The Morning After

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Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer (Click to go to an Observer slideshow of Gerald Wallace: The Bobcat Years))

To recap, at yesterday’s trade deadline, the Bobcats:

  • Traded Gerald Wallace to the Trailblazers for Joel Pryzbilla, Sean Marks, Dante Cunningham, New Orleans’ 2011 1st round draft pick and the Trailblazers’ 2013 1st round draft pick.
  • Traded Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder for Morris Peterson and DJ White
  • Waived Derrick Brown, Sherron Collins and Dominic McGuire to make room on the roster.  It is anticipated that Marks and Peterson may eventually be waived as well.

The Wallace trade is admittedly hard to swallow.  It’s difficult to write about him without sounding histrionic.  Forget that he was the last “original Bobcat” from the inaugural season of the franchise or that he had become its “face”.  The face is superficial.  Wallace embodied the franchise.  Underappreciated, grinding away to overcome obstacles, sacrificing to offset shortcomings, eventually achieving a modicum of success and respect, only to reach a plateau that wasn’t high enough, Wallace’s arc mirrored the Bobcats’.

Though I’d been an advocate of rebuilding, I’d harbored a fantasy that that the Cats could keep Wallace around and do more of a “reboot” on the fly by moving Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and/or Mohammed.  Ultimately, it seems as if the market for those guys wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it might be.

And so faced with a bloody bottom line, a capped out roster, and no better than a 50% chance at making the playoffs this year (indeed, statistical models pegged it as more like 25%), Jordan made the difficult but correct decision to initiate a rebuild by trading the most beloved player on the team for the financial relief he needs and the draft picks this team requires for the future.

Pryzbilla’s contract expires after this season, so the Bobcats effectively saved the $21 million that would have been due Gerald Wallace over the following two season.  And most importantly, the Bobcats get two first round draft picks.  Yes, both of these picks will likely be mid-late first round.  Yes, the 2011 draft doesn’t look particularly strong.  Yes, the Hornets pick won’t come around until 2013.  And yes, Jordan’s history with the draft is anything but sterling.

But the object is to build a winner.  Building a winner in the NBA takes stars.  And small-market teams have only one way to get stars — the draft.

After trying the Larry Brown team-building model for a couple of years, it appears that Jordan has come around to the above reality.  It was time, folks.

Notes

  • So the Bobcats will get a look at two young power forwards.  Dante Cunningham is signed to a minimal deal through the rest of the season, while DJ White is on his rookie contract through next year, with a reasonable qualifying offer for the 2012-13 season.  White is the better prospect, having been selected late in the first round in the 2008 draft, but has been saddled with injuries and caught in a numbers game at the 4 spot in Oklahoma City when healthy.
  • Speculation now turns to the coming offseason and whether Stephen Jackson and/or Boris Diaw can/will be traded as the next step in the rebuild.  Frankly, now that Gerald Wallace is gone, I’d just as soon prefer the Cats go ahead and do that.
  • The Bobcats will face Wallace and the Trailblazers next Saturday, March 5th in Portland.  Then the following Friday, March 11th, the Cats will host Wallace and the Trailblazers here in Charlotte.

-Dr. E

POLL : What's your reaction to the Gerald Wallace trade?

  • Anger: Screw MJ, I'm done as a fan of this team! (14%, 23 Votes)
  • Sadness: I can't even talk about it... (16%, 26 Votes)
  • Acceptance: I'm disappointed, but understand. (51%, 83 Votes)
  • Shoulda been Jack. (19%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Bobcats Down Raptors; Trade Deadline Approaches

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DJ (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Bobcats handily defeated the Toronto Raptors, 114-101, on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  DJ Augustin led the way with 23 points and 8 assists/o turnovers, while Gerald Wallace relentlessly drove at Toronto’s weak interior defenders en route to 14-15 FTs and 20 points.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The Bobcats took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back.  They stretched the lead out to double digits in the second and nearly out to 20 briefly in the third.  A meaningless Raptors rally cut the Cats lead to 11 midway through the fourth before Gerald Wallace closed the door for good by getting to the line for 5-6 free throws on three consecutive possessions.

