Hold On – That’s Boris Diaw

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So, it’s been nice to see ol’ Cap’n Jack and Boris Diaw reunite in San Antonio this month. I’m sure they’re just acting like bros down there – snapping photos at the Alamo, strolling the Riverwalk, and enjoying the warm sun of the Lone Star State. I was browsing the scores and highlights online today and something caught me way off guard. I had to share this…

That’s Boris Diaw Working Hard for a Rebound!

That’s it y’all. He’s proven us all wrong. He can actually hustle on a basketball court. Actually, the caption on this photo (jacked from the Houston Chronicle’s site) might even make you laugh. Check it out:

San Antonio Spurs’ Boris Diaw (33) crashes into Philadelphia 76ers’ Evan Turner (12) as he reaches for a rebound during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 25, 2012, in San Antonio. 76ers’ Nikola Vucevic is at left.

Although the Spurs were short-handed against the 76ers, the team started Matt Bonner ahead of Diaw. With a top-tier organization like the Spurs, he’s not asked to do all that much and that’s just fine by him. Really, I think this is a great situation for Boris. I can’t help but admit that I liked him, but just couldn’t stand seeing him on the Bobcats this season.

Perhaps, the Bobcats missed a window of opportunity by not shipping Boris off early in the season. It would have been smart to have received at least something in return for his expiring contract. Maybe they were working at it and nothing panned out. As Cats fans, we should be thankful that he wasn’t sent to Dallas in exchange for a ridiculously overpaid benchwarmer (via Matt Carroll/Gana Diop/Eduardo Najera).

Being Bad Has Never Felt So Bad

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’11-’12 Charlotte Bobcats Quarterly Report: Vol. 1

The Charlotte Bobcats have started nearly all of their first seventeen games deficient in talent; they’ve ended most of them deficient in effort. Not exactly the sort of problem you would have expected from a young, Paul Silas-coached team. So who or what is the culprit for this early season malaise?

Issue Number One: The Diaw Dilemma

Out of shape, neurotic and enigmatic, Boris “Ladyhips” Diaw has been the poster-boy for the Bobcats ennui. His 27 point outburst against the Knicks  notwithstanding, Boris has been relegated to the bench as his perpetual disappearing act had driven the coach, ownership and fans one step too far.

Worse yet, Diaw’s mere presence has constipated the Bobcats frontcourt situation:

  • DJ White has clearly outplayed him thus far.
  • The team is committed to Tyrus Thomas for another three seasons.
  • Bismack Biyombo isn’t ready enough to play center full-time.

The Cats would love to rid themselves of Diaw’s expiring contract in order to allocate precious developmental minutes to the other three but how many teams in the league have both the need and the expiring contract Charlotte would require to make a deal?

The Knicks and Suns would seem the logical answers but neither of those teams have the types of players/assets the Bobcats would need in return. Baseline’s own Ben Weinrib postulated a Clippers scenario that could work but Charlotte may have to resort to benching Diaw for the remainder of the season and wait for his contract to expire in July.

Issue Number Two: Maggette Looks Done

@Baseline DrE noticed it from game one: Corey Maggette looks spent. His jumper isn’t falling, he’s not getting to the line,  he’s consistently a step slow on D and a strained calf has sidelined him for most of the month. This is all bad news considering that Silas practically designed the entire offense around him before the season started.

As is stands, the team is paying him $10 million this season and still owes him another $10 million for next. While the entire concept of “amnesty-ing” a player must stink to a small market squad like the Bobcats, one could only imagine that’s it’s being discussed, especially if the team can somehow convince a big name FA to take their money. That’s probably not going to happen so look for Maggette to remain in Cat-stripes until the summer of 2013.

Issue Number Three: Kemba Keep Your Head Up

Classic Bobcat conundrum: Your strengths are your weaknesses. D.J. Augustin has really elevated his game this season, thus putting rookie point Kemba Walker in a primarily off-guard role. This works ok about 30% of the time, meaning the 30% of the time Kemba makes his “head down, Monta-Ellis-inspired” step-back jumpers. The problem isn’t that Kemba isn’t a good enough a shooter yet, it’s that he’s learning a lot of bad habits that may come to limit his impact and future growth.

Kemba will need to play PG in the NBA. A decent team simply can’t start a six foot two guard and expect to win many games. He’ll need to learn how to distribute first, work the opposing defense and manage the game, shooting only when necessary. I don’t think the damage is irreparable but Coach Silas will need to transition Kemba to the role of PG sooner rather than later in order for Walker to rise above his current ceiling as “a rich man’s Nate Robinson”.

