How The Bobcats Can Improve : Escaping The Nottery – Ver. 2.0

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Charlotte Bobcats Offseason Checklist – PreDraft Edition

A little over a month ago I began part one of this series by defining the titular “Nottery” as:

A place where franchises go to die: Not good enough to be good and not bad enough to get good. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan understood this more so than any other when he made the controversial Gerald Wallace trade last month. Good isn’t good enough and if you want to get better, sometimes you gotta get a little worse.

Flash forward to last Monday when my bald-headed AmerAsian brother from another mother capped off his initial press conference with the following zinger:

One of the worst things you can do in this league, I think is be a middle-of-the-road team. After the team traded Gerald Wallace, I think there’s a lot of parallels (with Cho’s previous gig in Seattle/OKC). We got some cap room coming up, some assets and picks.

What can I say, great minds think alike.

So without further ado, let’s get to some good old fashion rosterbation, Southern Style!

SECTION 1. WHAT WE GOT

Before we head out to the supermarket, we should take a look in the cupboard. As badly as the Bobcats finished the season, the team does have a few assets.

a.) D.J. Augustin

Has clearly shown that he can be a top 20 starting PG in the league (although our own @BaselineDrE insists that Earl Boykins would destroy him in a PER contest). D.J. can shoot and has figured out how to score from in close. Perhaps no player currently in the league benefited from J.J. Barea’s Playoff Explosion more than Augustin. D.J. has more upside, is more versatile and stronger. Could be headed for a breakout season and newly crowned Bobcats GM Rich Cho repeatedly brought his name up during last week’s press conference – the team seems committed to him.

Another couple of positives: He proved that he could shoot his way out of a slump and is still on that sweet rookie deal.

b.) Stephen Jackson

Volatile and getting a bit long in the tooth, Jackson is a former champ and the Bobcats’ best player. He’s the only guy who can consistently create his own shot and when he’s on, can single-handily carry the team to a victory. Showed up at a team workout last month twenty pounds lighter and in great shape. Coach Silas intimated that at this weight JAX could play another 4-5 seasons. His contract is probably untradeable until at least the summer of 2012 so look for JAX to remain in his role with the team next season.

UPDATE: AP’s @mikecranston1 announced that other teams have been inquiring about Jackson’s availability so there could be a scenario in which the Bobcats start next season without one of the League’s most under-rated two way players.

c.) Tyrus Thomas

Needs to prove that he can stay healthy and stay focused but when he’s in physical and mental shape can really change the game from a defensive perspective. Solid rebounder and excellent shot blocker who has a nice mid-range jumper. Bobcats have invested a ton of cash hoping the Tyrus experiment works out. Best case scenario: Starting Power Forward for the next five seasons. Worst case scenario: Severely overpaid role player.

d.) Gerald Henderson

Very good defensive guard. Very athletic. Shown promise as a cutter but jump shot is still erratic. Henderson is another unknown. May one day become a great long-ball shooter but not there yet. Finished the season on an absolute tear, going for nearly 15ppg in March and April while shooting nearly 46% from the floor just over 34 minutes a game.

UPDATE: Had hip surgery in early May to repair a congenital flaw that led to chronic knee pain. Brass hopes he’s back 100% by the start of training camp.

e.) D.J. White, Dante Cunningham (RFA), Shaun Livingston

Three youngish rotation players who have shown flashes of potential. White seems to have the most upside and is still on his rookie deal. Livingston has managed to carve out a place in the league after destroying his knee a few years ago. Cunningham showed flashes as a full-time three (recording possibly the team highlight of the year by smacking away a KG gimme at the rim) but was busted for possession of the chronic after the season and has yet to receive his $1 million tender from the team.

Total it up and you have seven players who’ll most likely be suiting up for the Bobcats next season. That’s half a roster. Combine them with two first round draft picks next week and the CAP CRUNCHERS (Gana Diop, Matt Carroll, Eddie Najera) and you’re down to just two roster spots available to improve the team.

