Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 1)

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capped-out

Chapter I: Diagnosis

First Number of Interest: $680,000.

It’s the number you get when you take the Bobcats $69.24 million in salaries for the ’09-’10 season and subtract it from last year’s $69.92 million luxury tax threshold.  Six hundred and eighty K.  That’s approximately how close the Bobcats came to paying the luxury tax last season.  I say approximately as I’m basing the figures on Hoopshype’s excellent salary database — a database that doesn’t included Derrick Brown’s two year rookie contract.  (For the sake of this column, I’m estimating his cap figure to be equal to Milwaukee’s Jodie Meeks, drafted one spot behind Brown in last year’s second round.)

Second Number of Interest: $1.6 million.

That’s how much NBA teams are expecting to come off the cap next year.  You read that right, the Salary Cap will shrink next year and with it the luxury tax threshold.  According to ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan, the tax line will lower to around $68 million in ’10-’11 which would put the Bobcats at less than $8 million under the tax threshold before re-signing starting PG Raymond Felton (unrestricted), PF Tyrus Thomas (restricted) or valuable role players Stephen Graham and Theo Ratliff (click chart to see a larger image).

BobcatsCurrentCapSituation

Looking at next year’s salary commitments, three things are glaringly obvious:

1. THE CENTERS OF ATTENTION

The Bobcats have $27.5 million (roughly half of their cap space) committed to the center position and the last time I checked, none of those guys were named Howard, Duncan, Ming or Gasol.  Years of poor financial decision making have finally caught up: overpaying Emeka Okafor when they didn’t have to (Chandler), overpaying Matt Carroll when they didn’t have to (Diop) and bailing out Joe Dumars with the expiring contracts of Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec (Mohammed).
THE BAD NEWS: With the a possible lockout on the way in 2011, none of these guys are moveable unless the team is willing to take on another equally bad (if not worse) contract in return.
THE GOOD NEWS: Over $19 million will come off of the books for good in the summer of 2011 if the ‘Cats just hold tight and let Mohammed and Chandler play through their contracts.
Somebody take Larry Brown’s mobile phone privileges away pronto!

2. TYRUS THOMAS AND THE POISON PILL

The Bobcats didn’t send Chicago a future first round pick just to rent Tyrus Thomas for three months.  The intention was always to retain him for at least another season but given the Bobcats’ cap situation that might not be so simple.  As a restricted free agent, Thomas could command a salary north of the $6.2 million qualifying offer he’s due based on his rookie deal.  A team intrigued by Thomas’ potential and armed with enough cap space could offer Tyrus big money up front, signing Thomas to the dreaded “poison pill offer sheet” (see Milsap, Paul) during the summer.  Such a contract could offer Thomas $8 million in year one, $6 million in year two and only $4 million in year three.  The Bobcats would have the right to match but in doing so would essentially be “luxury-taxed-out,” unable to sign any other players (including a starting PG) without paying the dollar for dollar tax penalty — which is something Michael Jordan has repeatedly said that he will not do.  With so many teams flush with cap space this summer, the Tyrus Situation could get tricky.  Watch out for it.

3. WHO’S THE POINT?

Ray Felton is the best point guard available in a weak PG free agency class.  Again, it is entirely possible that a team flush with cap space could offer him $18 million or more over three years and in that situation the ‘Cats would have to fold.
Doubt that the team would let it’s starting point guard walk this summer?  The organization fiercely pursued a T.J. Ford trade during February’s trade deadline and weren’t even close to coming to terms on a long-term offer with Felton’s agent last summer.  If Raymond was a better shooter from outside and could finish with a little more consistency inside (not to mention stay in front of Jameer Nelson) maybe the team would go out of it’s way to sign him but I just can’t foresee it happening.  The ‘Cats will most likely have to acquire a starting PG via trade or from the free agency discount rack.

Yes, Bobcats fans, your team is in a major salary cap quagmire.

To further complicate the issue, the Bobcats can’t afford to simply allow their free-agents to walk and replace them with low-cost scrubs or cheap rookies.  The team doesn’t have any draft picks (instead they have Alexis Ajinca) and from a business perspective, the organization must improve their on-court product (or at least repeat last year’s success) in order to expand fan support and capitalize on their inaugural Playoff run.

TEAM NEEDS:

The Bobcats head into the summer with three major needs:

STARTING POINT GUARD
D.J. Augustin is clearly not ready to start and the Bobcats are too capped out to pay Raymond Felton market value.  They’ll need to make a trade or find an undervalued bargain replacement in Free Agency (see Blake, Steve).

