Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part Two

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Editor’s Note: In Honor of the June 13, 2014 Charlotte Hornets re-organization news, the Baseline presents an updated, re-published account of the entire Rod Higgins era.

Part One | Part Three

Part Two: ’07-’09 The Friends of Michael Era

On May 31st, 2007 Bobcats expansion architect Bernie Bickerstaff stepped down as both coach and general manager, replaced by former Golden State executive and longtime “friend of Michael” Rod Higgins. Higgins would preside over the next four Charlotte drafts to mostly awful results though it must be noted that many of his personnel moves were likely at the behest of either an absentee Jordan or a certain kvetchy, neurotic head coach. As with Bickerstaff, Higgins’ tenure started out decent enough but nosedived fast.

The 2007 Draft: Brandon Wright PF UNC, Jared Dudley SF Boston College, Jermareo Davidson C Alabama.

Wright (8th overall selection) never played a minute in Charlotte as Higgins used his connections with the Warriors to engineer a Draft Day trade. In exchange, the Bobcats received their biggest “name” player to date, Jason Richardson. A hyper-athletic, sweet shooting two guard, “JRich” had missed a big chunk of games during the Warriors’ Playoff run the previous season and coupled with the sudden emergence of Monta Ellis, was deemed expendable by Golden State management.

With the 22nd overall selection (from TOR via CLE) the Cats picked up blue collar small forward Jared Dudley. Jermareo Davidson, a 2nd round pick selected one spot ahead of future Bobcat Josh McRoberts, was sent to Charlotte as part of the Richardson deal.

How It Played Out: At the time the JRich trade made all kinds of sense for Charlotte. First, having whiffed on Brandon Roy in the ’06 Draft, the Cats desperately needed a floor spacing, high scoring two guard to pair with Gerald Wallace. Second, they needed someone who was ready to do this immediately as both Emeka Okafor and Wallace were already in their mid-20s primes. Finally, the local fanbase hadn’t exactly come out full force for a no-name, no-win team and needed someone at least vaguely recognizable as an NBA player to get excited about.

Jason Richardson Illustration by Mike S

As a two-time Slam Dunk champion and 20ppg scorer, Richardson was exactly what the doctor ordered. He started all 82 games for the Bobcats that season, averaging 21.8ppg on 44% shooting and a phenomenal 40% from downtown — phenomenal because he shot 599 threes on the year, making 243 of them (that’s more than Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon hit combined during the ’12-’13 season). Richardson rebounded at a high rate (5.4 per), made some spectacular dunks and played hard every night. So why aren’t we talking about JRich as one of the all-time great Charlotte ballers? The answer to that question is precisely what has plagued the Bobcats franchise from the beginning: coaching and management instability.

Earlier that summer, following the departure of Bickerstaff, Jordan began a search for what he called “the next Avery Johnson“, a former player, ideally a point guard, who could relate to and inspire young prospects to win big. His choice was Sam Vincent, yet another former teammate, whose biggest head coaching gig to date was with the Nigerian Women’s National Team. I swear I didn’t make that up. Vincent’s lone season with the Cats went much as you’d expect and less than a year later Jordan replaced Vincent with (very) old chum Larry Brown.

Cut to December 10, 2008: Larry Brown so despised Richardson’s efficient (18.6 PER), exciting all-around game that he sent Jason and promising youngster Dudley (aka the Bobcats entire 2007 Draft) to the Phoenix Suns for role players Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Despite Richardson’s outstanding first season in the QC, the Cats class of ’07 never really had a chance to shine.

How it Should Have Played Out: It’s easy to say that Charlotte should have kept the 8th pick and selected Florida center Joakim Noah, who went one selection later to the Bulls. But at the time the organization was committed to Okafor long term and there were major questions regarding Noah’s role in the pro game. Had the organization resisted overpaying Emeka (again, they bid against themselves) and not kowtowed to Larry Brown’s every neurotic wish, Okafor would likely still be manning the middle for Charlotte today as a solid Top-15 NBA center. Had the organization stuck with their strategy and either retained Bickerstaff or hired a competent head coach who could work with the roster he was given, the JRich Draft Day trade would look a lot better in retrospect and it’s likely Richardson’s name would be synonymous with the franchise as much as Wallace’s has. The organization could have also given Dudley at least another year or two to blossom before trading him for a greater return.

