Bobcats Season 10 – Week 5 Review

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The Bobcats go 1-2 on the week, facing off against one terrible team, one great team and one average team, a completely respectable stretch that included:

  • Another beat-down of the hapless Bucks – this time at home, 92-76.
  • A blown 14 point fourth quarter lead against the two time defending champs in Miami, 98-99.
  • Another blown double digit second half lead against the mediocre Mavs in Dallas, 82-89.

Decision Time

The Bobcats flashed their potential Sunday night against the Heat. Miami played a very good 48 minutes yet needed an improbable Chris Bosh back-to-back-to-back three point barrage in order to trump Coach Clifford’s swarming defense. Kemba Walker hit some tough shots (27pts, 10-22 from the field) and Al Jefferson gave the team just enough post offense to force Miami’s vaunted defense to open up a little. Tragically, the Cats’ defensive rotations deteriorated in the last few minutes – combined with the roster’s inexperience and some questionable officiating, a huge victory was transformed into a moral one.

Two nights later the Bobcats flew into Dallas with chips on their shoulders, taking a double digit lead into the fourth quarter and looking every bit the part of a legit Eastern Conference Playoff team. Then MKG breaks his hand. The lead vanishes. The Cats have no answer for Monta or Dirk. Game over and big questions loom.

Out 4-6 weeks, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s absence is a major cause for concern: not only will the Cats be without their best perimeter defender but his 26 minutes per game will likely be divided up between Anthony Tolliver and Ben Gordon (professors emeritus at the Nash & Calderon Security Academy). Barring a Jimmy Butler-esque mid-season breakout by Jeffery Taylor, this 8-11 Bobcats team is about to get demonstrably worse. So what happens next?

Two Paths: Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em?

The Bobcats’ front office must not only decide which direction they want to go but also the feasibility of either direction given the state of the league and their own roster. This year’s Lottery is stacked with potential and the Cats lack a surefire All-Star prospect, so why not throw in the towel and stink it up for one last season before breaking out the teal & purple next Fall? Not so fast. The Bobcats’ pick MUST fall between 1-10 next May or else they lose it to Chicago as the final piece of the Tyrus Thomas trade. With the Eastern Conference stinking so bad and the West beating up on its own dregs, there’s a great chance Charlotte finishes in the 8-9 range at the very worst – dangerously close to that 11th Draft slot.

This kind of worst case scenario was surely discussed before the team signed Al Jefferson in July – that the Bobcats could improve just enough to lose their pick in a loaded Draft while still not making the Playoffs. Competing might be the team’s safest option.

Trade Targets

Charlotte’s needs are obvious: they need a floor spacer who can (ideally) create his own shot and won’t kill them on defense. Preferably this player won’t tie up any major long term money or cost prospects or draft picks in return.

Group One – Big Money, Big Name, So-So Game: Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Wilson Chandler.

I did have Luol Deng in this group but since Chicago is incapable of being bad enough to grab a high pick, my gut tells me that they’ll stay competitive despite losing Derrick Rose for the season. Of the remaining three, Granger is an expiring contract who hasn’t been healthy in two years and no one knows what he has left in the tank. Gay could certainly help and Toronto would basically give him away in a salary dump but there’s that whole $19 million player option next season. Chandler is due $6.7 million next season and would likely cost the Bobcats something of minor value in return – but he can hit the three and is a solid defender.

Group Two – Low Risk Stop Gaps: Vince Carter, Travis Outlaw.

Carter’s in the last year of a reasonable $3 million per season deal. He can still stroke it from the arc and can occasionally pull off a Vinsanity throwback for a quarter or two at a time. Nearing age 37, Carter could wind down his career not far from where it all began in Chapel Hill. Outlaw is a younger option, less dynamic of scorer overall but a very good three point shooter (33% over his ten year career). It’s likely Sacramento would give him away just to dump the $3m cap hit next season.

Group Three – Pricey with Upside: Harrison Barnes, Marcus Morris.

Spare me the advanced stats minutiae for a moment, it’s obvious to anyone who watches basketball that these two teams should’ve swapped SFs from Day One. Barnes gives an offense-starved Bobcats team a volume scorer/floor spacer in the making, while MKG is exactly the sort of hard-nosed glue guy the high octane Dubs could ride to the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, with MKG out for 20 games or so, the Warriors would have zero interest making this deal now – especially with Andre Iguodala sidelined indefinitely.

The Cats showed some interest in Phoenix’s Marcus Morris before the 2011 Draft and could try and buy high now that the elder Morris twin is putting it together for the Suns. Marcus is shooting an insane 41% from downtown – and has played well at both forward spots. If the price is right, Morris could be the ideal fit.

