Charlotte Bobcats vs. Clippers 2/9/09

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1.  The Bobcats hold serve at home tonight against the aimless LA Clippers, 94-73.  AP story here, box score here.  Bobcats go to 20-31; still 3.5 games out of the 8th playoff spot.

2.  The final score is just a tad misleading.  This was an ugly, sloppy and close game in the first half.  The Bobcats pulled away a bit in the third, then put away a tired Clippers squad (finishing up a seven game road trip) in the fourth.

3.  With Gerald Wallace (lung), Raja Bell (groin) and Juwan Howard (toe) out, the Bobcats started with DJ/Felton/Diaw/Okafor/Diop.  New guy Vladimir Radmanovich, despite not having gone through a practice with the team yet, was the first reserve off the bench and ended up playing almost 30 minutes.

And Sean May played for the first time December 11.   I’m pretty sure that I heard as recently as last week that he was still 6-8 pounds away from making weight, and I know he can’t lose a pound a day, so I was surprised to see him out there.  He logged 6 minutes spanning the first and second quarters — and shouldn’t have.  Within seconds of coming in he mishandled a Diaw pass for a turnover (charged to Diaw) and looked very tentative and rusty in general.

4.  Let’s not bury the lead here, though.  The story of the game was the successful debut of Radmanovich.  He looked uncomfortable in the first half, but got in a groove later, and ended with 13 points (5-10 FG, 3-5 3PT), 4 rebounds and 2 assists.  All three of his made three-pointers came during the decisive fourth quarter.  Needless to say, he’s an upgrade over Morrison.

Since he’s got the rap of being a poor defensive player, I tried to watch him a bit on that end.  While he’s a more athletic defender, and thus a better one, than Morrison, he tended to “freelance” a lot: slacking off his man to shut off some imaginary passing/cutting lane, taking weird routes through screens and such.  Fortunately, the Clippers aren’t good enough to take advantage of that, but it will be interesting to see if a better team can.

5.  Okafor had a nice game, with 19 points (8-14 FG), 16 rebounds (4 offensive) and 3 blocks.  He was fairly aggressive in making cuts, post moves, and looking for his offense in general.  I guess that’s what you do when you have Zach Randolph guarding you.

Nice game for DJ Augustin, too: 17 points on 7-10 FG.

6.  Mixed bag from Raymond Felton.  Good news: 15 points, 8 assists and a big +21 +/-.  Bad news: 6-16 FG and 6 turnovers.  As a Felton apologist who knows that it’s better for everyone if we trade him before the deadline, I’ve been working hard to divest and disengage myself from him.  It’s coming along pretty well, too.  Instead of an impassioned “Damnit Raymond!” every time he clanged a shot or had a bad turnover, tonight I mostly just nodded knowingly: that’s Raymond.

The way this is going, I should be able to call myself a former Raymond Felton apologist by the time the trade goes down.

7.  Here’s all you need to know about the Clippers, from Marcus Camby:

“The last game of a trip, I’ve been around a long time, I know how these games can be tough… especially right before the All-Star break, you tend to lose a little focus. Your mind is elsewhere.”

The candor is refreshing, it really is.  He might as well have just said: “Eff it, man, I’m exhausted and we suck.  Besides, I’ve got to decide which resort I’m staying at in Cabo for the All-Star break.  Can’t make up my mind…”

8.  So after some of the home games in February, the team is letting some season ticket holders into the backstage area to “send off” the players.  Tonight was my night, and I stayed for about 45 minutes or so — not long enough to see everyone come out, but enough.  Juwan Howard came first, then Singletary, Bell, Felton, Radmanovich, Wallace, Diaw and Ajinca.  All the guys were unfailingly gracious and polite, signing autographs, taking pictures, shaking hands and making small talk with the fans.  Raja Bell was downright chatty; Boris Diaw’s ability to ham it up made him a big hit with the younger fans.

