Bobcats Find A Way To Lose To Philly

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Bobcats Lose A Close One In Philadelphia

The Charlotte Bobcats traveled to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers in a mid-day MLK Day game. The match paired two of the most unimpressive teams of the Eastern Conference, both putting  on out-of-rhythm performances for long stretches. Each team tried their hardest to lose this game, but the Bobcats were finally able to hand it over to the home team in overtime. The suspension of Tyrus Thomas for “throwing ‘bows” during Charlotte’s last game may have been one factor to aid Charlotte to this loss to Philly 96 – 92.

AP Recap | Box Score

The Start

The Bobcats had a bit of trouble getting things up and running early in the game. The 76ers worked to entertain their crowd with steady offense at the onset, making all of their shot attempts for the first 4 minutes. The Cats hung around, but were forced into taking a lot of outside shots that would not drop for any of the starters. Boris Diaw showed solid defense and pretty efficient shot selection during his early minutes. Interestingly, Kwame Brown was the best offensive option that Charlotte had in action. The team’s two captains, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson just didn’t seem to work out against Philly’s defensive scheme. Wallace was nearly invisible until Jackson went to the bench at the end of the first quarter. At that point, Crash took it straight to the basket on consecutive drives for easy points.

Neither team could hit a shot in the second quarter. Stephen Jackson replaced Wallace and stunk it up for the rest of the half. Pennsylvania-native, Gerald Henderson showed little effectiveness and the rest of the Bobcats couldn’t find the hoop despite their efforts (Shaun Livingston did show some hustle, but without buckets). It seemed that the Bobcats were absolutely stymied on offense without Boris Diaw on the floor. We’ll need a real “X’s and O’s” type to ascertain what the 76ers were doing against the Cats. My guess is that the team relies on Jack to bail them out of such ruts, and he just didn’t have anything going for him during most of the game. Still, the teams went back-and-forth and Philly held a 1pt lead going to end the half. It could have been much worse considering that the Bobcats had shot 0-10 from behind the arc.

The Second Half

The Bobcats came out on a tear to start the third (which is not quite how they usually roll). Boris Diaw stayed hot with two 3-pointers to spark Charlottes 13-2 run. Every Bobcat on the floor contributed during the run, except Stephen Jackson who went scoreless for the quarter. Of course, the Cats went back to playing their style of 3rd Quarter basketball and let the 76ers back into the game. This was possible due a streak of 10 straight misses and nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. It was if Larry Brown was haunting the team from his old office in Philadelphia. Again, the team struggled with Boris getting rest on the bench. While Charlotte needed someone to step up on offense, they only got Captain Jack to miss a load of shots and throwaway two turnovers to close the period.

The 76ers started the 4th Quarter by owning the paint on offense. The Bobcats had no ability to stop Louis Williams as he tore through their defense for 21 second half points. DJ Augustin just couldn’t handle the larger Williams, and couldn’t knock down shots to make up for it. Augustin and Jackson appeared just about useless for much of the 4th. The game was close to being out of reach with Philadelphia holding a 9 point edge with less than 5 minutes left. But suddenly, Kwame Brown came to the rescue. Well, it was actually Elton Brand’s arm to Kwame’s face on a close lay-up that did it. Brown hit the shot attempt and the free-throw. Brand was called for a flagrant and the Cats used the possession to set up Boris for a straight-ahead 3-pointer. The momentum swung and Charlotte held control of the game until the final seconds.  Matt Carroll (another Pennsylvania-native) knocked down 2 free-throws to give the Bobcats a 3 point lead with less than 10 seconds, and it seemed like the road win was sealed. Unfortunately, Louis Williams wasn’t done and hit a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner with 4.7 seconds left. Charlotte used their final timeout to setup the old pass-it-around-to-Stephen-Jackson-for-a-long-range-miss play and executed it with precision. So, the folks in the arena caught a little bonus basketball and had to put off dinner for another half-hour.

