The Argument for the Bobcats to Shed Paul Silas’ Interim Status to Become Head Honcho

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“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!?” (Credit to The Simpsons)

If there’s one Simpsons quote to describe this 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats season, it’s probably that one, though it would fit better if it were reversed.

Regardless, this season for Charlotte fans has practically been a tale of two extremes. While during some games, they’ve looked like the worst team in the NBA, other nights they look like they’re a talented and competitive team.

Undoubtedly, the largest catalyst for this turnaround has been the coaching change from former head coach Larry Brown to interim head coach Paul Silas.

Larry Brown, though one of the greatest NBA head coaches of all-time, just was not effective as the head coach of the 2010-11 Bobcats. He made questionable lineup and substitution decisions and the team that was once known for swarming defense had acquiesced to a very mediocre status. The promising, much-anticipated season declined into a depressing elongated sigh of a year. The team began with a figurative stumble over their own shoelaces, starting the season with a 1-6 record. Then in December, the stumble became a full-fledged fall onto their face as the team dropped games by 20+ points to teams like Memphis, Philadelphia, Washington, not to mention the elite teams like Boston and Oklahoma City.

Change was necessary. Larry Brown was much more melancholy at post-game press conferences. He seemed to no longer enjoy coaching the games and often had a look of resignation plastered on his face.

That look of resignation shortly transformed into a real resignation, as Larry Brown and the Bobcats came to the decision as what was called a “mutual decision” (*raises single eyebrow*) for him to step down from his head coach position.

And so began the momentous organization transition. Paul Silas was hired as interim head coach with Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas (Paul’s son) and Ralph Lewis as assistant coaches.

The effect was nearly immediate. The Bobcats, though playing the dregs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, were playing more efficient on offense and defense. Interim head coach Silas had decided to try to develop the rotation’s young talent more than his predecessor and gave Gerald Henderson more playing time. Since Silas’ arrival, the Bobcats are 12-10, a respectable record (especially with two recent games against elite teams). More impressive was their 4-2 record on their recent road trip. Considering the Bobcats have suffered a couple of significant injuries during this time, Paul Silas’ record is all the more remarkable.

And that leads me to the point of this article: the Bobcats should offer Paul Silas a contract to become the official head coach and not just on the current interim basis.

I understand that the CBA negotiations complicate the situation, but at any rate, the Bobcats should get Silas to coach in the following seasons.

Just look at the change in the players’ attitudes from Larry Brown to now under Silas. D.J. Augustin has been unleashed, as he flourishes in a faster, more free-flowing offense. The players are more comfortable because Silas is encouraging the players to have more feedback so he can respond and teach them how to better themselves. Plus, look at the coaching staff that surrounds him. They’re doing an outstanding job helping Silas coach up the players. Just look at Charles Oakley’s work with Kwame Brown: about 9 points per game and 9 rebounds per game in the month of January. And that’s just one example; this team’s success is a testament to their coaching ability.

Another quality of Silas’ coaching that can’t be overlooked is his experience. Since his first year as a head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, Silas has compiled an impressive coaching record of 289-240, or about a 55% winning percentage. Winning 55% of your games is usually good enough to get in the playoffs as the 6th or 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Speaking of playoffs, Paul has also been to the playoffs four seasons, helping the Charlotte Hornets reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001. Don’t doubt the man’s experience.

On the flip side, if there was one main qualm I had about Larry Brown’s coaching style, it was his mule-like stubbornness when it came to playing veterans over the young guys. After all, it’s not often when a coach doesn’t play a first round draft pick more than 355 minutes in his rookie season without injury playing a large part in hindering their season (Henderson). And in this domain, Silas exceeds Brown by miles upon miles. Gerald Henderson already has 250 more minutes of playing time this season than he had all of last season. Even in this season alone, Henderson’s minutes per game under Larry Brown doubled in the Paul Silas era (11.78 to 22). And Henderson has responded, dropping double digit point totals in four of the last nine games. Silas has even managed to get Sherron Collins some experience lately, as well as Derrick Brown. Coach Silas inspires confidence in his young players which encourages their development as NBA players.