LOW POST SCORING/REBOUNDING
Boris Diaw has a few low post moves but plays mostly on the perimeter and doesn’t concern himself very much with the art of rebounding.  Tyrus Thomas (if he’s re-signed) is a solid rebounder but has limited abilities as a post scorer.  The team will need to either trade for or sign a traditional low-post power forward to team with Thomas or Diaw.

CONSISTENT PERIMETER SCORING/SHOOTING
Larry Hughes turned out to be an inconsistent version of Flip Murray.  Sure, Hughes was a better defender but what the Bobcats really needed was offense from the bench.  Murray has said that he’d happily return to Charlotte next season.  If the ‘Cats could bring him back for a similarly low priced deal next season, they should.

THE PRESCRIPTION:

So how does a Capped-Out team retain talent and, dare I say it, even improve heading into next season?

Part II: Prescription A (Simple and Clean) — Coming Soon
Part III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart) — Coming Soon

-ASChin

Questions Arrive With The Bobcats Off-Season

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Larry-Leaving

What Is Next For This Team?

Bobcats Baseline has spent the past few days adjusting to life without Bobcats basketball and wondering what topics should be explored after the end of the team’s 2009-2010 campaign. There will be a more fitting time, deeper into the post-season,  to review the team’s outlook.  A summer of recuperating and Bobcats-detox should allow for a better perspective on the situation. So now, we can only address the questions that stare the team in the face.

For a little while,  the Bobcats have been given some down time. The players will rest up, the management will check out, the beat writers will go silent, yet the bloggers will just keep typing up speculations. Who will leave?  Who will stay?  Who will win?

The Big Question

Rumblings of next season’s big changes have already begun. More specifically, the rumblings about a change of scenery for Bobcats Coach Larry Brown. First, they were just online reports from inconsistent sources such as Yahoo! Sports or a blogger for a regional newspaper’s web site. Somehow, these built up enough steam to become common assumptions spread by national television commentators and the common Charlotte-area sports fan. From your co-worker that loves to hear (and repeat) bad news about the Bobcats to golf fans at the Quail Hollow tournament, so many folks around the area have asked “Is Larry Brown going to leave Charlotte?”

It doesn’t seem like too many people know what will be next for Coach Brown. One doesn’t usually follow their boss around the golf course before quitting the job. Then again, one doesn’t usually make such an effort to answer a simple question with loophole-laden remarks like “I’m not going to coach for anyone but Michael.” Ultimately, there’s really nothing the team can do about this situation other than just play it cool. This is something that Jordan is very capable of handling.

If Brown decides to leave the team, the Bobcats will be in a scramble for a new coach and will likely follow with additional personnel changes.  This would allow the team to shift their roster to fit the new coach’s preferences, but  probably not a drastic overhaul. It would be assumed that Jordan hired Brown to install a type of “system” for the Bobcats and the next head coach would be expected to practice a variation of the current system.  Beyond the coaching change, the steady player personnel changes will continue. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that GM Rod Higgins won’t see his job get easier any time soon. With Larry Brown or without Larry Brown, the Bobcats will continue to rework their roster.

Roster Changes

The coaching situation certainly impacts the next roster moves for the Bobcats. Still, the team will be forced to make a couple of important decisions regarding free agent veterans Raymond Felton, Larry Hughes, and Theo Ratliff. As the free agent season activity heats up, there will be plenty more to analyze about these moves – the toughest being the status of Raymond Felton.

Beyond free agency, this team will likely be involved in trade talks to shift their financial obligations for future opportunities.  Fans should hope that this won’t impact the overall level of talent on the roster next season.

No Draft For The Cats

The Bobcats have no selections in this summer’s NBA Draft. At first, this seems like a bad thing. But, we have to consider that this is the Charlotte Bobcats organization. The only opportunity this team will be missing without Draft picks is the opportunity to fail. Charlotte has decided that they aren’t going to let you look back at the Bobcats in three years, and ridicule them for not selecting some under-the-radar prospect. They’ve traded their picks, and now we’ll see what they get for them.  As compensation for no newcomers from the Draft, Charlotte will work to test the young Alexis Ajinca (1st round pick traded to Denver in 2008 Draft) and retain fellow Frenchman Boris Diaw (2nd round pick traded to Phoenix with Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley for Raja Bell and Diaw last season).

Additionally, the Bobcats have two 2009 rookies that have hardly found playing time. It could be argued that these players (with a year of NBA experience) are as valuable, and as ready to contribute as almost every lottery pick in the upcoming Draft. If the team doesn’t expect playing time to open-up for one of these young talents, it’s likely their value will be worked into a trade to help the team in the future.

