Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 1)

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Chapter I: Diagnosis

First Number of Interest: $680,000.

It’s the number you get when you take the Bobcats $69.24 million in salaries for the ’09-’10 season and subtract it from last year’s $69.92 million luxury tax threshold.  Six hundred and eighty K.  That’s approximately how close the Bobcats came to paying the luxury tax last season.  I say approximately as I’m basing the figures on Hoopshype’s excellent salary database — a database that doesn’t included Derrick Brown’s two year rookie contract.  (For the sake of this column, I’m estimating his cap figure to be equal to Milwaukee’s Jodie Meeks, drafted one spot behind Brown in last year’s second round.)

Second Number of Interest: $1.6 million.

That’s how much NBA teams are expecting to come off the cap next year.  You read that right, the Salary Cap will shrink next year and with it the luxury tax threshold.  According to ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan, the tax line will lower to around $68 million in ’10-’11 which would put the Bobcats at less than $8 million under the tax threshold before re-signing starting PG Raymond Felton (unrestricted), PF Tyrus Thomas (restricted) or valuable role players Stephen Graham and Theo Ratliff (click chart to see a larger image).

BobcatsCurrentCapSituation

Looking at next year’s salary commitments, three things are glaringly obvious:

1. THE CENTERS OF ATTENTION

The Bobcats have $27.5 million (roughly half of their cap space) committed to the center position and the last time I checked, none of those guys were named Howard, Duncan, Ming or Gasol.  Years of poor financial decision making have finally caught up: overpaying Emeka Okafor when they didn’t have to (Chandler), overpaying Matt Carroll when they didn’t have to (Diop) and bailing out Joe Dumars with the expiring contracts of Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec (Mohammed).
THE BAD NEWS: With the a possible lockout on the way in 2011, none of these guys are moveable unless the team is willing to take on another equally bad (if not worse) contract in return.
THE GOOD NEWS: Over $19 million will come off of the books for good in the summer of 2011 if the ‘Cats just hold tight and let Mohammed and Chandler play through their contracts.
Somebody take Larry Brown’s mobile phone privileges away pronto!

2. TYRUS THOMAS AND THE POISON PILL

The Bobcats didn’t send Chicago a future first round pick just to rent Tyrus Thomas for three months.  The intention was always to retain him for at least another season but given the Bobcats’ cap situation that might not be so simple.  As a restricted free agent, Thomas could command a salary north of the $6.2 million qualifying offer he’s due based on his rookie deal.  A team intrigued by Thomas’ potential and armed with enough cap space could offer Tyrus big money up front, signing Thomas to the dreaded “poison pill offer sheet” (see Milsap, Paul) during the summer.  Such a contract could offer Thomas $8 million in year one, $6 million in year two and only $4 million in year three.  The Bobcats would have the right to match but in doing so would essentially be “luxury-taxed-out,” unable to sign any other players (including a starting PG) without paying the dollar for dollar tax penalty — which is something Michael Jordan has repeatedly said that he will not do.  With so many teams flush with cap space this summer, the Tyrus Situation could get tricky.  Watch out for it.

3. WHO’S THE POINT?

Ray Felton is the best point guard available in a weak PG free agency class.  Again, it is entirely possible that a team flush with cap space could offer him $18 million or more over three years and in that situation the ‘Cats would have to fold.
Doubt that the team would let it’s starting point guard walk this summer?  The organization fiercely pursued a T.J. Ford trade during February’s trade deadline and weren’t even close to coming to terms on a long-term offer with Felton’s agent last summer.  If Raymond was a better shooter from outside and could finish with a little more consistency inside (not to mention stay in front of Jameer Nelson) maybe the team would go out of it’s way to sign him but I just can’t foresee it happening.  The ‘Cats will most likely have to acquire a starting PG via trade or from the free agency discount rack.

Yes, Bobcats fans, your team is in a major salary cap quagmire.

To further complicate the issue, the Bobcats can’t afford to simply allow their free-agents to walk and replace them with low-cost scrubs or cheap rookies.  The team doesn’t have any draft picks (instead they have Alexis Ajinca) and from a business perspective, the organization must improve their on-court product (or at least repeat last year’s success) in order to expand fan support and capitalize on their inaugural Playoff run.

