Bobcats Season 10 – Week 7 Review

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The Cats finish a nearly perfect week 3-1, a span that saw the team:

  • Beat up the talented Kings in the Queen City, 95-87.
  • Win a stunner at the buzzer in Toronto, 104-102.
  • Play the greatest quarter in Bobcats history in a comeback victory in Detroit, 116-106.
  • Drop a disappointing home gimme against the Jazz on Hornets Reveal night, 85-88.

Still Growing Up

After the Jazz loss, Coach Clifford broke down the current state of the Bobcats succinctly:

  • They are executing on defense and taking the right shots on offense.
  • Effort isn’t the problem.
  • They give up too many “ranged” – aka three point – shots on defense.
  • They are challenged by their lack of “ranged” shooting on offense.

As usual, Clifford was frank and generally upbeat about the team’s progress towards becoming a consistent winner. He didn’t throw anyone (including the front office) under the bus and his point about the team learning to win was accurate. As much as we would like for a nineteen year old NCAA freshmen to save the day, in the NBA there are no shortcuts. Clifford and his staff are instituting the type of system and culture of responsibility that the Bobcats haven’t had in a decade; one that will eventually allow for the team to properly develop and maximize future draft prospects to their utmost. The Jazz loss, like the Magic and Lakers losses before it, was tough but with 13 wins in late December, we can already see progress happening in real time.

#NBA Ballot Kemba Walker

After an abysmal November in which he shot a 2011-like 36% from the field, Kemba Walker has absolutely erupted in December. In eleven games this month Kemba’s shooting 40% from three, nearly 51% overall and averaging 22ppg, 5apg, 4rpg. There’s a legitimate argument that he’s having a better season than either Kyrie Irving and John Wall – both of whom have had a lot more offensive talent around them yet sport fewer wins. With Derrick Rose out for the year and Derrick Williams perpetually nursing an ankle, the East’s PG slots will come down to Wall, Irving, Kemba, George Hill and Jeff Teague. If the Cats enter the break around .500 with Walker leading the way, expect him to earn a spot as the second All-Star in Bobcats team history.

The Greatest Quarter in Bobcats History

Detroit. December 20th, 2013. Charlotte was playing on the road against a physical team that was somehow nailing every three pointer they launched (even JORTS went 2-3 from deep). They lost their backup-turned starting SF Jeff Taylor to season ending achilles injury six seconds into the game. Nothing was going their way. Then the bench trimmed a twenty point lead to thirteen points at the end of the third. Then to eight on a Cody Zeller strip ‘n slam. Then the starters checked back in and Al Jefferson went off, dropping 15 points on a series of And-1’s and twenty footers that played like a YouTube highlight reel in real-time. Charlotte scored 41 points in that quarter while only giving up 17. It’s the kind of quarter you’d expect from a contender like the Spurs or Heat. It was magic. The comeback obviously took its toll the next night against Utah but long-term, the Cats can use that experience as proof that it’s not over until it’s over.

Expect a Trade

 


Clifford talked up Anthony Tolliver and Chris Douglas-Roberts’ work filling in for Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist but I guarantee you that behind the scenes, the front office is searching for a “range shooting” wing who can play some defense. Tolliver is best used in spot situations, not the 25+ minutes he’s logged in the last two games. Douglas-Roberts is a decent enough end of the bench guy but there was a reason he started the season in the D-League. The Cats could either go big name (Luol Deng), mid name (Wilson Chandler), or no name (Brandon Rush) in their pursuit depending on what they’re willing to give up. One thing is for certain: in order for Charlotte to have any success long-term, they CANNOT start two non-three point shooting wings. I’d be shocked if both Gerald Henderson and MKG are on the roster this time next season.

The Bugs Are Back

The TWC went absolutely insane during the Hornets Logo Reveal on Saturday night. Hats off to the organization for delivering a fantastic halftime show MC’d by Michael Jordan and four original Hornets (Dell Curry, Muggsy Bouges, Rex Chapman, Kelly Tripucka). The video package debuting the logo was good enough but it was the BUZZZZZZ sound effect and the sea of teal glow sticks that moved the crowd into a frenzy. If this is a preview of the new Hive’s decibel level, the Hornets are going to have a helluva home court advantage next season.

