The Emergence of Gerald Henderson

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Gerald Henderson (Photo Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

One of the primary knocks against the Charlotte Bobcats has been the lack of young talent on the roster.  The Bobcats draft history is littered with busts that will not be rehashed again here.  The lack of success in the draft has forced the Cats to rely on trading for players with considerable baggage (Stephen Jackson, Tyrus Thomas) and signing third tier free agents (Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire).

But since the coaching change from Larry Brown to Paul Silas, Charlotte’s recent drafts are looking a little better.  The improvement of DJ Augustin immediately after the arrival of Silas was well noted (though DJ has slumped recently as opponents have adjusted and he’s dealt with a wrist injury). But an even newer development has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson, the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.

Buried Under Larry Brown

Henderson played little his rookie year and showed little when he did.  But if you looked hard enough, you could see some strengths: driving/slashing/finishing and defense, both on-ball on the perimeter and help from the weakside.

This season, Henderson was on a roller coaster for the 28 games that Larry Brown coached — he played regularly to start the season, but then found himself in Brown’s doghouse and didn’t get off the bench for 14 straight games from mid-November to mid-December.  Henderson did make his way back into the rotation for a few games during Brown’s last days in December.

Here are Henderson’s per game numbers and shooting percentages for the 14 games he did play in under Brown this season:

  • 11.6 mpg  |   2.6 ppg  |  37.5 fg%  |  58.3 ft%  |  1.5 rpg

Nothing worth writing about, but again there were flashes of his strengths with no team-killing weaknesses to speak of, which made it all the more frustrating that he was in the doghouse instead of on the court getting the “royal jelly”.

Emerging Under Paul Silas

At the All-Star break, Paul Silas has now coached 28 games and has played Gerald Henderson in all 28.  Henderson has been increasingly productive over this time.  Let’s break up those games into three chunks and look at the trends (unfortunately, 28 is not evenly divisible by three, so I’m splitting it into the first 10, second 9 and third 9 games).

First 10 games – Henderson immediately sees increased playing time and responds:

  • 21.9 mpg  |   6.6 ppg  |  46.7 fg%  |  66.7 ft%  |  2.9 rpg

Second 9 games — Henderson increasingly becomes a legitimate option on the offensive end.  He goes from averaging 6 shots per game to just under 8 and maintains his field goal percentage.

  • 21.8 mpg  |   8.2 ppg  |  44.2 fg% |  73.3 ft%  |  3.0 rpg

Last 9 games (which conveniently coincides with February, meaning I didn’t have to tally these numbers myself, thanks to Basketball-Reference.com’s monthly splits) — the whole reason for this article.

  • 23.4 mpg  |  11.4 ppg  |  51.5 fg%  |  78.0 ft%  | 4.1 rpg

In the 9 games thus far in February, Gerald Henderson has increased his shooting to 51.5% from the field and 78.0% from the free throw line.  He’s  averaging 11.4 points per game, which projects to 17.5 points per 36 minutes.  With DJ Augustin slumping, Stephen Jackson frequently more engaged with the refs than with the opponent, and Boris Diaw fading in and out of relevance as he is wont to do, there have been nights when it’s felt like Henderson’s been the second best offensive option.

Scouting Gerald Henderson

Henderson’s offensive game is limited, but fairly polished, and certainly evolving.  His two greatest strengths are his mid-range jumper and his driving/slashing ability.  He readily hits the mid-range jumper curling off of down screens, but also strokes it nicely off the dribble moving to his right. Here are some great examples from the January 20th win over the 76ers that Henderson played a huge role in:

Henderson is also blessed with a quick first step to his right (ask Kobe Bryant, who was victimized a couple times in the Bobcats recent win over the Lakers) and above-average leaping ability and strength once he gets to the rim.  He gets a fair amount of dunks and layups and trips to the free throw line.  Here’s an example (stick around for the Gerald Wallace alley-oop, too):

Henderson lacks range out the the three-point line, and doesn’t have much of an iso/one-on-one/post-up game — these are both areas that can be developed.  His ballhandling is OK for a 2-guard, but it’s not good enough that you’ll ever see him slide over to the point like some 2s can.

Defensively, Henderson is very good.  He’s quick with his feet and strong, making him an solid on-ball perimeter defender.  Here’s a great example from the January 18th win over the Bulls.  Watch the whole highlight package and note how many times Derrick Rose abuses DJ Augustin. With the Bulls down one with a chance to win at the end, Silas inserts Henderson in the game specifically to check Rose.  Watch Henderson hound Rose on the last play, forcing him out into taking a fading, off-balance, 22-footer that he misses.  Aren’t many people can do this to Derrick Rose:

And if you do get a half-step around Henderson, please remember the aforementioned leaping ability:

82games.com only has their advanced stats updated through the January 19th games this year, but even without the last month in the sample, Henderson’s defense shines through.  With Henderson on the court, Bobcats opponents average 102.4 points per 100 possessions — with Henderson OFF the court, opponents average 108.1 points per 100 possessions.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but compare it to Stephen Jackson, starting and playing ahead of Henderson.  With Jack on the court, Bobcats opponents average 109.4 points per 100 possessions; with Jack OFF the court they average 100.0 points per 100 possessions.  Wrong direction for Jack. This particular statistic deserves more attention as the season goes on and the numbers are updated.

