Decision Time for the Front Office

Kemba went down with a nasty ankle sprain in a L against the Heat last night.  He will probably be out a minimum of 2 weeks.  Here’s what those 2 weeks look like:

A surging Toronto, LAC, @ New York, Chicago, @ Denver, @ LAL, @ Phoenix, and @ Golden State.

And the hits don’t stop there, check out the strength of schedule from where we stand currently to the rest of the season:

Notice how our schedule goes from the 2nd easiest to significantly harder?  This is practically foreshadowing.  I’ve been leading the tank all season and now the Fates are hopefully convincing Bobcats’ management to hop on board.  While there have been reports that the Bobcats were rumored to be buyers in an attempt to make the playoffs,  realistically what players can they acquire that would be dynamic enough to drastically improve a team missing its best player in Walker and has Josh McRoberts and Ramon Sessions as marquee players?  Are they going to trade MKG, arguably our best defensive player whose absence due to injury torpedoed the Bobcats’ record recently?  Keep in mind, the Cats have invested in MKG also by hiring Mark Price to fix his shooting and signing his boyhood idol Chris Douglas-Roberts to the team.  How about Ben Gordon’s 13 million dollar expiring?  Odds are slim that a team is going to give a good player up solely for salary relief.  What other assets do the Cats have?  A terribly performing rookie big in Zeller?  An iso-loving, non 3pt shooting Henderson?  A sparsely paid McRoberts?  Really, the only assets of any value to other teams are the 1st round picks of Detroit and Portland and Charlotte would be stupid to let those go for anything short of an All Star.

There is no shame in tanking out the rest of the season.  Hey, you gave it a shot, you successfully took a step from laughingstock to competitive team but let us not get delusional here, Charlotte was never going to be particularly good, even if they fell into the playoffs.  So let us optimize that pick we owe Chicago and put Jefferson on the shelf for the rest of the year.  He’s already stated that he’s going to need surgery to clean up his ankle, go ahead and get it over with so you’ll be 100% next year.  Biyombo can get some meaningful minutes that he deserves.  His rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw shooting, and scoring are all markedly improved in the sporadic time he’s gotten.  My favorite stat is his opponent’s FG % at the rim (basically rim protection) which is a stellar 39.1%.  Roy Hibbert’s by comparison?  40.9% (albeit in 30 mpg).  Al Jefferson’s?  57%.  

Play Cody Zeller some more for development.  Sure, he’s shooting a dismal 37% or so (that’s bad for guards let alone big men) but let’s run  some plays for him and get him some touches.  Obviously he doesn’t fit as a stretch 4 beside Al Jefferson and we don’t know if he ever will unless he drastically improves his shooting and dribble over the offseason but how about his more natural position as a back to the basket post, with a rim protecting Bismack beside him?  McRoberts is deservedly the starter but he’s getting ran into the ground guarding 2 defenders every play thanks to Al and being a major piece of the offense.  So let’s find out if Zeller is even an NBA player at this point.

Find a taker for Henderson.  Let him go on a tear as the man with no Kemba or Al to take away touches.  If he puts up numbers similar to his end of the season last year, some team will surely give up something for him.  Losing Gerald would be addition by subtraction at this point, his game does not fit the roster at all and he should be easily replaced via the draft or free agency with a SG that can actually, you know, shoot threes and stuff.

Spoon feed MKG touches.  He’s a former 2nd overall pick and has been working diligently on his shot, let’s see if the hard work is paying off.  Make him part of the offense and see how he performs with the green light.  He’s got to develop too if Charlotte is going to take that next step forward into becoming a legitimate playoff team.

Most importantly, find an identity.  It is painfully obvious that Charlotte is at best a middle of the road team relying on Kemba and Al to carry them.  The lack of shooters around these two and more importantly Al’s inability to outscore teams more than he gives up make it abundantly clear that best case scenario is a middle of the road team (aka treadmill).  By playing Biyombo, MKG, and Zeller more over sieves like Jefferson and a burned out McRoberts, Charlotte has a chance to be elite on one side of the ball:  Defense.  Studies have shown that to be successful in professional sports, you have to be good at either offense or defense, preferably both (Read Ch. 5 of Scorecasting by Moskowitz and Wertheim).  No line up showcasing Jefferson is going to be good at defense and the rest of the roster is better suited for a fast paced, defensive squad full of young athletes.  Keep Jefferson if you have to, but bring him in at timely intervals to exploit mismatches like a knuckleballer.  Once the knuckleball gets figured out, it’s time to send him back to the bench.

