What To Do with Dampier? – Part 2

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PLUS: Carmelo Perception vs. Gerald Wallace Reality

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MEgo-Mania© has again swept the Association with the latest contestent being none other than Johnny Sucker Punch himself, Carmelo Anthony.  Within hours of Ric Bucher’s ‘Melo scoop, the national rumor mill threw little old Charlotte a bone by insisting that the Bobcats were, in fact, a legitimate dark horse to land Carmelo due to his Brand Jordan ties and the Nuggs cap-strapped lust of Erik Dampier’s insta-expiring contract.  Immediately the internet was flooded with columnists, blogs and commenters weighing in: “What could the Bobcats possibly send Denver to pry ‘Melo away!!!???  Gerald Wallace and Damp’s expiring?  Throw in some draft picks???  Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson too!  Maybe some cash?  And take back Kenyon Martin’s dead weight contract, yeah, that’d would at least make ‘em think about it!!!”

With Steve Austin making a comeback splash this summer in The Expendables, let me channel the spirit of Stone Cold in my response to this nonsense:

“Carmelo Anthony, what?  That mealy-mouth sonofabitch, what?  Couldn’t play lock-down defense on a Roomba, what?  Sucker-punchin’ yellow belly beady-eyed overrated idiot, what?”
(CUT TO: Stone Cold  Stunner on ‘Melo, Austin mocks an incapicitated Carmelo with a two fingered salute while wearing a black t-shirt and jean shorts.  WHAT?)

Someone please refresh my memory.  What exactly has Carmelo Anthony accomplished during his first seven seasons in the Association?  At least Lebron has been to an NBA finals.  Melo can’t even say that.  He’s a high-octane scoring dynamo, a one dimensional player who has a catchy name and often plays on national television.  Basically, he’s the new Vince Carter.  End of story.

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie summed it up best in his Small Forward Rankings last month.  Ranking Gerald Wallace 4th and Carmelo 3rd, he writes:

I would have no problem (with) flipping (Wallace) with Carmelo Anthony on more than a few nights. Anthony’s offense is as good as Wallace’s D, but Wallace’s offense is so, so much better than Carmelo’s defense.

QUICK LOOK AT GERALD WALLACE (IN COMPARISON TO CARMELO):

  1. Only two years older.
  2. Costs half as much ($10 million average base versus ‘Melo’s upcoming MAX extension).
  3. Doesn’t dominate the ball.  Can score without having plays called for him.
  4. Plays outstanding man and team defense.  Best rebounding small forward in the league.
  5. Team leader who has the respect of the lockerroom.

So why would the Bobcats consider anything other than a straight swap of Wallace for Anthony?  Simple, Carmelo’s perceived value is higher.  Higher in the mind of the casual fan and higher in the mind of televsion executives who decide which teams get national broadcasts.  Mark Mainstream hears the name “Carmelo Anthony” and associates it with “talented.”  Again, ‘Melo is the new Vince Carter.  The Bobcats are still trying to lure in fans and establish an identity while trying to prevent another season of full-scale financial catastophe.  ‘Melo’s perceived value and name recognition could help.  I just hope the team doesn’t severely over-pay in order to get him.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

DAMPIER SOLUTION PART TWO: TRADE HIM

If anything worthwhile has come out of these ME-lo rumors, it’s the fact that the billionaire Kroenke family has grown tired of dropping $20+ million in luxury tax payments to the league every year.  As previously mentioned, the Nuggets aren’t exactly lining the halls with Larry O’Brian trophies so cutting team salary this year (with the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Heat clearly ahead of them) makes a lot of sense.  There’s been a lot of talk of a Chauncey Billups/Dampier straight up swap and I’d be all for it except for the fact that the ‘Cats are currently $8 million over the tax line and need to shed salary fast.  There’s no question that the Nuggets would pull the trigger on a trade that would save them $26 million this season but in order for the ‘Cats to make it happen, they’ll need to make another deal first.

SALARY DUMP OPTIONS #1 and #2

CLT trades Boris Diaw and a future first rounder & second rounder to MIN, NYK or SAC for a future 2nd Round selection.
OR
CLT trades Nazr Mohammed + D.J. Augustin to MIN, NYK or SAC for a future 2nd Round selection.