SECTION 2. WHAT WE NEED

Augustin, Jackson, Thomas and Henderson will most likely return as four of the team’s starters. Livingston, White and possibly Cunningham will be solid contributors from the bench. That still leaves some major needs:

a.) Men in the Middle

A pleasantly mediocre surprise, Kwame Brown will be an unrestricted free agent come July and the team will need to make a major upgrade if it wants to compete. Gana Diop is currently the only center on the roster and he was bad before the season ending achilles injury. With Diop not likely to see action until at least next December, the Cats will most likely have to add size in Thursday’s Draft (see below) and hope Kwame gives them a bit of a hometown discount once FA starts after the new CBA.

b.) Bench Scoring

Augustin, Jackson and (if he develops a jumper) Henderson can handle most of the scoring as starters but the team lacks any sort of big time scoring presence from the bench. The Bobcats will need to find someone capable of taking off some of the scoring load. Coach Silas has been very vocal about his team’s lack of three point shooting and there are some players in the middle of the draft who could fill that need. Some veteran help might come relatively cheap in the way of Delonte West, Anthony Parker or Mike Dunleavy should Cho feel the need to stock up.

c.) Stars

Either through the draft or through crafty trades, the Bobcats will need to find a way to bring in a guy who’ll move the turnstiles and put down game-winning buckets.

This need won’t likely be met during the draft or in free agency this year but with Diaw and Najera coming off the books next summer and with Jackson transitioning into an expiring year, the Bobcats could make some serious noise in the vaunted summer FA class of 2012 (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard).

SECTION 3. THE DRAFT

Just a few days away and the Bobcats sit pretty with picks number 9 and 19 in a muddy first round.

I’ve been racking my brain about this on Twitter and have come to the following conclusion:

It’s gonna be a wing and a big man.

Can’t say in what order but looking at the options available to the team at number nine and the dearth of quality starting fives in the league my gut tells me it’s going to be Southern Cal’s Nikola Vucevic first and whichever wing is available around pick nineteen next.

This would be high for Vucevic, who wasn’t even a first round lock at the end of the college season, but after his outstanding workouts around the league and after surveying the competition I think Bobcats management will pull the trigger simply because Nikola represents the best value.

Think of it this way: At 7ft, 260 and with three years of NCAA experience Vucevic has the body to come in and play right away. Between his soft touch around the hoop and a nice collegiate three point jumper, the guy would immediately be the most offensively potent center in team history (well, at least since Primoz Brezec). He plays a position which traditionally is well over-paid so by drafting a rookie the team could lock a potential starter into a four year rookie scale deal. Killer timing for next year’s free agency bonanza. Defensively, Vucevic’s slow-footedness is a concern but he’s a solid rebounder and would be a great fit next to Tyrus Thomas.

COMPS: Mehmet Okhur, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez.

At pick nineteen, Master Cho could then look at the abundant number of wing players (Jordan Hamilton, Marshon Brooks, Chris Singleton, Tobias Harris, Darius Morris) still on the board. He could roll the dice and take a player like Boston College’s Reggie Jackson. With the Heat reportedly high on the Rondo-clone, the Cats could screw over a division rival while adding another dimension to their backcourt.

The IDEAL scenario, of course, would be a second-tier wing player like Kawhi Leonard dropping to the Bobcats at #9 and then maneuvering up from #19 to select Vucevic before the Rockets can nab him at #14. I just don’t see how this is a possibility though if Houston is in fact ready to Nikola with the last pick in the Lottery.

SECTION 4. FREE AGENCY

No one knows what the new CBA will look like next season (if there is one) but I’d be willing to bet that the Bobcats’ situation won’t change much. Once all of the expirings come off, the team will sit at around $49 million in salaries, around $10 million south of this year’s cap. Add in the two first rounders along with (possibly) re-upping Dante Cunningham, the team should be at around $54 million.

Obviously, the remaining $6 million wouldn’t be enough to bring in a big-name star (even if there was one in a weak FA class) but the extra wiggle room may help them pull off a deal or two IF the team is lucky enough to import a decent center from another team.

Free Agent Centers 2011:

a.) DeAndre Jordan.