So come on, Charlotte.  Read the tea leaves correctly for once and bow out of the season gracefully.  Add some talented rookies and a free agent, maybe swing a trade to get rid of the ill-fitting Henderson (or Jefferson) and be a force to be reckoned with next year as the new Hornets.  You have gone this far with a rebuild, why not to take it to its logical conclusion?

Tank versus Playoffs, the Battle Rages On

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If you are a Bobcats’ fan, you are either ecstatic right now (OMG Kemba hit a buzzer beater to beat the Raptors!  Bobkats R teh bestest!) or you are shrouded in doubt and despair (We can’t be this good, this won’t end well).  Team Logic is being outnumbered by Team Emotion, more so with every meaningless Bobcats’ victory.  Let’s examine why:

The Charlotte Bobcats are an astounding 12-14 currently.  Furthermore, they are achieving this modicum of competency with defense.  Oh, the horror!  Coach Clifford can actually coach, people still fall for Al Jefferson’s ballerina post moves, and the referees send Ramon Sessions to the free throw line like he’s holding their loved ones in his sex dungeon in Myrtle Beach.  Team Emotion is doing backflips right now and with Jeff Van Gundy’s recent comments about the Bobcats’ being a legitimate playoff threat it’s never been easier to jump on the bandwagon.  A simple examination of context though remains to instill some hope in Team Logic however.

Charlotte has one victory against a .500 team or better.  That came against the Golden State Warriors, in Charlotte.  Only one.  Call me a skeptic, but I have a feeling that Charlotte will end up playing good teams at some point in the playoffs if not the first round.  Secondly, Charlotte only has 7 more wins than the completely awful Milwaukee Bucks and 5 wins more than everyone’s vote for preseason super tanker, the Philly 76ers.

But, simply going to the playoffs will pack the arena with fans!  Yeah, but no.  Goddammit, we have been down this road before and it was not that long ago.  The Bobcats made the playoffs with a tough, defensive squad coached by hall of fame coach Larry Brown in 2010.  They got swept by the Orlando Magic, attendance sucked the next year.  Literally no casual fan gets excited about Charlotte basketball as long as they are called the Bobcats so let us drop this fantasy.

But our players like Kemba Walker will get disgruntled from one more year of tanking and leave us!  Bitch please.  Kemba is doing jumping jacks simply at not having to endure a team as bad as his rookie season.  He’s also under contract so his ass ain’t going anywhere unless the front office wills it.  Thirdly, he isn’t some superstar that can make demands anyway, we don’t have one of those.

God I hate Team Emotion.

Charlotte has also played one of the easiest schedules in the NBA.  They have yet to go on an extended west coast road trip and also lead the league in back-to-back games.  In addition, many of those shitty teams the Bobcats are whooping up on are slowly getting better/healthier.  All this adds up to an uphill slog for the Cats for the rest of the season.  Can the winning continue?  They can only play the Raptors, Bucks, and Sixers so many times.

Meanwhile, the highly touted prospects eligible for the 2014 draft actually look close to advertised.  The very hyped Wiggins is playing non-descript basketball but still looks better than 100% of players drafted last year.  Randle looks like a tank, Parker is frankly godly right now and others are starting to make noise as well such as UCLA’s Zach Lavine.  Will a perfect storm of tough schedule, injuries and general lack of talent keep Charlotte in the mix for one of these studs?  Or will MJ and Cho get desperate to stay in the playoff hunt and make dumb trades to bolster the roster?  If the season ended today, Charlotte would likely get the 18th pick and send it straight to Chicago, the 19th pick from Detroit and the 29th pick from Portland.  That’s not a lot to improve a hopeful playoff roster with.  If the Bobcats keep “winning” then the future may unfortunately look all too much like:

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Stupidly Early Mock Draft time.

