The Morning After

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Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer (Click to go to an Observer slideshow of Gerald Wallace: The Bobcat Years))

To recap, at yesterday’s trade deadline, the Bobcats:

  • Traded Gerald Wallace to the Trailblazers for Joel Pryzbilla, Sean Marks, Dante Cunningham, New Orleans’ 2011 1st round draft pick and the Trailblazers’ 2013 1st round draft pick.
  • Traded Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder for Morris Peterson and DJ White
  • Waived Derrick Brown, Sherron Collins and Dominic McGuire to make room on the roster.  It is anticipated that Marks and Peterson may eventually be waived as well.

The Wallace trade is admittedly hard to swallow.  It’s difficult to write about him without sounding histrionic.  Forget that he was the last “original Bobcat” from the inaugural season of the franchise or that he had become its “face”.  The face is superficial.  Wallace embodied the franchise.  Underappreciated, grinding away to overcome obstacles, sacrificing to offset shortcomings, eventually achieving a modicum of success and respect, only to reach a plateau that wasn’t high enough, Wallace’s arc mirrored the Bobcats’.

Though I’d been an advocate of rebuilding, I’d harbored a fantasy that that the Cats could keep Wallace around and do more of a “reboot” on the fly by moving Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and/or Mohammed.  Ultimately, it seems as if the market for those guys wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it might be.

And so faced with a bloody bottom line, a capped out roster, and no better than a 50% chance at making the playoffs this year (indeed, statistical models pegged it as more like 25%), Jordan made the difficult but correct decision to initiate a rebuild by trading the most beloved player on the team for the financial relief he needs and the draft picks this team requires for the future.

Pryzbilla’s contract expires after this season, so the Bobcats effectively saved the $21 million that would have been due Gerald Wallace over the following two season.  And most importantly, the Bobcats get two first round draft picks.  Yes, both of these picks will likely be mid-late first round.  Yes, the 2011 draft doesn’t look particularly strong.  Yes, the Hornets pick won’t come around until 2013.  And yes, Jordan’s history with the draft is anything but sterling.

But the object is to build a winner.  Building a winner in the NBA takes stars.  And small-market teams have only one way to get stars — the draft.

After trying the Larry Brown team-building model for a couple of years, it appears that Jordan has come around to the above reality.  It was time, folks.

Notes

  • So the Bobcats will get a look at two young power forwards.  Dante Cunningham is signed to a minimal deal through the rest of the season, while DJ White is on his rookie contract through next year, with a reasonable qualifying offer for the 2012-13 season.  White is the better prospect, having been selected late in the first round in the 2008 draft, but has been saddled with injuries and caught in a numbers game at the 4 spot in Oklahoma City when healthy.
  • Speculation now turns to the coming offseason and whether Stephen Jackson and/or Boris Diaw can/will be traded as the next step in the rebuild.  Frankly, now that Gerald Wallace is gone, I’d just as soon prefer the Cats go ahead and do that.
  • The Bobcats will face Wallace and the Trailblazers next Saturday, March 5th in Portland.  Then the following Friday, March 11th, the Cats will host Wallace and the Trailblazers here in Charlotte.

-Dr. E

POLL : What's your reaction to the Gerald Wallace trade?

  • Anger: Screw MJ, I'm done as a fan of this team! (14%, 23 Votes)
  • Sadness: I can't even talk about it... (16%, 26 Votes)
  • Acceptance: I'm disappointed, but understand. (51%, 83 Votes)
  • Shoulda been Jack. (19%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Bobcats Continue Mastery Of Lakers

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Bob Leverone/AP Photo

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-89 on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Cats have now defeated the Lakers 8 out of the last 10 times the two teams have played.  Gerald Wallace led the Bobcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds; Gerald Henderson added 18 points (6-9 FG, 5-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks off the bench.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The deck was stacked against the Lakers to start: they were finishing up a long road trip AND on the second night of a back-to-back; plus, Kobe was under the weather.  After a bit of a slow start, the Cats took advantage, building a six point lead to take into halftime.

The wheels really fell off for the Lakers late in the third.  With a laboring Kobe on the bench, the Cats went on a 14-3 run, capped by a 15-foot jumper and a short hook shot by Kwame Brown and a three pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Wallace, for a 78-60 lead after three.