-ASChin

@BaselineBuzz

 

 

Bobcats Turn Home Opener Over To Pacers

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AP/Chuck Burton

The Charlotte Bobcats dropped their home opener 104-101 to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.  The Cats led most of the game, and by 5 with 3:18 left, but crumbled after that.  Both DJ Augustin and Stephen Jackson got decent looks at potentially game-tying 3s on the last possession, but neither found the mark.

AP Recap |  Box Score

There were multiple problems down the stretch.  The Cats had several fourth-quarter turnovers.  With 3 minutes left, Gana Diop got stuck on Danny Granger after a screen; Granger nailed a 3 (his sixth of the game) and goaded Diop into a soft foul for a 4 point play.  DJ Augustin couldn’t contain TJ Ford on the pick-and-roll.  Gerald Wallace missed two free throws.  And Tyler Hansbrough, of all people, scored the last four clutch points for the Pacers.

This is the kind of game that the Bobcats won last year.  At home, against a team of the Pacers caliber, they would have put the hammer down in the fourth quarter — instead they gave up 31 points in the last 12 minutes (not to mention 104 overall).  At the very least, last year’s Bobcats would have made a big play or two in cruchtime to eke out the win.

But this year’s edition of the Bobcats is not as tough defensively with DJ on the court, and isn’t getting the decent play from the center platoon that it did last year.  Those issues aren’t surprising; but one thing we hadn’t predicted was Stephen Jackson’s slow start.

Following his lackluster performance Wednesday night against the Mavs, Jack got into early foul trouble against the Pacers, limiting his first half minutes.  In the second half, he still couldn’t really get anything going.  Jack finished with just 10 points on 4-13 FG (0-3 3pt), though he did add 6 rebounds and 6 assists.  It’s not clear what the problem is, if there’s a problem at all.

Maybe it’s the ankle he tweaked earlier this week in practice.  Maybe the threat of quick technicals is mellowing his harsh.  Whatever it is, let’s hope that Jack breaks out of his funk Saturday night in Milwaukee.

Notes:

  • As expected, the Bobcats exercised their team options for next year on DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson, as per their rookie scale contracts.
  • Nice tidbit from Bonnell: Time Warner Cable, the predominant cable supplier in the Charlotte area and naming-rights sponsor of the arena, will be adding the HD version of SportSouth in the coming weeks so that fans can watch the Bobcats in HD.  Of course, it’s ludicrous that this wasn’t in place weeks ago; but for a franchise that’s still digging out from the curse of C-SET, we’ll take what we can get.
  • Next game: Saturday night in Milwaukee, 8:30 PM ET start.  Go Cats.

Bobcats vs. Pacers Preview

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The home opener has arrived!  After dropping the season opener to the Mavs in Dallas in Wednesday night, the Charlotte Bobcats will be taking on the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, aka The Cable Box.  Tipoff is at 7:00 PM ET.

The Pacers come in also 0-1 after losing 122-109 in San Antonio on Wednesday night, despite Roy Hibbert’s big  28/9/3/3 statline.  The Pacers start new addition Darren Collison at the point, Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger on the wings, and Josh McRoberts and the aforementioned Hibbert on the blocks.  Lottery pick Paul George, veteran James Posey, and onetime Bobcat trade target TJ Ford are also in the rotation.  Meanwhile, former Tarheel favorite Tyler “Psycho-T” Hansbrough pulled a DNP-CD in the Pacers opener.

The Pacers don’t play much D, so look for the Bobcats to get some offense going.  I’d like to see Jack have a big night against Dunleavy, in particular — especially because he was quiet in the opener and finished that game on the bench.

When the Bobcats are on defense, I’d watch out for the Augustin/Collison matchup.  Collison is one of the faster points in the league, the kind that DJ struggles to stay in front of.

More links:

Dr. E’s Twitter (I’ll be tweeting live from the game)

ESPN.com preview

Observer preview

8 points, 9 seconds (Pacers blog)

Bobcats Score Solid Win Over Pacers

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Charlotte Bobcats vs. Pacers, 11/22/09

Home Sweet Home

The Bobcats (4-9) end a 7-game losing streak with a win over the Pacers, 104-88, on Sunday evening at the Cable Box.  AP recap here, box score here, Bonnell story here.  The Cats opened up a slight lead towards the end of the first quarter and never trailed again versus a Pacers squad that just couldn’t get any flow going.

The cynic’s take on this game would be that the Pacers were on the road, don’t play much defense to begin with, were trying to work Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster back into the rotation, and generally had an off night.  The optimist’s take would be that this is exactly how the Bobcats have to play in order to seriously challenge for a spot in the playoffs — and we’re going to see more of it now that Stephen Jackson is settling in.