Is it a complete fool’s errand to do a mock draft this early?  Yep.  Gonna do one anyway to track my mind’s progression over the season.

1.  Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke:  What isn’t he good at?  When you ask yourself this question and have a hard time answering, that’s all the reason you need to put him at the top.

2.  Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky:  Athletic, fluid lefty that loves to bang inside.  Prototypical NBA PF that GM’s salivate over.

3.  Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas:  Off to a slower start than the other two but don’t be fooled, there’s still plenty of substance to go with the hype.  Should flourish in the NBA game as opposed to the rigid confines of the NCAA.

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4.  Joel Embiid, C, Kansas:  He’s huge and has a nice touch, shows flashes of creativity.  Could go higher.

5.  Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia:  Wildcard.

6.  Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA:  Hops, handles and a sweet stroke.  His hype train is just leaving the station.

7.  Marcus Smart, G, OK St:  Great defender, good leaper but streakier than a drunk freshman trying to get into a fraternity.  A bit in-between positions but his intangibles might sway a GM into taking him higher.

8.  Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona:  Has the big P-word.  Some GM is going to snag him looking for the next Blake Griffin.

9.  Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky:  Also lots of potential.  Every teams needs a rim-protector and the quick WCS is arguably the best at for today’s “to the 2.9″ NBA.

10.  James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky:  NBA is starting to run out of elite SGs, Young might make a name for himself a la Joe Johnson.

11. Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas:  Stout SG that will undoubtedly remind a GM of Dwyane Wade.

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12.  Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke:  Another SG with excellent size and a good stroke.

13.  Nick Johnson, PG, Arizona:  Simply having too good a year to ignore.  Will make a good backup/6th man scorer at least.

14.  Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia:  A lot of hype behind this Euro, could crack the top 5.  I have no idea honestly.

15.  Gary Harris, SG, Michigan St:  Too low for this guy, he’s a solid SG that will really help any team that drafts him.

16.  Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton:  High IQ, lights out shooter.  Is he more Kyle Korver, Wally Szczerbiak, or Chris Crawford?  Who cares, he can shoot.

17.  Glenn Robinson, III, SG/SF, Michigan:  Pedigree.

18.  Dario Saric, F, Croatia:  The next Toni Kukoc?  Not unless he improves that shot.  Another Euro that could sneak his way up the board.

19.  Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana:  Slow but good size and fundamentally sound.  Probably ought to stay in school.

20.  Mitch McGary, PF/C, Michigan:  Trying a little too hard to impress scouts, needs to get back to being a bruiser and cleaning the glass.

21.  Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor:  You can’t teach 7 feet, but he’s built like a praying mantis.  Scratch that, a mantis has a lower center of gravity.

22.  Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA:  He’ll inevitably fool some GM into thinking he’s the next James Harden.  He might not even be the next Dion Waiters.

23.  CJ Fair, G/F, Syracuse:  Someone always reaches on an Orangeman so he might go higher than this, but CJ might develop into a good player if he gets drafted into a good situation.

24.  Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky:  Will probably go a lot higher than this if he comes out, GMs love big PGs like Sir Mix-a-lot loves big butts.

25.  Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Arizona:  He is huge and knows his role.  Kind of a stiff but not as bad a Montross clone as he appears.

26.  Kyle Anderson, ???, UCLA:  Really damn slow and not a great shooter but he’s 6’9″ and can handle the ball.

27.  Alex Poythress, SF/PF, Kentucky:  An enigma, could crack the top 10 or slip into the 2nd round.

28.  Adriean Payne, PF/C, Michigan St:  Tony Battie clone.

29.  Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona St:  Kemba Walker with hops?

30.  Cory Jefferson, PF, Baylor:  Uber-athletic PF that loves dirty work.

Others in the ethos:  Sam Dekker, F, Wisconsin; James M. McAdoo, F, UNC; Dwight Powell, PF, Stanford; TJ Warren, SG/SF, NC State; Aaron Harrison, SG, Kentucky, Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville; Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn; etc.

