2014 Charlotte Hornets Offseason Preview

Standard

The Bobcats-era wrapped up with an emphatic BANG of a season that saw the team improve by more wins (22) than it won in total the season prior (21). Instead of trotting out a bunch of could-be’s and haven’t-beens to theoretically improve their draft position, Charlotte’s NBA franchise bucked the NBA’s current trend of tanking and revitalized a downtrodden fan-base in turn. Basketball is again something worth talking about in the QC and thanks to Coach Clifford & Company, the excitement won’t just be about a new coat of teal & purple paint.

Still, as fantastic of a season as it was for Charlotte, the first round sweep against the two time defending champs Miami Heat exposed some well-known flaws within the roster. Addressing those flaws while simultaneously building upon the Bobcats’ success will be the front office’s assignment as we head into the inaugural Hornets offseason. Wait, did I just type “building upon success” and “Bobcats” in the same sentence? #NEWWORLDORDER

STEP ONE: A Shooting Guard who can Shoot

I often found myself in the role of Lone Hendo Defender throughout much of the season. Having watched his development over the past five years – from a quarantined rook at the end of Larry Brown’s bench to a quality two-way NBA starting two guard – I was excited to see what Gerald could become on a good team. The answer was a resounding “passable“, a sometimes scoring, sometimes attacking, sometimes lockdown defensive shooting guard whose poor man’s D-Wade game just doesn’t work all that well on a team desperate for long range shooting. Like most of the Bobcats’ opponents this season, Miami smartly packed the paint and crowded Kemba Walker at the point of attack – knowing that the inevitable ball swing to the open shooter wouldn’t hurt them. That’s a problem.

Henderson doesn’t want to shoot off the catch at all – he’ll be wide open and hesitate before taking a bounce or faking a pass only to throw up a clanker out of necessity. His mid-post and iso games were made redundant once Jefferson was added to the mix and Hendo wasn’t able to transition his game over the course of the season to compensate. I like Gerald and think he gets an unnecessary bad rap from the fans but it’s obvious that he’s a bad fit on a Kemba/Big Al centered offense.

The good news for Charlotte is that there are a few options to remedy the issue either in the draft, free agency or via trade. With Portland’s 24th overall selection, the Hornets will likely have a shot at former Tar Heel P.J. Hairston (controversial, high upside), Duke’s Rodney Hood (safe, lower upside) or the UCLA SG prospects Jordan Adams (good mechanics, iffy results) and Zach LaVine (skinny and raw). None of these guys will step in and be instant All-Stars but could provide a nice boost in the limited role of floor-spacer.

Free Agency offers a couple of high priced young vets in Lance Stephenson (combustible, questionable fit) and Gordon Hayward. Hayward is probably the team’s ideal target as a sweet shooting, shot-creating big wing but he’s a restricted free agent that Utah says they want to keep and there’s rumored to be a long line of suitors should the Jazz change their minds.

One cheaper, under the radar alternative might be OKC’s Thabo Sefolosha. While Thabo’s not a shot creator like Lance or Hayward, he’s been a fantastic “three and D” knockdown guy for many years and shouldn’t cost the team more than $4 million or so per season. Although Sefolosha struggled with his stroke this season, he shot 40%+ from downtown in the previous two. Perhaps most importantly, Thabo won’t kill Clifford’s defense while he’s out there.

On the trade front, Charlotte’s has already been linked to Orlando’s Arron Afflalo (42% 3PTFG) via ESPN’s Mark Stein. Afflalo’s nearly thirty and only has one more guaranteed season on his deal – so don’t expect GM Rich Cho to give up much (maybe a couple of 2nd Round Picks) for Arron’s services – but putting Afflalo in teal & purple could provide an immediate upgrade for Charlotte’s distance shooting without having to break the bank short-term.

STEP TWO: #BringBackMcBob, Part II

In an unexpected karmic re-balancing, Josh McRoberts has provided the answer to a long asked QC Hoops question: “What if Boris Diaw gave a damn? Unlike the bovine Segway Surfer, Josh brings maximum effort every game and is beloved by both teammates and fans alike for his abilities as a floor-spacer and distributor. One of the most unique players in the league, McRoberts functions often as the team’s spot-up shooting point guard in the half court, rarely creating for himself. Outside of Kevin Love, there probably isn’t a better fit for Charlotte’s offense with Kemba Walker still progressing as a traditional point and Al Jefferson desperate for floor spacing.

