Bobcats Weekend Preview and… James Johnson?

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With an away-home back-to-back in Detroit tonight and hosting Orlando Saturday night, it was already shaping up to be a busy weekend for the 1-3 Bobcats.  Now we can add a trade rumor to the mix.

Friday Night at Detroit

The Cats are in Detroit tonight looking to build on their first win of the season against the Pistons, who are making a nice case for being the worst team in the league.  The Pistons have been in all of their games except the loss to the Celtics, but are nonetheless winless at 0-5.

What’s worse is that the two biggest Pistons stories of the season are finger-pointing between players and coach over a lack of leadership and Charlie Villanueva’s tattling on Kevin Garnett’s over-the-line trash talk.

The latest scuttlebutt is that in Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks, coach John Kuester benched Rodney Stuckey.  Head over to Detroit Bad Boys for the latest on the Piston’s struggles.

Gametime is 7:30 PM ET and the game will be televised on SportSouth (in HD for Time Warner customers on channel 1510! — a quick check last night showed that 1510 had been added to my channel lineup!).

Saturday night vs Orlando

From one extreme to the other.  The Magic are 2-1, having only played three games because their Tuesday night tilt with the Knicks was postponed due to asbestos in the Garden (weird to type that), but are clearly one of the most dominant teams in the league.  Their loss was an ugly one to the Heat, but their two wins were both absolute throttlings of the Wizards and T-Wolves, by 29 and 42 points, respectively.

The Cats will be looking for a small measure of revenge after getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs last spring, but look no better equipped to combat Dwight Howard and company now than they were then.

Gametime is 7:00 PM ET at the Cable Box.

James Johnson

When Michael Jordan asserted in a recent interview that the “roster churn” was most likely over, we at Bobcats Baseline were skeptical.  The shaky 1-3 start has only reinforced that.

One of the main problems has been mediocre play from Nazr Mohammed (ahem), and a lack of depth behind him.  But with Kwame Brown and Dominic McGuire getting ready to return from injury, I figured Larry Brown and company would at least give those guys a run before making a move.

So I was a little surprised to wake up this morning and see the Bobcats once again leading off Hoopshype.com’s Rumors page.  Via Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Bobcats and Bulls have been talking about James Johnson.

Johnson is a big, tough 6’9″ 250 lb forward in his second year in the league.  He was drafted 16th overall by the Bulls in the 2009 draft out of Wake Forest and averaged almost 12 minutes per game last year.  He was decent as a rookie, but was looked at as somewhat expendable in the offseason after the Bulls acquisition of Carlos Boozer.

But with Boozer’s preseason boxer’s fracture putting him out for the first several weeks of the season, and Johnson coming into camp in fantastic condition, his future in Chicago was temporarily looking a little brighter.  Johnson’s 2011-12 option was recently picked up by the Bulls after a good preseason, and he had a nice 19 minute/8 point/9 rebound/4 assist/3 block/2 steal/+24 PER night against the Pistons last week.

But with Taj Gibson playing pretty well, Boozer’s return around the corner, and new Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau looking to make his mark on the team and take them deep into the playoffs, Johnson is apparently available again.

What would Larry Brown and the Bobcats be seeing in Johnson?  Probably George Lynch, or Dominic McGuire with a higher ceiling.  Here’s an excellent breakdown of Johnson’s game from Bulls Confidential.

A better question is: what would the Bulls be looking for in return?  They need upgrades at SG and backup PG, but I can’t see the Bobcats being able to accommodate that.  Any ideas, Baseliners?

-Dr. E

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


Magic Complete Sweep Of Bobcats

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic Game 4, 4/26/10

AP/Chuck Burton

The Charlotte Bobcats were swept out of the first round by the Orlando Magic 99-90 on Monday night at the Cable Box.  Again, the Cats were able to limit Dwight Howard’s minutes due to foul trouble, and again it really didn’t matter.  Again, the Cats got decent play from a couple of starters and one reserve, and again it was not nearly enough to contend with the Magic.

AP recap here |  Box score here

It’s late and the season is over, so I’m going to keep this relatively short and sweet.  The Bobcats came out and competed, forcing Dwight Howard into foul trouble and taking a two-point lead into halftime.  But the rest of the Magic (particularly Lewis, Carter, Nelson and Pietrus) again picked up the slack, while the Bobcats continued to struggle to score whether or not Howard was in the game.

