Bobcats roll, Big Al continues his reign of terror

All is well in Bobcatland. 6th straight home win and 6-4 over the last 10.  We are officially streaking.  We kick Gordon’s sorry ass to the curb and the team surges. It’s called karma, Ben, you whiny _____.  I’ll let everyone else fill it in for themselves.  And say it outloud, it feels good I promise.

Annyway..  Can anyone stop Al Jefferson?  Double teams all night and still just puts up numbers.  A couple times when he touched the ball I swear they had 6 guys guarding him and he still found a way.  28 on 12/18 not bad.. throw in 7 boards and 3 blocks and we’re looking at another game-takeover type performance from the big boy.  All hail Big Al.

The man should be anointed a Bobcats saint

The man should be anointed a Bobcats saint

The good: Don’t sleep on our D.. in that 4th quarter it felt like we were applying heavy pressure and forcing turnovers on every Cavs possession.  That was not there last year.  As much as I liked Mike Dunlop as a person I can finally agree that Clifford is a better coach.

And the the not so good:  At one point in the 3rd quarter after MKG launched one of his sidewinder fall-away jumpers (I don’t need to add that he missed), Steve Martin made a remark that, “His last two shots have looked okay”…  Might as well have just said the guy sucks at shooting.  I think it’s time we come out of the closet with the bust talk on MKG.  I don’t want to call him a bust because he’s still got a place in the league, but he has no talent on offense.  No talent.  To start the year it looked as if he was making progress, but as soon as he got hurt it was over.  He’s regressed since last season.  Best case scenario: he’s still hurt and playing through the pain, plus he’s young and has room to develop into a starting-caliber forward.  Worst case:  just not the guy we thought we were drafting, can’t shoot, lacks control on offense and defense, and probably a defensive replacement at best.  I guess we’ll have to wait ‘til free agency to see how Cho and MJ feel about him, but I’m all in on this just not being the guy at the 3.  At this point, if you take away the torn achilles, I’m calling Jeff Taylor the better player.  Plus his girl just might be the hottest female in the state of NC.

Tonight’s heterosexual pat on the butt goes to:  Cody Zeller.  Can I just say thank god he’s finally decided to play.  Still looks uncomfortable away from the basket but since the All-Star break he’s been a serviceable backup.  Hopefully our days of watching him catch the ball 20 feet from the hoop, nervously stutter step and indecisively shooting are over.  All we need out of this kid are 10 solid minutes a game and we become a better team.

Our next 6 games are cake.  Check the schedule below..  If we’re gonna take the 6-seed we gotta win 4 of em.

Time to feast on the weak

Time to feast on the weak

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My (over)reaction to last night’s humiliation of the Indiana Pacers

So many times we’ve all heard that the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game and that proved true again last night.  8 steals and 18 forced turnovers for our guys.. nothing too special, but we only turned the ball over 7 times.  Thats pretty f’in good, probably our best number of the season (and definitely our best game).  Call it a fluke if you want (it was), but we absolutely dominated from start to finish.

Paul George didn’t have a single field goal the entire game.  This really might be the last time that happens.. ever.  All the credit in the world to MKG/CDR.. these guys got hammered the past few games working to cover the likes of Durant and Lebron but they were both terrific tonight.  Not a man on earth that could have predicted this kind of play out of The Kidd.  Small forward is no doubt our weakest spot on the floor, but if we could get even half the defensive production we had tonight from these two we could make some noise in the conference.

Vegas had Indiana as a 5.5 pt favorite and I’d venture to say that almost all the money bet on the game was in favor of the Pacers.  But we spanked em.  Not a B-ball team on the planet that could’ve beat us last night.

The box score makes it clear that this was a fluke, but Big Al’s performance was the furthest thing from it.  The dude dropped 34 on Hibbert (might be the only time that’s happened this season) and that’s with going to the line only once.  Pretttty impressive.  We couldn’t lose even if we tried.  Shots were falling, Al & Kemba were balling per normal, and the usual suspects stepped up and played like they actually belong in the lineup (Referring to MKG/Zeller).

