2011 Free Agent Targets Who Fit The Plan

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SPECIAL GUEST OPENING PARAGRAPH BY HUBIE BROWN:

Okay, you’re the Charlotte Bobcats. It’s December two thousand and ten. You’re saddled with a capped out payroll. Your attendance is improving but still less than stellar. Your two best, highest paid players play the easiest positions to fill in the modern game and your hall of fame coach’s best years are far behind him. Whaddya do? Keep paying sixty million dollar salaries and hope your team is gonna win a game or two as an eighth seed? Of course not, you blow it up and start from scratch. Go cheap and young and hope you land one the decade’s defining players in the draft. It’s as simple as that.

Thanks Hubie. And thanks MJ, Rod Higgidy-Higgins and Rich Cho (not to be confused with his Charlottean peer, “Rich Chode”) for heeding said hypothetical advice because now, Bobcats fans, there is finally a plan for building a successful basketball franchise in Carolina. Now, I don’t pretend to have any inside info into the mind of Cho & Company but it doesn’t take an Emeka Okafor-sized intellect to get an idea of what they’re up to:

STEP 1: Develop young players on the roster to either build around long-term or dangle as juicy trade bait.

Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker please go over to the blue line. Dante Cunningham and D.J. White may as well go ahead and join them – just please, Dante, put that half ounce sack of dank away somewhere where I can’t see it.

STEP 2: Tank the ’11-’12 semi-season.

Related to the step above, be fun to watch but terrible in the win column. Basically the opposite of Riley’s Knicks/Heat teams of the ’90s. Kind of an East Coast version of the Warriors.

STEP 3: Get a high pick in a stacked 2012 Lottery.

Worse case scenario, you draft in the top 5 and where there are potentially five or six game-changers (Davis, Barnes, Sullinger, Gilchrest, Perry & Terrence Jones).

STEP 4: Shed salary next summer.

That means you Honeybuns Diaw & Don Juan Draper. Take the $20 million and dangle it in front of Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in the rare chance that they want to play in a small market (or come home in CP3’s case) or even take a shot at prying restricted FA Brook Lopez away from New Jersey for less than max money. You could also could use this space to acquire an unhappy All-Star via trade.

STEP 5: Get better in ’12-’13.

Develop the young players, generate some excitement and either make a run for the Playoffs or just miss them and hope for Lottery love. Bobcats will most likely have two picks in the 2013 draft (Their own if not outside the top 10 plus Portland’s).

STEP 6: Shed another $20 million in the summer of 2013.

Diop It Like It’s Hot, No Nickname Carroll, Get Ready For Maggette. The team makes a serious run at another big name FA (watch for Steph Curry here btw). Which brings us back to our present time…

Free Agency 2011

In accordance to the plan, the Bobcats will be on the lookout after the lockout for free agents that meet the following three qualities: young, cheap, (potentially) very good. And that’s pretty much that. I nominate the following:

Earl Clark, SF – ORL

+Compared to young Lamar Odom, only 23, lean 6’10” with a Bilas-approved wingspan
-erratic shot selection, poor shooter
Comment: If you can get him at the right price, Clark could very well develop with playing time. He’s been stuck on veteran teams in the “win now” mode (PHX, ORL) and Silas’s approach could be exactly what he needs to take the next step.

Brandon Wright, PF – NJN

+Physically gifted, skilled rebounder and shooter
-Four seasons, 117 games total
Comment: Originally drafted by Charlotte in the 2007 Draft but traded minutes later for JRICH, Wright can’t use the Earl Clark excuse. He’s played on a bad Nellie Ball team in Golden State as one of the lone big men and then floundered in sixteen games with the Nets last season. His main problem is staying on the court. If he can get healthy, Wright could be a nice rotation big down the line.

Kwame Brown, C – CLT

+Known quantity, can defend big fives, rebound
-Known quantity, not much upside, Vern Troyer-sized hands
Comment: Kwame was probably as surprised as anyone that he started 50 games in the NBA last season. He took advantage and had arguably his most well-rounded season as a pro. The Bobcat brass have made a lot of noise about re-signing him and if the money is right I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Maybe Cho can get creative like his old boss Sam Presti in OKC and sign Kwame to a Nick Collison-style contract. $8 million for ’11-’12 and then $2mil per over the next two seasons sounds about right. Getting a solid backup center for three seasons while not endangering free cap space over the next two summers.

Josh McRoberts, PF/C – IND

+Started 54 games at C/PF for IND, still young at 24
-Chronic case of Big White Dude disease
Comment: Former Dukie came on for the Pacers last season, supplanting Jeff Foster as the slow white undersized center in the middle. McRoberts isn’t great at anything but is a banger and could contribute as a rotation big man for a team on the rise.

Carl Landry, PF – NO

+Mega-Effecient, PER Machine
-Small for his position, Potentially Expensive
Comment: Somebody will probably drop $9 million annually on Landry. The Bobcats tried to sign him once already and if Cho’s hyper-stats reveal Landry to be the most productive player on the market, they could try again.