-ASChin

@BaselineBuzz

Bobcats Season 10 Preview: Michael Jordan Has(n’t) Figured It Out

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As we enter the final “Bobcats” season, perhaps no one in the organization has more to prove than owner Michael Jordan. Throughout the summer, League pundits and comment-thread snarks have been quick to point out that MJ’s latest offseason was yet a further demonstration of his ineptitude:

  • Nepotism Part 1: Jordan promoted his brother Larry to “Director of Player Personnel” back in July. MJ’s son, daughter and a host of other long-time friends are already employed by the team in various capacities.
  • Nepotism Part 2: Jordan brought in old friend Patrick Ewing to serve as the team’s associate head coach, continuing the Bobcats tradition of using their bench as courtside seats for friends & family (J.B. Bickerstaff, Stephen Silas, Charles Oakley, Cory Higgins).
  • Coaching Carousel: Jordan hired the team’s fourth coach in five seasons in June.
  • Draft Dunce: Jordan ignored two highly touted prospects, Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel, and instead “reached” for Indiana’s Cody Zeller with the Draft’s fourth overall pick.
  • Free Agent Foibles: Jordan over-paid an offense-only, aging free agent, forgetting that his young team was the worst defensive squad in the league the season before.
  • Tank Timing: With an super-hyped 2014 Draft Class looming, Jordan picked the wrong offseason to improve the team and lower their Draft Lottery odds.
  • Perpetual Screw Up: Jordan presided over a tone-deaf, scattershot Hornets re-brand announcement that left just as many confused as excited.

     

While I can’t defend MJ’s continued fascination with nepotism, I believe the other accusations to be mostly pre-conceptions in search of evidence. Pretend for a moment, that Jordan didn’t have the decade-worth of “bad owner” baggage and look at it from another perspective – MJ might be figuring this ownership thing out:

  • Quick to Learn: Jordan owned up to his mistake of hiring the inexperienced Dunlap and moved quick to bring on highly respected veteran NBA assistant Steve Clifford.
  • Outside the Circle Part 1: Jordan hired Clifford even though he wasn’t part of or recommended by someone from MJ’s inner circle (Larry Brown, Dunlap via George Karl).
  • Outside the Circle Part 2: Jordan further committed to another outsider by supporting GM Rich Cho’s decision to draft Zeller – an EXTREMELY risky position for someone with MJ’s draft reputation.
  • Shrewd Businessman: Jordan fought hard for the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement back in 2011, then leveraged the new economics in his team’s favor. MJ immediately re-invested the revenue-shared funds back into the team, amnestying PF Tyrus Thomas ($16m in off the book salary).
  • Free Agent Closer: Jordan signed former Utah center Al Jefferson, who, outside of being a nightly double-double machine, is also the biggest free agent signing in Charlotte’s 25 year NBA history.
  • Populist: Spotty announcement aside, Jordan had the insight to Bring Back the Buzz, an incredibly popular move in the region that has re-invigorated a large part of the Hornets’ dormant fanbase.

Long time NBA fans probably remember MJ’s killer fadeaway jumpshot – the one he rode to six Larry O’Brien trophies. Some may have forgotten that Jordan didn’t have that shot until he’d been in the league for ten years. There’s a good chance that MJ is at it again.

-ASChin

@BaselineBuzz

Bobcats Season 10 Preview: 5 Fearless Predictions

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Prediction One: Biyombo Is No Bust

We’ve caught a glimpse of it in the preseason: the uber-raw teen Draft idol from the Congo has started to put a few things together in his third year. Bismack is making clean catches on passes he would’ve fumbled last season and is rebounding at a near Vucevic-ian rate. Those of us panicked at Biyombo’s sophomore regression can finally breath a sigh of relief. It seems the big fella’s work ethic combined with Coaches Clifford & Ewing’s steamlined directives (rebound, defend and the rest will come) have propelled #biznation from third world to “developing world” status. Biyombo may not start many games this season with Al Jefferson in the mix but by the end of Biyombo’s rookie deal, Charlotte may have themselves the next Samuel Dalembert.*
*which is a big upgrade from last year’s “the next Mouhamed Saer-Sene”

