Bobcats Top Grizzlies On Snow Day

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The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 95-82 at the Cable Box on Monday night to improve to 5-2 under coach Paul Silas and 14-21 overall.  Stephen Jackson led the way with 27 points (11-23 FG, 3-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals as the Bobcats continued to play without injured starters Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Beyond the continued renaissance of the Bobcats under Paul Silas (albeit against marginal competition) and the general listlessness of the Grizzlies (how have they won 17 games?) the other big story was the weather.

Charlotte was hit with six inches of snow Monday, which is more than enough to shut this city down.  As the snow transitioned to sleet and then rain this afternoon, I decided to venture out to the game.  Not many others did.

The Bobcats pulled the curtains on the upper deck and invited everyone down to the lower bowl.  I settled into some sweet club seats along with about 1000 other fans.  It’s always takes me about a quarter to adjust to the view whenever I don’t sit in my regular seats — tonight it was doubly weird with the curtains drawn on the upper deck and the sparseness of the crowd.

But a good time was had by all.  The crowd seemed to appreciate the extraordinary nature of the proceedings and cheered extra loudly.  The hecklers had a field day (primary targets: Zach Randolph and Boris Diaw).  And the Bobcats complied by taking care of business on their home court much like they did during last year’s run to the playoffs.

Notes

  • A quick look at the East standings after the game provides a (weak) argument for not blowing the team up/rebuilding.  With the win, the Bobcats are percentage points out of the 8th playoff spot and only 1 game back in the loss column from the 7th spot.
  • Quintessential Boris Diaw night: 40 minutes, 6 points (3-6 FG, 0-2 3PT), 9 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers, great defense on Zach Randolph, and several moments of superficially lackadaisical play that had some fans pulling their hair out.
  • Tyrus Thomas fouled out in 17 super-aggressive minutes — got a big hand when he left because of the 4 blocks he had.  Speaking of, can you imagine if you could give Boris some of Ty’s athleticism?  Or give Ty some of Boris’s savvy/pace/control?  Can we combine them?  Scientists?
  • Next game is Wednesday night at the Cable Box against the Bulls, who are 25-12 overall, but only 8-9 on the road.

Gerald Henderson Wows, Bobcats Hand Wizards’ 18th Road Loss

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Gerald Henderson put on a show on Saturday, doing just about everything (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Again without co-captain Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats took revenge against the Washington Wizards for the previous 33-point loss with a 104-89 win led by Gerald Henderson’s 19 points. And in perhaps the most awesome stat of the young year, four of the five Bobcats’ starters nearly all had a double-double with Henderson and Augustin coming up short by one rebound and one assist, respectively.

Recap | Box Score

Although Tyrus Thomas had a rough game as he battled the Flu and a healing minor knee strain, this game seemed to say that Bobcats fans should be proud of the young core that’s developing under Paul Silas’ watch. D.J. Augustin led the team in assists with nine and as mentioned above, Gerald Henderson was outstanding on both sides of the ball. This isn’t to say that the older guys didn’t play well. Stephen Jackson had a rough shooting night but poured in 21 points and Boris Diaw had an efficient though casual night, with 11 points on 5-8 shooting. Augustin also added 20 points on 6-11 from the field.