TEAM NEEDS:

The Bobcats head into the summer with three major needs:

STARTING POINT GUARD
D.J. Augustin is clearly not ready to start and the Bobcats are too capped out to pay Raymond Felton market value.  They’ll need to make a trade or find an undervalued bargain replacement in Free Agency (see Blake, Steve).

LOW POST SCORING/REBOUNDING
Boris Diaw has a few low post moves but plays mostly on the perimeter and doesn’t concern himself very much with the art of rebounding.  Tyrus Thomas (if he’s re-signed) is a solid rebounder but has limited abilities as a post scorer.  The team will need to either trade for or sign a traditional low-post power forward to team with Thomas or Diaw.

CONSISTENT PERIMETER SCORING/SHOOTING
Larry Hughes turned out to be an inconsistent version of Flip Murray.  Sure, Hughes was a better defender but what the Bobcats really needed was offense from the bench.  Murray has said that he’d happily return to Charlotte next season.  If the ‘Cats could bring him back for a similarly low priced deal next season, they should.

THE PRESCRIPTION:

So how does a Capped-Out team retain talent and, dare I say it, even improve heading into next season?

Part II: Prescription A (Simple and Clean) — Coming Soon
Part III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart) — Coming Soon

-ASChin

Tyrus Thomas Trade: Further Analysis

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On a wild NBA Trade Deadline Day, the Charlotte Bobcats swung a deal to get the elusive athletic power forward that Larry Brown has been pining for all season.

The Cats have obtained Tyrus Thomas from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Ronald “Flip” Murray, Acie Law, and a future first round pick.

I touched on Thomas in an earlier post; the knock on him is immaturity/lack of consistency.  More specifically, Thomas is infamous for “mental lapses.”  This makes him an interesting match with Larry Brown, who demands near-perfection and is a stickler for detail.

Most players in a Larry Brown system take awhile to “get it,” going through a process of assimilating everything before eventually settling back down and really showing improvement.  However, not all players respond, so this will either be the best thing that happened to Tyrus Thomas or a spectacular disappointment.

If Thomas does work out, it will be interesting to see what happens with Boris Diaw.  As we’ve watched Boris since he’s been a Bobcat, it’s clear that he’s struggled this season while playing with Steven Jackson.  Last year, prior to Jackson’s arrival, more of the offense ran through Diaw as he was able to utilize his “point-forward” skills.

Could Thomas eventually start, allowing Boris to move to the bench as a sixth man?  It’s not a perfect solution to the Jackson/Diaw conundrum, as Jack plays so many minutes that it’s inevitable that Diaw will play with him some.  But this way you could maximize the time that Diaw is on the court with the offense running through him, and not Jack.

Furthermore, we’ll be watching to see what happens with Thomas in the offseason (and Diaw, for that matter).  The Cats will be in pretty much the same boat with Thomas as they were with Raymond Felton this past offseason.  Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent, which means any other team will be able to offer him a contract starting at a qualifying offer of $6.2 million.  The Cats would then have a right to match.

But even with all the cap space out there, would any team in their right mind offer Thomas a contract for that much?  Might the Bobcats be able to sign him to a more reasonable deal instead?

Here’s looking forward to seeing Thomas in action for the first time soon; we don’t have any confirmation yet, but one would assume that the Cats will be trying to get Thomas suited up for Friday night’s tilt with the the Cavs.

That’s enough about Thomas for now, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Cats gave up to get him:

Acie Law

Acie Law was thrown in to the Stephen Jackson trade to make salaries match and because Larry Brown is perpetually auditioning “third point guards.”  However, Law had already been a bust in Atlanta, wasn’t getting any playing time in Golden State, and couldn’t break into the Bobcats rotation either.

The few moments that Law did get off the bench were primarily garbage time; even then he looked hopelessly overmatched.  His shot wasn’t falling, he didn’t seem quick enough, and didn’t show any real confidence or “game-managing” ability.

The one significant chance that Law got was in a December matchup against the Knicks in NYC.  Down 2 with seconds left, Law was inexplicably inserted into the game.  Furthermore, the play was drawn up for Law to get the ball on the final play — he took it coast-to-coast and forced up a layup that never really had a chance and was easily swatted away by Danilo Galinari to seal the Knicks win.

I would be willing to bet that Law will be out of the league and playing overseas next year.  He’s just not skilled or athletic enough to make it in the Association.

