THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS: Jordan’s Approach to Building a Winning Team in Charlotte

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misfits

THE PLAYERS (AKA THE MISFITS):

It starts with the city itself.  Once a shining example of the NBA’s ever-growing popularity in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Charlotte finds itself today as a middle aged divorcee six years into a rebound marriage, unsure if it was ever cut out for this pro basketball city thing to begin with.*

The team’s first All-Star and only remaining original member was a bargain bin castoff selected in the expansion draft.  Young Gerald Wallace was worth less to the Sacramento Kings than shedding $1 million from their bloated payroll.

Even though he is only one of a dozen or so current NBA players who can score twenty points a night while preventing his opponent from doing the same, Stephen Jackson was exiled from Golden State for what amounted to a $5 million expiring contract and a poor shooting, non-rebounding Eastern European caveman.

Once universally revered, hall of fame head coach Larry Brown arrived in Charlotte a tarnished brand.  In a League where head coaching vacancies are filled annually by the same retread Temp Agency, Brown had to practically reach out to an old friend in order to secure a job and begin rebuilding his reputation.

And finally there’s Jordan.  A man who could do no wrong on the court is now the man who can barely do anything right off of it.  Joining the names Ehlo and Russell in the MJ ethos are new ones like Kwame and Morrison.  For the first time in nearly 30 years, Michael Jordan has something to prove in the game of basketball.

A BRIEF, PAINFUL RECAP

Successful small market teams (OKC, San Antonio, Portland, Utah, Orlando) use the same formula and we all know it: BUILD THROUGH THE DRAFT.  Draft stars to cheap rookie deals, treat ‘em well, sign ‘em to big contracts before they hit free agency and keep drafting young talent and signing mid-level free agents to pair with them.  Rinse and repeat.

The Bobcats are currently the worst drafting franchise in the NBA.  It’s not even up for debate.  In six plus years of existence, not once has one of their draft picks sniffed an All-Star game – and the ‘Cats have had more lottery selections than anyone else in that span.  Indulge me for another brief and painful recap:

2004: Emeka Okafor.  GRADE: a solid double. Could have had more picks and taken Big Al or Iggy if Bob Johnson had a clue about running a business, “hmm, buy a pick from Phoenix for $2 million to draft Jefferson, Deng or Iguodala or build a brand new cable sports network from scratch?  What’s the main draw you ask?  Charlotte Bobcats basketball of course!  Brevin Knight every night!”

2005: Ray Felton/Crab Bread May.  GRADE: a sacrifice bunt. Felton a below average starter for a few years, May on his way to hosting Man vs. Food: EXTREME CARBS!
2006: Adam Morrison.  GRADE: whiff.
Not only a whiff but a McGwire Whiff.  The kind where the guy is on ‘roids and whiffs so hard that he blows out both knees in the process.  Embarrassing.
2007: Jason Richardson/Jared Dudley.  GRADE: RBI single. Could have been worse.  At least realized that they didn’t know how to draft and received a couple non-bust assets in return.

2008: Augustin/Ajinca.  GRADE: whiff. Not as bad as the Morrison knee blowout but a close second.  Passed on Brook Lopez and threw away a future first rounder in order to select Freedom Fries.  Jordan was on record as saying that the team sat out the 2010 draft because “Tyrus Thomas was our first round pick.”  No, Michael.  Alexis Ajinca is your 2010 first round pick.  Ugh.
2009: Henderson/Brown.  GRADE: promising single right up the gap.
Henderson looked good in some late season action and is at least athletic enough to belong in the League–although his complete lack of an outside shot scares me.  Derrick Brown has the Gerald Wallace “I’m not intellectually capable enough to realize I shouldn’t be any good” gene – and this is no insult to Crash, look at how the book-smarts have hampered Okatron 2000’s career.  Higher grade for this draft if LB actually plays them next year.
2010: Ajinca by proxy.  GRADE: Freedom whiff.

So there you go folks, somehow with all of this draft day carnage in their immediate past, the Charlotte Bobcats attained a winning record in 2009-2010 and stole the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.  So how in the hell did they do it?

GIVE US YOUR UNDER-PERFORMING & YOUR OVER-PAID

Nazr Mohammed, Tyson Chandler, Gana Diop, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw.  What’s the single thread that ties these players together?  Why, it’s the fact that their former teams handed them massive contracts and then immediately realized that they’d made a mistake.  “Oh crap, we just signed Joel Pryzbilla to a nine year $80 million contract.  Quick, get Jordan on the phone!”