TRADE SCENARIO

One last note: If the Bobcats offered Augustin and Tyrus Thomas to the Timberwolves for Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour and Wayne Ellington, wouldn’t Minnesota at least think about it? Augustin does everything Rubio doesn’t and is insurance in case Ricky falters. Tyrus gives the Wolves a high flying presence who can block shots and throw down alley-oops – exactly the things that neither Williams nor Kevin Love can do. Minny sheds Ridnour’s sketchy contract while the Bobcats get back a scoring PF who they could add to the Kemba-Biyombo-Henderson foundation. It’s worth a shot. Plus Williams could play Boris Diaw’s thinner, younger brother on a Tweener Forward Sitcom.

Until Next Time, Stay with the Plan Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

How The Bobcats Can Improve : Escaping The Nottery – Ver. 2.0

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Charlotte Bobcats Offseason Checklist – PreDraft Edition

A little over a month ago I began part one of this series by defining the titular “Nottery” as:

A place where franchises go to die: Not good enough to be good and not bad enough to get good. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan understood this more so than any other when he made the controversial Gerald Wallace trade last month. Good isn’t good enough and if you want to get better, sometimes you gotta get a little worse.

Flash forward to last Monday when my bald-headed AmerAsian brother from another mother capped off his initial press conference with the following zinger:

One of the worst things you can do in this league, I think is be a middle-of-the-road team. After the team traded Gerald Wallace, I think there’s a lot of parallels (with Cho’s previous gig in Seattle/OKC). We got some cap room coming up, some assets and picks.

What can I say, great minds think alike.

So without further ado, let’s get to some good old fashion rosterbation, Southern Style!

SECTION 1. WHAT WE GOT

Before we head out to the supermarket, we should take a look in the cupboard. As badly as the Bobcats finished the season, the team does have a few assets.

a.) D.J. Augustin

Has clearly shown that he can be a top 20 starting PG in the league (although our own @BaselineDrE insists that Earl Boykins would destroy him in a PER contest). D.J. can shoot and has figured out how to score from in close. Perhaps no player currently in the league benefited from J.J. Barea’s Playoff Explosion more than Augustin. D.J. has more upside, is more versatile and stronger. Could be headed for a breakout season and newly crowned Bobcats GM Rich Cho repeatedly brought his name up during last week’s press conference – the team seems committed to him.

Another couple of positives: He proved that he could shoot his way out of a slump and is still on that sweet rookie deal.

b.) Stephen Jackson

Volatile and getting a bit long in the tooth, Jackson is a former champ and the Bobcats’ best player. He’s the only guy who can consistently create his own shot and when he’s on, can single-handily carry the team to a victory. Showed up at a team workout last month twenty pounds lighter and in great shape. Coach Silas intimated that at this weight JAX could play another 4-5 seasons. His contract is probably untradeable until at least the summer of 2012 so look for JAX to remain in his role with the team next season.

UPDATE: AP’s @mikecranston1 announced that other teams have been inquiring about Jackson’s availability so there could be a scenario in which the Bobcats start next season without one of the League’s most under-rated two way players.

c.) Tyrus Thomas

Needs to prove that he can stay healthy and stay focused but when he’s in physical and mental shape can really change the game from a defensive perspective. Solid rebounder and excellent shot blocker who has a nice mid-range jumper. Bobcats have invested a ton of cash hoping the Tyrus experiment works out. Best case scenario: Starting Power Forward for the next five seasons. Worst case scenario: Severely overpaid role player.

d.) Gerald Henderson

Very good defensive guard. Very athletic. Shown promise as a cutter but jump shot is still erratic. Henderson is another unknown. May one day become a great long-ball shooter but not there yet. Finished the season on an absolute tear, going for nearly 15ppg in March and April while shooting nearly 46% from the floor just over 34 minutes a game.

UPDATE: Had hip surgery in early May to repair a congenital flaw that led to chronic knee pain. Brass hopes he’s back 100% by the start of training camp.

e.) D.J. White, Dante Cunningham (RFA), Shaun Livingston

Three youngish rotation players who have shown flashes of potential. White seems to have the most upside and is still on his rookie deal. Livingston has managed to carve out a place in the league after destroying his knee a few years ago. Cunningham showed flashes as a full-time three (recording possibly the team highlight of the year by smacking away a KG gimme at the rim) but was busted for possession of the chronic after the season and has yet to receive his $1 million tender from the team.

Total it up and you have seven players who’ll most likely be suiting up for the Bobcats next season. That’s half a roster. Combine them with two first round draft picks next week and the CAP CRUNCHERS (Gana Diop, Matt Carroll, Eddie Najera) and you’re down to just two roster spots available to improve the team.

SECTION 2. WHAT WE NEED

Augustin, Jackson, Thomas and Henderson will most likely return as four of the team’s starters. Livingston, White and possibly Cunningham will be solid contributors from the bench. That still leaves some major needs:

a.) Men in the Middle

A pleasantly mediocre surprise, Kwame Brown will be an unrestricted free agent come July and the team will need to make a major upgrade if it wants to compete. Gana Diop is currently the only center on the roster and he was bad before the season ending achilles injury. With Diop not likely to see action until at least next December, the Cats will most likely have to add size in Thursday’s Draft (see below) and hope Kwame gives them a bit of a hometown discount once FA starts after the new CBA.

b.) Bench Scoring

Augustin, Jackson and (if he develops a jumper) Henderson can handle most of the scoring as starters but the team lacks any sort of big time scoring presence from the bench. The Bobcats will need to find someone capable of taking off some of the scoring load. Coach Silas has been very vocal about his team’s lack of three point shooting and there are some players in the middle of the draft who could fill that need. Some veteran help might come relatively cheap in the way of Delonte West, Anthony Parker or Mike Dunleavy should Cho feel the need to stock up.

c.) Stars

Either through the draft or through crafty trades, the Bobcats will need to find a way to bring in a guy who’ll move the turnstiles and put down game-winning buckets.

