Max Players Vs. Max Contracts

Standard

Where Have All the Superstars Gone?

James Harden, a 23 year old wing player with zero All-Star appearances, who was the third best player on his team last season, fought for and will receive the NBA’s maximum salary. And he deserves it. Here’s why:
The league’s current CBA contains a structural curiousity at the top; one that brings to mind European-style social policy more so than “Gots ta get mine” good-ol’-American capitalism: The five to ten best basketball players on planet earth are capped at how much they can earn.

Cut to Fox News: “That’s why they call it a ‘collective’ bargaining agreement! I wanna see Hasheem Thabeet’s birth certificate!”

In a world without maximum contracts, Lebron James would earn more than half his team’s payroll. Same goes for CP3, D12, D-Rose, Durant or any other transcendental, once in a generation talent. Not so under the current CBA, where a max player like Rose commands an average of $18 million a season, around one quarter of his team’s pre-tax payroll.
This is why “true max” superstars are the absolute best value in the NBA. They’re playing far below what they’re worth. Second best market value? Rookie scale contracts. Which is why any GM worth their salt is actively trying to build the bulk of his roster around 1-3 true max/superstar players and a bunch of rookies (sound familiar? *cough* OKC *cough*)
The problem is that at any given time, the league only has eight to ten guys who are bonafide supes.

Let’s do some simple math:

  • 30 NBA Teams x $56 million (salary cap) = $1.68 billion in available salaries.
  • 10 Superstars (generous) x $18 million (average max salary) = $180 million.

This leaves a whopping $1.5 BILLION to pay out to Non-Superstars and that’s before we add any cap exceptions or tax penalties.
The money has to go somewhere, right?

Cue Jim Ross voice: “OHMYGAWD, that’s Joe Johnson’s music!!!”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why guys like James Harden, Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez get offered max deals. At least 20 of the league’s 30 franchises will not have access to a true max superstar but are still obligated to field a competitive team while hitting the league mandated salary floor. Under these circumstances, it is without doubt that Harden is a max guy. Whether or not he is a superstar is a mutually exclusive argument.
-ASChin

Bobcats’ Rally Attempt Ended by Heat, Themselves

Standard

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.

LeBron, Wade Overpower Bobcats

Standard

The Miami Heat’s duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were way more than the shorthanded Charlotte Bobcats could handle on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Heat posted a 96-82 victory behind 38 from LeBron and 31 from Wade.

AP Recap |  Box Score

To recap the Bobcats injury report, Gerald Wallace re-aggravated his left ankle injury at practice at Sunday and will miss a couple games.  Gana Diop is done for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State on Friday.  And Nazr Mohammed had to sit out tonight’s game after developing soreness in his right knee after a collision in the Golden State game.

So despite having to start Kwame Brown and Gerald Henderson, the Bobcats came out aggressive and played a superb first quarter.  Henderson and Stephen Jackson were hitting early while Heat looked to be going through the motions.  Problem is, a superb first quarter for the Bobcats is 28 points; going through the motions for a quarter for the Heat is still worth 23 points.

Towards the end of the second quarter the Heat grabbed control and took a 47-43 lead into halftime.  The Bobcats looked flat coming out in the third quarter — and then LeBron went off.  Wade had done much of the damage for the Heat in the first half, but LeBron just owned the third quarter.

With Stephen Jackson trying to guard him, and the crowd electric with a mix of spite and growing awe, LeBron handed out 2 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, and tallied 17 points (on 6-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, and 4-4 FT).  Lebron personally outscored the Bobcats for the quarter (17-16) and pushed the Heat lead out to 78-59 heading into the fourth.

The Bobcats made a small run to start the fourth, cutting the Heat lead briefly to 80-69, but LeBron ended that with his next two plays.  First, he hit a crazy 37-foot three with the shot clock winding down — pretty much with his normal shooting form.  Next trip down the court he intercepted a Bobcat pass and went in for his patented breakaway reverse jam (see above photo).  That pretty much did it.

Despite the 14 point loss, this was easily the most fun Bobcats game I’ve been to this year.  Without Gerald Wallace, and down to Kwame Brown as their only true big, the Cats didn’t have much of a chance.  But they came out and threw some big punches early in the game, landing enough to force LeBron and Wade to take them seriously.  The close-to-sellout crowd was vociferously anti-Lebron/Wade.