In Perspective

While the Round 1 series sweep surely burns, the Cats shouldn’t overlook what was accomplished this season. The team executed one of the best defenses in the league, set a home winning record, and a franchise record for wins at 44-38. The team’s early exit from the Playoffs was largely due to the incredible play of the Orlando Magic, who serve as a fine example for what makes a true NBA title contender. Charlotte was able to match Orlando defensively, but Jameer Nelson and company excelled with a superb offense. For the Bobcats, their first Playoff series was simply a “Welcome to the Post-Season” kind of hurdle for a young franchise.

In the case that the leadership or the roster undergoes major changes this off-season, the team should be proud of the big leap they made.  As a losing club for five years, the Bobcats had suffered through such slow, incremental attempts at progress. The 2009-2010 season finally marked a winning season. Yes, the Bobcats were winners. It really happened. So, let’s hope it continues to happen for a while.

Links:

Larry Brown’s End of Season Press Conference – Charlotte Observer

NBA Draft 2010 (Mock Draft)

Bobcats’ Brown Continues Mulling Future – ESPN.com

Leave Larry Brown Behind Forever – Phil Sheridan, Philly.com Sports

Which Bobcats Reserve Has Been Most Crucial?

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Bobcats Front Office Should Get Credit For The Team’s Deep Roster Talent

The Reserves Have Made The Difference This Season

The Reserves Have Made The Difference This Season

The Bobcats are closing in on their most successful season in team history, headed toward a spot in the NBA Playoffs and operating under new majority owner, Michael Jordan. The success is largely due to the leadership of Coach Larry Brown, and a roster upgraded with a collection of talent far above what Bobcats fans were used to seeing during the club’s first 5 seasons. The combination of Larry Brown’s prodding, Michael Jordan’s gambling, and Rod Higgins’ hard work has pulled this squad from unwatchable to a true Playoff team.

Considering all of the new players on the roster this season, Stephen Jackson has clearly made the biggest impact as a newcomer. Dealing Vladimir Radmanovic and (injured) Raja Bell to Golden State for “Jack” was a gamble and a potential public relations risk but the on-court effect was a huge steal for the Bobcats.  Too often, it seems that we hear Charlotte’s success has been due solely to Jackson’s arrival. It could be argued that the depth of talent on the Bobcats’ bench deserves just as much credit for the team’s consistent effort and defensive presence.

Since last summer, Coach Brown, Air Jordan, and Rod Higgins have all been working on tuning the roster. The latest addition of Larry Hughes shows that the team is still tinkering, filling in the gaps in order to secure their first Playoff bid.

Who Has Been The Most Important Reserve For The Bobcats?

While the jury is still out on 2010 lottery pick Gerald Henderson and the recently signed Larry Hughes, we should take a look at the most important “role players” for the Bobcats so far this season.

Stephen Graham

Offseason Free Agent Acquisition: Signed 1 year contract at $885,000.
Reserve Small Forward

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Undeniably, Graham’s greatest strength has been his professional approach and consistency while dealing with Coach Brown’s erratic rotation patterns.  Lord Stephen Graham has played very well in spot duty throughout the season ranging from ten minute cameos in relief of Gerald Wallace to 35 minute starts during Crash’s week long absence in March.  Graham played so well in that stretch (notching consecutive 19 point performances) that it’s not difficult to imagine the team bringing the veteran back next season to play a similar role.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Stephen Graham’s physique stands out even among NBA players.  When the season started, I first commented, “While other players spend the offseason working on jump shots and post moves, Stevie Graham worked on his delts.”  The dude is a beast.  Fortunately, this extra weight doesn’t seem to hamper his speed while defending opposing threes.  Graham is a solid if not spectacular defender and shows a surprisingly nice touch on the offensive end when shooting from the outside.  Not a great three point shooter, Graham knows his limits and won’t launch many.  Good for at least a couple of highlight dunks every month, Graham can catch defenders off guard around the baseline for a post & spin move to the hoop.  Graham was billed as a “George Lynch” clone early in the season and that’s exactly what he’s been, a solid NBA frontcourt reserve.

Derrick Brown

Rookie Draft Selection (2nd Round): Signed 2 year contract, details undisclosed
Reserve Power Forward/Small Forward

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Although Brown hasn’t been getting much burn during the second half of the season, his early work should (rightfully) raise fans’ expectations going into next season.  The four year forward from Xavier was labeled a 2nd round sleeper on draft day and in spurts Brown has lived up to the billing – his potential was on full display during an 18 point performance against the Suns back in January.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Derrick Brown’s size and athletic ability at his position will keep him in the League for at least a few more seasons.  He’s an excellent open court finisher and a decent mid-range shooter.  At 6’8″, Brown has excellent height for a SF which accounts for a high rebound rate at the position and has also allowed the team to play Brown at PF for stretches before acquiring Tyrus Thomas in February.  With more seasoning, it’s possible that Brown could crack Larry Brown’s rotation for good next year but he’ll need to cut down on the mindless fouls and missed assignments that plagued him during the second half of his rookie campaign.

