Bobcats Baseline Observations: Charlotte @ Dallas 12/12/09
It won’t show up in the standings but the Charlotte Bobcats won a big game against the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night in a valiant defensive effort as Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton and Stephen Jackson all topped 20 points and held a solid Western Conference contender to just 39% shooting from the floor. Final score 97-98.
I’m not going to recount it here in detail but the officiating was worse than brutal tonight. You could sense as much as the Bobcats headed into the 4th quarter up by eight, 70-62. The Mavs were struggling, yes, but Mark Cuban was at his manipulative best by trotting out The The Protectors of Freedoms and Liberties on the sidelines complete with Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise leading the charge. What official in his right mind is gonna let this many war veterans go home unhappy with a loss to the Charlotte-freakin’-Bobcats? Thus we had several magical off-the-ball fouls on the ‘Cats to get them into the penalty early in the quarter and combined with the team’s sloppy handling of the ball (18 turnovers to 13), allowed the Mavericks to come back and tie the game, send it into overtime and let Dirk go to work.
Gerald Wallace gave Nowitzki fits all night on defense until Rick Carlisle wised up and switched Dirk off of him. Wallace’s 23pts and 16rbs gave him his fourteenth double-double of the season. Outside of his 5 TOs (including a terrible one at the end of regulation), Wallace’s effort was incredible. He played 51 minutes and never let up on either end of the court.
Raymond Felton continued his development into a Derek Fisher-type by hitting clutch basket after basket in the 2nd half + OT. He nailed half of his shots going for 20 points and dropped in 8 dimes to boot.
For all of Dirk’s heroics at the end of the 4th and OT, he actually played a very poor game and was handled easily by Boris Diaw for most of the night as he finished a tawdry 14-34 from the field. His pump/headfake from the perimeter is still unguardable though as I can only imagine trying to stop a deadly long-ball shooter who releases the ball a good 10 feet in the air. Great job by Boris.
D.J. Augustin got a little playing time but didn’t do much with it. In fifteen minutes, he made a three, dished out an assist and got totally schooled by J.J. Barea. Barea, who is absurdly listed at 6 feet but is closer to 5’9″, actually blocked one of Augustin’s shot attempts. Have you hit rock bottom yet, D.J.?
Stephen Jackson went on a personal 14-0 run for the Cats late in the 3rd/early in the 4th and finished with 28. Jackson has been an offensive godsend to a Bobcats team that still needs at least one more creator on the roster.
Can’t believe how quickly this supposedly “old” Mavericks team still pushes the tempo. Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion looked very quick and the Mavs didn’t slow down much with Terry or Dampier out there as well. They look more like Nellie’s old Mavs than they have in quite a while. That said, the Bobcats stellar D held them to just 98 points.
The Bobcats have the Knicks and Pacers up next and will need to take both of those games if they want to continue to float around the .500 mark.
No, “Post-Moratorium” is not a medical term for examining dead people. In the NBA’s case it means that as of July 8, the temporary hold on free agent signings will be over, new cap numbers will soon be announced and teams can start officially trading and signing players as usual.
This is big news for the Bobcats because they can now officially re-sign (or re-sign and trade) Raymond Felton to a new deal. This would remove his current cap hold of $12 million (300% of his ’08-’09 salary) and give the team a better idea of what their salary situation is as they start bidding for leftover Unrestricted and Restricted Free Agents.
So what should Bobcats fans expect to see in the next few months before the team heads into Training Camp?
This blog’s guess is that you’ll see one of the following two scenarios unfold.
SCENARIO ONE: GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW
In this scenario, the Bobcats play it safe.
From a personnel perspective, they come to the conclusion that with the current lineup they are more than ready to challenge for a playoff spot in the East.
From a business perspective, they conclude that a team very much on the market should not add any unnecessary payroll and should keep lean heading into a potential ownership change.
If this is the direction the organization chooses to go, then expect some very minor tweaks to roster.
A veteran backup PF, such as former Terp Joe Smith, will be signed to relieve Boris Diaw.
A veteran backup PG, such as Larry Brown fave Kevin Ollie or former Nugget Anthony Carter, will be added for depth and leadership at a key position.
Coach Brown will continue to develop youngsters DJ Augustin, Alexis Ajinca, Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson for the future. Expect Ajinca and Brown to do a stint or two in the D-League.
Even if the team misses the playoffs in this scenario, they can still look forward to Raja Bell’s $5 million salary coming off of the books in the following summer and will have two more expiring deals (Mohammed and Radmanovic) heading into the ’10-’11 season.