So in a silly season which saw half of the League’s teams trade away wins for cap space, the Bobcats “philosophy” of taking on bad contracts to win now was just wacky enough to propel them into the postseason.  While other GMs plotted for future dynasties, Jordan mortgaged the farm on the more modest and attainable goal of simply making the Playoffs.  It worked.  The ‘Cats finished the season as one of the Association’s top 15 teams.

Could it be that MJ and crony Rod Higgins are sharking their peers by making fiscally questionable deals to upgrade the team’s talent pool?  Have the ‘Cats created a new “Freakonomics” meets “Moneyball” model that challenges the importance of the amateur draft and free agency?  Is Michael Jordan stealthily playing checkers while the rest of the League plays chess?  Or will all of these questionable contracts and draft day screw-ups eventually cripple the team, making future trades difficult and free agent additions impossible?**

If Jordan and Higgins are intent on foregoing the tried and true paradigm for small market success and continue with their merry spending ways, then I present to you, without further ado…

THE SUMMER OF 2010’s MISFIT TOY CANDIDATES:

What makes a Misfit Toy candidate?  Simple: you have to be way overpaid and way underperforming.  If you fit this description then I hope you like pulled pork BBQ ‘cause your probably coming to Carolina!

Ben Gordon 4 yrs: $47 million

Y’think Joey Dumars is just a tad bit regretful for signing a 6’3” sixth man shooting guard to a $60 million deal?  Gordon is way overpaid for his production but could be exactly what the doctor ordered on a team like the Bobcats: Electric bench and fourth quarter scoring.  The ‘Cats are desperate for it.  That said, Dumars is notoriously tough to trade with.  Wonder if a combination of Boris Diaw and Gerald Henderson might get this done.

Monta Ellis 4 yrs: $44 million

We’ve been speculating on this one for years.  Ellis hogs the ball and jacks up shots at an unprecedented rate.  Not good on a team with lots of offensive options like Golden State but could be an absolute godsend for the Bobcats, who spent the vast majority of last season spastically passing the ball around on offense like it was a live hand grenade.  Again, wonder if Diaw and Henderson or Chandler’s expiring could get this done.  The W’s are a mess in the front office right now, Higgins could potentially steal something else in return (pick, prospect).

Baron Davis 3yrs: $41 million

A blast from the past, a former home grown product entering the end of his career.  Still has the size and offensive firepower to occasionally dominate a game.  Couldn’t be any worse than Felton and is so overpaid that the ‘Cats could conceivably unload Diop’s longer deal in exchange.

Al Jefferson 3yrs: $42 million

Not sure exactly why Big Al is being shopped so fiercely this summer.  Who knows what goes on in the mind of David Kahn.  If the rest of League’s GMs are playing chess to MJ’s checkers, then Kahn is playing badminton.  Al would be a huge upgrade at the PF spot for the ‘Cats but not quite sure what the T’Wolves would want in exchange.  I’m praying that Kahn would ok a deal that would send out Jefferson and Ramon Sessions (Andre Miller: The Next Generation) for Tyson and Nazr’s expirings (plus a future first rounder).

Emeka Okafor: 4yrs, $52 million

Tied with two others on this list (see below) for the worst contract in the League.  Obviously, it was the Bobcats who signed him to it.  Was such a poor fit in New Orleans that Charlotte actually won the trade by taking back 6ppg/6rpg, semi-crippled Tyson Chandler in exchange.  Hate the contract but could live with ‘Mek’s 16 + 10 if the Hornets threw in Darren Collison.  Diop/Mohammed/Augustin for Okafor/Collison anybody?

Rashard Lewis: 3yrs, $65 million

Sole possession of 2nd Worst Contract in the League.  He’s paid over $20 million a year over the next three.  Yeah, you read that right.  Rashard should gift half his salary to Dwight Howard every season.  Without D-Ho backing him up in the lane, Lewis’s skinny frame and lack of defensive skills would make him an absolute liability.  Don’t think the Magic would trade him (they’re firmly in “go for broke” mode) but his offensive skills and outside shooting would fill a need for the ‘Cats.

Elton Brand: 3yrs, $51 million

Here we go, a good old fashioned back to the basket All-Star power forward.  Only problem is that Elton hasn’t been the same since an achilles injury derailed his career a few seasons ago.  He’s a round peg in a square hole with fast paced Philly but could regain dominance in Larry Brown’s grind it out half-court offense in Charlotte.  Would Diaw/Mohammed (expiring) be enough to get it done?

