What To Do With Hendo?

Gerald Henderson Illustration by Mike S
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The Charlotte Hornets made a major splash during July’s free agency sweepstakes, inking rising star Lance Stephenson to a three year, $27 million contract. Although there was a bit of drama leading up to the particulars (“who” and “how much“), the decision itself wasn’t a surprise. An upgrade at one of the wing positions had been anticipated since mid-season, when it became apparent that Charlotte’s potent inside-out attack led by Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker was hamstrung by perimeter guys who either couldn’t shoot (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) or who were hesitant to do so (Gerald Henderson).

Flash forward to the 2014 Playoffs: Charlotte’s post-season cameo versus the Miami Heat was brief but featured a few bright spots to build upon, notably:

MKG’s performance in Game Two was his best as a pro. At just twenty years of age, he pestered the league’s best player on defense and aggressively attacked the rim on offense. With Big Al hurting and the spotlight on, MKG stepped up and showed cynical fans and nervous Charlotte execs that the former number two overall pick might not be a bust after all. Kidd-Gilchrist’s all-world defensive abilities and untapped offense potential make him the odds on favorite to remain in teal in purple now that Lance is in the QC.

Three’s Company?

Some have assumed the Stephenson signing simply pushes Gerald down the depth chart a notch as the team’s third guard and sixth man. That’s an assumption I’m just not buying, mainly because:

A.) Third guards are rarely mid-range, grinder types. Outside of his excellent off the ball abilities, Hendo often takes forever manufacturing his offense and rarely do those posessions end in threes. Ideally, you want your bench guy to be a gunner – a Jamaal Crawford, Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith type who can generate points both in bunches and in a hurry.

B.) Charlotte has exactly two of those types of bench scorers already on the roster (Gary Neal, P.J. Hairston) whose games’ are much better suited for the role.

C.) Hendo can play some small forward in a pinch but at 6’4″, he’s a small-small forward. Coach Clifford prefers size and the team has MKG, Jeff Taylor and Marvin Williams logging minutes there already. Which brings me to…

D.) There simply aren’t enough minutes to go around. Hendo has averaged north of 32 minutes per game over the past three seasons. A team captain, I find it difficult to believe that Gerald will be ok with taking a DRASTICALLY reduced role in the prime of his career with a potential new contract (he has a player option for next season) on the horizon.
Have a look at this simple minutes chart:

BaselineSimpleMinsChart

Even if we assume that Hendo takes all of the Neal/Hairston minutes, that still leaves Gerald twelve minutes shy of his recent average. Sounds like a recipe for three unhappy guys to me. Besides…

E.) Hendo was actively shopped to at least two teams leading up to July’s Draft: Charlotte offered Henderson and the 24th overall pick to Orlando for Arron Afflalo. There was also an unreported, but since confirmed trade (by the Baseline’s own @benweinrib) proposal that would have sent Gerald to the Clippers for the 28th overall pick. Think of it this way, if Hendo was on the verge of being dealt BEFORE the Hornets secured a new starter at SG, then what’s stopping them from doing the same now that they have Lance?

The Fake Trades

This post may as well have been titled “Biyombo and Hendo Trade Scenarios”. I’ve written about What To Do with Biz extensively so go read that first if you feel that his inclusion is misplaced. Either way, Biz and Hendo represent a combination of redundency and value while their salaries combine to fit nicely into several two-for-one swaps.

Hornets trade Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo to Cleveland for Anderson Varejao and Memphis’ First Round Pick

WHY CLEVELAND DOES IT: Once the Kevin Love trade goes down, Cleveland will be desperate for both a starting SG and a center who can play more than fifty games a season. Dion Waiters’ ideal role is as a meaty Jamaal Crawford bench scorer and Hendo slots in nicely as the starter and fourth option. Gerald pads Lebron & K-Love’s assist numbers with cuts to the rim on offense and gives the Cavs at least one guard who gives half a crap on defense. Meanwhile, Biz supplies the flammable Love/Kyrie combo with rim protection and won’t, I repeat, WILL NOT be required to touch the ball…EVER.

