Say Hello to My Little Friend!

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Bobcats Crunk It Up a Notch by Trading Raja Bell for Stephen Jackson

This photo composite plainly illustrates the differences between Stephen Jackson and Raja Bell

The Bobcats surprise everybody but Mark Stein today by trading Raja Bell and Vlad Radmanovic to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson and Acie Law.  The Sporting News reaction here.  Golden State of Mind reactions here.  RealGM analysis here.

I’m literally just back in the door from Hong Kong/Macau and after reviewing almost a full week’s worth of Charlotte Bobcats Bloopers & Practical Jokes, I was 30% sure that I was going to walk away from this blog.  Just couldn’t take it anymore.  Five years of ineptitude is enough.  Time to fire them as my favorite NBA team.  Then this happens.  To quote Michael Corleone (via Silvio Dante), “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

THE GOOD NEWS IS THE BAD NEWS

First off, the deal stinks of desperation.  So it really suits the Bobcats because they ARE desperate and maybe (*fingers crossed*) Bob Johnson is finally coming to the conclusion that a popular Playoff team is more valuable on the open market than an unpopular Disaster-Squad.  Jackson is without a doubt an offensive upgrade over Raja Bell and a similarly skilled defender.  He’s immediately Charlotte’s most feared scorer (which, to be fair, is kind of like “the most nutritious KFC Bowl”) and he adds a mean streak of attitude to a franchise that’s never had one.

CAP KILLER

To make the trade, the Bobcats had to provide GS with a salary dump and they send out two decent role players who are owed a total of $18.4 million over the next two seasons in exchange for a 31-year-old wing player who’s on the books for $35.2 million over the next four.  The team has essentially taken itself out of free agency until the summer of 2012 and maybe even 2013.  Just to put this into perspective, next season the Bobcats will be paying out $40 million to the All-Star core of: Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Tyson Chandler & Stephen Jackson.  Then add in $13 million for backup centers Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop and you start to see just how bad the Bobcats have been at managing their cap.  I can’t figure out who Michael Jordan is patterning his strategy after: Isiah Thomas or the country of Iceland?  Or maybe MJ just went to the movies this past weekend and figured that the world was going to end in 2012 anyway, so screw it.

RISKY BUSINESS

Jackson’s arrival is significant as it is the first time in franchise history that the team has ever courted a player rife with controversy.  Could this be a new era in BobcatLand?  Are the squeaky clean days of Matt Carroll, Brevin Knight and Emeka Okafor over and gone?  While hardcore NBA fans might remember some of SJAX’s more positive attributes, most sports fans are only aware of two:

  1. Over the past two months Stephen Jackson has thrown his team under the bus and sulked his way into a trade AFTER the Warriors graced him with an extremely generous contract extension.
  2. On the night of November 19th, 2004 during a game in Detroit, he ran into the stands and punched a bunch of people in the face for assaulting his friend Ron Artest.

*I presume that most fans have forgotten about the incident at an Indianapolis strip club in ’06 in which Jackson fired several shots from a 9mm after being taunted by the clubs patrons and “hit by a car.”  That kind of thing happens all the time these days.

I repeat, this is a desperate, risky move by the Bobcats.  The organization paid very close attention to its public image during the team’s first five seasons and when they ignored Allen Iverson during the summer, you could assume that they were simply staying the course.  The strategy is sound.  A great deal of the Charlotte Hornets’ demise can be attributed to a single trade: Larry Johnson for Anthony Mason.  In that case, the city was losing an immensely popular hero and gaining a player who was labeled “a thug” but hardly lived up to the reputation.  With Jackson, the Bobcats are importing a turbulent personality who lies somewhere in between Steve Smith and Rae Carruth (*I’m purposefully trying to beat Tom Sorenson to the punch with that reference*) and if S-JAX causes any trouble in Charlotte, the hypothetical incident might very well signal the end of the NBA in the Queen City.

IN CONCLUSION

Let’s face it.  We all went to bed last night knowing that the Bobcats stink.  And now?  Now there is a glimmer of hope that Stephen Jackson was the only missing ingredient for Playoff Success.  At the very least, he’ll make things interesting and if you are going to go down, do it like Bon Jovi told the Young Guns.  Go down in a Blaze of Glory.

