The Bobcats game against the Knicks was blacked out again for those of us in the NYC-area—and that was the highlight of the week. That relatively close loss was followed up with increasingly worse results against the Rockets and the Hawks. Opposing teams aren’t just dribbling circles around Charlotte, they’re dribbling Epcot Centers. The offense is entirely too dependent on long-range, low-percentage 2’s, and the defense is a full-fledged, catastrophic atrocity. Teams are scoring on us every which way—through guard penetration, put-backs, 3’s, and however it is that Chandler Parsons put up 20. Oh, and don’t forget the foul line: the Knicks and the Hawks shot freebies a combined 68 times. Meanwhile, with both teams tied at 33 in the second quarter in Tuesday’s game, Houston went on the lamest 10-point “run” ever, featuring a stretch of six straight free throws (they also missed three of them—the entire gruesome sequence should be under investigation by the FCC). The Bobcats never recovered, nor did traumatized audiences at home. In short, it was the type of week in which every shot of beleaguered coach Paul Silas’s facial expressions reminded me of the look my dog makes when my wife tries to make him wear a t-shirt.
It would be one thing if this parade of embarrassments featured sparks of life from the youngsters, but that’s the most discouraging part. Our prized rookie, Kemba Walker, is getting upstaged at every turn—first by Iman Shumpert, then by Parsons (the “Byron Mullens” of Houston), and finally—and most alarmingly—by Ivan Johnson. Walker isn’t even ranked on ESPN rookie analyst David Thorpe’s top ten list. Nor should he be; his TS%, supposedly his strong suit, is behind 25 other rookies, Vince Carter, and two pudgy bearded guys. His PER is an underwhelming 13.43 (17th among rookies), which is not horrible, but it isn’t exactly blowing my skirt up either.
And Walker is our success story. Bismack Biyombo is not just bad, he’s becoming a danger to himself and others. His stat line in Houston (12 minutes, 4 fouls, 1 turnover, 2 points, 1 block) looks more like a wild animal got loose on the court. Rick Bonnell wrote on Tuesday that Silas was having Biyombo participate in one-on-one drills with Gana Diop, and I needed to go lie down and try to get the image out of my head. Were it not for Mullens and brief spasms of excitement from DJ White and Derrick Brown, I’d have to strap myself for in for these games, Clockwork Orange-style.
I concede that a lot of Charlotte’s problems—the growing pains of the young’ns, Corey Maggette’s injury, Tyrus Thomas’s injuries, Boris Diaw’s very existence—should improve. But even when Maggette was healthy, the more he played, the less mysterious his dismissal from the Bucks looked. And as I mentioned in the preseason, Thomas’s health is so unreliable that I tend to think of him as just between injuries. Thomas also seems to have caught the “stupid-long-range-shot” bug from one of the 4 times in the pre- and regular season that he’s come in contact with Josh Smith. Thomas led off the Atlanta game with two back-to-back missed 19-footers, one of which glanced the side of the backboard in a way that was so comically bad that it made me wish our announcer was Bob Uecker. As for Diaw, well, ESPN’s John Hollinger went off on him in his Friday column, ending with this damning assessment: “Perhaps the Bobcats thought moving him to power forward Thursday night…would invigorate Diaw to attack against smaller opponents, but he looked more passive than ever.” The most troubling thing about that line is that it sounds like Hollinger actually watched this team play—why would he do that to himself?