Despite the continued struggles, the Cats were in in this one until halfway through the final period.  After Tyson Chandler hit two free throws to pull the Bobcats to within one at 77-76,  Michael Pietrus drained a three.  On the ensuing possession, Dwight Howard snatched a DJ Augustin layup out of the air.  While the crowd and the Bobcats benched yelped about the lack of a goaltending call, Pietrus drained another three.  The sequence took less than a minute and completely took the air out of the the arena.

And if you were hanging on to any hope that the Bobcats could come back from seven down with six minutes left, two missed free throws by Gerald Wallace, followed by another Jameer Nelson three to put the Magic 86-76 with under five minutes left was enough to convince even the most optimistic Cats fans.

The Bobcats were actually led by Tyrus Thomas, who rang up 21 points on 9-12 FG and added 9 rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.  Tyrus had the baseline 12-15 footer going early and was actually 8-8 from the field at one point.  But just as in the first three games, no other Bobcat produced off the bench.

Tidbits

  • Stephen Jackson picked a terrible time to have a bad night — Jack was 2-11 FG and 0-3 3PT for just 8 points.
  • Seeing the Heat take a game from the Celtics this weekend and the Bucks tie up the Hawks tonight just reminds you how important the regular season is.  Those losses to the Nets and Pacers come back to haunt.

The Elephant In The Room

And now the Bobcats enter what is shaping up to be a very difficult offseason.  Michael Jordan’s mettle as owner will certainly be tested.  We’ll certainly be writing more about this in the coming days and weeks, but here’s a quick primer:

  • Larry Brown, having partially restored his reputation by getting the Cats to the playoffs, is probably gone back to Philadelphia for a front office position.  Let the coaching search begin.
  • Raymond Felton, fresh off getting toasted in this playoff sweep, is an unrestricted free agent.  Hopefully, Miami will come along and make Raymond a Godfather offer with the money they have leftover after resigning Wade and getting Boozer or Bosh and we won’t even be tempted to match it.
  • Tyrus Thomas has shown inconsistent flashes in his couple of months with the Bobcats.  Kinda similar to how he showed inconsistent flashes to the Bulls for three or four years.  He’s a restricted free agent.  Keeper or not?
  • The Cats have no draft picks this year (both were traded away in prior deals) and very few assets that have any trade value around the league.

-Dr. E



POLL : SHOULD CHARLOTTE RE-SIGN RAYMOND FELTON?

  • YES
    (32%, 59 Votes)
  • NO
    (68%, 127 Votes)

Total Voters: 186

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Close, But No Cigar; Magic Go Up 3-0

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic, Game 3, 4/24/10

Playoff basketball returned to Charlotte on Saturday, but the inspired Bobcats still couldn’t quite get over the hump and fell to the Orlando Magic 90-86.  Jameer Nelson continued his domination of the Bobcats with another 32 point effort.

AP recap here |  Box score here

Game 3 is usually the lower-seeded team’s best chance to steal a game in round one of the NBA Playoffs (e.g. the Bulls and Thunder earlier this week) and this was no exception.  A fired-up, sellout crowd donned giveaway Jordan Brand Bobcats t-shirts and waved towels for a “whiteout” that drove the Cats to an improved performance relative to Games 1 and 2 in Orlando.

The Cats got off to a decent start per the scoreboard, trailing the Magic just 29-27 after the first quarter.  But if you look back on it, that first quarter can really serve as a microcosm for the whole game.