Like most Bobcats fans, my wife’s favorite player is Gerald Wallace.  As he made his way down the line, I tried to goad her into getting a picture with him — see, she’s loathe to bother someone famous with a request like that.  It is sorta embarrassing for both parties on many levels.  Her last line of protest was: “But he always looks so mean, I don’t want to annoy him.”  Alas, she got over it and asked, and here’s the result:

Gerald Wallace and my Wife

So much for looking mean.  Thanks, Gerald!

9.  Next game is the last one before the break: Wednesday night, hosting the Wizards at 7:00 ET.

-E

Charlotte Bobcats @ Trailblazers 1/28/09

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Larry Brown wants to play the right way

A tired Bobcats team falls behind early and stays there as they lose to the Portland Trailblazers 88-74 at the Rose Garden.  AP recap here.  Box score here.  Bonnell recap here.

1. Not much to say that the folks linked-to above haven’t.  The Bobcats looked exhausted after their double OT victory over the Lakers the night before and never really stood a chance.  Broadband League Pass featured the Blazers TV team making a good point: Not only were the Bobcats coming off a double-OT slobber-knocker, not only was it against the Lakers, not only did the ‘Cats lose their best player to injury, not only did they find out the cavalry (DJ Augustin) would not be showing up any time soon, not only was this a West Coast back-to-back, not only was this against a motivated Portland team that they had just beaten at home 11 days ago, BUT apparently (according to the Blazers TV guys–one of which is Michael Holton, I think) getting to the airport from The Staples Center takes an additional 2-3 hours than getting out of most places.  So basically there was about a 1 in a 16,000,000 x π chance of the ‘Cats gutting this one out.

2. I hate to say this because I’ve been an Adam Morrison apologist for the better part of two seasons but I think it is now official.  He’s as bad as everyone says he is.  This is not personal.  I’m sure he’s a heck of a guy but c’mon.  You get a spot start in front of your hometown crowd with the team sorely in need of some replacement offense with captain Gerald Wallace going down a night earlier to a b.s. flagrant foul and right in the thick of the playoff chase.  Adam–WAKE UP!  This was your Lou Gerhig moment.  The moment in which you’d finally silence the critics and step up when we need you the most.  And what happens???  2-6 from the field with 1 rebound and 1 assist in 26 minutes.  Adam–please–if you are reading this let me tell you something: The people WANT TO LIKE YOU.  All you have to do is have one good run to end the season and you will jump right back into the warm, protective glow of the white basketball fan.  You have the ability.  Just do it.  We are going to need you during this stretch if the playoffs are going to be a remote possibility.  You’ve tried everything you say?  What about music?  Doesn’t Rage Against Machine have a song about scoring 15-18 points per game?  No?  Then why don’t you just get the AV guy who does the scouting tapes to splice together “Killing in the Name of” with Tony Robbins “Personal Power.”  That might do the trick.

3. You have to hand it to the ‘Cats for putting out a decent effort though.  To quote Larry Brown post-game:

After what we went through last night and the trip here, I was proud we didn’t pack it in and we kept competing.

But then again, if you make seven figures to work eight months a year then maybe a decent effort should be expected.  Okafor with another nice game at 18pts, 16rbs.  Bench was again suspect with Juwan Howard leading the way (as usual) with 9pts but a frightening -13 plus/minus.  Shannon Brown with two ridiculous dunks back to back at the end of the second gave him four points–four of his six for the entire game.  Bonnell just reported that the team signed FA swingman Cartier Martin (yes, that’s his real name apparently–don’t get me started) from the DLEAGUE and we all hope he can turn into another Matt Carroll type “diamond” in the rough (YEAH BABY!).

Lets hope LB was just resting his guys for stretch run of this West Coast trip.  A day off to regroup may be enough for the ‘Cats to take on the suddenly spectacular Nuggets.

Remember all you Bobcats-maniacs: take your vitamins and say your prayers (for Gerald’s swift return).