This is only the third game we’ve won by 20+ so it’s hard to believe this was one of em when you consider the pacers have the highest positive point-differential in the league (+8).  Even harder to believe when you take into consideration the facts that we just gave up 60 to Lebron and were on the road against three of the four best teams in the league only to arrive home to host the team w/ the best record in the league.

Hendo was out, Al Jefferson was on.  And when I say on I mean he was about to set the place on fire he was so hot.  NBA, take notice, the lowly Bobcats are moving up the ranks.

Are we becoming that sneaky team you don’t want to face in the East?  

Big Al is working miracles right now

Big Al is working miracles right now

Bobcats give up 60+ to a single player for 2nd time this season.. will play in WNBA next year

We dropped the soap and Lebron went to town.  Can’t believe I’m saying this again but the Bobcats just gave up 60 to a single player for the second time in as many months (Heres what I had to say last time: “Melo” drops 62 on lowly Housecats (nee Bobcats)).  I have a tough time giving the guy props but he was unbelievable tonight.

The game sort of ended at half time.  We were in it the whole first half, but there was no way we were keeping up with that kind of production from Bron-Bron.

Big Al was doing some ballin’ of his own but a chubby 6’9” center can only do so much to stop the best in the world.  38 & 19 on 18/24 shooting is a hell of a stat line and would be enough to win a game on any other night.  Poor MKG.. he had just stopped wetting the bed over nightmares of the beatdown Carmelo put on him and now this…  I hope we have a good sports psychologist on staff because we need one after tonight.

Not even sure what else to say.  This wasn’t quite the shellacking we took from the Knicks on that cold January night but it’s still an absolute pride killer.  Unfortunately, this is just the 3rd game in our 4-game stretch from hell, now we have to turn around to host the Pacers in a couple days (who sport the league’s highest pt differential).  As I’ve said before it’s gonna be an uphill climb so we don’t have time to sulk.  Gotta wake up tomorrow, make some adjustments, and forget about it.

If you are on team KD for MVP we just aren’t watching the same NBA..  The best team in the league = whatever team Lebron is playing for.  KD may carry his team, but Lebron will take your team and make them look like children.  

lebron carmelo copy

Bobcats Title Odds 500:1… still not low enough

So since I last blogged about the team and offered up a sort of Bobcats State of the Union things have really started to look up.  We made a sneaky underrated trade with the Bucks to add a couple veteran guards and we moved up a spot in the playoff rankings.

The downside however; just as we build a little momentum and break out with a 4-game win streak (our longest of the season), we fall right into a six night layoff courtesy of the CIAA tournament.  It is kinda nice that our new guys get a little practice time to become acclimated, but when you’re team is rolling you always dread the long layoff.

The trade adds veteran leadership, much needed 3-pt shooting, and another crunch time option in Gary Neal.  The loss of Sesh will definitely hurt our bench production, but give it a few weeks and I bet you fans won’t even remember who it was we traded away in the first place.  Also, it would appear the team is going to buyout Ben’s contract so we can finally move on from the dark period in Bobcats history known as the Gordon era.  Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas were two of the worst value players in the league and soon we won’t have to deal with either.  They both complained, they both missed a ton of games, and they both sucked when they were playing.  The Heat are still rumored to be in the hunt for Gordon, although I can’t understand why.  If he can’t get minutes on our team with our guard situation how the hell does he get minutes with the Heat?

Anyway, we’ve got 25 games left on the schedule, with 16 of those games coming against playoff teams.  Considering half the league makes the postseason this isn’t too crazy, but so far this season we only have 11 wins against playoff teams so we will be fighting an uphill battle to gain any ground in the standings. Over the course of the next week the team will embark on a 4-game stretch that will determine the team’s readiness for the big time.  If ever there were a way to measure and predict your team’s odds at success in the playoffs this is it.  6 nights, 4 games, 3 on the road.  It’s as good a simulation of a playoff series as there is.  As I’ve mentioned before, our best case scenario is a 6-seed matching us up against the Raptors who we beat in all three games we played against them this season.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for us to climb in the standings.  After looking at our remaining schedule I’d say if we can walk away winning half of em we’ve exceeded expectations.