2007 Draft Fun Fact 1: To date, only two of the twelve Bobcat first round draft choices have signed rookie deal extensions: Okafor and Dudley. That pretty much says all you need to know about the Charlotte Bobcats as a franchise.

2007 Draft Fun Fact 2: The Bobcats are so bad at drafting that picking Dudley one spot ahead of Wilson Chandler isn’t even worth mentioning. Just a run of the mill Bobcat screwup.

Grade: B+ (for the Draft Day haul), F- (for what they did with it)


The 2008 Draft: D.J. Augustin PG Texas, Alexis Ajinca PF France

Brown was hired just two months before this Draft and had already started making demands on Higgins and Jordan to get the players he wanted. Even though Brown had been both a point guard and a Tar Heel himself, he was not a fan of incumbant starter Raymond Felton and wanted the organization to draft a new point man whom Brown could mold from scratch.

The story is by now infamous. The Bobcats were on the clock with the 9th overall pick and had sent a representitive to the podium to relay the selection of Stanford center Brook Lopez. Larry threw a hissy fit at the very last moment and the pick was changed to Augustin, a five foot ten inch sophmore from Texas. But Larry wasn’t done yet. He was convinced that there would be another quality big available later in the first round so urged the Cats to make a blind trade with Denver for the 20th overall pick in exchange for a future first rounder. With that selection, Charlotte selected the great French BMX rider Alexis Ajinca.

How It Played Out: Classic Bobcats. They make a mistake and reach for a point guard in ’05 (Felton), assign him three coaches in four years and decide that he’s a bust. Learning nothing from the experience, they use another Lottery pick to reach for another PG (Augustin) three years later which creates an unnecessary controversy that ends up screwing up both of their careers. Presto! Ah-la-ka-FAIL!

D.J. had some nice moments in Charlotte early (43% 3pt FG percentage as a rook) but never really put it together. To the surprise of no one, Augustin’s size was a major liability on defense and unlike the handful of successful small lead guards, D.J. couldn’t finish anything at the rim. Once defenses figured out that Augustin could only punish them on the perimeter, D.J.’s shooting percentages tanked. Four seasons later, he signed on as the Pacers’ backup for the league minimum.

It is an extemely impressive feat that  Alexis Ajinca makes the Bobcats’ Mount Rushmore of terrible draft picks – the exclusive club that it is. What Brown and Higgins saw in Alexis is a mystery: He had no real basketball skills, just a tall lanky man-child who could occasionally hit a jumper. His attitude and work ethic were questioned from the start. Even fellow frenchmen and teammate Diaw seemed to distance himself from the kid. Long story short, Ajinca was jettisoned to Dallas less than three years later as part of the Tyson Chandler reverse salary dump, never to be seen or heard from again.

How it Should Have Played Out: The 2008 NBA Draft may go down as one of the greatest draft classes of all time. We’re only five years in and already have one MVP (Derrick Rose), five All-Stars, at least a dozen legit Playoff-quality starters along with another dozen ten-year career guys. The Bobcats had to try REALLY HARD to screw up a Draft like this – especially since they owned two of the Top 20 picks – yet somehow, some way, Brown and Higgins pulled it off.

Let’s start with the obvious. They should’ve drafted Lopez. It was just as obvious then as it is now: seven footers with skills like Brook’s are a lot rarer than mediocre 5’10” point guards. Case closed. And just how bad was the Ajinca pick? Here are the guys drafted immediately after Alexis: Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos, Serge Ibaka, Nicholas Batum, George Hill, Darrell Arthur. You could’ve picked a random stranger off the street, blindfolded them and had them throw a dart at the draft board and ended up with a better prospect. So yeah, instead of walking away from the decade’s deepest draft with Lopez/Ibaka, Lopez/Batum or Lopez/Hill, Charlotte reached for two guys who’ll be lucky to total nine seasons in the league combined. There are literally not enough F’s or minus signs I can give this debacle.

GRADE: F—————


The 2009 Draft: Gerald Henderson SG Duke, Derrick Brown SF Xavier

How It Played Out: Whoa! What’s this? Did the Bobcats find a way to not completely blow a Draft???!!! While I would’ve loved to have seen the team make an aggressive move up to take homegrown Steph Curry (7th overall), staying put at pick 12 and landing Gerald Henderson was as big a Draft win as this organization has had since its inception (a sad truth). Sure, passing on Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson subtracts some points but the Cats already had two Lotto PGs on the roster and needed some youth at the wings. The best part about Henderson is that he was likely the organization’s second choice as rumors before the draft had Larry Brown very high on Louisville’s Terrence Williams (of course he was). Thanks to former Nets GM Rod Thorn, T-Will went 11th and the Cats dodged a major bullet.