Hedu Turkoglu: 4yrs, $43 million

We’ve been hearing this rumor for a solid month now.  Hedu and Jack to Charlotte for Boris, Diop and D.J.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense mainly because Hedu can only play small forward, doesn’t defend or rebound well and is essentially not very good.  He’s basically Boris with a worse contract and poorer defense.  Jack and Ray Felton may as well be the same player.  Dud.  Oh and Hedu is one of the other “Worst Contract in the League”ers.  The other one?

Gilbert Arenas: 4yrs, $60 million

I’ve already written about this in length so I won’t rehash it here.  If MJ could swing a deal featuring Diop, Diaw and Mohammed for Gilbert and an asset (prospect or pick) then do it.  It’d be the biggest gamble in MJ’s tenure but he’s shown that he’s most definitely the gambling type.  An Arenas/JAX/CRASH/Tyrus/Chandler core could win 50 games this year as long as everybody stays relatively healthy.  The team would also retain the young talent on the roster and pick up either a pick or a young player like Javale McGee or Blatche from the Wiz for their troubles.

Allen Iverson: free agent.

We couldn’t leave out good old AI.  He’s a free agent and has declared himself ready take on the League again.  The dude has hit rock bottom.  If you’re gonna take a flyer on him then now is the time to do it.  If he would accept a smaller (possibly bench) role and play nice with his new teammates then I can’t think of a better way for him to end his career than with his old coach in the Queen City.  He’d also come cheap.  Think: Flip Murray Advanced.

IN CONCLUSION

Don’t be surprised if Jordan pulls off a deal for one of these misfits sometime between now and the end of next month.  MJ sat out the draft and one gets the sense that both he and Trader Larry are chomping at the bit to make yet another move for an overpriced toy in need of a new home.

Until then, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats fans…

-ASChin

*I find it ironic that throughout Charlotte’s twenty plus years of NBA basketball history the vast majority of the city’s successful players have come via trade or as castaways: Monster Mash, Eddie Jones, Mase, Vlade Two Packs, Easy E Campbell, P-Whipped Rice, Curry 1.0, Don’t Tell Me No Bogues, Crash and JAX.  Doesn’t that sort of represent how the city’s success was built as well?  Sure, there are some shining examples of homegrown talent but the vast majority of the Queen City’s brain pool came here from somewhere else looking for a new start.  Buffalo, Rochester, Jersey, Pittsburgh, WV, Ohio, represent BABY BABY!  UH!

**The good news is that the team drafts so poorly that they’ll never have to worry about re-signing their own talent on the open market.  “What’s that?  Raymond is an unrestricted free agent?  He might sign with another team?  Huh.  Anyways, so you’re telling me that a poached egg is actually boiled?  I always wondered how they did that…”

Why Is Everyone Hating on the Bobcats?

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stop hatin'

From the national media to the local press and back, it seems that everyone’s expectations are pathetically low for the Charlotte Bobcats as they enter the ’09-’10 NBA season.

[see also: ESPN The Magazine Eastern Conference Predictions | The Sporting News Season Preview| TSN's Shoals on the Bobcats "Mess"]

Am I missing something here?  Was there a secret meeting held somewhere deciding that all b-ball pundits reverse jinx the deepest, most talented squad in the Bobcats’ brief history?

Allow me a few points as to why the Bobcats are going to “BEAST IT” this year:

1. The team goes 2 deep at every position.

Gone are the days of depending on Jeff McInnis, Bernard Robinson, Adam Morrison and Melvin Ely to fill minutes.  As John Hollinger likes to point out in his team assessment, the Bobcats have historically relied upon a disproportionate number of “sub-replacement level” players to contribute.  By having players like McInnis, Morrison, Cartier Martin, and “Fat” Sean May sucking it up on the court, the ‘Cats have put themselves either in deeper holes or lost leads when they could have been staying in games.  That changes this year.

Even with Raja Bell out indefinitely with a gimp wrist, the ‘Cats can still go two deep at SG with Gerald Henderson and 6’4″ Flip Murray.  Henderson had a nice rookie preseason and Flip garnered some Sixth Man Award attention last year while playing with the Hawks.  Hardly Kareem Rush-caliber options in my opinion. Things get even better when Raja comes back into the mix.