Prediction Two: Cody Zeller will not win ROY

Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball” is just that: a pure basketball player with an outstanding feel for the game. As a rookie on a team with at least three legit NBA scorers (Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson), Cody will instinctively do what’s best to make the offense flow; putting his teammates in a better position to score. Great news for the Bobcats’ offense but bad news for Cody’s Rookie of the Year chances. Averaging a 10ppg/6rpg/4apg line won’t turn many heads. In fact, don’t be surprised to hear a lot of “we want Cody to be more aggressive” pleas from Clifford & Co. midway through the season. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett, Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Sacramento’s Ben McLemore will all likely be in “shoot first, ask questions later” mode from the opening tip. All-Rookie 1st Team for Cody? Sure. ROY? Not feeling it.

Prediction Three: Kemba Walker will Struggle, then Thrive

Dear Kemba,
You probably won’t believe this but there are actually a few dudes on your team worth passing the ball to this year! I know, I know. I couldn’t believe it either but then I did some fact checking and it turns out that it’s true. Even better, one of these dudes is a Top 3 low post scorer in the league who demands double teams 24/7/365! Remember that one guy with the weird name, comically long arms and the brother named Billy? Yeah, even he learned how to catch the ball this offseason. Wild, I know. So the good news is that you won’t have to play 1 on 5 on offense anymore. The bad news is that you’ve basically spent the first two years of your pro career learning how to play 1 on 5. Bobcats fans can count the number of successful pick and rolls you’ve executed on Rufus Lynx‘s hands and feet. I know it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment early on but I bet that if anyone can make the transition from Iverson to Isiah, it’ll be you Kemba.
Sincerely,
-ASChin

Prediction Four: Ramon Sessions Will Be Great (Again)

Ramon Sessions led all NBA bench players last season in free throw attempts and makes despite missing 21 games. That’s kind of insane. If you haven’t heard, free throws and threes are basically extra points, thus extremely valuable to an efficient NBA offense. Ramon is also an outstanding pick and roll player and an improved defender. Last year’s Walker/Sessions combo was the East’s unheralded answer to Ty Lawson/Andre Miller and Steph Curry/Jarrett Jack. Don’t listen to the “Clifford doesn’t want to go small” noise. Sessions will get just as much run this season; he’s simply too good to be kept on the pine.

Prediction Five: MKG will be Benched or Traded

The Bobcats spacing issues are very real. Sure, Walker will shoot from deep in certain situations, as will Henderson but it’s not their first inclination to do so. Zeller’s just now getting comfortable shooting from mid-range consistently and Josh McRoberts’ career 31% mark won’t keep many defenders up at night. This means Charlotte desperately needs double-team punishing, knock-down shooting to come from the Small Forward spot. Unfortunately, the guy currently holding down the starting job might be the worst jump shooter in the league.

I’m no MKG hater. On the right team, with the right system, Kidd-Gilchrist could potentially transform into a game-changing defender and slasher. But the Bobcats are doing him no service surrounding him with non-shooters at this stage of his career. One solution is to insert last year’s 2nd Round pick, Jeff Taylor (34% 3FG), into the starting five, allowing Kidd-Gilchrist to play with a stronger shooting 2nd Unit backcourt (Sessions/Ben Gordon). Eventually, once his shot improves, the team could ease Gilchrist back into the starting five.

I’ve said it before, MKG is the wing-version of Derrick Favors. Utah used a slow and steady development approach on an equally raw, athletically gifted prospect and are now reaping the rewards. They didn’t throw him into the fire to pickup bad habits and have his confidence broken.
But would the Bobcats’ front office be willing to take the inevitable PR hit that comes with benching a former number two overall pick? Would MKG’s young psyche be able to handle the demotion?
If the organization doesn’t like the answers to these questions, they may look to trade MKG while he still has the upside sheen. A combination of MKG, draft picks and Gordon’s expiring would likely net an All-Star if one were to hit the trading block. For the benefit of both the player and organization, this may be the best solution overall.