Yays

  • Henderson – He was just great from beginning to end. His mid-range game was on fire and his defense on Nick Young was excellent as well. During the first quarter, Young drove and put up a half-assed shot, which Henderson swallowed whole, blocking it with his forearm. The kid ended the game with the incredible following stat line: 8-11 FG, 3-4 FT, 9 REB (1 OREB), 2 AST, 3 BLK, 1 TO, 19 PTS. Can we give this guy a nickname? I want to call him “The Kid” but KG had that one already. I got a suggestion from @clemsonrebekah of OG, which stands for “Other Gerald.” I like it because it’s short, simple and most importantly, true. Yes, he is the other Gerald on the team, but I mean that he plays similar to Gerald Wallace so the name would be fitting. Do y’all have any other suggestions? Write them in the comments!
  • Augustin – Yeah, I don’t think he’ll ever be a defensive stopper but when he shoots well and distributes like tonight, I’m very much fine with that. He had 9 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals and 20 points with 3 treys. I attended the game and from what I saw, D.J. passed well, shot well, and even played John Wall pretty well.
  • Shaun Livingston’s alley-oop dunk – How can people not be happy for this guy? He was a little off tonight but still played pretty solid, especially as a back-up point guard. In his best play of the night, he trailed Jackson on a two-on-one fast-break. Jackson drew the last defender and lobbed up the ball, which Knee Man double-clutched (to gain control of the ball) before flushing it through. I also love his pull-up jumper when he drives. His ability to elevate coupled with his height advantage over other guards allows him to rise and pop, usually with excellent results.
  • Diaw – I know, he didn’t even score that much! But he did frustrate Andray Blatche defensively and he shot efficiently, making the only three he shot ending with 5-8 FG for 11 points. He also continued to impress me as far as his aggressiveness. Too often I see him pass up nice looks but his drives into the paint are getting better. His rebounding is improving as well. Some people really want to trade him ASAP, but I think his skill set complements Tyrus’ pretty well and I think he’d work well in an uptempo offense, like in Phoenix.

Nays

  • Stack Jack – Yes kudos to him for leading the team in scoring with 21 points, but it took 16 shots to get there, only making 6. He also had 4 turnovers, most of which made me wince from the 200 level.

Meh

  • Tyrus Thomas’ shot selection – Tyrus was stymied by Washington’s interior defense, making only two shots out of 13. He miss every shot outside of the paint. However, he gets a pass tonight because he has gotten hit bad with outside problems – he is struggling with the Flu and hasn’t been able to keep food down in two days. And he’s still healing his strained knee. And he saved us against the Timberwolves. So yeah, I’ll keep him out of the “Nays” tonight. Not everyone can play like Michael Jordan with the Flu.

Odds ‘N Ends

  • Yes, um Mexican Don Draper? You can’t guard Javale McGee.
  • A quick note about John Wall: he’s good, and the scary thing is that he has a lot of room to grow. If I were him, I’d be working on my outside jumper a lot. He went 0-5 from deep tonight, despite being wide open on nearly every attempt. If he can start hitting those around 40% of the time, watch out. Perhaps the key to beating this young Wizards team is to keep them off the fast break. Wall is absolutely fantastic zooming down the court, often unstoppable.
  • The last time these two teams met, the Larry Brown-led Bobcats lost by 33 to a John Wall and Gilbert-less Washington team. In both games, the Bobcats were without Gerald Wallace. However, this time, the Bobcats were even more short-handed (Nazr and Diop out) and the Wizards had their full roster (Wall back and now with Rashard Lewis). And yet, the Bobcats won by 15. I know this is only one game, but couldn’t this be the perfect evidence that Larry Brown was just holding back this team? Heck, in that previous Wizards-Bobcats game, Dominic McGuire started and played 21 minutes and ended with zero points. Meanwhile, Gerald Henderson got 15 minutes. This time around, McGuire got 10 minutes off the bench and Henderson started and played 40 minutes.
  • Also, the Wizards are 0-18 on the road. Ouch.

Enjoy the win Bobcats fans. Next up is the Memphis Grizzlies. I think we’ll be OK as long as we don’t beat O.J. Mayo in Boo-Ray.

- 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 Stink Up the 3rd Quarter – Why?

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Blech. On the plus side, he didn't try that shot again. (AP Photo)

If you follow the Bobcats fairly closely, you know as well as I that the Bobcats under Paul Silas have struggled in the third quarter lately.  This was no more evident than in yesterday’s game where the Bobcats turned a 16 point lead in the third quarter into a two-point deficit. Also impressive, the Bobcats failed to score a single point in about six minutes during the third while the Timberwolves went on a 11-0 run. The quintessential Bobcats collapse was on. How can this happen every game? What is going on with the team in the third quarter? Can anything be done?