This need won’t likely be met during the draft or in free agency this year but with Diaw and Najera coming off the books next summer and with Jackson transitioning into an expiring year, the Bobcats could make some serious noise in the vaunted summer FA class of 2012 (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard).

SECTION 3. THE DRAFT

Just a few days away and the Bobcats sit pretty with picks number 9 and 19 in a muddy first round.

I’ve been racking my brain about this on Twitter and have come to the following conclusion:

It’s gonna be a wing and a big man.

Can’t say in what order but looking at the options available to the team at number nine and the dearth of quality starting fives in the league my gut tells me it’s going to be Southern Cal’s Nikola Vucevic first and whichever wing is available around pick nineteen next.

This would be high for Vucevic, who wasn’t even a first round lock at the end of the college season, but after his outstanding workouts around the league and after surveying the competition I think Bobcats management will pull the trigger simply because Nikola represents the best value.

Think of it this way: At 7ft, 260 and with three years of NCAA experience Vucevic has the body to come in and play right away. Between his soft touch around the hoop and a nice collegiate three point jumper, the guy would immediately be the most offensively potent center in team history (well, at least since Primoz Brezec). He plays a position which traditionally is well over-paid so by drafting a rookie the team could lock a potential starter into a four year rookie scale deal. Killer timing for next year’s free agency bonanza. Defensively, Vucevic’s slow-footedness is a concern but he’s a solid rebounder and would be a great fit next to Tyrus Thomas.

COMPS: Mehmet Okhur, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez.

At pick nineteen, Master Cho could then look at the abundant number of wing players (Jordan Hamilton, Marshon Brooks, Chris Singleton, Tobias Harris, Darius Morris) still on the board. He could roll the dice and take a player like Boston College’s Reggie Jackson. With the Heat reportedly high on the Rondo-clone, the Cats could screw over a division rival while adding another dimension to their backcourt.

The IDEAL scenario, of course, would be a second-tier wing player like Kawhi Leonard dropping to the Bobcats at #9 and then maneuvering up from #19 to select Vucevic before the Rockets can nab him at #14. I just don’t see how this is a possibility though if Houston is in fact ready to Nikola with the last pick in the Lottery.

SECTION 4. FREE AGENCY

No one knows what the new CBA will look like next season (if there is one) but I’d be willing to bet that the Bobcats’ situation won’t change much. Once all of the expirings come off, the team will sit at around $49 million in salaries, around $10 million south of this year’s cap. Add in the two first rounders along with (possibly) re-upping Dante Cunningham, the team should be at around $54 million.

Obviously, the remaining $6 million wouldn’t be enough to bring in a big-name star (even if there was one in a weak FA class) but the extra wiggle room may help them pull off a deal or two IF the team is lucky enough to import a decent center from another team.

Free Agent Centers 2011:

a.) DeAndre Jordan.

Made big strides this season but the high-flying athlete probably doesn’t make much sense to pair with a similar player in Tyrus Thomas. Clippers also seem intent on keeping him.

b.) Marc Gasol.

Will likely command around $10 million+/per on the open market. Gasol is a lower rent version of his All-Star brother but is only 26 and could develop into top tier center himself given the right circumstances. He’s a restricted and the Griz have stated that they’ll re-sign him but given the historical ownership thriftiness and the fact that Z-Bo’s deal is also up makes me think that Gasol could be had with a big poison-pill offer sheet. To make a move for Gasol, the Bobcats would likely have to find a taker for Boris Diaw’s $9 million expiring contract first (see TRADE section).

c.) Kwame Brown.

Performed adequately for the team as a starter this season and could be brought back as a backup if the price is right.

d.) Other Potentially Interesting FAs.

Big Baby Davis, Nene (ETO), Shane Battier, Carl Landry (who they’ve tried to sign before), Sam Dalembert, Craig Smith, Brandon Wright.

SECTION 5. TRADE

Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw. Did I mention Boris Diaw? I just can’t see any way the Frenchman stays on the Bobcat roster come training camp. Only on the books for a final season, in a contract year (so will likely be motivated – see Chandler, Tyson) and has proven that when he gives a crap can be a game-changing presence in the lineup. All these factors combined with the Coach’s obvious dissatisfaction in Diaw’s inconsistent performances will likely land Boris in another uniform next season.

Potential Trades:

a.) Boris Diaw to Toronto for Leandro Barbosa + 33rd Selection.

Colangelo wanted him last summer and they need size. Both players on expirings, Bobcats trade big for small but also shave another $1.4 million off the books to go after a FA. ‘Cats get the bench scoring they’ve so desperately needed and another high second rounder for an international draft ‘n stash.