At the Point, the Bobcats are set.  Raymond Felton, while not the world’s greatest PG, is a starter in the NBA and by all accounts a great leader.  His backup, D.J. Augustin, is probably going to take over the starting gig by midseason and looks like he could turn out to be a sort of a “Damon Stoudamire: EVOLUTION” when all is said and done.

The team’s best players start at the forward spots. Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace is the best forward combo the team has ever trotted out and you’d have to go back to the Anthony Mason/Glenn Rice combo in the late ’90s to find a more versatile, skilled frontcourt in Charlotte NBA history.  Unlike last season, when the ‘Cats had to basically add 10 points to the opponents’ score whenever the two starters went out, this season the team has real quality on the bench with veterans Vlad Radmanovic and Stephen Graham and youngsters Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca.  Last season ‘Lex was one of those sub-replacement guys.  This season?  If he keeps up what he started in the preseason, he might be a real contributor off the pine.  The rookie Brown also showed consistency and poise during the exhibitions season.  Either way, expect the Bobcats to go a reliable four deep at the forward position.

With all of the talk of salary dumps and downgrades at the Center spot, the ‘Cats still find themselves 3 deep in the middle.  While Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop aren’t players that you want starting for a playoff team, as 15 minute role players they are huge upgrades over the Primoz Brezecs, Jamaal Sampsons and Andre Brown’s of the world.  Nazr has looked good in the preseason and I find it hard to believe that Diop won’t eventually play his way into shape come December.  Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is healthy and should make up for some of Okafor’s lost offensive production with his extroverted exuberance and energy.

2. Larry Brown has history.  Don’t screw with history.

Brown has coached 11 NBA team during his career.  NEVER has one of those teams failed to make the Playoffs two years in a row.  I don’t think that this can be stated enough.  There is magic here. Maybe if that coaching factoid was something like “in 3 coaching jobs in the NBA, coach Jeff Van Gundy has never…” but no, we’re talking about ELEVEN.  Whatever Brown is doing it’s not accidental.  He’ll find a way to make this happen.  Watch and Learn.

3. The Sun Shines on a Dog’s Posterior Every Once and a While

It’s been five years.  The team has made so many poor business and personnel decisions and had so many bad breaks over the past half decade that their luck is bound to change, right?
This season, that luck will probably be reflected most in their draft selections.  Between 2005 and 2007, the team had 5 first round draft picks (#5, #13, #3, #8, #22) that, as of October of 2009, has resulted in the following players: Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Raymond Felton and Vlad Radmanovic.

Alright, I apologize.  I realize that after reading that last fact, you’re probably contemplating a cyanide tablet. But here’s the brightside: The last four draft picks look like keepers.  Augustin, Henderson and Brown look like at minimum second contract guys and Ajinca could either be a stud or a bust, we’re not quite sure.  This is an upgrade from last season, of course, when we were sure – that he sucked.

IN CONCLUSION:

I challenge the fans, the bloggers and the local media to expect more from this team going into next week’s Season Opener.  This is the best team that the organization has ever assembled with the best coach and the best talent.  Expect them to be good.  Very good.

-ASChin

Post-Iverson Fallout: 5 Reasons Why Bobcats Fans Should Put Down the Razorblades

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It seems like the darkest of times for Bobcats fans.

Are You Having Difficulty Coping with Being a Bobcats Fan?

Allen Iverson has agreed to join the Memphis Grizzlies, having been unable to come to terms with the Bobcats.
Meanwhile, rumors abound that the knuckle-headed Rashard McCants will be wearing a Charlotte uniform soon.
Fingers are still collectively being crossed in hopes that Tyson Chandler will be able play most of the upcoming season.
The team has yet to come to contract terms with Raymond Felton and a backup Power Forward has yet to be found.
Worse yet, Bob Johnson is still the team’s owner.

But I urge Bobcats fans to postpone the cutting and self-mutilation for at least a few more months because there is still some hope for the city of Charlotte’s 2nd NBA Franchise.

1. The Egos of Larry Brown & Michael Jordan.

MJ may well be a Hall of Shame evaluator of talent but he – along with Rod Higgins and Larry Brown – has shown a willingness to correct the roster in places where the roster needs correcting.
Last season it was an issue of passing and chemistry.  The Diaw & Bell trade remedied the problem spectacularly.
Thus far this off-season it is an issue of scoring.
While McCants would help a bit with this as an eighth or ninth-man role-player, the team still needs a starter who provides scoring for 40 minutes a night.
The Monta Ellis rumors are surfacing again and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if such a deal were to occur before training camp.
With MJ being inducted into the Hall of Fame and Coach Brown still remastering his degraded image, it is doubtful that either one of them wants to be made a League laughingstock anytime soon.
Expect a move to be made.