WHY CHARLOTTE DOES IT: Let’s face it, Varejao is going to get hurt at some point during the year. It’s inevitable. But during those 50-60 games he does play, Anderson will allow Charlotte to do some amazing things with their second string center…like catch the ball, run basic pick and rolls, etc. Beyond that, he’s an expiring contract, thus the Memphis late first rounder as a sweetener. It’s a little help now, a little help in the future for the Hornets – all for two guys who likely aren’t in the team’s long term plans anyway.

Hornets trade Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo to Brooklyn for Kevin Garnett

WHY BROOKLYN DOES IT: The Nets need a legit SG in the worst way. Now that Paul Pierce is gone, Joe Johnson will likely move to small forward full-time and Sergei Karasev isn’t going to cut it as the starter. Bismack gives Brooklyn a third rotation big to backup oft-injured Brook Lopez and even allows the Nets to trade either Lopez or Mason Plumlee for a legit piece at another position down the road.

WHY CHARLOTTE DOES IT: This is crazy, right? KG is old, on an expiring contract and has lost about ten steps. There’s also this caveat: Garnett has a no-trade clause and can shoot down any deal. So why would either side agree to this?
If you’ve made a major investment in VERY young players, why not give them a role model, a leader and a mentor? Say Lance or P.J. get out of line in practice, with Garnett around, they may think twice. If Kemba, Lance, MKG, Cody Zeller or Noah Vonleh become stars one day, they may look back at their season with KG as a lesson in leadership. This stuff matters. It’s one of the reason San Antonio has been able to build and maintain their culture for so long and one of the reasons Washington went after Pierce.
As for Garnett himself: D-Will and Joe Johnson are older, Pierce and Livingston are gone and Blatche is still unsigned. Do you bet the last season of an illustrious career on Brook Lopez’s feet or do you join the best young team in the Eastern Conference?

Hornets trade Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo to OKC for Kendrick Perkins, Andre Roberson and a protected 1st Round Pick

WHY OKC DOES IT: The Thunder have some very young wing talent on the roster in Jeremy Lamb and they just signed Anthony Morrow as a floor spacing rotation guy. But do you really want either of those guys playing meaningful Playoff minutes? Defensively, Gerald is better than both of those guys and while he might lack the raw offensive upside as Lamb, his pro game is much further along. A Hendo/Reggie Jackson/Russell Westbrook three guard rotation with a little Morrow mixed in is solid. Also: we get to hear an exasperated Biyombo and Ibaka duo explain that there are “two Congos” for an entire season.

WHY CHARLOTTE DOES IT: Perk catches a ton of flack and he’s nearly the turnover machine that Biz has been over the past couple of seasons. But he’s a tough as nails veteran big who can neutralize opposing bigs. Kendrick may not be flashy but he knows NBA defense. Clifford will love having him back there. Roberson’s an intriguing combo forward who played well in the D-League last season. He’s on a cheap rookie deal and is some nice insurance should Jeff Taylor’s recovery stagnate or if Taylor bolts via free agency next summer. The pick would be a highly protected first.

Hornets trade Gerald Henderson to Miami for Josh McRoberts

NOTE: Free agents signed during the summer can’t be traded until December 15th, so this one would have to happen mid-season.
WHY MIAMI DOES IT: Unless they want to go VERY small with two PGs when Dwyane Wade misses time, the Heat will need to add some quality wing depth and who better than Wade-lite? An iso, post-up, volume-scoring mid-range doppelganger who could slide right into the starting five during Wade’s sabbaticals, Hendo is just what the doctor ordered for a Miami team that’s in no position to tank (they owe their first round pick to the Cavs).
Meanwhile, McRoberts and Chris Bosh are similar players who likely won’t play all that much together, especially with Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen back in the fold. And with Lebron’s July surprise, both Josh and the Heat may decide that this wasn’t a great idea for a variety of reasons.

