Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 1)

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capped-out

Chapter I: Diagnosis

First Number of Interest: $680,000.

It’s the number you get when you take the Bobcats $69.24 million in salaries for the ’09-’10 season and subtract it from last year’s $69.92 million luxury tax threshold.  Six hundred and eighty K.  That’s approximately how close the Bobcats came to paying the luxury tax last season.  I say approximately as I’m basing the figures on Hoopshype’s excellent salary database — a database that doesn’t included Derrick Brown’s two year rookie contract.  (For the sake of this column, I’m estimating his cap figure to be equal to Milwaukee’s Jodie Meeks, drafted one spot behind Brown in last year’s second round.)

Second Number of Interest: $1.6 million.

That’s how much NBA teams are expecting to come off the cap next year.  You read that right, the Salary Cap will shrink next year and with it the luxury tax threshold.  According to ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan, the tax line will lower to around $68 million in ’10-’11 which would put the Bobcats at less than $8 million under the tax threshold before re-signing starting PG Raymond Felton (unrestricted), PF Tyrus Thomas (restricted) or valuable role players Stephen Graham and Theo Ratliff (click chart to see a larger image).

BobcatsCurrentCapSituation

Looking at next year’s salary commitments, three things are glaringly obvious:

1. THE CENTERS OF ATTENTION

The Bobcats have $27.5 million (roughly half of their cap space) committed to the center position and the last time I checked, none of those guys were named Howard, Duncan, Ming or Gasol.  Years of poor financial decision making have finally caught up: overpaying Emeka Okafor when they didn’t have to (Chandler), overpaying Matt Carroll when they didn’t have to (Diop) and bailing out Joe Dumars with the expiring contracts of Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec (Mohammed).
THE BAD NEWS: With the a possible lockout on the way in 2011, none of these guys are moveable unless the team is willing to take on another equally bad (if not worse) contract in return.
THE GOOD NEWS: Over $19 million will come off of the books for good in the summer of 2011 if the ‘Cats just hold tight and let Mohammed and Chandler play through their contracts.
Somebody take Larry Brown’s mobile phone privileges away pronto!

2. TYRUS THOMAS AND THE POISON PILL

The Bobcats didn’t send Chicago a future first round pick just to rent Tyrus Thomas for three months.  The intention was always to retain him for at least another season but given the Bobcats’ cap situation that might not be so simple.  As a restricted free agent, Thomas could command a salary north of the $6.2 million qualifying offer he’s due based on his rookie deal.  A team intrigued by Thomas’ potential and armed with enough cap space could offer Tyrus big money up front, signing Thomas to the dreaded “poison pill offer sheet” (see Milsap, Paul) during the summer.  Such a contract could offer Thomas $8 million in year one, $6 million in year two and only $4 million in year three.  The Bobcats would have the right to match but in doing so would essentially be “luxury-taxed-out,” unable to sign any other players (including a starting PG) without paying the dollar for dollar tax penalty — which is something Michael Jordan has repeatedly said that he will not do.  With so many teams flush with cap space this summer, the Tyrus Situation could get tricky.  Watch out for it.

3. WHO’S THE POINT?

Ray Felton is the best point guard available in a weak PG free agency class.  Again, it is entirely possible that a team flush with cap space could offer him $18 million or more over three years and in that situation the ‘Cats would have to fold.
Doubt that the team would let it’s starting point guard walk this summer?  The organization fiercely pursued a T.J. Ford trade during February’s trade deadline and weren’t even close to coming to terms on a long-term offer with Felton’s agent last summer.  If Raymond was a better shooter from outside and could finish with a little more consistency inside (not to mention stay in front of Jameer Nelson) maybe the team would go out of it’s way to sign him but I just can’t foresee it happening.  The ‘Cats will most likely have to acquire a starting PG via trade or from the free agency discount rack.

Yes, Bobcats fans, your team is in a major salary cap quagmire.

To further complicate the issue, the Bobcats can’t afford to simply allow their free-agents to walk and replace them with low-cost scrubs or cheap rookies.  The team doesn’t have any draft picks (instead they have Alexis Ajinca) and from a business perspective, the organization must improve their on-court product (or at least repeat last year’s success) in order to expand fan support and capitalize on their inaugural Playoff run.

