It’s Time to Hit the Turbo Button

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Nine bungling seasons and countless blowouts later, the Charlotte Bobcats have done nearly everything in their power to incite and enrage the few remaining loyal fans who’ve stuck with the team. Each regime has gotten their punches in – from Bob Johnson to Michael Jordan to Sam Vincent to Larry Brown – each blow more punishing than the last. The franchise’s sole purpose seems to – like some misanthropic Starship Enterprise – perpetually explore the boundaries of that infinite space called “rock bottom”.
I’m starting to wonder if it has ever occurred to anyone in the Bobcats’ front office that the very PURPOSE of professional sports is ENTERTAINMENT, which is an admittedly fuzzy concept to define, but thanks to a near decade of Bobcats ineptitude I sure as hell can tell you what entertainment IS NOT.

It Isn’t Cho’s Fault But It Is His Responsibility

Rich Cho knew he was walking into an ugly situation when he took the GM job two years ago. Larry Brown had strip-mined the team bare of assets in exchange for the franchise’s lone Playoff appearance – a four game beatdown at the hands of the Orlando Magic – after which the team was capped out with ZERO star prospects and low on draft picks: AKA an unmitigated disaster. Like any other progressive-minded GM, Cho’s first move was to break out the analytics playbook, understanding that in order to re-acquire precious assets like picks and prospects, he’d have to pull out the sledgehammer and start swinging. Nearly two years and over a hundred losses later, the roster, the brand and the fan-base have been successfully beaten to a pulp.
I won’t argue against the strategy, it was the only card left in the deck. Consider this: In a DEVESTATING fourteen month stretch from June of ’08 to July of ’09 an MJ-enabled Larry Brown traded a future first rounder for Alexis Ajinca, forced the team to take D.J. Augustin over All-Star Center Brook Lopez, traded cap space for Gana Diop and tossed another future first round pick to Chicago for free-agent-to-be Tyrus Thomas. After re-signing Thomas to a $40 million contract the following July, the capped out Cats had to salary dump future Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and former number five overall pick Raymond Felton. Today’s putrid, blowout-addicted squad was sown from these very seeds.

Still, Cho knew what he was getting into when he took the job and now after a truly EMBARRASSING, SOUL-CRUSHING stretch of bad basketball, it is his responsibility to turn it around.

The Turbo Button Is Not The Panic Button

First, let’s define “turning it around” as simply being competitive. Quantitatively, let’s say over 30 wins and a -3 point differential or better. That puts you in nearly every game. And yes, I know this goes against the “worst place to be is in the Not-tery” theory (©2011, me) but this is a special situation; call it franchise triage. The Bobcats should aim to have a winning home record next season and minimize blowouts (20 point losses or more) to less than eight.
The fans should feel as if EVERY TIME they attend a game at TWC or tune in via FOX Sports/League Pass the team has a LEGITIMATE SHOT at winning. Every single game. The organization owes this to the people who hand over their hard earned money and valuable time.
Entering the summer, Cho will have a small stash of first round picks, an attractive expiring contract and up to $20 million in cap space to play with: the equivalent of a full nitrous boost in Need for Speed or pocket Aces in Texas Hold ‘em. It’s what you’ve been waiting for: HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON.
Is there a chance Danny Ainge would trade Rajon Rondo for Kemba Walker, cap space and a Top 3 pick? HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON. Convinced that free agents Tyreke Evans or Al Jefferson are All-Stars? HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON. Do the Bulls want to salary dump Carlos Boozer or Luol Deng? As long as you can send back Ben Gordon, HIT THE FREAKIN’ TURBO BUTTON.
Will any of these guys get you a Championship? Outside of Rondo, probably not, but the Bobcats are so far from the Playoffs right now that the NBA Finals may as well take place in Middle Earth or Hogwarts. Remaining competitive while building a winner has worked for Houston and Indiana, there is no reason the same strategy can’t work for Charlotte.
I won’t go into my usual roster-bation manuevers until we get closer to the offseason. In the meantime, I can’t express enough how important it is for the franchise to regain a semblance of dignity. To be a joke is one thing but to be a stain on the city and the league? That may take decades to wash off if ever at all.
-ASChin

Dunlap’s Dilemma

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It’s late at night. Way too late to still be awake, but you just can’t sleep. These kind of nights are something of an addiction for you. You work harder than nearly anyone you’ve ever known, and that might just be the only reason you’ve got this job. You’ve let yourself dream about getting here. You should be proud of how far you’ve come. But that’s not you. You outwork your problems. There will never be an opportunity to grant yourself the rest you need.