For Chicago, he simply represents a $2 million expiring contract as they clear room to make a splash in the Lebron/D-Wade/Bosh/Joe Johnson free agency sweepstakes this summer.

Ronald “Flip” Murray

Flip is the definition of a journeyman in the NBA.  The Bulls will mark Flip’s 8th NBA team in 8 years.  It isn’t exactly clear why this hired gun can’t stick anywhere or get a long-term contract.  Offensively, he’s an above-average, sweet-shooting, somewhat undersized 2-guard.  Though ballhandling and distributing are not his strengths, he can slide down to the point in a pinch.  This is how he’s been able to carve out a career in the league.

Defensively, he’s below average, due to his size and lack of elite quickness and athleticism.  This fact probably comes the closest to answering why Flip has, and will continue to have, a journeyman’s career.

Flip was signed to a bargain 1-year $1.9 million deal by the Bobcats prior to the season and was a good fit.  After sitting out several games to start the season, Flip joined the lineup and frequently provided a much-needed scoring punch off the bench.

He is currently averaging 9.9 points per game — exactly his career average, too — but is not shooting as high of a percentage as he had in the past.  Nonetheless, he will be missed.  While the Bobcats blogosphere is undoubtedly hopeful that DJ will step up and Gerald Henderson might even see some playing time, the safe bet is probably on Steven Graham filling in for the bulk of Flip’s minutes.

Ultimately, he was included in the trade from the Bulls’ perspective because he is on a one-year/expiring deal, but Flip will probably play an important role for the Bulls the rest of the season.  Remember, Chicago traded away John Salmons for more cap relief, so they have a hole at the 2-guard spot.

The Future First-Round Pick

This one is probably the hardest to part with.  As we’ve said over and over here at the Baseline, the best way for a small-market team to jump-start a run at a championship is to hit a home run with a first round pick (the Spurs and Tim Duncan are probably the best example, here).

But under Larry Brown, the Bobcats are clearly going about business another way.  And with Michael Jordan’s disastrous track record at making draft selections, maybe it’s a good pre-emptive strike to trade away picks for young veterans anyways.

Let’s remember a few things, though.  First, the Bobcats already owe a first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves; second, you cannot trade away your first round pick in consecutive years and third, it’s not yet clear if there are any further conditions on the pick used in today’s trade.

The initial pick we have to give up was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the summer of 2008 (for their #20 pick in that draft, which we used on Alexis Ajinca — that’s a whole other story); the Nuggets have since moved it in another deal and it now is the property of the T-Wolves.

The pick is protected somewhat; last year it was protected if it was in the lottery, so we got to use it on Gerald Henderson.  This year it is only protected if it’s even higher, like a top 8 or 10 pick (Note: not exactly sure on that).  Whatever the case, barring a total collapse by the Cats, it looks like our first round pick this year will be the property of the T-Wolves.

So, given the rule about not trading away your first round picks in consecutive years, the earliest that the Bulls will get our pick in exchange for Ty Thomas will be 2012.  That’s a little scary, as Larry Brown will probably be gone by then, and who knows what the roster will look like.  It’s entirely conceivable that the Cats could return to the lottery by then and desperately need some help in the draft.

UPDATE: No sooner than I posted this and sat down for some dinner does Rick Bonnell come through to confirm that the future first-round pick owed to the Bulls for is indeed protected.  The exact nature of the protection is still unclear, but it is assumed to be similar to the protection that is attached to the pick that we currently owe to the T-Wolves (the exact nature of which is also unclear, but whatever…).

-Dr. E


POLL : TYRUS THOMAS TRADE REACTIONS

  • Great Deal for Cats
    (82%, 102 Votes)
  • Better Deal for Bulls
    (5%, 6 Votes)
  • Not Worth 1st Round Pick
    (13%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 124

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(D-League) All-Star Out With Torn Ligament

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The Maine Red Claws have just had their top big man shelved due to a torn ligament in his thumb (or pincer claw) and the Bobcats have now lost even more on their investment.

Those hoping to see Ajinca “beast it” on the low block this season will have to wait a bit longer. With the exception of rookie Derrick Brown, Coach Larry Brown has honored his reputation of keeping youngsters on the bench. Therefore, signs of Ajinca’s progress have been available only in the slim garbage time minutes he received before December. Since the team sent the second year forward/center to their D-League affiliate in Maine, reports have slowly surfaced of Ajinca’s improved play and recent selection to the D-League All Star squad.  Unfortunately, Alexis has hit a big obstacle at what could  be a pivotal point in his NBA career.