Boris Diaw had a strong game with 16 points (6-10 FG), 9 assists and 4 steals.  Gerald Henderson added 15 points (5-11 FG) and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.

The Raptors are pretty much a mess, and it starts with their best player.  7’0″ center Andrea Bargnani is about as soft as they come, and his nonexistent defensive ability and effort set the tone for the rest of the young team.

Notes

  • Stephen Jackson left the game in the third quarter after taking contact and landing awkwardly during a layup.  Jackson left the floor limping and holding his left hamstring.  He soon returned to the bench, but did not re-enter the game.  Jackson said after the game the injury was not a concern and that he could have played if called upon.
  • Nazr Mohammed did his best Kevin Love impression, grabbing 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Boris capped his night of with a breakaway dunk that was rather out of character.  After a feed from DJ, who had stolen the ball in the backcourt, Boris cocked it back behind his head before stuffing it two-handed.  I would say that he was inspired by this past weekend’s slam dunk contest, but you and I know there’s no way Boris watched that.
  • Weird line for Jerryd Bayless.  He was about as relentless going to the rack as Gerald Wallace and had 11-12 FT, but was 0-4 from the field.   He also tallied 10 assists, but gave up 4 turnovers and committed 4 fouls.
  • The Pacers took care of the Wiz tonight, so maintain their one game lead on the Bobcats for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Bobcats don’t play again until Friday night when they host the Kings at the Cable Box, 7 PM ET start.  The Kings will be without Tyreke Evans, who is missing time with plantar fasciitis, and Carl Landry, who is about to get traded to the Hornets for Marcus Thornton.

Thoughts at the Trade Deadline

Bonus trade deadline thoughts!  Now that the Carmelo deal is done, some other smaller deals are starting to go down.  The deadline is at 3 PM ET on Thursday.  Several sources have indicated that the Bobcats have been active on the phones.

But Paul Silas has been quoted both Monday and Tuesday as saying that he doesn’t think the Bobcats will be making a trade; his quote from Tuesday made it sound as if the Bobcats had only received ludicrous proposals from other teams: “We’re not just going to give people away and that’s what most teams want you to do.”

That’s basically code for: “You know who we’ve got on the block.  We’re ready to deal, but you’re going to have to step your offer up.”

And while I agree that the Bobcats should only trade Gerald Wallace if they get a Godfather offer, and should be pretty picky about giving Boris Diaw up, I wouldn’t be as choosy about a Stephen Jackson trade.  I’d jump on a mix of an expiring contract and a draft pick in a heartbeat, but that’s probably not happening.

Whatever the case, despite Silas’s proclamation that “nothing’s happening”, expect to hear the Bobcats continue to come up in deadline buzz over the next day and half.

-Dr. E

POLL : What should the Bobcats do at the trade deadline?

  • Trade Gerald Wallace (23%, 12 Votes)
  • Trade Boris Diaw (17%, 9 Votes)
  • Trade Stephen Jackson (34%, 18 Votes)
  • Stand pat and make a playoff push (26%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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The Emergence of Gerald Henderson

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Gerald Henderson (Photo Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

One of the primary knocks against the Charlotte Bobcats has been the lack of young talent on the roster.  The Bobcats draft history is littered with busts that will not be rehashed again here.  The lack of success in the draft has forced the Cats to rely on trading for players with considerable baggage (Stephen Jackson, Tyrus Thomas) and signing third tier free agents (Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire).

But since the coaching change from Larry Brown to Paul Silas, Charlotte’s recent drafts are looking a little better.  The improvement of DJ Augustin immediately after the arrival of Silas was well noted (though DJ has slumped recently as opponents have adjusted and he’s dealt with a wrist injury). But an even newer development has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson, the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.