WHY CHARLOTTE DOES IT: Uhh…like, duh…

-ASCHIN
@BaselineBuzz

Bobcats Come Up Big To Defeat Celtics

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Tres (Photo by Chuck Burton/AP)

The Charlotte Bobcats rode big contributions from unlikely sources to beat the East-leading Boston Celtics 94-89 on Monday night at the Cable Box. After Stephen Jackson was ejected arguing a call in the second quarter, Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson stepped up off the bench to fill the void.  Gerald Wallace continued his recent strong play, leading the Bobcats with 19 points and 16 rebounds.

AP Recap |  Box Score

After hanging with, but ultimately succumbing to elite teams twice over the weekend at home, the Bobcats got another chance against the Boston Celtics, who were without Shaq, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden due to injuries (not to mention Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West) AND on the second night of a back-too-back.

This one started out similarly to the Heat and Mavs games: the Cats showing no signs of backing down, hanging right with the Celtics.  Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen played well early on, while Stephen Jackson paced the Bobcats.  Early in the second quarter, 6′-7″ Shaun Livingston took advantage of his matchup with 5′-9″ Nate Robinson to the tune of 10 points in a 5 minute span.

But late in the second quarter, Cap’n Jack struck again.  After a defensive switch left Jackson on Garnett in the post, Garnett began to work for position.  Jackson fought him for said position, forcing Garnett to take an awkward, slightly off-balance step.  Garnett sold it well and a foul was called on Jackson.

It wasn’t a terrible call; but Jack apparently thought it was and laid into the official, quickly drawing a tech.  Silas went to the bench to sub for Jack, but not quickly enough.  Jack continued to berate the refs on the way towards the sideline and drew his second tech and an ejection.

But the Bobcats surprisingly wouldn’t fade, taking a one point lead into halftime.  Midway through the third, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce hit back-to-back threes to give the Celtics 65-57 lead; but from that point, the Bobcats dug in for a strong finish.

The fourth quarter was an exctiting, back-and-forth affair that ultimately saw an unconventional Bobcats crunchtime group overcome Jack’s ejection and a Celtics team that appeared to run out of gas.

Coach Paul Silas went with Shaun Livingston’s hot hand down the stretch over DJ Augustin; Livingston responded and kept up his strong play, finishing the game with 18 points on 7-10 FG.

Gerald Henderson filled in admirably for Jackson, playing his customary fantastic perimeter defense and nailing a clutch 20-footer off a down screen with 2:31 left to give the Bobcats an 86-83 lead.

And on the next Bobcats possession, Eduardo Najera, who played great defense on Kevin Garnett in 19 minutes of playing time, drained a huge three to push the lead to 89-83.  From there, good defense and a few free throws closed it out.

Notes

  • With Gerald Henderson’s continued improvement and Stephen Jackson’s persistent and apparently worsening troubles, is a trade becoming more and more likely?  I’d love to see it, even if doing so meant the Bobcats falling out of the playoffs.  Problem is, with Jack’s continued embarrassing behavior and the Maverick’s elite play with their current roster, would they still even be interested in him?
  • So Jack is up to 13 technical fouls, if you’re counting.  As a reminder, once you get to 16, every other tech begets a one-game suspension. More disincentive for another team to make a trade for him.
  • Kwame Brown also picked up a tech for getting into Kendrick Perkins face after a hard foul.
  • Ray Allen had only two three-pointers and will have to wait another game to tie and overtake Reggie Miller for the all-time NBA record for made threes.
  • Next game is Wednesday night as the Bobcats visit Indianapolis to take on the Pacers; 7 PM ET start.  Along with the Sixers and Bucks, the Pacers are one of the teams that the Bobcats will be fighting for the 7th-8th East playoff spot — so the head-to-head matchups are obviously huge.  The Pacers currently lead the Cats by a half-game for the 8th spot.

-Dr. E

Be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Bobcats Routed By Celtics

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"Microcosm" by Bob Leverone/AP

The Bobcats reached a new low in their 93-62 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics Saturday night at the Cable Box.  Quite literally the 63 points represents the Cats lowest output this season, and overall it’s hard to imagine things getting much worse than this.

AP Recap |  Box Score

You knew it was going to be a rough night offensively for the Cats, going up against Boston’s D.  Early on, though, it appeared as if the Celtics might have an equally rough night.  Both teams struggled to get and make shots as the Celtics limped to a 20-16 lead after the first quarter.