Before the team’s departure for their current West Coast trip, the coach and GM openly admitted their need for a backup to power forward Boris Diaw. Most would assume that the team would have finally called up Freedom Fries from the D-League to give it a shot.  At last, everyone would have had a chance to see if this guy had been able to develop a NBA-ready game or not. This latest injury put that evaluation on hold.

Since the day following the 2008 NBA Draft, Bobcats fans, followers, and apologists have been watching to see some glimmer of justification for the selection of Alexis Ajinca late in the first round. Charlotte used a pick, acquired from Denver just days earlier, for this obscure and phenomenally lanky Frenchman. Did they have some type of insider knowledge on this guy or was he simply the consolation prize after Indiana’s selection of Roy Hibbert?

The team expects Ajinca to miss at least six weeks following surgery to repair the damage in his thumb. The extent of the injury will not be fully known until he undergoes the procedure. It can be expected that the training staff will use this recovery period to create experimental protein shakes and improve on the strength of Alexis’ lower body. Additionally, the team will likely ban him from doing anything but singing while his friends play Rock Band.

MORE TEAM NEWS:

The Bobcats take on the Los Angeles Lakers tonight, looking to keep the streak alive against the reigning champs. In case you didn’t know, the Cats have won 3 straight in LA and 6 of the last 7 matchups. More:  NBA.com Preview | Charlotte Observer Report : Gerald Wallace could miss tonight’s game.

ESPN has just posted a report that the Bobcats sale will be finalized by the end of March. It appears that George Postolos (formerly with the Rockets organization) has submitted an offer to Robert Johnson and Michael Jordan’s group of investors has until the end of this month to match the offer.


POLL : What Should The Bobcats Do With Ajinca?

  • Bring Him Back to CLT
    (30%, 28 Votes)
  • Keep in the D-League
    (16%, 15 Votes)
  • Drop Him In a Trade
    (28%, 26 Votes)
  • Send Him to Bojangles
    (26%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 94

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Grading the Roster: The Centers

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Tyson Chandler ©Kent Smith/NBA

As Larry Fine, er, Brown and the other Stooges have once again tweaked the Charlotte Bobcats roster mid-season, I found it to be the perfect time to introduce our semi-regular “Grading the Roster” column here at Bobcats Baseline.  We’ll go down the roster position by position to objectively see where the team stands in the talent department.
Grades are handed out based on: Current Production, Past Production, Potential Production, Contract Value and Trade-ability.

  • A = Super-Star/All-Star/Franchise Player
  • B = Highly Productive Player/Exceptional Value for Production/High Potential
  • C = Average Performing Player/Solid Player Overpaid for Value
  • D = Under-Performing Player/Terrible Contract
  • F = Poor Performing Player/Cap-Killing Contract

Bobcat Centers:

Tyson Chandler

PROS: Potential Talent, Near Expiring Contract
Once he gets into game shape and figures out what Larry Brown wants him to do, Chandler could be one of the more dominant defensive centers in the League.  Tyson could also opt out of his contract this summer, freeing up around $12 million in payroll next season but even if that doesn’t happen the Bobcats are only on the hook for next season when Chandler will become expiring contract trade bait.
CONS: Slow on the Up-take, History of Injuries, Bloated Contract
Will Chandler be able to figure it out this year?  And will he be able to work back into game shape before going down with another injury?  Thus far this season Tyson has been an undeniable liability on both ends of the court.  He picks up early fouls and (not surprisingly) makes us yearn for the comparatively sublime offensive repertoire of Emeka Okafor.  Also, at $11.7 million this season and $12.7 million next, Tyson Chandler might very well be (pound-for-pound) one of the most overpaid player in the League.
CONCLUSION:
Unmistakably talented but limited starter needs to crank it up a notch or two soon.  Ultimate insult: People are openly pining for Larry Brown to bench him for Nazr Mohammed.  Who saw that one coming?
GRADE: C+