6 nights, 4 games, 3 on the road...

6 nights, 4 games, 3 on the road…

Gary Neal gives us a playoff-tested guard capable of delivering in the clutch and Ridnour is a solid #2 PG that will give Kemba much needed rest down the stretch.  All week the team has been releasing videos on Facebook of Neal knocking down 3‘s and I’m starting to get pumped.  With the performance of Pargo in Kemba’s absence, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Pargo’s minutes increase.  We’re still really hurting at the 3, but as long as Kemba and Al continue to perform at a high level we can continue to cruise by with a subpar performance from MKG/CDR.  Until the playoffs that is.  If only we still had Jeff Taylor..  Another change to look out for.. if Zeller can’t get things going soon I think Biz will start to pick up more minutes.  As much as he lacks in offensive ability and knowledge of the game, if Zeller is going to continue playing like this he’s not going to be an asset to the team.

By no means are we a lock to make the playoffs.  We made some good moves to improve the team at the deadline and we’re on a little bit of a roll but this thing is far from over.  If Kemba or Big Al goes down again we’re likely out of it.  Assuming we remain in good health I predict we’ll finish the season 38-44 which should be just good enough to snag a playoff spot.  Since we’ll be looking at the 7 or 8 seed it would seem likely the Bobcats will move on without a playoff win in the history of the franchise.  Sucks to know you don’t stand a shot at a title but would still be cool to see the team back in the postseason.  Who knows?..  Maybe Lebron gets hurt and the Pacers’ plane blows up.. Vegas odds are at 500:1 that we win the title, which still doesn’t seem low enough when you consider both of the scenarios mentioned in the previous sentence would literally have to happen for us to win.

Last time I mentioned in a single sentence at the end of the blog that I hoped we would land Evan Turner at the deadline.. well we obviously didn’t get him.  But.. the Pacers did.  This probably makes them the front runners to win the East.  If they can get even an ounce of production out of Bynum then, at the very least, they should cruise to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Since I don’t expect Charlotte or Chicago to make any noise in the playoffs I’m really looking forward to a Pacers/Heat series.  Could be the best of the playoffs.  These guys are gonna beat up on each other guaranteed, which is good news for whoever comes out of the West.  The NBA playoffs are f****n awesome and this year shouldn’t be any different.

Totally unrealistic photoshopped image of the Bobcats winning the Finals

Totally unrealistic photoshopped image of the Bobcats winning the Finals

Does this trade really make us a better team? My post-deadline 2 cents

It’s only been 3 days since the trade deadline and the players we acquired have yet to see the court, but already we’re winning games.  Last night the Bobcats beat the Grizzlies to move into 6th place in the standings.  Feels weird to even say that.  The lowly Bobcats are in 6th place, and while it might not mean much because no team besides the Heat or Pacers really stand a chance, this is rare air for the Bobcats.  We even have a chance to overtake the Wizards for the 5-seed in our next couple games, although it may not be in our best interest.  As things stand, we would be matched up against the Raptors in the first round, a realistically winnable series for us.  So far this season we’ve played the Canuck squad 3 times.. and won each time.  This is the only team in the league we’ve had this kind of success against.

So I like the trade.  Sessions was a valuable player and a reliable scoring option, but he won’t be sorely missed.  He was our best scorer off the bench but a poor jump shooter to put it lightly.  The addition of Gary Neal replaces the bench scoring of Sessions and adds a clutch performer with 3-point shooting capability.  Neal is the sort of player that needs the ball to be productive so I don’t expect him to play big minutes until we find out how to work him the rock consistently.  Luke Ridnour is a distributor with a shot.  He’s not looking to pull up unless that’s whats available (a stark contrast to the play of Sessions), although he is a reliable shooter.  He’s pretty much on the team to eat up minutes while Kemba is sucking wind on the sideline.

