End of the Gana Diop Era

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Gana Diop Illustration

As NBA enthusiasts across the globe get ready for the exciting action and intense competition of the Playoffs, Charlotte Bobcats fans should take pause to reflect on the end of an era – The DeSagana Diop Era. It’s not often that a team says goodbye to one of its Big Three (salary bandits). So, this is a great opportunity to survey the impact that the giant’s departure will have for the club.

Oh, how time and paychecks fly by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Bobcats were pressured by Larry Brown and duped by the Dallas Mavericks into swallowing Diop’s ridiculous contract in exchange for Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. Since then, ‘Gana has eaten up over 11% of the team’s salary cap with few contributions to justify it. Acquiring the Senegalese seven-footer immediately hamstrung the ‘Cats efforts to retain their much better Center, Tyson Chandler in the 2010 off-season. Regrettably, Charlotte had to take back Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and Erick Dampier’s contract in a financially-driven trade, delivering Chandler to the Mavs where he went on to win the championship. Oh, and then Tyson picked up the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012. But, those wiry ol’ Bobcats still had Diop on their bench! Another fun fact – Ryan Hollins is a contributor off the bench for the Playoff-bound LA Clippers and played over three-times as many minutes as ‘Gana did this season.

Gana Diop Era Highlights

Okay, let’s take a moment to look at some Gana Diop highlights:

Next Step for Diop

It’s highly likely that Diop will step away from the NBA, and walk off into the sunset (after he collects the last of his $7,372,200.00 from the Bobcats this month). Despite the pain that he’s caused Michael Jordan’s wallet, it looks like the guy has actually done some pretty good things off the court with the NBA Cares program.

Nevertheless, ‘Gana is gonna leave a big hole on this team’s payroll. It’s fair that fans have concerns about how the team will use their salary cap numbers to improve this summer. But, when the time comes to announce the next signing, Charlotte’s front office needs to measure their offer and ask, “Is that guy worth Gana Diop money?”

-Mike

Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 3

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Trades & Acquisitions

The All New, All Improved Bobcats

Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic

The Charlotte Bobcats made three major in-season trades during the ’08-’09 season involving eleven different players. Coupled with the free agent signings of Juwan Howard, Cartier Martin and assorted other D-Leaguers, Charlotte suited up a total of 24 players – most in the League. One anonymous fan commented on SI.com that “the Bobcats make more roster moves than a fantasy team.” It sure seemed that way.

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Offense for Defense

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Carroll for Diop

The Bobcats finally make the deal for Diop but do it without sending back Raymond Felton.  ESPN.com story here.  Charlotte Observer story here. Dallas Morning News story here.

1. Positive Spin: The ‘Cats got their man.  All 7’0″ 280lbs, $32million of him.  In exchange Charlotte sends Dallas reserve guard Matt Carroll and former 2nd Round pick Ryan Hollins.  Diop immediately brings size AND athleticism to the frontcourt and allows Coach Brown to matchup with the most physical, biggest lineups in the League.  It also provides insurance and depth in case Okafor goes down with an injury for any length of time.

2. A lot of Raymond Felton fans are breathing a sigh of relief today.  A lot of love being spread out there for Latta’s favorite son and now we know that Felton will still be on the roster for at least another game.  This still doesn’t mean that he’s not being shopped.  For one, he’s still going to be a free agent this summer.  Second, Charlotte just took on $20+ million in a guaranteed contract for a big man while NOT sending back Nazr Mohammed.  So look forward to the ‘Cats trying to move Mohammed before the deadline using Felton’s talent and expiring deal as the bait.

3. Matt Carroll was really sucking it up this season.  For a guy who earned his contract shooting the basketball, Matt was raining it in at a career low 40% from the field this season (26% from 3–ouch).  His +/- ranking for the year is a telling -7.3 which is, yes Bobcats fans, worse than Adam Morrison’s.  So now that Carroll has a new opportunity to get open looks off Dirk double-teams in Dallas, AMMO should finally get consistent minutes off the bench as the primary scorer/shooter.  It should be interesting to see what both players can do with the opportunity.