So, What Does This Mean?

As I’ve said many times in this space before, nothing is more important to a small-market/low-revenue franchise’s overall success than drafting well. Big market teams in desirable locations can afford to botch drafts, then save themselves with A-list free agent signings and forced trades (see: Miami Heat, New York Knicks, etc.).  But when a team like the Bobcats has a productive player on a rookie-scale contract, it’s something of an equalizer.  It gives you a fighting chance.  It also gives you flexibility.

As the trading deadline approaches, the Bobcats (currently one game out of the 8th playoff spot in the East) will undoubtedly be listening to proposals involving Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and possibly even Nazr Mohammed.  Contending teams like Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles will be looking for a veteran piece to put them over the top in their championship drive.

From the Bobcats perspective, you have to look at those guys and ask:  Whose game is declining (especially if their contract is still inclining)?  Who’s not fitting in, either from an Xs-and-Os or a chemistry standpoint?  And, who has a backup that’s starting to push them for playing time?

Stephen Jackson is the answer to a lot of those questions (so is Boris Diaw, but that’s for another day).

Now in fairness, Jackson’s offense isn’t overtly declining, and it’s still vital for the Bobcats from and Xs-and-Os standpoint.  He’s a volume shooter with range to the three-point line, a good post-up/isolation game and a barely-still-there ability to attack the basket.  He’s also got the swagger to be the go-to guy for a team that otherwise doesn’t have one.

But Jackson’s defense is almost certainly on the decline (if it ever was very good, I’m not sure). Chemistry-wise, his preoccupation with the referees is a huge negative.  There aren’t any stats for this, and credit the rest of the Bobcats for not ever publicly throwing Jackson under the bus, but there’s no way it doesn’t affect the morale/chemistry of this team.

It also hurts from a sheer basketball perspective at times — not just when Jackson is ejected early in games as he has twice this season — but also when he doesn’t get back on defense 2-3 times per game because he’s engaged with a referee about a perceived missed call (which may be partially reflected in those team defensive statistics).  Likewise, that stuff undoubtedly affects how the referees officiate the rest of the team to a (hopefully) limited extent.

And most importantly, Gerald Henderson’s play has improved to the point that he’s no longer just a valid reserve who deserves some time because he was highly drafted — he’s legitimately contributing to this team’s recent strong play and is beginning to push Stephen Jackson for playing time.  To not notice or act on this nascent trend while there may be an opportunity to trade Jackson and the two more years and $20 million left on his contract would be a significant misstep for the Bobcats.

And yes, I fully agree that trading Jackson and his offense might be a nail in the coffin for the Bobcats’ playoff chances this season.  But there are already a few nails in that coffin (Hollinger’s playoff odds gives the Cats only a 28% chance of making it in anyways) and the trade would be more about the future.

Besides, are two home playoff dates in the course of a sweep by Boston or Miami this spring really worth that much anyways?  And if they are, who’s to say that the Bobcats wouldn’t have just as good a shot with some further improvement from Henderson and whatever the trade might bring back?

Henderson’s recent emergence behooves us to consider this.

Notes

  • Strange thing I learned while writing this article: According to Wikipedia, neither this Gerald Henderson, nor his father, Gerald Henderson, Sr. are actually named Gerald.  Both are named Jerome McKinley Henderson.  Weird, right?
  • Funny thing I learned while writing this article: When you type S-t-e-p-h-e-n J-a-c-k into Google, the third thing to be suggested (after “Stephen Jackson” and “Stephen Jackson bobcats”) is: “Stephen Jackson ejected”.  If that doesn’t say it all…
  • I used some great stats websites in the course of writing this: 82games.com, Basketball-Reference.com and HoopData.com are all invaluable resources.

-Dr. E

The Bobcats After (a Little Over) the Halfway Point

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Charlotte Bobcats Mid-Season Status

I can’t believe it’s already past halfway through the NBA season. It just happened so fast!

Before I knew it, my expectations of another playoff season disintegrated to the dust that is hoping for a good lottery pick while remaining competitive and now just hoping that we remain competitive and can develop young talent.

So here we are, sitting on a record of 17-25 with a full, 15-man roster while one of our best players, Tyrus Thomas is injured for about the next two months. Let’s recap what’s happened so far before I talk about where I think we go from here.

The Initial Disappointment

The Bobcats dropped six of their first seven games in painful fashion, with three of those losses decided by four points or less. Contrasting that with the previous season which was noted for the Bobcats’ stifling defense, this team was an utter mess. The defense was all out of sorts, giving up three-pointer after three pointer and having weak a very weak interior despite decent rebounding. And the offense wasn’t much improved either, but what did you expect from former head coach Larry Brown? He has never had the greatest offenses. However, the Bobcats managed to have a mediocre record at the end of November (6-11) by beating some worse teams, including New Jersey, Minnesota, Toronto, Washington and Houston.