Retaining McRoberts, who will likely opt out of his two-year deal he signed last summer, is of tremendous importance. With an expected cap increase coming for all teams, expect Josh to command around $5-$6 million per season on the open market.

STEP THREE: Backup Point Guard

Ramon Sessions had his flaws: He was guilty of tunnel vision, he wasn’t a reliable three point shooter and he was a less than stellar perimeter defender. But he was light years less destructive for Charlotte than his trade deadline replacement, Luke Ridnour.

While Luke’s abilities as a traditional floor leader came in handy, he proved to a be a fantastically bad shooter (39%FG, 30%3PTFG) who couldn’t draw fouls and was a gi-normous liability on defense. Fans complained when Ramon’s second unit minutes became a constant barrage of head down drives. But at least “Sesh” turned those drives into trips to the line, easy layups or – at worst – short rebounds. Luke’s second units often devolved into hot potato on the perimeter until the shot clock forced a bad three or a Luke giveaway.

Fortunately, both Ridnour’s and Sessions’ deals expire this summer and Ramon has let it be known that he’d like to be back. That would be a-ok with me and it’s likely that some of his former detractors would welcome Sessions back with open arms after having been subjected to Ridnour for a few months.

Charlotte could also hit the trade or free agent markets looking for a fit. If Jameer Nelson gets bought out by Orlando (likely), Clifford would surely love to have him backing up and mentoring his height-challenged PG of the future. Philly’s Tony Wroten has his warts but offers an intriguing combination of size and potential – he likely doesn’t fit into the Sixers’ future plans with Michael Carter-Williams on the roster so could be made available for the right price.

Unrestricted free agent options includes guys like Greivis Vaquez, Rodney Stuckey and Mario Chalmers. Chalmers in particular would be an interesting signing as a spot up shooting, high-end backup whose acquisition would simultaneously weaken a division opponent.

STEP FOUR: Give Big Al a Break

The Bobcats have $6 million committed to the Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood combo next season and neither is an ideal backup for Big Al. Biz is a complete non-factor on offense as well as a turnover machine and Haywood can’t even get on the court, having missed the entire ’13-’14 season with a foot injury.

In an ideal world, the Hornets could find a rebuilding team to take on Biz’s upcoming $3.8 million salary in a straight dump and use the space created either via free agency or trade to bring in a veteran two-way replacement.

One outside-the-box free agent pick is PHX’s Channing Frye – a legit “stretch five” 6’11” guy who can nail threes (37% 3PTFG on 5.3 attempts per game). Bringing Frye in with the second unit could open up the paint for more drive opportunities for guys like Gary Neal and allow MKG an opportunity to work in the post.

Regardless of who they end up with, Charlotte will need to figure out how to get Big Al some rest – he played 35 minutes a night for Clifford this season and is nursing a ruptured plantar fasciitis. Given his age (29) and body type, Jefferson would be better off decreasing his minutes down closer to the 30 per game mark. For that to happen, Cho will need to find a capable backup.

STEP FIVE: Young Guys Doin’ Work

The Hornets can’t solely depend on outside help if they want to get better, their recent Draft picks have to grow as well.

Kemba Walker should spend the entire offseason working on his shot. As much as we love Kemba, 39% from the field just isn’t going to cut it. There were many nights this season where Walker’s 6-18 or 4-16 shooting actively hurt the team.

Conversely, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might want to shy away from rebuilding a fundamentally broken shot and spend more time on developing a post-up game and maybe even add a floater or hook to his repertoire. Those skills could pay instant dividends, especially if the front office can add shooting around him.

Cody Zeller has voiced his concern about adding bulk, saying that it might hamper his speed and leaping ability. Fortunately, it’s 2014 and there are ways to add core, functional strength without bulking up too much. Cody needs to divide his time between strength training and the mid-range jumper all summer.

Jeff Taylor is a complete unknown at this point. He’s nearing 25 years of age and rehabbing a torn achilles. His shot was ok in theory pre-injury but produced horrific results in practice. He seems like a great young guy and we’re hoping for a full recovery for JT down the road but expectations should be kept at a minimum.