You let the weight of your failures settle for the night, just details lost in the darkness. It’s time to rest, but there’s that sound. There’s always that sound. The steady, deliberate pace only gets louder and louder against the silence of the night. As if someone is turning the dial just to drive you mad –  Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

No Coach Dunlap, that’s not your favorite R. Kelly track looping in your mind. That’s your insubordinate, disrespectful, and arrogant offensive weapon trying to undermine your authority. His intentional disregard for your position only strikes harder each time the ball hits the hardwood court in your mind. No, it’s not going to stop. You can’t even make it stop. You question your abilities, you question your profession, and you question yourself. You’re powerless.

“You need to humble yourself.”

Those words resonate in your head. All you can do is close your eyes, undoubtably envious of Tyrus Thomas and the calm pond of bliss that ripples around through his skull.

-Mike

Reference Links:

Ben Gordon Incident – Adrien Wojnarowski

Tyrus Thomas Salary Info – HoopsHype.com


POLL : Most Overwhelmed Bobcats Rookie

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (35%, 57 Votes)
  • Jeff Taylor (11%, 18 Votes)
  • Mike Dunlap (51%, 82 Votes)
  • Jeff Adrien (3%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Bobcats Baseline Season 9 | Week 4 Recap

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Well, the word for the week is regression, as in regression to the mean.  The Bobcats started the week at a remarkable 7-5, having equalled last seasons’ win total in just 22 days.  But the impressive start was on a shaky foundation for a couple of important reasons.  One, the Cats had consistently been the beneficiaries on good fortune (OK, luck) in close games.  And two, the Bobcats had played the weakest schedule in the league.  Both luck in close games and strength of schedule tend to even out as the games pile up; hence the Cats were due to see their record come back down to earth.

So regress they did, dropping all three games this week against three likely playoff teams to fall to 7-8.  After getting blown out in Oklahoma City on Monday night, the Cats rebounded with better efforts in Atlanta and at home against the 76ers.  They hung around in the fourth quarter in both games, but didn’t get any of the breaks that had been going their way in the first few weeks of the season.

Three Thoughts on the Week

#1 – Finally Got To See Ben Gordon Do Ben Gordon Stuff

Gordon has had a choppy start to the season.  After a 34-point outburst against New Orleans early on, he missed a couple of games.  Then, since coming back he had a couple really quiet games.  But the past two have been pretty great.  Against Atlanta Wednesday night Gordon caught fire with 20 points on 5-7 3pt in the fourth quarter and almost singlehandedly kept the Bobcats within striking distance.  He had a similar, though less impressive, stint in the second quarter Friday night against the 76ers, with 11 points on 3-3 3pt.

Gordon’s on the downside of his career, so spurts like this will happen less frequently than we would like on this otherwise offensively limited Bobcats squad, but when he does catch fire it’s fun to watch.

#2 – Again, We Are Loving Jeff Taylor

Sorry for the repetition, as ASChin covered this in last week’s recap, but holy moly Jeff Taylor is looking like a steal.  His on-ball defense is as advertised, featuring an impressive combination of size, strength and quickness.  He’s fouling quite a bit, but I would expect that to improve over time as he goes around the league a few times, learning the tendencies of his opponents and the officials.

And his offense has been a nice bonus.  We knew he had a stellar senior year shooting the three at Vanderbilt, but there was concern that it may have been a little flukey, and whether it would translate out to the NBA line.  No worries, as Taylor’s hitting threes at a 40% clip, good for top 50 in the league overall and the second best among rookies (behind Kyle Singler).

Having someone on a second-round contract that can be a legitimate part of your rotation is a huge plus for any team, and something that hasn’t happened for the Bobcats until now (Bernard Robinson, Kyle Weaver anyone?).

TV play-by-play man Steve Martin referenced a moment from the little documentary on the Bobcats 2012 draft that has been showing that I’ve also recalled when watching Taylor.  In the Bobcats war room on draft day, they show Rich Cho taking a call from from another GM proposing a trade for the #31 pick.  You don’t quite get to hear all of the details, but what you do hear is Cho quickly reject the idea.  He’s polite enough, but there’s definitely a bit of “don’t be ridiculous” in his tone.  Cho knew he could get a player there, and he did.