TEAM NEEDS:

The Bobcats head into the summer with three major needs:

STARTING POINT GUARD
D.J. Augustin is clearly not ready to start and the Bobcats are too capped out to pay Raymond Felton market value.  They’ll need to make a trade or find an undervalued bargain replacement in Free Agency (see Blake, Steve).

LOW POST SCORING/REBOUNDING
Boris Diaw has a few low post moves but plays mostly on the perimeter and doesn’t concern himself very much with the art of rebounding.  Tyrus Thomas (if he’s re-signed) is a solid rebounder but has limited abilities as a post scorer.  The team will need to either trade for or sign a traditional low-post power forward to team with Thomas or Diaw.

CONSISTENT PERIMETER SCORING/SHOOTING
Larry Hughes turned out to be an inconsistent version of Flip Murray.  Sure, Hughes was a better defender but what the Bobcats really needed was offense from the bench.  Murray has said that he’d happily return to Charlotte next season.  If the ‘Cats could bring him back for a similarly low priced deal next season, they should.

THE PRESCRIPTION:

So how does a Capped-Out team retain talent and, dare I say it, even improve heading into next season?

Part II: Prescription A (Simple and Clean) — Coming Soon
Part III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart) — Coming Soon

-ASChin

Augustin, Hughes Push Bobcats Past Pistons

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Pistons, 4/10/10


The Charlotte Bobcats survived a late Pistons push for a 99-95 victory at the Cable Box on Saturday night.  With Raymond Felton out due to flu-like symptoms and coach Larry Brown trying to limit the minutes of banged-up stars Gerald Wallace (33 minutes) and Stephen Jackson (28), the Cats needed their backup guards to pick up the slack.  DJ Augustin (13 points/9 assists in 40 minutes) and Larry Hughes (18 points on 6-10 FG/4-6 3PT, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals in 26 minutes) obliged.

AP recap here |  Box score here

With Raymond Felton scratched due to flu-like symptoms, DJ Augustin got the start and 40 minutes of playing time.  The Cats and Pistons played a pretty close first half, with the Cats coming out on top 50-43.  The Bobcats proceeded to build 11 point leads a couple different times during the third quarter, but the rest of the way the Pistons made it interesting.

Ben Gordon and Jason Maxiell led the Pistons on a 27-13 run over a 9 minute stretch spanning the 3rd and 4th quarters that culminated in an Austin Daye three for an 88-85 Pistons lead with 5:15 left.  The Pistons accomplished this against an odd Bobcats lineup of Hughes/Jack/Graham/Brown/Chandler that just wasn’t getting it done; so down the stretch Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw and DJ Augustin returned to the floor to restore sanity.

DJ hit a tough, fading jumper with just over a minute left to put the Bobcats up 96-95.  Some scrambling Bobcats defense and a little luck would make that lead hold up.

The ensuing Pistons possession seemingly lasted forever; for the record, it included 0-5 field goals (2 of them threes), 4 offensive rebounds, 2 Pistons timeouts, and accounted for almost a full minute of game time.  Gerald Wallace finally ended the fiasco with a rebound with 16 seconds left, but only hit 1-2 free throws to keep the Pistons hopes alive.

Fortunately, the Pistons would miss again; this time Larry Hughes secured the rebound, then hit 2-2 free throws to secure the win.

Tidbits

  • The Cats were rocking some awesome black warm-up t-shirts with “Clinched” across the chest — a blue version was available in the Team Store.  Well played, Bobcats, but still no match for our SarcophaCrash Gerald Wallace t-shirts, now on sale for the playoffs for $18!
  • Tyson Chandler was 9-10 from the free throw line — he added a tip-in for 11 points total.
  • Stephen Graham was solid-as-usual off the bench: 11 points on 5-6 FG/1-1 3PT in 20 minutes.
  • Ty Thomas sat out again with his bad thumb.
  • I saw this kid coming up the stairs near my section at halftime and thought, “Wow, that looks like NCAA Champion Jon Scheyer’s 16-year-old doppelganger.”  Eventually, after he posed for a few pictures with fans, I realized it was Scheyer himself.  Damn, I feel old.
  • Strange box score tonight: the Cats outshot the Pistons 53.8% to 45.6% and beat them at the free throw line 22-26 to 17-26.  Rebounds and assists were essentially even.  So how did the Cats almost lose this one?  2 issues, both concerning.  1) the Pistons nabbed 13 offensive rebounds and 2) the Cats coughed up 15 turnovers.  Can’t be giving up extra possessions in the playoffs like that.
  • The win pushes the Cats to 31-9 at home on the year.  Pretty amazing.
  • Technically, there’s still a chance the Cats could get the sixth seed.  If the Cats win out (away at New Jersey, home against Chicago) and Miami goes 1-2 to finish the regular season, we’d tie them at 45-37, and would get the nod due to winning the season series against them.  But the Heat have the Knicks, Sixers and Nets in their last three games, and figure to go 2-1 at the absolute worst.
  • The Cats get a day of rest on Sunday before taking on the Nets in New Jersey on Monday night (7:30 PM ET start).  In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, the Cats have turned in a couple of embarrassing performances in losing two in a row to the Nets, the NBA’s worst team this year.  Don’t count on it happening again on Monday.