However, the Celtics were eventually able to cobble together some buckets from Kevin Garnett and their bench into a respectable evening.  But the Bobcats regressed further and further; inasmuch as its possible to regress from a 16 point opening quarter.  Thus, the Celtics ‘respectable evening’ turned into a complete demolition of the Bobcats.

For the game, the Cats shot 33.8% (including 1-11 3PT), were outrebounded 48-38, gave up 21 turnovers, and had 10 of their shots blocked.  They continued to struggle from the free throw line to boot, hitting only 13-23.

It’s one thing to shoot poorly and commit more turnovers than usual against one of the best defenses in the league; but the other stuff (being badly outrebounded, having shots blocked and missing free throws) is indicative of the deeper issues that are engulfing this team.

Rick Bonnell wondered if the Friday night loss to the Pacers was the “beginning of the end” for Larry Brown in Charlotte.  After tonight, you have to wonder if we’re closer to the end, period.

The body language is bad team-wide.  No one has any confidence in their offensive game.  The effort on the defensive end is not there.  The two leaders, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, are not leading.  Essentially, the Bobcats appear to have checked out on Larry Brown and each other.

Meanwhile, the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have picked up again, and again the Bobcats are rumored to be on the periphery of the discussions.  ESPN’s Chris Broussard’s source describes Michael Jordan’s attempt to get Carmelo as an effort “to save the Bobcats’ season.”

In a similar vein, it’s been reported that in the wake of this blowout, Michael Jordan addressed the team in the locker room after the game.

The shakeup is coming soon, folks.

Observations

  • The Bobcats MVP for the night has to be Tyrus Thomas, who sat out the game with a pulled quad muscle, but looked surprisingly dapper in a two-tone grey suit with tie.  I say surprisingly because I would have guessed that Tyrus would be more inclined to go with the Sean May benchwear look (baggy jeans, baggy untucked shirt, oversized jacket).  But no, Tyrus went all GQ.
  • On a serious note, Nazr Mohammed probably had the best game of any Bobcat (14 points on 7-11 shooting, 5 rebounds).  The Celtics were down to their fourth string center, rookie Semih Erden, and Nazr took him to school a bit in the first half.  However, in a curious move, Larry Brown sat Nazr in favor of Kwame Brown for much the second half because of Nazr’s three fouls.  So Nazr, the most effective Bobcat tonight, ended the game with only 17 minutes.  What are you saving him for?
  • It pains me to have to write this, but Gerald Wallace looks awful.  2-15 FG tonight — all bricks, charges and getting his shots blocked.  If Gerald was more diabolical, I’d wonder if he was trying to force a trade or get his coach fired.  He’s not that way (at least I don’t think so) so I have to think simply that he’s particularly affected by the funk that the whole team is in.
  • DJ was brutal tonight: 0-8 FG with 4 turnovers.
  • Next game is Tuesday; the Raptors will be in town for a 7PM start.

-Dr. E

be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin, and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter


Charlotte Bobcats @ Celtics 10/28/09

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Bobcats fall to the Celtics in the season opener tonight 59-92.

1. It is often said that a good defense beats a good offense but tonight the Bobcats added a new wrinkle to that old chestnut: An ATROCIOUS OFFENSE will eventually infect your great defense and render it moot.

When five players who should be either THIRD or FOURTH OPTIONS play hot potato with the basketball for 24 seconds, NOTHING good can happen.  Players who aren’t naturally turnover prone BECOME turnover prone and that is what happened to the Bobcats tonight.  The Bobcats 18 turnovers don’t even tell the whole story.  Bad or errant shots also lead to long rebounds, fast breaks and easy points for the opposing team and there were plenty of bad shots against the Celts.  The ‘Cats went 23-74 from the field and shot 50% from the charity stripe.  Everyone played horrible save for a few solid minutes from 2nd Rounder Derrick Brown and little-used center Nazr Mohammed.  Yes, it was that bad.

