basketball perspective at times — not just when Jackson is ejected early in games as he has twice this season — but also when he doesn’t get back on defense 2-3 times per game because he’s engaged with a referee about a perceived missed call (which may be partially reflected in those team defensive statistics).  Likewise, that stuff undoubtedly affects how the referees officiate the rest of the team to a (hopefully) limited extent.

And most importantly, Gerald Henderson’s play has improved to the point that he’s no longer just a valid reserve who deserves some time because he was highly drafted — he’s legitimately contributing to this team’s recent strong play and is beginning to push Stephen Jackson for playing time.  To not notice or act on this nascent trend while there may be an opportunity to trade Jackson and the two more years and $20 million left on his contract would be a significant misstep for the Bobcats.

And yes, I fully agree that trading Jackson and his offense might be a nail in the coffin for the Bobcats’ playoff chances this season.  But there are already a few nails in that coffin (Hollinger’s playoff odds gives the Cats only a 28% chance of making it in anyways) and the trade would be more about the future.

Besides, are two home playoff dates in the course of a sweep by Boston or Miami this spring really worth that much anyways?  And if they are, who’s to say that the Bobcats wouldn’t have just as good a shot with some further improvement from Henderson and whatever the trade might bring back?

Henderson’s recent emergence behooves us to consider this.

Notes

  • Strange thing I learned while writing this article: According to Wikipedia, neither this Gerald Henderson, nor his father, Gerald Henderson, Sr. are actually named Gerald.  Both are named Jerome McKinley Henderson.  Weird, right?
  • Funny thing I learned while writing this article: When you type S-t-e-p-h-e-n J-a-c-k into Google, the third thing to be suggested (after “Stephen Jackson” and “Stephen Jackson bobcats”) is: “Stephen Jackson ejected”.  If that doesn’t say it all…
  • I used some great stats websites in the course of writing this: 82games.com, Basketball-Reference.com and HoopData.com are all invaluable resources.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Extend Silas, Remove Interim Tag

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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