In order to get underneath the luxury tax, the Bobcats need to shed around $8.5 million dollars from their current payroll.  Fortunately, they might have a couple of ways of doing this in Boris Diaw (plus picks) or a Nazr/Augustin combo.  If I’m MJ, I’m on the phone with David Kahn right now whispering, “y’know, we have this young point guard prospect who we-“  KAHN: “Point guard Prospect???!!!  Did you say Point Guard?????!!!”

The Knicks might also be inclined to take on former D’Antoni favorite Diaw while gaining back a first round pick that can be used in the next decade.  (Although I would be a little concerned that the Diaw/Eddie Curry combo might do to IHOPs what Ewing and LJ did to The Gold Club in the late ’90s.)

In the following scenario, let’s say the ‘Cats find a taker for D.J. and Nazr (even if they have to throw in a protected future first), then…

CLT trades Erik Dampier to DEN for Chauncey Billups

The Bobcats suddenly accomplish both of their current offseason goals: Upgrade the Point Guard position and Get Underneath the Luxury Tax.  The team heads into the preseason with a relatively stacked roster.
StateOfTheRoster_Sept2010_TradeHim
Kwame and Diop would try to replicate last year’s Mohammed/Chandler/Ratliff center by committee while a now “huskier” Boris Diaw would rotate between the 4 and 5 spots when Coach Brown goes, uh, “small.”
Chauncey and Shaun Livingston give Larry Brown much bigger options at the point.  McGuire, Derrick Brown, Henderson, Tyrus Thomas plus Crash, Livingston and JAX give Larry Brown a metric ton of “long, athletic” wing players to do his magic with.
Bobcats Salaries Post - Chauncey Trade
From a cap perspective, the Bobcats stay right at the tax line this season while maintaining flexibility going forward.  Billups has a team option for the ’11-’12 season which will almost certainly not be exercised as the league goes into a lockout.  The Bobcats could use their leverage with Billups’ current deal to sign him to a three year contract extension at a much lower per year salary next summer.

IN CONCLUSION

A Billups for Dampier swap makes a great deal of sense for both teams as Denver could save tens of millions this season by promoting Ty Lawson and dumping Chauncey.  The Bobcats would likely cement their rise to the top 4 in the East this season by upgrading from Raymond Felton to Billups.  Hmmm…  What else is there to say?  Bobcats win and win big.

Until next time, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

Tyrus Thomas Trade: Further Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acie Law

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

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

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

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

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

Ronald “Flip” Murray

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

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

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

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

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

The Future First-Round Pick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Dr. E


POLL : TYRUS THOMAS TRADE REACTIONS

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

Total Voters: 124

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Bobcats Can’t Take Advantage

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Nuggets 1/25/10

Running-Diary style, so I can get some shut-eye.  No Carmelo tonight, due to a sprained left ankle suffered against the New Orleans Hornets the other night; but JR Smith, “eclectic” behavior and all, will be in the lineup.

Bonus pre-game link: ESPN’s John Hollinger continues to show the love, calling Larry Brown the midseason favorite for Coach of the Year (Insider Only).

First Quarter

It is just excruciating to hear Steve Martin and Dell Curry blather on about how this game is available in HD; Time Warner Cable in Charlotte doesn’t carry SportSouth as an HD channel, so we’re stuck in the 90s with SD Crap-O-Vision.  To top it off, it sounds like the audio is coming over ham radio.

The Bobcats begin the game hot from outside, 3-3 from 3-point land (one each for Jack, Boris and Gerald) to take an early 13-8 lead; but the Nuggets don’t seem to be missing Carmelo much, as they take a 29-26 lead after 1.

Pretty standard “two teams feeling each other out” opening quarter, but would have hoped that the Cats could have held a Carmelo-less Nuggets squad to less than 25. 68% FG for the Nuggs in the quarter.