This July, Henderson may very well be, wait for it, the THIRD Bobcats draft pick to sign a rookie deal extension!* It probably won’t be with Charlotte but beggars can’t be choosers. While it’s doubtful Henderson ever earns a trip to an All-Star game, as a plus defending, Rip Hamilton-lite, Gerald has become an honest to goodness NBA player.

*Editor’s Note: Henderson did indeed sign an extension later that summer (3yrs, $18m) – thus becoming the SECOND ever Bobcat draft pick to sign an extension with the team.

It didn’t start out that way. Coach Brown, likely still bummed that he didn’t get T-Will, benched Henderson for most of his rookie season while 2nd Rounder Derrick Brown stayed in the rotation. Midway through year two Coach Brown was ousted and “Hendo” saw his playing time double under new coach Paul Silas. In years three and four, Henderson was a proud co-Captain of Team Tank, providing some of the era’s rare highlights. His reward? At least $5-6 million annually from someone this July. Nice work Gerald, you’ve earned it!

How it Should Have Played Out: Ideally, the team would’ve used the 2010 pick that they swapped for Alexis Ajinca to trade up five spots for Steph Curry. One can only imagine how the QC’s favorite hoops son would’ve have ignited the fanbase new and old. Watching Steph swish deep threes while wearing his dad’s old Hornets #30 would’ve made even the most hardened of Charlotte NBA fans misty. Actually, no, don’t imagine it. It’ll just make you sad. And then angry. And then sad all over again.

GRADE: B


Rock Bottom

In May of 2010, the Charlotte Bobcats made their first ever Playoff appearance. The series wasn’t competitive – they were swept by the Orlando Magic in four games – but young franchises traditionally celebrate their initial break-throughs into the post-season, toasting their efforts as the first of many appearances to come. But this wasn’t the case with the Bobcats at all. In fact, the appearance signaled the beginnings of a very dark time in Queen City hoops history. A time the franchise is still mired in today.

In order to achieve their lone Playoff cameo, Michael Jordan and Rod Higgins had sacrificed the franchise’s future with short-sighted, cap-killing trades and draft pick give-aways while handing over whatever talent that was left to a senile phony of a head coach primed for sabotage. Suddenly, all of the franchise’s past blunders would collide, setting them on a collision course with rock bottom.

The 2010 Draft: No Pick.

How It Played Out: Want to know how the Charlotte Bobcats became the national laughingstock they are today? Let’s take a short detour back to the year 2010 and see how Jordan & Higgins demolished the franchise’s future in Four Easy Steps…

STEP ONE: The Bobcats didn’t have a first round draft pick that year because they had traded it two seasons earlier for Alexis Ajinca.

STEP TWO: The team traded ANOTHER future first round pick at the Trade Deadline for Tyrus Thomas. And since you can’t trade a future first round pick for a restricted free agent then have him walk, MJ and Higgins promptly signed Thomas to a 5-year $40 million contract that July.

STEP THREE: The Tyrus contract was bad news for 2005’s fifth overall pick (and starting point guard) Raymond Felton. The team was in major cap trouble and had another Lottery point guard (D.J. Augustin) already on the payroll. Just five years earlier the team had choosen the Felton/Sean May combination over Chris Paul and now both were gone via free agency netting zero compensation in return.

STEP FOUR: Having dedicated over half of their cap space to the legendary likes of Gana Diop, Nazr Mohammed, Boris Diaw and the noveau riche Tyrus Thomas, Jordan & Higgins decided to make a final major move to trim salary. Their solution: Trade Tyson Chandler to Dallas for the instant cap relief of Erick Dampier’s unguaranteed contract and over $20 million worth of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera. The trade was ridiculed from the moment it happened and only looks worse with time. Let’s break it down:

Jordan & Higgins had painted themselves into such an unnecessary salary corner over the years that they had to choose Diop and Mohammed over future Defensive Player of the Year Chandler. That’s a tragically terrible move on its own but IN ADDITION to this devestation, they were somehow talked into taking on three more years of dead-weight, end-of-the-bench salary in the forms of Carroll and Najera. The trade was so lopsided that it actually swung an NBA Championship ten months later. It was simply the worst transaction in franchise history (which is no small feat) and possibly the league’s worst trade since Boston’s McHale/Parish heist of Golden State thirty-five years earlier.