Overtime

Early in the extra period, the Bobcats worked on rookie Evan Turner with Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. Once that well was dry, the teams seemed to counter each other with blows until the final minute. In the meantime, Boris Diaw notched his first triple-double as a Bobcat and Kwame Brown pulled down his 16th rebound of the game. Still, the great stats just couldn’t add up to a win. With just under 40 seconds left, and the game tied, Andre Igoudala hit a pull up jumper over Kwame to give the Sixers a two point lead that wouldn’t fade as the home team finally got the win over the visiting Bobcats 96-92. In the case that these two teams are tied for the final Playoff slot, Philadelphia will hold the tie-breaker advantage with this win over the Bobcats. From what I recall, the Bobcats have also lost the tie-breaker to the Bucks.

Loose Notes

To start the televised game broadcast, Dell Curry let it slip that he had just downed a 5-Hour Energy and 2 cups of coffee. In no way did I ever think DC had such a need for uppers. Also, in no way did any of those chemicals speed up his Southern draw.

Thaddeus Young had a horrible game trying to finish around the rim. He missed two dunks, had one blocked, and missed two lay-ups. He was pretty bad at the free-throw line as well.

Kwame Brown had another really good game (15 pts, 16 reb, but a crucial turnover). It’s tough to get overly-excited when the team isn’t winning, but this guy might be a pretty good value. The television crew mentioned an instance during a recent practice when Asst. Coach Charles Oakley really got into Kwame’s face. It’s nice to see him react with a performance like this. At the end of the season, we’ll need to evaluate which player was a better addition between Brown or Livingston.

Nazr Mohammed seems to be back to form… and that form is of a backup Center for a mediocre NBA club.

During the broadcast, I spotted a Mini-Shelden Williams sitting on the front-row near the Bobcats bench. If you watched the game on Fox SportSouth, you know who I’m talkin’ about.

Boris Diaw’s triple-double (25 pts, 11 reb, 11 ast, 1 turnover, 2 blocks) would have been a lot more fun to jot down had the Cats pulled out the win. Still, it’s nice to see the Frenchman display his full range of skills on the court. That stat line is crazy!

The Bobcats have a rematch with the 76ers in Charlotte on Thursday. Let’s hope for revenge!

Bonus Link : Recap from a Sixers Fan Blog, Liberty Ballers

-Mike

THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS: Jordan’s Approach to Building a Winning Team in Charlotte

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misfits

THE PLAYERS (AKA THE MISFITS):

It starts with the city itself.  Once a shining example of the NBA’s ever-growing popularity in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Charlotte finds itself today as a middle aged divorcee six years into a rebound marriage, unsure if it was ever cut out for this pro basketball city thing to begin with.*

The team’s first All-Star and only remaining original member was a bargain bin castoff selected in the expansion draft.  Young Gerald Wallace was worth less to the Sacramento Kings than shedding $1 million from their bloated payroll.

Even though he is only one of a dozen or so current NBA players who can score twenty points a night while preventing his opponent from doing the same, Stephen Jackson was exiled from Golden State for what amounted to a $5 million expiring contract and a poor shooting, non-rebounding Eastern European caveman.

Once universally revered, hall of fame head coach Larry Brown arrived in Charlotte a tarnished brand.  In a League where head coaching vacancies are filled annually by the same retread Temp Agency, Brown had to practically reach out to an old friend in order to secure a job and begin rebuilding his reputation.

And finally there’s Jordan.  A man who could do no wrong on the court is now the man who can barely do anything right off of it.  Joining the names Ehlo and Russell in the MJ ethos are new ones like Kwame and Morrison.  For the first time in nearly 30 years, Michael Jordan has something to prove in the game of basketball.

A BRIEF, PAINFUL RECAP

Successful small market teams (OKC, San Antonio, Portland, Utah, Orlando) use the same formula and we all know it: BUILD THROUGH THE DRAFT.  Draft stars to cheap rookie deals, treat ‘em well, sign ‘em to big contracts before they hit free agency and keep drafting young talent and signing mid-level free agents to pair with them.  Rinse and repeat.