For those out there who think there’s someone better out there, who do you think is superior that’s also available? Jeff Van Gundy? Puh-leez. Jeff enjoys his cushy job at ESPN too much to leave it for a developing small-market team. Mike Brown? He’s basically Larry Brown Lite – strong defensive principles and very limited offensive coaching. I can’t think of any other coach with as much experience or versatility as Paul Silas.

How about we just ask D.J. Augustin? “I would love to see him be the permanent coach. He’s great for this team organization and the whole city.”

So there you have it. We’ve already seen the blurst of times. With Paul Silas at the helm, I think he gives the Bobcats their greatest shot at getting to the best of times.

Edit: More than just a few readers have brought up Silas’ age. I don’t see it as much of a factor. I’m not saying we wrap up Paul for the next ten years – just three or four. I haven’t heard any talk of Jerry Sloan ever stepping down, and he’s a year older than Silas. Also, George Karl has had some serious health concerns and he’s currently in negotiations with Denver to re-up his contract for another three years.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

Bobcats, Brown Snag One From Sac-Town

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Jordan Watches Kwame Brown Beat The Kings

The Charlotte Bobcats pulled out a win in Sacramento to start their longest road trip thus far this season. Despite several bumbling moments late in the game, the Cats kept the Kings at arms-length throughout to notch a 94-89 win over their host in Sacramento.

AP Recap | Box Score

1st Half Notes

The game started ugly, with a lot of stoppages due to a hyped up referee crew. With so many whistles, neither team established a groove and both squads had to sit big men due to early foul trouble (Boris Diaw for Charlotte and DeMarcus Cousins for Sacramento). The first quarter was an exhibition in bad shooting.  The Bobcats could maybe blame this on time-zone difference, and the Kings could say that they suffered coming off of a back-to-back in Portland.  So, the poor shooting allowed for a load of rebounds and most of those came in the form of offensive boards for the home team.

Sacramento has a good reputation for their rebounding, and it appeared that Charlotte’s crew intentionally tried to avoid focusing on just battling them on the boards. The Bobcats were working to move the ball in transition and score quick, easy points. Had they stood around to the paint after shots, the game would have moved much slower and given the advantage to the Kings. This “strategy” led to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, where Gerald Wallace started to take over. Crash has been a bit “ho-hum” lately, and it was nice to see him drive to the hoop and finish strong. He’s capable of a lot more than he’s shown over the last month, and the team will need more of his presence on this road trip.

The Kings have some decent, young talent and guard Beno Udrih put a lot of work in to use his size against DJ Augustin early in the game. Tyreke Evans was covered by the taller Stephen Jackson, but scored easily to start. Surprisingly, Kings forward Jason Thompson showed a load of offensive ability and hustle during his first half minutes. Despite the bright spots for the Sacramento’s team, the Bobcats began to establish a flow on offense in the second quarter and Kwame Brown’s presence grew larger and larger on the defensive side of the floor. Things were rolling for the Cats to close the period, and it was great to see the guys building chemistry on the road trip as they talked and joked in the time-out huddles.

2nd Half Notes

Foul trouble was the theme for the start of the second-half of this game. Boris Diaw and Eduardo Najera both entered the 3rd Quarter with 3 fouls apiece. Diaw quickly snagged his fourth and it seemed as thought the Frenchman had barely seen the floor during the match. Najera was plugged in at the Power Forward spot, and handled his promotion excellently by nailing an open 3-pointer and getting to line on quick cuts. Stephen Jackson was fairly quiet throughout the first 2 quarters and somehow picked up 3 fouls in less than 2 minutes of the 3rd period, leading the Bobcats into the penalty very quickly. Interestingly, Kwame Brown kept taking the ball up strong and could not get the refs to call foul on the Kings defenders. Finally, after several bumps and slaps, DeMarcus Cousins was called for his 4th foul mid-way through the 3rd. Despite the lop-sided calls, Brown never lost his cool and kept working hard on both ends of the floor to snag 11 rebounds in the period.