STEP SIX: Keep On Keepin’ On

Coach Clifford somehow turned Charlotte into a Top 10 defense in his first season and has said on multiple occasions that he’s just getting started implementing his advanced scheme. Since you can’t add systematic nuance with a complete roster overhaul, expect much of the Hornets core roster to remain the same. Upgrading the shooting guard position, retaining McRoberts, finding suitable backups for Big Al & Kemba and continuing the youngsters’ development internally will only vault the Hornets higher into the Eastern Conference.

Speaking of which, some have questioned if Charlotte has enough core talent on hand to compete for anything beyond a Playoff seed and those people are sort of missing the point. In the modern history of the NBA, no franchise has ever gone from perpetual doormat to champ and perpetual doormat is exactly what the Bobcats were for nearly all of their ten year history.

Michael Jordan, Cho and Clifford are building a culture of competent, competitive basketball. It may lead to legitimate title contention and it may not but for the first time in forever, Charlotte’s hoops franchise is worth the blood, sweat and tears of a fan’s investment. They will play hard, they will play smart and, for the first time in ages, they will make you proud to let the world know where your allegiance lies.

Go Hornets.

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

 

Magic Complete Sweep Of Bobcats

Standard

Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic Game 4, 4/26/10

AP/Chuck Burton

The Charlotte Bobcats were swept out of the first round by the Orlando Magic 99-90 on Monday night at the Cable Box.  Again, the Cats were able to limit Dwight Howard’s minutes due to foul trouble, and again it really didn’t matter.  Again, the Cats got decent play from a couple of starters and one reserve, and again it was not nearly enough to contend with the Magic.

AP recap here |  Box score here

It’s late and the season is over, so I’m going to keep this relatively short and sweet.  The Bobcats came out and competed, forcing Dwight Howard into foul trouble and taking a two-point lead into halftime.  But the rest of the Magic (particularly Lewis, Carter, Nelson and Pietrus) again picked up the slack, while the Bobcats continued to struggle to score whether or not Howard was in the game.

Despite the continued struggles, the Cats were in in this one until halfway through the final period.  After Tyson Chandler hit two free throws to pull the Bobcats to within one at 77-76,  Michael Pietrus drained a three.  On the ensuing possession, Dwight Howard snatched a DJ Augustin layup out of the air.  While the crowd and the Bobcats benched yelped about the lack of a goaltending call, Pietrus drained another three.  The sequence took less than a minute and completely took the air out of the the arena.

And if you were hanging on to any hope that the Bobcats could come back from seven down with six minutes left, two missed free throws by Gerald Wallace, followed by another Jameer Nelson three to put the Magic 86-76 with under five minutes left was enough to convince even the most optimistic Cats fans.

The Bobcats were actually led by Tyrus Thomas, who rang up 21 points on 9-12 FG and added 9 rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.  Tyrus had the baseline 12-15 footer going early and was actually 8-8 from the field at one point.  But just as in the first three games, no other Bobcat produced off the bench.

Tidbits

  • Stephen Jackson picked a terrible time to have a bad night — Jack was 2-11 FG and 0-3 3PT for just 8 points.
  • Seeing the Heat take a game from the Celtics this weekend and the Bucks tie up the Hawks tonight just reminds you how important the regular season is.  Those losses to the Nets and Pacers come back to haunt.

The Elephant In The Room

And now the Bobcats enter what is shaping up to be a very difficult offseason.  Michael Jordan’s mettle as owner will certainly be tested.  We’ll certainly be writing more about this in the coming days and weeks, but here’s a quick primer:

  • Larry Brown, having partially restored his reputation by getting the Cats to the playoffs, is probably gone back to Philadelphia for a front office position.  Let the coaching search begin.
  • Raymond Felton, fresh off getting toasted in this playoff sweep, is an unrestricted free agent.  Hopefully, Miami will come along and make Raymond a Godfather offer with the money they have leftover after resigning Wade and getting Boozer or Bosh and we won’t even be tempted to match it.
  • Tyrus Thomas has shown inconsistent flashes in his couple of months with the Bobcats.  Kinda similar to how he showed inconsistent flashes to the Bulls for three or four years.  He’s a restricted free agent.  Keeper or not?
  • The Cats have no draft picks this year (both were traded away in prior deals) and very few assets that have any trade value around the league.