Issue Number Four: Mullens Gives As Much As He Gets

Mullens-mania has been one of the few bright spots over the past month. The young man has a nice shooting touch, good offensive feel for the game and seems to give half a crap about improving. That’s fine. The problem is that Byron is a textbook turnstile on defense with the opposing offense going right at him as soon as he checks into the game. Weak-side help defense? Fuh-get about it.

Unless BJ can bulk up and learn some killer mano y mano D during the offseason, his primary role in the league will be that of a 20 minute a night backup/change of pace center — which, by the way, isn’t a bad thing at all. It sure as heck beats playing in the D-League.

Issue Number Five: Silas Senility

This is the most surprising issue of all. Paul Silas’s mission for the season should be clear: LOSE GAMES, DEVELOP YOUNG PLAYERS.

Simple, right? While Sugar Bear has a proven adept at losing, his most recent rotations suggest ignorance or obstinacy in the face of facts. Both Kemba and Biyombo need to be receiving as many developmental minutes at their NATURAL positions as possible. Same can be said for Henderson, Augustin, White and Mullens. Instead Silas has been trotting out a “F.U.” lineup featuring:

  • Matt Carroll (12th man, near expiring deal)
  • Eddie Najera (14th man, expiring deal)
  • Derrick Brown (11th man, expiring deal)
  • Boris Diaw (discussed, expiring deal)
  • Cory Higgins (13th man, expiring deal)

Good for tanking games? Yes. Good for developing prospects? No. Good for desecrating the sport/wasting fans money? Absolutely.

FIRST QUARTER PLAYER TIERS:

TIER ONE – THE KEEPERS

1. Gerald Henderson.

Still only 24 years old, “Hendo” has become the rare sequel better than the original. While he’ll probably never develop into a team’s go-to scorer, Henderson’s gifts as a shut-down defender and his ever-improving jump-shot make him a bona-fide starter in the league. Henderson started driving to the lane more in the last few games, getting to the line and drawing fouls. His ho-hum PER might not reflect it at the moment but Henderson is THE LONG TERM solution at two guard.

2. D.J. Augustin/Kemba Walker.

You gotta love the fact that Augustin has stepped up in the face of a challenge. Kemba should be taking notes: D.J. notched a near 3:1 assist to TO ratio during the first sixteen games of the season, nailing 38% of his three balls while averaging 15 ppg.

He’s a restricted free agent after the season and I don’t see a scenario in which the team doesn’t re-sign him. Fortunately with Rich Cho running the negotiations, Charlotte fans needn’t worry about the team overpaying.

The issue of course is what to do with Walker. Kemba has an incredible set of intangibles and is already a much more dynamic scorer. With a couple of seasons learning the position, Walker could be in line for the starting gig. If Cho can ink Augustin to an attractive contract, the Bobcats may find themselves with an ideal trading chip a year plus down the road.

3. Bismack Biyombo.

He didn’t exactly burst onto the scene but in limited appearances, the big man has shown flashes of incredible defensive potential.

First off, he’s a physical freak. Apparently the “strongest” and “toughest” guy on the roster, Biyombo’s build is deceivingly slight. During warmups last week I saw him stand next to D.J. White, a legit 6’9″ PF. Same height but while White’s arms dangled around mid-thigh, Bismack’s fingers nearly touched his kneecaps. Jay Bilas just climaxed reading that.

Opposing offensive players are noticing too. Biyombo is averaging nearly 5 blocks per 40 minutes of play and subjectively you can see players alter shots, launch high floaters or avoid the lane altogether when he’s in the game. I honestly thought it would take a couple of seasons for him to have any impact but thus far, in limited minutes, he’s done much more than advertised.

4. OKC’s D-Leaguers

If D.J. White is your backup PF, giving you 14-20 minutes a night, you’re in good shape. If Byron Mullens is your backup C, giving you 14-20 minutes a night, you’re in good shape. If either of these two are your starters, you are in bad shape.

Lesson: Re-sign both players to cap-friendly deals (White this summer, Mullens next summer), play them as upside backups and win games. Start them and lose games. The end.

TIER TWO – WHAT DO WE DO WITH YOU?

1. Tyrus Thomas.

Tyrus gets his own sub-category. The team owes him another three years, $24 million AFTER this season. Mentally he’s as lost as ever (we expected that) but physically he looks borderline emaciated after an apparent offseason working out with Austin Daye and Angelina Jolie.