  1. Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble (2 in the first quarter) and had only moderate effect on the game early; things stayed that way the rest of the way and Howard eventually fouled out with 3:31 left in the fourth after having only played 26 minutes.
  2. Jameer Nelson picked up the slack with 19 first quarter points, including four threes and a four-point play to close the quarter as he continued to outplay Raymond Felton.  This trend would also continue through the rest of the game, as Nelson would finish with 32 points (12-21 FG, 5-9 3PT), 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists — and had a big bucket down the stretch to fend off the Cats.
  3. The Cats and the crowd fed off each other in the first, fueling an 8-0 run that had the Cats up by four late in the quarter.  This would happen a couple more times in the game: a 9-2 second quarter run had the Cats up 41-33 briefly and a longer 19-9 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarter had the Cats up 77-73 halfway through the final period.
  4. But just as the Magic ended the first quarter strongly to take the lead (the aforementioned four-point play by Nelson), they ended the game with a show of experience and dominance as well.  After the Felton three-point play that fouled Howard out with 3:31 left put the Cats up 80-79, the Magic outscored the Cats 11-6 by hitting clutch shots and getting to the free throw line.

The Cats had a chance, though.  Down one with 31 seconds left, Larry Brown used a full timeout, then added another 20-second timeout to draw up what must have been the world’s most complicated basketball play.  It worked, too.

Early in the set Stephen Jackson popped off a screen at the three-point line and had a wide open look.  Some will criticize the fact that the first option on the play was a look at a three-pointer when the Cats were down just one with 30 seconds left, but let them criticize.

This is one of the best basketball minds in the world, a master at drawing up plays in timeouts we’re talking about, teamed up with Stephen Jackson, Mr. “I Make Love To Pressure”.  A three probably would have won the game.

Unfortunately, Jack did not come through.  The shot was short, Orlando grabbed the rebound, the game, and any remaining hope that the Bobcats could make this a series.

Tidbits

  • Lack of bench production has plagued the Cats in every game thus far.  In Game 1, only Tyson Chandler was helpful off the bench.  In Game 2, Nazr Mohammed was alone in contributing off the bench.  In Game 3, it was Larry Hughes who played well, with 14 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT) and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes.  The lack of signficant contributions from DJ Augustin and Tyrus Thomas continues to hurt.
  • A couple of my in-game Tweets:  “I think D Howard might bitch to refs more than Stephen Jackson. Impressive feat.” and “I’d be stunned if Ty Chandler didn’t lead the league if offensive fouls due to bad screens. Another here early in 4th”
  • Raymond Felton.  How can I say this diplomatically?  Let’s just say his agent won’t be using video of this series in his contract negotiations this summer.  And the Bobcats need to keep it in mind when Miami or New York makes an offer that the Bobcats consider matching.
  • Lots of celebs at the game: Jordan was there, obviously.  Commissioner David Stern observed the proceedings.  Legends Robert Parish, David Thompson, and Muggsy Bogues were in attendance, as was coach Tubby Smith.  And lest we forget, Bobcats minority owner Nelly sat courtside.
  • Game 4 is Monday night at 8 PM ET at the Cable Box.  I would expect some golfers courtside with the Quail Hollow starting up next week.  Maybe even this famous Magic fan and friend of MJ?

-Dr. E

Bobcats Can’t Handle Magic; Go Down 0-2

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Magic Game 2, 4/21/10


The Orlando Magic scored another definitive victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, 92-77, in Game 2 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night.  Stephen Jackson led the Bobcats with 27 and keyed a fourth quarter rally that briefly made things interesting late, but the Magic ultimately led wire to wire, putting all five starters in double figures.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This one had an even uglier start than Game 1.  8 minutes into the first quarter, the two teams had only combined for 16 points; problem was, the Cats only had three of those.  Fortunately, the Cats got a few buckets to make the count a not-quite-as-embarrassing 18-14 after the first quarter.

But frankly, the damage had been done.  Orlando’s zone-ish defense rendered the Cats offense (not exactly potent to begin with) into a bogged-down, turnover-filled mess.  The Cats finished the game with 21 turnovers, and no one outside of Stephen Jackson ever figured out how to score.

The fact that the Bobcats  play some pretty good defense themselves kept the game reasonable; the Cats were only down 11 at the half, and cut the lead to 8 with 3:15 left in the game before succumbing.

The Magic simply had too many weapons tonight.  Though Dwight Howard was held to a modest line (15 points on 5-10 FG/5-12 FT, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) he was absolutely dominant for a stretch early in the third quarter that set the tone for the rest of the second half.

Vince Carter, infamous for shrinking into a jump-shooter when the going gets tough, had smooth sailing into the paint all night long, resulting in 9-11 free throws.  (As a team, the Magic shot 35 free throws.)

Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson were solid and reliable, if unspectacular, while Mickael Pietrus and Ryan Anderson provided an onslaught of threes off the bench, combining for 5-7 from distance.

There were almost no silver linings for the Bobcats in this one.  The late run that cut the deficit to 8 was intriguing for a minute, but rationally you knew it was too little, too late.  Nazr did show some signs of life (5-6 FG for 10 points in 16 minutes).

But basically, I’m grasping at straws here.  The only one that may be worth a damn is simply that the Cats have played much better at home this year and Games 3 and 4 are in Charlotte.  The Cats had the biggest home/road record differential amongst all the playoff teams this year, for no reason that anyone could logically explain.  At this point, I’d give up trying to explain it if I could just see it for Games 3 and 4.

Tidbits

  • Apologies for recycling my Twitter posts, but is anyone else getting the same feeling they used to get watching Jeff McInnis a couple of years ago when watching Larry Hughes these days?
  • Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw have been frustratingly ineffective, as have Hughes and Tyrus Thomas off the bench.
  • The Cats have a couple of days to stew on this one.  Game 3 is on Saturday afternoon at 2PM ET at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Magic Rest; Bobcats Put In Work

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RIP Guru

If you needed any extra juice to get pumped for tonight’s Game 2, just check this quote from Larry Brown from Tuesday’s practice regarding the Magic’s activities on Monday (via Rick Bonnell):

“Yesterday, Orlando took the day off.  That’s how [expletive deleted] seriously they’re taking us.”

Transparent motivational ploy?  Sure.  Effective?  Hell yeah.

Did I just figure out a cheap way to tie in a Guru tribute to a Bobcats blog?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Hell yeah.

Be sure to check us at Whiskey Warehouse in Plaza Midwood for a Bobcats Baseline Game 2 Watch Party:

watch-party-Dr. E

Quick Thoughts On Game 1

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Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

The Charlotte Bobcats fell 98-89 to the Orlando Magic in their playoff debut Sunday night.  We’ll have a more in-depth recap up later, but I wanted to post some quick thoughts and have a place for you guys to make some comments as well.

  • Here’s the AP recap and box score.
  • That first half couldn’t have gone worse.  The Bobcats were attacking the paint, but in a half-hearted manner that allowed Howard to rack up 8 blocks.  Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson was frying Raymond Felton (see above picture) and the Magic were draining three after three (9-18 3PT in 1st half).
  • However, the Cats showed some resolve in battling back in the second half.  Gerald Wallace beasted it (25 and 17), Stephen Jackson gutted it out on a hyperextended knee, and the Cats were able to cut the lead to as low as 4 late in the game.
  • The Cats got nothing beyond Gerald, Jack and Felton.  Diaw or someone from the bench is going to have to step up in order for us to take a game or two.  Chandler did have a nice stretch in the third quarter to key a Bobcats run, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • We’ve noted how rusty Nazr has looked in the couple of games he’s played since returning from back problems.  But rusty just ain’t cutting it anymore.  As fellow Baseline contributor Deesdale noted in a text message during the first half: “I think Nazr gave up on life.”
  • Game 2 on Wednesday.  Thank goodness for the 2 day break in between Games 1 and 2 — Jack’s knee is sure to swell and tighten up, but hopefully he’ll be ready to go again by Wednesday.  Let’s hope it’s not too bad.  Make sure you’re following us on Twitter in the meantime.
  • UPDATE: At halftime of the Spurs/Mavs game, the TNT guys indicated that Jack will have an MRI on the knee (no brainer) and showed a quick post-game interview of Jack in which Jack dismissed any concerns, saying he’d be ready to go if Game 2 were tomorrow.

-Dr. E

Bobcats vs Magic Playoff Preview Part I

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Bobcats Baseline 2010 Playoff Preview: Round One BOBCATS VS MAGIC

Welcome to Bobcats Baseline’s preview of the Bobcats first ever playoff series.

First, some general stuff.  The Magic finished the year 59-23 (34-7 home).  They posted the best overall point differential in the league this year: +7.5.   Hollinger’s formulas have them ranked as the second best in the league in terms of offensive efficiency (behind only the Suns) and tied with the Bobcats for first in defensive efficiency.