Flip Murray

Offseason Free Agent Acquisition: Signed 1 year $1.9 million contract, traded mid-February
Reserve Shooting Guard / Point Guard

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Gone but not forgotten, Flip Murray proved to be exactly as billed: a scoring force off the pine, a strong personality with the cajones to take and make shots when others wouldn’t or couldn’t.  Murray’s bench scoring (over 12ppg) provided a major boost during Charlotte’s dominating 12-4 run in January and his presence was immediately missed as the Bobcats went 2-5 following his trade to Chicago.  Eventually, things returned to normal for both Charlotte and Murray as the Cats started winning again while Flip dropped 12.5 in 26 minutes per game with the Bulls in March.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Flip Murray is gonna get his.  Period.  Flip will shoot (and make) half of his team’s shots while he’s in the game and for a team in desperate need of second unit scoring, Murray is a godsend.  What he gives up at the other end of the court on defense he more than makes up for on offense.  During a loss against Orlando back in November, Murray dropped 31 points in 36 minutes – that’s probably more Flip Murray than you really need though.  He’s at his best in a 20-24 minute scoring role while the team’s starters have a rest.

Tyrus Thomas

Trade Acquisition: Currently on the final year of his rookie scale contract ($4.7 million), Bobcats can extend qualifying offer next season for $6.2 million or negotiate a long term contract
Reserve Power Forward/Center

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Bobcats fans were a little disappointed that the team didn’t pursue a veteran backup PF during the offseason.  One by one, quality backups like Drew Gooden and Hakim Warrick were picked up by other clubs and the ‘Cats entered the ’09-’10 season without a legitimate PF to play behind starter Boris Diaw.  While acquiring another big man was inevitable, no one believed that the team would be able to bring in a player like Tyrus Thomas, a 6’10” super-athlete with as much untapped potential as any young power forward in the League.  Still only 23, Thomas stepped in and stepped up his game instantly and is averaging over 10 points, 6.5 boards and over a block in just over 20 minutes a game for the Bobcats since the trade from Chicago.  His presence has allowed the Bobcats to offer different looks, as Coach Brown has played a small frontcourt Thomas, Wallace, and Diaw for stretches against smaller, run & gun squads.
Although the price was steep (giving up a future 1st round pick along with Murray’s bench scoring), Thomas’ potential is worth the gamble.

Baseline Scouting Report:
At 6’10”, it’s a little surprising that Tyrus Thomas has almost no post moves whatsoever.  His offense comes mostly on thunderous putbacks, open court dunks or on unexpectedly sweet 15 footers.  While his rebound and blocked shot rates are off the chart, Thomas isn’t exactly the world’s best defender.  He’ll often be forced to foul or make a spectacular block from behind once his man has beaten him in the post.  Still, Thomas has both age and situation on his side.  Larry Brown mentored a similarly raw specimen in Gerald Wallace to an All-Star selection in just two seasons, it’s not hard to believe that Thomas could walk the same path if he’s willing to work on his game.
BONUS: Having Thomas on the roster will give the Bobcats some flexibility heading into next season.  As long as Tyrus’ contract demands aren’t outrageous, the team will definitely extend him or at least sign him to the qualifying offer for a year, making Thomas an expiring contract or a moveable asset should the team choose to go another direction.

Theo Ratliff

Trade Acquisition: Signed a 1 year $1.3 million contract
Reserve Center : Currently Starting

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
I don’t want to skew the voting here folks but c’mon, has there been anyone more valuable to the Bobcats late season success than Theo Ratliff?  When Ratliff arrived mid-February from San Antonio (in exchange for very distant 2nd rounder) three of the four Bobcats centers were injured and the fourth was playing hurt (Nazr Mohammed).  The 36 year old veteran showed up as an afterthought, a worst-case scenario insurance policy, and then proceeded to average 6 points, 4 boards and a block and a half in just over 20 minutes of action a night.  The numbers don’t do Ratliff’s impact justice.  Opposing players are aware of his presence on every possession that he’s out there and when the Bobcats trot out Ratliff, Thomas and Crash together on the frontline, there’s a one in three chance that a shot will be blocked.  Simply amazing.  The spry, second coming of Mutumbo has another unexpected trick up his sleeve: he shot 87% from the FT line in March (32-37), making him a little more valuable on offense.  With Tyson Chandler finally healthy and playing well and Nazr Mohammed coming back soon, Coach Brown will have to reconfigure his rotation at center and that might mean reduced minutes for Theo.  Doesn’t matter, Ratliff’s play in March propelled the Bobcats to an 11-6 record for the month, all but sealing the team’s first Playoff berth.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Theo Ratliff is never going to win any battles down low with brute strength.  He’s more of shot blocker, shot alterer and does this with ease.  Technically, he’s a solid defender who can hold his own against the League’s top centers (see the March victory against the Magic in Orlando).  On offense, Theo should be barred from ever touching the ball more than six feet outside of the basket.  In fact, the semi-dashed circle underneath the basket that the officials use to determine blocking fouls versus charges should also be used by Theo Ratliff in determining whether or not he should take the shot.  Look down, if he’s outside the circle, pass.  In, dunk or get fouled and go to the line.  Simple as that.