4. Negative Spin: The biggest negative from this deal by far is from a cap perspective.  The ‘Cats will pay Diop roughly $11million more over the course of his contract than Carroll.  Combine this with Mohammed’s deal and Charlotte has $20million on the books over the next two seasons dedicated to their backup centers.  If the ‘Cats can’t find someone willing to take back Nazr’s deal before the summer of 2010, they’ll essentially be out of the free agent race entirely.  Is there a more obnoxious contract in the NBA?  Not only does Nazr make about $2.5 million more per year than he should, his contract goes inconveniently until 2011.  Did Dumars punk Higgins on this deal or what?

4. Another negative is that Ryan Hollins was included as a throw-in.  Hollins showed a lot of improvement in his limited minutes early this season and actually leads the team in plus-minus.  He’s young, athletic, energetic and fun to watch.  I guess that the team is so heavily invested in Ajinca that they decided one of the raw bigs had to go.  Just like Morrison, it will be very interesting to see what Alexis can do with the opportunity.

5. Conclusion: Bonnell says it best in his blog.  “They don’t act like a team that is out of the playoff race; good – nice to see they’re not giving up.”  Regardless if this is the greatest move in the world or not, it’s encouraging to see that the organization is actively trying to get better.  Can Coach Brown work his magic yet again?  Will we see the team make a huge run into the spring and squeeze in to the playoffs?

-ASChin

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Bulls 12/16/08

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DJ

1) Nice win for the Bobcats tonight, 110-101 in overtime over the visiting Chicago Bulls.  AP story here, box score here.  Bobcats break their seven game losing streak and move to 8-18, while Chicago falls to 11-13.

2) Without Gerald Wallace tonight (due to his father’s passing) the Bobcats started with a lineup of Felton, Bell, Diaw, Juwan Howard and Okafor.  That didn’t go so well, as the Bobcats quickly fell behind 17-5.  Raja Bell missed all five of his shots during that opening stretch, and in a strange moment, was ejected after “discussing” a foul with official Eli Roe.  Bell didn’t seem to be particularly upset or animated, but must have said some magic words, as Roe demonstratively ended the discussion by turning to the scorer’s table, calling the tech and motioning for the ejection in one fell swoop.

Bell lingered on the court for a few moments, but soon meandered off without any fuss.  Weird — if I didn’t know any better, I’d think he didn’t really want to play tonight.  Maybe he’s peeved that he couldn’t have just been traded straight to New York to reunite with Mike D’Antoni, and will instead have to parlay here in CLT for two months.

3) No matter, though, as DJ entered the game for Bell while Hollins relieved Howard, and the Bobcats began to dig their way out of the early hole — by halftime, the Bulls led just 45-42.  Ryan Hollins has really been a pleasant surprise so far this season.  When training camp started I had pegged him as a probable Larry Brown roster casualty, but he seems to be in coach’s good graces at this point, and for good reason.  He brings a lot of energy to the table, has cut down on his mistakes, hits his free throws, and has become relatively competent when taking open mid-range jumpers.  Tonight he had 8 points on 3-4 FGs, 2 rebounds and 3 blocks in 15 minutes.

4) The Bobcats really got it going in the third quarter with DJ, Felton, Diaw, Howard and Okafor all contributing.  They led by four heading into the fourth quarter, when both teams really turned it on and treated the Charlotte fans to the best finish of the year at the Cable Box.  Down 94-91 with just 20 seconds left, DJ Augustin missed a contested three-pointer from the wing, but drew a questionable foul on fellow rookie Derrick Rose on the follow-through.  Rose nearly erupted, and rightfully so — it could have easily been a no-call.  Augustin nailed all three free throws to tie the game.  Following a timeout, the Bulls put it on Rose to win the game.  Augustin played good enough one-on-one D, forcing Rose into a tough shot that Emeka Okafor was able to swat away at the buzzer.

In overtime, Okafor, Felton and Augustin combined for 16 points, while the Bulls could only muster 7.  Okafor had another big block of a Rose layup, this time with a minute left, that essentially had the effect of slamming the coffin shut.  From there, free throws provided the proverbial nails for said coffin.