Big Al in Lolcatland

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These are strange and polarizing times for a Bobcats’ fan.  In the camp of eternal optimists, the team looks decent.  Very decent in fact.  Currently 11th in defensive rating at 100.3 and an astounding 4th in opponent’s ppg.  Charlotte has slowly amassed a squad of quick, long, athletic guys capable of being good defensively but a lion’s share of the credit should go to the coaching staff that actually has names on it people recognize and even better, respect.  The Cats are terrible offensively but in the early throes of the NBA season most teams are subject to sloppy basketball.  Thanks to the defense, the Cats have been able to translate sloppy opponents into a surprising 5-5 record, mostly without Al Jefferson.  Could it be?  Could playoffs be in the cards?

Here in the camp of the eternal pessimists, the mere word ‘playoffs’ is scoffed faster than a .gif of coach Jim Mora can be copy and pasted.  How could we make the playoffs when our best player has a lingering ankle issue and the face of the franchise point guard, Kemba Walker, is shooting so poorly and playing with tunnel vision?  Our rookie gets sparse minutes and our previous 2nd overall pick and SF of the future seems to get benched early and often for Jeffery Taylor.  Playoffs?  Playoffs!?  Our shooting guard is more likely to hit an NBA three if he was using a pitching wedge and our best passer is Josh McRoberts, a guy we acquired from terrible Orlando for an awful and out of the league Hakim Warrick.  

In reality, both camps have foundations.  The East is really bad this year, it’s a crap shoot between the Cats and teams like the Bucks, Wizards, Magic, Cavs, and pretty much everyone not named the Pacers, Heat, and Bulls.  But our offense is 29th in the league, 26th in apg  and rebounding a merely disappointing 21st.  That can’t translate into playoffs, can it?

The truth is generally somewhere in the middle and the middle is absolutely the last place the Bobcats want to be this season.  After suffering through 3 mediocre to bad drafts during the rebuild, the front office appears to have hit the ‘eject’ button and go into win-now mode; a head-scratching decision considering the 2014 draft is loaded with franchise talent and a re-brand next year to the Hornets would cure more attendance ills than the free agent Charlotte felt like building a contender around.  The man in the middle of this dreaded middle being of course, Al Jefferson.  

Let me explain.  Charlotte has 3 first round picks potentially this year.  Their own, which is going to Chicago unless the Cats secure a pick in the top ten, the Detroit pick from the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette trade (top 8 protected) and the Portland pick from the Gerald Wallace trade (top 12 protected).  Portland is hot out at the gate with an 8-2 record, good enough for 2nd in the West.  If they keep this up (probably won’t but I’m not a psychic) then Charlotte would get a pretty low 1st round pick this year from them.  The Detroit Pistons, on the other hand, are chucking their way to a 3-5 start, good enough for 8th in the East.  If they barely make the playoffs or just miss it, hooray for us, we get a decent mid-1st rounder to late lottery pick.  Charlotte is sitting bizarrely at 6th in the East with their 5-5 record thanks largely in part to the NYC teams looking quite mediocre.  Other supposed tank teams, the Magic (7th) and the team considered to be a contender for worst team in history, the 76ers (4th!), are also making the playoffs if they started today.  Some of these kids are pretending, but is Charlotte one of them?  If they are serious about overachieving they may find themselves hustling away their best chance for continued success for the next decade if they drop out of that top 10 (and really, top 5) draft pick position.

The troubling part is that Charlotte is overachieving largely without their best player in Jefferson.  Big Al has always been on bad, rebuilding teams and rarely makes a team much better thanks to his cement shoes on defense but he’s not Byron Mullens or Ben Gordon bad, he actually gives the Cats a consistent scorer and rebounder.  That might just be enough to put these ‘Cats on the treadmill of dreaded mediocrity, never a great place to be for a small market team and downright crippling this year.  Because without a Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, or Dante Exum, Al Jefferson could ultimately go down as the guy that kept Charlotte basketball in Lolcatland for the next 4-5 years.  

The Story so Far…

I wanted to avoid being too reactionary by evaluating each game after they concluded so with a 6 game sample size (still pathetically small, mind you) it feels like time to make some observations.