-ASChin


Vote For The Role Player You Think Has Most Helped The Bobcats This Season.

POLL : BOBCATS MOST VALUABLE RESERVE 2009-2010

  • Stephen Graham
    (28%, 39 Votes)
  • Derrick Brown
    (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Flip Murray
    (19%, 26 Votes)
  • Tyrus Thomas
    (28%, 39 Votes)
  • Theo Ratliff
    (23%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 137

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Bobcats Defeat Wizards For Third Straight Win

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Wizards, 3/26/10


The Charlotte Bobcats completed possibly the easiest week in franchise history at 3-o with a Friday night home victory over the Washington Wizards, 107-96.  The Cats weren’t exactly dominating; but the Wizards weren’t exactly challenging, either.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This game was eerily similar to the Timberwolves game just two nights ago — the first quarter was close, with not much defense being played and Stephen Jackson getting off to a fast start.  Then the Bobcats gradually pulled away.

The Wizards staged a mini-run early in the fourth quarter to pull within four at 85-81, but the Cats responded in typical fashion — turning up the defensive intensity and getting a few easy buckets.  Soon all was right with the world again.  A Stephen Jackson three put it away at 101-86 with about four minutes left, allowing Larry Hughes, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown a couple minutes of mop-up duty to finish the night off.

The Cats won all kinds of statistical battles: they finished the night at 55% FG (Wizards 48%) by dominating the paint, scoring 50 points there to the Wiz’s 28.  The Cats outrebounded the Wiz 34-26 and blocked 8 shots to the Wiz’s 3.

Individually, the Cats top four of Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw were fantastic.  They combined for 74 points on 28-44 FG (64%).  Felton in particular shot 8-10 for 19 points and added 11 rebounds.

Perhaps most importantly, the starters played so well that none of them had to play more than 34 minutes.  As the Bobcats get things tuned up for the playoffs, it will be important that the regulars are healthy and rested, new guys like Tyrus Thomas and Larry Hughes are acclimated, and Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown are ready for important minutes if needed.

Tidbits

  • The Cats are now 38-34 overall and 27-8 at home.  Miami won tonight to move to 39-34 and ahead of the Cats into 6th place in the East.
  • Cool stat from the AP article: in playing the Wizards, Timberwolves, then Wizards again this week, the Bobcats became only the third team in NBA history to play three straight games against teams with losing streaks of 10+ games.
  • My comments about Baby Blatche and the Wizards here on Twitter.
  • The Cats have the weekend off; next game is Monday night at the Cable Box against 8th place Toronto.  Interestingly, Toronto faces off against Miami on Sunday night, so they’ve got a back-to-back against the two squads directly in front of them for the playoffs.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Fall To Hornets In Concerning Fashion

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Hornets, 2/6/10

No Chris Paul?  No Probl– Oh Hey Darren Collison

The Charlotte Bobcats fell 104-99 to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night at the Cable Box to fall back under .500.  AP recap here, box score here.

The Bobcats came in on a couple of days rest after a modestly successful (3-3) West Coast road trip.  The Hornets came in a night after dropping the first game of a back-to-back and with major injury problems.  With Chris Paul already out for several weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery and pleasant rookie surprise Marcus Thornton on the shelf with a sore back, the Hornets had to sign former Bobcats and all-around NBA journeyman Jason Hart to a 10-day recently.

It was a perfect opportunity for the Bobcats to get back on track after the road trip and post another home win — and the Bobcats acted like it was just going to happen.  But the defensive effort was rather lacking, no one could get it cooking on the offensive end, and Darren Collison did a pretty good Chris Paul impression to give the Hornets the unlikely win.

Collison was rather impressive in setting a new career high with 24 points on 9-17 FG, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.  He was frequently able to get by the Bobcats’ perimeter defenders and finish at the rim.  And after Stephen Jackson had cut the Hornets’ lead to 102-99 with 30 seconds left, it was another driving layup that secured the win and gave Collison his career high.

Never mind the questionable strategic call to not start fouling to extend the game at that point, the fact that the Bobcats didn’t defend or play with energy for the entire game is the more concerning issue here.  Let’s hope it was a one-game aberration and not a trend.