The barrage continued with Kobe and the Lakers starters back on the court to start the fourth, this time headed by Gerald Henderson and Nazr Mohammed, who both appeared to be unguardable for the exhausted Lakers.  The Bobcats led by as much as 28 a couple of times before the benches emptied.

Notes

  • After oversleeping and arriving late to shootaround, Boris Diaw was supposedly going to be benched to start the game as discipline.  But Silas apparently changed his mind, as Boris started and played well with 16 points (3-6 3PT).
  • DJ Augustin was supposedly also out after being limited in shootaround with a sprained wrist.  But after pregame warmups he declared himself ready to go and notched 9 assists vs. 0 turnovers.  Still not a complete bounceback from his recent slump, though, as he shot 3-7 FG and 1-4 3PT for just 7 points.
  • This has to be said: even if you took Stephen Jackson’s proclivity for antagonizing the officials and drawing technical fouls out of the equation, Gerald Henderson would still be pushing him for playing time.  Henderson’s been that good recently.
  • With beat writer Rick Bonnell on furlough this week, the rest of the Observer’s sports crew filled in.  Check out good posts by Ron Green on what this win meant for the Bobcats and this post by Scott Fowler on Phil Jackson’s terse postgame comments/Kobe’s no-show.
  • The win moves the Bobcats to 24-31 and 1.5 games back from Indiana for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Quick turnaround as the Bobcats head to Chicago for a back-to-back against the Bulls Tuesday night, 8PM ET start.  The Bulls will be looking to avenge two losses the Cats from earlier this season.

-Dr. E

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

Bobcats Disappoint, Lose to Vengeful Hawks

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Just a rough night. Sigh... (AP Photo)

Recap | Box Score

The Bobcats put up another letdown of a game on Saturday night, losing to the Atlanta Hawks (who were without starters Al Horford and Marvin Williams) 103-87. This came as a very disappointing loss, considering the Hawks had just incurred a 41-point loss the previous night. I expected a much hungrier team to come into the Cable Box, but I thought the Bobcats could gut out a win against the team without their starting center and small forward. I was wrong. The game was back-and-forth for much of the first half, with the Bobcats leading by five going into the break. Then the Bobcats once again encountered their immortal enemy, the third quarter. While the Bobcats scored around the same points as the previous quarters, their defense was thoroughly torn apart as the Hawks ran away to the 16-point win.

On the night, the Bobcats were led by D.J. Augustin who dropped 20 points and 7 dimes with zero turnovers. Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace both put up clunkers, combining for 5-23 shooting from the field, though Gerald Wallace was better because he rebounded and helped keep his man below his scoring average. Defensively, Jackson was destroyed by Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw had problems with über-athletic Josh Smith.

In the first half, the Bobcats were playing very well, shooting the ball at a decent clip (50% FG, 40% 3P) and they out-rebounded Atlanta by a small margin. With a five-point lead and only three turnovers at the half, Charlotte was playing as good basketball as they could with Gerald Wallace struggling and Stephen Jackson ending the half poorly after a nice first quarter. The bench also played well, centering around Shaun Livingston and Nazr Mohammed who combined for 9 points in the second quarter.

From there it went to Hell in a handbasket. The Bobcats got progressively worse in the third, shooting 37% from the field, getting fewer assists and rebounds, and more turnovers than the first two quarters. Stephen Jackson missed all six of his shots and Gerald Wallace was basically just a non-factor. And that was just offensively. On defense, the Hawks got pretty much whatever they wanted, scoring 32 points on 58% from the field and 57% from behind the arc, while grabbing 5 more rebounds, two more assists and without turning the ball over once. Though Augustin was great on offense in the third was rightfully left in for all of the quarter, he had trouble defending MIKE BIBBY, who scored 14 points on the night.

From there it was basically over. The team had no momentum, Jackson was shooting the team in the foot both with his offense and his inability to slow down Joe Johnson (though you have to give J.J. credit – he was basically unconscious the whole game), and the Bobcats just didn’t have the firepower to make a comeback attempt.