-Dr. E

CP3 in CLT?

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MJ hangs with an interesting crowd

This Can Still Happen

Back in the June of 2005, the Bobcats had an opportunity to draft local legend Chris Paul with the third pick in the draft.  The Blazers held the pick and offered the selection to Charlotte for the 5th and 13th choices in the draft.  The ‘Cats turned them down and the rest is history: Blazers dealt the pick to Utah, and New Orleans (picking 4th) scooped up the the NBA’s best under-30 PG.  It was rumoured that Paul wanted to play in Charlotte.  He was from Winston-Salem and had played college ball just up the road at Wake Forest.  The Bobcats needed a point guard.  They needed a star.  This can still happen.

Watching the New Orleans game on Wednesday night, it struck me: Chris Paul is going to be traded.  Maybe this summer.  Maybe sometime during next season but soon.  Here’s why:

  1. New Orleans is a small market team that’s losing money almost as fast as the Bobcats.
  2. George Shinn is in “SELL“-mode.
  3. Chris Paul is due $49 million over the next three seasons.  His replacement against the Bobcats, rookie phenom Darren Collison, is due just $5 million in the same time span.
  4. The Hornets have more than a couple of holes on their roster to fill.
  5. Hometown hero D.J. Augustin is way “OVER” (You bet he’s Over) with the local crowd.
  6. Anybody ever seen those Nike Air Jordan CP3s?

So what kind of a deal could the Bobcats put together to entice New Orleans to let go of their superstar???

The Trade

Well, from a salary perspective, the ‘Cats are going to have to return a few things in exchange for Paul’s $14.9 million dollar cap number.  They’ll also have to offer the Hornets some attractive pieces in exchange.  Here’s my proposal:

  • D.J. Augustin.  Again, hometown hero.  Still on a rookie deal until ’12-’13.  While not remotely in Chris Paul’s league, D.J. could form a great combo with Collison and help stretch the floor with his long distance shooting.
  • A Sign & Traded Tyrus Thomas.  Something like 3 years, $18 million sounds about right.  Another local product (high school in Baton Rouge, later LSU).  Thomas not only turns the local turnstiles, he would be a welcome athletic addition to a fairly unathletic frontcourt (Emekatron 2000 and David West).  The Hornets could then shop West (who has a great contract that declines in salary) for a physical starting two guard.
  • Gerald Henderson.  Let’s face it.  If Larry Brown is coaching the Bobcats, The Sequel is never seeing any PT and that’s not good for a young player’s game (just look how Darko’s skillz atrophied in Detroit).  The Hornets need a tough, defensive minded 2-guard to pair with Marcus Thornton and Gerald Henderson just may be that guy.
  • Salary Relief.  New Orleans currently has $73 million committed in salaries for next season.  This before factoring in any draft picks or filling out the roster.  The assumption around the league is that the luxury tax will lower to around $69 million.  By trading Paul for Thomas, Augustin and Henderson, the Hornets will save $4.5 million next season (putting them under the tax threshold).