This has all conspired to make Tyrus virtually untradeable. He’s owed too much for too long to amnesty so it looks like the team is stuck with him for at least the next two or three seasons. Sadly, the Bobcats still owe Chicago a first rounder in that time for his services.

TIER THREE – “MEH”

1. Derrick Brown.

I want DBrown to be better than he is but the team is simply much worse while he’s on the floor. It’s hard to justify this with actual plus/minus numbers on a team that loses by twenty every night but anecdotally, Brown just doesn’t seem to understand the basics of the game - every other play he’s involved in ends with a turnover, missed shot or a foul.

2. Cory Higgins.

I’ve seen more than a few plays that tell me he’s a legit NBA player but Cory will absolutely need to work on a consistent jump shot to have any chance of staying in the league as a role player.

3. Reggie Williams/Edwardo Najera.

Have very high hopes for Williams once he comes back in March. The team desperately needs a hot hand off the bench and that fits Reggie’s MO. Najera will be gone next offseason when his contract expires. In the meantime, he looks like a guy who took a wrong turn out of the YMCA locker room and ended up in TWC.

TIER FOUR – GET ‘EM OUT OF HERE

1. Boris Diaw.

Already discussed.

2. Corey Maggette.

See above.

3. Matt Carroll/Gana Diop.

Called on and paid well to do exactly one thing each and neither does that thing all that well. Fortunately, they’ll both be off the books come July ’13 and Diop at least has value as a semi-tough big in the meantime.

Two STARters Away

With Augustin/Walker, Gerald Henderson and (eventually) Bismack Biyombo, the Bobcats are just two starters away from fielding a solid playoff contender. Unfortunately, those two starters will need to be ALL-STARs.

The good news is that they’ll probably get one in this year’s draft. KU’s Anthony Davis, UCONN’s Andre Drummond, Baylor’s Perry Jones and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger could all blossom into big-time NBA players and would fit quite nicely next to an emerging Bismack Biyombo at PF. UNC’s Harrison Barnes and KU’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could become the dominating offensive force on the wings the Bobcats desperately need.

Combine Augustin/Walker, Henderson, Biyombo and one of the diaper-dandies above with max cap room this summer or next and the Bobcats could find themselves in a very favorable position sooner than later.

Until then, Enjoy the Rebuilding Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Twitter: @bobcatsbaseline

Trading Boris Diaw

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After sixteen games and thirteen losses for the Bobcats, we’ve learned three things:

  1. Charlotte is headed for a Top-5 draft pick
  2. Byron Mullens has way exceeded his expectations as the token awkward white guy off the bench
  3. Boris Diaw has officially worn out his welcome.

With the loss of Kwame Brown, Diaw began the season as the starting center. To his credit, he played like a man possessed in the first three games, posting a 11.7-11-7.7 line. He even showed up big in the two games at Madison Square Garden with a total of 46 points, 13 boards, and 13 assists on 74% shooting. But the rest of the games have been downright ugly. 4.8 points. 5.1 rebounds. 2.3 assists. 30% shooting, including 13% from beyond the arc, and just six free throws in eleven games. It doesn’t even look like he’s trying very hard.

But this is Boris “The Enigma” Diaw we’re talking about; the big man who doesn’t dunk has never been predictable. Then again, he’s predictable in one way: he’s got a bit of Baron Davis in him. If he’s in a losing environment, he’s huddle into his shell. But if he’s playing in an important game—say against a former team like Atlanta or former coach like Mike D’Antoni—he plays above and beyond his normal abilities.

Normally, an enigmatic big man would be no problem for a bad team. Even at $9 million it wouldn’t normally be a big deal. But he’s eating up valuable minutes that Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. White, and Tyrus Thomas could really use. Now, none of those four are spectacular, but all four need playing time to grow and mature. Diaw is in the final year of his contract, but it’s more than apparent now that he needs to be moved before the season ends.

There is, however, one major issue when it comes to trading Boris Diaw: the $9 million pricetag on his head.

Most contenders don’t have that much cap room just lying around, so they have to ship off another big contract to take on Diaw. Not only that, but among players making around $9 million per year, most are either a) worth about $9 million, and wouldn’t be in a trade for Boris Diaw or b) have multiple years left on their contract, which the Bobcats don’t want to take on.

With that in mind, there are a handful of teams interested in Diaw. They are going to be a contender with a need for a big body off the bench. The Knicks, Celtics and Lakers would all fit that mold, but none of them have any cap room—unless they’re willing to move Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett, or get someone inebriated enough to take on Metta World Peace. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

There are two realistic types of trades that will set Boris Diaw free from the temptations of Carolina Barbeque: a straight salary dump for a draft pick or swapping contracts in return for a young player. Let’s take a look at each possibility.

