Jumping out to an early lead Monday night in Gotham was nothing more than a tease as the lowly Bobcats drop another heartbreaker. Then again, when your starting center is DeSagana Diop, it’s very difficult from the outset to envision a win. The ‘Cats came out of the gates with a bang and were very efficient in the early stages of this contest. Charlotte lead at one point 10-0 before the Knicks collected themselves, and stepped up their game. Before you could blink your eye, the Knicks were in front of the Bobcats by nine points in the first half and kept their distance. Charlotte trailed by five at the half and kept nipping at the Knicks’ heels throughout the second half. Carmelo Anthony had an average night and did most of his damage from the foul line. Amare Stoudemire (25 points) and Tyson Chandler (20 points) exposed the putrid Bobcats’ frontcourt all evening as they dictated the flow in the paint. The main player that stuck out for the Knicks though was rookie guard, Iman Shumpert. Though he didn’t eclipse the Carmelo’s and Chandler’s of the world, the former Georgia Tech standout was a floor general all night. He directed the New York offense with precision and did a lot of dirty work that you won’t find on the stat sheet.
For the ‘Cats, DJ Augustin continues to be red-hot from 3-point range as he dropped a modest 12 points. Much like Shumpert, Augustin did the necessary work that gets glanced over on ESPN and in the paper. The fourth-year point guard pulled down eight boards and dished out four assists. Gerald Henderson is becoming more confident as a scoring threat as he hit several big shots, not the least of which was a thunderous dunk over Carmelo Anthony. The Bobcats leading scorer turned out to be the enigmatic Boris Diaw. Diaw’s double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds), along with another strong outing by DJ White (15 points), were two more bright spots on an otherwise disappointing night. The young Bobcats showed their age often tonight as several unnecessary fouls were assessed and costly turnovers plagued the game for the visiting ‘Cats. Additionally, Coach Silas needs to experiment with starting Mullens at center because DeSagana Diop shouldn’t have a roster spot in the NBA, let alone as a starter. Chemistry is huge, and the duo of Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens is very intriguing, but Mullens has earned a shot at a starting roster spot. A starting line-up of Augustin, Henderson, Diaw, Thomas and Mullens is as solid as this roster can roll onto the hardwood.
The main thing that kept popping into my head during the game is how much this team needs an identity. Lots of complimentary parts and solid options, but there is no “go-to” face of the franchise type player on this roster. Kemba, DJ, Henderson or Thomas could be those players, but the ‘Cats are in dire need of a superstar. Gerald Wallace was the closest thing this team ever had to a true All-Star. Even when Okafor and Felton were here, neither translated into franchise cornerstone players. You look around the league and see what Kevin Durant is doing in Oklahoma City, Dwayne Wade in Miami, or Carmelo Anthony in New York. This franchise of ours is in search of a savior that can take the team on his back and be counted on to will his way into the “W” column. Watching the Bobcats yields hope and a lot of question marks moving forward. Walker shows the most promise of being that electric player that makes your jaw drop, but he has a long road in front of him before reaching these lofty aspirations.
Every time these two teams play each other, it’s always entertaining. The ‘Cats enjoyed a nice victory over these same Knicks last week at Madison Square Garden, but they couldn’t duplicate the results this time around. Even though the Bobcats fell to a paltry 2-7 on the season, they have no time to cry over this defeat. The Houston Rockets invade the Queen City tomorrow evening as Charlotte tries to bounce back from this setback. Following the Rockets game, the ‘Cats play three games in four nights, so hopefully the Bobcats can inch their way closer to the .500 mark later in the week. In all honesty, it could be way worse….. look at the Washington Wizards. John Wall, Nick Young, Jan Vesely, and JaVale McGee on that roster, and they are sitting in the basement, winless at 0-8. We have a lot of hustle on this squad, but just need to continue evaluating our talent and realize our identity moving forward. If the next stretch of teams that we play doesn’t do anything for your excitement level, fear not, we play the Knicks again fifteen days from now.