Second Quarter

So last spring, I happened to be in Denver during the playoffs — while eating at Buckhorn Exchange (mmm, bison) I noted that a couple of the waiters had bootleg sky blue t-shirts with the Nuggets main logo, except it had “Thuggets”.  Like this, but in sky blue.  Pretty cool.  I mean, if you have a team full of thugs, you might as well embrace it.

Holy crap, they just showed Nuggets VP of Player Personnel and former Charlotte Hornet great Rex Chapman in the crowd, or maybe it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Float version of Rex Chapman.  This is how I remember Rex; this is what he looked like probably a couple of years ago.  Take away another 25% of the hair, make what’s left completely gray, and add about 20 pounds.  That’s what he’s looking like tonight.  Troubling…

Back to the game, Bobcats still can’t make any headway and find themselves down 49-42 with 2 and 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.  Then, a funny moment.

Gerald Wallace accidentally pops JR Smith in the face with an elbow trying to make a post move, but the Nuggets get called for a foul.  Kenyon Martin won’t shut up about the injustice, and gets a tech for his trouble.  Jack misses the technical free throw, and K-Mart sarcastically applauds this while looking right at the ref — second tech, ejected.  It’s moments like this I feel kinda sorry for George Karl.  K-Mart seems to enjoy the process, grinning from ear to ear as he slaps hands with fans as he heads to the showers.

Post K-Mart ejection, the Cats briefly cut it to one, but Aflallo nails a three to put the Nuggs up 56-52 at the half.  Stats are roughly even; both teams shooting a bit over 50% FG, rebounds, assists and turnovers basically the same.  Chauncey and Gerald leading the way for their teams with 17 and 15 points, respectively.  Raymond with 8 assists already, Gerald with 6 rebounds.

Have to like the Bobcats’ chances the rest of the way with no Carmelo or K-Mart.

Third Quarter

Dell Curry and Steve Martin have promoted the rest of the Western Conference road trip about a half-dozen times so far, which has led to a half-dozen slobbering conversations about Dell’s kid, Stephan, who is apparently a rookie for the Warriors.  Who knew?

Every time the Cats get within a bucket, the Nuggs seemingly get one from Chauncey or Aflallo.  Can’t get over the hump, Nuggs up 70-63 with 6 minutes left.

Chauncey Billups is just schooling Felton. 21 points, 9 assists with 5 mins left in 3rd.  Felton just picked up 4th foul trying to defend him.

Meanwhile, Joey Graham is joining the party as the Nuggs go up by 12, 77-65 with 4 mins left.  Where’s Steven?

Mmmpphhh.  Very disappointing 3rd quarter as the Nuggs extend their lead to 84-73.  This is starting to look like a wasted opportunity for the Bobcats.  Gerald Wallace was very quiet after a good first half.

Fourth Quarter

It’s a war of attrition for the Nuggets here, as Birdman Anderson goes down with a rolled left ankle trying to block a Flip Murray layup early in the fourth.  But the Bobcats still can’t capitalize, as Gerald blows a layup on the next possession.

And now Raymond commits his fifth foul with just under 10 minute left and will have to sit.  Bobcats are going to have to get Stephen Jackson going here in the fourth in order to make a run — offense just looks anemic.

Ugh, Aaron Aflallo with another corner three to put the Nuggs up 96-80 with just under 6 minutes left.  And another.  Career night for Aflallo: 24 points on 9-11 FG and 6-7 3PT and 7 assists.

And this one’s over, as Acie Law enters the game for the Cats with 2 and 1/2 minutes left and the Nuggs up 101-86.  Poor effort by the Cats tonight, no one could get it going on the offensive end, especially in the second half.  No Carmelo all game, no K-Mart in the second half, and no Birdman in the fourth, and the Cats can’t take advantage.

Postgame

Final score is 104-93.  AP recap here, box score here.

The Nuggets shoot 10-23 from 3 and 22-26 from the free throw line as Billups, Aflallo and Joey Graham more than make up for Carmelo’s absence.  The Nuggets have won 7 in a row, while the Cats drop their third straight.

Next game is Tuesday night against the Suns, 9PM ET start — maybe we could trade Boris for Amare before the game?