Made big strides this season but the high-flying athlete probably doesn’t make much sense to pair with a similar player in Tyrus Thomas. Clippers also seem intent on keeping him.

b.) Marc Gasol.

Will likely command around $10 million+/per on the open market. Gasol is a lower rent version of his All-Star brother but is only 26 and could develop into top tier center himself given the right circumstances. He’s a restricted and the Griz have stated that they’ll re-sign him but given the historical ownership thriftiness and the fact that Z-Bo’s deal is also up makes me think that Gasol could be had with a big poison-pill offer sheet. To make a move for Gasol, the Bobcats would likely have to find a taker for Boris Diaw’s $9 million expiring contract first (see TRADE section).

c.) Kwame Brown.

Performed adequately for the team as a starter this season and could be brought back as a backup if the price is right.

d.) Other Potentially Interesting FAs.

Big Baby Davis, Nene (ETO), Shane Battier, Carl Landry (who they’ve tried to sign before), Sam Dalembert, Craig Smith, Brandon Wright.

SECTION 5. TRADE

Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw. Did I mention Boris Diaw? I just can’t see any way the Frenchman stays on the Bobcat roster come training camp. Only on the books for a final season, in a contract year (so will likely be motivated – see Chandler, Tyson) and has proven that when he gives a crap can be a game-changing presence in the lineup. All these factors combined with the Coach’s obvious dissatisfaction in Diaw’s inconsistent performances will likely land Boris in another uniform next season.

Potential Trades:

a.) Boris Diaw to Toronto for Leandro Barbosa + 33rd Selection.

Colangelo wanted him last summer and they need size. Both players on expirings, Bobcats trade big for small but also shave another $1.4 million off the books to go after a FA. ‘Cats get the bench scoring they’ve so desperately needed and another high second rounder for an international draft ‘n stash.

UPDATE: With the Raps hiring of “D”wayne Casey, odds are that Toronto will be actually playing a little defense this season, making this trade more likely if the ‘Cats wanted to make it.

b.) Boris Diaw to LAClippers for Chris Kaman.

Again, both players on expirings. Clips get the third big to rotate with Griffin and Jordan. Bobcats take on an additional $3.2 million and risk Kaman’s recent injury history but if it works out, then they have a high-scoring starting center for the first time in franchise history.

UPDATE: With rumors flying around a possible Iggy for Kaman swap, this offer looks rather paltry. Would the Clips be in the market for a Stephen Jackson for Kaman trade?

c.) Boris Diaw + the #19 to TeamX for cap space.

In this deal, the ‘Cats could find a team with cap space in need of a versatile big and compensate them with either this year’s late first rounder or Portland’s pick in 2013. The ‘Cats would then have around $18 million to pursue a free agent target like Marc Gasol.

UPDATE: This seems very unlikely.

SECTION 6. WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

Whenever the ’11-’12 NBA season starts, the Bobcats (barring major injury) will look quite a lot better than currently configured.

If the team simply follows the recipe above, they could trot out:

PG: Augustin/Livingston

SG: Henderson/Chris Singleton/Carroll

SF: Jackson/Chris Singleton/Cunningham

PF: Thomas/D.J. White/Najera

C: K.Brown/Vucevic/Diop

Not bad. Depending on the development of the youngsters, the team could even compete for one of the final seeds in the East. But I don’t think that’s Rich Cho’s plan. Again, in order to get better, some times you have to get worse. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the team bottom out by trading both Diaw and Jackson by the trade deadline and finishing it up with a bunch of 25 and younger types logging major minutes. That is the OKC model anyway. A high lottery pick in 2012 and a boatload of cap space could then launch the Charlotte basketball franchise into the stratosphere.

Until Version 3.0…

Enjoy the Nottery, Bobcats Fans,

-ASChin

Stephen Jackson Wins Game On Buzzer Beater, Downs Hawks 88-86

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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Box Score | Recap

At the time of writing this recap, it’s been over an hour since end of the Bobcats-Hawks game, and I still can’t believe what I saw.

Stephen Jackson, while double-teamed and with the clock winding down, faded away and caught nothing but net on a shot that won the game at the buzzer.