2. Boris Diaw & Gerald Wallace.

Regardless of what transactions occur in the next few weeks, the Bobcats find themselves currently with one of the best Forward combos in the League.  While neither player is currently an All-Star, they are both entering their primes as excellent complementary players: Wallace with his hustle, energy and defense; Diaw with his court-vision, high skill-set and underrated defense.
A scoring presence in the starting five would result in nothing but improvement from both of these players.

3. DJ Augustin & Gerald Henderson.

We’re not certain of what Henderson is going to provide at the NBA level but we know exactly what DJ is capable of.  The 2nd Team All-Rookie shot lights-out last season and looked much more comfortable than most players (including Raymond Felton in his rookie season) leading a team at the point during his first year.
The fact that the Bobcats have two young, talented backcourt players on rookie-scale contracts will go a long way in remedying the current salary cap horror that the team finds themselves trapped in.

4. Sean May and Adam Morrison have been ejected.

No one likes to wear an albatross of past mistakes.  Having both Morrison and May on the roster last season was a constant reminder to both management and the fans of what could have been and what should not have been.  Yes, taking on Vlad Radmanovic’s contract for an extra year is a sour pill (especially when the team could’ve simply chose not to extend Morrison’s Q.O. last summer – giving them plenty of cash to sign Iverson this summer) but what’s past is past and Radmanovic is still young enough and talented enough to offer some value as a 7th or 8th man.  Radman could be utilized this season as a type of Rashard Lewis hybrid-four, lessening the need for a traditional backup PF.
Sean May’s ceaseless “potential” will move cross-country to Sacramento, relieving the Bobcats of having to depend on one of the League’s most undependable.  Let casino owners like the Maloofs gamble on May’s potential while Larry Brown finds someone who can provide consistent NBA minutes.

5. The Raymond Felton contract situation.

The current stalemate between Felton and the Bobcats speaks to a new maturity in the front office.  The organization has finally come to its senses when evaluating its own players.  Raymond Felton is reportedly asking for $7 million per season.  Meanwhile, a similarly talented young player (Ramon Sessions) has signed a 4 year/$16 million contract with the T-Wolves.  There is hope here that the Bobcats can either sign Felton for a contract closer to the value of Sessions than what Raymond is asking for or bundle Raymond as part of a trade for a scorer.

The cliche is that it’s always darkest before the dawn and I can’t see why it’s not true for the Bobcats.

There is talent, there is a Hall of Fame coach, and there are two basketball legends who are undoubtably concerned with their legacies.  Expect something good and expect it soon.

-ASChin

Charlotte Bobcats: State of the Roster | Post Draft

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"With the 12th pick in the 2009 NBA DRAFT..." ©Bobcats.com

Prior to the 2004 NBA Draft, former Bobcats GM/Coach Bernie Bickerstaff managed to hoodwink the lowly Clippers into trading down from #2 to #4 in order for Charlotte to select Emeka Okafor.  That was the first and last great draft move made by the organization and ever since then Bobcats fans have been subjected to picks ranging from mediocre to mind-numbingly stupid.

A quick recap for the masochistic:

  • 2005: Needing a Point Guard, the Bobcats refuse to trade up with Portland (who practically begs Charlotte for the 5th and 13th selections in return for #3).  Portland eventually trades with Utah for a lesser package of draft choices.  Utah drafts Deron Williams at #3, New Orleans drafts Chris Paul at #4, Bobcats reach for Raymond Felton at #5.  Bickerstaff cites “needing bodies” as the reason for hanging on to the #13 selection and not trading up.  The #13 pick?  Sean “Crab Bread” May.
  • 2006: Bobcats have a decent foundation with Felton, Okafor and Wallace and are in need of a dynamic scoring wing player.  They own the #3 selection overall and have their choice of either future All-Star Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay.  They select a non-athletic white guy with a crappy mustache gimmick and diabetes.
  • 2007: Bobcats realize that they wiffed big with Adam Morrison a year earlier so get creative and ship their #8 selection (Brandon Wright) to Golden State for Jason Richardson.  Later in the first round, they draft hustling, former ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley.  Richardson and Dudley would later turn into a combination of Boris Diaw and Raja Bell.
  • 2008: With new coach Larry Brown, the Bobcats future looks brighter than ever.  With a foundation of Okafor, Felton, Wallace and Richardson, the team looks to add size in the frontcourt in order to contend for a playoff spot.  Stanford Center Brook Lopez is sliding and Charlotte is on the clock.  They select…5’10” PG DJ Augustin.  That’s ok, because they added size later by trading a future first round pick for a 7’1″ guy out of France who only out-weighs ‘Lil Augustin by 40 pounds.