So, last night I decided to grab some comfort food, sit down with my Tivo and make my way through the third quarter often watching in slow-motion. Let’s go through the defensive problems first:

  1. Rebounding – For whatever reason, the Kwame Brown rebounding monster that left the court after the first half did not return after the break. After walloping Kevin Love and all of the Timberwolves on the boards in the first half en route to 12 (!) rebounds, he only grabbed 2 rebounds in the second half. I think that Minny’s centers just came out in the second half with more focus and energy and decided to take control of the glass. Also, our depth at the center is laughably bad, even when they’re all healthy. In the third quarter, the Timberwolves had four offensive rebounds (11 total on the night) while the Bobcats had two (out of 16 total). Whatever it takes, this team needs to come out with more focus on rebounding in the third when teams make their adjustments.
  2. Allowing too much space and losing track of assignments – These are both “lack of focus” problems. As for the former, too often I saw Beasley given the room to knock down mid-range jump shots. Remember, holding someone to mid-range jumpers is only effective when those shots are well-contested – and against Beasley, who has a fantastic offensive skill set, this might not even be enough. Losing track of one’s defensive assignment didn’t happen as often, but it did occur enough that I had to make note of it. This most notably occurred when Kevin Love set a pick for Jonny Flynn near the end of the quarter. Flynn steered away form the pick and for some reason, both Livingston and Diaw drew to Flynn, leaving Love wide open for a three.
  3. Study opponents – I understand this isn’t exactly “defense” but there were some major lapses in preparation that came to fruition for the T-Wolves in the third. It’s no secret that Kevin Love has the range to hit from behind the arc, but for some reason the Bobcats let him go 2-3 from deep in the third quarter. Giving Beasley enough space to comfortably get up mid-range jump shots is unacceptable. Whether it’s the players’ faults for not executing or the staff’s for not drilling it in enough, this needs to get fixed. Know your opponent.

Oh God. Now to the problems on offense.

  1. No one could knock down a shot – It’s that simple. And although simple, this is a serious problem. Against teams that play tough interior defense, the Bobcats will struggle because they are composed mostly of slashers. Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw are great to stretch opposing defenses but when your main two shooters (Augustin and Jackson) are just off or injured, you’re going to have major problems. Luckily for us, Augustin found his shot in the fourth and Tyrus kept us in the game as well. But in the third, with Jackson out, D.J. was finding himself  missing on many shot attempts – most of them wide open.
  2. Poor shot selection – I’ll just talk about some specific points here. From what I saw, D.J. lost confidence in his shot, especially in the third quarter. When Diaw took to posting up in the third, he often drew D.J.’s defender which leaves Augustin nearly wide open. And yet, on one specific occasion I saw D.J. pass up the open three to dribble-drive and pull up 9 feet away for a floater. It was way short. Tyrus Thomas, though excellent on the night, still had his usual problem where he gets the ball along the baseline, gets trapped on a double-team, is forced to pick up his dribble and instead of passing out, he tries a fade-away jump shot that never lands.

But can these problems be corrected?

To a degree, yes. Most of these problems are fairly easy to fix. Force the players to concentrate on boxing out and rebounding. Solve the easy, energy-related problems. As for the inability to make shots, this isn’t as easily fixed. The Bobcats are mainly comprised of slashers and not shooters. And the shooters we do have aren’t extremely talented so when a couple of our best snipers are either injured or are just missing their shots, there is no backup plan. You just have to hope that the Basketball Gods are smiling upon you and that they will bless you with Eduardo Najera treys and Dominic McGuire baseline jumpers. That’s what should really worry us about these recent troubles. It’s a problem that goes far deeper than just gameplan; it’s a problem of roster talent.

- 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.

Supporting Cats Outlast Wolves in OT

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Bobcats go into Minnesota Wednesday night without injured stars Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson and somehow manage to chalk up their first road victory since early November 108-105.  Bobcats rise to 12-21, Wolves fall to 9-27.