Buried Under Larry Brown

Henderson played little his rookie year and showed little when he did.  But if you looked hard enough, you could see some strengths: driving/slashing/finishing and defense, both on-ball on the perimeter and help from the weakside.

This season, Henderson was on a roller coaster for the 28 games that Larry Brown coached — he played regularly to start the season, but then found himself in Brown’s doghouse and didn’t get off the bench for 14 straight games from mid-November to mid-December.  Henderson did make his way back into the rotation for a few games during Brown’s last days in December.

Here are Henderson’s per game numbers and shooting percentages for the 14 games he did play in under Brown this season:

  • 11.6 mpg  |   2.6 ppg  |  37.5 fg%  |  58.3 ft%  |  1.5 rpg

Nothing worth writing about, but again there were flashes of his strengths with no team-killing weaknesses to speak of, which made it all the more frustrating that he was in the doghouse instead of on the court getting the “royal jelly”.

Emerging Under Paul Silas

At the All-Star break, Paul Silas has now coached 28 games and has played Gerald Henderson in all 28.  Henderson has been increasingly productive over this time.  Let’s break up those games into three chunks and look at the trends (unfortunately, 28 is not evenly divisible by three, so I’m splitting it into the first 10, second 9 and third 9 games).

First 10 games – Henderson immediately sees increased playing time and responds:

  • 21.9 mpg  |   6.6 ppg  |  46.7 fg%  |  66.7 ft%  |  2.9 rpg

Second 9 games — Henderson increasingly becomes a legitimate option on the offensive end.  He goes from averaging 6 shots per game to just under 8 and maintains his field goal percentage.

  • 21.8 mpg  |   8.2 ppg  |  44.2 fg% |  73.3 ft%  |  3.0 rpg

Last 9 games (which conveniently coincides with February, meaning I didn’t have to tally these numbers myself, thanks to Basketball-Reference.com’s monthly splits) — the whole reason for this article.

  • 23.4 mpg  |  11.4 ppg  |  51.5 fg%  |  78.0 ft%  | 4.1 rpg

In the 9 games thus far in February, Gerald Henderson has increased his shooting to 51.5% from the field and 78.0% from the free throw line.  He’s  averaging 11.4 points per game, which projects to 17.5 points per 36 minutes.  With DJ Augustin slumping, Stephen Jackson frequently more engaged with the refs than with the opponent, and Boris Diaw fading in and out of relevance as he is wont to do, there have been nights when it’s felt like Henderson’s been the second best offensive option.

Scouting Gerald Henderson

Henderson’s offensive game is limited, but fairly polished, and certainly evolving.  His two greatest strengths are his mid-range jumper and his driving/slashing ability.  He readily hits the mid-range jumper curling off of down screens, but also strokes it nicely off the dribble moving to his right. Here are some great examples from the January 20th win over the 76ers that Henderson played a huge role in:

Henderson is also blessed with a quick first step to his right (ask Kobe Bryant, who was victimized a couple times in the Bobcats recent win over the Lakers) and above-average leaping ability and strength once he gets to the rim.  He gets a fair amount of dunks and layups and trips to the free throw line.  Here’s an example (stick around for the Gerald Wallace alley-oop, too):

Henderson lacks range out the the three-point line, and doesn’t have much of an iso/one-on-one/post-up game — these are both areas that can be developed.  His ballhandling is OK for a 2-guard, but it’s not good enough that you’ll ever see him slide over to the point like some 2s can.