-ASChin

The Future of The Bobcats (What to Expect)

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BOBCATS ON COURSE TO REPEAT (LAST SEASON)

What Are They 'Gana Do Next?

What Are They 'Gana Do Next?

The Charlotte Bobcats have played their first first 8 games and have shown their small cult much about what kind of team they will be watching this year.  This first stretch of games represents nearly one-tenth of the full 82-game season and their current record looks to fall in line with many of the media projections of about a 30 – 35 win total for the season.

STYLE OF PLAY

Most anyone that’s watched the Cats play this season seems to be struggling to characterize the team and their style of play.  Early in pre-season, chatter leaked from the club about pushing the tempo and running a bit on offense to boost their scoring output.  As the training camp concluded, it seemed that the team was simply trying to get their players back from injury and everyone adjusted into the mentality that led to their few successes last season. Defense was to be a cornerstone of the Bobcats team play and the offensive formula was trusted to Larry Brown’s basketball genius.  So far this season, no one has seen Charlotte exhibit any sort of expertise on offense or defense.  The few periods of solid basketball have come in short bursts, while the slumps of poor play have dragged across games.

Seasons ago (Sam Vincent Era), the Bobcats had several talented players but seemed to lack a core identity as a collective unit.  During the installation of the Larry Brown scheme, the concerns about the team’s identity were forgotten.  Now, in Brown’s second year, that question returns.  What kind of basketball team is this?  Right now, they are a slow, sloppy, and generally bad NBA product.  Coach Brown probably didn’t plan to lead the league in Turnovers and sit last in Field Goal Percentage.  These traits don’t really fall into his “Play The Right Way” philosophy.

In brief, the 2009-2010 Bobcats team can be described by their slow-pace, low scoring, consistent turnovers, and lack of on-court leadership.  Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton may be team Captains, but their doing little to motivate or assist their partners.  The “Right Way” offense lacks any true centerpiece at this point of the season, so defenses have yet to find any difficulty stopping the Bobcats.

THIS SEASON AND BEYOND

For this year and the next few along the horizon, this will be a team and roster in transition.  The organization surely wants the club to improve and  begin turning some measure of profit. After five years, no one has discovered what it will take to make that happen. Owner Bob Johnson has all but surrendered his efforts to improve the situation and there’s really no need for the Bobcats basketball operations to spend beyond the salary cap to patch this clunker of a team.  The Cats should seriously consider any potential option to unload some of their big contract baggage (Mohammed, Diop, Radmanovich, Diaw, Wallace) to pave the way for some future opportunity toward improvement.  This year’s team doesn’t look to be on course for that elusive post-season goal, so this would be the period where a team’s organization begins to maneuver for better positioning toward the future.

In the short term, the Cats have several young players that could benefit from their time with Coach Brown.  This year or the next may  be his last season, so the men that stay with the team after his departure will be young, well-coached, and preparing to hit their prime.  Most of the team’s currently trade-able players should benefit from their season with Larry, and continue on toward the peak of their careers with another club.  Right now, the organization would do well to get the most in return for their “assets” and begin planning for the future.  There are no real stars like Wade, James, Bosh, or Durant on this team on which to build a foundation.  Their best bet is to acquire one via trade or free agency in the coming years.

For the long-term, the Bobcats should aim for two big-picture goals.  First, they need to get their house in order, financially.  This team needs to unload bad deals, even if that means throwing in one of their better players (Bell / Diaw / Wallace).  Charlotte’s team is nearly unbearable to watch right now, so they can’t really get any less entertaining this season – can they?  Secondly, the team will benefit greatly from the wave of fresh, positive energy with a new ownership group.  Though, things won’t magically become prosperous for the Cats once Bob Johnson finds a taker.  There’s still a lot of work to be done to create a solid, marketable on-court product.  Hopefully, the next owner will be up to the superhuman task of winning the favor of Charlotte’s public (who have outright despised their previous two NBA club owners).