Tids & Bits

  • Dammit, give it up for Shaun Livingston. I watched him check into the game to neither deafening cheers nor applause (or anything close to that). The man deserves better. I love having him on the Bobcats and I would rather he never leave. He’s a good influence in the locker room and has great athletic gifts on the court. But if he’s not going to get the respect he deserves, I think I’d rather he leave and go somewhere else. He was exceptional tonight, shooting 4-6 from the field with three rebounds (one offensive), four assists and two steals for 9 points. Plus he had a couple highlights, including some smooth post moves and this put-back dunk.
  • As far as other guys who performed pretty well on the night, there was Gerald Henderson (4-7 FG, 2 REB, 1 AST, 8 PTS), Nazr Mohammed (5-9 FG, 7 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, 1o PTS) and Boris Diaw (5-7 FG, 2-2 FT, 7 REB, 4 AST, 2STL, 1 BLK, 12 PTS). Those are excellent, efficient stat lines right there. Kwame Brown wasn’t bad either, but I expect him to rebound better against the Hawks’ backup center, Zaza Pachulia.
  • Since Paul Silas arrived as the interim head coach, I’ve been waffling on whether I think the Bobcats should blow the team up or not. There have been nights when they just look fantastic but then there are nights when they just look like the doo-doo I just stepped in on my front lawn. I think I’m coming closer to my decision. In my mind, the Bobcats should definitely try to trade Stephen Jackson at all costs. He’s incredibly inefficient on offense, which kills the team since he consistently take about 15 shots per game. As for who to keep, I have three different categories: must keeps – Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Henderson; should keeps – Derrick Brown, Livingston; and like-to-keeps (those who I’d prefer to keep, but ultimately would understand if we traded them, permitting we get value in return) – Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw. It’s a youth movement folks; don’t trade for cap space. Trade for young talent or draft picks, not just expiring contracts. Cap space doesn’t win championships for a small market team, end of story.
  • Next on the schedule is Tuesday’s game at the Sacramento Kings at 10:00 p.m. EST, as the Bobcats begin a six-game road trip (Kings, Suns, Warriors, Clippers, Jazz, Pistons).

(all stats via the ESPN box score and the awesome website, Popcorn Machine)

- 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 Edge Sixers; Thomas Out 8 Weeks

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AP/Chuck Burton

The Bobcats rode a career high 31 points from DJ Augustin and 3 clutch buckets by Gerald Henderson to a 100-97 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night at the Cable Box.  However, news that Tyrus Thomas has suffered a meniscus tear and will be out for 8 weeks certainly casts a pall over the warm glow of victory.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

News filtered out before gametime that Tyrus had woken up from a post-shootaround/pre-game nap with a balky left knee and wouldn’t play.  Then during the game, news broke that an MRI had shown a lateral meniscus tear.  Thomas will presumably have arthroscopic surgery in the coming days; the early estimate is that he’ll be out for 8 weeks.  It’s unclear when or how the injury occurred.

This is a big blow for several reasons.  First, even though Thomas’s raw stats aren’t all that impressive (21 minutes per game, 11 points/6 rebounds), advanced statistics show that he’s arguably the Bobcats most efficient player (Hollinger’s PER has him at a team-high 19.7).  Second, though Thomas doesn’t start, he almost always finishes games and has proven to be a clutch player, especially on the defensive end.  Third, with Gana Diop already gone for the season, this makes the Bobcats precariously thin in the middle.  Boris is going to have to play some 5, and Gerald Wallace and Dom McGuire are going to have to pitch in at the 4.

Back to the game.  DJ came out red hot, hitting three three-pointers in the opening minutes, then repeatedly getting to the hole for layups.  He finished the first half with 25 points on 10-11 shooting.  Isn’t Jrue Holiday supposed to be a really good defender?  In the second half, the Sixers adjusted by trapping DJ, who was only able to add 6 more points to his tally.  Nonetheless, a masterful performance and career high for DJ, with 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 8 assists/3 turnovers to boot.

As you might guess, this one was pretty close the whole way.  The Cats led by 8 a couple of times, including as late as with 8:30 left in the fourth, but couldn’t put it away.  Without Tyrus Thomas, the Cats were going with a small crunchtime lineup of DJ/Henderson/Jack/Wallace/Diaw.  With around 4 minutes left, Thaddeus Young took advantage with two straight buckets off offensive rebounds to put the Sixers up one.

From there, Gerald Henderson emerged as the unlikely hero.  Henderson had already hit a jumper from the right elbow off a simple curl play earlier in the quarter.  Down one, 1:40 left, the Cats run the same curl play for Henderson, who hits.  Sixers miss, then Henderson hits again from the right elbow, this time after dribbling around a Diaw screen.  Cats up 94-91, under a minute left.