5) DJ led the way with 29 points (6-16 FG, 4-7 3PT, 13-13 FT) and 7 assists/1 turnover.  He’ll have to share Player of the Game honors with Okafor, though: Mek had 20 points (7-12 FG, 6-11 FT), 13 rebounds (6 offensive), 3 steals, and 4 blocks (two of which were particularly huge, as noted above).  Felton had a great game as well, with 21 points (7-17 FG, 7-8 FT), 6 rebounds, 7 assists/3 turnovers, and 3 steals.

6) Juwan Howard ended up with 8 points and 5 boards in 26 solid minutes.  It’s been trumpeted that the guy is a consumate professional, and that was evident tonight in his first action as a Bobcat.  He picked his spots carefully on offense without disrupting anything, and seemed to always be in the right spot on defense.  With the acquisitions of Diaw and Howard in the last week, the Bobcats look to have significantly upgraded their PF spot over the combo of Sean May and Jared Dudley.

7) DNP-CD for Adam Morrison tonight.  Strange, as I thought that Andres Nocioni (whose game is aging precipitously) would have been a good matchup for him.  But Adam has been slumping, so Matt Carroll got all of the extra minutes at SG tonight (30 minutes, surely his most extended action of the season) and responded pretty well with 7 points (1-2 3PT), 4 rebounds and 3 assists.

8) Some quick comments on the Bulls:

a) Del Negro sure has a lot of support, with Del Harris and Bernie Bickerstaff as his top two assistants.  It’s almost like the Bulls were a little nervous about whether he was ready to be a head coach…

b) Maybe I just caught a small sample that doesn’t represent the whole relationship, but judging by a couple of interactions between Ben Gordon and Del Negro, I’d say the former doesn’t care for the latter much.  One particularly funny moment at the end of the first quarter: off a jump ball, Gordon controls the tap out on the wing.  He’s literally inches from his coach, who is clearly exhorting him to pass the ball out to Rose to reset the offense.  Gordon completely ignores this, calls for a big to come over and screen for him, gets a little daylight and drains a 17-footer.  Believe me, this was hilarious to see and hear in person.

c) I see that one of the storylines in the AP recap is how Augustin got the better of Rose in the matchup of lottery PGs, and he certainly did; but Rose is pretty special.  He’s as good as advertised, a prototypical NBA point guard, and should probably be penciled in as the starting PG for the East All-Star team for the next decade.

d) The Bulls still have the same problem they’ve had for the past couple of seasons: no low-post scoring threat.  Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah have burned through their upside, and look stuck at “role-player” status.  Drew Gooden is thisclose to being replacement level, and Aaron Gray ain’t going to cut it.  Meanwhile, the Bulls are paying Luol Deng superstar money and getting “solid starter” return on the investment.  Not good…

9) Next game: Friday night on the road at Memphis (mmmmmmm, Rendezvous Ribs).  We should have Gerald back and will be looking to snag a road victory against a young, beatable Grizzlies club.

-E

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Jazz 11/14/08

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Victory!

1. Victory!  104-96 over the visiting Jazz.  AP story here, box score here.   I took a few quick iPhone snaps tonight, as opposed to ganking an AP photo.  Maybe I should stick to ganking the AP photos.

2. Thank goodness the Cats were able to pull out the win tonight.  The Jazz were without three of their top four players (Williams, Okur and Kirilenko), so to be unable to take care of business at home would have been pretty embarrassing.  

3. As had been reported, Matt Carroll got the start in Jason Richardson’s place, but Adam Morrison was the major beneficiary, logging 24 minutes and getting 15 points (5-8 FG, 3-5 3PT) to lead the effort from the bench.  With a few more solid games like this, we’ll have to stop singling Adam out and just start expecting it from him (which would be nice, since he was the #3 pick and all).  