WE’RE DEALIN’

Upon the shock of seeing how disoriented the team looked at the onset of this season, tons of fans have hit their keyboards in order to suggest potential fixes for the team.  Most of those suggestions are trades, so it’s worth taking a quick look at what the team has available. With the look of the Cats so far, no one is untouchable. If the Bobcats have any truly desirable assets for other clubs, here’s the top of the list :

Gerald Wallace  (Pros : Skills, Stats, Best Talent on the Team / Cons : Big Contract)

Raja Bell (Pros : Great Defender, Expiring Contract / Cons: Serious Injury)

Raymond Felton  (Pros : Expiring Contract, Young Guard / Cons : Skill Level)

Boris Diaw (Pros :  Shooting, Passing / Cons : Big Contract)

DJ Augustin (Pros : Young, Shooting, Talent, Contract / Cons : Poor Passing, Unproven)

Vladimir Radmanovich ( Pros : Shooting, Size / Cons : Big Contract )

Bobcats Give One Away in Chicago

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Bobcats Baseline Observations: Charlotte @ Chicago 11/07/09

Aside from the fact that the Bobcats lost, this was easily their best road game of the season coming after blowouts @Boston and @Cleveland.  Charlotte had many opportunities to win this one but the ugly truth reared its head again in the 4th quarter as the Bobcats had no answer on the offensive end after the Bulls went on a late 3rd quarter rampage.  Chicago outscored the ‘Cats 27-17 in the third after being down 53-46 at the half.  With the team on the road, time dwindling and in need of some key baskets, the Bobcats turned to…  You guessed it!  Everybody Loves Raymond.

1. A Chunky Cucumber Blizzard

I finally figured it out.  Raymond, I mean.  Why he’s so divisive amongst the Bobcats faithful.
It’s because he’s neither terrible or incredible, rather he is sometimes incredible and sometimes terrible.  Often within the same 2-3 minutes span.  He’s kind of like ordering a Chunky Cucumber Blizzard from Dairy Queen.  You take a bite and you get all tasty ice cream and you’re like, “Wow!  That’s good!”  And then the next bite you get a nice sour, crunchy chunk of cucumber and you want to vomit.  But you are still hungry and in need of food and there’s always hope that the next bite will be cucumber free so you take another but you are not safe.  There is going to be more vomit inducing cucumber chunks in there somewhere.  Just wait.

Tonight was a quintessential Raymond Felton game.  Played very good defense, dished out 10 assists, hit a few key baskets when the team needed one but totally pooed the bed by going 5-17 from the field and looked “Emeka Okafor Level Uncomfortable” during the closing minutes of the game as he forced shot after shot.  When the Bobcats are down in the 4th and Raymond starts driving and forcing off-balance twos, just turn off the TV or leave the arena ’cause there is no chance that the ‘Cats are going to win.  I don’t even blame Raymond.  He’s just doing what the coach tells him to do and since the Bobcats have no other “scoring option” late in the game, then Raymond gets the nod.  Someone like Rip Hamilton or Ray Allen would do wonders for Raymond’s career.  Hopefully we get to witness something like this in the near future.

2. Turnovers, Turnovers

How can you possibly have a chance of winning on the road when you commit 17 TOs?  The Bobcats forced the Bulls into 21 turnovers and had they not, Charlotte would’ve been blown out of this game.  The Bobcats starting lineup (sans Tyson Chandler) came up with 8 steals and blocked three shots.  The team really hustled on defense for pretty much the entire game and I commend Larry Brown on instilling this team with an “A+ Level” defense.  They’d be a Playoff lock if they could just score consistently.

For all of the talk about Raja Bell and Flip Murray putting trade rumors to rest, the duo combined for 6-24 shooting from the field and a total of 16 points.  They probably aren’t as good as they were last night against the Hawks but they are definitely not as bad as they were tonight against the Bulls.  Ouch.

Joakim Noah torched the Bobcats tonight, btw.  When Noah nets 21pts and 16 boards you know pretty much what’s going on: Bobcats are sticking tight to the Bulls perimeter players and Noah is just jumping over and out-hustling Charlotte in the paint.  It also doesn’t hurt that both Chandler and Nazr Mohammed were both in foul trouble early in the second quarter so Joakim found himself boxing out Vlad Radmanovic a lot.  Watching Noah, you would think that he’s kind of the perfect Center for the Bobcats should the team ever pursue him in free agency or via trade.  He hustles, goes after loose balls and is an incredible offensive rebounder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wears a Bobcats uniform one day.