Nazr Mohammed

PROS: Quality Veteran Backup Center, Near Expiring Contract
One of the few pleasant surprises thus far, Nazr Mohammed has regained his pre-2008 form, returning to his role of “Professional Basketball Player” and contributing quality minutes in the paint for a team desperately in need of some low-post offense.  Nazr’s 18.35 PER is first amongst the team’s veterans and his game averages of 5ppg/3.5rpg/1bpg almost equal the output of starter Tyson Chandler even though Nazr plays less than half as many minutes at just over 11 per.  Even better, Mohammed’s bloated mid-level contract comes off the books during the summer of 2011, so there’ll be plenty of chances of unloading him to a contender especially if he keeps this level of play up.
CONS: Bloated Contract, Age, Defense
If Nazr was on a rookie scale contract and about 10 years younger, we’d be hailing him as the future of the franchise.  Unfortunately that’s not the case.  Mohammed is playing on a bloated full mid-level deal and at age 32, he’s pretty much hit his peak.
CONCLUSION:
In an Ideal world, Nazr would be playing the role of veteran backup center on a grind-it-out half court contender like Dallas or Atlanta.  In his current role with the Bobcats he can provide a little low post offense for 12-15 minutes a game and then be dangled as an expiring deal next season.
GRADE: C+

Alexis Ajinca

PROS: Exceptional Skill and Athleticism at the position, Shows promise in stretches, Rookie-Scale Contract
Larry Brown saw enough in Alexis Ajinca to trade away a future first round selection for young frenchman during the 2008 NBA Draft so it’s a little confusing as to why Brown refuses to play him, especially now that Lex has seemed to figure a few things out.  During the ’08-’09 campaign it looked as though Ajinca might become the very worst draft selection in a short but steady history of bad draft selections by the Charlotte Bobcats.  In just 24 minutes in the team’s first 10 games, Ajinca has already doubled his PER from last season and looks much more natural and confident on the floor than he did just a year ago.  Props to both Alexis and Coach Brown for the improvement.  Now all Brown has to do is actually play him.
CONS: Victim of Circumstance
If Ajinca was an early second round pick in 2008 instead of a late first rounder, the whole story changes.  Ajinca is a project, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, Brown erroneously decided to swap a future first round selection for him and given the way that the Bobcats have been playing recently that pick may end up being a high lottery selection in a strong draft.  Ouch.
GRADE: B-

Gana Diop

PROS: Big body who can play defense when in shape, None
CONS: Not in shape, Perhaps the League’s Worst Contract, Offensively Offensive
Wow.  For those who don’t remember, it was only 9 months ago that Larry Brown begged the front office to make a trade for the lumbering Senegalese import.  Brown refused to play Mohammed and believed Diop to be a defensive presence on par with starting center Emeka Okafor.  Diop played ok last spring but thus far this season has been limited to chatting with Alexis Ajinca in French on the sidelines and being labeled “Black Shrek” by Bobcats Baseline readers.
CONCLUSION:
Larry Brown needs to understand the financial implications of not playing Gana Diop.  In today’s NBA it’s okay to make a mistake and pay a 7th or 8th man the full mid-level because the player is at the very least contributing and is showcasing himself nightly as an NBA caliber player.  Gana Diop is currently the team’s 14th man.  The Bobcats are paying him $6 million dollars this season with an 8% raise every year until 2013.  To put this into perspective.  Kids who started high school this past Fall will have graduated and gone off to college by the time Diop comes off the books.  My advice to those kids?  Skip university and put yourself through an intense Yao Ming-type growth hormone therapy followed by an extreme version of the leg-lengthening operation Ethan Hawke underwent in Gattaca.  This should put you roughly in the height range of an NBA center.  Pain preventing you from moving laterally or vertically?  So what, somebody will be dumb enough to sign you to a 5-year $40 deal.
GRADE: F-

NEXT UP: The Forwards

-ASChin

Bobcats Go From Bad To Worse In Detroit

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Pistons, 11/11/09

Quick Thoughts

The Charlotte Bobcats get blown out on the second night of a back-to-back in Detroit on Wednesday night, 98-75.  AP recap here, box score here.  I wasn’t able to watch live; had to DVR and watch late, so was already planning on keeping my comments short.  That’s a good thing, because this was a joke of a performance.