Bullets

  • I didn’t get to the game in time for the “town-hall meeting” for season ticket holders, but was just in time to snag a Gerald Wallace action figure — pretty boss.
  • The real life Gerald had a quiet game — maybe still bothered by the hamstring?
  • The Cats missed 9 free throws (Flip missed 4 in the fourth quarter alone).  If we’d hit half of those, we might be talking about how the Cats scrapped their way to a win even on an off night instead of this gloominess.
  • The Hornets were resplendent in their alternate “Mardi Gras” uniforms — seriously, those things are cool.
  • Emeka Okafor got a nice hand from the Cable Box crowd, and had a pretty Emeka kind of game: 16 points on 6-10 FG with 7 rebounds.
  • Poor game from Boris: 2-9 FG and looked timid as hell on the offensive end, passing up shots and committing turnovers.  Someone needs to show him some tape of Magic Johnson taking and making big shots.
  • Decent night for DJ: 13 points on 5-6 FG and 5 assists off the bench.
  • DNP-CD for Derrick Brown tonight — strange, when we could have used a spark out there.  Maybe LB was worried about him having to guard David West?
  • Next game is Tuesday night, hosting the Wiz at 7 PM ET.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Withstand Furious Kings Rally, Again

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Kings 1/30/10

Running diary-style as the Bobcats attempt to go 3-1 on the road trip.  Our Gerald Wallace “SarcophaCrash” t-shirts are moving fast, and we’re not printing many, so get one while you can!

First Quarter

The Bobcats jump out to an early 12-9 lead four minutes in, leading to the first timeout; but the Kings bounce back with an 9-2 run.  Diaw is going to have to sit for awhile after picking up his second foul — Derrick Brown in early.

And now Brown picks up two quick fouls — might see the Bobcats have to go small tonight.  The Kings go on lead by as much as 9, but the Cats finish the quarter strong to pull to within four, 33-29.

Both teams over 60% FG for the quarter, but a few too many easy baskets for the Kings early on and Cats made only 1-5 FT to account for the margin.

Second Quarter

Gerald Wallace starts the quarter off with a tough three point play, defensive stop, then another Gerald Wallace bucket in the paint to briefly take the lead, 34-33.

Derrick Brown with just his second three of the year — Cats 3-4 from behind the arc early.  Make that 4-5 as Flip drains another one to give the Cats a 43-39 lead into a timeout.

Gerald Wallace is up to 14 points, 7 rebounds already — 6-6 FG.

I missed the MLK Day matinee game in Charlotte between these two teams, so this is my first time watching the Kings.  I can see why they’re excited.  They really nailed the draft with Evans and Casspi, huh?  And why does everyone think that Evans and Martin can’t play together?  Evans is a powerful slasher, Martin is a shooter — that’s perfect.  Even better when you want to bring in a backup PG and go small.

It’s 56-54 Cats at the half in a fun one — not much defense being played as both teams are still over 50% FG.  Too much of Kevin Martin and his fugly shot: 21 points on 7-14 FG/3-7 3PT/4-4 FT.  Tyreke Evans has been quiet (2-4 FG) — not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Nazr with 13 points on 6-8 FG and Flip with 10 on 4-6.  Cats need to watch the turnovers — 7 already in the first half.

Third Quarter

Boris Diaw back after sitting most of first half with two fouls — almost forgot about him.  Naz kicks things off with a bucket off a post move.  Now Felton steals an entry pass to Evans, Jack with a sweet feed to Wallace on the delayed break for a layup, and Donte Green fouls Boris underneath trying to get over to challenge the layup.  Boris hits the free throw for the odd “three-point-play by two different guys.”  Another miss for the Kings and Gerald Wallace gets a runout dunk.  7-0 run for the Cats to start the half, 63-54 now — Kings need a timeout.

Gerald Wallace now limping badly, causing enough concern that Larry Brown calls a timeout.  But apparently Crash just banged his knee and is fine.

Raymond Felton is working so hard to deny Tyreke Evans the ball — and he’s been very effective at it so far.  Evans can’t get going.  Cats get a turnover as Hawes can’t get a good angle on the entry pass to Evans and throws it away.  Strong work by Ray-Ray.

Bobcats stretch the lead to 10, 69-59 on Gerald Wallace free throws.  Crash is up to 22/8 halfway through the third.

And a 20-footer by Wallace extends the lead to 73-59.  Kings need a TO and a momentum shift as they are starting to wilt.