From a Bobcats salary perspective, this trade would put them at EXACTLY the tax threshold ($69.8 million) with only eight players under contract.  The question is, would Michael Jordan spend an extra $5-$10 million if it meant bringing in a superstar like Chris Paul?  I think he just might.  The Bobcats would enter next season with:

  • PG: Chris Paul
  • SG: Stephen Jackson
  • SF: Gerald Wallace, Derrick Brown
  • PF: Boris Diaw, Alexis Ajinca
  • C: Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammed, Gana Diop

Now, there’s obviously a crowd at Center but the good news is that both Nazr Mohammed ($6.8 million) and Tyson Chandler ($12.75 million) represent expiring contracts in a year in which those will be very, very valuable (free agent summer ’11 looks like it’ll rival summer of ’10).  Could the Bobcats trade Mohammed for someone like Kirk Hinrich?  Maybe.  Take one or both centers off of the roster and run a platoon of a re-signed Theo Ratliff, Gana Diop and a (hopefully) developed Alexis Ajinca and then resign everyone’s favorite utility players Stephen Graham and Larry Hughes to veteran minimum deals and you have:

  • PG: Chris Paul, Kirk Hinrich
  • SG: Stephen Jackson, Larry Hughes
  • SF: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Graham
  • PF: Boris Diaw, Derrick Brown, Alexis Ajinca
  • C: Tyson Chandler, Gana Diop, Theo Ratliff

Not bad.  And considering that Larry Brown will run basically an eight or nine man rotation throughout the season, 10-14 depth isn’t that big of an issue.  This team could go deep into the Playoffs and finally bring star power to the CLT.

-ASChin

Which Bobcats Reserve Has Been Most Crucial?

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Bobcats Front Office Should Get Credit For The Team’s Deep Roster Talent

The Reserves Have Made The Difference This Season

The Reserves Have Made The Difference This Season

The Bobcats are closing in on their most successful season in team history, headed toward a spot in the NBA Playoffs and operating under new majority owner, Michael Jordan. The success is largely due to the leadership of Coach Larry Brown, and a roster upgraded with a collection of talent far above what Bobcats fans were used to seeing during the club’s first 5 seasons. The combination of Larry Brown’s prodding, Michael Jordan’s gambling, and Rod Higgins’ hard work has pulled this squad from unwatchable to a true Playoff team.

Considering all of the new players on the roster this season, Stephen Jackson has clearly made the biggest impact as a newcomer. Dealing Vladimir Radmanovic and (injured) Raja Bell to Golden State for “Jack” was a gamble and a potential public relations risk but the on-court effect was a huge steal for the Bobcats.  Too often, it seems that we hear Charlotte’s success has been due solely to Jackson’s arrival. It could be argued that the depth of talent on the Bobcats’ bench deserves just as much credit for the team’s consistent effort and defensive presence.

Since last summer, Coach Brown, Air Jordan, and Rod Higgins have all been working on tuning the roster. The latest addition of Larry Hughes shows that the team is still tinkering, filling in the gaps in order to secure their first Playoff bid.

Who Has Been The Most Important Reserve For The Bobcats?

While the jury is still out on 2010 lottery pick Gerald Henderson and the recently signed Larry Hughes, we should take a look at the most important “role players” for the Bobcats so far this season.

Stephen Graham

Offseason Free Agent Acquisition: Signed 1 year contract at $885,000.
Reserve Small Forward

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Undeniably, Graham’s greatest strength has been his professional approach and consistency while dealing with Coach Brown’s erratic rotation patterns.  Lord Stephen Graham has played very well in spot duty throughout the season ranging from ten minute cameos in relief of Gerald Wallace to 35 minute starts during Crash’s week long absence in March.  Graham played so well in that stretch (notching consecutive 19 point performances) that it’s not difficult to imagine the team bringing the veteran back next season to play a similar role.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Stephen Graham’s physique stands out even among NBA players.  When the season started, I first commented, “While other players spend the offseason working on jump shots and post moves, Stevie Graham worked on his delts.”  The dude is a beast.  Fortunately, this extra weight doesn’t seem to hamper his speed while defending opposing threes.  Graham is a solid if not spectacular defender and shows a surprisingly nice touch on the offensive end when shooting from the outside.  Not a great three point shooter, Graham knows his limits and won’t launch many.  Good for at least a couple of highlight dunks every month, Graham can catch defenders off guard around the baseline for a post & spin move to the hoop.  Graham was billed as a “George Lynch” clone early in the season and that’s exactly what he’s been, a solid NBA frontcourt reserve.