-Dr. E



POLL : SHOULD CHARLOTTE RE-SIGN RAYMOND FELTON?

  • YES
    (32%, 59 Votes)
  • NO
    (68%, 127 Votes)

Total Voters: 186

Loading ... Loading ...

Close, But No Cigar; Magic Go Up 3-0

Standard

Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic, Game 3, 4/24/10

Playoff basketball returned to Charlotte on Saturday, but the inspired Bobcats still couldn’t quite get over the hump and fell to the Orlando Magic 90-86.  Jameer Nelson continued his domination of the Bobcats with another 32 point effort.

AP recap here |  Box score here

Game 3 is usually the lower-seeded team’s best chance to steal a game in round one of the NBA Playoffs (e.g. the Bulls and Thunder earlier this week) and this was no exception.  A fired-up, sellout crowd donned giveaway Jordan Brand Bobcats t-shirts and waved towels for a “whiteout” that drove the Cats to an improved performance relative to Games 1 and 2 in Orlando.

The Cats got off to a decent start per the scoreboard, trailing the Magic just 29-27 after the first quarter.  But if you look back on it, that first quarter can really serve as a microcosm for the whole game.

  1. Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble (2 in the first quarter) and had only moderate effect on the game early; things stayed that way the rest of the way and Howard eventually fouled out with 3:31 left in the fourth after having only played 26 minutes.
  2. Jameer Nelson picked up the slack with 19 first quarter points, including four threes and a four-point play to close the quarter as he continued to outplay Raymond Felton.  This trend would also continue through the rest of the game, as Nelson would finish with 32 points (12-21 FG, 5-9 3PT), 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists — and had a big bucket down the stretch to fend off the Cats.
  3. The Cats and the crowd fed off each other in the first, fueling an 8-0 run that had the Cats up by four late in the quarter.  This would happen a couple more times in the game: a 9-2 second quarter run had the Cats up 41-33 briefly and a longer 19-9 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarter had the Cats up 77-73 halfway through the final period.
  4. But just as the Magic ended the first quarter strongly to take the lead (the aforementioned four-point play by Nelson), they ended the game with a show of experience and dominance as well.  After the Felton three-point play that fouled Howard out with 3:31 left put the Cats up 80-79, the Magic outscored the Cats 11-6 by hitting clutch shots and getting to the free throw line.

The Cats had a chance, though.  Down one with 31 seconds left, Larry Brown used a full timeout, then added another 20-second timeout to draw up what must have been the world’s most complicated basketball play.  It worked, too.

Early in the set Stephen Jackson popped off a screen at the three-point line and had a wide open look.  Some will criticize the fact that the first option on the play was a look at a three-pointer when the Cats were down just one with 30 seconds left, but let them criticize.

This is one of the best basketball minds in the world, a master at drawing up plays in timeouts we’re talking about, teamed up with Stephen Jackson, Mr. “I Make Love To Pressure”.  A three probably would have won the game.

Unfortunately, Jack did not come through.  The shot was short, Orlando grabbed the rebound, the game, and any remaining hope that the Bobcats could make this a series.

Tidbits

  • Lack of bench production has plagued the Cats in every game thus far.  In Game 1, only Tyson Chandler was helpful off the bench.  In Game 2, Nazr Mohammed was alone in contributing off the bench.  In Game 3, it was Larry Hughes who played well, with 14 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT) and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes.  The lack of signficant contributions from DJ Augustin and Tyrus Thomas continues to hurt.
  • A couple of my in-game Tweets:  “I think D Howard might bitch to refs more than Stephen Jackson. Impressive feat.” and “I’d be stunned if Ty Chandler didn’t lead the league if offensive fouls due to bad screens. Another here early in 4th”
  • Raymond Felton.  How can I say this diplomatically?  Let’s just say his agent won’t be using video of this series in his contract negotiations this summer.  And the Bobcats need to keep it in mind when Miami or New York makes an offer that the Bobcats consider matching.
  • Lots of celebs at the game: Jordan was there, obviously.  Commissioner David Stern observed the proceedings.  Legends Robert Parish, David Thompson, and Muggsy Bogues were in attendance, as was coach Tubby Smith.  And lest we forget, Bobcats minority owner Nelly sat courtside.
  • Game 4 is Monday night at 8 PM ET at the Cable Box.  I would expect some golfers courtside with the Quail Hollow starting up next week.  Maybe even this famous Magic fan and friend of MJ?