And as little as I think of LeBron’s decision to join forces with Wade, I have to hand it to them for accepting their villain status.  Now other LeBron’s pregame chalk toss, neither he nor Wade will ever do anything overtly dastardly on the court — anything too gratuitous and you can’t sell sneakers, see — but they might as well.  Everything about their body language and play, even down to their running trash talk with courtside fans tonight, reminds me of professional wrestling’s “cool heels” — like The Rock or Ric Flair (who was conveniently courtside tonight, by the way).

The more lathered up the crowd gets, the better they perform.  And they perform so damn well that the boos eventually have to give way to “did you see that” gasps and begrudging respect for their talent.  It’s the perfect angle for them; I’m glad they’re playing the part.  They put on a good show tonight and I’m already looking forward to the rematch next month.

As for the Bobcats, I know I’m beating a horse I already killed here, but with Gerald Wallace having re-aggravated his bad ankle and the frontcourt so thin, this would be a perfect time to dismantle and start to rebuild.  Announce that Gerald Wallace needs 4-6 weeks to let that bone bruise heal — that takes him through the All-Star break.  Meanwhile, find a taker for Stephen Jackson (getting back cap relief and draft picks) and let Silas do his thing with the rest of the roster.  If only…

Extra Notes

  • After that cool highlight “spin out of the doubleteam back toward the basket” dunk in the second quarter, Tyrus Thomas was pretty brutal the rest of the way — 4-14 FG.  I know he’s been hurt, but still surprised he hasn’t looked better since Silas took over.
  • Shaun Livingston had the highlight of his season — maybe his career — with a huge driving dunk in the second half that inexplicably isn’t in the ESPN.com or NBA.com highlight reel.  Too bad it was lost in the midst of LeBron’s huge second half.
  • Must read from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on the dilemma that small-market (low-revenue) teams face, using Danny Granger and the Pacers as the protagonists.
  • Nice puff piece on Boris Diaw from the Observer.
  • On the other hand, can anyone find the point in this Tom Sorenson column on the Heat game?  I hesitate to criticize because I know I couldn’t write under deadline like the pros do, but still…
  • Next game is Wednesday night in Minnesota, 8 PM ET start.  Likely no Gerald Wallace; unclear if Nazr will be ready either.

-Dr. E

Weekend Links: Chris Paul Madness Edition

Standard

Chris Paul with Black Shoe

Chris Paul trade news/rumors continue to dominate the NBA news-and-blog-o-sphere as we head into the weekend.  But there’s still some other interesting stuff going on, including Gerald Wallace making a push to be included on Team USA’s final roster this summer.  Here’s your required reading for the weekend.

Chris Paul

  • ESPN’s Chris Broussard provides an update on Paul’s wishlist, along with the reality check regarding which teams on the list could actually come up with a decent package to return to New Orleans in a trade.  Broussard does mention that the Bobcats are one of the teams with interest in pursuing Paul — first time I’ve seen a national, mainstream, traditional media member acknowledge the Bobcats being in the mix.
  • Paul will be sitting down with new Hornets coach Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps on Monday to discuss his future with the team.  Peter Finney from The Times-Picayune opines on how Williams and Demps should approach that meeting.
  • Fresh off his run of blistering pieces critical of Lebron’s “Decision”, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski warns that Chris Paul has succumbed to too much influence from Lebron/Worldwide Wes/CAA/LRMR/etc. and needs to check himself before damaging his reputation.
  • NYT’s Howard Beck reports that Paul, perhaps cognizant of the above sentiment, has not yet hired James’ LRMR marketing firm — though my guess is that this is just semantics/a formality.

Stephen Jackson/Home Invasion

  • There are no new developments in the story of the home invasion/armed robbery at Stephen Jackson’s house Wednesday morning, but here’s the link from the Observer if you never got around to reading up on the story.
  • Rick Bonnell did offer a few additional thoughts on the story on his blog.  The whole thing is a shame — just when Jackson’s image was turning the corner after the Bobcats’ success last year, here comes bad news again.  Not suggesting that being targeted like this is in any way his fault, but you have to be concerned when trouble just seems to follow some people.  Also, nice job by ‘the gates’ in his gated community.  Strong work.  Here’s hoping that Jack’s wife is OK and that the bad guys get caught.