So it might amaze the few people out there who are actually paying attention to all of this that the Bobcats just completed their first intelligent, completely rational, well-scouted and well-executed draft in five years.  WOO-HOO!!!

They didn’t royally screw it up as they did with May, Morrison or Ajinca.  They didn’t desperately reach for decent players like Felton or Augustin earlier in the lottery.  Nope, in Duke’s Gerald Henderson they picked a solid player from a great collegiate program who fits a position of need at exactly the spot they should have.  And to top it off, they added another great value pick (Xavier’s Derrick Brown) mid-way through the second round.  Props to MJ, Higgins and Coach Brown for killing it last night.  Your efforts are much appreciated.

STATE OF THE ROSTER

Now that we know who the picks are, it’s easier to see what the Bobcats will be focusing on once we hit free-agency in the next two weeks.

Starting Five

As of today, the starting lineup remains the same.  Henderson only starts if Raja goes down for any stretch.
Keep an eye out for anymore Dalembert rumors between now and next week.  If a Dalembert deal goes down, look forward to a summer of madness because this likely means that Emeka will be shipped off at some point to bring in a big-time scorer.

Second Unit | Post-Draft

Last night’s draft fills the backup SG position and potentially the backup PF position as well depending on how quickly Derrick Brown develops.  As of this writing, the Bobcats have a total of ten players under contract and two draft selections, leaving two roster spots available.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume that both Alexis Ajinca and Derrick Brown will spend the first couple of months of the season in the D-League so that would leave room for another veteran PF and veteran 3rd PG to be added sometime during Free Agency or Training Camp.

Even if the ‘Cats don’t make any major moves between now and the start of the season, the team is probably looking like a 38-42 win squad in a tougher Eastern Conference.  If they can find a way to add an offensive Alpha Dog either through a trade (Monta Ellis) or through free agency (Iverson), add another 4-6 wins to that total.

We’ll have more offseason coverage starting next week during our “Free Agency Preview.”

–ASChin

POLL : The Gerald Henderson Pick?

  • Great Draft Pick (26%, 6 Votes)
  • Decent Selection for #12 Pick (61%, 14 Votes)
  • Bad Pick - Duke Sucks (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Go Heels! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Derrick Brown Was A Better Pick (9%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 3

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Trades & Acquisitions

The All New, All Improved Bobcats

Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic

The Charlotte Bobcats made three major in-season trades during the ’08-’09 season involving eleven different players. Coupled with the free agent signings of Juwan Howard, Cartier Martin and assorted other D-Leaguers, Charlotte suited up a total of 24 players – most in the League. One anonymous fan commented on SI.com that “the Bobcats make more roster moves than a fantasy team.” It sure seemed that way.

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Charlotte Bobcats vs. Pacers 2/18/09

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1.  The Bobcats took care of the Pacers on Wednesday night, 103-94.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats go to 22-32 overall, and 16-14 at home.

2.  The Pacers were already playing without important cogs Mike Dunleavy and Jeff Foster due to injuries, then lost All-Star Danny Granger to a sprained foot early in the second quarter.  That, combined with center Roy Hibbert getting in early foul trouble, led to some strange lineups for the Pacers.

First of all, I was subjected to 18 minutes of Rasho Nesterovic — never pretty for Pacers fans, as evidenced by the pic above of Radman dunking on him.

But mostly, the Pacers went small.  Real small.  Like, there was a stretch when Travis Diener, TJ Ford, and Jarrett Jack were on the floor together.  (Gave me bad flashbacks to the time when LB put Singletary, DJ and Felton out there at the same time.)  Rounding out the “3 PG” lineup were Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy.  For some of the fourth quarter, Maceo Baston was essentially playing “center” for the Pacers.