I’d like to think that around the trade deadline, some contender will get desperate. Maybe one of their bigs goes down, so they offer the Bobcats a late-first round pick for Diaw’s expiring contract. But that’s not happening. Again, the Lakers would have been a great fit once Andrew Bynum inevitably goes down with a knee injury, but they’re nearly $30 million over the cap. Realistically, no one will offer a late first for Diaw, and nobody picking at the top-half of the second round will want an aging, expensive forward. So the Bobcats will be looking at a late-second round pick. Joy.

In my opinion, swapping contracts is a much more realistic, even productive, way to try and trade Diaw. Think the Nazr Mohammed trade that landed Morris Peterson and D.J. White. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many matches. Memphis was a good match—O.J. Mayo would’ve been a sweet return—until they acquired Marreese Speights. Denver would also be a good fit, too, but the only contract the Bobcats would conceivably take back would be Andre Miller, who the Nuggets wouldn’t want to move for Diaw if they had to give up someone like Jordan Hamilton.

In the end, I only found one team that was a good trade partner Boris Diaw: the Los Angeles Clippers. After Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, their best big man is Brian Cook. Yes, that very same Brian Cook whose career highlight is being traded for Trevor Ariza. Los Angeles has the cap space to take him on, provided they can find a new home for Mo Williams.

With Kemba here for the long-haul and D.J. (at least momentarily) still here, it doesn’t make sense to trade for free agent-to-be Mo Williams. But if they could find a third team, this trade could work out. And that team is the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets still need a point guard after (twice) trading Chris Paul, so Mo Williams would be a perfect fit. Here is my proposed trade:

Charlotte gets: Xavier Henry (NOH) and Randy Foye (LAC)
Los Angeles gets: Boris Diaw (CLT) and Trevor Ariza (NOH)
New Orleans gets: Mo Williams (LAC)

From Charlotte’s prospective, they’re going to lose Diaw at the end of the year, so anything they can get in return for him is a plus. Xavier Henry may not have lived up to his rookie expectations, but he didn’t get any burn last year—not so far off from Gerald Henderson’s rookie campaign. Randy Foye is not a major piece in the deal, he’s just a salary equalizer, he’ll depart through free agency next summer.

This works out for the Clippers on two fronts: they get a very nice backup big man and an answer at shooting guard. Chauncey Billups won’t make it through the whole season at the 2, and he certainly won’t be able to guard the likes of Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili in the playoffs. Ariza is a prime perimeter defender. Plus, this allows Eric Bledsoe to finally get some extra PT.

New Orleans finally finds a replacement for Chris Paul, plus salary relief from the nearly $22 million left on Trevor Ariza’s contract. Henry wasn’t playing, since he was buried behind Marco Belinelli and Eric Gordon on the depth chart, so that’s not a huge loss. What this comes down to is saving a bit of cash while figuring out the point guard situation.

However the Bobcats deal with this Diaw Dilemna, it’s unlikely to end out great. The best they can hope for is to pick up a young player or draft pick—someone around the level of Henry may be the best they can do. That is, unless they are intent on trading D.J. Augustin before he hits restricted free agency, opening all kinds of possibilities.

I’ll be pretty surprised if Boris Diaw ends the season a Bobcat. He can certainly help some contender as a 6th or 7th man; the only question is whether or not GM Rich Cho can find a big enough bite for a chubby, lackadaisical, finesse forward.

-Ben Weinrib
you can follow Ben on Twitter @benweinrib

Bobcats Are Undefeated

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The Bobcats are back and here’s a sentence that will probably never be written again.

It’s the end of December and the Charlotte Bobcats haven’t lost a game this season.

Yep, the Cats took care of of the visiting Milwaukee Bucks last night in their home opener and now stand undefeated. We can’t count on too many wins this year, so let’s savor this one. The Bobcats are in a really awkward stage right now. They have a bunch of young guys that may or may not be professional basketball players. None are stars. Yet, those of us that tuned in or attended their first game of the 2011 season saw an energetic bunch overtake a much more talented and experienced group of players.