-Dr. E

Bobcats Can’t Handle Magic; Go Down 0-2

Standard

Charlotte Bobcats @ Magic Game 2, 4/21/10


The Orlando Magic scored another definitive victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, 92-77, in Game 2 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night.  Stephen Jackson led the Bobcats with 27 and keyed a fourth quarter rally that briefly made things interesting late, but the Magic ultimately led wire to wire, putting all five starters in double figures.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This one had an even uglier start than Game 1.  8 minutes into the first quarter, the two teams had only combined for 16 points; problem was, the Cats only had three of those.  Fortunately, the Cats got a few buckets to make the count a not-quite-as-embarrassing 18-14 after the first quarter.

But frankly, the damage had been done.  Orlando’s zone-ish defense rendered the Cats offense (not exactly potent to begin with) into a bogged-down, turnover-filled mess.  The Cats finished the game with 21 turnovers, and no one outside of Stephen Jackson ever figured out how to score.

The fact that the Bobcats  play some pretty good defense themselves kept the game reasonable; the Cats were only down 11 at the half, and cut the lead to 8 with 3:15 left in the game before succumbing.

The Magic simply had too many weapons tonight.  Though Dwight Howard was held to a modest line (15 points on 5-10 FG/5-12 FT, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) he was absolutely dominant for a stretch early in the third quarter that set the tone for the rest of the second half.

Vince Carter, infamous for shrinking into a jump-shooter when the going gets tough, had smooth sailing into the paint all night long, resulting in 9-11 free throws.  (As a team, the Magic shot 35 free throws.)

Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson were solid and reliable, if unspectacular, while Mickael Pietrus and Ryan Anderson provided an onslaught of threes off the bench, combining for 5-7 from distance.

There were almost no silver linings for the Bobcats in this one.  The late run that cut the deficit to 8 was intriguing for a minute, but rationally you knew it was too little, too late.  Nazr did show some signs of life (5-6 FG for 10 points in 16 minutes).

But basically, I’m grasping at straws here.  The only one that may be worth a damn is simply that the Cats have played much better at home this year and Games 3 and 4 are in Charlotte.  The Cats had the biggest home/road record differential amongst all the playoff teams this year, for no reason that anyone could logically explain.  At this point, I’d give up trying to explain it if I could just see it for Games 3 and 4.

Tidbits

  • Apologies for recycling my Twitter posts, but is anyone else getting the same feeling they used to get watching Jeff McInnis a couple of years ago when watching Larry Hughes these days?
  • Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw have been frustratingly ineffective, as have Hughes and Tyrus Thomas off the bench.
  • The Cats have a couple of days to stew on this one.  Game 3 is on Saturday afternoon at 2PM ET at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Quick Thoughts On Game 1

Standard
Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

The Charlotte Bobcats fell 98-89 to the Orlando Magic in their playoff debut Sunday night.  We’ll have a more in-depth recap up later, but I wanted to post some quick thoughts and have a place for you guys to make some comments as well.

  • Here’s the AP recap and box score.
  • That first half couldn’t have gone worse.  The Bobcats were attacking the paint, but in a half-hearted manner that allowed Howard to rack up 8 blocks.  Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson was frying Raymond Felton (see above picture) and the Magic were draining three after three (9-18 3PT in 1st half).
  • However, the Cats showed some resolve in battling back in the second half.  Gerald Wallace beasted it (25 and 17), Stephen Jackson gutted it out on a hyperextended knee, and the Cats were able to cut the lead to as low as 4 late in the game.
  • The Cats got nothing beyond Gerald, Jack and Felton.  Diaw or someone from the bench is going to have to step up in order for us to take a game or two.  Chandler did have a nice stretch in the third quarter to key a Bobcats run, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • We’ve noted how rusty Nazr has looked in the couple of games he’s played since returning from back problems.  But rusty just ain’t cutting it anymore.  As fellow Baseline contributor Deesdale noted in a text message during the first half: “I think Nazr gave up on life.”
  • Game 2 on Wednesday.  Thank goodness for the 2 day break in between Games 1 and 2 — Jack’s knee is sure to swell and tighten up, but hopefully he’ll be ready to go again by Wednesday.  Let’s hope it’s not too bad.  Make sure you’re following us on Twitter in the meantime.
  • UPDATE: At halftime of the Spurs/Mavs game, the TNT guys indicated that Jack will have an MRI on the knee (no brainer) and showed a quick post-game interview of Jack in which Jack dismissed any concerns, saying he’d be ready to go if Game 2 were tomorrow.