AP RECAP | BOX SCORE

Granted, Minnesota isn’t the most feared squad in the league but the fact that coach Paul Silas was able to trot out Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll for significant crunch time minutes and still get the W should count for something.  D.J. Augustin shot out of his slump just in time to bring the Cats back from 5 down with 2:30 to go in regulation, hitting two clutch 3s while Tyrus Thomas sealed the game with a spectacular transition block of a Michael Beasley layup in OT.

OBSERVATIONS

  • This was a fun game to watch.  I can’t remember the last time the ‘Cats have been without both JAX and Crash and it was a blast to see those strange lineups in action.  Carroll/Henderson/Diaw/Thomas/Augustin was surprisingly effective in crunch time.  Carroll cooled down a bit late in the game just as D.J. (16pts, 8asts) was getting started but Matt played well while helping the Bobcats build a surprising 14 point lead in the second quarter.
  • Once Diaw fouled out in OT, Silas had to find another “big” to replace him with.  Not easy when Gana Diop and Nazr Mohammed are grounded.  Najera got the nod and while he was less than stellar, Don Juan Draper didn’t hurt them and played the pick and roll game with D.J. well enough to get Augustin a couple of good looks.
  • MASSIVE statistical performance from Minny’s two big guns Michael Beasley and Kevin Love.  Combined 63 points and 27 rebounds.  Just crazy.  Too bad no one else on the team showed up.
  • I can’t get enough of Nikola Pekovic.  Too bad the big Montenegrino couldn’t get more PT.  Scary looking and rocking the Vlade Euro-beard.  Bourne Identity extra?  No.  Cousin to Niko and Roman Bellic?  Yes.
  • I know that Gerald Henderson is in possession of one of the League’s iffier jump shots but why in the hell doesn’t he try to shoot a little more in order to shake off the rust?  Just seven shot attempts for The Sequel in 33 minutes.  Worse yet is that he made a very pretty driving mid-range fadeaway in OT that looked like something out of the Scottie Pippen archives.  We gotta see Henderson play through this.  It may take a while but eventually I can see Henderson turning into a decent shooter.
  • Last but not least: Tyrus Thomas.  Showed that he is better and can impact the game in more ways than Michael Beasley.  I know that he isn’t consistent but damn, when Tyrus is on he is on.  21 points, 11 boards, 2 blocks and only one turnover in 36 minutes of knee troubled play.  Best free agent signing in Michael Jordan history?  Yup.

Nice to see the Bobcats win but they are still nine games under .500 and look to have some serious rebuilding issues going forward.  If Mark Cuban calls and says that they’d take Gerald Wallace and his $23 million due over the next two seasons for Caron Butler’s expiring contract and a protected first rounder, wouldn’t you have to say “yes?”

Until Next Time, Enjoy the Win Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

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

Bobcats Win 105-100, Survive Pistons’ Comeback Effort

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AP photo

After nearly blowing a 22-point lead, the Bobcats held on to narrowly defeat the Detroit Pistons in Paul Silas’ first game as interim head coach of the Bobcats.

AP Recap | Box Score

First off, I’m tired. I worked during the game tonight, which included being on my feet for about five hours. I recorded the game on Tivo and watched it when I got home. Due to my exhaustion, I’m forgoing my usual game recap format for just writing tidbits in bullets.