Gerald Wallace is killing the Kings — gets a backcourt steal and draws a clear path foul.  Hits both free throws, then Jack splashes a jumper.  Stop on the other end, alley-oop to Gerald to push the lead to 20, 79-59.  Another Naz bucket, another alley-oop to Gerald and the Bobcats are running the Kings out of the building, 83-59.  28 points on 11-13 FG at this point for Gerald, still stuck on 8 rebounds, though.

Wow, Cats win the third quarter 34-13 and will take a 90-67 lead into the fourth.  About as good of a quarter as you’ll see.

Fourth Quarter

Would love to see Gerald and the rest of the starters get some rest tonight, but remember, these are the same Kings that made a huge 4th quarter run and pushed the Cats to the limit back on MLK Day.  Then again, that was mostly Tyreke Evans’ doing, and Paul Westphal seems to have buried Evans on the bench in the second half tonight.

Right on cue, Gerald comes out: 35 points on 12-15 FG/2-3 3PT/9-11 FT and 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals.  Can’t say enough.  That’s two straight games with 30/10 for the All-Star, on a West Coast back-to-back to boot.

Cats go a little cold without Gerald, but still maintaining a healthy cushion as the Kings aren’t exactly lighting Arco Arena on fire either.  Now Gerald is back in.  Come on, Larry — not only are you needlessly risking an injury, but I’m going to have to retype his line!

Oh no — Kings on a 15-3 run and cut it to 95-82.  Cats have missed 11 FG in a row.  Now 12 in a row and Kevin Martin with a three to cut it to 10, 95-85.  Very aggravating.  Gerald and Jack should be icing their knees by now.  What is it with these Kings and their fourth quarter runs?

Flip finally stops the bleeding with a bucket for the Cats, but then fouls Casspi on the way to the basket on the other end.  Casspi with a three-point-play to cut it to 97-90, 2 minutes left.

Now it’s down to 4, 100-96 with 35 seconds left.  Felton with a layup, and then Jason Thompson misses two free throws, Bobcats end up with the ball after a scramble.  Exhale, Cats lead 102-96 with the ball, 17 seconds left.  Felton inexplicably misses two free throws, but it’s too late for the Kings anyways.  Kevin Martin misses a desperation three, Gerald gets the ball, draws a foul and hits one of his two free throws to end it.  103-96 Bobcats final, box score here.

Postgame

Whew, that was a needlessly heart-stopping fourth quarter.  The story should be about Raymond Felton shutting down Tyreke Evans and Gerald Wallace adding to the legend of Gerald Wallace.  But the lead has to be the fact that this one was almost a clone of the MLK Day game.

The difference was that tonight’s big fourth quarter run was led by Sergio Rodriguez, Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson, not Tyreke Evans.  (Late in the game, word came down that Evans was sitting because of a bruised hip, not Raymond Felton-itis.)

In his post-game interview, Gerald commented that he thought the Cats went into “prevent mode” trying to run out the clock too early.  I’m not sure I agree; with a 22-point lead with 9 minutes left and the opponents’ star player on the bench, you should be able to give the starters some rest and salt the game away.  Maybe Gerald is right, though.  These Kings are young, good, and foolish enough to not know that they’re supposed to lay down when down 22 with 9 minutes left.

Gerald’s final line: 38 points (season high) on 12-18 FG/2-4 3PT/12-15 FT, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks.

The Cats improve to 24-22 overall and 3-1 on the road trip, which guarantees them at worst a 3-3 trip with 2 games left.  Things get hard, though, as we’re at the Blazers Monday night (10 PM ET start) and the Lakers (10:30 PM ET start) Wednesday night.  Brandon Roy will reportedly be out Monday night, but Andre Miller will be coming off a career high 52.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Get Gutsy Overtime Win In Phoenix

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Suns 1/26/10

Running diary-style, like usual for these late-starting Western Conference road games.

The Suns come in 26-20, in 7th place in the Western Conference.  Leandro Barbosa is out after wrist surgery, Grant Hill will sit tonight with a heel, Amare Stoudemire is on the trading block, and I’ll be trying to catch my Gamecocks as they attempt to hang with John Jesus Christ Wall and the Wildcats on ESPN during commercial breaks.  Let’s go.

In pregame, the crew mentions that Boris Diaw still owns a house in Phoenix, and got a haircut in his old hometown today.  What, you can’t get a decent buzzcut in Charlotte?

First Quarter

Well, this is not quite like the start of the last Bobcats/Suns matchup — just 10 days ago at the Cable Box the Cats blitzed the Suns right out of the gates for a 43-22 first quarter on the way to a 125-99 win.  Looking back, that was my favorite home game of the year so far.  Here it’s 33-26 Suns after one — and the Suns are already 4-7 from 3PT range.

Boris led the way for the Cats with 12 points on 5-6 FG in the quarter.