The Bobcats mostly obliged with smallball, as Okafor only got 21 minutes, Diop 11 and Howard 1 — Radmanovic was the biggest guy on the court for the Bobcats for a time.  I would have liked to see what Okafor could have done with more minutes against Nesterovic and Murphy, but whatever…

3.  So despite the Pacers depleted squad and odd lineups, the Bobcats never definitively put the Pacers away.  It was kind of disappointing, really, but the season is a marathon and all.  It’s just that they could have been a lot sharper.

4.  Granger’s injury was awful quiet.  He started the game pretty hot, going 4-9 with 2 threes in 10 minutes, then left early in the second quarter.  Postgame he apparently said he felt something pop in his foot upon landing after a shot attempt and came out next break.  I certainly don’t remember the injury, and didn’t even realize he was gone until halfway through the third quarter when the Pacers were struggling to score.

Without him or Dunleavy, the Pacers were really punchless.  Here’s hoping the injury isn’t too bad.  (Then again, it’s almost Tanking Time for teams not in the playoff race — Taylor Griffin, anyone?)

5.  Gerald Wallace led the way for the Bobcats, with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.  He shot poorly from the field (5-17 FG, 0-3 3PT — gotta stop shooting those threes) but was aggressive taking the ball to the basket and money from the line (15-17 FT).

Anyone notice that Crash is shooting nearly 80% from the line this year?  Look at the improvement over his career — just a few years ago he was a 61% free throw shooter.  Pretty incredible, especially because it’s the same awkward, ugly, flat shot he’s always taken.  It’s just money this year.

6.  In his limited minutes (only 21), Okafor was pretty productive.  He had 12 points, swallowed up 12 boards, and also had 4 blocks.

7.  Radmanovic was great off the bench again, with 15 points (6-12 FG, 2-4 3PT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.  Watching him succeed in Morrison’s former role makes me fear for Adam’s basketball career.  Seriously, Radman was buried on the Lakers bench (albeit largely because of a personality conflict with the Zenmaster), but has stepped right in and played well.  So the opportunities were there for Morrison in this system; he was just unable to take advantage.

Unless Morrison’s ACL injuries is one of those ones that really takes 2 years to fully come back from, I won’t be surprised if he’s out of the league in a couple of years.  Maybe even sooner…

8.  DJ has not really played well since he returned from his abdominal strain.  He’s seemed tentative and a step slow.  He didn’t do much tonight, but somehow ended the game with a team-best +10 +/-.

9.  So after turning down the Blazers offer for Gerald Wallace on Wednesday afternoon, it’s looking like the Bobcats won’t be making a deal before Thursday’s deadline.  I still think there’s a chance that a team like Portland, Miami, Dallas or Orlando — looking to shore up their PG spot for the playoffs — will step up with a decent offer for Felton.  Especially Orlando, who got pasted by Chris Paul tonight, and have been unable to run many high pick-and-rolls with the likes of Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue at PG.

And the Bulls trade for John Salmons and Brad Miller is good news for the Bobcats, in the following indirect and convoluted way: I think it puts them at the top of the list for snagging that 8th playoff spot in the East (that is, if Milwaukee ever falls apart like everyone’s been waiting for them to do).  And if the Bulls get in that 8th spot, then the Bobcats don’t.  Which means we actually get to keep our draft pick this year.  Which we need.  Badly.  Even though this draft class isn’t very exciting.

10.  Next game is a biggie: Friday night at the Cable Box, hosting Supes and the Orlando Magic.  Hopefully we can pay them back for the one they stole on their floor Tuesday night.

-E

Bobcats Trade One Weirdo, Get Back Another Weirdo

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Morrison and Radman

It took a little more than three months for Larry Brown to trade Adam Morrison.  While the trade isn’t surprising (not many people around the League thought Morrison was a “Brown” type player), it should be noted that Coach did give it the old college try by repeatedly giving Adam opportunities to succeed.

EXHIBIT A: Training Camp.  Coach Brown talks Adam up in the local press saying that Adam is, “one of the smartest players” on the Bobcats roster with “an extremely high basketball IQ” and that he has come back from the torn ACL injury at an “amazing pace.”

EXHIBIT B: December trade.  Coach Brown approves a trade that sends Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins to Dallas for Gana Diop.  One of the immediate impacts of this trade is to eliminate the glut of one-dimensional bench “scorers” and allow for Morrison to be the prime scoring threat off of the pine.