  • As Coach Silas said earlier in the week, this team ran and they did it pretty well. The free-flowing offensive style especially seemed to help the guards.
  • D.J. Augustin looked like a completely different D.J. Augustin tonight, scoring 27 points with 4 assists and zero turnovers. He shot 4-6 from behind the arc and just looked like he had been unrestrained. His confidence level seemed to be off the charts as he shot 66.67% from the field.
  • Shaun Livingston benefited from the change as well, as he put up a ridiculous stat line in limited minutes: 7 rebounds, 4 points, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal and zero turnovers. But if D.J. plays as well as he did tonight, I think we can all accept Livingston playing in such a limited capacity.
  • DeSagana Diop played unusually well, blocking 3 shots, pulling down 4 rebounds and somehow scoring 4 points (!).
  • Boris Diaw had an underrated night. Though I’d like to see him be a little more aggressive and take some more shots, he was efficient on offense by making 3 of 5 shots from the field, dishing out 6 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds. I really liked the energy I saw out of him tonight. He was chasing rebounds  with a desire we rarely see and he didn’t have to handle the ball much, resulting in fewer turnovers than usual (three).
  • Stephen Jackson was both excellent and awful and nearly recorded a triple-double with 23 points on 17 field goal attempts, 9 rebounds and 9 turnovers. Jackson excelled most often when he wasn’t trying to create a shot in the post. Coincidentally, being given the ball in the post is often where Jackson’s turnover’s originate. Opponents double-team him and force him into making bad decisions. Jackson also had some problems when he thought teammates would be somewhere where they weren’t. I think mistakes like that will disappear as the team gets better acclimated with Silas’ offense.
  • Tyrus Thomas, though mistake-prone, saved the game for the Bobcats when the game came down to the line. Yes, I am completely aware he bricked those two free throws that would have iced the game but before that he dominated on both sides of the court. Up by one, Augustin drove to the basket only to get blocked near the rim. Seemingly out of nowhere, Tyrus flew in and slammed the put-back jam to put the Bobcats up three. Then on the defensive end, Tyrus erased a Will Bynum layup. And yet, Tyrus is still having major problems with control. He cannot be a major ball-handler as he can easily get too wild with the ball, often resulting in offensive fouls or turnovers. Tonight he had 6 turnovers. Not good.
  • The Bobcats allowed the Pistons to come back through ineffective stagnant offense and a lack of rebounding in the later parts of the game. Period. There’s not much more i can say except to describe the offensive possession that sums it all up. Ahead by three points, Augustin let the shot clock wind down in an effort to kill time. Tayshaun Prince was guarding him after a defensive switch. And instead of trying to take Prince, D.J. passed the ball off to Boris Diaw at the 3-point line, leaving Boris a second to get off a shot, which was inevitably a brick.
  • Charlie Villanueva. He went off tonight. I don’t think there was much of anything we could do to stop him. His release was so quick and his range so wide that he is a tough defensive assignment. Once again, he hit a buzzer beater to end a quarter of play.
  • Re: Henderson, Carroll and Derrick Brown – Henderson wasn’t great, especially offensively, but he did help hold Ben Gordon to 17 points on 16 attempts. That said, he had some good looks on offense but just couldn’t make them. I don’t think he misses those shots too often again. Matt Carroll played well tonight also. He really has improved defensively over the past few years. His work ethic has always been there and it shows. However, he just isn’t a guy who should be getting more than 20 minutes in a game. Still, Matt’s my dude. Derrick Brown continues to be Derrick Brown. He’s calling for alley-oops. He’s dunking on everyone. He’s just fun to watch.
  • Perhaps the best thing about tonight’s game is the energy it brought back into the arena. The past few games I’ve attended and seen broadcast look like the crowd is just disinterested. In the second quarter tonight, the place sounded alive. We put the game on at our restaurant and people watched that quarter in awe.

Here’s to Paul Silas and his future with the Bobcats!

- Cardboard Gerald

Dr. E’s Treatment Plan For The Bobcats

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How (and Why) to Break Up and Rebuild the Team

The firing of Larry Brown and his staff was a step in the right direction for the Bobcats.  Brown put his typical stamp on the Bobcats franchise; which is to say he turned over nearly the entire roster while sending the franchise deeper into salary cap hell, but coached the hell out of the players and pushed them into the playoffs, only to completely lose touch with them soon after that.