Gerald Wallace/Team USA

  • Gerald Wallace is still out in Vegas at the Team USA camp.  When he was initially named to the squad, I thought it was a nice acknowledgement of how far he had come as a player, but didn’t think much of his chances at making the final cut to represent the US at this summer’s FIBA World Championsips in Turkey due to his marginal outside shooting ability.  But with all of the Redeem Teamers begging off, Amare Stoudemire’s crip-eye, and injuries to David Lee and Robin Lopez, it’s starting to look like Gerald has a real shot.  ESPN’s Chris Sheridan feels that Wallace has the inside track to make the squad, owing largely to his size and defensive tenacity.  On the other hand, I asked Ric Bucher about Gerald’s chances on Twitter and he DMed me back “unlikely”.
  • Bobcats.com has a bunch of Gerald/Team USA content here, including video interviews with Coach K.  I have mixed feelings about Gerald making the squad.  First, as mentioned above, I personally feel he’s kind of a long shot due to his mediocre outside shooting — you just have to be able to knock down deep and midrange shots in international ball.  But Wallace’s primary competition in making the cut is probably Andre Igoudala, who isn’t exactly a deadeye shooter himself, so we’ll see.  Second, Gerald has played a ton of minutes over the past few years, and will no doubt be relied upon for big minutes again in 2010-11 for the Cats.  His ‘balls-to-the-wall’ style of play means potential injuries loom around every pick and attempted block anyways, and extended minutes means nagging injuries continue to nag, or even worsen.
  • Team USA sang Happy Birthday to Gerald yesterday as the team prepared for tonight’s intrasquad scrimmage that will be televised live on ESPN2 at 10pm ET.

Shaq

  • Shaq is still a free agent, and has a list of preferred destinations as well.  As the Bobcats now only employ Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop (I’m assuming Dampier is not on the roster opening night) at center, and with last year’s stopgap solution Theo Ratliff off the market, there has been some sentiment around the Bobcats blogosphere that Shaq might be an acceptable short-term pickup.  NYT’s Howard Beck updates us on the ‘dwindling’ market for Shaq, with Atlanta, Dallas and Miami having passed on the Diesel.
  • Shaq reportedly wants a two-year deal for a good bit of money and a chance to compete for a championship.  He may have to settle for one or the other, and Fanhouse’s Tim Povtak is reporting that the Celtics are at the top of O’Neal’s wish list of destinations.  Boston would be nice, if only for the eventual Shaq-Nate Robinson buddy cop comedy that would grow out of it.

-Dr. E

Lazy Sunday Links

Standard

Sitting around waiting for a goal to be scored in the World Cup final on this sweltering Sunday afternoon?  Lucky for you, as is often the case on Sundays, there’s some pretty good reading out there.

LebronWadeBosh

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Brian Windhorst offers a must-read on how the stage was set for these guys to join forces in “South Beach.”  As the Sports Guy has pointed out, there’s way more to this story that will hopefully come out in time, but this is a great start:

Now that the move has been made, the veil of secrecy is being raised to a degree as people are beginning to talk. The Plain Dealer talked to numerous sources to piece together a picture of how James ended up in Miami.  It is still a somewhat fuzzy picture, but here are the broad strokes…

And if you haven’t had a chance to read any of the overwhelmingly negative national reaction to Lebron’s decision, here are two excellent pieces from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Deadspin/New York Magazine’s Will Leitch.

Felton to Knicks

Details of Raymond’s deal with the Knicks are out.  Apparently the deal is for 2 years/$15.8 million.  There is a third year team option for a similar figure which could bring the deal in the neighborhood of $25 million over three years.  Raymond’s decision to pass up the Bobcats’ long term offer last summer is looking worse and worse from his perspective.  Still wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish his career back in Charlotte as a backup down the road.

Here’s Bonnell’s story for the Observer and some more quotes from a South Carolina paper.  You can tell it’s a South Carolina paper because of the headline: “Felton looks forward to bright lights of the Big Apple”.  Good grief.

Orlando Summer League

We’ve given the Bobcats’ mostly positive turn in last week’s Orlando Summer League short shrift here at the Baseline, but it’s not for lack of caring.  Look for a post on the subject in the coming days.  In the meantime, here’s Bonnell from the Observer with some thoughts:

Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown can be trusted with bigger roles next season… It’s dangerous to put too much weight on summer-league performances — you’re supposed to excel against D-Leaguers — but it was obvious Henderson an Brown are figuring out what it takes to be productive on the NBA level.

The national media outlets pay less attention to the Orlando Summer league relative to the bigger and better Las Vegas Summer League; and when they do cover Orlando, the rookies (Philly’s Evan Tuner and New Jersey’s Derrick Favors in this case) get most of the attention.  Despite that, there were several mentions of the Bobcats young vets looking good.