The Bobcats are currently the worst drafting franchise in the NBA.  It’s not even up for debate.  In six plus years of existence, not once has one of their draft picks sniffed an All-Star game – and the ‘Cats have had more lottery selections than anyone else in that span.  Indulge me for another brief and painful recap:

2004: Emeka Okafor.  GRADE: a solid double. Could have had more picks and taken Big Al or Iggy if Bob Johnson had a clue about running a business, “hmm, buy a pick from Phoenix for $2 million to draft Jefferson, Deng or Iguodala or build a brand new cable sports network from scratch?  What’s the main draw you ask?  Charlotte Bobcats basketball of course!  Brevin Knight every night!”

2005: Ray Felton/Crab Bread May.  GRADE: a sacrifice bunt. Felton a below average starter for a few years, May on his way to hosting Man vs. Food: EXTREME CARBS!
2006: Adam Morrison.  GRADE: whiff.
Not only a whiff but a McGwire Whiff.  The kind where the guy is on ‘roids and whiffs so hard that he blows out both knees in the process.  Embarrassing.
2007: Jason Richardson/Jared Dudley.  GRADE: RBI single. Could have been worse.  At least realized that they didn’t know how to draft and received a couple non-bust assets in return.

2008: Augustin/Ajinca.  GRADE: whiff. Not as bad as the Morrison knee blowout but a close second.  Passed on Brook Lopez and threw away a future first rounder in order to select Freedom Fries.  Jordan was on record as saying that the team sat out the 2010 draft because “Tyrus Thomas was our first round pick.”  No, Michael.  Alexis Ajinca is your 2010 first round pick.  Ugh.
2009: Henderson/Brown.  GRADE: promising single right up the gap.
Henderson looked good in some late season action and is at least athletic enough to belong in the League–although his complete lack of an outside shot scares me.  Derrick Brown has the Gerald Wallace “I’m not intellectually capable enough to realize I shouldn’t be any good” gene – and this is no insult to Crash, look at how the book-smarts have hampered Okatron 2000’s career.  Higher grade for this draft if LB actually plays them next year.
2010: Ajinca by proxy.  GRADE: Freedom whiff.

So there you go folks, somehow with all of this draft day carnage in their immediate past, the Charlotte Bobcats attained a winning record in 2009-2010 and stole the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.  So how in the hell did they do it?

GIVE US YOUR UNDER-PERFORMING & YOUR OVER-PAID

Nazr Mohammed, Tyson Chandler, Gana Diop, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw.  What’s the single thread that ties these players together?  Why, it’s the fact that their former teams handed them massive contracts and then immediately realized that they’d made a mistake.  “Oh crap, we just signed Joel Pryzbilla to a nine year $80 million contract.  Quick, get Jordan on the phone!”

So in a silly season which saw half of the League’s teams trade away wins for cap space, the Bobcats “philosophy” of taking on bad contracts to win now was just wacky enough to propel them into the postseason.  While other GMs plotted for future dynasties, Jordan mortgaged the farm on the more modest and attainable goal of simply making the Playoffs.  It worked.  The ‘Cats finished the season as one of the Association’s top 15 teams.

Could it be that MJ and crony Rod Higgins are sharking their peers by making fiscally questionable deals to upgrade the team’s talent pool?  Have the ‘Cats created a new “Freakonomics” meets “Moneyball” model that challenges the importance of the amateur draft and free agency?  Is Michael Jordan stealthily playing checkers while the rest of the League plays chess?  Or will all of these questionable contracts and draft day screw-ups eventually cripple the team, making future trades difficult and free agent additions impossible?**

If Jordan and Higgins are intent on foregoing the tried and true paradigm for small market success and continue with their merry spending ways, then I present to you, without further ado…

THE SUMMER OF 2010’s MISFIT TOY CANDIDATES:

What makes a Misfit Toy candidate?  Simple: you have to be way overpaid and way underperforming.  If you fit this description then I hope you like pulled pork BBQ ‘cause your probably coming to Carolina!

Ben Gordon 4 yrs: $47 million

Y’think Joey Dumars is just a tad bit regretful for signing a 6’3” sixth man shooting guard to a $60 million deal?  Gordon is way overpaid for his production but could be exactly what the doctor ordered on a team like the Bobcats: Electric bench and fourth quarter scoring.  The ‘Cats are desperate for it.  That said, Dumars is notoriously tough to trade with.  Wonder if a combination of Boris Diaw and Gerald Henderson might get this done.

