The Bobcats turned in two stomach-churning performances over the weekend, thereby splitting a pair of games that were both highly winnable. The disappointments in both games were varied in type, size, and scope, but their common let-down has been a sickening fixture all season. Against the Bulls and—more detrimentally—the Sixers, Charlotte ceded a deplorable 14 and 17 offensive boards, respectively. If the Bobcats, currently 25th in the league in offensive rebounds allowed per game, don’t start denying teams second chance points ASAP, do you realize what will happen? I’ll tell you what: announcers are going to take their abuse of the prefix "out-" to unsustainable levels. It started innocently enough with “out-hustled,” but now we’ve got “out-physicaled” and “out-quicked,” the latter I’ve seen not just spoken but WRITTEN (good stuff, Rick B!). Folks, this has got to stop. We’re about one solid Chris Kaman game away from hearing “out-swifted,” “out-speeded,” and “out-efforted.”
The Bulls game was a win, but that’s about it. You know how I wrote awhile back about moral victories? This was like the opposite—it was either a moral loss or an immoral victory, I’m not sure which. The Bulls, playing without Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, fielded a starting lineup that was utterly ridiculous: Nocioni, Smith, Wallace, Sefolosha, and Hinrich. You know what, though? Given a choice, I think I would’ve preferred Gordon or Deng healthy if it meant I could have had announcer Red Kerr too injured to make the game. Anyway, ESPN.com wrote in the recap that “Charlotte held the Bulls to 37 percent shooting.” That’s actually erroneous. The sentence should have read: “The Bulls held the Bulls to 37 percent shooting.” They had plenty of open shots, particularly for Nocioni (9-of-23 from the field, 3-of-9 on 3-pointers) and Hinrich (6-of-16, 0-of-4), but they couldn’t make enough of them. Their accuracy woes were equal opportunity: 30-of-81 from the field, 4-of-18 on 3’s, and 13-of-22 on free-throws. "I think it's a culmination of frustration,” Hinrich said after the game. He then added that his first inclination was to become a monk and leave the situation.
Still, the Bulls were in this for most of the game, because they “out-worked,” “out-scrambled,” “out-strengthed,” and “out-energied” us. Had Jason Richardson given even a middling performance, this one would have been over pretty early, and we could have rested for the back-to-back. Instead, he “out-sourced” his performance to Gerald Wallace, who put in his typical, full-bodied 21-5-5 night. Emeka Okafor was also stalwart down low with 21 points, 16 boards, and 4 blocks. Mek finished with 5 fouls, but he didn’t get his first until well into the second-half (and then he must have realized he was running behind schedule). Thanks to Nazr Mohammed and Matt Carroll, I guess we also “out-benched” the Bulls.
We didn’t out-anything Philadelphia the next night, except maybe “out-controversied.” Philadelphia’s starting lineup of Iguodala, Green, Dalembert, Young, and Miller, was as ridiculous as Chicago’s, except in this case there were no injuries—these five really are the Sixers’ best players. The main takeaway from this game was how much we suffer without Raymond Felton, who didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Not that we needed Felton to miss the game to prove this, because I’ve been muttering it to myself like a crazy person ever since we released Brevin Knight: we need a true backup point-guard, because Jeff McInnis is totally useless.
Coach Vincent actually put it on blast ever the game. “They (Philadelphia) were really sagging off Jeff (McInnis). That makes it hard, because then (the Sixers are guarding) five on four.” OUCH. Coaches tend to talk about players a lot like performance reports describe employees in regular jobs: everyone’s either “good,” “excellent,” or “outstanding.” Unless they fail a drug test or kill someone while drunk-driving, hardly anyone’s ever rated “poor.” Even if they squander billions of dollars in bad investments, they merely “need improvement.” The net effect is that all the performance reviews are inflated. But unless you know this, you’ll think “good” really means “good,” when in fact it means “sub-par” or even “do not promote this clown.” It’s like that with Coaches when they talk about players—usually the worst thing a player does is “try to do too much.” Listening to them, you tend to have to read between-the-lines and locate the criticism beneath the subterfuge.
And that’s precisely why it’s so jarring to hear such naked condemnation coming from a coach. “Five-on-four?” Wow. I’m trying to think of something more damning than telling a player you’d be no worse off if you were short-handed, and I can’t. I must admit, I’ve got mixed feelings. On the one hand, I couldn’t agree more with Vincent (in fact, I’ve actually written pretty much the same thing he said…repeatedly). On the other hand, this kind of sentiment should be kept in-house. But on the third hand (I happen to be a mutant cyborg from the future with three arms), maybe a public spat like this will facilitate McInnis’ and possibly Vincent’s departures, which would be good. We’ll see how it goes.
This fact remains: without Felton, Philadelphia was less afraid of penetration than Jenna Jameson. They were free to blanket the perimeter, daring us to try to beat them on jump shots and/or getting the rock to Okafor; no one had to worry much about sliding or rotating. It didn’t help that Gerald Wallace took the bait completely, going 4-for-17 (mostly on mid- to long-range jumpers) and 0-for-5 on 3’s. Of course, anytime Crash tried to take it the hole, it usually worked or at least got him to the foul line; unfortunately he only tried about 4 times. Richardson, meanwhile, hoisted up 24 shots, but as usual, he was even more reluctant to drive to the hoop than Wallace. The end result was a humiliating loss, and with those hideous all-black outfits, they even looked like a prison team mugging a bunch of pretty-boys.
And to top it all off, as if he hadn’t caused enough controversy by openly denigrating McInnis, Vincent questioned the team’s collective heart. “I stand over there and scream and yell the whole time, motivate guys to play,” Vincent said after the game. “I need to see that from the guys on the floor.” First of all, I don’t think our team’s short on effort. Talent, yes; effort, no. Second, what’s Vincent talking about with the screaming and yelling? The guy’s the most passive-looking coach I’ve seen since Art Shell. Vincent’s rarely even standing, let alone screaming and yelling. The only coach who sits more than Vincent is Phil Jackson, and Jackson technically has no hips. Put a Darth Vader helmet on Vincent and he’d be LaDanian Tomlinson. How long is Michael Jordan and/or Bob Johnson going to let this go on before they straighten this circus out? If management doesn't step in soon, the we're going to be "out-Knicksing" the other teams.