Michael Jordan had to let Brown go before the disintegration of the team got any uglier on the court and before Brown talked him into another short-sighted trade off of it.  Pricey veterans, whether they come via trade or free agency, are good short-term fixes for teams that have a superstar/championship core and are making money — not for fledgling small-market teams that barely have a playoff-ready core.

Unfortunately, by the sounds of all the recent rumors, Jordan is apparently considering just such a short-sighted trade.  Even without Larry Brown in his ear, Jordan is ever the gambler, unable to stop himself from doubling down even when he’s only holding 8.

I have a different plan; a smarter plan.  It might be painful, but in the end it’s the best strategy for a small-market team to achieve long-term success and have a chance at a championship.  Let’s start from the beginning and go step-by-step through my plan to break up and rebuild the Charlotte Bobcats.

1) Pick the Right Interim Coach

Alright!  Done and done.  Jordan is already one step ahead of me with the hire of Paul Silas.  The Bobcats don’t get lucky much (ever?) but it works out pretty well that you have a beloved former coach who has semi-retired in your town and has made it known that he’d love to coach the local team again.  Huggy Bear makes a great foil for the departed Larry Brown, and has wasted no time instituting an uptempo offense.

Now I’m sure that Jordan has let Silas know that he still intends to make the playoffs, and Silas would like to prove himself worthy of shedding the interim label, but let’s face it, the pressure is pretty low here.  Mostly, the Bobcats should just be happy that such a nice fit for an interim coach was so available and that they avoided any ugliness with Larry Brown.  The players will get a temporary (maybe sustained?) kick out of playing for someone so different than Larry Brown.  And Paul Silas gets a shot at coaching Charlotte again.  It’s a win-win-win.  And if the team improves on the court, you can add another “win” for us fans.

2) Trade Stephen Jackson for Cap Space/Draft Picks/Young Talent

Here’s where we get get down to business.  The Bobcats are not going deep into the playoffs with a top three of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Many, if not most, fans have accepted this.  The best way to kick off a proper tear-down would be to trade Stephen Jackson for cap space/draft picks/young talent.  Jack is making $8.5 million this season, $9.6 in 2011-12 and $10 in 2012-13.   He’s enough to keep a mediocre team competitive on some nights, but not enough to make us great.  He would be great as the final piece to a team that’s looking to make a serious run at a championship this year or next.

I’m thinking mostly Chicago or New York here.  Chicago runs Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at 2-guard amidst Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  Enough said.  The Bulls don’t have any good expiring contracts, so the Cats would have to take back a couple of young role players to make salaries work.  Most importantly, the Cats would look to get back the future first round pick that we sent to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas.

As for New York, suppose the Nets really are able to secure Carmelo’s services.  The Knicks would have to move on from their fantasy; wouldn’t adding Stephen Jackson to Felton, Stoudemire and Gallinari in D’Antoni’s offense be a nice reality for them?  The Knicks could offer Eddy Curry’s huge expiring deal; if the Cats threw in another salary maybe we could have a look at the enigmatic Anthony Randolph?  Or better yet, Wilson Chandler?

And I’m sure there are some Western Conference teams that might work, too.  Or maybe it’s Boris Diaw who goes out?  Just not Gerald Wallace if it can be helped — that might even test my limits as a fan.  Whatever the case, the idea is that the current core isn’t going to get it done and we need to get cheaper and collect young talent and/or draft picks in exchange for them.

3) Play the Young Guys

This is the easiest, most no-brainer part of the plan.  No doubt, the psyches of DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown must be traumatized by their time with Larry Brown; but they’ve also learned a lot.  And there is talent there.  Paul Silas is the perfect coach to loosen the reigns and instill confidence in this crew.

I would try to limit Gerald Wallace’s minutes to around 30-35 per game to preserve him and to give Brown and Thomas a little extra run.

Hopefully everyone emerges as a better player for the long haul; on the other hand, if someone flames out, at least you know.