3. Accent-u-ate the Positive

Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic put in solid offensive performances for the ‘Cats though Diaw’s 6 turnovers were a stain on an otherwise solid evening.  Boris dropped in 20pts, 7rbs and 5asts and the Radman looked comfortable behind the arc getting all of his 12pts there on 4-7 shooting.  And even though D.J. Augustin was noticeably M.I.A. during the game (0pts in 11 minutes), it is baffling why Coach Brown didn’t insert both D.J. and Radmanovic on the Bobcats last play of regulation.

Down three with just under 10 seconds to go and Larry Brown decides that a combination of Flip, Diaw (decent 3-point shooters), Raymond, Crash and Chandler (terrible shooters) would give the ‘Cats their best option to tie the game.  Completely inexplicable.  Raja, Radman and D.J. were sitting on the bench and inserting those guys into the lineup (playing Boris at Center) would’ve given the team a much better chance of sending the game into OT.  Not sure I understand the strategy there but hell, Coach Brown is a Hall of Famer.  What do I know?

IN CONCLUSION:

Bobcats play well enough to win but for a team that lacks a go-to or consistent scorer, they cannot afford to go into a 2nd half funk, especially on the road.  Barring a trade, the ‘Cats look exactly like what they are: a middle of the pack Eastern Conference team.

-ASChin

Bell, Bobcats Solve Offensive Woes Against Hawks

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Charlotte Bobcats vs. Hawks, 11/6/09

Who Says We Need to Make a Trade?

The Bobcats get well with a solid victory over the visiting Hawks, 103-83 on Friday night at the Cable Box to go to 3-2 on the season (3-0 at home).  AP recap here, box score here, Bonnell story here.  Raja Bell started fast for the Cats and never let up, easily taking player-of-the-game honors with 25 pts (9-12 FG, 5-6 3PT), 4 assists and a +24 +/-.  Good decision to not have that wrist surgery.

After Marc Stein’s report that the Cats were still pursuing a Stephen Jackson trade added fuel to the fire of angst-ridden/fantasy-trade-happy Bobcats fans on Thursday, an easy win over the playoff-bound Hawks was just what Dr. E ordered.  Granted, the Hawks were rather listless, but the Cats looked like they were unwinding on the offensive end after running LB’s system too anxiously over the first week of the season.  Things looked smooth, passes were crisp, shots were falling, turnovers were minimal… the Bobcats looked comfortable, and it showed in the final score.  A team that had averaged a league-worst 80-some points per game previously eclipsed 100 tonight rather easily.

The Cats opened up a double-digit lead in during the second quarter, and the road-weary Hawks never seriously challenged after that.  Nice performances all around for the Bobcats.  Gerald Wallace had a rough night from the field (3-14 FG), but continued his ravenous rebounding with 18 more tonight.  Tyson Chandler continued to play himself into shape (and learn LB’s system on the fly) and ended with his best game yet: 10 pts on 5-5 FG (with two monster ‘oops) and 10 rebounds.

Perhaps the second most noteworthy performance (other than Raja’s) was Flip Murray’s.  Flip sat out the first few games to rest his bionic tibia, but debuted tonight in strong fashion.  He entered the game late in the first quarter and began firing away soon thereafter.  He ended with 15 pts (5-12 FG, 3-5 3PT) in 18 minutes off the bench.  That’s a pretty high ratio of shots:minutes… which is exactly what we need from him.

Being the designated gunner off the bench for an otherwise offensively puny team is just a perfect role for Flip.  While he’s probably not enough to make us stop talking about fantasy trades for Rip Hamilton, Rudy Gay, Martell Webster or Anthony Morrow, he was good enough tonight to maintain the Bobcats double-digit cushion with some effortless buckets.

Tidbits

  • Both Chandler (smacked in the nose) and Wallace (twisted or banged knee) both briefly left the game in the first half due to injuries.  Both returned to the game.
  • Gana Diop and Alexis Ajinca were inactive.
  • No Michael Jordan or Bob Johnson tonight.  Presumably, they’ve returned to $5K/hole golf outings and equestrian fandom, respectively.
  • The Cats outshot the Hawks 47% to 39.8% and outrebounded the Hawks 56-35.  No Hawks player scored over 13 points.
  • If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would be the #6 seed (facing #3 Orlando) and the Lebrons would miss the playoffs.
  • Quick turnaround for the next game.  The Cats visit the Bulls Saturday night in Chicago, 8:00 PM ET.  ASChin will take the honors for post-game posting.  Follow both of us on Twitter for in-game thoughts: Dr. E / ASChin.