It was great to read how Coach Paul Silas was so casual with the press before the game, letting them know that “Stephen Jackson is going to try to kill us…” Silas had an inexperienced roster that was supposed to face the likes of Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, and Stephen Jackson on opening night. It’s clear that the Bucks are probably going to be pretty good this year. They may not be a contender, but they’ll make the Playoffs. They’ll likely advance into the second-round. Surely, Scott Skiles will get this group in order and they’ll operate like a well-tuned machine. Luckily, the Bobcats caught them before the machine could get running.

Here are the some of the things I noticed in last night’s introduction to the 2011-12 Bobcats:

  • Kemba Walker could contend for Rookie of the Year. He’s going to be good. Can he be great?
  • Byron Mullens knocked down a couple of outside shots. What can he do in the paint?
  • DJ Augustin was playing like a real point guard. Nice to see his progress continue under Silas.
  • Gana Diop found a way to contribute – or Silas found a way to make him somewhat useful.
  • Boris Diaw is going to do a lot to help the team and that might help him land a big contract this summer.
  • Nice touch by the club to find courtside seats for Cam Newton (the most popular guy in town).
  • Gerald Henderson looks healthy and ready to be a big part of the team.
  • Corey Maggete isn’t so bad, after all. I might not rush out to buy his jersey, but he’s alright.

POLL : How Many Bobcat Wins This Season?

  • Under 15 (56%, 84 Votes)
  • Around 20 (21%, 31 Votes)
  • Over 20 (13%, 19 Votes)
  • Over 30 (10%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 149

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‘Tis the Season (to be in the Lottery)

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Bismack & Kemba Wallpaper by metalhdmh (via deviant art)

2011 Charlotte Bobcats Preview

Two things you need to know about the ’11-’12 Charlotte Bobcats season:

  • They are going to be very, very BAD.
  • It will be one of the BEST seasons in franchise history.

Sound strange? It is. But that’s just part of the fun of being a Bobcats fan. You see, the organization has spent its entire eight year run in Charlotte “winging it” from one blunder to the next — hoping that the ship will right itself magically both on the court and off. No more hoping. This team has a plan. And a good one at that.

Newly hired GM Rich Cho set expectations early with a ballsy Draft Day trade that sent out Stephen Jackson and returned potential building block Bismack Biyombo. Kemba Walker came two picks later and now the team enters training camp with sights set not on this season but onward towards the summer of 2013.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE COMING MONTHS

1. Making the Playoffs = DISASTER.

Cho has seen this movie before and he didn’t like the ending. REPEAT: You’ve got to be bad before being good. Being bad means a high lottery pick in a LOADED 2012 Draft. Charlotte has little chance of landing a superstar via free agency so the ONLY WAY that they’ll get one is in the draft. With Anthony Davis, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger just seven months away from shaking the Commissioner’s hand, the Bobcats MUST bottom out this season in order to have a shot at Lottery love. To make matters worse, if the ‘Cats somehow finish outside the top fourteen, their pick goes to Chicago as late payback for Tyrus Thomas.

BOTTOM LINE: Be Entertaining But Do Not Win Games; expect a losing record.

2. Cheap, Young, No-Name Free Agents.

At $49.7 million in guaranteed contracts, the Bobcats are already at the mandated 85% salary cap floor level. There is NO REASON to spend money on name-brand Free Agents this December. Here’s an exercise: Every time you see a commenter whining about how the Bobcats should sign Jamal Crawford, your immediate response should be laughter, followed by an immediate heaving sob when you remember that the team owes a combined $54 million to Corey Maggette, Boris Diaw, Gana Diop, Matt Carroll and “Don Juan Draper” Najera over the next two seasons.

The goal here is to sign young, low-cost/high-potential players to short contracts (ideally two years) and see what they can do. I’ve already chronicled the prospects of Earl Clark, Brandon Wright, Nick Young and Josh McRoberts. I’ll add one more intriguing name a little bit later…

BOTTOM LINE: Expect the Bobcats to make a run at a young, cheap free agent over the next few weeks.

3. What Cap Space Means to Small Market Teams.

Let’s be honest: Cap space for the Knicks and cap space for the Bobcats are two entirely different beasts. You’re never going to read a HoopsHype headline screaming: “Derrick Rose demands Sign and Trade to Milwaukee”. It just doesn’t work that way. Disgruntled Superstars want brighter lights, bigger cities. The only chance small market teams have in a star driven league is to draft homegrown talent, build a championship caliber nucleus around him and pay him gloriously.

In the meantime, small market clubs like Charlotte can utilize their cap space by taking on bad contracts in exchange for draft choices or maintaining flexibility in the case a not quite-Superstar is available in a trade. Charlotte will be around $17 million under the cap next summer and nearly $40 million under the cap in the summer of 2013. By maintaining flexibility, the ‘Cats will in prime position should a team dangle picks or an All-Star over the next few seasons.