After a streak-for-streak match by the teams to open the final quarter, the Bobcats found themselves struggling to establish offensive consistency. Shaun Livingston showed a few nice driving, pull-up shots, but that wasn’t nearly enough to settle the Kings momentum. Carl Landry threw down a strong dunk (with the beat of Snoop’s classic “What’s My Name?” playing over the arena soundsystem) to spark a rally for Sacramento. During their push, the Kings enjoyed Nazr Mohammed’s lack of presence on defense and made him look even more “ugh” on offense.

Coach Paul Silas must have seen enough, and unleashed Kwame Brown onto Sac-town about half-way through the 4th. Quickly, Brown forced Cousins into his 6th foul and eliminated the Kings’ best big man. While Stephen Jackson stepped up, Gerald Wallace went quiet for many of the final minutes. The most consistent force for the Cats was clearly Kwame Brown. Teammates worked to feed him and he defended the paint, allowing them to run out on the break. Boris Diaw re-entered the game late, and kept up a habit of making unnecessary passes until knocking down a 3-pointer that should have been the “nail in the coffin” shot with 1 minute left. Unfortunately, Charlotte finished ugly and left the door open for the Kings to cut it close. The Bobcats settled down when it counted and survived the scare to finish the game like professionals, winning 94-89.

Loose Notes:

Kwame Brown had a big double-double with 13 pts / 18 rebs! In a post-game interview, Kwame credited Asst. Coach Charles Oakley for pushing him during practice.

Boris Diaw made some bad fouls to keep him on the bench. While Najera filled in adequately, this could have been a big game for Boris to exploit the youth and inexperience of the opposing youngsters for the Kings.

Michael Jordan made the trip to see his club in Sacramento. It was also reported that he was at the Blazers-Kings game in Portland the night before. With Rod Higgins at his side, is he doing a little personnel scouting or just supporting his team on their big West Coast swing?

Gerald Henderson never found a rhythm in this game. He had a really sweet hang-in-the-air scoop lay-up early in the game, but showed nothing else. Dominic McGuire failed to impress, as well. D-Mac was forced to guard a lot bigger forwards, so he did well just to survive.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up a topic that’s been on the minds of a lot of Cats fans – rebuilding. It seems like the savvy thing to say is that a small-market team needs to follow the “build through the draft” model to succeed. If the San Antonio Spurs are the the prototype of this model, it should be noted that they are an anomaly. David Robinson and Tim Duncan don’t come around too often, and the Spurs struck gold twice. When folks (and fellow Baseliners) preach the “rebuild through the draft” method, we need to realize that a team like the Sacramento Kings are the most likely outcome of this plan. I hear that the Kings were really good about a decade a go. What’s been going on out there since?  Hmmm?

Bonus Link : Recap By Sactown Royalty

-Mike

Boris on the Rebound?

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Boris Diaw Improves Under New Coach

At first blush, Boris Diaw is not the all-around good player he was once thought to be. After being traded to Charlotte in December of 2008, he flourished while putting up nice stats, including 15 ppg on 50% FG and 42% 3P with 5 apg and 6 rpg. But after that season, his play declined, partially due to the Stephen Jackson trade which eliminated some of his value. It seemed that with the pressure to score lifted, Diaw mentally shrugged at the idea of scoring and even being aggressive. He didn’t work as hard in the paint, taking about three fewer shots per game than the previous season but still taking the same number of three pointers per game despite dropping nearly a full ten percentage points in shots from downtown.

But most of all, he was inconsistent. However, this was still the Larry Brown era so as long as Boris played solid defense at just about any position, it didn’t matter. He was going to start every game, which he did. But while his defense was strong, his offense was, as mentioned above, inconsistent. His shooting was off and on and for the most part, he just seemed… out of it. Bobcats fans deemed him ‘nonchalant,’ which is an apt word to describe him. He’s not the Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace who basically wear their emotions on their sleeves. But then again, he doesn’t have to be. It’s just who he is. The fans who get upset that he doesn’t show emotion are also the ones who say things like, “Diaw doesn’t care.” While he doesn’t have the athleticism to have the chase-down blocks like Crash, nor the outward emotion, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, as some people infer. He just needed to play with more aggression.