Defensively, Henderson is very good.  He’s quick with his feet and strong, making him an solid on-ball perimeter defender.  Here’s a great example from the January 18th win over the Bulls.  Watch the whole highlight package and note how many times Derrick Rose abuses DJ Augustin. With the Bulls down one with a chance to win at the end, Silas inserts Henderson in the game specifically to check Rose.  Watch Henderson hound Rose on the last play, forcing him out into taking a fading, off-balance, 22-footer that he misses.  Aren’t many people can do this to Derrick Rose:

And if you do get a half-step around Henderson, please remember the aforementioned leaping ability:

82games.com only has their advanced stats updated through the January 19th games this year, but even without the last month in the sample, Henderson’s defense shines through.  With Henderson on the court, Bobcats opponents average 102.4 points per 100 possessions — with Henderson OFF the court, opponents average 108.1 points per 100 possessions.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but compare it to Stephen Jackson, starting and playing ahead of Henderson.  With Jack on the court, Bobcats opponents average 109.4 points per 100 possessions; with Jack OFF the court they average 100.0 points per 100 possessions.  Wrong direction for Jack. This particular statistic deserves more attention as the season goes on and the numbers are updated.

So, What Does This Mean?

As I’ve said many times in this space before, nothing is more important to a small-market/low-revenue franchise’s overall success than drafting well. Big market teams in desirable locations can afford to botch drafts, then save themselves with A-list free agent signings and forced trades (see: Miami Heat, New York Knicks, etc.).  But when a team like the Bobcats has a productive player on a rookie-scale contract, it’s something of an equalizer.  It gives you a fighting chance.  It also gives you flexibility.

As the trading deadline approaches, the Bobcats (currently one game out of the 8th playoff spot in the East) will undoubtedly be listening to proposals involving Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and possibly even Nazr Mohammed.  Contending teams like Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles will be looking for a veteran piece to put them over the top in their championship drive.

From the Bobcats perspective, you have to look at those guys and ask:  Whose game is declining (especially if their contract is still inclining)?  Who’s not fitting in, either from an Xs-and-Os or a chemistry standpoint?  And, who has a backup that’s starting to push them for playing time?

Stephen Jackson is the answer to a lot of those questions (so is Boris Diaw, but that’s for another day).

Now in fairness, Jackson’s offense isn’t overtly declining, and it’s still vital for the Bobcats from and Xs-and-Os standpoint.  He’s a volume shooter with range to the three-point line, a good post-up/isolation game and a barely-still-there ability to attack the basket.  He’s also got the swagger to be the go-to guy for a team that otherwise doesn’t have one.

But Jackson’s defense is almost certainly on the decline (if it ever was very good, I’m not sure). Chemistry-wise, his preoccupation with the referees is a huge negative.  There aren’t any stats for this, and credit the rest of the Bobcats for not ever publicly throwing Jackson under the bus, but there’s no way it doesn’t affect the morale/chemistry of this team.

It also hurts from a sheer basketball perspective at times — not just when Jackson is ejected early in games as he has twice this season — but also when he doesn’t get back on defense 2-3 times per game because he’s engaged with a referee about a perceived missed call (which may be partially reflected in those team defensive statistics).  Likewise, that stuff undoubtedly affects how the referees officiate the rest of the team to a (hopefully) limited extent.

And most importantly, Gerald Henderson’s play has improved to the point that he’s no longer just a valid reserve who deserves some time because he was highly drafted — he’s legitimately contributing to this team’s recent strong play and is beginning to push Stephen Jackson for playing time.  To not notice or act on this nascent trend while there may be an opportunity to trade Jackson and the two more years and $20 million left on his contract would be a significant misstep for the Bobcats.

And yes, I fully agree that trading Jackson and his offense might be a nail in the coffin for the Bobcats’ playoff chances this season.  But there are already a few nails in that coffin (Hollinger’s playoff odds gives the Cats only a 28% chance of making it in anyways) and the trade would be more about the future.

Besides, are two home playoff dates in the course of a sweep by Boston or Miami this spring really worth that much anyways?  And if they are, who’s to say that the Bobcats wouldn’t have just as good a shot with some further improvement from Henderson and whatever the trade might bring back?

Henderson’s recent emergence behooves us to consider this.