# 3 – Signs Of Growth From Biz?

We all knew that Bismack Biyombo was a major project, particularly on the offensive end.  But there were times last season when he had such trouble doing basic things like catching and finishing in traffic that it became fair to wonder if he’d ever be able to play in crunch time in the league.  Fast forward to this year and I’m much less concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, Biyombo still has the occasional cringeworthy possession, but there have been more nice moments mixed in.  Plays that make you think “OK, he can do this.”  In the Philadelphia game in particular, the 76ers were religiously, almost embarrassingly, helping off of Biyombo.  (This can make you unplayable in crunch time.)  But credit to the Bobcats and Biyombo; they realized it and made the 76ers pay en route to a season high 14 points on 5-6 FG.

On one play a driving Gordon drew Biyombo’s man in addition to his own.  Biyombo slid to the perfect spot and Gordon whipped a pass to him.  This was the kind of pass that Biyombo routinely fumbles away, but this time he caught it and went straight up for the dunk.

In another moment from the same game, Evan Turner was mismatched on Biyombo in the post.  Yeah, Turner’s a wing, but he’s 6’7″ 220lb.  What’s important is that Biz confidently, purposefully, fluidly, and easily scored with a simple spin into a lefty lay-in.

The project appears to be coming along just fine.

–Dr. E 

 

 

Bobcats Big Changes – a New Coach and New Uniforms

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It’s been a few days since we’ve heard much from the Bobcats, but it looks like they’re ready to cough up some info about their upcoming season. While they’re tasked with determining how to best utilize the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, a couple of other jobs have kept the team busy for the summer.

First Up – a New Coach

After loads of rumors about high-profile or somewhat recognized names coming to Charlotte to take charge of this dreadful roster for next season, the Bobcats went and did something that no one saw coming. They hired Mike Dunlap. Like just about everyone else, I don’t know a thing about this guy. But, I can assume that he works cheap and he’s got patience for young guys that might not “play the right way.” It’s pretty clear that this is a cost-saving move, but there’s no reason that the Bobcats should pay top dollar for a head coach, when they’ve got a roster that’s closer to the D-League than the Playoffs. If Charlotte’s going to tank the 2013-14 season (which seems to be the plan), you can’t blame the team for rolling the dice on a guy with a little potential and could bring some new blood into the league.

The Bobcats are going to be loaded with young players, so a coach with an understanding of both the college and pro challenges should be helpful to the development of a lot of these guys. Let’s just hope that Tyrus Thomas doesn’t look to Mike Dunlap for tips on bulking up this summer.

Oh, and New Uniforms

New Charlotte Bobcats UniformsThe Bobcats or Cats just unveiled their new game uniforms. It’s not much of an impressive upgrade. The Charlotte Observer reported that Michael Jordan wanted some Carolina blue involved in the team’s palette. Can we credit him with slapping on some lettering of awkward proportions, applying a good deal of inconvenient negative spacing, and shortening the team’s nickname in order to improve the team’s brand and sell merchandise?

I definitely don’t see this as a step forward for the team’s image. How many times are they going to try to change their jerseys? It only makes me agree more with the grand rebrand scheme that fellow Baseliner A.S. Chin has suggested. In theory, we’re to believe that the Bobcats are trashing their roster, burning it to the ground so that they can build it back up with little tying them to past mistakes. Why wouldn’t the team do the same thing with their brand identity? The club is making a half-hearted effort to give it one more go as “Cats” and let folks fully detach from the organization’s name. Strategically, this looks like they’re dumping “Bobcats” and I can’t imagine anyone is gonna fall in love with this new “Cats” thing. So, what choice will the team have but to bring the buzz back? Teal, white, purple, and a cartoon bug with shaky wings. You’ve got to admit that these proposed Hornets uniforms look much better than what MJ & Co. just rolled out.

Quick Notes:

After analyzing the data and trying to ascertain just exactly how a team gets as bad as the Bobcats, I think I’ve found a breakthrough in understanding Charlotte’s issues. As it turns out, modern NBA teams are in love with a concept of a “Big Three.” If you happen to catch the NBA Finals, you might see that the Miami Heat have a “Big Three” made up of their most highly paid players – Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, & Chris Bosh. Many other teams like the Boston Celtics (Pierce, Garnett, Allen), the LA Lakers (Bryant, Gasol, Bynum), and the NY Knicks (Anthony, Stoudamire, Chandler) have used this template to collect and reward a core of their most talented players with the majority of their payroll. After a quick look at Hoops Hype’s salary info, it was evident that the Bobcats have a “Big Three” of their own – Corey Maggette, Gana Diop, & Tyrus Thomas. It can take a while to run the numbers, but you’ll find that Charlotte’s “Big Three” doesn’t seem to perform at the level of the league’s best teams with a comparably paid “Big Three.” I’m not fortune-teller, but it looks like this is going to cause problems for the Bobcats this coming season despite their high Draft pick.

