This third title started out out as simply “Drafting DJ Augustin,” but that was before I realized that the Bobcats also selected Alexis Ajinca a hysterical 20th overall. And then after thinking about it further I damn near broadened this one out to simply “2008,” but I stopped short of doing so because I don’t really think you can classify a year as a business decision. The lesson here is that the Bobcats have screwed up so many things that they start to crash into each other and conflate themselves; they’re the NBA equivalent of Kids. Or maybe the lesson is, “when thinking about the Bobcats, don’t think too much.” Anyway, I pinched it off at the 2008 draft, but If anyone could screw up a full year it would be the Bobcats. 2007-08, if you’re forced at gunpoint to remember, was the season that the Bobcats stopped making forward progress in terms of wins but grew leaps and bounds in terms of unintentional comedy. Charlotte regressed to just 32 victories and head coach Sam Vincent was shown the door that spring after less than a full year with the team. And that door kicked the bejesus of poor Sam on the way out, because unless you’re a member of the 2008-09 Anaheim Arsenal, Vincent was never heard from again. The good news, at least, is that the Bobcats learned their lesson about hiring unknown, unproven coaches and never, ever repeated that mistake. Ditto for owner Michael Jordan, who realized the error of filling key decision-making roles with flunky yes-men.
The Bobcats added two more losses to their dossier over the weekend, one a near miss and the other a far miss. Even the relatively close loss to the Pacers on Saturday would need to have an asterisk the size of Bismack Biyombo making a snow angel, because Indiana was without their best player, Paul George. The loss on Friday to Toronto was simply an undistilled humiliation; it was humiliation moonshine. The Bobcats might as well have played the game wearing red ball gags. For fans, every simple and advanced metric of our team generates a stench of losing with long-term rancidity. The best we can hope for is more articles like this one, in which members of the team are reduced to congratulating themselves for not brawling with each other.
These last two losses could also be titled “Revenge of the Obscure Bobcats.” The Raptors now prominently feature former Bobcat Alan Anderson, and the Pacers played ex-Cat Dominic McGuire (and DJ Augustin, but I wouldn’t call him “obscure”; at least, not without calling him many other things first). I have to admit, I consider myself to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bobcats, and I’m drawing a total blank on Mr. Anderson (side note: could there be a more useless encyclopedic knowledge of something? Maybe an encyclopedic knowledge of greeting cards for pets?). This is actually not necessarily a bad thing; for instance, I remain tortured by quite vivid memories of Primoz Brezec. Even writing his name as “Mr. Anderson” just now makes me feel like I must have made some sort of stupid Matrix/Agent Smith-type joke about him circa 2006, but I don’t think I did—probably because I was too busy making jokes about Brezec. But anyway, Anderson, McGuire, and Augustin are now all having the last laughs.
Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the furrrr!! What an opening night to the season! The last time the Bobcats won an opening night game so thrillingly was last year, so this is clearly a sign of great things to come. What can you say about this effort? If you’re David West, you can say that the Bobcats “junked up” the game with their zone defense. If you’re coach Mike Dunlap, you can say that you just slaughtered an elephant. But if you’re just a simple fan, like me, you can say farewell to a losing streak that’s longer than Morgan Freeman’s IMDB profile.
Of course the big hero was Kemba Walker, who hit 10-of-21 from the field and 9-out-of-10 free throws. He style of play wasn’t much different than what he did last year, and in fact he almost submarined the whole thing by tossing up a horrid, Nate Robinsonian 20-footer with 16 seconds to play. But the big difference was that this time his attempts in the key were either on target or drew fouls—or, at the very least, didn’t lead to turnovers. Full credit goes to him and his mentor, coach Dunlap. I have to admit that I was not feeling encouraged about this relationship, especially when just last week, Dunlap called Walker “an unusual player who can do some things very special.” It honestly sounded like a parent awkwardly describing a child with severe autism. But perhaps there has been real improvement.