UPDATE: With the Raps hiring of “D”wayne Casey, odds are that Toronto will be actually playing a little defense this season, making this trade more likely if the ‘Cats wanted to make it.

b.) Boris Diaw to LAClippers for Chris Kaman.

Again, both players on expirings. Clips get the third big to rotate with Griffin and Jordan. Bobcats take on an additional $3.2 million and risk Kaman’s recent injury history but if it works out, then they have a high-scoring starting center for the first time in franchise history.

UPDATE: With rumors flying around a possible Iggy for Kaman swap, this offer looks rather paltry. Would the Clips be in the market for a Stephen Jackson for Kaman trade?

c.) Boris Diaw + the #19 to TeamX for cap space.

In this deal, the ‘Cats could find a team with cap space in need of a versatile big and compensate them with either this year’s late first rounder or Portland’s pick in 2013. The ‘Cats would then have around $18 million to pursue a free agent target like Marc Gasol.

UPDATE: This seems very unlikely.

SECTION 6. WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

Whenever the ’11-’12 NBA season starts, the Bobcats (barring major injury) will look quite a lot better than currently configured.

If the team simply follows the recipe above, they could trot out:

PG: Augustin/Livingston

SG: Henderson/Chris Singleton/Carroll

SF: Jackson/Chris Singleton/Cunningham

PF: Thomas/D.J. White/Najera

C: K.Brown/Vucevic/Diop

Not bad. Depending on the development of the youngsters, the team could even compete for one of the final seeds in the East. But I don’t think that’s Rich Cho’s plan. Again, in order to get better, some times you have to get worse. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the team bottom out by trading both Diaw and Jackson by the trade deadline and finishing it up with a bunch of 25 and younger types logging major minutes. That is the OKC model anyway. A high lottery pick in 2012 and a boatload of cap space could then launch the Charlotte basketball franchise into the stratosphere.

Until Version 3.0…

Enjoy the Nottery, Bobcats Fans,

-ASChin

The Bobcats Season – Over and Out.

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What An Unexpected Ride

This past season for the Charlotte Bobcats served up an entertaining mixture of speculation, anticipation, disappointment, surprise, frustration, and a general sense of curiosity. Heading into it, the team had made a deal to unload the financial burden of Tyson Chandler and had no Draft selections to boost their roster. The team’s training camp began with real questions around DJ Augustin’s ability to lead the team as a starter and the growth of  Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown in their second year in the NBA. It was assumed that Tyrus Thomas would build upon his success from a previous late-season run after arriving in Charlotte, and most thought he would eventually replace Boris Diaw as the team’s starting power forward. The Bobcats looked to have their strongest players, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, on the wings and aimed to make it through the year with a cobbled assortment of players at the center position.

That was all pre-season talk, though. Larry Brown was trusted to take the team further than the quick sweep we witnessed in their first Playoff appearance. If Larry saw a roster need that had to be filled in order to reach the post-season, it seemed only logical that the organization would find a way to give him what he demanded. Eventually, that logic evaporated as the team seemed to lose games and lose interest in running Larry’s system. Interestingly, the only roster acquisitions that seemed to satisfy Brown were the minor free agent signings of Dominic McGuire (D-Mac) and Shaun Livingston. Otherwise, the Hall of Fame coach was expected to plug in the likes of Matt Carroll, Kwame Brown, Eduardo Najera, and Sherron Collins to forge a better on-court product.

Stumbling Out of The Gates

Early on in the season, it seemed that the Bobcats were just taking a little longer to “mesh” than most other squads. Those following the team could have argued that the level of talent on the roster was deeper than ever before. With so many middle-tier players on the payroll, it appeared that the front office had planned to either make due with a roster below the salary cap or leave some flexibility to make a trade to improve the team. As the Cats stumbled in the standings, speculation over the next move certainly followed. Coach Brown had set a pattern in place since his arrival. If he didn’t like what was happening with the team’s play, he would find a way to shake up the roster. Fans knew this and it was expected that a roster move was sure to happen. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson, or DJ Augustin that were shipped out. The organization decided to send Larry Brown out of town.

While it was easy to support Brown when the team had experienced an increasing level of success, the Bobcats management seemed to catch on to the “Next Town Brown” template. With the team struggling and playing less and less entertaining basketball by the week, it only felt naturally to look to the future. Raising the question of “How does this team get better” probably shook GM Rod Higgins to face the tough truth that the Bobcats were financially frozen and their on-court product was on the decline.  Perhaps, the team reserved a bit of blame for Larry Brown. Overall, it seemed that the team’s performance had slid far too much and improvement wasn’t going to be delivered by the old, griping, and disheartening coach. The Cats had no money to really improve the team, and needed to begin to develop their young guys – players that Larry Brown had glued to the bench.

New Energy

The arrival of Paul Silas brought an equal dose of curiosity and excitement to the team. After recurring blow-out losses under Brown, the Bobcats quickened the pace and let DJ Augustin play to his strengths. Surely, Michael Jordan had to have felt some comfort in his decision to switch coaches. Not only had the team become better and more entertaining on court, but the younger talent on the roster had begun to show improvement and playing time under Coach Silas. The improved play of DJ Augustin was astounding, and it just seemed to be a bit confusing as to why no one had seen this from the young guard until Brown’s departure.