2. BRIEFLY in Celtics news:

Paul Piece is awesome, Ray Allen is still the best shooter in the game, Garnett’s “INTENSE” Act is TIRED, and Rasheed Wallace has the easiest job of his entire career: Stand around the three point line and launch trifectas over the arms of smaller defenders. With Cleveland looking bad thus far, it’s gotta be Boston and Orlando as the top teams in the East without a doubt.

3. Remember how everyone was saying that Stephen Graham was the next “George Lynch?”

What they meant to say was that he was the next “David Lynch,” a surrealist who believes that just because he wears Michael Jordan’s number, he deserves as many offensive opportunities.  Graham is a player who at most should be playing 5-8 minutes in spot defender duty.  Tonight he played 29 minutes, taking 11 shots, making 2 and, as a “defensive-ace” is often to do, registered a whopping -33 plus/minus.  He also started.

4. Remember how everyone was saying that D.J. Augustin should be the starting Point Guard?

Yeah, we’ve all said it and he looked like a starting PG tonight: A PG who should be starting for an Offensively-Disabled team.  One point, four assists, 0-5 from the floor.  Raymond-fanatics can take a little solace in the fact that Felton’s -1 plus/minus easily ousted D.J.’s -30 but that’s largely unfair because while Augustin was suffering on the court through the Celtics 3rd Quarter DEMOLITION, Raymond was enjoying a comparatively peaceful time in the locker-room having 15 stitches sewn into his mouth.

5. Was Larry Brown using this as a statement game?

Remember that this kind of thing happened last season too.  Bobcats begin their season on the road in Cleveland and get blown out by the Cavs.  They continue to start slow, Larry whines to the front office and eventually gets his wish for a roster overhaul and the team finishes strong.  So as it is VERY clear that this team can’t score (and before you start with the “It’s only one game” rhetoric, I’ve watched a lot of basketball in my life and this monstrosity didn’t strike me as a “bad game” so much as it did “this team isn’t built properly”).  I’m still optimistic about the season but Coach Brown is going to have to go into full persuasion-mode in order to bring in a FIRST OPTION like a Monta Ellis or whoever else is out there.  Wonder if Bonnell still thinks that a healthy Iverson would’ve ruined the team?

-ASChin

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Celtics 1/6/09

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1.  Big win tonight at the Cable Box tonight as the Bobcats continue to give the Celtics fits, this time taking them down in overtime, 114-106.  AP story here, box score here.  Bobcats improve to 13-22; Celtics fall to 29-7, and have now lost 5 out of their last 7.

2.  This was easily the biggest win and the most fun game to attend of the season so far.  The arena was not quite as full as it had been the first time the Celtics came to town a few weeks back, but it was still a pretty good crowd.  As always, there were lots of Boston fans in the house; some diehards (like the old guy with a killer green satin Celtics jacket behind me), but also a ton of bandwagon jumpers (replete with gleaming new Garnett jerseys).

The Bobcats played a great first quarter, maintained a small lead for the rest of the first half, eventually relinquished it late in the third, then made big play after big play in the fourth to force the overtime.  The Celtics were out of gas in the overtime period, and DJ Augustin hit a big three and a handful of free throws to seal the deal.

3.  Raymond Felton is front and center in a lot of the highlights and stories, and rightfully so.  He played his heart out, leading the team with 25 points (9-17 FG, 6-8 FT), 3 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals.  He also hit two monster shots in the fourth quarter: the first was a three-pointer with the game tied at 85 with 6:39 left, the second was an extremely difficult Iverson-esque baseline fadeaway to give the Cats a 1 point lead with 38 seconds left.

But Raymond also made some bad plays down the stretch that made those big shots so necessary.  Amongst his seven turnovers on the night were two particularly bad passes with under 3 minutes left that prematurely ended crucial possessions.  And, after getting fouled with 20 seconds left, the Cats up by one, he hit only one of two free throws.  Pierce (of course) responded by backing down Augustin and coolly draining a turn-around jumper to tie the game with three seconds left.  Then, despite getting a good look from straight on, Felton missed his chance to be the hero by bricking a 20 footer at the buzzer.