Monta Ellis 4 yrs: $44 million

We’ve been speculating on this one for years.  Ellis hogs the ball and jacks up shots at an unprecedented rate.  Not good on a team with lots of offensive options like Golden State but could be an absolute godsend for the Bobcats, who spent the vast majority of last season spastically passing the ball around on offense like it was a live hand grenade.  Again, wonder if Diaw and Henderson or Chandler’s expiring could get this done.  The W’s are a mess in the front office right now, Higgins could potentially steal something else in return (pick, prospect).

Baron Davis 3yrs: $41 million

A blast from the past, a former home grown product entering the end of his career.  Still has the size and offensive firepower to occasionally dominate a game.  Couldn’t be any worse than Felton and is so overpaid that the ‘Cats could conceivably unload Diop’s longer deal in exchange.

Al Jefferson 3yrs: $42 million

Not sure exactly why Big Al is being shopped so fiercely this summer.  Who knows what goes on in the mind of David Kahn.  If the rest of League’s GMs are playing chess to MJ’s checkers, then Kahn is playing badminton.  Al would be a huge upgrade at the PF spot for the ‘Cats but not quite sure what the T’Wolves would want in exchange.  I’m praying that Kahn would ok a deal that would send out Jefferson and Ramon Sessions (Andre Miller: The Next Generation) for Tyson and Nazr’s expirings (plus a future first rounder).

Emeka Okafor: 4yrs, $52 million

Tied with two others on this list (see below) for the worst contract in the League.  Obviously, it was the Bobcats who signed him to it.  Was such a poor fit in New Orleans that Charlotte actually won the trade by taking back 6ppg/6rpg, semi-crippled Tyson Chandler in exchange.  Hate the contract but could live with ‘Mek’s 16 + 10 if the Hornets threw in Darren Collison.  Diop/Mohammed/Augustin for Okafor/Collison anybody?

Rashard Lewis: 3yrs, $65 million

Sole possession of 2nd Worst Contract in the League.  He’s paid over $20 million a year over the next three.  Yeah, you read that right.  Rashard should gift half his salary to Dwight Howard every season.  Without D-Ho backing him up in the lane, Lewis’s skinny frame and lack of defensive skills would make him an absolute liability.  Don’t think the Magic would trade him (they’re firmly in “go for broke” mode) but his offensive skills and outside shooting would fill a need for the ‘Cats.

Elton Brand: 3yrs, $51 million

Here we go, a good old fashioned back to the basket All-Star power forward.  Only problem is that Elton hasn’t been the same since an achilles injury derailed his career a few seasons ago.  He’s a round peg in a square hole with fast paced Philly but could regain dominance in Larry Brown’s grind it out half-court offense in Charlotte.  Would Diaw/Mohammed (expiring) be enough to get it done?

Hedu Turkoglu: 4yrs, $43 million

We’ve been hearing this rumor for a solid month now.  Hedu and Jack to Charlotte for Boris, Diop and D.J.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense mainly because Hedu can only play small forward, doesn’t defend or rebound well and is essentially not very good.  He’s basically Boris with a worse contract and poorer defense.  Jack and Ray Felton may as well be the same player.  Dud.  Oh and Hedu is one of the other “Worst Contract in the League”ers.  The other one?

Gilbert Arenas: 4yrs, $60 million

I’ve already written about this in length so I won’t rehash it here.  If MJ could swing a deal featuring Diop, Diaw and Mohammed for Gilbert and an asset (prospect or pick) then do it.  It’d be the biggest gamble in MJ’s tenure but he’s shown that he’s most definitely the gambling type.  An Arenas/JAX/CRASH/Tyrus/Chandler core could win 50 games this year as long as everybody stays relatively healthy.  The team would also retain the young talent on the roster and pick up either a pick or a young player like Javale McGee or Blatche from the Wiz for their troubles.

Allen Iverson: free agent.