Notes

  • Strange thing I learned while writing this article: According to Wikipedia, neither this Gerald Henderson, nor his father, Gerald Henderson, Sr. are actually named Gerald.  Both are named Jerome McKinley Henderson.  Weird, right?
  • Funny thing I learned while writing this article: When you type S-t-e-p-h-e-n J-a-c-k into Google, the third thing to be suggested (after “Stephen Jackson” and “Stephen Jackson bobcats”) is: “Stephen Jackson ejected”.  If that doesn’t say it all…
  • I used some great stats websites in the course of writing this: 82games.com, Basketball-Reference.com and HoopData.com are all invaluable resources.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Continue Mastery Of Lakers

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Bob Leverone/AP Photo

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-89 on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Cats have now defeated the Lakers 8 out of the last 10 times the two teams have played.  Gerald Wallace led the Bobcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds; Gerald Henderson added 18 points (6-9 FG, 5-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks off the bench.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The deck was stacked against the Lakers to start: they were finishing up a long road trip AND on the second night of a back-to-back; plus, Kobe was under the weather.  After a bit of a slow start, the Cats took advantage, building a six point lead to take into halftime.

The wheels really fell off for the Lakers late in the third.  With a laboring Kobe on the bench, the Cats went on a 14-3 run, capped by a 15-foot jumper and a short hook shot by Kwame Brown and a three pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Wallace, for a 78-60 lead after three.

The barrage continued with Kobe and the Lakers starters back on the court to start the fourth, this time headed by Gerald Henderson and Nazr Mohammed, who both appeared to be unguardable for the exhausted Lakers.  The Bobcats led by as much as 28 a couple of times before the benches emptied.

Notes

  • After oversleeping and arriving late to shootaround, Boris Diaw was supposedly going to be benched to start the game as discipline.  But Silas apparently changed his mind, as Boris started and played well with 16 points (3-6 3PT).
  • DJ Augustin was supposedly also out after being limited in shootaround with a sprained wrist.  But after pregame warmups he declared himself ready to go and notched 9 assists vs. 0 turnovers.  Still not a complete bounceback from his recent slump, though, as he shot 3-7 FG and 1-4 3PT for just 7 points.
  • This has to be said: even if you took Stephen Jackson’s proclivity for antagonizing the officials and drawing technical fouls out of the equation, Gerald Henderson would still be pushing him for playing time.  Henderson’s been that good recently.
  • With beat writer Rick Bonnell on furlough this week, the rest of the Observer’s sports crew filled in.  Check out good posts by Ron Green on what this win meant for the Bobcats and this post by Scott Fowler on Phil Jackson’s terse postgame comments/Kobe’s no-show.
  • The win moves the Bobcats to 24-31 and 1.5 games back from Indiana for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Quick turnaround as the Bobcats head to Chicago for a back-to-back against the Bulls Tuesday night, 8PM ET start.  The Bulls will be looking to avenge two losses the Cats from earlier this season.

-Dr. E

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

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.

No Call. Jack’s Not Paranoid At All

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Three NBA Referees Refuse to Acknowledge Darren Collison’s Last-Second Foul on Stephen Jackson’s Shot Attempt in the Indiana Pacers 104-103 Win Over the Bobcats.

AP Recap | Box Score

Seldom does a professional game come down to one single call by the referees, and never have I seen a more obvious instance of the referees influence on the outcome of a game than during Charlotte’s visit to Indiana on Wednesday night. The NBA officials sent a message to Stephen Jackson and erased the Bobcats comeback efforts in the fourth quarter when they decided to look the other way, shirk their responsibilities, and leave the floor without reviewing the final seconds of the contest. It was clear that Pacers guard Darren Collison made contact with Jackson’s arm as he attempted a long-range shot to win the game. Although one official was quick to blow an “inadvertent whistle” earlier in the 4th, no member of the officiating crew was willing to exert enough lung power to call this obvious foul on the player with the ball in the closing seconds.