The truth, as per usual, is somewhere in between.  The Pacers shoot a lot of threes, and didn’t make many tonight (Granger, Rush and Murphy were a combined 4-17).  But the rest of the Pacers poor play was due, in large part, to the Bobcats strong defense.  Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Derrick Brown and Steven Graham did a great job of hounding Danny Granger all night.  In fact, Dahntay Jones ended up taking the most shots for the Pacers, which is about the equivalent of Raymond Felton leading the Bobcats in field goal attempts.

The Bobcats were led on offense not by Stephen Jackson, playing his first game in Charlotte, but by old man Nazr Mohammed.  Mohammed beasted it for 18 points on 8-10 FG and 2-4 FT, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks — in 18 minutes.  If there were some sort of NBA equivalent to the NFL’s QB efficiency rating stat, Nazr’s would be astronomical for the night.

5 other guys also hit double figures for the Bobcats in a well-rounded team effort: Gerald Wallace (11 pts/11 rebs), Boris Diaw (17 pts on 8-13 FG), Stephen Jackson (11 pts/7 rebs) and Derrick Brown (13 pts on 5-7 FG).  Wait, who?

Rookie Derrick Brown logged 24 minutes, the most of his young career, and responded magnificently.  He also added 4 rebs and 2 steals, one of which was an one-on-one rip of Granger in the backcourt that Brown took in for a breakaway dunk (it is included in the highlights above).  I’m not sure what Brown is doing to endear himself to Larry Brown so much, but we can only hope that Gerald Henderson is taking notes.

Small Plates…

  • Steven Graham had some nice minutes in the second half, playing tough D on Granger and posting a perfect night shooting: 3-3 FG and 2-2 FT for 8 points.
  • Tyson Chandler did not play due to back spasms.  As mentioned above, Nazr played 18 minutes, so the rest of the game the Cats went small with Boris effectively playing center.
  • Tyler Hansbrough seemed to be a big draw, as attendance was better than I thought it would be, and he got a big ovation when he checked in for the first time.  He looks like an able replacement for Jeff Foster.
  • Roy Williams was in the “Bob Johnson” midcourt-courtside seats.  He, Jordan and Sam Perkins held a Tarheel reminiscing session over by the Bobcats bench during halftime.  Many more people watched this than Rufus’s corny halftime magic show.
  • In 13 games, the Bobcats have had 8 different leading scorers — I doubt there’s another team in the league even close to that.
  • Next game is a Thanksgiving Eve tilt with the visiting Raptors at 7 PM ET at the Cable Box.  Should be interesting, as the Raps and Cats are like bizarro versions of each other (the Raps are first in the league in offensive efficiency and last in the league in defensive efficiency).

-Dr. E


Charlotte Bobcats vs. Pacers 2/18/09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-E

Charlotte Bobcats @ Pacers 1/25/09

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1.  The Bobcats start their five-game road trip with a loss to Indiana tonight 98-93.  AP story here, box score here.  Cats drop to 18-26.  It would have been really nice to grab this one — on paper it was easily the most winnable game of the trip.  Things get way more difficult from here on out.

2.  This was the worst game Charlotte has played in a while.  They came out flat and stayed flat, never found a consistent offensive option, got outrebounded, and missed too many free throws.  Despite all that, the Cats got to within 3 points several different times in the fourth quarter.

The last minute of the game serves as a pretty good microcosm for the whole 48 minutes: down 96-93 with a minute left, the Bobcats force a Troy Murphy three pointer, which he misses.  Good, right?  Nope.  TJ Ford grabbed the offensive rebound, allowing the Pacers to salt away another 15-20 seconds.  They ended up getting one Jeff Foster free throw on that possession to push the lead to four, 97-93.  On the ensuing Bobcats possession, Diaw got fouled on a drive with 30 seconds left, but then missed both free throws to effectively end any chance of the Cats coming back.  And if “effectively” ending it isn’t enough for you, on the next Bobcats possession Emeka Okafor had his dunk attempt blocked by Jeff Foster to really hammer home the point.

3.  No bench again tonight.  Diop saw his most extended action since joining the Cats (17 minutes) and responded with 8 points on 4-5 FG and 4 rebounds, but also garnered a -11 +/-.  Sean Singletary had a -14 +/- in his 11 unproductive minutes.  The Pacers, meanwhile, got 13 points/7 assists from TJ Ford, and 11 points/5 OREBS/3 steals from Marquis Daniels off their bench.  Perhaps most inexplicably, Stephen Graham just beasted the Bobcats reserves for a stretch in the second quarter (the only quarter the Pacers definitively won), and finished the game with 9 points on 4-5 FG and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes for a +7 +/-.