Derrick Brown

Rookie Draft Selection (2nd Round): Signed 2 year contract, details undisclosed
Reserve Power Forward/Small Forward

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Although Brown hasn’t been getting much burn during the second half of the season, his early work should (rightfully) raise fans’ expectations going into next season.  The four year forward from Xavier was labeled a 2nd round sleeper on draft day and in spurts Brown has lived up to the billing – his potential was on full display during an 18 point performance against the Suns back in January.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Derrick Brown’s size and athletic ability at his position will keep him in the League for at least a few more seasons.  He’s an excellent open court finisher and a decent mid-range shooter.  At 6’8″, Brown has excellent height for a SF which accounts for a high rebound rate at the position and has also allowed the team to play Brown at PF for stretches before acquiring Tyrus Thomas in February.  With more seasoning, it’s possible that Brown could crack Larry Brown’s rotation for good next year but he’ll need to cut down on the mindless fouls and missed assignments that plagued him during the second half of his rookie campaign.

Flip Murray

Offseason Free Agent Acquisition: Signed 1 year $1.9 million contract, traded mid-February
Reserve Shooting Guard / Point Guard

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Gone but not forgotten, Flip Murray proved to be exactly as billed: a scoring force off the pine, a strong personality with the cajones to take and make shots when others wouldn’t or couldn’t.  Murray’s bench scoring (over 12ppg) provided a major boost during Charlotte’s dominating 12-4 run in January and his presence was immediately missed as the Bobcats went 2-5 following his trade to Chicago.  Eventually, things returned to normal for both Charlotte and Murray as the Cats started winning again while Flip dropped 12.5 in 26 minutes per game with the Bulls in March.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Flip Murray is gonna get his.  Period.  Flip will shoot (and make) half of his team’s shots while he’s in the game and for a team in desperate need of second unit scoring, Murray is a godsend.  What he gives up at the other end of the court on defense he more than makes up for on offense.  During a loss against Orlando back in November, Murray dropped 31 points in 36 minutes – that’s probably more Flip Murray than you really need though.  He’s at his best in a 20-24 minute scoring role while the team’s starters have a rest.

Tyrus Thomas

Trade Acquisition: Currently on the final year of his rookie scale contract ($4.7 million), Bobcats can extend qualifying offer next season for $6.2 million or negotiate a long term contract
Reserve Power Forward/Center

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
Bobcats fans were a little disappointed that the team didn’t pursue a veteran backup PF during the offseason.  One by one, quality backups like Drew Gooden and Hakim Warrick were picked up by other clubs and the ‘Cats entered the ’09-’10 season without a legitimate PF to play behind starter Boris Diaw.  While acquiring another big man was inevitable, no one believed that the team would be able to bring in a player like Tyrus Thomas, a 6’10” super-athlete with as much untapped potential as any young power forward in the League.  Still only 23, Thomas stepped in and stepped up his game instantly and is averaging over 10 points, 6.5 boards and over a block in just over 20 minutes a game for the Bobcats since the trade from Chicago.  His presence has allowed the Bobcats to offer different looks, as Coach Brown has played a small frontcourt Thomas, Wallace, and Diaw for stretches against smaller, run & gun squads.
Although the price was steep (giving up a future 1st round pick along with Murray’s bench scoring), Thomas’ potential is worth the gamble.

Baseline Scouting Report:
At 6’10”, it’s a little surprising that Tyrus Thomas has almost no post moves whatsoever.  His offense comes mostly on thunderous putbacks, open court dunks or on unexpectedly sweet 15 footers.  While his rebound and blocked shot rates are off the chart, Thomas isn’t exactly the world’s best defender.  He’ll often be forced to foul or make a spectacular block from behind once his man has beaten him in the post.  Still, Thomas has both age and situation on his side.  Larry Brown mentored a similarly raw specimen in Gerald Wallace to an All-Star selection in just two seasons, it’s not hard to believe that Thomas could walk the same path if he’s willing to work on his game.
BONUS: Having Thomas on the roster will give the Bobcats some flexibility heading into next season.  As long as Tyrus’ contract demands aren’t outrageous, the team will definitely extend him or at least sign him to the qualifying offer for a year, making Thomas an expiring contract or a moveable asset should the team choose to go another direction.