  1. We’re not terrible, but we’re not playoff contenders either.  We’re not even pretenders.  We are just not clearly one of the three worst teams in the NBA, the operative word there being clearly.  The ‘Cats have some massive flaws that I’ll address later.
  2. Head Coach Steve Clifford can coach.  His rotations are solid and logical, he keeps his guys fighting and he’s not afraid to adapt to what he has.  Case in point, he’s on record with being against small ball but he’s increasingly been playing Sessions along Kemba because Ramon brings punch.  Hopefully he has a quick and full recovery from his heart operation.
  3. Gerald Henderson is not the SG of the future.  I’m not even sure he should be the SG of the present.  His lack of 3pt range and tendency to kill ball movement by doing his best Kobe impression is a massive burden to Charlotte’s offense.  Even when his J is falling, it’s a struggle to win.
  4. Cody Zeller is a rookie.  Can’t hold his position against most PFs, ball watches too much, and has limited range.  He’s the same reach everyone thought he was when he was drafted, not the ROY candidate many fooled themselves into believing.  With experience and hopefully lower body strengthening, he can be an above average player with his nice touch and ability to draw fouls but the ceiling looks pretty low so far.  
  5. Bismack Biyombo has figured out how to rebound.  It’s still pulling teeth with scoring in the post but it’s good to see some tangible improvement.  Much better at boxing out and using positioning to get boards now as well as learning to stay at home on defense and not biting on fakes as much.
  6. All of the guards royally suck at passing to the big men.  All of them.  Kemba sucks, Ramon sucks, Geraldo sucks.  They couldn’t spell post-entry pass at this point, let alone execute one.  The bigs might as well roll away to their own basket after setting picks to get back on defense since they are never, ever thrown the ball.

3 and 3 is not a bad start considering Al Jefferson only played one game (if you can call his performance against Houston “playing”). Any fan boy on the forums can tell you that.  Truthfully, Bobcats fans should be ecstatic that we didn’t limp out of the gate like Utah or Boston.  They should also be pleased that Zeller is decently productive in limited minutes, that Kemba’s shot looks a bit more accurate and that MKG’s shot might actually exist at all.  The lack of perimeter shooting isn’t just an Achilles heel, it’s an Achilles heel with an albatross hanging off it.  Jefferson or no Jefferson, the Bobcats winning with this roster depends mostly on how bad the other team is playing and effort levels.  If Cho is smart, Henderson and some of these “assets” like Jefferson and Zeller need to be explored in trades to get what they can for them.  Charlotte still needs franchise talent and they need oodles of shooting.  The draft can address some of this as long as Charlotte doesn’t play well enough to be mediocre and lose their pick to Chicago (and Cho takes his computer out of his ass and lets someone with an eye for talent make the picks) but they’re going to need at least one trade to get the ball rolling.  There isn’t a lot of shooting available to sign during free agency if we can even convince someone to sign here (we can’t give everyone an Al Jefferson sized contract).  Gordon Hayward and Evan Turner are RFAs, both are tempting good fits with their shooting and relative youth.  But it would be a crapshoot signing either one of them, and probably an overpay.  

Rockets Toss up Less Bricks; Outlast Pesky ‘Cats

Game one of the season, and it’s on Houston’s turf.  Terrible, homers for announcers spouting their usual nonsense, that stupid Honey Graham Bear as seen on heroin running around, and of course Dwight Howard flashing his obnoxious, giant crocodile smile all game.  Clearly, the ‘Cats knew that their backs were up against the wall going into this thing.  

Charlotte and Clifford put together a pretty slick game plan:  Pressure Houston’s ballhandlers with relentless defense and pray that their rust is rustier than our rust.  For awhile it was tit for tat with bricks and rebounds being a bountiful harvest of 1st game jitters.  Unfortunately, the ‘Cats were rustier and their offense couldn’t keep up.  Al Jefferson resembled the Tin Man in need of oil, especially on defense, jacking up plenty of shots you’d expect him to make normally.  Gerald Henderson continued his woeful display of shooting.  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist assuaged some doubters with a nice dirty work game of quiet stat sheet stuffing but still, obviously, ineffectual on offense thanks to no perimeter game.  Josh McRoberts was by far and away the most impressive Bobcat.  He played like a man possessed, as if his tightly cropped beard was on fire if you will.  Tremendous hustle, knocking down line drive 3′s, and admirable defense on Omer Asik and Howard.  Kemba Walker played his cardiac Kemba self in the 1st half by abusing Beverly and Lin on crossovers and nifty layups, but he floated out of the game as it went on.  