-Dr. E

Bobcats vs. Magic Playoff Preview Part II

Standard

Bobcats Magic 2010 Playoff Preview Bobcats Baseline

Bobcats have hit the Bigtime and are going up against last year’s Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.

If you missed part one of our preview, check it out here.

ASChin: One more thing that I wanted to touch on before we get to the wings and guards:  We’re dealing with the League’s second best offense (behind Phoenix) going up against the League’s best defense (points allowed).  If defense does indeed win championships, the Bobcats might be able to pull an upset in this series.

On to spots 1-3…

Dr. E: Out on the wings, we’ll have Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Stephen Graham and Larry Hughes matching up against Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick.  Barnes is a solid player who brings some much-needed toughness to the otherwise soft Magic.  But he’s not going to intimidate Gerald Wallace.

Wallace broke through this season as the Bobcats first All-Star, but is still not appreciated much beyond hardcore NBA fans.  A playoff series against the Magic would be the perfect opportunity for Wallace to insert himself into mainstream basketball consciousness.  Obviously, the Cats need Gerald to play well in order to make the series interesting.

ASChin: Crash is great and we all love him but I’m really hoping that the big stage doesn’t intimidate him like it did during All-Star weekend.  I’m tempering my expectations until I see Wallace handle the higher stakes of the postseason.  Fortunately, Wallace’s ability to settle into BIONIC ROLE PLAYER mode when his shot’s not falling will at least allow him to pull down a dozen boards and alter a few shots until he can ignore the butterflies.  On talent alone the Bobcats win this matchup but if you’re measuring experience, then the Magic’s combo of Barnes and Pietrus trumps here.

Dr. E: I like Pietrus a lot.  On the Magic, he’s a bit redundant; another soft wing who loves the three-pointer (which is why the tougher Barnes starts).  I’d love to see what Pietrus could do on another team where he’s not just encouraged to stand 25 feet away from the basket and launch threes.

PlayoffRoster_1Unit

ASChin: The shooting guard matchup should be fun.  You have Vince Carter, famously maligned for his Playoff dissappearances going up against Mr. Makes Love To Pressure himself, Stephen Jackson.
Carter’s Playoff numbers don’t look so bad at first glance it’s only when you factor in his 42% FG percentage and some of his late game fades that you realize why he’s earned the reputation.  Jackson’s Playoff averages are actually much worse than Carter’s (39% in 54 games) yet JAX has two major notches on his postseason belt: Winning a Championship with the Spurs in 2003 as a starter and then leading the 8th seeded Warriors past the top seeded Mavs in 2007.
I see these two guys negating each other during the series.  With Vince getting most of his points early in the game and JAX contributing a little more towards the end.  The real battle might be with the backups as sharpshooter JJ Reddick has come on in the second half of the season.  If he can provide a much more consistent bench scoring threat than Bobcats new addition Larry Hughes, the ‘Cats might be in some trouble

Dr. E: In addition to getting Howard into foul trouble and Gerald Wallace being Gerald Wallace, one of the other breaks that the Bobcats need to make the series interesting is for Vince Carter to do what Vince Carter does in the playoffs: underwhelm and shrink.  Bill Simmons mentioned this in his NBA regular season wrapup/playoff preview column, and it bears repeating: last year, down the stretch, the Magic put the ball into Turkoglu’s hands to make a play and he was great at it.  Will Vince, when the pressure’s on, be able to deliver like Hedo did in that role?