But that wasn’t the only thing that absolutely boggles my mind. Try these on for size: the Bobcats came back from a 22 point deficit; the Bobcats had a reserve score 22 points; AND Stephen Jackson scored efficiently.

And all on the tail end of a back-to-back.

The end result was a Bobcats win over the Hawks, 88 to 86.

But the whole game was an extremely difficult fight. Even in the first quarter, the Bobcats found themselves down by ten points early. Luckily they recovered, with the help of Livingston, who had eight points in the first quarter. They went into the second quarter tied at 27.

The second quarter for the Bobcats was a disaster of epic proportions. Charlotte was down by 22 points and allowed an 18-0 run by the Hawks at times during the quarter. It wasn’t until 2:26 left in the quarter until a Bobcat made a field goal. And by that time, it seemed like the only thing separating the Bobcats from their 32nd loss was about 24 minutes of game time. The starters, outside of Gerald Wallace and Jackson, were completely awful. And Livingston was pretty much the only redeemable thing about the game, scoring 12 points by halftime. Meanwhile, Atlanta was hitting their shots from all over. In the first quarter they attacked the paint, but in the second, they hit shots from all over the court.

(CLICHÉ ALERT)

But there’s a reason they play 48 minutes, right?

(CLICHÉ ALERT OVER)

In the third quarter, you could see the Bobcats beginning to right the ship. An ineffective, poorly-shooting Augustin was replaced with Shaun Livingston, who played out of his mind. The defense tightened up, allowing only three Hawks attempts in the paint. Gerald Wallace even did un-Gerald Wallace-y things, like hitting three treys. Livingston picked up where he left off, dropping 6 points and two dishes. And Stephen Jackson came to life, playing more efficiently on offense, even drawing a few fouls. The game came into reach as the quarter ended, Hawks up 72-68.

As the final period of play began, one could feel the Bobcats taking complete control. They were getting shots that they wanted and more importantly, the Hawks weren’t able to attack Charlotte’s main weakness: defense in the post. Even D.J. and Gerald Henderson added some points, despite their rough nights. More importantly, Jackson was rolling. Whenever Stephen Jackson can get to the free throw line, it’s going to be a good night for him. And boy, was it for him tonight. Despite the Bobcats’ desire to pull away, the Hawks wouldn’t let that happen. While their offense wasn’t getting much of anything, their defense helped force the Bobcats into bad shots, making the game struggle at times when both teams took time off from scoring. But after a pair of Jackson free throws to tie up the game, the Bobcats stifled the Hawks on their next possession and Stack Jack a long, tough mid-range jumper to put Charlotte up by two. But Atlanta struck back with an Al Horford score and getting possession after Livingston missed a jump shot.

And then it was crunch time. Tie game at 86. Atlanta squeezed as much time from the clock but couldn’t also get a good shot, with Joe Johnson bricking a 21-foot shot. Bobcats ball with a little over five seconds left. Coach Paul Silas called for a time out, which moved the ball up court. Eduardo Najera inbounded the ball to Jackson from the sideline. And he just stood there. No one else even moved. Then Jackson took a single dribble back, towards Najera’s defender! Then, with about .8 seconds left, he jumped and faded away from the two defenders, hitting the bottom of the net and winning the game.

I was dumb-founded. I’m still dumb-founded. The Bobcats have never been really effective using isolation plays. And over a double team? I could have sworn we were headed to overtime. And it’s not just that. Shaun Livingston had 22 points! The Bobcats haven’t had a reserve score that many points since November! I’m just in awe over all of this.

Odds and Ends

  • When is D.J. Augustin going to find his shot? We need his offense quite badly.
  • Boris Diaw was pretty bad tonight too, just so it doesn’t go unsaid.
  • Gerald Wallace was really good. I didn’t want anyone to think I missed that.
  • Good defense by Jackson and Henderson on Joe Johnson (4-14 FG, 11 PTS) and Jamal Crawford (1-9 FG, 2 PTS).
  • I hate you, Mike Bibby. Eduardo Najera, I don’t like you much either, but you’re better than Bibby, I guess.
  • The Bobcats are now 23-31 and face the Lakers on Monday, in Charlotte. Watch out for the bandwagon fans if you go.
  • Josh Smith destroyed Eduardo Najera with a single dunk.