As the Bobcats had crossed the mid-point of the season, they were finding a way to improve their record despite their ailing big men. Gana Diop was shelved for the season with a tough achilles injury, and Nazr Mohammed seemed to have run out of luck with several nagging injuries. The All-Star break came and went for the team, as the club had no participates (Rufus doesn’t count) in the Association’s annual celebration of peak performers. So, most of the club returned from the short vacation to talk big about making a run at the Playoffs. Actually, that didn’t seem so outlandish at the time. Despite the 9-19 hole that they had dug for themselves to begin the year, Charlotte was sitting around the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. With plenty of games to go, it was expected that the club could rebound and save their season. Heck, some thought the Cats might even try to nab someone to help make that push before the trade deadline.

Well, things really went in the opposite direction. Once again, Michael Jordan’s Bobcats were active at the league’s trade deadline. Though, this time around the team wasn’t looking to acquire talent.

The Trade

So, what would you have thought if someone had told you back in September that during the 2010-2011 season the Bobcats would fire the best head coach that the franchise had ever seen, trade away the All-Star that fans loved, and still close the season with Stephen Jackson on the roster? Well, it played out just about like you would have thought. The team was shaken apart, as to leave Larry Brown’s “vision” in the dust and adjust for the future. Gerald Wallace was about as heartbroken about being traded to Portland as his Charlotte fans were. And, good ol’ Cap’n Jack made it through the season with a load of technical fouls, showed his clutch abilities throughout it all, and his body fell apart in late March after carrying the team for most of the year. Oh, and the guys that were expected to help Stephen Jackson never did come through as the Cats surrendered to the Draft Lottery by April. Tyrus Thomas was unable to return from his knee surgery and fellow power forward Boris Diaw brought it once in every four or five games. The team limped through the end of their schedule with Kwame Brown as the only true center.

Oh, and what would you have thought back in the Fall if someone told you that the Bobcats would be starting Kwame Brown? Surprisingly, he wasn’t as bad as you would have thought. Let’s not consider him the franchise center, but he was valuable for the team on both sides of the floor.

Quiet Close to the Season

So, the Bobcats headed down the last weeks of the season with a fading hope of another Playoff appearance. Though, what may have been more important for the team was the manner in which their younger and newer players seized the opportunity in the playing time given to them by Paul Silas. During the final games of the season, Gerald Henderson was often  the team’s primary offensive option. He showed his strengths, while learning to become an efficient guard. Clearly, young Gerald had big shoes to fill with the departure of “Crash” Gerald. Luckily, the team didn’t see him recoil.

Looking forward, Charlotte has a lot of decisions in front of them. Clearly, the organization has made a concerted effort to enter the “rebuilding” stage. The off-season should provide the team with the ability to improve as they hold a load of salary cap flexibility, young talent, and Draft selections. Still, it’s apparent that the team has holes, and will work to fill them as they build. Next season’s rookies can’t be expected to carry the team, and the free agent class isn’t all that “star-studded” this summer. With Jordan’s efforts to free up his options, he’ll want to make the most of each of his assets whether it be Draft picks, cap room, or promising players on the Bobcats roster. The 2011-12 season could just serve as a stepping stone for the club as they continue to develop, grow, and wait for the right additions via free agency. So, a short season due to a lock-out might just be exactly what Jordan and Co. are forecasting. If the rebuilding Cats are going to be really bad next year, let’s hope it’s only for 40 games or so.

-Mike

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

  • Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Not Re-Signing Raymond Felton (14%, 26 Votes)
  • Starting Nazr Mohammed (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Firing Larry Brown (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Wallace (32%, 59 Votes)
  • Re-Signing Tyrus Thomas (6%, 11 Votes)
  • Cutting Sherron Collins (5%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 182

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Bobcats’ Rally Attempt Ended by Heat, Themselves

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Let's hope we can remove him from the milk carton now. (Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)

Recap | Box Score

If there’s one thing everyone should know about the Charlotte Bobcats, it’s that they are not a great shooting team. The roster is built mostly on cutters – players who drive to the paint to score.

And tonight, against one of the best teams in the league, the Bobcats tried to cap a rally by trying to become what they most certainly are not. Of course, it didn’t work as Charlotte’s offense couldn’t keep up with Miami’s and the Bobcats fell to the Heat, 109-97.

The game started off as well as a Bobcats fan could hope, with Boris Diaw facilitating early and getting Kwame Brown involved, leading to a 17-9 lead going into the first timeout. From there, the Heat got back into it with LeBron contributing by hitting all four of his first-half shots. Also helping out was Dwyane Wade, who was said to be unsure about even playing tonight (yeah, right). Wade was making the hard shots and getting to the cup without too much trouble.

Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace also played well in the first half. Jackson was hitting his shots, mostly mid-range jumpers, at a decent clip and even drew fouls to get to the line. At the half, he had 11 points on 3-6 shooting and 4-4 from the stripe. Gerald Wallace was great in the first half as well, hitting five of 11 shots, including a three and he added three free throws for 14 points in the first half. D.J. Augustin also was playing well as far as passing, although his shooting left much to desire.