This scenario might sound boring (it is boring) but you have to remember that with Radmanovic, Mohammed, Diop and (soon) Felton, the Bobcats will have four players earning between $6-$7 million per year. You think they wanna add another deal like that in Brandon Bass?
SCENARIO TWO: “WHAT TIME IS IT? GAME TIME!!!”
or THE CLIFF LEVINGSTON SCENARIO
In this scenario, There Will Be Ink: either on the contracts of a prime free agent and/or on the bodies of Allen Iverson or Monta Ellis.
From a personnel perspective, Higgins, Brown and Jordan decide that the landscape has changed dramatically in the Eastern Conference and that they need to upgrade or risk taking a step back.
From a business perspective, Bob Johnson and Jordan decide that the best way to increase the franchise’s popularity, attendance and, ultimately, its value is for the team to be very, very good.
The Bobcats know that they’re in a bind. They’re a small market team that’s losing money and have around $60 million in payroll to answer to and praying for a winning season in a conference that just seriously jacked up over the past few weeks. No less than 8 teams (CLT, IND, WAS, TOR, DET, ATL, PHI, MIA) will be jockying for the final four playoff spots in the East. In order to bolster their roster, the ‘Cats are going to have to be daring and creative.
In my mind, the Bobcats only have two* assets to play with heading into next season:
A quality big man who’s better than the suddenly-hyped David Lee. Still young at 26 and a big cap number around $10 million.
Great presence on and off the court, only 25 years old and the Bobcats could pay him more money for more years in a sign-and-trade.
So, in this scenario, expect big moves to happen. My personal preference:
Trade Scenario: Emeka to Golden State for Monta Ellis
Let’s face it. The Bobcats aren’t going to unload Diop’s contract on anybody anytime soon and they sure as hell aren’t going to unload Mohammed’s contract until at least next summer. They have over $100 million committed to the center position and they desperately need scoring.
This trade works because the ‘Cats can start Diop (remember that Gana started for Dallas during a playoff run a couple of years back and did fine) and substitute Mohammed for a different look. Also, Boris is capable of playing some center (as he did with PHX in ’05-’06) when the team goes small.
Meanwhile, Ellis provides an explosive wing player who can play both backcourt positions and who can get to the free throw line as much as anybody. Monta instantly becomes the Bobcats leading scorer and the clutch shooter that the ‘Cats have needed since 2004.
Of course, Golden State only does this deal if (or when) the proposed Amare Stoudemire for Biedrins/Wright/Belinelli deal goes down. I doubt that Amare will want to play center every night and an Okafor/Stoudamire/Maggette frontcourt should play very well together.
This trade would give the Bobcats one too many PGs (I have Ellis penciled in as the starting PG) and not enough depth at the four.
Trade Scenario: Felton to Dallas for Brandon Bass
Indulge me for a second. I know that a sign-and-trade deal like this is difficult (if not near impossible) to pull off and we don’t know if Dallas still has any interest in Felton after reportedly coming to terms with Jason Kidd. But with Kidd turning 36 and Jet Terry more of an off-guard, perhaps the Mavs would be open to bringing Raymond on board as a backup/insurance policy as they make one last push for the finals with their suddenly aging core.
The move would open up the “true” PG spot on the ‘Cats for DJ to take over and create a great four man backcourt rotation of Augustin/Ellis/Bell/Henderson.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats frontcourt would be stacked with Diaw/Bass/Wallace/Radman/Diop. Although he’s only 6’8″, Bass has played a lot of Center for the Mavs over the past couple of seasons and could sub in behind Diop when needed for a dynamic Diaw/Bass/Wallace lineup.
I love this roster.
The Bobcats add a scoring, slashing wing who wants to take shots and a skilled, tough rebounder down low. They have depth at every position and a nice mix of youth, prime and veteran players. And the best part of all is that they wouldn’t have to add any serious payroll to do it (just the trade exception from the JRICH trade).
This roster is a playoff team now and in great shape 2 seasons from now when only Wallace/Ellis/Diaw/Diop/Bass/Augustin/Henderson will be on the books.
Come on Rod Higgins, work some of those connections that you have in Golden State and get this done!
*I refuse to count Raja Bell’s expiring contract as a potential trade asset as the team needs to stop their 2 year trend of dealing expiring deals for stop-gap help.That said, expect him to be traded after you finish reading this.