Howard and Asik are a serious force to be reckoned with on defense.  They’re loads on offense and thanks to being surrounded by capable shooters their offensive limitations are minimized.  Even with Parsons, Harden, and Lin being kept largely in check, the duo of Super Douche and Turkish Judge Reinhold were too formidable for Charlotte.  Big Al was stereotypically dreadful save for one nice contest of a dunk, McSuave tried but was undersized on the block, Bismack Biyombo contested in his limited minutes but Dwight was already in a groove at that point and hitting spinning hooks and a baseline spin that you basically just have to tip your hat to him.  Cody Zeller played like a rookie and his defense was utterly headscratching at points, committing dumb fouls.  To his credit, he did move his feet well defending the pick & roll and ethered Omri Casspi with a spinning jumper.  Cat’s Pee was a nice mismatch I was hoping Zeller would look to exploit but he didn’t really post up nor did the guards look interested in passing to anyone in the post not named Al Jefferson.

Ramon Sessions played his usual Myrtle Beach streetball of lay ups or die.  I’d rag on him but Ramon throwing up circus shots and possibly getting fouled was preferable to Jeffery Taylor shooting contested fadeaways or whatever pathetic offense that unit could muster.  Biz had some nice clean up dunks but his game was forgettable, probably a theme in any game where Charlotte is trailing.  Biz can’t protect the leads that Charlotte doesn’t have, after all.  MKG played his ass off and was the physical, aggressive go-hard I’ve been looking for, hopefully he continues this effort.  

All and all, Charlotte played hard but ultimately their offensive limitations did them in.  Houston’s a good team and Charlotte will have to catch good team’s sleeping and shoot it well to beat them.  Oh well, more ping pong balls for HornCats.

State of the Bobcats musings

This post brought to you by the Beastie Boys album:  Hello Nasty.  Why?  Because that’s what I might as well be saying whenever I turn on a Bobcats game.  

 

Scoped out the ‘Cats versus the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks in Greensboro, NC last weekend.  The game wasn’t televised so I’ll tell you all you need to know about that game.

First and foremost, the LadyCats are ungodly hot.  Whomever is in charge of LadyCats personnel has an eye for talent that would prompt me to fire Higgins on the spot.

Oh yeah, basketball.  The game started out with the Bobcats’ starters looking like they’ve never played basketball with each other before.  Kemba, Hendo, MKG, McSuave, and ShowBiz Biyombo.  The offense basically looked like dogs chasing each other’s tails as the ‘Cats just screened for each other endlessly with no effort to actually threaten to shoot or pass to a player rolling to the basket.  Basically, I could have played defense for the Mavs that night.  I know this b/c Jose Calderon looked like Avery Bradley and was diving for loose balls and shutting down Kemba.  The Mavs on the other hand, even without Dirk and incorporating new faces like Jose, Monta “Have it All” Ellis and Samuel “No Haitian word for ‘assist’” Dalembert looked pretty comfortable.  The game was pretty sloppy and arguably even until Vince “Dale Ellis” Carter came in and started draining wide open 3′s.  Why is an ancient Vince Carter even getting wide open 3′s?  

The innocuous trio of Kemba, Hendo and MKG came out of the game and Taylor, Ramon, and Pargo replaced them.  Suddenly, the Bobcats didn’t look like they were playing on carnival rims.  Baskets could be made at a pace faster than a Peruvian basket weaver.  Then disaster struck.  CrossFit Biyombo had to get subbed out and Cody Zeller came in.  Code Man Z had a pretty nice game on offense.  When he got open jumpshots inside the 3 pt line aka “Hendo Territory” he made them.  He pulled down rebounds when he should have.  He used his quickness to slash against the plodding DeJuan Blair.  Unfortunately, he frustratingly shot mediocre from the charity stripe again and ball watches so badly on defense that he loses guys like Fab “Already cut from the Mavs” Melo wide open under the basket.  His defensive man awareness is about as bad as Monta Ellis’.  Otherwise, a really solid game from the rookie.  He could have had a better game if the guards weren’t apparently instructed to ignore all bigs’ attempts at posting up or rolling to the basket.  Seriously, WTF!?  The Bobcats’ back court would be more likely to find their big men on ChristianMingle. com than cutting to the basket.  Pass the ball, dogs, or I’mma have to report you to the Fun Police.  