Enjoy the Loss ‘Cats fans.

-ASChin

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Grizzlies 1/21/09

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1.  Sleepy, sloppy win for the Bobcats at the Cable Box tonight, 101-86 over the Grizzlies.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats move to 17-25.

2.  This one bore some superficial similarity to the Bobcats win over the Grizzlies in Memphis a few weeks ago, in that the Bobcats cruised to a relatively easy victory against a listless, overmatched Memphis squad both times. It’s really nice to see the Cats continue to take care of business against the handful of teams in the league that they’re actually better than.

3.  After some nice crowds recently, attendance was pretty down tonight — and for the first three quarters, the fans that were there didn’t have much reason to get excited.  This game was not played at a high level from an energy or execution standpoint.  The two teams combined for forty turnovers and generally looked like they had agreed to a secret pact before the game to play at half speed.

All that said, the Bobcats were clearly the better team, and were able to pull away in the fourth quarter by tightening up their defense and getting some easy buckets of offense.

4.  Through those first three slow-played quarters, Raja Bell was the only Bobcat who could get anything going.  He hit mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper to pace the Cats with 25 points.  And in another similarity to the fist time these two teams played, Bell hounded OJ Mayo into a distinctly below-average game.

5.  The rest of the Bobcats starters had solid games: Emeka Okafor had a man’s game, with 20 points (6-9 FG, 8-12 FT), 15 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 steals and 3 blocks.  Diaw was sorta quiet, but ended with a patented 8 point, 8 rebound, 7 assist game.  Wallace had a Diaw-esque game with 13 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals.  Felton shot the ball pretty well (7-13 FG for 19 points) but had an unsightly six turnovers.

6.  And that’s about it for the Cats tonight.  The bench was pretty awful — just look at the +/- numbers on the boxscore.  DeSagana Diop made his debut for the Cats, playing three quiet, forgettable minutes after receiving a nice hand from the crowd.  Adam Morrison played 13 brutal minutes, shooting 1-3 and grabbing five rebounds, but committing three turnovers (two on travelling violations) and two fouls.  He’s passing up decent shots and basically looking skittish out there.

I hate to have to say this about a rookie (he shouldn’t have this much pressure on him) but the team is really missing Augustin’s scoring and leadership off the bench.  With Carroll gone, Morrison a mess, and Augustin likely to move into the starting linuep if/when Felton is traded, I shudder to think about our backcourt depth down the stretch.  Here’s your opportunity, Shannon Brown.

7.  Re: the Grizzlies?  Now granted, I have a biased sample to go on (2 losses to the Bobcats) but this team plays with no heart whatsoever.  Rudy Gay is very talented, but the knock on him coming out of college (doesn’t have the temperment/personality to lead) is proving to be true.  He disappears from games far too easily.  OJ Mayo works hard and is very fundamentally sound, but has looked very pedestrian in the two Bobcats games.  And they’re a mess at point guard — Mike Conley looks OK, but had a frightening -23 +/- tonight.

8.  Man, watching Darius Miles in person made me hate the Trailblazers even more for what they tried to do to him.  He’s clearly still an NBA player, and for a guy who’s still working his way back into game shape, looks pretty springy out there.  I’m just impressed that he’s been able to keep his mouth shut about the raw deal the Blazers tried to give him — I’d be spewing all sorts of vitriol their way if I were him.  Congratulations, Trailblazers: you did the impossible and turned Darius Miles into a sympathetic figure!

9.  Next game should be a good one — Friday night at the Cable Box against Phoenix.  Though they’re no longer playing D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds or Less style, the Suns are still a marquee team with Nash, Stoudemire and Shaq.  And there’s the added significance that, since the big J-Rich for Diaw & Bell trade, both teams are playing their best ball of the season.

Go Cats!