Now back to the 2010 Draft…

How It Should Have Played Out: Had the Bobcats not traded their pick, they would have selected 16th overall. Kevin Seraphin, Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley were picks 17, 18 and 19 respectively. None are likely to be All-Stars but each is a bonafide rotation player and are drastically more talented and valuable than Alexis Ajinca ever will be. Between his lowly Drafts, questionable trades and a blatant display of nepotism (wasting a roster spot on his son Cory over two seasons), it is absolutely ASTOUNDING that Rod Higgins still has a job in the league – with the same team no less! All I can say is, those compromising photos of MJ better be worth hiding.

GRADE: F- (for the Draft),
F————————————-(for the Higgins Era)


NEXT UP IN PART THREE: MJ HIRES A SMART PERSON TO PRESS RESET!

- AS Chin

Read More:  Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part One


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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Bobcats Are Undefeated

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLL : How Many Bobcat Wins This Season?

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

Total Voters: 149

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Kemba Walker – Expect Big Things

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At just 16 years old, Kemba Walker out-dueled Derrick Rose in front of 20,000 fans at a jam-packed Madison Square Garden.

Three years ago, he led his AAU team, the New York Gauchos, to finish tops in the nation.

The very next season, Kemba was the third guard on a #1 seeded UConn team that he helped lead to the Final Four.

And just a few months back, Kemba returned to MSG to win five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament before putting a team with seven freshmen on his back to win the NCAA Tournament.

To say the least, Kemba Walker loves the spotlight. But now, the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player steps onto the biggest stage of his life. No, not Apollo Theater. Not Madison Square Garden. The National Basketball Association.

Sitting in a mostly empty Time Warner Cable Arena, it doesn’t take long for the average viewer to figure out that the Bobcats don’t have the greatest fan base. The crowd rarely makes much of any noise unless egged on by the cheesy “Let’s Make Some Noise!!!”  Meter on the jumbo-tron. Even a fast-break dunk will only slightly elicit more claps then the Lady Cats and Rufus throwing $5 T-Shirts into the crowd.

But the loudest I’ve ever heard the Cable Box wasn’t all that long ago. In fact, it was just about one month ago on Draft Night when the Bobcats made the ninth selection. When the words “Kemba Walker” left the lips of Commissioner David Stern, the entire arena exploded with jubilation. Moms hugging kids. Grown men jumping up and down. Possibly the best atmosphere I’ve ever been around since Charlotte’s all-too-short playoff stint last summer.

All of these festivities for an undersized point guard who stands at 6’1” on a good day. But ultimately, his stature isn’t really what makes his game; he’s a tough-as-nails warrior, and a true leader of men. And on a roster full of unproven young talent, has-beens, and never wills (I’m looking at you, Eduardo Najera) I think that it’s fair to expect Kemba Walker to be a bright spot in an overall gloomy season.

For sure, Kemba Walker is not your prototypical point guard. Now, that’s not a bad thing. Most point guards don’t have the tenacity, quickness, or pure scoring ability that Walker possesses, even if they are a few inches taller.

Offensively, his height should not prove to be a problem. Thanks to a nearly 40’ vertical jump, a high release, and high arcing shot, Kemba is harder to block than most players his size. Plus, with an array of isolation moves most notably including a jab to create space then a step-back jumper, he’s remarkably good at creating his own shot.

But unlike many other small guards, spot up shooting isn’t Kemba’s most dangerous weapon. What makes him so lethal is his quickness.  This makes Kemba tough to plan against in two ways: the kick and drive game and fast breaks.

Throughout his collegiate career Kemba has been very tough to guard. If you leave him in single coverage, he’ll drive to the bucket where he can unleash his litany of post moves (tear drop, up-and-under layup, floater high off the glass…) and draw a foul. If you put him in double coverage, he has the court vision to penetrate and still find the open man.

Defensively, however, there is cause for concern. In this day and age of big, athletic point guards—Deron Williams, John Wall, and Derrick Rose to name a few—Walker will have problems stopping them, particularly when he is posted up. This size disadvantage may force Charlotte into running a zone, especially when Coach Silas opts to play Kemba and D.J. Augustin together.