Individually, D.J. Augustin shone brightly as he proved his ability on the court in spite of a coach that obviously lamented his presence, significantly improving his scoring and his ball distribution while keeping turnovers minimal. Tyrus Thomas, though chained to the bench with extremely limited minutes, continued to produce and energize the team whenever he was on the court. On the flip side, nearly every other starter struggled. Boris Diaw was a non-factor, Stephen Jackson was decent scoring the ball but turned the rock over way too much and Gerald Wallace just didn’t seem to be his usual “balls-to-the-wall” self anymore, especially on defense. The bench was much improved from last year, but Larry Brown as is his nature, refused to play the young guys much, if at all. Plus, Gerald Henderson got hurt, so that didn’t help either.

In short, it was the most frustrating first couple of months I’ve ever experienced as  Bobcats fan.

Rock Bottom

Fans were beginning to get fed up with the under-performing team and the inability to turn the team around, even with baby steps. The team was inconsistent, going from high points like beating the Denver Nuggets to low points like losing to the Philadelphia 76ers by 18 points. The Bobcats lost to the Celtics by 29 a week or two later but I wasn’t as upset about that considering they’ve had our number since 2009. But then the poo hit the fan. The Bobcats lost by 33 to the Memphis Grizzlies and later to the Washington Wizards by 33, who were without John Wall and Gilbert Arenas and hadn’t received Rashard Lewis in their trade with Orlando. Then the Bobcats lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 18 heading into a long break over the holidays. Aaaannnnd Gerald Wallace was injured for an extended period of time. Wonderful.

Larry Brown was exceptionally melancholy in post-game press conferences, sometimes seemingly on the edge of a mental breakdown. Just a day after the Thunder loss, the Bobcats organization announced that the team and Larry Brown had mutually decided that he would resign as head coach. And so ended the Larry Brown era in Charlotte.

Beginning Life Anew

On the same day as Larry Brown’s resignation, the Bobcats announced that Paul Silas would be named the interim head coach. In the following days, the Bobcats announced the assistant coaching staff consisting of Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas and Ralph Lewis. Bobcats fans were re-energized as a past fan-favorite coach (Charlotte Hornets) returned home to hopefully become competitive once again, even if the team was struggling.

The team came out guns ablaze, winning their first two games and scoring more than 100 points – a rarity for the Bobcats under Larry Brown. The fire smoldered as the team lost a close one to Golden State and another loss to the hot-as-Brooklyn Decker Miami Heat. However, they showed heart in fighting with Gerald Wallace out once again. The Bobcats returned from the losses and rattled off a four-game win streak against Minnesota, Washington, Memphis and Chicago. They also played the tough as nails Boston Celtics closer than they had in about two years. The team continued to play tough, recording some hard-fought losses and also some hard-fought wins.

D.J. Augustin flourished as Silas permitted him to play freely as opposed to under Larry Brown. Boris Diaw was less turnover-prone, rebounded better and even recorded his first-ever triple-double as a member of the Bobcats. Kwame Brown was even much better, recording multiple games with 10+ rebounds. Gerald Wallace returned and was even worse than before, as he struggled to finish at the rim and shoot. But even worse than Gerald was Stephen Jackson who is shooting 35% from the field and 22% from the three and yet never taking fewer than 14 field goal attempts. And let’s not even touch on his problems with the referees.

In bad to worse news, Tyrus Thomas got injured with a torn left meniscus which would keep him out for about 2 months.

Where To Go From Here

The Bobcats are in the very curious position of being a bad team currently in control of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Do you go for broke and try to get the squad better in the present at the cost of getting worse in the future for the chance at a playoff run? Or do you admit that rebuilding is necessary and trade the players that have value for young talent, draft picks or cap space? Does Tyrus Thomas’ injury change those odds and thus what decision will be made? (I think so)

From what I think Jordan is like as an owner, I have to believe option one is what he would choose, unfortunately for the fans who hope for consistency in the future. As I mentioned before, the Bobcats have a full 15-man roster. This means we cannot call up any guys from the NBA-DL right now. I seriously doubt that a trade won’t come. Whether that’s Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson, I don’t know – but I think it’s likely that one of them are not on the team by the trade deadline. Nazr Mohammed’s expiring contract could accompany one of their contracts for the Bobcats to get some value in return. Regardless, with Tyrus’ injury and the team’s leaders struggling, I don’t think this team makes the playoffs. I believe they will be inconsistent, possibly getting small win streaks here or there but an ultimate lack of depth and talent across the roster will keep them out of the post-season. They should cut their losses now and try to trade for youth via draft picks or guys from other teams. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Cap space won’t win championships for a small market team.

I’ve made my thoughts clear about what I think the team should do. What do y’all think?

- 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.