4.  One of the big reasons the game was so fun to watch was its chippy nature.  Of course, nothing less should be expected with the Celtics in the building.  Their antics were on full display tonight.  Garnett was his usual assholey self; jawing with, and eventually elbowing Morrison at one point; fouling Carroll on a scramble for a loose ball and spending an excessive amount of time laying on top of him afterwards.  Oh, and his most annoying pseudo-intimidating move — you know, when he’s on defense, and there’s a foul call, and the offensive player will toss up a shot after the whistle, just because, and then Garnett jumps up and snatches the ball out of the air as it nears the basket? — yeah, he pulled that one tonight as well.

Pierce protested pretty much every call that didn’t go his way, nearly picking up a tech at one point.  Doc Rivers did pick up a tech for the same.  Kendrick Perkins continued to add to his league leading total of “menacing scowls”.  And Glen Davis was maliciously leaning hard into every pick he set.

The good news is that the Bobcats matched the Celtics antics with just the right amount of aggression and moxie; enough to stand up to the Celtics, and get themselves and the crowd going, but not so much that they took themselves out of the game.  Morrison matched Garnett’s jawing; Juwan Howard fouled Glen Davis hard on a break early in the fourth, drawing a flagrant 1; Felton stepped up to Davis after one of those bone jarring picks and drew a tech.  The crowd loved every bit of it.

5.  Gerald Wallace was great, with 23 points (7-17 FG, 8-8 FT!), 6 rebounds and 4 steals.  The points were nice (most came in the first half) and those steals were big, but what deserves particular mention is Wallace’s 3 assists.  Two of them were fantastic dishes in the paint that resulted in dunks for Okafor; one came in the first quarter, the other in the decisive overtime period.  Both were pretty uncharacteristic for Wallace, who is usually a black hole on offense.  Could it be that Larry Brown and Boris Diaw are really rubbing off on Crash?

6.  Okafor had a solid game, with 13 points and 17 rebounds (5 offensive); he didn’t get a lot of looks in the post and missed the ones he did get, but racked up tons of boards and put himself in position to get some easy buckets throughout the game.

7.  Adam Morrison certainly deserves mention.  He played his best game in several weeks, logging 15 minutes and scoring 13 points on 6-9 FG.  He got those buckets on a variety of shots: a layup (his first in ages), a runner, a step-back, and generally showed glimpses of the creative scoring that he was able to do in college.  Most encouragingly, only two of his attempts were standstill, spot-up threes — and he hit one of those.

8.  Rondophilia has been discussed plenty in the NBA blogosphere as of late (maybe so much that it’s jumped the shark), but let me add to the chorus.  That guy is great.  His speed, freakishly long arms, on-ball defense, and sense of pace/timing on offense are all excellent, and he showed it all tonight.  I was surprised to see that he had 9 turnovers — I don’t really remember them, but imagine that Celtics fans certainly do.  If/when Rondo adds a reliable jump shot, he’s an All-Star.

9.  ESPN and ESPNNews both gave a lot of airtime to the “What’s wrong with the Celtics?” meme tonight in conjunction with showing the highlights, and the same question has been asked repeatedly on the internet in recent days (especially in the context of the Marbury rumor), but I wouldn’t panic if I were them.  FIrst of all, to their credit, they really do usually get their opponent’s best effort every night.  Despite this, they started the year on fire, probably played their vets too many minutes, and are a bit worn out.  It took a West Coast road trip for everything to catch up with them.

Tonight, nothing really looked wrong with them — they still looked like a great team.  For some reason, over the past two seasons, they just seem to bring out the best in the Bobcats.

10.  No time to enjoy this win, as the Bobcats have to turn right around and play the other elite team in the East, this time on the road — @ Cleveland, Wednesday night.

-E

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Celtics 11/29/08

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1. Bobcats lose to the visiting Celtics on Saturday night, 89-84.  AP story here, box score here, PopcornMachine.net game flow here.  This was the eighth straight win for the Celtics, who move to 16-2 overall, while the Bobcats fall to 5-11.