Stats Leaders:

Bobcats

Stephen Jackson: 12-24 FG, 7-8 FT, 32 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO

Shaun Livingston: 8-13 FG, 6-6 FT, 22 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO

Gerald Wallace: 6-15 FG, 4-6 3P, 16 PTS, 13 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO

Hawks

Josh Smith: 11-17 FG, 4-7 FT, 28 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL

Al Horford:  8-15 FG, 16 PTS, 10 REBS, 3 AST

Play of the Night

Well, I guess they can’t always be Shaun Livingston plays, haha.

Stephen Jackson’s game-winning shot

- 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 Come Up Big To Defeat Celtics

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Tres (Photo by Chuck Burton/AP)

The Charlotte Bobcats rode big contributions from unlikely sources to beat the East-leading Boston Celtics 94-89 on Monday night at the Cable Box. After Stephen Jackson was ejected arguing a call in the second quarter, Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson stepped up off the bench to fill the void.  Gerald Wallace continued his recent strong play, leading the Bobcats with 19 points and 16 rebounds.

AP Recap |  Box Score

After hanging with, but ultimately succumbing to elite teams twice over the weekend at home, the Bobcats got another chance against the Boston Celtics, who were without Shaq, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden due to injuries (not to mention Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West) AND on the second night of a back-too-back.

This one started out similarly to the Heat and Mavs games: the Cats showing no signs of backing down, hanging right with the Celtics.  Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen played well early on, while Stephen Jackson paced the Bobcats.  Early in the second quarter, 6′-7″ Shaun Livingston took advantage of his matchup with 5′-9″ Nate Robinson to the tune of 10 points in a 5 minute span.

But late in the second quarter, Cap’n Jack struck again.  After a defensive switch left Jackson on Garnett in the post, Garnett began to work for position.  Jackson fought him for said position, forcing Garnett to take an awkward, slightly off-balance step.  Garnett sold it well and a foul was called on Jackson.

It wasn’t a terrible call; but Jack apparently thought it was and laid into the official, quickly drawing a tech.  Silas went to the bench to sub for Jack, but not quickly enough.  Jack continued to berate the refs on the way towards the sideline and drew his second tech and an ejection.

But the Bobcats surprisingly wouldn’t fade, taking a one point lead into halftime.  Midway through the third, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce hit back-to-back threes to give the Celtics 65-57 lead; but from that point, the Bobcats dug in for a strong finish.

The fourth quarter was an exctiting, back-and-forth affair that ultimately saw an unconventional Bobcats crunchtime group overcome Jack’s ejection and a Celtics team that appeared to run out of gas.

Coach Paul Silas went with Shaun Livingston’s hot hand down the stretch over DJ Augustin; Livingston responded and kept up his strong play, finishing the game with 18 points on 7-10 FG.

Gerald Henderson filled in admirably for Jackson, playing his customary fantastic perimeter defense and nailing a clutch 20-footer off a down screen with 2:31 left to give the Bobcats an 86-83 lead.

And on the next Bobcats possession, Eduardo Najera, who played great defense on Kevin Garnett in 19 minutes of playing time, drained a huge three to push the lead to 89-83.  From there, good defense and a few free throws closed it out.

Notes

  • With Gerald Henderson’s continued improvement and Stephen Jackson’s persistent and apparently worsening troubles, is a trade becoming more and more likely?  I’d love to see it, even if doing so meant the Bobcats falling out of the playoffs.  Problem is, with Jack’s continued embarrassing behavior and the Maverick’s elite play with their current roster, would they still even be interested in him?
  • So Jack is up to 13 technical fouls, if you’re counting.  As a reminder, once you get to 16, every other tech begets a one-game suspension. More disincentive for another team to make a trade for him.
  • Kwame Brown also picked up a tech for getting into Kendrick Perkins face after a hard foul.
  • Ray Allen had only two three-pointers and will have to wait another game to tie and overtake Reggie Miller for the all-time NBA record for made threes.
  • Next game is Wednesday night as the Bobcats visit Indianapolis to take on the Pacers; 7 PM ET start.  Along with the Sixers and Bucks, the Pacers are one of the teams that the Bobcats will be fighting for the 7th-8th East playoff spot — so the head-to-head matchups are obviously huge.  The Pacers currently lead the Cats by a half-game for the 8th spot.