Dr. E’s Treatment Plan For The Bobcats

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How (and Why) to Break Up and Rebuild the Team

The firing of Larry Brown and his staff was a step in the right direction for the Bobcats.  Brown put his typical stamp on the Bobcats franchise; which is to say he turned over nearly the entire roster while sending the franchise deeper into salary cap hell, but coached the hell out of the players and pushed them into the playoffs, only to completely lose touch with them soon after that.

Michael Jordan had to let Brown go before the disintegration of the team got any uglier on the court and before Brown talked him into another short-sighted trade off of it.  Pricey veterans, whether they come via trade or free agency, are good short-term fixes for teams that have a superstar/championship core and are making money — not for fledgling small-market teams that barely have a playoff-ready core.

Unfortunately, by the sounds of all the recent rumors, Jordan is apparently considering just such a short-sighted trade.  Even without Larry Brown in his ear, Jordan is ever the gambler, unable to stop himself from doubling down even when he’s only holding 8.

I have a different plan; a smarter plan.  It might be painful, but in the end it’s the best strategy for a small-market team to achieve long-term success and have a chance at a championship.  Let’s start from the beginning and go step-by-step through my plan to break up and rebuild the Charlotte Bobcats.

1) Pick the Right Interim Coach

Alright!  Done and done.  Jordan is already one step ahead of me with the hire of Paul Silas.  The Bobcats don’t get lucky much (ever?) but it works out pretty well that you have a beloved former coach who has semi-retired in your town and has made it known that he’d love to coach the local team again.  Huggy Bear makes a great foil for the departed Larry Brown, and has wasted no time instituting an uptempo offense.

Now I’m sure that Jordan has let Silas know that he still intends to make the playoffs, and Silas would like to prove himself worthy of shedding the interim label, but let’s face it, the pressure is pretty low here.  Mostly, the Bobcats should just be happy that such a nice fit for an interim coach was so available and that they avoided any ugliness with Larry Brown.  The players will get a temporary (maybe sustained?) kick out of playing for someone so different than Larry Brown.  And Paul Silas gets a shot at coaching Charlotte again.  It’s a win-win-win.  And if the team improves on the court, you can add another “win” for us fans.

2) Trade Stephen Jackson for Cap Space/Draft Picks/Young Talent

Here’s where we get get down to business.  The Bobcats are not going deep into the playoffs with a top three of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Many, if not most, fans have accepted this.  The best way to kick off a proper tear-down would be to trade Stephen Jackson for cap space/draft picks/young talent.  Jack is making $8.5 million this season, $9.6 in 2011-12 and $10 in 2012-13.   He’s enough to keep a mediocre team competitive on some nights, but not enough to make us great.  He would be great as the final piece to a team that’s looking to make a serious run at a championship this year or next.

I’m thinking mostly Chicago or New York here.  Chicago runs Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at 2-guard amidst Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  Enough said.  The Bulls don’t have any good expiring contracts, so the Cats would have to take back a couple of young role players to make salaries work.  Most importantly, the Cats would look to get back the future first round pick that we sent to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas.

As for New York, suppose the Nets really are able to secure Carmelo’s services.  The Knicks would have to move on from their fantasy; wouldn’t adding Stephen Jackson to Felton, Stoudemire and Gallinari in D’Antoni’s offense be a nice reality for them?  The Knicks could offer Eddy Curry’s huge expiring deal; if the Cats threw in another salary maybe we could have a look at the enigmatic Anthony Randolph?  Or better yet, Wilson Chandler?

And I’m sure there are some Western Conference teams that might work, too.  Or maybe it’s Boris Diaw who goes out?  Just not Gerald Wallace if it can be helped — that might even test my limits as a fan.  Whatever the case, the idea is that the current core isn’t going to get it done and we need to get cheaper and collect young talent and/or draft picks in exchange for them.

3) Play the Young Guys

This is the easiest, most no-brainer part of the plan.  No doubt, the psyches of DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown must be traumatized by their time with Larry Brown; but they’ve also learned a lot.  And there is talent there.  Paul Silas is the perfect coach to loosen the reigns and instill confidence in this crew.

I would try to limit Gerald Wallace’s minutes to around 30-35 per game to preserve him and to give Brown and Thomas a little extra run.

Hopefully everyone emerges as a better player for the long haul; on the other hand, if someone flames out, at least you know.

4) Be Prepared to Miss the Playoffs This Year… and Next

And here’s the real problem.  Jordan is in a tough spot here; you have to believe that at some level he knows that it’s time to blow it up and rebuild the right way.  But he doesn’t have the stomach for losing, even temporarily if it’s in the service of a bigger goal.  And he can rationalize what is really his inability to stomach losing by saying that the Bobcats’ cache with the fans in Charlotte is so tenuous that they couldn’t stomach losing either.  That they’d just turn away for good if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again this year.  So he needs to keep finding expensive band-aids; but for what?  First round playoff blowouts?