Just like how he plays to his strengths on offense, Kemba maximizes his speed on defense, as well. He is a bit of an opportunist defensively—he’s aggressive trying to intercept passes—which can leave his teammates in a tough 4-on-5 position when he whiffs, but also jumpstarts fast breaks when his gambles pay off.

And when he does trigger a fast break, boy does he make you pay. Between his speed, court vision, and ability to absorb contact, Kemba really is a nightmare to guard. He’s creative in the paint, fearless getting to the bucket, and isn’t afraid to defer.

Yes, Kemba has freakish speed. Yes, he has an uncanny ability to just get the ball in the bucket. But what really impresses me about this young man is his intangibles.

Every year at college, Kemba got better. Coming off the bench in his freshman year, he shot 47% from the field in his limited time, putting up 8.9 points, 2.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game. Each of the following seasons, he saw his points, assists, and rebounds grow in number while he got more aggressive, seeing his free throw attempts and percentage rocket up. Before long, we were looking at an All-American who put up a 23.5-4.5-5.4 line.

Not only does he improve every year, but Kemba also showed that he is adept to play in any role. Need him to carry the scoring load while leading the team? Check. Need him to come off the bench behind steady starters? Done it before. Thanks to his non-stop motor and tenacity on both ends of the floor, Kemba can be plugged into any role and be able to run the offense from the minute he steps on the court.

But the spot that he really takes to the next level would have to be during crunch time. When the light shines brightest on the biggest of stages, Kemba is there. He’s cool under pressure, confident, and capable. While some superstars will defer in the waning seconds—cough cough LeBron—Walker had led his UConn team to countless victories on last-second heroics.

As good as that sounds, Kemba’s confidence can sometimes escalate to a fault. He can take over games completely for minutes at a time, which can lead to forced shots, ignoring teammates, and overly-aggressive defense.

But those are just small blemishes on what I believe can be a very promising career. And at the end of the day, Kemba Walker does have one of the most valuable assets an NBA player can have: the Heart of a Champion. I know it sounds clichéd, but a winning mentality can never be over-valued, especially on a team so replete of “winners” as Charlotte (see: Maggette, Corey). Remember, you never doubt the Heart of a Champion.

For his rookie season, it’s reasonable to expect big things from Kemba Walker. Whether he’ll be coming off the bench from the start of the season or if Augustin will be shipped out of town before the first game, we don’t yet know. But as long as Maggette and the enigma that is Boris Diaw remain two of the biggest scoring threats, Kemba will assuredly receive major minutes.

If and when the season resumes, my best guess is that Kemba starts the year as the third guard in the rotation. But as the year creeps on, I expect him to usurp more and more of D.J.’s minutes until by the end of the season he is the starting point guard. I have a feeling Augustin will be a popular trade target among teams like Utah, New York, and Houston in search of a young point guard. I don’t think that it’s time to give up on D.J. per se, but even though he’s 23-years old, it doesn’t appear that he’ll ever be a top-15 or even top-20 NBA point guard.

Similar to the rookie seasons of Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin, I think Kemba Walker is looking at about 14 points and 5 assists per game for his rookie campaign. Not only will he bring much needed scoring to an anemic offensive team, but he will bring toughness and a winning mentality that this team has been searching for since its inception.

Editor’s Note:
This article is the first by the newest Bobcats Baseline contributor,  Ben W.

The Bobcats Season – Over and Out.

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What An Unexpected Ride

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

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

Stumbling Out of The Gates

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

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

New Energy

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

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

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

The Trade

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

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

Quiet Close to the Season

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

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

-Mike

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

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

Total Voters: 182

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Bobcats Begin Post-Gerald Era With Win Over Kings

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(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Despite only dressing 8 players due to Thursday’s trades, the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Sacramento Kings 110-98 at the Cable Box on Friday night. Stephen Jackson settled down after an early technical foul and led the Cats with 30 points on 11-19 FG.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

The Kings were without their best player, Tyreke Evans (plantar fasciitis), and aren’t that good with him, so this is nothing to get too excited about. Nonetheless, there were some encouraging signs.