I can’t wait until Redick enters game 3 in Charlotte for the first time.  By the way, why do we say that someone was “booed lustily”?  It doesn’t make much sense.  I can understand staring lustily, like Sean May does at crab bread, but booing lustily?  Strange adverb choice.  Whatever the case, Redick will be booed lustily.

ASChin: And the sad part is is that JJ is a much better pro than 2006 #3 pick Adam Morrison will ever be.  Ugh.

PlayoffRoster_2Unit

Dr. E: And at the point, we have Jameer Nelson vs Raymond Felton.  I have to admit, I was stunned to look at Jameer’s numbers this season and see how far he’d fallen off. His FG% and 3PT% are way down, as is his scoring average, and he’s only playing 28 minutes a game.  I know Jason Williams has been a pleasant surprise at backup PG for the Magic, but jeez.  What happened?  Anyways, the diminutive-but-not-super-quick Nelson is a good matchup for Raymond Felton.

Felton is easily having his best year as a pro — a contract year too, how nice.  Now, the sharps know that Raymond’s improved stats/PER are mostly due to the fact that Stephen Jackson is now around to take all of the tough shots.  Raymond has been able to be much more selective in the shots he attempts, and his FG% has accordingly improved significantly.  But I still worry that he’s already made himself a lot of money this year — more money than the Bobcats might be able to pay.  A strong showing in the playoffs could give a team like New York or Miami googly eyes for Raymond.  I hope Raymond’s not thinking too much about that, but he’s human, so…

ASChin: Hey, now.  I thought this was a Playoff Preview not a 2010 Free Agency Breakdown.  Felton has proven himself to be a solid starter in the League and I imagine that he’ll do well in this series.  He’s played in big games in college (winning a championship with UNC) and (at least according to 82games.com) he’s been the Bobcats best offensive player in the clutch.  He’s bigger and stronger than both Jameer and White Chocolate and still has the speed to beat anybody down the court.  If Ray can keep his shooting percentage up, turnovers down and play his usual solid D, I could see him being the series’ most valuable player in a potential upset.

As for DJ Augustin, I almost don’t want to write anything about him.  He had a terrible sophomore season until finally coming around in April.  I hope he’s figured it out because the Bobcats will need all the scoring (especially outside shooting) they can get.

-DrE & ASChin

Bobcats Defeat Magic For Sixth Straight Victory

Standard

Charlotte Bobcats @ Magic 3/14/10

The Bobcats defeated the Magic in Orlando 96-89 on Sunday night to earn their sixth straight win.  The Cats improved to 34-31 overall and maintained their hold on the 6th spot in the East.  Though Dwight Howard finished with 27 points on 12-14 FGs, the Bobcats were able to keep him frustrated and in foul trouble all game.

AP recap here |  Box score here

With Gerald Wallace sidelined by an ankle sprain, the Bobcats looked to Stephen Jackson to pick up the slack.  Jack delivered with 28 points (10-20 FG, 3-5 3PT, 5-6 FT), 6 rebounds and 6 assists.  Most importantly, as the game hung in the balance in the fourth quarter, when the Cats of old wouldn’t have been able to score, Jack had three huge buckets and two free throws to seal the win.

Defensively, the Bobcats played another solid game.  Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Michael Pietrus combined for 70 points on 26-40 FG, but the rest of the Magic only managed 19 points on 7-32 FG.  Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis, in particular, shot a combined 3-17 and 1-9 3PT.

Tidbits

  • Theo Ratliff put in a days work, playing 32 minutes guarding Dwight Howard.  Theo finished one rebound short of a double-double with 1o points and 9 rebounds.
  • Stephen Graham filled in admirably for Gerald Wallace, with 12 points (4-8 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3-3 FT) and 6 rebounds in 30 minutes.
  • Speaking of Crash, he is traveling with the team despite the fact that he didn’t play and has already been ruled out of Tuesday’s contest with the Pacers.  When interviewed during the game, Gerald said that he’s been wearing a protective boot over the weekend, but was hoping to take it off tonight.  He also indicated that he’d try to play as soon as allowed, knowing that he’ll be playing through soreness.
  • And speaking of the Pacers, apologies for getting this post up late — I got hooked into the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary that premiered tonight on the Reggie Miller/Pacers vs. Knicks rivalry.  Fantastic stuff.

-Dr. E