Henderson almost blows it on the ensuing Sixers possession by fouling Igoudala on a three attempt, but Igoudala only hit two of the three free throws to pull the Sixers within one.  The Bobcats stayed with the hot hand on the following possession, feeding Henderson on the right wing again on the same curl play — and he hit again to push the lead back out to three and effectively end the game.

The comfort level and confidence that Henderson had in the fourth quarter was really nice to see.  Especially because it looks like that, whenever feasible, the Bobcats will likely go with a small lineup including Henderson in the fourth quarter while they’re without Tyrus Thomas.

Notes

  • Best game from Nazr Mohammed in awhile: 15 points on 7-12 FG and 7 rebounds.  Obviously it would be nice if Nazr can step it up over the next few weeks.
  • Stephen Jackson’s shooting slump continues: 5-16 FG and 0-3 3 PT.  Quiet game from Gerald Wallace also: 6 points, 3 rebounds.  (/////Dr. E drums fingers on desk, looks around, wonders if anyone is thinking what he’s thinking.)
  • Bobcats are 17-24 — good for 7th place in the East currently.
  • Next game is Saturday night, at home, against the Hawks, 7 PM ET tip.

-Dr. E

LeBron, Wade Overpower Bobcats

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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

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

Bobcats Defeat Raptors On Jordan’s Night

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Nazr Mohammed via Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

The Bobcats keep hope alive with a 97-91 win over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  Nazr Mohammed led the way with 18 points and 8 boards, while Tyrus Thomas returned to the lineup with 14 and 7 off the bench.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The first half was ugly.  In front of tons of empty seats, the Raptors went on a 20-2 run to take a 12 point lead in the first quarter.  Stephen Jackson was in foul trouble early and couldn’t get anything going as the Raptors took a 6 point lead into halftime.  The vibe in the arena was very negative; there was even some faint booing directed at the home team at a couple of points.

Halftime brought a ceremony inducting Michael Jordan into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.  It began with a quick and dirty, but nicely done Jordan highlight video (NCAA championship game winner, “look at that!” dunk, free-throw dunk from NBA dunk contest, game winner on Ehlo, switch-hands layup against Lakers, game winner against Jazz, etc. — the big stuff) that ended with Jordan taking ownership of the Bobcats.  Jordan came out to mid-court accompanied by Dean Smith, accepted his ring and plaque, and gave brief, gracious speech — no piss and vinegar like from the Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech.

At that point, most of the Bobcats had made their way back onto the corner of the court to watch.  Jordan shook hands with some of the other members of the Hall and spent another few moments with Dean Smith.

Jordan and Dean Smith via Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

The crowd lapped it up and rightfully so.  It was a good ceremony.  More importantly, and maybe I’m naive for thinking this, but the Bobcats lapped it up, too.  OK, maybe “lapped it up” is too strong; they came out in the second half with a better effort, and I can’t help but think the positive atmosphere created by Jordan’s ceremony helped with that.

The Bobcats quickly evened things up in the third quarter, traded leads early in the fourth, and pulled away late as the Raptors self-destructed with backup guard Jerryd Bayless trying to run the show.

Jackson never did get it going (7 points, 3-8 FG), garnering a tech and eventually fouling out in the fourth. Gerald Wallace tallied 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 mildly tweaked ankle (left).  Matt Carroll played crunchtime and had a really nice assist to Boris with under a minute left to help the Cats pull away.

Observations

  • So I missed the DeRozan dunk live.  I was looking down at my phone — damn Twitter.  I looked up in time to see the backboard shaking and the Raptors bench freaking the hell out.  Rightfully so, now that I’ve seen the highlight.
  • There should be a name for the phenomenon where a traditional center starts, plays significant portions of the first and third quarters, is quietly effective, but then sits the fourth quarter as both teams go small and athletic.  Can we name it the Nazr Paradox?
  • So the Bobcats are at 9-15, a game-and-a-half out of the 8th playoff spot.  Barring a shakeup or a miracle, it’s pretty clear that this is where this team will hang out most of the season.  Every marginal victory like tonight strings us along, hoping for a spark, a 4 game win streak to get back in the thick of things.
  • The Bobcats will be on the road in Memphis for a back-to-back tomorrow night, 8 PM ET start.

-Dr. E

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