But keeping the Bobcats from leading in the first half was their interior defense. LeBron and Wade both can drive into the paint with such ease that opponents must have good transition and interior defenses. While the Bobcats are decent on transition defense, their interior defense still isn’t anything to be afraid of, even with Kwame Brown’s resurgence. Anyway, when LeBron or Wade drove to the paint, the Bobcats interior defense would collapse to compensate, leaving Miami’s spot-up men alone at the arc. The driving ballhandler kicks out to the sharpshooter and Bobcats players rush to contest the shot but it’s too late. The result? In the first half, Mike Miller was 3-3 and Eddie House was 1-1 from deep. This also occurred with the Bobcats’ big men leaving Zydrunas Ilgauskas alone to guard the paint. Ilgauskas would knock down three out of four mid-range shots in the first half.

The score at the half was Miami – 59, Charlotte – 55.

Then came the Bobcats’ worst fear – the third quarter. Somehow they survived, mostly by playing better defense than the first two quarters, “holding” the Heat to 50% shooting while the Bobcats managed 44%. As such, the Bobcats had a very manageable six-point deficit heading into the final quarter.

In one of the more noggin-scratching moves of the night, Paul Silas started Sherron Collins at the point to begin the fourth quarter. If Sherron Collins’ defense was a publicly held corporation that sold stock, you either should have sold it when he stepped on the court. In the first two minutes of the 4th quarter, Eddie House (Sherron’s man) hit 3 three-pointers. And while Sherron did hit a three of his own, that’s just not enough. I understand that Livingston doesn’t have the shooting ability from deep that Collins has, but Livingston’s defense and length are assets that definitely would have helped in the fourth. Regardless, the Heat turned a 6-point lead into a 12-point lead.

But then the Bobcats began to climb back into it with Augustin back in. With eight minutes left, the Bobcats were right back in the game, only down by six.

But then the Bobcats tried to be who they weren’t, as I mentioned way above. Despite having most of their success from good ball movement and getting the rock into the paint, Stephen Jackson and D.J. Augustin started jacking long range jump shots that just weren’t falling. Augustin ended the night shooting 1-6 FG and 1-4 from three. Jackson went 1-5 from the field in the fourth, with three missed treys in the final period. I understand that the Bobcats had to resort to shooting the long ball to try to get back into the game, but that should only come with a big deficit with not a lot of time left. Down six points with about seven minutes left is not the time to abandon your strengths to try for the quick fix. While the Bobcats were shooting poorly, the Heat were not. Chris Bosh emerged from his poor first three quarters with 8 points in the final 12 minutes. Either way, the Bobcats killed themselves in the fourth. But, it was an entertaining game for most of the night and the Heat are an extremely good team, especially when all of their ‘Big Three’ are healthy (Wade had a triple double and LeBron was two rebounds and an assist away from a triple double).

Notable Plays

The Bobcats had some great plays in this game, despite the loss. In the second quarter the Bobcats went on a dunk parade with Gerald Henderson smashing a couple and Gerald Wallace getting in on the action. There was also a very nice play at the end of the first half where Augustin split a double-team beneath the basket to find a cutting Derrick Brown who got the bucket and drew the foul.

Stats leaders:

Bobcats

Wallace: 9-19 FG, 25 PTS, 10 REBS, 2 AST, 1 BLK

Jackson: 7-17 FG, 25 PTS, 3 REBS, 5 AST, 2 STL

Henderson: 6-10 FG, 14 PTS, 2 REBS, 1 AST, 3 BLK (I love that he’s developing into a great 6th man)

Heat

Wade: 8-20 FG, 22 PTS, 12 REBS, 10 AST

James: 7-13 FG, 19 PTS, 8 REBS, 9 AST

And a quick note: Yes, the officiating was iffy at best in the fourth quarter (in favor of the Heat, of course), but to blame the whole loss on the referees is absolutely absurd. The Bobcats got to the line more than the Heat did anyway. The real blame for this loss resides on the Heat being a superiorly talented team and the Bobcats straying from their best offensive strategy.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

Bobcats Prevail Over Pistons, Finish Trip 4-2

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Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bobcats used a 20-1 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to defeat the Pistons 97-87 in Detroit on Wednesday night.  Stephen Jackson poured in a season-high 39 points (14-26 FG, 3-7 3PT, 8-10 FT) to lead the Cats as they finished their 6-game road trip at 4-2.  The Cats are now 21-27 and hanging on to the 8th playoff spot heading into a brutal three game home-stand against Miami, Dallas and Boston.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The last game of a long road trip is always dangerous; it’s human nature for the mind to start wandering towards putting the keys in your own door and sleeping in your own bed whilst being blown out.  But with Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell out with injuries, Rip Hamilton exiled to the end of the bench, and their fans stuck at home under a foot of snow, the Pistons were hardly in position to take advantage of a possible letdown by the Bobcats anyways.

Stephen Jackson got the Bobcats off to a nice start despite DJ Augustin’s early foul trouble.  Sherron Collins picked up seven first quarter minutes and played well, going 2-2 from the field and presiding over a 19-11 Bobcats run.  The Cats maintained a small lead through the second quarter as Jack poured in the buckets and Kwame Brown hit the boards.