Second Quarter

42-36 Suns, 6:29 left and Amare picks up his 3rd foul and has to come out.  Time for the Cats to make a run, and Jack gets a 3-point play on the ensuing possession — 42-39.

Ooof, after his great start to the season, Nazr Mohammed has really come down to earth over the last week or two.  He’s 0-7 FG right now and I’m actually starting to look forward to seeing Tyson Chandler get back in the lineup.

Nice little kerfluffle between Raymond and Channing Frye as they draw double techs after jawing at each other.  I’d take Raymond in a heartbeat in that one.  Channing Frye does not want any of the pride of Latta, South Carolina.

Well, that’s no good.  Despite holding Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire to a combined 2 points/0-8 FG in the first half, the Cats find themselves down 54-48.  The Suns are 7-15 from 3-point range; the Cats are 0-4.

Meanwhile, Gamecocks/Wildcats is a far more compelling game at this point, despite my Gamecocks’ best efforts to slow the game down and ugly it up.

Third Quarter

Nice little 7-2 push to open the second half for the Cats as they cut the Suns lead to 56-55, but can’t get over the hump and the Suns (Dudley, specifically) hit another three.  And Nash with yet another three, 62-55, just like that.

And now its’ the Bobcats turn to heat up: Jack and Felton with back-to-back threes to cut it to one again — 62-61.  But again they can’t get over the hump with a turnover, then giving up a Stoudemire layup on the other end.

Huge highlight there as Gerald Wallace smokes J-Rich on a behind-the-back-dribble from the left wing, then stuffs it on Stoudemire, who wisely didn’t challenge.

Wow: 8 times tonight the Cats have either cut the lead to one or tied it, only to see the Suns respond with a three.  Amazing, just happened again with Nash, 72-69 Suns.  Suns now 11-20 from three-point distance overall.

Bobcats hanging around – Stephen Jackson with another basket (14 so far this quarter) to make the score 77-73, but Amare gets Gerald back on the other end with big dunk.

Cats can’t break through, but Suns can’t pull away, either. 83-77 after three.  By the way, Stoudemire gets 10 in the quarter, Nash 9 — shoulda kept my mouth shut.

Fourth Quarter

Cats again cut it to one early in the quarter, 83-82, and yet again can’t get a stop on the other end, as the Suns get two straight buckets to bump the lead back out to 87-82.  So frustrating…

And the Cats FINALLY do it.  6 straight to take the lead 88-87 and get a stop on the next possession.  Only to give up back-to-back Nash and Frye threes soon after.  Flip with a three to tie it back up 93-93 — back and forth.  Fun finish on the way?

Gerald Wallace fouls out on a shaky offensive foul call with 3 minutes left.  Ouch.  Derrick Brown will get some key minutes.

Nash killing us here, with a big three, a big two and a steal.  Suns up 3, 98-95 under a minute left.  Jack with a big three!!!  Tie game!!!  Dudley misses a potential game-winner at the buzzer and we’re going to OT – 98-98.  What a finish!

Overtime

The Cats get the first two buckets of OT on a Jack jumper and a Felton drive; meanwhile, they turn up the pressure on the defensive end, getting multiple stops.  Dudley answers with a three to make it 102-101, but Boris turns in two big plays in a row, hitting a runner for 104-101, then blocking Nash’s jumper on the other end.

Flip then gets a huge three for 107-101 to give the Cats some breathing room.  Free throws from here on out could ice it.

And that’ll do it.  Raymond hits 2-2 FT for a 114-109 lead with 9 seconds left; Nash can’t hit and that’s ballgame.

Postmortem

Huge win given the Bobcats’ struggles on the road this year (and combined with the Gamecocks’ upset win over Kentucky, I’ll be sleeping easy tonight).  Even bigger considering that the Cats didn’t ever have a lead in this game until under 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.  The Cats are now 1-1 on the Western Conference road trip so far, and back to .500 overall (the wallpaper lives another day!).

In overtime, the Cats did a nice job of playing to their strength — they tightened up on defense and forced a couple of turnovers, which led to a big clutch three from Flip to seal the deal.

Jack ended up with 30 points on 11-23 FG/4-8 3PT with 9 rebounds, 5 assists.  Boris gets a double-double with 24 points/11 rebounds, and Gerald had 21/9 before fouling out.

The most glaring differences in the box score are turnovers (Bobcats 12, Suns 18) and points in the paint (Bobcats 54, Suns 36).  The Suns ended with 15 threes to the Bobcats’ 7, but the Cats made up the difference by getting 25-30 FT to the Suns 16-17.

The Cats get a couple days off; next game is Friday night at 10:30 PM ET against the Warriors.  I would say “let the slobbering over Steph Curry by the Charlotte media begin” but it already has.

-Dr. E