Bull.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be painful to watch a rebuilding team for a couple of years — the Bobcats would probably fall back to the 25-30 win per season range for this season and the next.  And it would hurt Jordan financially, I’m sure.  But I would argue that it would be more painful to watch a patched-up, veteran core muddle through a couple more 35-40 win seasons — and that the financial reward Jordan would reap from building an upper echelon team in the long run would more than offset a couple of lean years.

5) Draft the Right Guys

And here’s the lynchpin of my thesis — the most important part is also the most difficult.  In my plan, the Bobcats would have lottery picks, potentially high ones, in the next two drafts (even if we didn’t get the Tyrus Thomas one back from the Bulls, it is lottery protected in 2012).  The Bobcats would need to find a superstar — or at least a new blue-chip core — in those drafts.

I know you’re all laughing, and rightfully so as visions of Adam Morrison and Sean May dance in your heads.  But eventually, sheer luck dictates that Jordan will make the right call one of these days, right?  Doesn’t it?  And even if he doesn’t get so lucky as to have a superstar fall into his lap, he must have learned something about scouting/evaluating players over the past few years that will help him to make better picks, right?  Even if the lesson is as simple as: “I shouldn’t be a part of this — lemme hire some better scouts.”

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe the Bobcats are doomed to be poor drafters forever and ever.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the draft is how small-market teams become contenders.  Whether it’s San Antonio with Tim Duncan, Orlando with Dwight Howard, Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past with Lebron, a small-market team has to get a game-changing player near the top at the draft to become a contender.  That guy’s presence then allows you to utilize trades and free agency to shape the team around him.

Only LA (Lakers, that is), Chicago, Boston, New York, Miami, Phoenix, and possibly Dallas and Houston could realistically hope to construct the core of a contending team without the benefit of a great draft pick.  And despite that, most of those teams do indeed count a player they drafted among the core of their team (Rose & Noah for Chicago, Pierce for Boston, Wade for Miami).

So it’s time for Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins to abandon their plan of building through trades.  If they were aware of and taking advantage of some sort of market inefficiency, we’d have seen better results.  Instead, the Bobcats need to get back into the lottery to get back into the playoffs.

6) Hire the Right Long-term Coach

To boot, here’s one more thing Jordan has struggled with as an executive: hiring coaches.  As noted above, Paul Silas as a placeholder is fine; and the Larry Brown hire is/was defendable.  But going back to Sam Vincent, and further back to Leonard Hamilton, Jordan has struggled to evaluate coaching potential as much as he’s struggled to evaluate player potential.

Again, we have to hope that he’s learned something from his mistakes.  The rumor mill has suggested that Jordan contemporaries/current NBA assistants Patrick Ewing and Tyrone Corbin are in line for a shot at a head coaching job.  And Nate McMillan might be divorced from Portland by the time the Bobcats would be looking.  Would Phil Jackson recommend any of his assistants to Jordan?

Anyways, if the Bobcats followed a comparable blueprint and got to the point where hiring the right coach seemed like a crucial piece to the puzzle, I’d be overjoyed.  As it stands, we’re a long way off.

Unless the Bobcats come out like gangbusters for Paul Silas (and he does have a favorable slate with home games against Detroit, Cleveland and Golden State this week) I think you’ll see Jordan pull the trigger on a big trade soon.  What the Bobcats get back (a pricey veteran versus expiring contracts/draft picks/young talent) will tell you whether he’s sticking to the same M.O. — or moving on to a proper rebuilding plan as I’m suggesting.

-Dr. E

The LBs Were Just Too Much – a Reflection on Larry Brown’s Work in Charlotte

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"I wonder if I can get a coach's discount on beer during this game." (AP Photo)

Being able to admit when you’re wrong is a difficult thing to do, especially when your genes conspire to make you stubborn, like mine do. I was a complete proponent of Larry Brown the past couple years – and that’s putting it very lightly. In retrospect, I think I put a twist on many of the Bobcats’ moves to give Larry Brown the benefit of the doubt. And now, I’m reaping what I sowed. The team is floundering with a future that will take franchise-altering moves to improve. Luckily, the Bobcats took a Roald Dahl BFG-sized step in the right direction by coming to a mutual decision with Larry Brown for the high profile coach to step down from his position (read: canned). I had been calling for this for a few weeks and now that it’s here, I’m left with some very mixed feelings that in the end make me feel like a complete fool.

The Bobcats had been stewing in mediocrity for years before Larry Brown but it seemed they were building each year until Sam Vincent pooped the bed. While outclassed in talent on nearly a nightly basis, the team consistently put forth their best effort while a city conceitedly ignored them.

It would take a huge splash to divert attention from Charlotte’s darling NFL franchise, the Panthers.

Then the Bobcats’ Managing Member of Basketball Operations and minority owner, Michael Jordan, would use his Carolina connections to make such a Louie Anderson-sized cannonball by signing the only coach to win an NBA Championship and an NCAA Championship, Larry Brown.