Head to head, Orlando won the season series over the Bobcats 3-1.  The Magic took the first game in Orlando back on November 10, 93-81.  Game two just six days later in Charlotte turned out to be Stephen Jackson’s Bobcats debut, but the game went to the Magic again, 97-91.

The Cats took Orlando to overtime in Charlotte on January 23, but the Magic once again prevailed, 105-95.  Finally, in the last matchup on March 14, the Cats broke through for a 96-89 win, despite playing in Orlando without an injured Gerald Wallace.

Now lets get down to the matchups.  ASChin and I decided to do a collabo for this, and we’ll start by breaking down the battle in the paint.

Dr. E: In the middle, Dwight Howard creates problems for every other team in the league.  He led the league in rebounding and blocked shots for the year. It’s almost universally agreed upon that Orlando could be even more dominant if they made a more concerted effort to get him the ball on the offensive end (which they don’t always do, especially in the fourth quarter).

But it’s almost as if Larry Brown knew this matchup was coming.  He’s collected a cadre of serviceable big men to play center-by-committee. Theo Ratliff is like an older, wiser version of Tyson Chandler, who has shown signs of life himself in recent weeks.

Nazr Mohammed has looked rusty in two games since returning from back problems, but was a revelation earlier in the season with his ability to score in the post. And Gana Diop is, well, Gana Diop (or Joey Crawford’s avatar).

Together, they represent four bodies and 24 fouls that could be deployed to wear Howard down.

ASChin: Agreed.  They’ll try to win the war of attrition, throwing 24 fouls at Dwight and making the other 4 Magic players beat them one on one.  The last thing that you want to do is play into the Magic’s hands.  They want you to defend DHO for 40+ minutes, using up fouls at the center spot.  Fortunately, the Bobcats have enough bodies in the middle to combat this somewhat but as you see in the breakdown vid below Dwight can now make you pay for single coverage.

Dr. E: The other way the Bobcats may try to neutralize Howard will be to get him into foul trouble himself.  In this blog post from Rick Bonnell (once you get past the nonsense about how Rick and Gerald Wallace are like peas in a pod) Wallace stresses that the Cats need to take it straight at Howard to have a chance.

Howard averaged 3.5 fouls per game this year, fouling out four times and getting to five fouls more times than I bothered to count.  Of course, if Howard gets into foul trouble, backup Marcin Gortat is more than capable of becoming an X-factor.

ASChin: This is a big deal.  The Bobcats aren’t a great jump shooting team.  They’ll have to continue to go to the hoop to have any chance in this series.  With Dwight down there, it’ll be tough but I’m guessing that Coach Brown will try to run a lot high screen pick and rolls with Chandler and Ratliff to try and get Howard out out of the paint.

Lets move on to the 4 spot.

Rashard Lewis is having far from his best season as a pro.  His FG%, ppg, rebounds and blocks are way down.  Not exactly want you want from an $18 million a year guy.  He still shoots lights out from beyond the arc so the ‘Cats will again have to prevent the Magic from forcing a double team on Howard down low.

I think a platoon of Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw matches up well against Lewis.  Diaw in particular is going to force Lewis to guard him on those little post jump-hooks and when Howard comes over for the block, Boris is crafty enough to be able to find Chandler or Mohammed for a dunk or layup with a quick pass in the paint.  Also, look for Crash to play some minutes at the four if Brown decides to turn the tables and go small.

Dr. E: By the way, was it ever fully explained what Lewis’s 10-game PED suspension to start the year was all about?  Ironic that he’s clearly fallen off this season, isn’t it?  Some may write it up to missing training camp and never getting in the groove, or missing Hedo Turkoglu’s point forward drive-and-dishes, but has anyone measured his head circumference-to-testicle ratio serially over the years?

No?  Okay, jussayin.

Anyways, yes, between Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw, the Cats are better suited than most teams to guard and switch out onto Rashard Lewis at the three point line.

Alright, that covers the bigs.  Next up, we’ll discuss the wings and guards.  After that coaching and intangibles.

ASChin: Wait, did you just mention Rashard Lewis’s testicles?

-Dr. E & ASChin