-Dr. E

Let’s Be Realistic

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Five trade scenarios that make sense for the Charlotte Bobcats and the Other Team

5tradeideas

Despite a 2-2 record going into Friday night’s home game against Atlanta, the ’09-’10 Charlotte Bobcats find themselves in a desperate situation.  They can’t score points and the last time I checked, scoring points was somewhat crucial to winning basketball games.  As fellow Baseliner Dr. E has pointed out in his recaps and comments recently, as bad as the Charlotte Bobcats were on offense last year they are even worse this year, ranking dead last in point per contest at 79.8.  To put this into perspective, the 29th team (Milwaukee) is averaging 8 more points per game than the ‘Cats @ 87.7.

This isn’t breaking news as anyone who has suffered the great misfortune of watching the opening 4 games will have come to the same conclusion: This Team Needs to Make a Trade.

First off, a couple of GROUND RULES:

  1. Trades must be logical for both teams, with a slight handicap given to the Bobcats trading partner as we fans tend to view our own players through the eyes of a new parent.  Must make sense for the trading partner first, Bobcats second.
  2. I used the ESPN.com Trade Machine as a reference and the screenshots have been pasted below.  The engine that powers the ‘Cats salary cap situation seems to be a little off so ignore the team’s cap number at the top.  All trades work cap wise for the Bobcats.
  3. The Bobcats have three primary needs: add more consistent scoring, depth at the backup PF spot, maintain or reduce their salary situation.  Trades will reflect one or more of those goals.

So without further ado…

1. The Charlotte Bobcats trade Gana Diop and Raja Bell to the Detroit Pistons for Rip Hamilton

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Why Detroit Makes the Trade:
This one might seem lopsided at first glance.  Why would any team take on Gana Diop’s bloated, full-mid-level contract?  If the Pistons make this trade now, they’ll be close to $20 million under the salary cap this summer once Raja’s deal comes off the books.  Combine this with the fact that the team already has a nice young three guard rotation of Will Bynum, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon and that makes Hamilton not only expendable but, by essentially shedding half of his contract, the Pistons will automatically put themselves in a situation where they can bid against anybody for any player come July.

Why Charlotte Makes the Trade:
On arrival, Rip would become the most dynamic and consistent outside shooter in team history.  His veteran leadership and ability to hit shots in the 2nd half are EXACTLY the kind of thing this team needs.  He’s a solid defender and knows Coach Brown’s system.  And even though Rip is already 31 years of age, his game looks to age well ala Ray Allen or Reggie Miller.  From a financial standpoint, the Bobcats are essentially trading away the albatross contract of a guy who is not playing (Diop) and receiving a bigger contract for a guy who will start.

2. The Charlotte Bobcats trade Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson, Ronny Turiaf and Speedy Claxton

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Why Golden State Makes the Trade:
Are you kidding me?  S-JAX wanted out of Oakland a month ago and the team replaces an older disgruntled player with a younger, better one.  Warrior Fanatics will absolutely love Wallace in Oak-town.

Why Charlotte Makes the Trade:
There are already rumblings of Jackson coming to Charlotte but I don’t buy the Diaw rumor for an instant.  Boris is the most important piece currently on the Bobcats roster and everybody knows it.  In a situation where Stephen Jackson, a natural SF, comes to the Queen City, Gerald Wallace is the most likely man headed out of town.  While Jackson is a more gifted offensive player, the Bobcats would lose a lot defensively without Wallace.  Not to mention the fact that no one has been more loyal to the Bobcats organization than Crash over his 5+ seasons with the team while Jackson has just demanded a trade from the team that just gave him $35 million.
The reason that Charlotte makes this trade is because Turiaf is a HUGE upgrade at the backup PF/C spots and his toughness and rebounding will be needed when the team battles bigger squads like the Magic, Celtics and Cavs.
The other main reason for making the deal is money.  Claxton would come off of the books this summer and S-JAX’s cap number is lower in every year of his contract than what the team would be paying Wallace.
Bobcats give away a more talented player but get back quantity and cap space?  Sounds like a realistic Bobcats trade to me.