-Dr. E

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

Bobcats Drop to 0-14 All-Time Against Dallas, Lose 101-92

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Shaun Livingston: "Derp." (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Recap | Box Score

Another game against Dallas, another loss.

The Bobcats moved to 0-14 all-time against the Dallas Mavericks with tonight’s 101-92 loss.

The Bobcats, on the tail end of a back-to-back, were stuck with a consistent 12-point deficit (give or take, obviously) for most of the game as their offense only managed to shoot 37.1% from the field while the Mavs shot 46.5%. Dirk Nowitzki headed the Bobcat-Killing Committee once again, with 25 points, including some clutch shots in the fourth quarter. The quintessential Bobcats-Mavs game, if you will.

A slow start for the Bobcats was quelled by an unusual 11-point scoring flash by Boris Diaw. However, after the Mavs compensated for his offensive outbreak, the Bobcats couldn’t find anyone to step up for a while. D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson’s shots were off early and the Bobcats fell to a nine-point deficit after the first quarter.

Luckily in the second quarter, Shaun Livingston came alive and had 10 points on six shots. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to help cut into Dallas’ lead as the rest of the Bobcats were wholly ineffective. And that especially extends to the defense, which was atrocious. I can’t even remember how many dunks Tyson Chandler had in the first half (eleventy-jillion?). Augustin could shoulder much of the blame as he couldn’t defend Jose Juan Barea because of Barea’s quick first step. And once Barea, or another Dallas player, got to the interior, the defense again collapsed. The Bobcats weren’t talking to each other, which is an incredibly important part of defensive cohesiveness. Furthermore, Tyson Chandler (in his first game back in Charlotte since being traded) dominated from a rebounding perspective in the first half, grabbing 11 rebounds in the first half alone. Kwame Brown was simply not strong or quick enough to rebound against Chandler. And to make things seem worse, I found that Jackson seemed disinterested.

The third quarter was more of the same for the most part. Barea and Dirk were still hitting their shots. Tyson Chandler was slowed down though, en route to only four second-half rebounds. D.J. Augustin did make an encouraging turnaround after hitting a three-pointer which seemed to instill some confidence in him. He ran with it, completing a three-point play on the next offensive possession and pulling the Bobcats back into the game, somehow. On the other side of things, Stack Jack was doing the opposite. In the third quarter, Jackson was getting quite fussy and even drew a technical foul. I was fairly confident he would get tossed by the end of the night (he didn’t). The third quarter ended with the Bobcats down 16. As Dr. E noted, it just felt like the Bobcats weren’t in it.

In a pleasing turn of events (especially to those who paid to watch this game in person), the fourth quarter was much more entertaining and competitive. Playing much better defense and utilizing better ball movement on offense, the Bobcats cut the Mavs’ lead to six with a minute left. It could have been even closer than that, but the Mavericks had seven offensive rebounds between 10:22 and 5:01 left in the fourth quarter. And even though some of those did not lead to any points for the Mavs, it took time off the clock from the Bobcats’ comeback effort. And in the end, the Bobcats couldn’t muster the energy to complete a comeback, losing by nine.

The Bobcats, now 21-29, play their next game at home against the Celtics (37-12) on Monday at 7 p.m. EST.

Plays of the Night

Shaun Livingston dunk!

There was also a very nice Shaun Livingston to Gerald Wallace alley oop that you can find here.