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

Charlotte Wins Big Thanks to Jordan

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Michael Jordan’s Clutch Move Brings the Hornets Home.

Four years ago Michael Jordan was inducted in to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Of the occasion, Jordan said that it was “simply a continuation of something that I started a long time ago.” During his induction speech Jordan called out a lot of the folks that he didn’t feel were helpful to his ambitions. He even claimed that there was a chance you “might look up and see me playing the game at 50.”

Now at the age of 50, Jordan’s made a huge play off the court for the city of Charlotte. His body might be too old to lace up those eponymous high-tops but Michael’s still the ‘alpha’ and the only one who could make the shot Queen City hoops fans needed someone to make. Say what you will about his past mistakes as an owner, MJ deserves a ton of credit for bringing back the Buzz.

The Long Road Back

Illustration by Mike S

George Shinn

In 2002, George Shinn moved his Hornets down to Louisiana. He sold the NBA on the idea that the Big Easy wanted a pro basketball team and that New Orleans was the only place where he could make ends meet. It worked so well the first time that Shinn tried the same story with the league just a few years later with Oklahoma City. Fortunately, Commissioner Stern and the Board of Governors finally wised up to Shinn’s tactics and took the Hornets off of poor Georgie’s plate for good.

Shortly afterward, the league office found a buyer for the club in Tom Benson, majority owner of the New Orleans Saints. As new owner of the neglected franchise, Benson vowed to make Louisiana proud of their NBA team. His first order of business was to begin the process of rebranding the club with regional ties, and steer toward a name (Pelicans) that meant something to the surrounding area. Along with evoking a sense of local pride, the rebrand will go a long way to separate the climate of new ownership from Shinn’s downtrodden and generic Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

For decades Shinn did his best to render the Hornets brand meaningless – trading players in their prime, disregarding the fan base, and keeping that wandering eye toward the next town’s cash. Yet somehow, twenty-five years since his birth and against all odds, Hugo the Hornet finds himself on the precipice of returning home to the city that once loved him and – as the last twelve months have revealed – still very much does.

The total cost of reclaiming the Hornets moniker and washing away the Bobcats experience will be substantial. It also comes with the risk of alienating the few faithful who’ve kept the franchise afloat. It’s a gamble, but MJ’s always been the gambling type. For the doubters who say the Hornets rebrand won’t matter, be ready to be proven wrong because that’s one of MJ’s two great gifts – proving people wrong. The other? Taking and making big time shots.

-Mike

Kicks on Claws: Footwear of Charlotte Bobcats Players

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Gerald Wallace Exclusive Jordan Icons

After we released the eye-popping news that I would become a new writer for the Baseline, I got a request via Twitter for an article on the kicks that our players would be wearing on the court this year. As a sneaker lover, I was more than happy to oblige and to teach the Bobcats followers about one of my other passions.

Before we delve into what the players are wearing this year, I must complain about something and then teach you some basic shoe stuff.

Upon hearing about the Jordan-centric renovation of the Bobcats store at Time Warner Cable Arena, I got excited about the possibility of having a Jordan store that sold Jordans. Why, you ask, when there’s so many Footlockers and Finish Lines that sell Jordans? Because I hoped that the affiliation of Jordan Brand with the team would bring about some Jordan shoes in Bobcats colors. There are no shoes in the world in that greyish-blue that I can find. However, to my dismay, I found out that they don’t even sell any shoes there at all. Opportunity lost.

Anyway, on to the learning!

  • PE – Player Exclusive. These are shoes made for a specific player, usually with their team’s colors. These are occasionally available for public purchase and if then, only in limited quantities
  • GR – General Release. Shoes that are GR’s are available for purchase by anyone at most shoe stores like Footlocker or Finish Line. Shoes that I don’t note as PEs are most likely GRs, which you can buy.
  • Here’s the lowdown on how Jordan-sponsored players choose what shoes they wear throughout the season, as told by D.J. Augustin:

    At the beginning of the season, Jordan Brand sends you a package. In that package, you receive four shoe models. If you like them, they send you 10 pairs of each model to wear through February. After the All-Star break, Jordan Brand gives you two more models with 10 pairs of each to finish out the season. They let you practice in them and if you like them they will give you more. If you do not like the shoes they give to you, then they will give you something else to try. Basically, Jordan Brand wants to make you comfortable and make you feel good. They also give you the choice to have your personal logo, your name and/or your jersey number on the shoes. First, they show it to you on paper and if you like the shoe that is when they send you the package.

    via NikeTalk via Nice Kicks (P.S. read the whole interview. I love the part about Sean May)

The Jordan Brand Members

This select group includes only the Bobcats players sponsored by Jordan Brand: Gerald Wallace and D.J. Augustin. Each of these guys will wear Jordans on the court for every game this year, just like last year. As part of the Jordan Brand Team, D.J. and Gerald are privy to special PE colorways of their shoes. Last year, Gerald mostly wore Jordan shoes like the Jordan All Day and the Jordan 16.5 while D.J. also wore the 16.5 and the Jordan ‘Six Rings,’ just to name a few.  However, the real interesting shoes that they wore were their Air Jordan XII and Icons PEs.
Wallace in the AJ XII PE

Personally, these Jordan XIIs pictured above, are my favorites. I love the colorway. If I could buy these, they’d be on my feet all the time.
D.J. in his AJ XII and Icons PEs
Crash even got his own player exclusive version of the Jordan Icons, complete with an awesome logo, made especially for his All-Star appearance.
I want to go to there.

As for this year, I expect more of the same. So far, Gerald and D.J. have both been wearing the Jordan Team 2010 in the exhibition and regular season games. I expect them to wear some of the other generic Jordan basketball shoes as the season wears on. After the All Star break, you may even see them in the upcoming Air Jordan 2011. Also, be on the lookout for some fantastic PE colorways of dope Jordan retros.

The Jordan Wearers

This group of Bobcats are players not signed by Jordan Brand and it includes Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and Dominic McGuire (and maybe Sherron Collins). As far as I know, Stephen Jackson is not a part of the Jordan Brand team but he wears them for every game. Last year he wore the Icons, including a special playoffs PE, as well as a number of Jordan retros. Most notably of these were the Jordan XI “Space Jams” (below) and the Jordan XII “Rising Sun.”
Stephen Jackson in his Air Jordan XI

Last year Shaun Livingston wore Nike shoes, including the Nike Zoom Soldier III. However, so far while playing for the Bobcats, Shaun has worn the Jordan Element. I couldn’t even tell you if Dominic McGuire even wore shoes before, but he has been wearing the Jordan Spizike “Grape” during training camp and exhibition games (upon further research, he wore Nike Hyperdunks before). I am hesitant to include Sherron Collins here, but he wore the Jordan Icons in the summer league and I can’t make heads or tails from the whopping three pictures I can find of him playing in exhibition games.

The Hyperfuse Herd (Ain’t Alliteration Awesome?)

Derrick Brown in the Nike Hyperfuse

The Nike Hyperfuse released this past summer to rave reviews. They also have a huge following among NBA players. Kevin Durant wore them in the World Championships and Rajon Rondo wore them in the NBA Finals. My guess is that DeSagana Diop wants to emulate Rondo so he picked up a pair. And then, upon seeing Diop, the fashion trendsetter that he is, Matt Carroll and Derrick Brown knew they had to follow suit and get their identical pairs.

Some Kind of Nikes

These are the rest of the guys and they all wear Nike basketball shoes. Last season, Tyrus Thomas wore the Nike Zoom Flip ‘N and this season it looks like he’s wearing the Nike Hyperdunk Team. I have no clue what model of Nikes that Boris Diaw or Nazr Mohammed wear. I’ve stared at them for a while and still can’t think of what they may be. They may be the Nike Hyperchild. Moving on, Gerald Henderson wears the Nike Hyperdunk and if Kwame wears the same model as he did last year, we’ll see him in the Nike Hyperize. Oh, and I nearly forgot about Eduardo Najera! He wears shoes. I don’t know what brand but I know they’re shoes.

Until next time, Bobcats fans, enjoy knowing that Mike Conley will be making at least $40 million over the next 5 years.

- Cardboard Gerald