Funny moment in the fourth quarter as Morrison had a breakaway off of a scramble for the ball.  Unfortunately, for a slow white guy in the NBA, “breakaway” can quickly become “get caught from behind and have your shit swatted in humiliating fashion.”  Accordingly, Adam looked absolutely terrified heading down the court before finally getting to the rim and doing one of those awkward “ohcrapIdidn’tjumphighenoughtodunkbetterjustlettheballgonow” moves.  It rolled around the rim precariously before finally falling in.  Sue Bird probably would have finished stronger.

4. Felton and Wallace were the other leaders tonight, with 23 and 22 points respectively.  Combined, they shot 20-24 from the free throw line on the night, with many of those coming down the stretch to seal the game.

5. Ryan Hollins, back from the dead tonight!  15 minutes, 5 points, 4 boards and 2 blocks.  Okafor was in foul trouble all night and never really got it in gear.  

6. Speaking of the big guys, it’s nice to see LB saving Nazr Mohammed (DNP-CD again tonight) for our playoff run.  In all seriousness, I imagine that Nazr will be getting some run as soon as Ajinca hits the D-League.  

7. Speaking of the big guys, again: Andre Brown looks more uncomfortable in a suit jacket than Sean May in a health food store.  

8. Only bright spot for the Jazz tonight was Carlos Boozer, who went for 26 points and 15 rebounds and had an absolutely vicious dunk on Hollins in the closing minutes of the game.  Just not enough help around him.

9. Next game: Sunday afternoon at 5:30 at the Cable Box – hosting Dwight Howard and the Magic.

-E 

UPDATE: The dunk mentioned above in item #8 was actually Boozer on Gerald Wallace:

Preseason Dead Weight

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There are several reasons why the Bobcats have yet to win a preseason game.  The “installation” of Larry Brown’s system can be cited as a major cause, but it looks like Brown might be playing NBA 2K9 with a busted controller, full of bad buttons.  Here’s an overview of the Bobcats’ Dead Weight 2008:

Ryan Hollins : (Alexis Ajinca Ver. 1.0) : Besides his height, he offers little to the squad.  He did some big noise taunting after throwing down a dunk against the Lakers, but that turned out to be his only 2 points.  Maybe he’ll catch on and serve as a 3rd/4th center.  Maybe he can still be traded for his “upside.”

Jermareo Davidson : He plays like an oversized small forward and the Cats have enough of those. He had a great chance to step up in May’s absence and just couldn’t do it. Best wishes to Jermareo with his next team.  Though the Bobcats needs another PF behind May, Davidson hasn’t given anyone a reason to play him.  It might just be too late for this guy.

Matt Carroll : Seems like Brown will give him a short leash. He might have some trade value, so he’s worth exposure and playing time for that.  Carroll doesn’t seem to contribute anything when his shot isn’t falling. While it’s great when he’s automatic,  that only happens once every 5 games or so.

Shannon Brown : While the coach wanted a third “big” point guard, this may not have been the perfect pick up.  Still, he has the athleticism to be a good defender and it’s a good bet that Larry Brown will push him hard in that aspect of his game.  Let’s hope he focuses on that role and excels as a reserve.

Alexis Ajinca : Most know him by his nickname “Freedom Fries.”  This guy is a true developmental project.  His game needs development, his body needs development, and for a month or two he’ll play be in the league of development.  Still, it’s great to see that he wants to learn to play like an NBA big man with his abilities rather than sticking to the comforts of Euro-ball.

 

The Bobcats get a nationally televised exhibition against the Lakers on Thursday night (TNT).  Let’s see if Larry Brown chooses to showcase the starters a bit more in the last preseason game.  Wallace and Richardson have shared little time together on the court, so it would be great to see how they work together and if any other guys benefit from the defensive attention they draw.  Okafor really hasn’t shown a solid grasp of his role in the new system, but there are signs of improvement with his rebounding – often a direct correlation to positioning in the paint.  Adam Morrison has received a bit more court time and it appears that he’s working hard.  The box score from the Tuesday game against the Lakers shows that he had 2 blocks (seriously).  Felton and Augustin are still making an unacceptable number of turnovers, but that should settle down as the offensive sets and rotations settle into place over the next month.