Stats Leaders:

Bobcats

D.J. Augustin: 7-17 FG, 21 PTS, 2 AST

Gerald Wallace: 6-15 FG, 13 PTS, 11 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK

Stephen Jackson: 5-17 FG, 17 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK

Mavs

Dirk Nowitzki: 10-19 FG, 25 PTS, 4 REB, 4 BLK

Tyson Chandler: 4-10 FG, 9 PTS, 15 REB, 2 BLK

Jason Terry: 7-14 FG, 21 PTS, 3 AST

- 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.

Clippers Decimate Road-Weary Bobcats

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Believe it or not, this defense did not stop Blake Griffin. (AP Photo)

Recap | Box Score

It was a rough game tonight, from the beginning to the final buzzer.

Immediately after the tipoff, Los Angeles Clippers color-commentator, Ralph Lawler, called the Charlotte NBA team the “Charlotte Hornets” and their play-by-play guy, Michael Smith, said the coach was “Pete” Silas.

And though that didn’t have any impact on the game, it should have warned me that I was in for a bumpy Bobcats game that would end with them losing 103-88, ending the Bobcats’ three-game road win streak.

The real damage was done by Blake Griffin tonight, as everyone should have known. Coming into the game, I was a little worried that the Bobcats didn’t have a power forward as strong or athletic to defend Griffin.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Blake Griffin led the Clippers in the first half with an array of highlights, including an eye-popping 360 degree, reverse layup en route to 19 first-half points. The tired Bobcats simply couldn’t keep up and fell behind to a huge deficit in the third quarter. Then, like the young team they are, the Clippers let the Bobcats make a comeback effort, led by the bench. However, after the lead reached 11 points, L.A. regained their focus and beat the weary road opponents (JUST AS I PREDICTED).

Boris Diaw and whoever else tried to defend Griffin just could not control him. Whether it was Griffin’s strong post moves, his quickness, or his amazing leaping ability and fervor for getting rebounds, no Bobcats player could defend him at all. In fact, most of his mistakes were unforced, including a huge missed dunk. He would end the night with 24 points and 10 rebounds on 11-23 shooting. Admittedly, it’s not the most efficient stat line, but his presence was felt on every play. The Bobcats began to double-team him – in the second quarter. He was that good. And the only player who had a good shot at defending him was injured (Tyrus Thomas).

But I can’t just put all of the loss on Griffin’s night. The Bobcats were on the tail end of a back-to-back with this being their fourth game in a six-game road trip. The Clippers, on the other hand, last played on Wednesday. The effect was enormous. Charlotte came out at a decent clip, but faded fast, unable to keep up with the Clippers’ pace and energy. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when Silas let loose the bench players, that the Bobcats regained any type of offensive scoring.

The Bobcats starters were simply atrocious, except for Stephen Jackson, who seems to have emerged from his January slump. Jackson went for 15 points on 5-11 shooting from the field, but the rest of the starters combined for 9-30 FG and 29 points. The fatigue was obviously overwhelming, considering the Bobcats had just finished an overtime thriller the previous night. Many shots were short and the Bobcats were lazy with their passing. D.J. Augustin, who has been outstanding as of recently, finished with four assists and three turnovers. As a team, the Bobcats had 17 turnovers.

The bench played admirably, reeling in a 25-point deficit to 11 with 7:37 to go in the fourth, but L.A. regained their focus and squished the Bobcats like an annoying mosquito. Gerald Henderson continued to show his talent, pouring in 14 points on only six field goal attempts. Shaun Livingston just had an awful night, hitting no shots from the field and turning the ball over three times. However, he did get to the line for six free throws, all of which he made. Derrick Brown had five points and five rebounds and Matt Carroll scored eight points all in garbage time. Nazr Mohammed was also effective off the bench with five points and 5 rebounds.

The Clippers were also led by Baron Davis (12 points, 11 assist, 6 rebounds), Randy Foye (21 points, 4 three-pointers, 4 steals, 2 blocks), and Ryan Gomes (6-8 FG, 3-4 3P, 18 points).

The Bobcats continue on their six-game road trip on Monday against the Utah Jazz.

By the way, get your tickets for the Clippers when they come to Charlotte now.

DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS, TRUST ME. (AP Photo)

- 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 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.

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