Theo Ratliff

Trade Acquisition: Signed a 1 year $1.3 million contract
Reserve Center : Currently Starting

Why He’s Most Valuable Reserve Material:
I don’t want to skew the voting here folks but c’mon, has there been anyone more valuable to the Bobcats late season success than Theo Ratliff?  When Ratliff arrived mid-February from San Antonio (in exchange for very distant 2nd rounder) three of the four Bobcats centers were injured and the fourth was playing hurt (Nazr Mohammed).  The 36 year old veteran showed up as an afterthought, a worst-case scenario insurance policy, and then proceeded to average 6 points, 4 boards and a block and a half in just over 20 minutes of action a night.  The numbers don’t do Ratliff’s impact justice.  Opposing players are aware of his presence on every possession that he’s out there and when the Bobcats trot out Ratliff, Thomas and Crash together on the frontline, there’s a one in three chance that a shot will be blocked.  Simply amazing.  The spry, second coming of Mutumbo has another unexpected trick up his sleeve: he shot 87% from the FT line in March (32-37), making him a little more valuable on offense.  With Tyson Chandler finally healthy and playing well and Nazr Mohammed coming back soon, Coach Brown will have to reconfigure his rotation at center and that might mean reduced minutes for Theo.  Doesn’t matter, Ratliff’s play in March propelled the Bobcats to an 11-6 record for the month, all but sealing the team’s first Playoff berth.

Baseline Scouting Report:
Theo Ratliff is never going to win any battles down low with brute strength.  He’s more of shot blocker, shot alterer and does this with ease.  Technically, he’s a solid defender who can hold his own against the League’s top centers (see the March victory against the Magic in Orlando).  On offense, Theo should be barred from ever touching the ball more than six feet outside of the basket.  In fact, the semi-dashed circle underneath the basket that the officials use to determine blocking fouls versus charges should also be used by Theo Ratliff in determining whether or not he should take the shot.  Look down, if he’s outside the circle, pass.  In, dunk or get fouled and go to the line.  Simple as that.

-ASChin


Vote For The Role Player You Think Has Most Helped The Bobcats This Season.

POLL : BOBCATS MOST VALUABLE RESERVE 2009-2010

  • Stephen Graham
    (28%, 39 Votes)
  • Derrick Brown
    (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Flip Murray
    (19%, 26 Votes)
  • Tyrus Thomas
    (28%, 39 Votes)
  • Theo Ratliff
    (23%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 137

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Cats Pass Overtime Reform In DC

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Wizards 3/23/10

In sharp contrast to their overtime no-show last week in Atlanta, the Charlotte Bobcats went for the kill and dominated the extra period against the Washington Wizards Tuesday night to break a two game losing streak and maintain their hold of 7th place in the conference.

AP recap here | Box score here

This Is What Happens When You Don’t Hit Jump Shots

Despite thoroughly dominating the Wiz in the paint (at last count I had the Points in Paint differential at 50-20) the Bobcats couldn’t buy a decent jumper.  Check out the shot chart: The Bobcats only made one three pointer and a total of four shots outside of twenty feet for the ENTIRE GAME + OVERTIME.  The poor outside shooting dropped the Bobcats’ overall shooting percentage for the game to 39.4% even though interior players Boris Diaw, Theo Ratliff and Tyrus Thomas shot better than 50% from down low.

Stephen Jackson takes most of the blame again tonight.  I’m hoping that his recent struggles shooting the ball are just the result of a slump.  It’s not pretty, folks (Warning: These stats are NSFW): For the month of March, JAX is 38% from the floor, 25% from downtown while adding over 3 turnovers a game.  Yet inexplicably the Bobcats went to Jackson at the end of regulation for the win with just :08 on the clock.  JAX measures, fakes and finally launches a guarded three.  Clank.  We’re goin’ to OT.

Once in OT, it was again the Raymond Felton show – Ray hit two quick buckets to set the tone for the extra period, solidifying his place as the Bobcats most clutch scorer.