The Pistons came out strong after halftime and ran out to an 8 point lead before the Bobcats calmed things down.  Towards the end of the third quarter, down 65-64, the Bobcats embarked on their epic run.  Amidst a barrage of jumpers from Steven Jackson and dunks/layups from Kwame Brown, Gerald Henderson and Nazr Mohammed, the Pistons couldn’t get anything going.

Up 84-66 with 8 minutes left after Jackson’s three free throws capped the run, the Bobcats took their foot off the gas a bit.  The Pistons went on a small run of their own to cut the lead to 7 with three minutes left, but Jack put an end to that with a strong drive into a layup.  From there, a few DJ Augustin free throws iced the game.

Notes

  • Quick and easy numbers: The Bobcats shot 50.7% to the Pistons 43.6%, outrebounded the Pistons 46-30, and went 20-25 at the line to the Pistons 12-17.
  • Quintessential Boris Diaw line: 36 minutes, 0 points on 0-3 FG, 4 rebounds, 9 assists/2 turnovers, and a team high plus-minus of +15.  Just embrace it.
  • Quiet game for DJ after his early foul trouble trying to match up against the stronger Ben Gordon.  DJ scored 5 points in the final 46 seconds to get to double digits at 10 — but overall didn’t play well.  Nice to see that the Bobcats could get a win despite that.
  • Another double-double for Kwame Brown: 14 points/10 rebounds.
  • So while the quality of the opponents (Sacramento by 5, Phoenix by 7, Golden State by 8 in OT, Detroit by 10) leaves something to be desired, a 4-2 road trip is a pretty impressive feat for this team.  As noted above, the Bobcats now face a three game home-stand against a murderers row of opponents: Miami on Friday, Dallas on Saturday, and Boston on Monday, all 7 PM ET starts.

-Dr. E

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

Bobcats Drop Sloppy, Winnable Game To Jazz

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Photo Credit: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bobcats were defeated 83-78 by a shorthanded Utah Jazz squad on the road in Salt Lake City on Monday night.  The Cats were led by Stephen Jackson (24 points) and DJ Augustin (20) in the loss and fall to 20-27 overall.

AP Recap |  Box Score

After a day off to recharge in the middle of the road trip, this matchup looked ripe for the taking when Deron Williams was ruled out prior to the game with a wrist injury.

Besides, even with their all-star, Utah had been reeling recently, losing 7 of their last 8.  But the Jazz came out strong with an 11-0 run to start the game, and proceeded to outrebound (49-36) and outmuscle the Cats in the paint.  The Jazz front line of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko all had double doubles: Jefferson 21/11, Millsap 14/12, and Kirilenko 13/11.  Jefferson and Kirilenko each had 3 blocks; Millsap added one.

To contrast, the Bobcats were led by DJ Augustin and Stephen Jackson with 8 rebounds apiece.  Kwame Brown had a miserable night with just 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 fouls in 23 minutes.

CJ Miles provided some perimeter scoring for the Jazz off the bench with 20 points; Earl Watson, who started at the point in place of Deron Williams, ended with an inexplicable plus-minus of +26 for the game.

The Bobcats could never establish much flow and shot the ball miserably, finishing at 35.6% from the field.  Nonetheless, they were in the game until the final moments.  Stephen Jackson hit four straight free throws to bring the Cats within one at 79-78 with two minutes left.

But with the Jazz frontline dominating the paint, the Bobcats couldn’t go with their preferred small lineup to finish the game (DJ, Henderson, Jack, Wallace and Diaw) and instead went with Eduardo Najera instead of Henderson.  It’s understandable, as going small would have put Gerald Wallace on Paul Millsap.

But it didn’t work, as the Bobcats couldn’t generate any offense after Jack’s free throws and never scored again AND Millsap grabbed two back-breaking offensive rebounds down the stretch.

Notes

  • If you wanted to put together a reel of games to convince yourself that it might be time to trade Gerald Wallace, add this one to it.  Just didn’t bring anything to the table tonight.
  • In addition to the Jazz 11-o run to start the game, they had another 11-0 run to start the third quarter and a 10-o run to start the fourth.
  • Cardboard Gerald caught Jimmer Fredette, Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend, and Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend’s poof in the stands.
  • If you’re looking for a Bobcats highlight, it’s probably Najera’s trip into the courtside seats, as pictured above.  As he got up, he picked up one lady’s crushed, now empty cup and pantomimed ordering her a new drink.  Good enough for a bloopers video.  Oh, and DJ hit a pretty crazy reverse layup that should make the highlights.
  • Next game is Wednesday night as the Cats wrap up this six-game road trip in Detroit against the Pistons — 7:30 PM ET start.  A win will give the Cats a 4-2 road trip as they head into a tough stretch of home games.

-Dr. E

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

Bobcats, Brown Snag One From Sac-Town

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Jordan Watches Kwame Brown Beat The Kings

The Charlotte Bobcats pulled out a win in Sacramento to start their longest road trip thus far this season. Despite several bumbling moments late in the game, the Cats kept the Kings at arms-length throughout to notch a 94-89 win over their host in Sacramento.