Obviously, the fact that the Cats were able to win so shorthanded is a story.  After the expected starting five of DJ, Gerald Henderson, Jack, Diaw and Kwame Brown, the Cats could only call on Shaun Livingston, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera off the bench.  Winning any NBA game with just those 8 guys is noteworthy no matter the opponent.

But most importantly, the guys that need to step up did so — at least for one night.

For better or worse, this is Jack’s team the rest of the season.  And under stressful circumstances, made even more so by the presence of his nemesis, referee Eli Roe, you wouldn’t have been blamed for expecting the worst of Jackson going into the game.  Like clockwork, Roe called Jackson for a charge just minutes into the game.  Jack was immediately rattled, drew a tech (from Derrick Stafford, to be fair), and was benched.  But Jack was able to gather himself, avoid any further trouble with the referees, and pour in his 30.

DJ Augustin played his second straight solid game coming out of the All-Star break, torching Beno Udrih for 23 points on 9-11 shooting.

And Gerald Henderson dropped 21 points (8-17 FG, 5-6 FT) to continue his strong February.

Notes

  • On the other hand, Boris Diaw was pretty much a no-show.  Knowing Boris, he’ll probably give pretty much the same effort tomorrow night, but end up with a near-triple-double.
  • I appreciate what Eduardo Najera has brought to the table in Tyrus Thomas’ absence.  On some nights, his toughness and defense have been a godsend to Paul Silas.  But this better be the first and only time I see him shoot five three-pointers in a game.
  • DeMarcus Cousins was fun.  Where to start?  13 points, 10 rebounds and 7 turnovers.  Seven turnovers?  But the talent is obvious, and in such a huge body.  If the Kings could get an elite young point guard (Kyrie Irving?), move Evans to the 2, and have those three figure it out together — watch out. And then there was the random benching to start the second half.  But my favorite is Cousins’ array of scowls.  Seriously, he had this one in the first half when a call didn’t go his way that showed elite, freakish expressionism.  I’m thinking Cousins is going to be the first rookie since Rashad McCants to make it to my 1st Team All-Sourpuss squad.  Hopefully he’ll get to spend some time with Stephen Jackson at the photo shoot, because I think those two are kindred spirits.
  • So I see that Indiana lost to the blown-up Jazz, which means the Bobcats are just a half-game out of the 8th playoff spot.  You know, it’s not as if the Pacers are some juggernaut, or some veteran-laden steady team.  They’re young, with an interim coach, and they rely pretty heavily on Danny Granger.  I’m just saying it’s not impossible for the Cats to overtake them, especially with Tyrus Thomas getting ready to return.  Stranger things have happened.
  • The Cats will practice tomorrow, and expect to have Joel Pryzbilla, Dante Cunningham and DJ White there to get acclimated.  Next game is Sunday evening, 6PM ET against the Magic in Orlando.

-Dr. E

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Bobcats Down Raptors; Trade Deadline Approaches

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DJ (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Bobcats handily defeated the Toronto Raptors, 114-101, on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  DJ Augustin led the way with 23 points and 8 assists/o turnovers, while Gerald Wallace relentlessly drove at Toronto’s weak interior defenders en route to 14-15 FTs and 20 points.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The Bobcats took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back.  They stretched the lead out to double digits in the second and nearly out to 20 briefly in the third.  A meaningless Raptors rally cut the Cats lead to 11 midway through the fourth before Gerald Wallace closed the door for good by getting to the line for 5-6 free throws on three consecutive possessions.

Boris Diaw had a strong game with 16 points (6-10 FG), 9 assists and 4 steals.  Gerald Henderson added 15 points (5-11 FG) and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.

The Raptors are pretty much a mess, and it starts with their best player.  7’0″ center Andrea Bargnani is about as soft as they come, and his nonexistent defensive ability and effort set the tone for the rest of the young team.

Notes

  • Stephen Jackson left the game in the third quarter after taking contact and landing awkwardly during a layup.  Jackson left the floor limping and holding his left hamstring.  He soon returned to the bench, but did not re-enter the game.  Jackson said after the game the injury was not a concern and that he could have played if called upon.
  • Nazr Mohammed did his best Kevin Love impression, grabbing 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Boris capped his night of with a breakaway dunk that was rather out of character.  After a feed from DJ, who had stolen the ball in the backcourt, Boris cocked it back behind his head before stuffing it two-handed.  I would say that he was inspired by this past weekend’s slam dunk contest, but you and I know there’s no way Boris watched that.
  • Weird line for Jerryd Bayless.  He was about as relentless going to the rack as Gerald Wallace and had 11-12 FT, but was 0-4 from the field.   He also tallied 10 assists, but gave up 4 turnovers and committed 4 fouls.
  • The Pacers took care of the Wiz tonight, so maintain their one game lead on the Bobcats for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Bobcats don’t play again until Friday night when they host the Kings at the Cable Box, 7 PM ET start.  The Kings will be without Tyreke Evans, who is missing time with plantar fasciitis, and Carl Landry, who is about to get traded to the Hornets for Marcus Thornton.