-Dr. E

Bobcats Shut Down Streaking Nuggets

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Nuggets, 12/8/09

Can We Please Take This Show On The Road?

The Bobcats played perhaps their best game of the season on Tuesday night at the Cable Box in defeating the Denver Nuggets 107-95.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats improve to 9-11 (8-3 at home) while Denver falls to 16-6 and has their four-game win streak snapped.

This was a well-played, fun-to-watch, close game that was played at Denver’s pace.  The stars were out as Carmelo Anthony went for 34 points and 7 rebounds, while Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace paced the Cats with 25 apiece.

The game was tied at 87 with 5 minutes left; the Cats went on a quick 8-2 run at that point, highlighted by two tough buckets by Raymond Felton.  The Nuggets were on the ropes at that point, but the Cats didn’t completely put them away until Stephen Jackson drew a shooting foul on Carmelo with under a minute left.  Carmelo eventually drew a tech for arguing the call, and Jackson hit all three free throws to extend the lead to nine.

The Nuggets missed the toughness of Kenyon Martin, who is out with a dislocated pinkie, and were a bit road weary after coming in from Philadelphia last night; but this was still an important win over a very good team.

I mentioned Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace scoring 25 points apiece above, but both stuffed the stat sheets in other ways:  Wallace had 16 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block to stuff the stat sheet.  Better yet, the home crowd is starting to take notice of Gerald’s herculean effort on the boards this year, cheering the individual rebounds.  Jackson had seven rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.

Raymond Felton played another strong game with 14 points (6-7 FG, 2-2 3PT) 3 assists vs 1 turnover, and 6 steals, while Nazr Mohammed continued his strong play off the bench with 15 points (9-10 FT) and 5 rebounds.

It remains to be seen whether the Bobcats can parlay this strong showing into some road wins this weekend.  The Cat are abysmal on the road (1-8) and have a dreaded Texas back-to-back coming up: San Antonio on Friday night, Dallas on Saturday.  While neither the Spurs nor the Mavs are as fearsome as they’ve been in the past, both are still formidable.

Bullets

  • DJ played 12 minutes after logging DNP-CDs in the previous two games.  It wasn’t the scintillating bounce-back game I was hoping for, though.  In his first half stint, DJ was outplayed and frankly bullied by Ty Lawson.  DJ’s stint in the second half was slightly better.
  • Roy Williams was in the “Bob Johnson Seats” again to watch Lawson.  And the Bobcats, I’m sure he really loves the Bobcats, too.
  • Tyson Chandler, in his 9th year in the league, apparently still does not understand what does and doesn’t constitute a foul.  He is an absolute magnet for picking up off-the-ball fouls, often when setting screens on offense or trying to play post defense.  The offensive ones are particularly troubling, because the Bobcats just can’t afford to give up possessions like that.  He can’t stay on the floor due to the foul trouble (only 13 minutes tonight), which is well and good, as the team looks better with Nazr in the post anyways.
  • The Cats were 31-37 from the free throw line tonight, with 3 players (Wallace, Jack and Nazr) all hitting at least 8 free throws.
  • The Bobcats get some love from Hollinger’s Playoff Odds Formula, which debuted on Tuesday and is currently projecting us as the 6th seed.
  • Is this the year that Gerald Wallace becomes the first Bobcats to make the All-Star team?  If he can maintain his status as the league’s leading rebounder (tough with Bosh and Howard nipping at his heels) there’s no way they can deny him, right?
  • I’ve got a couple extra tickets to the Saturday, December 19th game against the Jazz — good seats, too.  I’ll be giving them away via Twitter sometime this weekend, so you best be following me.
  • Next game is Friday night in San Antonio, 8:30 PM ET start.

-Dr. E

Charlotte Bobcats @ Nuggets 1/30/09

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1.  Bobcats lose to the Nuggets on Friday night, 110-99, to drop to 1-3 on the current road trip.  AP story here, box score here, PopcornMachine.net game flow here.  Bobcats drop to 19-28 and fall 2.5 games back of the 8th playoff spot.