-Mike

Stephen Jackson = STAK5, What?

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Stephen Jackson's Mixtapes

Okay, so I’m calling Time Out from all of the Draft Lottery hype today.

While reading through stories on the San Antonio Spurs, I found myself deep in this (pretty non-PC) article about ex-Bobcat, Stephen Jackson. In Bobcats history, Jack will clearly be remembered for spitting out top grade sound bites. But, this article enlightened me as to the musical prowess of ol’ Cap’n Jack.

Why had I not known about his alter-ego, STAK5?

Why did I not own (via MP3s) his mixtapes – Trill Mixes & What’s a Lockout?

Need to hear it for yourself? Get your fix here:

Trill Mixes – Stack5 / DJ Scream

What’s a Lockout?

I guess it kind of goes without saying, best of luck to the Bobcats tonight!

-Mike

Is All the Losing Worth It for the Bobcats?

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So what would be worth a record-settingly uncompetitive season of losing? As a fan, it’s really tough to justify why the Bobcats would be so terrible. The chance to select the next mega-talent in the 2012 Draft is nice. Freeing up some cash to sign one or two upper-tier free agents wouldn’t be so bad, either. Maybe, someone could argue that playing time for some of the Bobcats’ youngsters will  develop them into solid players down the line. It’s all kind of hypothetical, so let’s hope the Rich Cho Rehab Plan works out.

It’s All On Cho

After seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder absolutely dismantle the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, I can only dream that we see the Bobcats shine so bright on national television in the future. The Thunder are the success story, while the Sacramento Kings or Washington Wizards might show you the other side of the coin. Hopefully, Rich Cho’s involvement with the Thunder/Sonics right before they got it going will result in the same amazing kind of turnaround for Charlotte’s suffering franchise.

Ease the Pain

When it comes to free agency, we should just take two steps and jump straight to the point. Dwight Howard’s not coming. Deron Wiilliams wouldn’t be worth the trouble even if would join the club. No superstars are targeting the Queen City, but a load of mid-level talent could find a a club like the Bobcats a good place to show their skills if they can be sold on the team’s direction. Some role player types like Matt Barnes, OJ Mayo, or Marco Bellinelli might see the Cats as a good fit for their career if the team shows that they’re putting the right pieces into place. If the front office could pull the strings, they might even land a player like Nicolas Batum or Ersan Ilyasova that could breakout and veer toward All-Star status one day. So, rather than betting it all on the NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls over the next few years, a few smart steps in free agency could leave the Cats with a bit more control over their destiny.

Alternately, an argument could be made that a star player would be well worth this embarrassing season. Honestly, the Bobcats could really use some luck in this game. Despite their regular appearances in the Draft Lottery, Charlotte just can’t catch the big one. It’s a shame to think that Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Derrick Rose have all landed in the league since the Bobcats’ first tip in 2004, and Charlotte didn’t snag one of them. Will Kentucky’s Anthony Davis prove to be worth this embarrassing season? He’s putting on a show right now in the NCAA Final Four. As Bobcats fans, we’re probably all hoping to catch a legendary performance in Monday night’s Championship game. Could Davis suit up as a Bobcat, and play like the next Chris Bosh? Would that scenario make us all forget about how bad the Bobcats were this season? And if the Bobcats don’t get the coveted first pick, does any other player help to ease the pain? Davis’ teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Connecticut’s Andre Drummond wouldn’t be bad consolation prizes. Whoever the Bobcats might pick, the team will need him to be a guaranteed starter and a potential All-Star – someone that can sell jerseys and win games. That’s not so much to ask, right?

POLL : Does a Top Draft Pick Justify This Season?

  • Definitely Does (38%, 56 Votes)
  • No Way (34%, 50 Votes)
  • Hope So (28%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 149

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Bobcats Prepare as NBA Lockout Ends

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It’s over.

The NBA owners and players reached an agreement today that tenatively reopens the NBA’s $4 billion-a-year business. The season will begin with a tripleheader on Christmas day. The Bobcats could begin training as early as December 9th.

On nearly every count, the deal favors the owners, who had sought an eoverhaul all along. The players made significant concessions, including a reduction of up to $300 million year in salaries, $3 billion over the life of the agreement.

Read more in the New York Times.