EXHIBIT C: Gerald Wallace injury.  Coach Brown opts to insert a still struggling Morrison into the starting lineup after team captain Wallace goes down with a collapsed lung.  Morrison stays in the starting lineup until the day that he’s traded.

So, do you think a guy like — I don’t know — Linton Johnson got this many chances to succeed?  And how does Morrison respond after being given the opportunity to start for his injured comrade?  Apparently by grumbling privately to Coach Brown and asking to be traded.  Way to pull a Kerry Collins when your team needs you the most AMMO.  Dude!  Your coach was talking you up in the media as recently as last week saying that you were playing “much more confident in practice than in the games” — he was trying to tell you that you had the ability to succeed!!!

Well, maybe Morrison is just a troubled kid (remember, he’s only 24) who needs a change of scenery and now he’s closer to his roots back on the West Coast after the ‘Cats sent him (along with Shannon Brown) to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic.  How does the deal breakdown for the Bobcats?  Some initial thoughts:

1. MONEY.  By taking on the Radman, the Bobcats have added another $8 million to their payroll over the next two plus seasons and have ostensibly (barring any sort of miracle salary dump) taken themselves completely out of the SUPER HYPED Free Agent Summer of Love in 2010.  Rad’s contract has a player option in 2010 at $6.8 million where Morrison’s deal paying him around $5.3 will expire after next season. ADVANTAGE: LAKERS.

2. TALENT. So why exactly would you take on another $8mil for a guy (Radmanovic) who’s been averaging a 12.0 PER over the last three seasons???  Maybe it’s because the guy that you are trading (Morrison) has been setting a new standard for uselessness during the same time.  Morrison goes to the Lakers with a whopping 6.02 PER!!!!!  That’s even lower than his rookie campaign two years ago when he clocked in a dubious 7.91 (UGGHHH).  Also Radmanovic has actually had some success in the NBA in terms of starting for a conference champion team (’08 Lakers), in the running for Most Improved Player (in Seattle ’04) and has been in and around the League enough to figure out the pro game — something that Morrison has never shown.  Plus, having Morrison around is a CONSTANT reminder to Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson that they royally screwed up in the 2006 Draft.  I mean, every time the ‘Cats play against Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay, MJ must be going through one of those “THE WRONG SON DIED!!!!” melodramatic meltdowns when looking down the bench and seeing Chris Cornell with his head in his hands.  ADVANTAGE: BOBCATS.

3. PSYCHOLOGY.  As the headline says, the Bobcats traded away one weirdo for another one.  On one hand you have a troubled but genuinely good kid who is a long way from home, who came into the League with a lot of hype and who has valiantly continued his career in spite of having diabetes.  On the other hand you have what many around the League refer to as a “Space Cadet” or “My Favorite Martian” or “Caveman” who’s level of play changes more frequently than his hairstyle.  He forgets assignments, loses focus, lies about snowboarding accidents that occurred over an ALL STAR WEEKEND (??!!??) and is generally erratic.  Advantage Lakers, right?  No so fast.  Yeah, the Space Cadet is a nut-job but AT LEAST he’s going to give you some productivity every once an a while, which is — I’m very sad to admit– a lot more than the ‘Cats have received from a depressed Morrison in the last two and a half years.  ADVANTAGE: DRAW.

Bobcats fans should probably expect to see another deal or two go down before the trade deadline as Bonnell has mentioned in his latest blog entry.  There now seems a chance that the ‘Cats are even willing to trade DJ Augustin (perhaps packaged with Nazr) in exchange for a veteran backup PG and some shooting guard depth.  Will Charlotte make the playoffs this season?  The odds are slim given all of the trade chaos and the injuries to key players (Bell/Wallace/Augustin) but I’m liking the aggressiveness that Brown and Jordan are exhibiting and I haven’t given up all hope for a late season push into the post-season.

Things just get more interesting from here, ‘Cats fans…

-ASChin

THE STEVE JOBS – “OH, AND ONE MORE THING” COMMENT:

What’s up with the Bobcats getting all international all of a sudden.  How many foreign players did the Hornets ever employ in their 12+ seasons in Charlotte?  George Zidek?  Vlade Divac?  The ‘Cats are more multi-lingual than the Raptors these days.  Between Raja Bell, ‘Gana Diop, Boris Diaw, Alexis Ajinca and now Radman, Charlotte may as well be using the Spurs scouting department.  Bring on Ricky Rubio dammit!