Thoughts at the Trade Deadline

Bonus trade deadline thoughts!  Now that the Carmelo deal is done, some other smaller deals are starting to go down.  The deadline is at 3 PM ET on Thursday.  Several sources have indicated that the Bobcats have been active on the phones.

But Paul Silas has been quoted both Monday and Tuesday as saying that he doesn’t think the Bobcats will be making a trade; his quote from Tuesday made it sound as if the Bobcats had only received ludicrous proposals from other teams: “We’re not just going to give people away and that’s what most teams want you to do.”

That’s basically code for: “You know who we’ve got on the block.  We’re ready to deal, but you’re going to have to step your offer up.”

And while I agree that the Bobcats should only trade Gerald Wallace if they get a Godfather offer, and should be pretty picky about giving Boris Diaw up, I wouldn’t be as choosy about a Stephen Jackson trade.  I’d jump on a mix of an expiring contract and a draft pick in a heartbeat, but that’s probably not happening.

Whatever the case, despite Silas’s proclamation that “nothing’s happening”, expect to hear the Bobcats continue to come up in deadline buzz over the next day and half.

-Dr. E

POLL : What should the Bobcats do at the trade deadline?

  • Trade Gerald Wallace (23%, 12 Votes)
  • Trade Boris Diaw (17%, 9 Votes)
  • Trade Stephen Jackson (34%, 18 Votes)
  • Stand pat and make a playoff push (26%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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Bobcats Continue Mastery Of Lakers

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Bob Leverone/AP Photo

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-89 on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Cats have now defeated the Lakers 8 out of the last 10 times the two teams have played.  Gerald Wallace led the Bobcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds; Gerald Henderson added 18 points (6-9 FG, 5-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks off the bench.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The deck was stacked against the Lakers to start: they were finishing up a long road trip AND on the second night of a back-to-back; plus, Kobe was under the weather.  After a bit of a slow start, the Cats took advantage, building a six point lead to take into halftime.

The wheels really fell off for the Lakers late in the third.  With a laboring Kobe on the bench, the Cats went on a 14-3 run, capped by a 15-foot jumper and a short hook shot by Kwame Brown and a three pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Wallace, for a 78-60 lead after three.

The barrage continued with Kobe and the Lakers starters back on the court to start the fourth, this time headed by Gerald Henderson and Nazr Mohammed, who both appeared to be unguardable for the exhausted Lakers.  The Bobcats led by as much as 28 a couple of times before the benches emptied.

Notes

  • After oversleeping and arriving late to shootaround, Boris Diaw was supposedly going to be benched to start the game as discipline.  But Silas apparently changed his mind, as Boris started and played well with 16 points (3-6 3PT).
  • DJ Augustin was supposedly also out after being limited in shootaround with a sprained wrist.  But after pregame warmups he declared himself ready to go and notched 9 assists vs. 0 turnovers.  Still not a complete bounceback from his recent slump, though, as he shot 3-7 FG and 1-4 3PT for just 7 points.
  • This has to be said: even if you took Stephen Jackson’s proclivity for antagonizing the officials and drawing technical fouls out of the equation, Gerald Henderson would still be pushing him for playing time.  Henderson’s been that good recently.
  • With beat writer Rick Bonnell on furlough this week, the rest of the Observer’s sports crew filled in.  Check out good posts by Ron Green on what this win meant for the Bobcats and this post by Scott Fowler on Phil Jackson’s terse postgame comments/Kobe’s no-show.
  • The win moves the Bobcats to 24-31 and 1.5 games back from Indiana for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Quick turnaround as the Bobcats head to Chicago for a back-to-back against the Bulls Tuesday night, 8PM ET start.  The Bulls will be looking to avenge two losses the Cats from earlier this season.

-Dr. E

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