Michael Jordan in Charlotte

Scott Fowler has a nice article in today’s Observer on Michael Jordan’s increased presence in the city of Charlotte and the Bobcats front office since he, you know, bought the team:

In the three months or so since Jordan bought the Charlotte Bobcats from Bob Johnson and became the team’s majority owner, Jordan’s visibility both in the community and in the Bobcats’ offices has increased dramatically.

Jordan has bought a home in uptown Charlotte five minutes from Time Warner Cable Arena and plans to start living there part time in September…

There’s also a slideshow of pictures from the Bobcats Fantasy Camp mentioned in the article.  As I write this, the article is currently the “Most Viewed” on the Observer’s website, and I’ve already been part of an email thread amongst friends discussing it.

Clearly, people care about how engaged Jordan is with the city of Charlotte.  The Bobcats are aware of it; they included questions about “how important” it was to me whether or not Jordan purchased a home here in a survey sent to season ticket holders recently.  Seriously.

Hopefully, people at least see Jordan’s level of engagement with the city an indicator of how engaged he is with the team.  If so, fine.  I suppose it’s a reasonable proxy.

But I guess I’m just a different kind of fan (clearly, I have a blog).  I could care less whether Jordan buys a house in Charlotte, or bowls and eats at the Epicentre.  I don’t need to put on a “Jordan Brand” t-shirt and drool over him at a “fantasy” camp.

I’d be much more happy if the team made sound financial/personnel decisions, stopped whiffing on draft picks, and thus consistently put a competitive basketball team on the court.  They’ve had trouble doing that over the history of the franchise.

2010’s playoff experience was undoubtedly a positive thing, but I’m still dubious of the Cats’ chances for on-court success in the medium-term due to salary cap issues and a lack of elite young talent.

Don’t sell me a bunch of sizzling Air Jordan “value-added” side dishes when the main course needs work.

-Dr. E




Chander Opts Out of Opt Out

Standard

chandler-returningOur (not-so) long, regional nightmare is over.  Tyson Chandler has reportedly decided not to exercise the option in his contract that would have allowed him to forego the last year on his contract and become a free agent tomorrow.  Tyson is due $12.6 million in 2010-11 to finish off the contract he signed years ago with New Orleans.

Caught up in the Summer of 2010 Free Agency Frenzy, Chandler’s camp leaked word to the media a few weeks back that he was considering opting out and testing free agency.  The argument for doing so was likely two-pronged.

1) So many teams have made so much cap space this summer that one or two are likely to whiff on the big name players (coughKnickscough) and then scramble to spend their money on second (or third) tier free agents.  So in effect, yes, Tyson was eyeing Lebron’s sloppy seconds.  Additionally, he may have been hoping the Cats would simply resign him to a new long-term deal, a la what Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are doing this summer.  And…

2) A long term contract negotiated this summer may be better than one negotiated next summer, as the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is due to be renegotiated in time for next summer and will likely limit some of the financial/contractual perks that players currently enjoy.

Chandler opting out would have been a Catch-22 for the Cats.  Basically, it’s tough to lose a starter to free-agency without compensation, especially a starting big man.  Nazr Mohammed and Theo Ratliff played center-by-committee admirably last year when Chandler was out, and we’re all hoping we can get something out of Alexis Ajinca this year, but to lose Tyson outright to free agency would have left us weakened down low.

On a positive note, it would have opened up a chunk of room under the salary cap with which to sign a free agent.  But for what?  The position that the Cats most need to upgrade at is PG, and there aren’t any decent free agent PGs out there.

So it looks like Tyson will be collecting his $12.6 million from the Cats while roaming the paint at the Cable Box next year.

Or will he?

It’s been widely rumored that the Cats are looking to deal this summer.  Makes sense, it’s the only avenue we have to upgrade/remix the roster.  And a decent, reasonably useful, legitimately-sized center on a big expiring contract is just the kind of guy that other teams would likely be willing to trade for.

Chandler for Monta Ellis + a future pick, anyone?

-Dr. E


Bobcats Score Decisive Win Over Cavs (Witness This!)

Standard

Charlotte Bobcats vs Cavaliers 2/20/10

Thomas, Ratliff Impressive in Debuts

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-93 before a sellout crowd at the Cable Box on Friday evening.  AP recap here, box score here.  After losing their initial matchup in the opening days of the season, the Cats have since defeated the Eastern Conference leading Cavaliers three straight times.

The game was tied 50-50 at the half, but the Cats pulled away midway through the third and kept a double digit lead through the fourth quarter.  It was over when a Boris Diaw steal led to a Gerald Wallace fast break dunk to put the Cats up by 17 with just under three minutes left.