MJ Has Assembled A Lot of Talent

The Wiz announcers brought it up and I’ll bring it up again, the Bobcats have a lot of talent on this roster.  While it is frustrating to watch a team with so much talent struggle in a road win against a lottery squad like the Wiz, you can’t help but be amazed at how deep the team is compared to roster just two seasons ago.  Tyson Chandler continued his recent progress with eight boards and five points in 19 minutes.  Tyrus Thomas looked solid with a 7 & 7 off the pine in 20 minutes.  D.J. showed flashes of competence.
Lord Stephen Graham, who dropped consecutive 19 point games in Crash’s absence last week didn’t even make it off the bench but is now a proven asset.  The young players stuck to the end of the bench (Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca) have all shown promise.  The team’s two injured centers (Nazr Mohammed & Gana Diop), despite unsightly contracts, are legitimate players in the League.  Oh, and then there’s the starting center…

Theo Ratliff

If I’m Dwight Howard, then I’m enrolling in the Theo Ratliff mentoring program this summer.  The 15 year vet was supposed to be a last ditch insurance policy in case Diop, Mohammed or Chandler couldn’t make it back.  Turns out that the Cats stole a 6ppg, 4.5rpg, 1bpg quality big man at the deadline for nothing.  He hits his free throws too.  Theo is 20-21 from the line in March — that’s good for 95% from the stripe.  Ratliff played great again tonight against the Wiz dropping 10 points and 7 boards.  What’s most amazing about the 36 year old is how spry he is after all these years.  Obviously genetics and body type help — he’s more in the mold of a Kareem or Mutumbo than an O’Neal or Walton — but damn, I never saw this type of performance coming.

Bullets

  • I’m sure Chad Ford and John Hollinger would love the Wizards’ future.  Unfortunately the present pretty much sucks.  Their players look very skilled but very raw.  I’m not sure if Flip Saunders is the right type of coach to grow these young players into a contender.  I’m certain that this isn’t what he signed up for as the Wiz seemed primed to make a Playoff push with an aggressive offseason that brought in sharpshooter Mike Miller and bench sparkplug Randy Foye from Minny in exchange for Ricky Rubio-induced blueball.
  • Speaking of Minny (whom the Cats will be facing off against at home on Wednesday night), not only do the Wizards employ the T’Wolves former head coach in Flip Saunders but they’ve also brought everyone’s favorite Roswellian and former Wolves PG, Sam Cassell, into the mix as an assistant.  I wonder if we’ll ever catch Cassell flaunting his phantom elephant testicles after diagramming a good play.
  • The Wolves game is the start of a five game homestand for the ‘Cats.  If they can take care of business in at least four of those (especially against TOR early next week), then they’ll have pretty much locked up their first Playoff appearance.

Enjoy the Win Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Heat Out-Hustle Bobcats in Ugly Loss

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Charlotte Bobcats@Heat 3/20/10

Another day, another winnable game lost — this time a wasted opportunity against a fellow Eastern Conference Playoff contender.  The Miami Heat do nothing special in this one except for playing a little less worse than the Bobcats and win the game 77-71, leapfrogging Charlotte in the standings to take over sixth place by a half game.

AP recap here | Boxscore here

It’s the Little Things That Count

Dwayne Wade hardly dominated from a scoring perspective (6-18 from the field) but his fingerprints were all over the Heat’s win.  Wade registered 5 blocks including two MIND BLOWING rejections (one in waning seconds of the first half on Tyson Chandler and the other on Tyrus Thomas in the open court midway through the fourth quarter) and nine, count ‘em nine assists to go along with five boards and fourteen points.  The very definition of a leader, DWADE did whatever he could to put the Heat in a position to win.

Fugly Stats

Bobcats shot 29.2% from the field and commit 5 TOs.  You just can’t win a game like this folks.  The final margin of victory would’ve been much greater for Miami had they not spotted the ‘Cats with an extra fourteen free throw attempts (20 compared to 34).  Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace take most of the blame here by going for a combined 8-33 from the field.  It wasn’t like the Heat were playing suffocating full court defense, the ‘Cats just weren’t hitting anything.  Fatigue could be an excuse as Charlotte just came off of Friday night’s OT loss at Atlanta but with the stakes this high this close to Playoff time, it’s just not an acceptable excuse.  The ‘Cats just weren’t moving the ball enough and were settling for too many one and done long jumpers.

Amazingly, as bad as the Bobcats played against the Heat they had the game tied 61 with just 8:59 to go in the 4th.  Miami was just closing out quarters strong and the 4th was no different — a 10-0 run put this baby to sleep.