Exit Larry Brown.

Enter Paul Silas and Charles Oakley.

When news broke about the new head coach and assistant coach, I was very interested to see what would happen to Diaw. Silas and Oakley both were very good power forwards (emphasis on the POWER) during their respective NBA careers with both averaging about 10 rebounds per game for their career. Obviously, Diaw, an unorthodox PF, doesn’t really fit that mold that Silas and Oak had and probably would prefer. While a trade seems like an obvious solution, I much preferred to see how the new coaching staff would develop Boris’ post play and rebounding. Although it is still early in Silas’ interim coaching tenure, I think 12 games are enough to make some analysis.

So far, I’ve seen marked improvement in Diaw’s aggressiveness on offense, specifically in the paint. He used to get the ball in the post, make a three quarter-assed attempt to muscle into the paint before kicking out to a teammate. Now he’s just so much better. He’s become more assertive and in the post, utilizing spin moves, his underrated baby hook and just plain using his behind and forcing himself into the pain. And yet, his scoring average in the Silas Era (S.E.) has not improved over the Larry Brown Era (L.B.E.). But that’s just fine! In the first six games in the S.E., Boris only had one game where he took more than 10 attempts from the field. Since then, he’s had five of six games with field goal attempts in double digits. While Boris’ FG% has marginally decreased in the S.E., I’m not concerned if he takes 10+ attempts. Why? Because he’s not taking shots from Augustin, so these extra attempts are Stephen Jackson’s or Gerald Wallace’s, which is fine by me as Diaw is more efficient on offense than either of them, unless Jackson has one of those games (COUGHnearfortypercentfg%COUGH). Oh, and I guess it’s worth noting that Diaw is getting to the line more often and hitting a MUCH better percentage of his free throws. Anyway, so color me tickled pink about Boris’ newfound aggression on offense.

As for defense Boris has been fine, as usual. Against Memphis, he helped hold Zach Randolph to 15 points on 17 attempts. His main struggles so far have been with David West and Carlos Boozer (pre-injury). Eh, that stuff doesn’t worry me too much. Boozer was averaging near 23 points anyway.

But where Boris has really improved since Silas and Oakley, et al. began working with the team, is rebounding, assists and limiting turnovers. Believe it or not, according to Queen City Hoops, the Bobcats pace has not sped up under Silas, as he had said at the beginning of his tenure. What this means is that Boris isn’t getting more rebounds just because there are more rebounds to go around. Diaw is averaging a little over a rebound more per game more than with LB as head coach. What’s more is that that extra rebound is mostly offensive rebounds, which means the Bobcats are getting another possession on offense. As for assists and turnovers, this is less of Boris’ development than Silas’ offense development from Brown’s anemic, umm… “non-defense.” Silas has allowed the young players to become comfortable, notably Augustin and Henderson, who are both getting more time than ever. Whereas Larry Brown would berate D.J. until a puddle of urine formed around his feet (kidding!), Silas is taking the “catch more flies with honey” approach. And while there are setbacks and stumbles along the way, they’re making much more progress than Larry Brown was. But I digress. Anyway, Silas has the team playing more efficiently – though that’s not saying much. Whoever gets an open look better take it, in short. So when Boris drives and pulls a second defender, he can easily find Augustin or someone else spotting up for a shot. Bingo, more assists. And because the players aren’t afraid to shoot anymore, the turnovers that result from extra, extra passes are phased out for the most part, eliminating a full turnover per game for Diaw.

And all this improvement is mostly coming from the last six games. As a Bobcats fan, of course I hope his play continues to get better, but more than that, I hope that this indicates how well Silas and Oakley are coaching and instructing players on improving the game’s fundamentals.

And here’s my spreadsheet (which is correct as of Jan. 19, 2011) so y’all know I’m not just blowing smoke:

Click once, and then again on the following page to enlarge

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.