4.  Danny Granger was the star for the Pacers, going for a game high 27 points.  He wasn’t especially impressive tonight, needing 25 shots to get those 27 points, but with Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster controlling the boards, it was enough.  Murphy finished with 14 boards (1 offensive) but Foster was the real killer, with 10 offensive boards (!) out of 13 total.  I know that guy has a real knack for OREBs, but 10?

5.  It’s not really worth talking about any of the Bobcats’ individual performances or numbers tonight.  The most important numbers are these: the Pacers outrebounded the Bobcats overall 52-37, and 19-10 on the offensive glass.

And the Pacers outshot the Bobcats at the line 19-23 (82.6%) to 18-30 (60%).  Emeka Okafor was the primary offender, going 4-11 from the stripe.  So despite lackluster games from the Bobcats starting five and a no-show from the bench, with just a couple of extra rebounds and a few more free throws, the outcome could have been totally different.

6.  At least Cats fans got some good news today in that the Bucks, one of the teams we’d need to pass in the standings to sneak into the playoffs, lost their best player for the rest of the season this weekend.  Tough break for the Bucks and Redd, who is one of the league’s most understated stars.

7.  As noted previously, this was the first game of a 5 game road trip for the Cats: next game is Tuesday night at the Lakers, 10:30 PM ET start.  That’s followed Wednesday night at Portland (10 PM ET), Friday night at Denver (9 PM ET), then the following Monday night at Utah (9 PM ET).

Charlotte Bobcats @ Pacers 11/28/08

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1. First road win, first overtime game/win: Bobcats 115, Pacers 108!  AP story here, box score here.

2. The first quarter had to be one of the best quarters the Bobcats have played this year, as the Bobcats stormed out to a 28-18 lead.  The preseason projected starting five (Felton, Richardson, Wallace, May, Okafor) played extended minutes together in the quarter and looked good.  Richardson was strong in his first game back after missing the last seven due to a balky knee, Okafor was swallowing up rebounds, and even Sean May was functional.

Amidst all the sturm und drang (admittedly, a fair amount from yours truly), it’s easy to forget that we’ve been without two of our starting five for large swaths of the early season.

3. That said, it was the small lineup of Augustin, Felton, Richardson, Wallace and Okafor that played well down the stretch.  They started the fourth quarter down four, but used timely three-point shooting and good defense to force a tie at the end of regulation.  Early in the overtime period, Raymond and DJ hit back-to-back threes to push the lead to 106-99.  Between the double constraints of their go-to guy (Granger) having five fouls and having to play catchup, the Pacers never seriously threatened again.

4. It’s unfair that I’ve gone this far without lauding Raymond Felton specifically.  Ray-Ray was an absolute beast tonight, tying his career high with 31 points (11-21 FG, 3-6 3PT, 6-7 FT), 3 rebounds, 7 assists and only 1 turnover in 48 minutes.  With just seconds left in regulation, Raymond made an aggressive move and hit a tough shot in the lane to send the game into overtime.  We harp on Raymond’s knack for missing these kinds of shots all the time, so let’s also recognize when he gets the job done.  Clutch play.

5. Richardson showed surprisingly little rust in netting 21 points in 42 minutes.  He had two dunks in the first half (first on a breakaway, second on an alley-oop from Raymond), but clearly wasn’t as explosive as he can be when totally healthy.  He banged knees with a Pacer in the second half, came up gimpy and went to the bench for some ice.  He soon returned, only to take a spill and come up gimpy again.  This time he stayed in the game and didn’t seem to show any ill effects – let’s hope it stays that way.

6. Okafor was solid, with 20 rebounds (9 offensive) and 14 points on 6-9 FG.  Gerald Wallace had an intersting night: he couldn’t get it going from the field (2-10) but kept drawing fouls and making his free throws count (12-14) for 16 points.  Toss in 11 rebounds and 5 steals as well.

7. Now would be a good time to mention that the Bobcats as a team did a great job of being aggressive and forcing fouls.  They shot 32-41 from the line (compared to the Pacers 17-22).

8. Besides all the free points, those fouls provided additional help in that Danny Granger accumulated five of them.  Granger had a great game, with a season high 35 points (6-9 3PT).  But most of that was in the first three quarters, as Granger was eventually thrown off his rhythm due to the foul trouble.  He had just four points in the fourth quarter and none in the overtime period.

9. Next game is a big one: hosting the World Champion Celtics Saturday night at 7:00.  I upgraded my regular seats to Club Seats for this one (flossy, flossy), hoping to see the Cats avenge last year’s heartbreaking “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” loss to the Cs at the Cable Box.

The Celtics appear to be hitting on all cylinders, winning their last seven in a row and blowing out the 76ers tonight.  Hope it’s a good one.

-E