Without a doubt, it was the best hiring in the Bobcats’ short history. And many wondered how he would change this team that was not built for his style of basketball. It didn’t take long as the Bobcats drafted D.J. Augustin (at the behest of Brown) and traded a future first round pick for the draft pick that would become Alexis Ajinca. Then they traded Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and the Bobcats’ second round pick in 2010 for Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Sean Singletary. While I maintain that that trade is essentially a push, considering J. Rich’s defensive liabilities, the following trade relinquishing Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins for DeSagana Diop was an utter mistake, inadequately trying to fill a glaring need at the center with a bloated contract. They also rid themselves of Adam Morrison via a trade with the Lakers that gave up the mustachioed marauder and Shannon Brown for Vladimir Radmanovic.

And yet, Larry Brown pushed that 2008-2009 Bobcats team to a playoff push that would ultimately come up short, playing (and losing) six of their final eight games on the road due to Bob Johnson’s equestrian garbage (no offense equestrian readers!). The team was playing “The Right Way,” which consisted of strong defense and an offensive strategy of forgoing mid to long range jump shots in favor of slashing to rim for higher percentage shots and getting to the line for free throws.

Going into the next season, the Bobcats were looking to build on their near-miss off the playoffs from the previous season. They drafted Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown and then traded the Bobcats first-ever draft pick, Emeka Okafor to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler.

Entering the 2009-2010 season, the Bobcats stumbled out of the gate like a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson kids movie on opening weekend. Raja Bell suffered what would ultimately be a season-ending injury and the Bobcats were 3-7 with wins over a terrible Knicks team, the god-awful Nets and (somehow) the Hawks. Seeing a need for change, the Bobcats decided to trade Vladimir Radmanovic and Raja Bell for Stephen Jackson and Acie Law IV. The move would pay off in dividends as Stephen Jackson would help lead the Bobcats to their first playoff appearance. With Larry Brown’s defensive mind, he would also help form a dangerous defensive backcourt with Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton as the three would all finish in the top fifteen in steals that season. And before the trade deadline, the Bobcats completed two trades: 1) Acie Law IV, Flip Murray and a future first round pick for Tyrus Thomas; and 2) a future conditional second round pick for Theo Ratliff.

During that season especially, I was essentially a Larry Brown sycophant. As a small Jewish kid who loves basketball and particularly is fervent about the defensive side of the game, I was big on Larry Brown. He had helped make my favorite Bobcat an all-star and he had brought the Bobcats to the forefront of Charlotte’s mind after a disappointing Panthers season. He didn’t dance around questions or mince words like Panthers coach John Fox. Some of Charlotte’s skyscraper’s lit up orange at night for the playoffs. It seemed he was making Charlotte basketball-crazy once again, for which I have been waiting for years. I even made the below sign, choosing to ignore that I knew at least one of these players would be gone the following season.

OUR TOWN OUR TEAM

I think I'm most proud of the Boris Diaw in this poster. I really captured his essence.

But I was ignorant. And when I wasn’t ignorant, I was shrugging off the obviously horrible decisions.

Let’s discuss where the LB era went wrong.

Drafting D.J. Augustin – Don’t get me wrong, drafting Augustin wasn’t the problem, although drafting Brook Lopez would have been a much better decision. The problem is that Larry Brown made this draft pick and then in the years that followed, eroded the point guard’s confidence by holding Augustin back in his sophomore slump season.

Trading for the Pick and Then Drafting Alexis Ajinca – If you’re trying to win now and get to the playoffs ASAP, why would you trade for a pick to be used on Alexis Ajinca, a project if there ever was one? The guy was unheard of and raw. DeAndre Jordan would have been a much better pick. And we gave up a future first round pick for him. What became of Alexis Ajinca? We traded him for zilch. To sum up this move, the Bobcats traded the #16 overall pick in the 2010 draft for nothing in return. EVERYONE, FACEPALM NOW.

Trading For DeSagana Diop – This was just bad all around. The Bobcats sinned first by re-signing Matt Carroll in 2007 to a mind-boggling 6 year, $27 million deal. Then they remembered they had a huge defensive problem in the frontcourt so they decided to take on more salary by trading Carroll and Ryan Hollins for the Big Diopper. But don’t worry everyone, we got Matt Carroll back later, basically free of charge!

Trading Okafor – This trade could be a push but we got essentially nothing in return for Okafor. He was and still is one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, though a smidge undersized. The Bobcats traded him for Tyson Chandler. This wouldn’t have been bad if Chandler could have stayed healthy. However, he couldn’t and struggled with problems throughout the season, usually coming off the bench and often contributing more fouls than rebounds.