2.  Don’t let the 11 point final margin fool you — this one wasn’t anywhere near that close.  In the fourth game of a five game Western Conference road trip, in the thin Denver air, and without Gerald Wallace and DJ Augustin, the Cats hardly stood a chance.  The opening minutes of the game aside, the Nugs led this one throughout, and the Bobcats never seriously threatened in the second half.

3.  This was Carmelo Anthony’s first game back after missing the last 10 games due to a broken bone in his hand.  He certainly had a nice game, finishing with 19 points (9-11 FT), but it was a quiet 19.  He seemed content to pace himself and chip away gradually at the rust of missing 3 weeks of action.

The two guys that really beat us were Nene and Linas Kleiza.  Nene finished with a loud 22 points (on 10-11 FG!) and 12 rebounds.  He finished with a +17 +/- in 31 borderline dominant minutes.  The guy is a menace, possessing a great combination of strength and finesse.  He’s big enough to hold his own on the block, but really excels at slipping away from his man, rolling to the basket and catching interior passes.  Once he catches the pass, he has a nice knack for staying balanced and finishing strong with dunk.  He does this a lot, as evidenced by his league leading 62% field goal percentage.

Meanwhile, Linas Kleiza finished with 21 points in just 29 minutes off the bench (7-11 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4-4 FT).  This guys has a very well rounded game, and showed it all off last night.  He had several strong drives to the basket, but also shot well from outside.

The fact that these two guys led the way for the Nugs shows a) how loaded they are, at least offensively, and b) how beat up the Bobcats are right now.  Though Carmelo, Chauncey, K-Mart and J.R. Smith were relatively quiet, I had the sense that any one of them could have stepped up to overpower the Cats if Nene/Kleiza hadn’t.

4.  The only individual performance worth lauding was Raja Bell’s.  Raja finished with 27 points (9-14 FG, 3-5 3 PT, 6-7 FT), 5 rebounds and 4 assists.  For a couple of stretches in the game when he was feeling it, Bell went into straight gunner mode — it seemed like he shot a lot more than 14 times.  Thank goodness he did, though, as it was all anyone could do to keep the Cats from getting blown out.  Bell finished with a -3 +/-, which was by far the best mark of any of the starters.

5.  The rest of the Cats were punchless.  Raymond Felton shot 3-10 from the field, garnering a -17 +/-.  Before the game, George Karl apparently was indignant that the Bobcats were considering trading Felton.  Here’s exhibits A and B, George: a) the Bobcats books for the next few years, and b) some advanced Hollinger statistics showing that Felton isn’t even in the top 30 point guards in the league.

Adam Morrison played a foul-filled 17 minutes.  He looks more and more lost every game he plays.  I have to believe that these starts he gets in Gerald Wallace’s absence are the last real chance that he’s going to get with the Bobcats.  Picking up the team option for the ’09-’10 season (at $5 million) this past summer is beginning to look like a(nother) big miscalculation by Jordan and Higgins.  Morrison needs a change of scenery, bigtime — maybe to the Euroleague.

And this was another game in which Emeka Okafor’s disturbing lack of motor was really exposed.  Pitted against the aggressive, efficient, dunking machine Nene, Okafor shrunk in the face of the challenge.  He finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds in just 21 minutes.  Maybe he wanted to slink back to the bench to read this.

If Okafor was just a bit bigger and a notch or two more talented, the coolnes with which he plays the game would probably be a huge asset.  But at this level, when his counterpart every night is usually either bigger than him, or more fluid and athletic than him, a degree of nastiness and passion would go a long way.  Alas…

6.  The Bobcats will wrap up this road trip on Monday in Utah.  A win against a similarly depleted Jazz squad (no Boozer or Kirilenko) would really salvage the road trip at 2-3.  It’s a 9 PM ET start.

-E

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Nuggets 11/11/08

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1. Another night at the Cable Box, another loss: 88-80 to the visiting Nuggets.  AP story here, box score here.  Bobcats drop to 2-5 – thank goodness for the Wizards, or we’d already be at the bottom of the division.  Of note, Michael Jordan was not at the game – first home game that he hasn’t been at the end of the bench for this year.