3. The Charlotte Bobcats trade Gerald Wallace to the Memphis Grizzlies for Rudy Gay and Marko Jaric

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Why Memphis Makes the Trade:
Wallace is still young enough to grow with the Grizzlies’ young players (O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, Hasheem Thabeet, Marc Gasol) and play right away with their veterans (Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson).  Perhaps more importantly, the trade would save the cheapskate Grizzlies at least $7 million next year as Rudy is likely to sign an extension that would pay him at least $9 million per season.

Why Charlotte Makes the Trade:
First off, let me say that I would feel absolutely terrible sending Crash into a situation like this.  He deserves better.  Unfortunately, it is a business measured in wins and losses and this trade makes a ton of sense for the Bobcats.  They get a younger, more skilled player in Rudy Gay to play the SF spot and would only have to pay Jaric one more season for their troubles.  With the salary cap potentially going even lower this summer, the ‘Cats could probably net Rudy (who’ll be a Restricted FA) for around the same money that they’re currently paying Wallace.

4. The Charlotte Bobcats trade Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trailblazers for Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster

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Why Portland Makes the Trade:
The Trailblazers have been hot on Wallace for a couple of years now and there were multiple reports of a deal like this going down as recently as this past summer.  You could see why.  Wallace is the perfect fit for the Blazers in that he’s a reliable 3rd or 4th offensive option who doesn’t need plays called for him as he gets his points on sneaky post-ups, drives and put-backs.  He’s great in the open court and could be the final piece that puts Portland in the Western Conference Finals.

Why Charlotte Makes the Trade:
Surprisingly enough, Hollinger’s Analysis really liked this trade for the Bobcats, adding 9 wins to the Bobcats total.  Webster and Outlaw aren’t household names but they are both young and talented and could start for the ‘Cats immediately.  Both guys can shoot it and financially the Bobcats would come up WAY ahead, with Outlaw’s deal expiring this summer and Webster’s reasonable $5 million a year deal extending only through ’11-’12.  In an alternative scenario, the Bobcats could include Derrick Brown in the deal and ask for Nicolas Batum in exchange.  This gives the team insurance if Outlaw decides not to resign and adds yet another talented Frenchmen to the squad.

5. The Charlotte Bobcats trade D.J. Augustin, Raja Bell and Nazr Mohammed to the Sacramento Kings for Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih

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Why Sacramento Makes the Trade:
Money.  The once proud Kings are in dire financial shape.  The team is going nowhere on the court and (probably) somewhere else off of it.  Between now and the summer of 2013, the Kings owe Martin $45 million.  During the same time frame, Sacramento owes Udrih (a decent backup PG) $27.5 million.  Making this trade with the Bobcats would save the Kings around $60 million over the next four seasons and provide them with a young PG to run the floor with rookie phenom Tyreke Evans.

Why Charlotte Makes the Trade:
An additional $60 million in salary commitments.  Any chance in hell that Bob Johnson would say yes to a trade like this?  I say yes and here’s why: Kevin Martin is currently averaging 30pts per freakin’ game.  And he’s only 26 years old.  And this is not a fluke as Martin has averaged over 20pts per game over the past three seasons.  Sure, his defense doesn’t exactly scream “Larry Brown Caliber” but Kevin Martin would be the perfect medicine for a team desperately looking for some offense.  As bad as Udrih’s contract is, he’s not a terrible backup PG and combined with Felton, would make a nice platoon with Martin in the backcourt.
Oh, and Hollinger’s Analysis adds 13 wins to the ‘Cats win total if a deal like this were to go down.  Thirteen more wins is a good thing, right?

-ASChin

Wallace Powers Bobcats to Ugly Win Over Nets

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Charlotte Bobcats vs. Nets, 11/2/09

The Skinny

The Bobcats move to 2-2 (2-0 at home) with an ugly victory over the Nets: AP recap here, box score here, Bonnell story here.  Quick caveat/reminder here: I was out of town for the first three games and only saw highlights/recaps/boxscores, so this was my first full game.  I say that because I hadn’t realized just how offensively challenged the Cats were.  I mean, I knew on an intellectual level, but to see it in person is horrifyingly reinforcing.