-E

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Blazers 1/17/09

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*** OBSERVATIONS FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA (LEAGUE PASS BROADCAST) ***

Bobcats vs. Blazers 1/18/09

Bobcats win their third straight over the Portland Trailblazers Saturday night 102-97 in OT to notch their 3rd straight victory and improve to 16-24.  Can you smell .500!!!???  AP recap here.  Box score here.

1. Gerald Wallace.  Words can’t describe what GForce did to Greg Oden on a monstrous alley-oop.  See for yourselves:

Wallace’s 31pts (on 10-19) with 16 boards (!) and two BIG time blocks set the tone for the rest of the team and had the Bobcats playing to win from the very beginning.  This was one of those nights when you remember how good Gerald is and how much the team relies upon him for creating offense in the lane.  The dude is so fast when he’s on the break and just goes to basket and is willing to take the hit.  Statistically, GFORCE may not be having his best season (yet) but as an all around ball player, he’s really been evolving to another level.  Maybe that benching against the Wiz last week was exactly the prescription he needed.

2. Okafor.  Huge game from ‘Mek tonight.  22pts, 11rbs and thoroughly dominated Greg Oden.  Oak’s block on Brandon Roy late in the game prevented the Blazers from getting anything going.  Emeka has been playing great all year but don’t take our word for it.  From Raja Bell post-game:

“Emeka is a really good player. Sometimes a different look can help a guy like him when guys don’t necessarily want to leave us (defensively) on the perimeter and he’s going to be able to work one-on-one with guys in the post. That’s all you can ask for as an offensive player is to get a one-on-one opportunity, and I’m happy to be able to do that for Mek. He’s great when my man comes to help – he finds me on the perimeter and then it’s up to me to make shots. It’s been a pleasure playing with him.”

3. Trust us Raja, the pleasure is all ours.  Bell completely shut down Brandon Roy in the first half (2pts) and pestered him late on a couple of drives that prevented Roy from every getting anything going.  And while Boris Diaw struggled seriously with his shot (2-9) he tied with Felton for the team lead in assists with 7 and hit a absolutely huge 3pt basket late in the 4th to end the Blazers push.  Speaking of Raymond, another nice game for Sir Trade Bait as he showed some major cajones down the stretch, hitting an off-balance 12 foot bank from the top of the key to put the ‘Cats up and then had a nice dribble drive shot opportunity (the one’s I usually hate) in OT that was good enough for Okafor to tap back out for an offensive board.

4. The Bench.  Although Adam Morrison looked completely lost (as usual) coming in to rest Wallace, the ‘Cats can breath a sigh of relief at the completely surprising efforts of one Juwan Howard.  Who knew that this guy still had something in the tank???  He added 8pts (4-5 shooting) and some serious veteran stability in the 13 minutes he played and is all of a sudden making Brown/Jordan/Higgins look like Joe Dumars or Geoff Petrie.  Nice work from Juwan.  Unfortunately not all was great from the bench.  Nazr Mohammed should be nicknamed “BuzzKill” for his incessant lack of effort/energy.  The guy just isn’t a Brown-type player and I very much foresee Felton being moved before the deadline for, if anything, to package with Nazr and get him off of the books.  What a waste.

5. Great home win for the Bobcats and with Spurs coming to town on Monday for MLK Day, why not make it Four in a Row with new big man DeSagna Diop showing up just in time to help shut-down Tim Duncan.

Enjoy the win, ‘Cats fans.

-ASChin

Undeterred, Bobcats add Honsou

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Honsou a Bobcat

Charlotte Bobcats Coach Larry Brown just can’t get enough of these athletic, young, exotically ethnic “bigs.” The first year coach announced today the team’s impending acquisition of “Blood Diamond” and “Calvin Klein Underwear” actor/model Djimon Hounsou. “Y’know (we) have Emeka Okafor as our starting center and he’s a very physical player. Then we bring DeSagna Diop off of the bench to provide some more energy, some more length. Now with Djimon Hounsou, I think we have the hottest young frontline in basketball.”