2. Big crowd tonight on a holiday weekend to see the Cats host the World Champion Celtics.  The crowd was announced as a sellout (19,177) but I would estimate the place was about 85% full.  Michael Jordan was back in the house in his customary seat at the end of the bench; Bob Johnson was at midcourt; and NASCAR dude Jimmie Johnson was a few seats down from him.  I would estimate that between a quarter and a third of the crowd were green-clad Celtics fans.  We were treated to a close, defensively-minded and well-played game in which the Bobcats ultimately succumbed to the champs.

3. The Bobcats again started Felton, Richardson, Wallace, May and Okafor and let that group play together for 8 or 9 minutes.  That lineup played very well and grabbed a 12-4 lead after a few minutes; the first quarter ended with the Cats up 22-17.  Sean May continues to take baby steps back towards being a functional NBA player, grabbing 4 rebounds and hitting 3-5 FGs in 18 minutes.  The 15-20 foot jumper and the rebounding instincts are still there, but right now the game is moving a bit fast for him.

4. Ditto “the game moving too fast right now” for Alexis Ajinca.  Lex logged a few minutes in the second quarter, but looked pretty out of place against the Celtics mix of experienced veterans and veteran-like young guys (granted, there’s no one on the Celtics that’s a good matchup for him, and he got stuck on Big Baby Davis for those few minutes).  I’ll continue to beat the drum that Freedom Fries needs regular minutes – in the D-League – to acclimate himself to American basketball.

Hopefully, we now have another functional big in Dwayne Jones such that the team can spare Lex and let him get those D-League minutes.  Jones played 13 minutes, and didn’t log any meaningful statistics, but looked mostly competent.  He definitely led the team in “mini-conferences with teammates during breaks in the action so that he understood his responsibilities” in the upcoming possesions.

5. Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace led the team with 22 and 23 points, respectively.  Both were able to get their points within the offense, and within their comfort zones.  Richardson again showed no ill effects from his recent knee troubles.

6. However, the discipled Celtics defense was able to prevent both Richardson and Wallace from getting much going in the crucial last three minutes.  Take a look at the 4th quarter play-by-play and you’ll note that both guys contributed in the beginning and middle of the final period; but with most of the crowd standing (seriously!) and hanging on every play in the last few minutes, the Cs stayed at home on D, prevented Richardson and Wallace from touching the ball, and dared Raymond Felton to beat them.

7. And after a fantastic game on Friday night against the Pacers in which he hit from everywhere (including a tough, driving layup to send the game into OT) Raymond had a dismal follow-up game.  He was 2-15 from the floor with 6 turnovers.  He continues to find other ways to contribute, with 7 rebounds and 6 assists, but it was the four (yes, four) missed layups down the stretch (two were blocked) that killed the Bobcats chances of pulling this one out.  Clearly, the Celtics had committed to staying at home on defense and taking their chances with Felton, and it was the right decision.  Raymond has a knack for overpenetrating, giving himself an exceedingly difficult shot, and rarely drawing a foul in the process.  Perhaps it should be DJ doing the majority of the ballhandling in crunch time?  (It was again a lineup of Augustin, Felton, Richardson, Wallace and Okafor in the fourth quarter.)

8. To contrast, when the game was on the line, the Celtics were able to go to Paul Pierce.  The Truth got them eight points (on two short jumpers and four free throws) in the last four minutes to put the Bobcats away.  It’s worth noting exactly how Paul Pierce was able to do this: the Celtics exploited the Bobcats small lineup by getting Pierce isolated on the much smaller Augustin through screens and switches several times.  Hopefully this doesn’t become a recurring theme for the Bobcats’ fourth quarters.

9. The Bobcats did a nice job on Kevin Garnett, who went for a pretty quiet 10 points (4-12 FG) and 7 rebounds.  Everyone took a turn on Garnett, including May, Okafor, Mohammed, and Wallace, and he never got going.  But Kendrick Perkins was able to pick up the slack, with 15 points (7-14 FG) and 12 rebounds to effectively negate Garnett’s quiet game.

10. Next game: Monday night, hosting the T-Wolves at the Cable Box, 7:00 PM ET.  With the starting five intact, and the team showing signs of rounding into shape, we should be expecting wins in these next two home games (T-Wolves and Thunder).

-E