BOTTOM LINE: Expect the Bobcats to be in the market for a salary dump-for-draft picks deal by the trade deadline.

4. Don’t amnesty Gana Diop.

The amnesty “waiver” clause is a slap in the face to well-managed small market franchises. The “amnestied” contracts still have to be paid out, they just don’t count against a team’s cap — which means free spending teams like the Lakers, Wizards, Magic, Mavericks and Knicks essentially get a higher cap than the rest of the league.

Don’t get me wrong, Gana Diop and his albatross full-midlevel deal has been an unmitigated disaster, a final “F.U.” from Larry Brown, but if you have to pay the guy anyway why not try and get something out of him. Even if its only one point, one block and two and a half rebounds in eleven minutes. The Bobcats aren’t going to need the cap space for the next two years anyway and having Diop’s contract on the roster will help* them reach the 85% cap threshold in the meantime.
(*Note that this will be the first time Gana Diop has ever helped the Bobcats in any way)

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t expect the Bobcats to waive Gana Diop this season.

5. Re-Sign Kwame Brown ONLY if the money is right.

Kwame was a great redemption story last season. He played hard and kept the team in games with his rugged low post defense and surprising collection of double-doubles. The issue is that at 29, Brown is just a little too long in the tooth for the Bobcats plans. If he’s looking for more than $4 million per, then the team should let him walk.

There is one other option: If the team is in love with him and wants to secure his services for another three or four seasons, they could throw him a “Nick Collison” deal by handing him $8 million this season and $3.5 over the next three. This would give Kwame a 4 year $20 million deal without jeopardizing future cap flexibility in the summers ahead.

BOTTOM LINE: Expect the Bobcats to re-sign Kwame ONLY if they can fit him into their long-term salary cap plans.

6. What to do with Boris Diaw?

It’s the final year of his contract and you would hope that he’ll be motivated to earn one last big payday. If so, then great. The Bobcats would like nothing more than for Diaw to come in, play hard and catch the eye of a contender in need of frontcourt help. A badass Boris could mean another draft pick or prospect via trade while an average one will at least mean cap relief come July.

BOTTOM LINE: With Bismack, Tyrus and D.J. White already at the PF spot, Diaw could be the first Bobcat traded this season.

7. Redemption Song: Sign Adam Morrison

“Old Bobcats, yes, dey rob I;

Sold I to Los Angeles,

Minutes after they took I

With da third overall pick.”

Adam Morrison is making a comeback. Sure, we’ve all seen that ridiculous scrap AMMO picked with an 18 year old kid in Serbia but did you see the sick highlight reel where he dropped 30 in old-school Gonzaga-mode just a few games later? Morrison is angling for a return to the league and I can’t think of any better team to do it with than the one that drafted him five years ago. The ‘Cats needs another scorer off the bench, needs depth at the SF position and Morrison will no doubt come cheap. It worked with Kwame, why not try it with the ‘Stache?

BOTTOM LINE: I can’t think of a better storyline for the Bobcats this year than to have Adam Morrison come back and average double figures off the bench. It’s worth a shot.

In summary, expect the Bobcats to be bad but entertaining this season and next. Expect them to add draft picks and young FAs. Expect them to let veteran contracts expire while young guns learn on the job. And finally, expect them to be very, VERY GOOD starting November, 2013 when Rich Cho and MJ will be hanging in the owner’s suite, smoking Cubans and saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

-ASChin

The Bobcats Season – Over and Out.

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What An Unexpected Ride

This past season for the Charlotte Bobcats served up an entertaining mixture of speculation, anticipation, disappointment, surprise, frustration, and a general sense of curiosity. Heading into it, the team had made a deal to unload the financial burden of Tyson Chandler and had no Draft selections to boost their roster. The team’s training camp began with real questions around DJ Augustin’s ability to lead the team as a starter and the growth of  Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown in their second year in the NBA. It was assumed that Tyrus Thomas would build upon his success from a previous late-season run after arriving in Charlotte, and most thought he would eventually replace Boris Diaw as the team’s starting power forward. The Bobcats looked to have their strongest players, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, on the wings and aimed to make it through the year with a cobbled assortment of players at the center position.