Said ‘Cats veteran Nazr (pronounced: NAH-zee) Mohammed who played for Brown in Philly earlier in his career, “This is just something that Coach Brown likes to see in his big men. He likes bigs that can move, that can get down and dirty.”

“We’re becoming more of a pro team,” Brown said earlier this season after Charlotte traded with Phoenix for France’s Boris Diaw and the Virgin Island’s Raja Bell.

There’s no doubt that the team will benefit from the addition of “Amistad” star Hounsou but there is one player in particular Brown has his eye on. “Sexy Lexy,” Brown commented, referring to rookie first rounder Alexis Ajinca from France. “He’s raw but he’s big and very smooth. Very skilled. I think Hounsou can teach Lex how to channel some of that fire that we all witnessed so dramatically at the end of ‘Blood Diamond.’ Djimon will be a great presence in our locker room.”

Brown's favorite locker room presence

-ASChin

Offense for Defense

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Carroll for Diop

The Bobcats finally make the deal for Diop but do it without sending back Raymond Felton.  ESPN.com story here.  Charlotte Observer story here. Dallas Morning News story here.

1. Positive Spin: The ‘Cats got their man.  All 7’0″ 280lbs, $32million of him.  In exchange Charlotte sends Dallas reserve guard Matt Carroll and former 2nd Round pick Ryan Hollins.  Diop immediately brings size AND athleticism to the frontcourt and allows Coach Brown to matchup with the most physical, biggest lineups in the League.  It also provides insurance and depth in case Okafor goes down with an injury for any length of time.

2. A lot of Raymond Felton fans are breathing a sigh of relief today.  A lot of love being spread out there for Latta’s favorite son and now we know that Felton will still be on the roster for at least another game.  This still doesn’t mean that he’s not being shopped.  For one, he’s still going to be a free agent this summer.  Second, Charlotte just took on $20+ million in a guaranteed contract for a big man while NOT sending back Nazr Mohammed.  So look forward to the ‘Cats trying to move Mohammed before the deadline using Felton’s talent and expiring deal as the bait.

3. Matt Carroll was really sucking it up this season.  For a guy who earned his contract shooting the basketball, Matt was raining it in at a career low 40% from the field this season (26% from 3–ouch).  His +/- ranking for the year is a telling -7.3 which is, yes Bobcats fans, worse than Adam Morrison’s.  So now that Carroll has a new opportunity to get open looks off Dirk double-teams in Dallas, AMMO should finally get consistent minutes off the bench as the primary scorer/shooter.  It should be interesting to see what both players can do with the opportunity.

4. Negative Spin: The biggest negative from this deal by far is from a cap perspective.  The ‘Cats will pay Diop roughly $11million more over the course of his contract than Carroll.  Combine this with Mohammed’s deal and Charlotte has $20million on the books over the next two seasons dedicated to their backup centers.  If the ‘Cats can’t find someone willing to take back Nazr’s deal before the summer of 2010, they’ll essentially be out of the free agent race entirely.  Is there a more obnoxious contract in the NBA?  Not only does Nazr make about $2.5 million more per year than he should, his contract goes inconveniently until 2011.  Did Dumars punk Higgins on this deal or what?

4. Another negative is that Ryan Hollins was included as a throw-in.  Hollins showed a lot of improvement in his limited minutes early this season and actually leads the team in plus-minus.  He’s young, athletic, energetic and fun to watch.  I guess that the team is so heavily invested in Ajinca that they decided one of the raw bigs had to go.  Just like Morrison, it will be very interesting to see what Alexis can do with the opportunity.

5. Conclusion: Bonnell says it best in his blog.  “They don’t act like a team that is out of the playoff race; good – nice to see they’re not giving up.”  Regardless if this is the greatest move in the world or not, it’s encouraging to see that the organization is actively trying to get better.  Can Coach Brown work his magic yet again?  Will we see the team make a huge run into the spring and squeeze in to the playoffs?