We couldn’t leave out good old AI.  He’s a free agent and has declared himself ready take on the League again.  The dude has hit rock bottom.  If you’re gonna take a flyer on him then now is the time to do it.  If he would accept a smaller (possibly bench) role and play nice with his new teammates then I can’t think of a better way for him to end his career than with his old coach in the Queen City.  He’d also come cheap.  Think: Flip Murray Advanced.

IN CONCLUSION

Don’t be surprised if Jordan pulls off a deal for one of these misfits sometime between now and the end of next month.  MJ sat out the draft and one gets the sense that both he and Trader Larry are chomping at the bit to make yet another move for an overpriced toy in need of a new home.

Until then, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats fans…

-ASChin

*I find it ironic that throughout Charlotte’s twenty plus years of NBA basketball history the vast majority of the city’s successful players have come via trade or as castaways: Monster Mash, Eddie Jones, Mase, Vlade Two Packs, Easy E Campbell, P-Whipped Rice, Curry 1.0, Don’t Tell Me No Bogues, Crash and JAX.  Doesn’t that sort of represent how the city’s success was built as well?  Sure, there are some shining examples of homegrown talent but the vast majority of the Queen City’s brain pool came here from somewhere else looking for a new start.  Buffalo, Rochester, Jersey, Pittsburgh, WV, Ohio, represent BABY BABY!  UH!

**The good news is that the team drafts so poorly that they’ll never have to worry about re-signing their own talent on the open market.  “What’s that?  Raymond is an unrestricted free agent?  He might sign with another team?  Huh.  Anyways, so you’re telling me that a poached egg is actually boiled?  I always wondered how they did that…”

Bobcats Coast Past 76ers

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Charlotte Bobcats vs 76ers, 3/31/10

The Charlotte Bobcats posted an easy win over the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-84, on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats improve to 39-35 but remain in seventh place in the East, a game-and-a-half behind Miami, who also won Wednesday night.

AP recap here |  Box score here

After feeling out the Sixers in the first few minutes of the game, the Cats took control, building a double digit lead by early in the second quarter.  The Sixers briefly cut the lead to single digits before the half and again right after, but the Cats dominated the rest of the way.

Gerald Wallace led the Cats with 24 points (8-11 FG, 3-3 alley-oops, 2-3 3PT, 6-10 FT), 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  Tyson Chandler had easily his best game since returning from injury (and probably one of his best games all year, really) with 15 points (4-5 FG, 7-8 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 23 minutes off the bench.

The Sixers generally looked like the Bad News Bears.  With Lou Williams, Rodney Carney and Thad Young all out with injuries, and Andre Igoudala reportedly dealing with plantar fasciitis, the Sixers didn’t have much of a shot to begin with.  They settled for jump shots (only 11 FTs compared to the Bobcats 35), turned the ball over an astonishing 25 times (rookie Jrue Holiday accounted for 7) and were probably lucky they didn’t get beat by 30.

Tidbits

  • Bill Simmons called Elton Brand’s contract (4 years, $66 million) the second worst in the league, (behind Gilbert Arenas: 5 years, $96 million), but Brand might vault ahead of Gil soon.  Dude is just dreadful.
  • Had a question from @kimosabe71 on Twitter about Raymond Felton tonight and wanted to expand on it a bit here. Felton is quietly having his best season ever.  A look at his stats shows that he’s sporting a career best 15.4 PER (had been in the 13.5-13.9 range the past three seasons), mostly due to shooting a career best 46% from the field.  That, in turn, is due to better shot selection, which itself is largely due to the presence of an alpha-dog offensive threat in Stephen Jackson.  So what I’m saying is that when Raymond gets a fat contract this offseason, he needs to treat Jack to a steak.  Or a Bentley — whatever NBA players do these days to thank each other.
  • Post-game locker room jibber-jabber.
  • It’s really starting to look like the Cats don’t have much of a chance to catch Miami for the 6th spot.  That’s a shame, because we really would have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs against Atlanta or Boston.  Orlando, not so much.  And don’t even get me started on the inane suggestion that we’d be better off slipping to the 8th spot and facing the Cavs in the first round.  That’s borderline moronic, our flukey 3-1 record against them this regular season notwithstanding.
  • Next game is Friday night at the Cable Box versus the surprising 5th place Milwaukee Bucks, 7 PM ET.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Decimate 76ers For Fourth Straight Victory

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Charlotte Bobcats @ 76ers, 3/10/10

The Bobcats took care of business Wednesday night in Philadelphia, soundly defeating the 76ers 102-87.  The Cats are now 32-31 and in 7th place in the East with 19 games left in the season.