Second night of a back-to-back notwithstanding, this kind of effort is unacceptable.  Facing a revamped Pistons roster that was without holdovers Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince due to injury, the Bobcats hung in through the first 16 minutes, but fell apart soon after.  Then came an epically bad third quarter in which the Cats were beaten 29-12, 18-12 by Charlie Villanueva alone.

The Bobcats eventually trailed by as many as 33 in the fourth quarter as garbage time was in abundance.  Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca played their most extended minutes of the year, though none were impressive.

As Bonnell has already noted, telecasts of Bobcats games generally end with Larry Brown taking questions from a few assembled media-folk.  However, by the time that the telecast was wrapping up, Brown had not yet emerged from the locker room.  Lord knows what was said in there.

Through the years, the undertalented Bobcats have almost always played hard; always looked like they enjoyed playing with each other.  I’m afraid that spirit seems to be eroding this season.  Chemistry is nonexistent, body language looks bad.  Everyone except Nazr Mohammed seems to have regressed from last year.

My biggest fear is that this season will go the way of Larry Brown’s last season in New York; you know, after he had inspired a bunch of short-sighted trades to assemble an underwhelming team that destroyed the Knicks’ salary cap.  Brown ended up publicly feuding with his own bosses as the team tuned him out.  Granted, Isaiah Thomas deserves some of the credit for how ugly that situation became, but the upshot is that the Knicks franchise is still digging out from the debacle several years later.

The Cats next chance to assuage my fears comes Saturday night at the Cable Box as the Trailblazers come for their only visit of the year.

-Dr. E

Why Is Everyone Hating on the Bobcats?

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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

Observations: Charlotte Bobcats 2009 Open Practice

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Fellow Baseliners, I knocked off work early, leaving loose ends untied, in order to bring you some observations and thoughts on the Bobcats open practice.

To summarize: I came, I yawned, I played Bejeweled on my phone.

Got there a bit late.  They had about the first 15 rows or so blocked off, presumably so the players could still curse without offending the young ears in attendance.  The rest of the lower bowl was surprisingly full of folks enjoying the free popcorn and soda.  The team was running full-court five-on-five at about 75%, roughly starters vs. second team (except with Ajinca in Chandler’s spot, and guys like DJ and VladRad did time with both squads).

As anyone who has ever read anything about Larry Brown would expect, he stopped the action about every 7 seconds to point out mistakes and demand perfection in every offensive set.  If I had the graphic design skills of my brethren here at the Baseline, I would have mashed up some picture of Larry Brown in practice gear with a big giant stop sign to lead off this post.  Alas…  (UPDATE: Photoshop added.  Thanks, D)

It’s ironic though, as Brown’s main issue with the replacement officials was that they stopped the game so much that no flow was ever established and he wasn’t able to fully evaluate his young guys.  I can identify.  I realize it’s practice, but still, would it have killed anyone to let the guys scrimmage freely for a few minutes for the fans?

So with everyone at least 15 rows back, and the seats full of murmuring people, you actually couldn’t hear anything that was being said down on the court.  I might have tolerated all the stoppages if Larry Brown had been wearing a mic and I could hear the teaching he was doing.

At about quarter til 7:00, people started peeling off.  Kids were either bored out of their minds or on the verge of a fit, no doubt due to the absence of Rufus.  A few minutes after 7:00, practice wrapped up and folks were invited to come down courtside for autographs.  I’ve never seen a player as seemingly excited to sign autographs as Derrick Brown.

A few other items:

  • Nazr sat out; he looked left out and bummed on the sidelines.
  • Chandler sat out; “brooding” and “chomping at the bit” come to mind — he looks like he’s dying to get back on the court.
  • Diaw participated fully and looked great; so sneaky and fun to watch.
  • Ray finished as poorly in practice as he does in games.
  • No one respects Gerald Henderson’s outside shot.  I’m guessing they do, however, respect his dunking ability.  Guy has instantly supplanted Crash as our most exciting player and will hopefully get into the dunk contest.
  • After stoppages for teaching moments, the possession would often be wrapped up by token free throws, generally by the poorer free throw shooters.  Gana Diop was a frequent recipient of these extra practice shots.
  • There were two guys that played with the reserves who I didn’t recognize.  One was Antonio Anderson.  Absolutely no clue as to who the other one was.
  • The team store was full of the same drek from the end of last season, save for the new jerseys.  And all they have of those are the chintzy replicas — no swingmans or authentics yet.

-E