2. Example #248 of the Bobcats broke-assedness: you know how on a holiday like Veterans Day, or Memorial Day or whatever, the local team will have a bunch of local servicemen and women at the game, filling up a whole row or section, in uniform, in decent seats?  The Bobcats had 3 guys in marginal seats tonight.  And they looked like they rather be in Iraq.  To honor them, the dancers did a slightly less raunchy than usual routine while wearing slightly less slutty than usual clothes to Prince’s America.  Not inspiring.

3. Back to the game: Denver was significantly shorthanded, playing tonight without Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson.  This left Nene as the only true big for the Nuggets (save Cheik Samb, who logged a few first half minutes).  This should have made the matchup slightly better for the Bobcats, but it didn’t seem to make a difference at all.  Of note, in the second half, the Nuggets went for a stretch without a true big at all.  The Bobcats obliged with a smallball lineup of their own for several minutes, featuring Jared Dudley and Gerald Wallace as the “bigs”.  Smallball usually equals freewheeling, high scoring basketball, but that was certainly not the case tonight.

4. This game ebbed and flowed quite like the Toronto game on Sunday, with neither team playing particularly well early on and the more talented team eventually pulling away.  I again got the sense that the Nuggets were just toying with the Cats, content with expending just enough energy to secure the road win.

5. For the Nuggets, Carmelo played well.  His offensive game is just beautiful, from the spot-up jumpers to the fadeaways to the post moves – he’s got the scoring thing down pat.  But like the conventional wisdom says, he really doesn’t do too much else on the court.  I don’t think you’ll ever win a championship with him as “the guy.”  If he ever does, it will be late in his career as a second or third banana – a hired gun to put the ball in the basket.

6. Big shout to Renaldo Balkman, from my alma mater – Go Gamecocks!  Balkman was great in picking up the slack for the Nuggets.  15 points on 6-9 FGs (without a play ever run for him), 7 rebounds (3 offensive) and 2 steals before fouling out in the waning minutes.

7. For the Bobcats, Sean May was active tonight.  He played a few minutes to start the fourth quarter.  On the first Bobcats offensive possession, he found himself open on a pick and pop.  He launched it from 20 feet or so without hesitation and bricked it.  Boos followed.  It would seem that the fans have turned on him – this could get ugly, fast.  That said, I’m sure if he had nailed the jumper, I’m sure there would have been applause; but the general zeitgeist of the crowd would lead me to believe it would have been sarcastic applause.  This situation bears monitoring…

8. The Bobcats’ offense was putrid tonight.  The starting five, in particular, has tremendous difficulty creating decent shots, much less hitting them.  In the opening five minutes, they force-fed Emeka Okafor  the ball in the post three times.  All three times he had his shot blocked by Nene.  The play-by-play doesn’t note Emeka’s first miss as being blocked, but believe me, it was.  Look, I hope at the start of every year that Emeka will have worked on his low-post game in the off-season.  If he had just one or two reliable moves from the block he would be so much more valuable.  But it’s just not going to happen.

9. Jason Richardson had a decent game statistically, with 23 points on 9-16 FG and 4-7 3PTs, but it just wasn’t enough.  He still doesn’t seem comfortable with where his shots are coming from in Brown’s system.  In more maddening news, Raymond Felton spent a few minutes at the 2 again tonight.  A bit more acceptable, given all the smallball going on, but still.  Bad game for both PGs; Felton got into foul trouble and had to have his minutes limited as a result.  Never fear, though, as Augustin’s play was equally miserable (1-9 FGs, 4 turnovers).

10. Latest Bobcats trade rumor: Carroll for Sean Williams and Trenton Hassell.  I’d do this in a second (not that Sean Williams solves the Bobcats lack of a low-post offensive threat, but at least he’d provide Emeka with a little help down there).  However, it doesn’t sound as if the Nets are as interested.  Example #249 of the Bobcats broke-assedness: someone in the organization is making up and “leaking” fantasy trade scenarios that other teams realistically scoff at.  Hmmmm, maybe that’s where Jordan was tonight…

11. Next game: Friday night at 7:00, hosting the Jazz.

-E