AP recap here |  Box score here

After briefly falling behind by a few points in the opening minutes of the game, the Cats got it rolling and went on to score 37 points in the opening quarter.  They dominated the rest of the way, leading by as much as 29 late in the third quarter.  The Cats shot 50% on the game and basically made this one look easy.

Gerald Wallace led the way with a 28 point effort on 9-10 FG and 10-11 FT.  Stephen Jackson had another off night shooting the ball (6-19 FG, 2-7 3PT) but added 10-11 FTs for 24 points overall and added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

The Sixers looked dreadful in turning the ball over 20 times and committing 27 fouls, putting the Cats on the line for 41 free throw attempts.

What A Difference A Week Makes

Just  seven days ago, the Bobcats were coming off a bad loss to the Celtics, their 6th out of 8 at the time.  They had fallen a full game off the 8th playoff spot and their Hollinger projection had fallen down to around a 60% chance of making the playoffs.

Cut to tonight: the Cats have won four in a row, including rousing victories over the Lakers and Heat and tonight’s road win over the Sixers.  The Cats are now in 7th place in the East, only a half-game out of the 6th spot, and hold the tiebreaker over the 8th place Heat.

DJ has his groove back (10 points, 5 assists tonight), Tyson Chandler is looking semi-competent as he works his way back into shape, and Gerald Henderson has broken into the rotation.  If we can get Nazr Mohammed back into the lineup, we could potentially go 9 deep in the playoffs, with Henderson, Stevie Graham and Derrick Brown available for spot minutes in a pinch.

Tidbits

  • As alluded to above, Tyson Chandler had his best game since coming back from his foot/ankle issues.  He scored 12 points on 3-3 FG and 6-9 FT and added 5 rebounds in 15 minutes.  Of course, that was against Sam Dalembert, Elton Brand and Jason Smith, but whatever.
  • Next game is Friday night — the Cats will be hosting the similarly reeling LA Clippers at 7 PM ET.  The Clips have lost 5 in a row, and will be on game 5 of a 6 game road trip.  I’ll be there tweeting live at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Okafor Leaving Charlotte?

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Emeka Okafor

With Elton Brand’s departure from Los Angeles, the market for a free agent Power Forward has just skyrocketed. Considering the money available to the Clippers, it appears that at least one player will receive larger contract than they anticipated this off-season. While Emeka Okafor was a priority to for the Bobcats, his price tag may rise considerably with an offer from the Clippers.

If a huge contract is prepared for Okafor by Los Angeles, would Charlotte be able to match it? Would it be wise to do so? If they don’t, what are the alternatives?

At the moment, Charlotte is struggling to find the right Power Forward to compliment Emeka. If he leaves town, that formula is obsolete. The ‘Cats will then need to find a starting Center and Power Forward. It’s going to be hard to find that kind of talent before training camp. Okafor’s departure would likely result in a full reconstruction of the team’s roster. This might be a bit more than Larry Brown had hoped to instigate.

In the case that the Bobcats do match a hefty contract that the Clippers are likely to offer, they risk entering quite a commitment to Okafor after such a disappointing season. He was the face of the franchise during the expansion season, but a lot of faces have left since then. There’s really not a lot of nostalgia around the ‘Cats organization these days. Does he stay or does he go?

Bobcats Roster Holes

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The Bobcats still have a big hole in their roster – Power Forward.

Who could fill that void, if Emeka Okafor returns for the 2008-09 season?

A) Sean May

Sean May

Two years ago, the Bobcats were able to show America the stellar talent within this guy’s chubby frame. Since, he’s been on the shelf with busted knees and has slimmed down. . . slightly. Can he give the ‘Cats what they need offensively and defensively? His ability to guard guys on the perimeter is a question.
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