At home, against a fellow Eastern Conference lottery team missing its best player (Devin Harris), the Cats struggled mightily out of the gate.  After 9 minutes of the first quarter, the Cats had more turnovers than points, but only trailed 12-4.  Both teams picked it up a bit in the second quarter, with the Nets maintaining an 8 point cushion at the half.  Then, halfway through the third quarter, the Nets began a stretch of ineptitude that made the Bobcats slow start look like child’s play.  With the score 48-39, the Nets would not score for over 9 minutes, whilst the Bobcats practically exploded for a 24-0 run and a 63-48 lead.  From there, the Cats would coast to victory.

To say it was all ineptitude on the Nets’ part would be disingenuous — the Cats did play very good defense during the stretch.  And Gerald Wallace had a strong game, eventually totalling 24 points (7-14 FG, 10-13 FT), 20 rebounds (7 offensive) and 4 steals.  DJ came to life with 21 points.  But that’s it for the positives.  Otherwise, this was a dreadful game between two bad teams that was hard to watch.

The Bobcats shot 24-74 for 32% and 1-15 from 3PT.  Raja Bell returned to the lineup with a 1-8 night; Radmanovic shot 0-7.  Diaw’s line looks OK, but we need him to be contributing more.  Both he and Chandler look like they are going at 80-90% and need to round into mid-season form pronto.  Despite not getting much from Bell, Radmanovic, Felton or Graham, Gerald Henderson only played 4 minutes.

As currently configured (and barring Flip Murray going for a career best 16+ PER and 25+MPG or Gerald Henderson turning into Brandon Roy) the Bobcats aren’t going to sniff the playoffs this year.  Sorry, Baseliners, just isn’t going to happen.  We just had to play our starters/veterans extended minutes with a superhuman effort by Gerald Wallace to eek by the Nets (who were without their best player and are essentially rebuilding with a shot at getting Lebron next summer) in an excruciatingly ugly game.  That’s where we are.

Quick Thoughts

  • Weeks ago, without looking at the schedule, I had written something about wondering what the attendance would be for the first Mon/Tues night game against a non-marquee Eastern Conference team.  We got our answer tonight: no more than 5,000.  That’s generous; upper deck was almost completely empty.
  • Both Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson were at the game.  MJ in his usual seat at the end of the bench, BJ at midcourt (at least for the first half, didn’t come back out for second half).  Must be a weird dynamic there.  Conspiracy theory: Jordan puts this crummy team on the court, knowing that it drives BJ’s selling price down, maybe so low that he can buy controlling stake?  Conspiracy theory falls apart as it presupposes that Jordan has a clue what he’s doing in helping to put the roster together.  He’s never shown that he does.
  • During a particularly grueling stretch in the 2nd quarter, a fan in the section behind the Bobcats bench yelled for Jordan to sub himself into the game (yes, you can hear this stuff when there’s only a few thousand people in the arena).  Everyone in section cheers and laughs, Jordan puts his head in his hands and chuckles.
  • Raymond-hating note of the game: Raymond gets home-cooking on his turnover numbers.  Late in the second quarter, I had an unofficial count of 5 Raymond Felton turnovers — official count at the time was 3.  I may have to start paying closer attention to this.  It is noteworthy, as Raymond’s official totals on the year are 18 assists:20 turnovers.  For comparison, Aaron Brooks’ ratio for the year is 34:14.  Just sayin…
  • Be sure to check out our Twitter feeds for more thoughts, including plenty of in-game tweeting: mine and ASChin’s.
  • A few days off before the next game, hosting the Hawks at the Cable Box on Friday night at 7PM ET.

-Dr. E

Why Is Everyone Hating on the Bobcats?

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stop hatin'

From the national media to the local press and back, it seems that everyone’s expectations are pathetically low for the Charlotte Bobcats as they enter the ’09-’10 NBA season.

[see also: ESPN The Magazine Eastern Conference Predictions | The Sporting News Season Preview| TSN’s Shoals on the Bobcats “Mess“]

Am I missing something here?  Was there a secret meeting held somewhere deciding that all b-ball pundits reverse jinx the deepest, most talented squad in the Bobcats’ brief history?