Refusing to Develop Young Talent – I hoped Larry Brown would change. I knew that he had the reputation of not playing his young players, but in his first year, he gave D.J. Augustin a good amount of playing time. Maybe he would abandon that trait while coaching the Bobcats? Alas, it was to no avail. The following year, Brown played Augustin sparingly and didn’t play Henderson much at all, opting for the world-beater, Stephen Graham. But even that was somewhat understandable – Graham had some defensive fire and played the Larry Brown slasher offense, although he was mistake-prone and had a very low ceiling. Mild frustration became mild anger for me the next year when developing rim-rocker Derrick Brown was not given much of any time off the bench, choosing to play little-known forward Dominic McGuire much more minutes. This move was not anticipated by anyone (outside of Larry Brown). A slightly above-average rebounder and defender with an anemic offense, McGuire was scraping his ceiling in the present while Derrick Brown was stuck on the bench. For those who don’t know, Derrick Brown is a high-flying forward that can get to the rim at will with some decent defense and a mediocre jump shot. It is important to note that while Derrick may never be an all-star, he has the potential to be a starter in the NBA within a few years – IF he is given time on the court to develop his game against the rest of the NBA.

So, combined with Larry Brown handicapping the Bobcats future by refusing to give the young players playing time to develop their game and eroding their confidence, Larry Brown’s coaching/GM style put the ball & chain on the organization by making cost-increasing moves that kills cap space and by trading away first round picks.

That said, he brought the Bobcats their first playoffs, which I’ll remember forever. Larry, thanks for the good times and hopefully in the future, I’ll forget the bad times. But I don’t count on that being any time soon.

- Cardboard Gerald

Breaking News: Larry Brown Steps Down

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AP/Bob Leverone

Just prior to 4:00 PM ET, the Charlotte Bobcats announced that Larry Brown has stepped down as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.  Here are some initial links:

Official Press Release |  Letter to the fans

Sam Amick of AOL is reporting that the entire coaching staff has been let go.  Amick goes on to report that the new coach will be in place tomorrow.

This is a bit of a surprise.  I honestly thought that if Brown left, assistant coach Dave Hanners would get a chance as an interim coach.  I have no idea who will be stepping in.  Keep an eye out on this post and our Twitter feeds (Dr. E, ASChin, Cardboard Gerald) for updates and further discussion.

-Dr. E

UPDATE 5:00 PM: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com are reporting that former Hornets and Cavs coach (and current Charlotte resident) Paul Silas is the leading candidate to take over as coach of the Bobcats.  Former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, current Magic assistant/former Jordan rival Patrick Ewing, and current Pistons assistant Darrell Walker are also under consideration.

-Dr. E

Update 7:00 PM: And it’s official.  The Bobcats have named Paul Silas interim head coach.  Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Charles Oakley is likely to be added as an assistant coach.  Silas will be meeting with the media tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET and will have more details about the rest of his staff at that time.

Official Press Release re: Silas

-Dr. E

Bobcats Embarrassed By Wizards, Larry Brown Admits Fault

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AP Photo/Nick Was

Recap | Box Score

The Washington Wizards absolutely crushed our Bobcats Monday night, winning 108-75. The Cats were just outclassed all around, especially our starting five. The most surprising thing? We were only down by five at the half. The second half was Wizards 58, Bobcats 30. WE LOST BY 33 TO THE WIZARDS WITHOUT JOHN WALL. Now, everyone please follow these instructions: 1) Hold out your palm 2) Bring your palm up with velocity 3) Palm your forehead.

Seriously. Perhaps the best descriptive word here is “eviscerated.” If you combine the scores of the first and third quarters, which are played by mostly the starters, the score is 63-36. Let’s see, what else before I go into the Yays and Nays? Oh yeah! Nazr Mohammed, who may be the most level-headed player on the team, was ejected after getting a pair of technical fouls when he was called for a questionable offensive foul. What else, hm… How about our TWENTY-NINE TURNOVERS. That’s the most turnovers in a game since November of 2006. Let’s give our team a hand!

Ugh.

Yays

  • Bench – Don’t get too excited by this. They weren’t superb; they were just much better than the starters. I was also just extremely pleased our young players got extended playing time – I was just ashamed it had to come as a result of this game. Tyrus Thomas was excellent by usual, scoring 10 points on 5-7 shooting and 4 rebounds. Kwame Brown embraced a crowd that lived to boo him and got to the line often, somehow making eight of eleven free throws and adding a bucket for good measure to total his points at ten with 5 rebounds. Derrick Brown played well to boot, adding 9 points on 3-4 FGs and 3-4 FTs with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 rebound. Gerald Henderson looked like he was still shaking off some rust in his 15 minutes on the court. Even DeSagana played moderately well with two points, two rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block.
  • Nope. Nothing else.