In conclusion, Mr. Sessions, we thank you for your service and Mr. Adrien, you are welcome for the several million dollars you collected on our bench.  The team should be slightly improved and we now have another option besides Kemba we can look to in the clutch.  

The real reason the return of the Hornets name is so exciting.. A trip down memory lane

These memories, not some stupid throwback shirt or snapback hat, are the real reason people are excited about the return of the Charlotte Hornets.

Circa 1995.  If you've ever seen 2 better lookin fellas in Hornets jerseys you were probably in heaven

Me and the bro circa 1995. If you’ve ever seen 2 better lookin fellas in Hornets jerseys you were probably in heaven

I remember pregaming at Jocks n Jills, eating calamari and drinking virgin daiquiris with my brother while my dad and his friends got good n liquored up before tipoff.

I remember going to more than one game where we literally could not find enough tickets for my family to sit together.

I remember feeling like we walked miles to and from the car when we arrived a little late because the parking lot was so huge.  And… I remember when my dad pulled one over on the parking staff and said he was injured so we got to park all the way up front.  Also, I remember there was always a section in the lot upfront that was virtually empty because it was reserved for handicapped fans that never showed.

I remember sitting in traffic for 30+ minutes just trying to get out of the arena after games.

I remember my dad buying me and my brother Muggsy jerseys at the arena that we eventually got signed (he lived in my neighborhood).

The lower level had an exclusive sort of feel to it because during introductions and many times during play they would pull the curtain closed, shutting off those poor nose-bleaders from enjoying in the intimacy that was lower-level seating.  Didn’t even let you enjoy the views for a split second while you were hiking up the stairs to your cheap seats.

I remember the ushers not being total dickbags when we tried to sneak down to better seats during the 4th quarter of blowouts.

I recall the complete lack of boxes and suites.

I remember the mascot Hugo dunking all over the place at half time.

I remember the big inflated, flying Hugo that would drop off tickets and Harris Teeter gift cards… and I remember flying Hugo tragically malfunctioning/wrecking on more than one occasion.

I remember thinking the stoplights in the area surrounding the coliseum were cool.

I remember arriving early to games to be part of the “frontcourt club” or whatever it was called at the time.  It was basically just an overpriced bar for the wine n cheese crowd to mingle at while the real fans watched the game.

I remember the oldschool 8-bit scoreboard graphics with the girl in pigtails raising her arms and her mouth opening in what was supposed to be celebration.

I remember the Brick Guy, and I remember wishing that one day I would grow up to get to hold up that big beautiful brick.

I remember hearing about how the scoreboard came crashing down onto the court and I  remember wishing it would happen again while I was there.

I recall going to many an event outside Hornets games at that place.  The circus, Disney on ice, etc.

I remember the Charlotte Sting also played at the Coliseum and that their crowds were so small that in the only Sting game I ever attended me and a friend literally just walked right down to the court and sat baseline the entire game.  Also, during the halftime shootaround an errant shot bounced our way and we stole the ball.  I still remember watching that sucker ballboy count his balls over and over absolutely perplexed by the realization that he had lost a ball.  (The same friend that snuck away with this priceless WNBA halftime shootaround ball also made away with a D-II championship football helmet while the team was celebrating the win on the field)

I remember the hype and anticipation that was there when the Bulls were in town.  Charlotte sports fans that weren’t around during the Jordan era don’t know the meaning of a “tough ticket”.

I remember returning to the coliseum in ’04 as a season ticket holder during the inaugural season for the Bobcats and thinking it was cool but also realizing the mystique and aura was missing.

I remember Baron Davis and that ridiculous buzzer beater 3 he made against the Magic in our last season in Charlotte.  That shot was incorrectly called off and it was all over sportscenter for a week.  http://youtu.be/TyoTKbhiBVA

I remember Muggsy and Muggsy and more Muggsy.  The dude was more loved than flowers on Valentines day.