AP Recap | Box Score

1st Half Notes

The game started ugly, with a lot of stoppages due to a hyped up referee crew. With so many whistles, neither team established a groove and both squads had to sit big men due to early foul trouble (Boris Diaw for Charlotte and DeMarcus Cousins for Sacramento). The first quarter was an exhibition in bad shooting.  The Bobcats could maybe blame this on time-zone difference, and the Kings could say that they suffered coming off of a back-to-back in Portland.  So, the poor shooting allowed for a load of rebounds and most of those came in the form of offensive boards for the home team.

Sacramento has a good reputation for their rebounding, and it appeared that Charlotte’s crew intentionally tried to avoid focusing on just battling them on the boards. The Bobcats were working to move the ball in transition and score quick, easy points. Had they stood around to the paint after shots, the game would have moved much slower and given the advantage to the Kings. This “strategy” led to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, where Gerald Wallace started to take over. Crash has been a bit “ho-hum” lately, and it was nice to see him drive to the hoop and finish strong. He’s capable of a lot more than he’s shown over the last month, and the team will need more of his presence on this road trip.

The Kings have some decent, young talent and guard Beno Udrih put a lot of work in to use his size against DJ Augustin early in the game. Tyreke Evans was covered by the taller Stephen Jackson, but scored easily to start. Surprisingly, Kings forward Jason Thompson showed a load of offensive ability and hustle during his first half minutes. Despite the bright spots for the Sacramento’s team, the Bobcats began to establish a flow on offense in the second quarter and Kwame Brown’s presence grew larger and larger on the defensive side of the floor. Things were rolling for the Cats to close the period, and it was great to see the guys building chemistry on the road trip as they talked and joked in the time-out huddles.

2nd Half Notes

Foul trouble was the theme for the start of the second-half of this game. Boris Diaw and Eduardo Najera both entered the 3rd Quarter with 3 fouls apiece. Diaw quickly snagged his fourth and it seemed as thought the Frenchman had barely seen the floor during the match. Najera was plugged in at the Power Forward spot, and handled his promotion excellently by nailing an open 3-pointer and getting to line on quick cuts. Stephen Jackson was fairly quiet throughout the first 2 quarters and somehow picked up 3 fouls in less than 2 minutes of the 3rd period, leading the Bobcats into the penalty very quickly. Interestingly, Kwame Brown kept taking the ball up strong and could not get the refs to call foul on the Kings defenders. Finally, after several bumps and slaps, DeMarcus Cousins was called for his 4th foul mid-way through the 3rd. Despite the lop-sided calls, Brown never lost his cool and kept working hard on both ends of the floor to snag 11 rebounds in the period.

After a streak-for-streak match by the teams to open the final quarter, the Bobcats found themselves struggling to establish offensive consistency. Shaun Livingston showed a few nice driving, pull-up shots, but that wasn’t nearly enough to settle the Kings momentum. Carl Landry threw down a strong dunk (with the beat of Snoop’s classic “What’s My Name?” playing over the arena soundsystem) to spark a rally for Sacramento. During their push, the Kings enjoyed Nazr Mohammed’s lack of presence on defense and made him look even more “ugh” on offense.

Coach Paul Silas must have seen enough, and unleashed Kwame Brown onto Sac-town about half-way through the 4th. Quickly, Brown forced Cousins into his 6th foul and eliminated the Kings’ best big man. While Stephen Jackson stepped up, Gerald Wallace went quiet for many of the final minutes. The most consistent force for the Cats was clearly Kwame Brown. Teammates worked to feed him and he defended the paint, allowing them to run out on the break. Boris Diaw re-entered the game late, and kept up a habit of making unnecessary passes until knocking down a 3-pointer that should have been the “nail in the coffin” shot with 1 minute left. Unfortunately, Charlotte finished ugly and left the door open for the Kings to cut it close. The Bobcats settled down when it counted and survived the scare to finish the game like professionals, winning 94-89.

Loose Notes:

Kwame Brown had a big double-double with 13 pts / 18 rebs! In a post-game interview, Kwame credited Asst. Coach Charles Oakley for pushing him during practice.

Boris Diaw made some bad fouls to keep him on the bench. While Najera filled in adequately, this could have been a big game for Boris to exploit the youth and inexperience of the opposing youngsters for the Kings.

Michael Jordan made the trip to see his club in Sacramento. It was also reported that he was at the Blazers-Kings game in Portland the night before. With Rod Higgins at his side, is he doing a little personnel scouting or just supporting his team on their big West Coast swing?

Gerald Henderson never found a rhythm in this game. He had a really sweet hang-in-the-air scoop lay-up early in the game, but showed nothing else. Dominic McGuire failed to impress, as well. D-Mac was forced to guard a lot bigger forwards, so he did well just to survive.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up a topic that’s been on the minds of a lot of Cats fans – rebuilding. It seems like the savvy thing to say is that a small-market team needs to follow the “build through the draft” model to succeed. If the San Antonio Spurs are the the prototype of this model, it should be noted that they are an anomaly. David Robinson and Tim Duncan don’t come around too often, and the Spurs struck gold twice. When folks (and fellow Baseliners) preach the “rebuild through the draft” method, we need to realize that a team like the Sacramento Kings are the most likely outcome of this plan. I hear that the Kings were really good about a decade a go. What’s been going on out there since?  Hmmm?

Bonus Link : Recap By Sactown Royalty

-Mike