Stephen Jackson has gotten a load of crap from the local writers about being too preoccupied with the officiating. The Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler had written a particularly silly piece about Jackson’s paranoia – only to be proven wrong by the officials clear dismissal of the foul that would have determined the outcome of the game (which also has Playoff position implications). Fowler’s article opens with “Grow Up, Stephen Jackson… The world is not out to get you.” With that storyline running, the Pacers game felt a lot like the WWE, actually.

Like most wrestling bad guys, “heels” as they call ‘em, Jack is known to blow up at the officials but he’s a hell of a player that can’t be overlooked. The fans know his character, and they expect to see him called for a technical foul or break the rules in someway. After Jackson’s tirade and ejection from the Boston game, the local media framed a tale in which the fans could turn on Jackson for his impulsive and argumentative nature. The basic logic of the argument against  Jack is that he should not question the authority, because the authority is not to be questioned (of course, they would never fix a game or make preferential calls). The big flaw in this setup is that the NBA officials are out to get Stephen Jackson. Maybe not every one of them is after Jack, but it’s clear the majority of the refs would never give Jackson the kind of calls that they would give equally high-performing shooting guards in the league.

Would Paul Pierce have gotten the foul call against the Pacers? Would Dwyane Wade have gotten that call? Would Joe Johnson have gotten that call?

We all know that just about any other guy in the league would have gotten the foul call, and received free throws to close that game. The problem isn’t so much that the Bobcats were screwed against the Pacers, it’s that Stephen Jackson was screwed under the lights, in plain sight and the team just has to live with it.

After the game, Stephen Jackson said very little about the call, “I’ll let you look at it.”

Now under  the story patterns of the WWE, this is when Jackson can undergo the “face turn” – making the once hated heel into the “babyface” good guy. It’s clear that he’s playing against the refs every night. He can step up and win games for the Bobcats despite the officials’ disrespect of him or he can focus on that disrespect and let it consume him. I think most wrestling fans would enjoy that he do both (win the title belt, and hit the ref with a chair). In the NBA, it seems that he’s only got one path available. Jackson will never win the respect or adoration that the refs have for Lebron, Kobe, or Wade. But, he can fight through the officiating and to win some games.

Quick Game Notes

The Bobcats got out to a quick 8-0 lead, but then handed the momentum to the Pacers who ran off 11 points and held the lead until the final period. For most of the game, Charlotte seemed to be in 2nd gear and waiting for the last 10 minutes to step it up. The Cats showed much more energy in the 4th and pulled within a score. Then, an “inadvertent” whistle punished the Bobcats for great defense (trapping Danny Granger in the corner) and the Pacers countered with four points in a single trip down court. The “inadvertent whistle” didn’t seem so much like an intentional call to assist Granger, just a really big, obvious error by the official. You could have felt sympathetic for such a screw up, had the last seconds of the game not been such an outright slap in the face to the rules of basketball. Still, the apparent injustice may have fueled the Bobcats as they continued to fight, closing on the Pacers until the final possession.

Performances

Gerald Wallace played strong throughout the game, and it was great to see Gerald Henderson showing assertiveness.

DJ Augustin is really showing moments of leadership on the floor. His time with Larry Brown had to end, but I think he’ll have gained something from it. I’m glad to see his new presence and improved performance. D.J. 2.0 is for real.

Eduardo Najera got serious minutes down the stretch, with the absence of Kwame Brown. Eddie hit a big three and hustled for crucial rebounds and smart defense. Najera has really seized the opportunity to contribute, and it’s nice for the Cats to have a veteran like this on the roster.

While Stephen Jackson was the team’s high scorer, he looked horrible until crunch time – where he was as clutch as usual.

-Mike S.

POLL : Foul On S. Jackson Against Pacers

  • Referees Intentionally Missed It (52%, 27 Votes)
  • Referees Made A Mistake (12%, 6 Votes)
  • Referees Were Confused (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Referees Dismissed S. Jackson (34%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 52

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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

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