Bullets

  • Some Positive News: Tyson Chandler looked decent for once.  He played 33 minutes and grabbed eleven boards and swatted three shots.  He ran the floor well and looked engaged mentally.  As down as I am on Chandler, having him play well could only do good things for the Bobcats both short-term (teaming with Nazr Mohammed as a two-headed center platoon) and long-term (elevating his trade-bait status going into the offseason).
  • Seeing that I’m also down on D.J. Augustin, I should at least offer some constructive criticism: D.J. needs to work on a stop & pop jumper from about 15 feet and a quick & crafty floater from the paint.  As of right now, the only outcome to Augustin’s dribbling into the lane is a blocked shot or a turnover.  At least with a floater and a Nash-like stop & pop he could get his shot off before anyone has a chance of swatting it away.
  • Larry Hughes made his debut at 10:30 in the 2nd and promptly had his shot swatted by Dorrell Wright.  Yes, there were lots of blocked shots in this game by Miami (13 to be exact).
  • Sparse crowd in Miami.  Looked about as bad as the Pacers crowd last week in Indy.
  • Right before the half the Heat broadcast team put together a little video package featuring the Greatest Centers in the Heat’s 22 year history.  Sad.  The Hornets could be doing something similar back in the CLT.  The Carolinas are all about tradition and it would have been great to walk into the Cable Box and see LJ, DC, Muggsy, Glen Rice and Zo’s jerseys’ hanging from the rafters.
  • Quentin Richardson Sighting!  The journeyman gunner dropped six threes in the first half, breaking a Heat team record.

At 35-34, the Bobcats are only a half game over .500 and just a half game up on Toronto for 7th place in the conference.  Fortunately the ‘Cats have the lowly Wizards twice this week sandwiching a home date against the T’Wolves.  If they don’t go 3-0 heading into the 29th home game against Toronto, then something is very, very wrong with this team.

Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Bobcats Defeat Thunder After Slow Start

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Thunder 3/17/10

The Bobcats scored another win, 100-92, over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.  The Cats had to overcome an awful start that had them down by as much as 19 points late in the second quarter.  Stephen Jackson led the Cats in scoring with 20 points; Kevin Durant led all scorers with 26.

AP recap here |  Box score here

The Bobcats poor start seemed to be due to a general malaise; meanwhile, the Thunder were making it all look so easy.  The trio of Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and Kevin Durant did most of the damage as the Thunder built their big lead.  But the Cats woke up for a quick 11-0 run in the last couple minutes of the second quarter to seize the momentum.

They kept it going in the third quarter, winning the frame 30-19 and overtaking the Thunder for the lead.  As usual, the run was keyed by the defense.  When the Cats weren’t racking up blocks inside, they were forcing contested jumpers outside.  Durant may have led all scorers with 26, but he needed 26 shots to do it (9-26 FG, 0-7 3PT).

The Thunder threatened briefly in the fourth quarter, cutting the Bobcats lead down to one at one point.  But Stephen Jackson soon responded with a three and the Cats were able to keep the Thunder at arms length the rest of the way.

Stephen Graham

Dude gets his own section.  After setting a new career high in last night’s loss to the Pacers with 19 points, Graham got another start for the injured Gerald Wallace… and responded by tying his new career high with 19 again (7-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 4-6 FT).  Graham added 5 rebounds and a block to go along with his efficient offensive performance in 30 minutes of playing time.

In the three games Graham has started for Gerald, he is averaging 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 30 minutes per game.  Huge.

Tidbits

  • In case you missed it, the NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved Michael Jordan’s bid to but the Bobcats today, so it’s all nice and official now.
  • Speaking of, apparently bobcats.com will be posting a Q&A with His Airness in the morning, while Stephanie Ready has scored the first on camera interview since he became owner; this will air during the Hawks game Friday night.
  • The Cats are now 35-32 overall (25-8 at home) and alone in 6th place in the East.  5th place Milwaukee just lost, which brings the Cats to within a game-and-a-half of them.  Behind the Cats, the Heat were off Wednesday and are just a half game back.  8th place Toronto won a thriller to keep pace, while Chicago lost their ninth in a row to fall further out of the race.
  • The Bobcats (and Gerald’s ankle) have a day off before a tough Southeast Division road back-to-back in Atlanta and Miami on Friday and Saturday.  Good luck, Cats.

-Dr. E