4) Be Prepared to Miss the Playoffs This Year… and Next

And here’s the real problem.  Jordan is in a tough spot here; you have to believe that at some level he knows that it’s time to blow it up and rebuild the right way.  But he doesn’t have the stomach for losing, even temporarily if it’s in the service of a bigger goal.  And he can rationalize what is really his inability to stomach losing by saying that the Bobcats’ cache with the fans in Charlotte is so tenuous that they couldn’t stomach losing either.  That they’d just turn away for good if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again this year.  So he needs to keep finding expensive band-aids; but for what?  First round playoff blowouts?

Bull.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be painful to watch a rebuilding team for a couple of years — the Bobcats would probably fall back to the 25-30 win per season range for this season and the next.  And it would hurt Jordan financially, I’m sure.  But I would argue that it would be more painful to watch a patched-up, veteran core muddle through a couple more 35-40 win seasons — and that the financial reward Jordan would reap from building an upper echelon team in the long run would more than offset a couple of lean years.

5) Draft the Right Guys

And here’s the lynchpin of my thesis — the most important part is also the most difficult.  In my plan, the Bobcats would have lottery picks, potentially high ones, in the next two drafts (even if we didn’t get the Tyrus Thomas one back from the Bulls, it is lottery protected in 2012).  The Bobcats would need to find a superstar — or at least a new blue-chip core — in those drafts.

I know you’re all laughing, and rightfully so as visions of Adam Morrison and Sean May dance in your heads.  But eventually, sheer luck dictates that Jordan will make the right call one of these days, right?  Doesn’t it?  And even if he doesn’t get so lucky as to have a superstar fall into his lap, he must have learned something about scouting/evaluating players over the past few years that will help him to make better picks, right?  Even if the lesson is as simple as: “I shouldn’t be a part of this — lemme hire some better scouts.”

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe the Bobcats are doomed to be poor drafters forever and ever.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the draft is how small-market teams become contenders.  Whether it’s San Antonio with Tim Duncan, Orlando with Dwight Howard, Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past with Lebron, a small-market team has to get a game-changing player near the top at the draft to become a contender.  That guy’s presence then allows you to utilize trades and free agency to shape the team around him.

Only LA (Lakers, that is), Chicago, Boston, New York, Miami, Phoenix, and possibly Dallas and Houston could realistically hope to construct the core of a contending team without the benefit of a great draft pick.  And despite that, most of those teams do indeed count a player they drafted among the core of their team (Rose & Noah for Chicago, Pierce for Boston, Wade for Miami).

So it’s time for Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins to abandon their plan of building through trades.  If they were aware of and taking advantage of some sort of market inefficiency, we’d have seen better results.  Instead, the Bobcats need to get back into the lottery to get back into the playoffs.

6) Hire the Right Long-term Coach

To boot, here’s one more thing Jordan has struggled with as an executive: hiring coaches.  As noted above, Paul Silas as a placeholder is fine; and the Larry Brown hire is/was defendable.  But going back to Sam Vincent, and further back to Leonard Hamilton, Jordan has struggled to evaluate coaching potential as much as he’s struggled to evaluate player potential.

Again, we have to hope that he’s learned something from his mistakes.  The rumor mill has suggested that Jordan contemporaries/current NBA assistants Patrick Ewing and Tyrone Corbin are in line for a shot at a head coaching job.  And Nate McMillan might be divorced from Portland by the time the Bobcats would be looking.  Would Phil Jackson recommend any of his assistants to Jordan?

Anyways, if the Bobcats followed a comparable blueprint and got to the point where hiring the right coach seemed like a crucial piece to the puzzle, I’d be overjoyed.  As it stands, we’re a long way off.

Unless the Bobcats come out like gangbusters for Paul Silas (and he does have a favorable slate with home games against Detroit, Cleveland and Golden State this week) I think you’ll see Jordan pull the trigger on a big trade soon.  What the Bobcats get back (a pricey veteran versus expiring contracts/draft picks/young talent) will tell you whether he’s sticking to the same M.O. — or moving on to a proper rebuilding plan as I’m suggesting.

-Dr. E