Josh McRoberts was sadly the only big capable of scoring inside.  With Jefferson out, McRob is sadly our best post up player.  Did his usual ball movement magic, somehow rimmed out a reverse jam, and tried to inexplicably go Hot Sauce with a between the legs dribble into traffic, resulting into a turnover.  He had one of those games where he looked great one minute and retarded the next.  But dammit he plays hard so he’s getting a pass for attempting mix tape madness.  

Taylor is slowly turning into a solid wing.  He did his best Kendall Gill impression, throwing down nasty dunks and hitting down jumpers.  He played solid D.  He basically looked like Hendo, or what Hendo should look like.  More on that later.

Kemba struggled early on with the lockdown defense of Calderon (WTF did I just type?) but was his usual, impossible to contain self once Gal “create-a-player” Mekel was guarding him and after Calderon acquiesced to being the old Spaniard he really is.  Nasty step-back J’s, mini-Payton-esque drives amongst the trees, kept whomever he was guarding in check.  

Hendo played a little harder than I’d seen him in previous preseason games, probably b/c his Duke jimmies were tingly thanks to being in the Greensboro Coliseum.  Had a rough shooting night but at least he appeared to give a shit.  If he doesn’t seriously start shooting like 35% from 3 at least, I can easily see him traded for scraps or losing his spot to Taylor.

Show Biz continued his trend of leading the team in +/-.  As awkward and offensively backwards Biz looks, he has this Tebow effect of generally being in the game whenever the Cats are playing their best basketball.  His rim protection is irreplaceable and now that he can rebound more intelligently, he’s giving the Cats some 2nd chance opportunities from crashing the glass.  He’s slowly scratching the surface of being a poor man’s Dennis Rodman, except with more athleticism and much better shot blocking.  Nasty screen setting, solid defensive awareness, becoming a terror on the boards, it’s just about all there though.  It’ll be interesting to see where Biz gets his minutes when Jefferson heals up.  

Ramon was classic Ramon.  Pargo still looks like a sharpshooter.  Between the two and Taylor, Gordon can rot in hell for all I care.  

The only thing else you need to know from this game is that the Bobcat’s starters struggled to close the deficit against Mavs that are currently looking for NBA jobs.  Fab Melo, some little guard named Mickey McConnell, the aforementioned Gal Mekel, and yes, Renaldo Balkman not only kept the Mavs’ lead but never seemed threatened by most of the Cat’s projected starters.  Balkman played like a man possessed (in a good way, not in a “choke your teammate and get banned for life from the Philippine Basketball Association” way).  Stealing passes, slashing like Gerald Wallace against McBob and Zeller, he couldn’t be stopped.  That’s a very bad sign.

Speaking of bad signs, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continues to be afraid of shooting, save for two wide open jumpers made in garbage time.  Reluctant to shoot, reluctant to finish fast breaks with slashes to the basket when the opportunities presented themselves, it was a very underwhelming performance.  When your best offense is accidentally elbowing Vince Carter in the chin like Tony Jaa from Ong Bak, we have a problem.  His inability to find offense is hurting Bobcat’s scoring worse than Biyombo, seriously.  He’s like that kid at pick up games that’s too afraid of being accused of chucking or missing shots and just tries to overcompensate with defense.  I was surprised when I heard MKG trade rumors last year leading up to the draft and dismissed them to sportswriters trying to generate hits but now I’m not so sure…

In other NBA news, Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams looked really good last night against the Bulls.  I was high on both of those guys and both of them would be welcome Bobcats if they continue to play like that.  Alas, I’m not an NBA GM.