That was all pre-season talk, though. Larry Brown was trusted to take the team further than the quick sweep we witnessed in their first Playoff appearance. If Larry saw a roster need that had to be filled in order to reach the post-season, it seemed only logical that the organization would find a way to give him what he demanded. Eventually, that logic evaporated as the team seemed to lose games and lose interest in running Larry’s system. Interestingly, the only roster acquisitions that seemed to satisfy Brown were the minor free agent signings of Dominic McGuire (D-Mac) and Shaun Livingston. Otherwise, the Hall of Fame coach was expected to plug in the likes of Matt Carroll, Kwame Brown, Eduardo Najera, and Sherron Collins to forge a better on-court product.

Stumbling Out of The Gates

Early on in the season, it seemed that the Bobcats were just taking a little longer to “mesh” than most other squads. Those following the team could have argued that the level of talent on the roster was deeper than ever before. With so many middle-tier players on the payroll, it appeared that the front office had planned to either make due with a roster below the salary cap or leave some flexibility to make a trade to improve the team. As the Cats stumbled in the standings, speculation over the next move certainly followed. Coach Brown had set a pattern in place since his arrival. If he didn’t like what was happening with the team’s play, he would find a way to shake up the roster. Fans knew this and it was expected that a roster move was sure to happen. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson, or DJ Augustin that were shipped out. The organization decided to send Larry Brown out of town.

While it was easy to support Brown when the team had experienced an increasing level of success, the Bobcats management seemed to catch on to the “Next Town Brown” template. With the team struggling and playing less and less entertaining basketball by the week, it only felt naturally to look to the future. Raising the question of “How does this team get better” probably shook GM Rod Higgins to face the tough truth that the Bobcats were financially frozen and their on-court product was on the decline.  Perhaps, the team reserved a bit of blame for Larry Brown. Overall, it seemed that the team’s performance had slid far too much and improvement wasn’t going to be delivered by the old, griping, and disheartening coach. The Cats had no money to really improve the team, and needed to begin to develop their young guys – players that Larry Brown had glued to the bench.

New Energy

The arrival of Paul Silas brought an equal dose of curiosity and excitement to the team. After recurring blow-out losses under Brown, the Bobcats quickened the pace and let DJ Augustin play to his strengths. Surely, Michael Jordan had to have felt some comfort in his decision to switch coaches. Not only had the team become better and more entertaining on court, but the younger talent on the roster had begun to show improvement and playing time under Coach Silas. The improved play of DJ Augustin was astounding, and it just seemed to be a bit confusing as to why no one had seen this from the young guard until Brown’s departure.

As the Bobcats had crossed the mid-point of the season, they were finding a way to improve their record despite their ailing big men. Gana Diop was shelved for the season with a tough achilles injury, and Nazr Mohammed seemed to have run out of luck with several nagging injuries. The All-Star break came and went for the team, as the club had no participates (Rufus doesn’t count) in the Association’s annual celebration of peak performers. So, most of the club returned from the short vacation to talk big about making a run at the Playoffs. Actually, that didn’t seem so outlandish at the time. Despite the 9-19 hole that they had dug for themselves to begin the year, Charlotte was sitting around the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. With plenty of games to go, it was expected that the club could rebound and save their season. Heck, some thought the Cats might even try to nab someone to help make that push before the trade deadline.

Well, things really went in the opposite direction. Once again, Michael Jordan’s Bobcats were active at the league’s trade deadline. Though, this time around the team wasn’t looking to acquire talent.

The Trade

So, what would you have thought if someone had told you back in September that during the 2010-2011 season the Bobcats would fire the best head coach that the franchise had ever seen, trade away the All-Star that fans loved, and still close the season with Stephen Jackson on the roster? Well, it played out just about like you would have thought. The team was shaken apart, as to leave Larry Brown’s “vision” in the dust and adjust for the future. Gerald Wallace was about as heartbroken about being traded to Portland as his Charlotte fans were. And, good ol’ Cap’n Jack made it through the season with a load of technical fouls, showed his clutch abilities throughout it all, and his body fell apart in late March after carrying the team for most of the year. Oh, and the guys that were expected to help Stephen Jackson never did come through as the Cats surrendered to the Draft Lottery by April. Tyrus Thomas was unable to return from his knee surgery and fellow power forward Boris Diaw brought it once in every four or five games. The team limped through the end of their schedule with Kwame Brown as the only true center.

Oh, and what would you have thought back in the Fall if someone told you that the Bobcats would be starting Kwame Brown? Surprisingly, he wasn’t as bad as you would have thought. Let’s not consider him the franchise center, but he was valuable for the team on both sides of the floor.