The lead storyline in this one has to be the relative performances of each team’s newcomers.  The day before the trading deadline, the Cavs traded for Antawn Jamison in a move that has been lauded around the league.  However, Jamison looked rusty and tentative in his debut for the Cavs, and probably cost them the game.  Jamison seemed passive, yet finished with the second highest FGA for the game with 12.  Furthering the problem, he didn’t hit any of them — yep, 0-12 FG.  Jamison had several shots blocked and had two airballs from three-point range.

Meanwhile, Bobcats newcomers Theo Ratliff and Tyrus Thomas probably couldn’t have asked for better debuts.  With Tyson Chandler (foot/ankle) and Gana Diop (knee) sidelined, Ratliff was pressed into early duty to back up Nazr Mohammed.  He entered the game with about 5 minutes left in the first quarter and within 90 seconds had recorded his first block for the Bobcats (on the aforementioned Jamison).  Ratliff went on to log 18 minutes in the game, mostly spent valiantly guarding Shaq and gathering rebounds.  Ratliff ended with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, no FGA or FTA.  Perfect line for the guy.

Tyrus Thomas entered the game for Ratliff a little later in the first quarter and quickly went about filling up the stat sheet.  He recorded his first block less than fifteen seconds after checking in, and went on to block 5 more.  By the fourth quarter, Thomas’ mere presence in the lane was affecting the Cavs’ decisions in the lane.  Thomas also swallowed up tons of boards, eventually totaling 12 in his 25 minutes of playing time.

If Larry Brown can work the same magic for Tyrus that he’s worked for Gerald Wallace, then we’ll be in great shape.  On second thought, “magic” is a poor choice of words there.  There’s nothing magic about what’s happened to Gerald’s game, or what needs to happen to Ty’s game — it’s just simple maturation, getting smarter about the game, picking your spots, slowing down a bit while maintaining necessary aggression, minimizing your weaknesses and highlighting your strengths.

Beneath his morose surface, you know Larry Brown is quietly pumped about the prospect of teaching Tyrus all that he’s never been taught about basketball.  I imagine the dynamic kind of like Stellan Skarsgaard and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting; only I hope this doesn’t end with Tyrus lighting Larry Brown’s playbook on fire, then going to cry in Phil Jackson’s embrace while the Zen Master repeats “It’s not your fault.”

Witness

A secondary storyline has to be what in the world the Bobcats are doing to Lebron James.  Lebron had a quiet 22 point, 9 assist game; he has averaged 22.5 points in the four games against the Cats this year, well below his 30 ppg average.

The Cats don’t seem to be doing anything too fancy to Lebron.  It helps that Gerald Wallace is the primary individual defender, of course, and that Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw are the guys that most frequently get switched onto him — all of those guys can at least hold their own.  But the key is more in the team defense that the Cats play — the traps in the backcourt, the aggressive help defense, the good rotations out to the jump shooters.

Odds And Ends

  • It’s unfortunate I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the guy who put the ball in the hole all night for the Cats; Stephen Jackson led the offensive charge with 29 points (9-17 FG, 3-7 3PT, 8-10 FT) while also adding 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
  • Boris and DJ both had their best games in some time, looking confident and decisive.
  • The only downside I can see to Ty Thomas being a big part of the Bobcats down the stretch (other than the general combustibility and questionable basketball IQ, or course) is that Gerald’s rebounding numbers are probably going to drop.  Not that they were going to rise back to a league-leading level without him around, but still…
  • Tyson Chandler, we hardly knew ye…
  • Does anyone else think Shaq might be pushing 350 lbs?  And those awful Chinese shoes he’s wearing look like locomotives.
  • I hadn’t realized this until looking at the standings after the game, but due to their recent stumble, the Cats have fallen down to 8th place in the East.  Which means that if the season ended today, we’d face these Cavs in the first round.  Interesting matchup, huh?
  • Not only were the Cats on point all night, but so was the Cable Box’s WiFi.  Got lots of Tweets in — follow me!
  • Quick turnaround, as the Cats have a back-to-back Saturday night in Milwaukee, 8:30 PM ET start.  This one’s important, as the Bucks are the primary threat to jump into the playoff picture in the East.  Currently, they’re only half a game behind the Cats in the standings.  Furthermore, the Cats are 1-1 against the Bucks so far this year, with Saturday’s meeting and a late season tilt still to go.  A victory tomorrow night guarantees we wouldn’t lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with them if it came down to that at the end of the year.

-Dr. E