Allow me a few points as to why the Bobcats are going to “BEAST IT” this year:

1. The team goes 2 deep at every position.

Gone are the days of depending on Jeff McInnis, Bernard Robinson, Adam Morrison and Melvin Ely to fill minutes.  As John Hollinger likes to point out in his team assessment, the Bobcats have historically relied upon a disproportionate number of “sub-replacement level” players to contribute.  By having players like McInnis, Morrison, Cartier Martin, and “Fat” Sean May sucking it up on the court, the ‘Cats have put themselves either in deeper holes or lost leads when they could have been staying in games.  That changes this year.

Even with Raja Bell out indefinitely with a gimp wrist, the ‘Cats can still go two deep at SG with Gerald Henderson and 6’4″ Flip Murray.  Henderson had a nice rookie preseason and Flip garnered some Sixth Man Award attention last year while playing with the Hawks.  Hardly Kareem Rush-caliber options in my opinion. Things get even better when Raja comes back into the mix.

At the Point, the Bobcats are set.  Raymond Felton, while not the world’s greatest PG, is a starter in the NBA and by all accounts a great leader.  His backup, D.J. Augustin, is probably going to take over the starting gig by midseason and looks like he could turn out to be a sort of a “Damon Stoudamire: EVOLUTION” when all is said and done.

The team’s best players start at the forward spots. Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace is the best forward combo the team has ever trotted out and you’d have to go back to the Anthony Mason/Glenn Rice combo in the late ’90s to find a more versatile, skilled frontcourt in Charlotte NBA history.  Unlike last season, when the ‘Cats had to basically add 10 points to the opponents’ score whenever the two starters went out, this season the team has real quality on the bench with veterans Vlad Radmanovic and Stephen Graham and youngsters Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca.  Last season ‘Lex was one of those sub-replacement guys.  This season?  If he keeps up what he started in the preseason, he might be a real contributor off the pine.  The rookie Brown also showed consistency and poise during the exhibitions season.  Either way, expect the Bobcats to go a reliable four deep at the forward position.

With all of the talk of salary dumps and downgrades at the Center spot, the ‘Cats still find themselves 3 deep in the middle.  While Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop aren’t players that you want starting for a playoff team, as 15 minute role players they are huge upgrades over the Primoz Brezecs, Jamaal Sampsons and Andre Brown’s of the world.  Nazr has looked good in the preseason and I find it hard to believe that Diop won’t eventually play his way into shape come December.  Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is healthy and should make up for some of Okafor’s lost offensive production with his extroverted exuberance and energy.

2. Larry Brown has history.  Don’t screw with history.

Brown has coached 11 NBA team during his career.  NEVER has one of those teams failed to make the Playoffs two years in a row.  I don’t think that this can be stated enough.  There is magic here. Maybe if that coaching factoid was something like “in 3 coaching jobs in the NBA, coach Jeff Van Gundy has never…” but no, we’re talking about ELEVEN.  Whatever Brown is doing it’s not accidental.  He’ll find a way to make this happen.  Watch and Learn.

3. The Sun Shines on a Dog’s Posterior Every Once and a While

It’s been five years.  The team has made so many poor business and personnel decisions and had so many bad breaks over the past half decade that their luck is bound to change, right?
This season, that luck will probably be reflected most in their draft selections.  Between 2005 and 2007, the team had 5 first round draft picks (#5, #13, #3, #8, #22) that, as of October of 2009, has resulted in the following players: Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Raymond Felton and Vlad Radmanovic.

Alright, I apologize.  I realize that after reading that last fact, you’re probably contemplating a cyanide tablet. But here’s the brightside: The last four draft picks look like keepers.  Augustin, Henderson and Brown look like at minimum second contract guys and Ajinca could either be a stud or a bust, we’re not quite sure.  This is an upgrade from last season, of course, when we were sure – that he sucked.

IN CONCLUSION:

I challenge the fans, the bloggers and the local media to expect more from this team going into next week’s Season Opener.  This is the best team that the organization has ever assembled with the best coach and the best talent.  Expect them to be good.  Very good.

-ASChin