We’re in December now, and as I flipped my 2012 Bobcats wall calendar to reveal Matt Carroll as this month’s pinup, I noticed a disturbing trend. The six featured players in this year’s calendar were Stephen Jackson, Carroll, Shaun Livingston, DJ Augustin, Gerald Henderson, and Tyrus Thomas. In other words: traded, traded, traded, traded, injured, and injured amidst career freefall. The calendar curse might not be the only thing working against Charlotte, either. After starting out the season going 5-0 in games decided by 4 points or less, the Bobcats have dropped two in a row by 3 and 6, respectively. Instead of taking back the “Hornets” as our nickname, perhaps we should consider the “Karma Chameleons.” On the other hand, these disappointing outcomes were probably less the result of the direct involvement of a Hindu god and more related to the fact that the Bobcats have the second-lowest defensive rebounding percentage in the league.
Never was that more on display than Friday night against the Sixers, where Lavoy Allen put back more shots than Courtney Love on a bender. Allen had 6 offensive boards, nearly every one of which he immediately deposited back into the bucket. Much was made of Jason Richardson’s four 3-pointers in the 4th quarter, and it’s true, he Shannoned us, but two of them were also second-chance opportunities. Byron Mullens is the team leader in defensive rebound rate, but he’s only ranked 24th in the league among guys getting at least 10 minutes of burn a game. So for the Cats to get over the 7-win hump, they’re going to need to start cleaning the glass like Charlie Sheen snorting coke off a mirror.
That and they’re going to need to finish better. On Wednesday against the Hawks, the Cats were down 7 with about 3:40 left. Atlanta did nearly everything in its power to give the game away, including two brainless 3-point attempts (I’ll just tell you because you’d never guess otherwise: Josh Smith and Lou Williams shot them), an awful turnover, and a bone-headed foul on a Ben Gordon 3-pointer. Nevertheless, the Bobcats took this golden parachute being offered to them and mistook it for expensive toilet paper. First, Bismack Biyombo committed an offensive goaltending penalty on his own missed layup that was so blatant and ridiculous that I’m pretty sure the 20-second timeout the Hawks called afterward was strictly to give them a chance to stop laughing. Then with a minute to go and the Cats trailing by one, they had one of the worst offensive possessions I’ve ever seen. Sessions and Gordon handled the ball like two 4-year-olds handling a bugger: totally unsure what to do with it and just wiping it off on themselves back and forth in confusion. The end result was a forced Biyombo jumper with no time left on the shot clock. The next possession was nearly as bad, except this time Gordon bailed us out like AIG with a totally bonkers 3-pointer to get us in with one. Finally, though still in the game despite Atlanta’s best efforts, Sessions turned it over on an inbound play with 5 seconds left.
Neither game was without its moments of levity. For example, human laughingstock Gana Diop participated in both (“played” is probably too strong a word). Against the 76ers, he was briefly matched against Kwame Brown, and their two bellies collided in the second quarter with such force that I expected a backboard to shatter. Still, these two losses have been so frustrating that I’m considering switching up my format and doing a Q&A-style column instead, a la John Clayton’s Wednesday “Mailbag” with ESPN.com. It’s got to be the easiest gig in the world, considering this actual example from his most recent mailbag: “Matt in Breese, Ill., wonders if the Rams would go after Greg Jennings if he hits free agency. It’s possible.” That’s it; that’s his actual answer, with nothing further added: “It’s possible…Next!” Nice work if you can get it.
(Reminder: Please don’t forget to check out my e-book at the following link)