-ASChin

Charlotte Bobcats @ Sixers 1/9/09

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Bobcats vs. Sixers 1/9/09

A few late observations from the ‘Cats – Sixers game Friday night.

1.The Elton Brand-less Sixers run past the Bobcats 93-87 Friday night, capitalizing on a huge 14-2 third quarter run to drop the ‘Cats to 13-24 (3-12 on the road).  AP recap here.  Box score here.

Biggest story of the night?  How about the Sixers putting up 31 points in the third quarter compared to 20 for the ‘Cats.  Philly’s young legs ran all over the place making Charlotte look as slow and old as…well, as they are.

2. My point: During a key stretch in the 2nd quarter, the supposedly young and inexperienced Bobcats trotted out a lineup featuring Nazr Mohammed (31), Juwan Howard (35) and Raja Bell (32).  I really hope Larry Brown has a plan because if this team isn’t going to be any good, you’d rather them be young and shite versus old and shite.  I mean yeah, GForce, Okafor, Augustin, Diaw and Felton are all in their early-mid 20s but none of those guys is a superstar or even an all-star.  So what exactly is with all these geezers on the floor taking up minutes?  Is the ‘Cats philosophy to “grow old and lose gracefully?”  Midway through the 4th DJ tried to find Juwan for an alley-oop.  Embarrassing is the only word that comes to mind.

3. Sean Singletary got the start.  Raymond Felton and DJ Augustin came off of the bench.  Wait, did I really just write that?  Man, I really hope Larry Brown hasn’t gone senile on us all of a sudden.  The supposed reason that Sean started was that he was playing in front of his “hometown crowd.”  What is this?  Dean Smith Senior Night Redux?  Since when do no-name rookies (on their 3rd teams in six months) get spot starts over healthy incumbants?  Does Steve Blackman get to wrestle in the main event (with kendo sticks) whenever he’s in Philly as well?  Alexis Ajinca is jacked for the ‘Cats next exhibition game in Saint-Etienne.  Anway, Sean only played 9 minutes and looked a little shaky holding on to the ball in that limited time.  Not something you like to see in your PGs.

4. The Sixers pre-game show featured all sorts of Larry Brown love for Philly and the Sixers in particular.  He couldn’t stop drooling over their roster and thier players and their coach, etc, etc.  The whole episode felt weird.  I’ve never seen an opposing coach so openly enamored with their opponent.

5. Okafor had a great game with 24 and 9 with a couple of blocks as the team seemed to really look for him in the post.  Unfortunately GFORCE and Boris couldn’t add ANYTHING as they went a combined 5-23 from the field.  Bonnell attributed this to Dalembert’s patrolling of the lane and that may have had something to do with it.  Or it could have just been an off-night.  Really, outside of the SG combo of Carroll and Bell (nice game back with 13pts on 6-9 shooting) and Felton nobody else could get anything going.  Augustin got served by Louis Williams all night long and Morrison logged another DNP-CD.

6. The Sixers looked great in the second half.  The team has so much energy and their young guys (WIlliams, Iggy, Dalembert, Speights, Young, and Green) really make the game fun to watch.  It’s no wonder they play better without Elton Brand.  The guy just doesn’t match their style.  I’m really interested to see if Philly deals Brand before the Break to a slow-ball team like the Heat (or the Bobcats) in order to unload unnecessary salary.

7. What else is there to say?  Bobcats drop another winnable game on the road and I absolutely have NO IDEA what the direction of the team is.  Yeah, Okafor looks like a keeper.  And DJ plays ok when he’s not gimpy.  GFORCE is a very good NBA starting SF.  Diaw is alright at PF.  But where is the star?  Where is the guy who will get you 20pts a night regardless?  Looks like the ‘Cats will just have to live with drafting Morrison over Brandon Roy and not make the same mistakes again.  I stand confused.

-ASChin