Quiet Close to the Season

So, the Bobcats headed down the last weeks of the season with a fading hope of another Playoff appearance. Though, what may have been more important for the team was the manner in which their younger and newer players seized the opportunity in the playing time given to them by Paul Silas. During the final games of the season, Gerald Henderson was often  the team’s primary offensive option. He showed his strengths, while learning to become an efficient guard. Clearly, young Gerald had big shoes to fill with the departure of “Crash” Gerald. Luckily, the team didn’t see him recoil.

Looking forward, Charlotte has a lot of decisions in front of them. Clearly, the organization has made a concerted effort to enter the “rebuilding” stage. The off-season should provide the team with the ability to improve as they hold a load of salary cap flexibility, young talent, and Draft selections. Still, it’s apparent that the team has holes, and will work to fill them as they build. Next season’s rookies can’t be expected to carry the team, and the free agent class isn’t all that “star-studded” this summer. With Jordan’s efforts to free up his options, he’ll want to make the most of each of his assets whether it be Draft picks, cap room, or promising players on the Bobcats roster. The 2011-12 season could just serve as a stepping stone for the club as they continue to develop, grow, and wait for the right additions via free agency. So, a short season due to a lock-out might just be exactly what Jordan and Co. are forecasting. If the rebuilding Cats are going to be really bad next year, let’s hope it’s only for 40 games or so.

-Mike

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

  • Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Not Re-Signing Raymond Felton (14%, 26 Votes)
  • Starting Nazr Mohammed (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Firing Larry Brown (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Wallace (32%, 59 Votes)
  • Re-Signing Tyrus Thomas (6%, 11 Votes)
  • Cutting Sherron Collins (5%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 182

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Waiting for The Next Good Hand

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Although we’ve seen a lot of huffing and puffing recently from Bobcats fans and local media, the team’s latest stretch of road beat-downs and lackluster efforts shouldn’t be so hastily bundled into last month’s Gerald Wallace salary dump (cue Abraham Lincoln voice) “for this was their path all along.”

You see, there’s a very good reason why the Charlotte NBA franchise dropped five consecutive road games to solid Western Conference teams and that reason is that the Bobcats aren’t very good. They aren’t good without Gerald Wallace and they weren’t good with him. They were simply adequate.

But they were tearing up the league once Sugar Bear Silas took over,” you contend. Yes, they were putting notches in the win column but the vast majority of those wins came against the lowliest of Eastern Conference opponents and most of the quality victories came at home. To “beast it” in the Association, a team must be able to not only beat good teams at home but also occasionally on the road and, most importantly, must do both of these things consistently. *

Combine the Bobcats lack of talent with the early season Larry Brown-orchestrated funk, the loss of Tyrus Thomas and the unexpected lights-out play of Philadelphia and Indiana and you can see why Michael Jordan pulled the plug. A seasoned gambler looking at these Playoff odds would fold and wait for the next hand. That’s exactly what MJ has done and while it might not be pretty now, the ‘Cats are in a much better position long-term to be relevant.

ROSTERBATION NOTES:

-It’s been a pleasure watching Gerald Henderson go through the ups & downs of a young starter. Some nights the guy looks like a keeper and on others he looks rather lost. His jumper is still not as consistent as it needs to be and I’m hoping that he and his family enlist a specialist to work with him on the skill during the summer. The athleticism that Henderson leans on so much now won’t be there in six or seven years. Hopefully Gerald fulfills his potential as a Kobe-lite by rounding out his skill-set over the next few offseasons.

-I don’t think it’ll be too difficult finding a taker for Boris Diaw’s expiring contract if he puts up a few more performances like the one he did against the Clips last evening. My gut (pun intended) feeling has always been that Boris is simply bored with Charlotte and the systems in place. He’d be much better off in a more metropolitan city. Moving him this summer (along with one of the first rounders acquired in the Wallace trade) would put the Bobcats in the position to take on a max-level star via trade or signing for the first time in a very long while.

-In my opinion, Jordan’s rebuilding plan was hinted at the day the team extended Coach Silas’s contract for next season. It was a clear move to the coach that the blame for the team’s struggles wouldn’t be placed exclusively on his shoulders. Unless the ‘Cats can recruit top notch talent to come to Charlotte this summer, the team will most likely struggle for another season as they build their young nucleus of players for a successful run in ’12-’13.

-ASChin

*Let’s go ahead and call it “The Dallas Test.” The day that the Bobcats go into Big D and scalp the previously unscalpable Mavericks easily on the road, they’ll have made the jump. Until then, they’re either bad or not good enough.