My original plan was to turn from previewing the forwards in the first column to the centers in this column. But then I saw Gana Diop’s gargantuan landmass body and Louisiana Purchase-sized contract and realized I needed to turn away. I’m sorry, but I just can’t talk about him yet; there are still too many demons. Plus I just got through the Tyrus Thomas/Bismack Biyombo combo we’ve got going on at the 4-spot, and to go from there to the Brendon Haywood/Gana Diop platoon at center would be like having to review back-to-back screenings of Battleship and Sparkle. So instead I’m going to pace myself by hitting the guards next. I should have a hold of myself in time to talk to the centers later in the week.
As for the guards, to the extent that the Bobcats have a best unit, this is it. I was thrilled that Charlotte didn’t re-sign DJ Augustin, who had regressed last year and started suffering chronic injuries. For better or for worse, Rich Cho has shown that he’s not going to overpay anyone. In the case of letting Augustin walk (or limp out on his cracked feet) and signing Ramon Sessions to a stunningly reasonable 2-year, $10M deal, it’s all for the better. As the bigger player, Sessions is much more effective at getting to the rim than Augustin was and a more able rebounder and defender. If you want to be as conservative as possible, you can just consider his time with Cleveland last year and ignore his time with the Lakers, in which all of his stats got turbo-boosted (and, needless to say, Cleveland’s team is a far better comparison to Charlotte than the Lakers). With the Cavs, Sessions’ eFG% and passing rating were basically on par with Augustin’s, but he took more than twice as many foul shots and held opponents to a PER of 16.5—compared to Augustin’s 19.8. These might seem like small potatoes, but consider that the Bobcats would have had to make a qualifying offer of $4.4M to Augustin to retain him, and for just $600K more they got a better all-around player who has also played in over 95% of his games since 2008. The fact that I have had to justify this move more in accounting terms than in basketball terms is admittedly not very inspiring, but just remember all of this when we see Augustin sitting on the Indiana bench for a third of the season, nursing his cracked feet and tendinitis.
The Charlotte Bobcats are churning. Like, if you’ve ever made a salad all in one bowl, starting with the dressing, churning it up from the bottom, that’s the kind of turning over the Bobcats are currently engaged in. It makes me, as a fan entrenched in my own obsessions and what I think the team should look like, almost nostalgic for the past.
D.J. Augustin and his weirdo “inside source” are now gone, from the team and from our message boards. Corey Maggette, the latest line in a long line of middling “stars,” gone in favor of a much younger Ben Gordon and a draft pick. Paul Silas, not retained, a new coach that no one had heard of is now the much ballyhooed head coach that every fan hopes will turn things around.
I’m not here to write about owner Michael Jordan’s unsurprisingly unenlightening interview with the Charlotte Observer yesterday. Especially when he takes “full credit” for last year’s obscenity of a season after first blaming injuries, the shortened season, and an inexperienced roster (as if the inexperienced roster was an act of God).
Nope, I’m here to write about our brand new point guard, Ramon Sessions. But first, I want to say farewell to our old one: Goodbye, DJ. Um, actually I don’t know what else to say. Let’s face it, DJ was a nice guy, but he wasn’t very good offensively. Or defensively. And he was short. And he was injured. And apparently he had cracks in his feet. In part 3 of my season recap (during one of the few moments I wasn’t actively bent over the toilet), I begged the Bobcats not to try to re-up him, and now I’m glad they didn’t. So…yeah. I feel like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer thinks he’s going to die, and after telling Maggie to stay as sweet as she is, and telling Lisa that she’ll make him proud, he goes to Bart’s bedroom and says, “Goodbye, Bart…I like your sheets.”
Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s talk about Ramon Sessions. First of all, his contract isn’t public yet, but he opted out of a $4.5M deal, so I’m assuming his new one with us will be for more than that. (I’m actually almost hoping it is, because otherwise it means he opted out of $4.5M and the Lakers for less money and Charlotte, which would make him potentially criminally insane) Of course, I’m hoping it’s not a LOT more than that, because he’s not THAT much better than the dearly departed Augustin, who just signed for $3.5M to play with the Pacers.