Nays

  • Our starters – They were awful. Dominic McGuire followed up his 17 rebound performance from the last game with zero points, 6 rebounds and one block, though I do credit him with controlling his itchy trigger finger by taking only two shots. Nazr Mohammed played fine but only tallied 10 minutes before getting tossed. D.J. Augustin struggled (more on that in a second). Stephen Jackson showed no heart in dropping 13 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Oh and he had 6 turnovers. Jax now has the fourth most turnovers for shooting guards. Boris Diaw was merely adequate with 9 points on 4-11 shooting and a free throw. He added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 turnovers.
  • D.J. Augustin – If this wasn’t a setback in the D.J. Augustin for future Bobcats starting PG, I don’t know what was. On offense, he passed lazily and had tons of trouble with his shot. He made one shot in the fourth quarter and didn’t make another until 2:56 left in the 4th quarter. He added unnecessary fouls in transition defense to help the Wizards get the and-one. And to add insult to injury, Kirk Hinrich destroyed D.J.’s defense. Augustin had trouble fighting through screens and just generally staying with Hinrich. Livingston did a much better job on Hinrich, forcing Kirk to foul and retreat to the bench. Liv’s defense also added through the usual factors: disrupting passing lanes and helping defend jump shots.
  • Turnovers – 29. The Wizards scored 32 points off of those turnovers. Conversely, the Wizards had 14 turnovers, off which we scored 16 points.
  • Fast break – The Bobcats had 6 fast break points to the Wizards’ 26.

Before this game, I was thinking about buying tickets to the Thunder game tonight. I no longer want to do so. It’s not that I can’t stand to watch a blowout. I’ve sat through huge drubbings, including a 35-point loss to the Pacers in the 08-09 season. The problem I have with this team is that I’m not seeing any heart from our starters. I’m seeing it from the bench players, but when the coach can’t or won’t recognize that there are guys on the bench that are more talented and with more heart than the guys who get the start, it’s more often than not a moot point.

Yes, the Bobcats were missing Gerald Wallace, but I don’t see that making that big of an impact. Even if Gerald had started, the defense was a team failing and Dominic McGuire’s playing time would have just preempted Derrick Brown’s or Tyrus Thomas’ minutes who were some of our most productive players in this game.

Also, if you have a sports-centric masochistic streak like I do, you stuck around through the whole game and then stayed to watch the Larry Brown post-game presser.  In case you missed it, I transcribed it:

LB: The worst part? You know, we’re just not a team. We’re not well-coached. We don’t play hard. You know, that’s my responsibility. And I feel bad, you know, to put a team out there like that and to look that way. That’s totally my responsibility.

Reporter: How do you explain that third quarter and – [cut off by LB]

LB: The first half, the first quarter – the first quarter was the game. They scored like, what, the first ten times down the court? That was the game. Then we started the second half with the same group. You know the bench got us back in the game. So we were down 5 – it was a miracle down 5 at halftime – and then same again. And that’s a coach’s responsibility. To look like that, I feel bad for the young kids cuz it looked totally disorganized. You know, Flip’s team executed, shared the ball, played hard. That’s what teams are supposed to do, not the way we do. And that’s totally on me. It looked like it was the first day of practice and maybe it was a pickup team playing against an NBA team.

It’s a nice gesture, I guess. It felt sincere. But we have known that for weeks. As Dr. E noted on Twitter, “What kind of loss or losing streak will it take for Bobcats front office to realize that the team has quit on Larry Brown?” That sums it up perfectly.

I’m just waiting for better days. It won’t be soon, unfortunately. I just hope to not lose sleep over this. After all, I have no control over the Bobcats’ personnel decisions.

Cardboard Gerald

Follow me (@CardboardGerald), ASChin (@BobcatsBaseline) and Dr. E (@BaselineDrE) on Twitter!

Bobcats Fall to Hawks as Losses Pile Up

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AP Photo/John Bazemore

Without an injured Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats fell to the Atlanta Hawks 90-85 on Friday night at Phillips Arena.  Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams led a balanced Hawks attack with 16 points each.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  GameFlow |  Highlights

The Bobcats never led, but were able to stay within spitting distance.  They closed to within 3 points with under two minutes left on two Stephen Jackson free throws.  But a Hawks 20 second timeout, followed by a Williams layup off a Horford assist, then a Stephen Jackson missed three-point attempt would effectively end the game as the Cats fell to 3-11 on the road and 9-17 overall.

Observations

  • Stephen Jackson suffered an right elbow injury in the first half.  It’s unclear exactly how/when it happened, but he was in enough pain to get x-rays at the half, then suggest after the game that he shouldn’t have played in the second half after the x-rays proved negative. Obviously, the injury will be re-evaluated over the weekend.
  • Boris Diaw led the Cats with 22 points (10-15 FG), 7 rebounds and 3 steals.  DJ Augustin also had 22, but it was off of 9-19 FG, which includes 1-7 3PT.  Ouch.  Dominic McGuire played 40 minutes, grabbing 17 rebounds but shooting 3-12 from the floor.
  • The Bobcats have now lost seven in a row to the Hawks at Phillips arena.
  • In just the latest red flag about this team, several of their postgame comments were positively rosy after shooting 38% and never leading. Coach Larry Brown and Stephen Jackson were encouraged by/satisfied with the effort, particularly on the defensive end, while Nazr Mohammed felt like the Cats were starting to develop an identity, and that he could at least sleep after this game (relative to the recent blowout in Memphis).
  • Next game is Tuesday night in Charlotte versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Tipoff is 7 PM ET.  It’s unclear as to whether Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson will be available.

-Dr. E