But all jokes aside… most of what I remember was this overwhelming feeling that, “This is awesome”.  I’m trying not to romance the idea of the return of the Hornets because I don’t expect it to be everything it was to me as a kid, but if it even comes close I’ll be thrilled.

Bobcats Midseason Positional Analysis & My Pre-Deadline Takeaways

PG:  Kemba doesn’t appear to have developed his game much since last season.  His long range jumper is still average and although he can get to the hoop at will, he still has trouble finishing in traffic.  I’m kind of looking for areas to criticize his game because he’s the 2nd best player on the team and a big piece to the puzzle, but I can’t help but feel that he still has a lot of room for improvement.  And yes, he could cut down on turnovers.

SG:  Ben Gordon sucks.  Gerald Henderson is good.  The game comes easier to him than anyone on the floor in most cases and he’s a very consistent player, but he never really overwhelms you with his performance.  While he is a good player, if there was one area I would like to see him improve it would be just his demand for the ball in pressure situations.  I know he likes the ball to go through him and it definitely makes sense, but there are so many times where I see him open or with a mismatch where he just stands there without demanding the rock.

SF:  To start the season it appeared as if MKG was greatly improved and budding into a starting-caliber 3.  That was before he injured his hand.  Since coming back he looks like the guy we saw last year, wreckless and unrefined, yet still able to produce due to his raw ability.  He’ll get better.  Seeing Jeff Taylor go down for the season was a huge dissapointment.  He was the leader of the 2nd team offense and even though he was wild with his shot attempts he provided a spark this team desperately needs if they’re going to make the playoffs.  CDR has actually been alright, but you get the feeling the team is missing something when MKG isn’t on the floor.

PF: Josh McRoberts has been a staple in the team’s offense and defense with a lot of the offensive plays running through him at the top of the key.  He’s never going to wow you with his numbers but he’s a disciplined player that will hold others accountable and demands your respect with his absolute lack of mistakes in-game.  Anthony Tolliver has made himself valuable by becoming the team’s only real threat from 3.  However, if he couldn’t shoot the 3 he wouldn’t even be in the league, which speaks to his physical talents.

C: Zeller is a couple years away from being a full-time contributor and Biz is still an athletic defender but doesn’t fit into anyone’s scheme on offense.  Big Al has been the Bobcats messiah this season, scoring/rebounding at a 20/10 clip and turning in some absolutely dominant performances.  This was an offseason gamble that paid off tremendously.

 

My takeaways:

  • The Bobcats may be the least dominant playoff-bound team in the history of the league.  We have exactly 2 runaway victories this season, most recently against the old-age Mavs and earlier against the league-worst Bucks.  Our longest win-streak is at 3 games (accomplished only once.. vs. Kings, Raptors, Pistons) and we will finish with a losing record.
  • While we don’t often win big, we have a knack for getting slapped around badly in losses, having lost 1 out of every 6 of our games by 20 or more points.  Not exactly a quality that you look for in teams making a run at a title.
  • Our offense is not quite as bad as the numbers imply.  Although we are among the worst in PPG and FG% we are ranked in the top half in FGA, which means we’re getting shots off and retaining possession.  Eventually a few shots have to fall.. right?
  • This team still sucks, but as bad as they are they still won’t be as bad as the fans.  I’m not actually hating on any fans b/c I’m glad to see anyone supporting the team but for opposing teams, playing at Time Warner is like playing with the crowd on mute.
  • At some point Clifford gets tired of Zeller being a rookie and starts handing more minutes down to Bismack.
  • By the end of the seaon MKG will return to his “beginning of this season” form, just in time to steal a playoff victory (a game, not a round)

 

Please Sixers, accept our offer for Evan Turner.  I would love to wake up tomorrow morning and find out he’s a member of the Bobcats.  Douche or not the guy can play ball.  Kemba, Turner, MKG, McRoberts, Big Al.. playoff roster, 6th seed all but locked up.  Make it happen Cho.

Evan Turner bobcats