“I think everybody that has been watching all of our games,” said coach Mike Dunlap, obviously addressing me personally and a handful of others, “say that MKG gets a little bit better and then all of a sudden he had what you would call a breakout game.” I definitely would call it a breakout game, coach, and thanks for the shout-out. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist spearheaded the Bobcats’ first ever win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night in 17 tries, in a game that featured so much crazy crap at the end that I can’t even describe it all; it’s like trying to describe the ending of The Departed. For example, Brendan Haywood missed separate free throw attempts—one at the end of regulation and one in OT—and both times it ended up being a good thing.
That’s because on both occasions the Bobcats got the rebound. I was thinking that it was MKG who grabbed both of them, but I forgot that it was Kemba Walker who did it the first time (the Bobcats were trailing by 2 with 22 seconds left). It’s seriously like trying to remember who was who between Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Anyway, Walker got it to Ramon Sessions, who missed, and then MKG grabbed that one, and made a great feed back to Sessions for the tie, which sent it into overtime. Then in overtime, it was indeed MKG who boarded Haywood Misses Critical Goddamned Free Throw, Part II and found Byron Mullens, who flushed the ball like a toilet and gave the Bobcats the lead for good.
In all, MKG had 25 points on 8-12 shooting, hit 9-of-10 free throws, had 12 rebounds (including 5 on offense), and had 2 blocks and a steal. He’s been stuffing the stat sheet like a ballot box for a few games now, and Dunlap’s right in that he’s been gaining gradual recognition. In his weekly NBA rookie rankings, ESPN.com’s David Thorpe had MKG at 9, saying that “he does a great job of rotating his hips and sliding to a deeper spot on the floor.” Though it sounds more like Thorpe’s describing MKG’s ability to do the electric slide, it’s an incredible relief to see that the Bobcats didn’t swing and miss by taking this kid with the #2 draft pick. And hopefully in next week’s ranking MKG will be higher on the list—or at least ahead of Kyle Singler.
Beside MKG’s abilities to sexually arouse girls who’ve gone country, ESPN.com’s John Hollinger has him 8th among rookies with a 15.15 PER. That’s not bad in itself, but he charges up to 4th among rookies in value added and estimated wins added, due to the 30 minutes he’s averaging every game. Overall, he’s 21st in VA among small forwards, a full ten spots ahead of where his predecessor, Corey Maggette, finished last year. More importantly, he already had more memorable moments than Maggette ever had; apart from those two offensive rebounds and multiple acrobatic finishes at the rim last night, MKG blocked a Vince Carter shot, voiding it like a Sean Payton contract, keying a Sessions layup, and sending Carter whimpering to the sidelines. I loved every second of it.
Perhaps the biggest reason to be excited about this team is that Walker’s improvement, plus the additions of Sessions, MKG, and Ben Gordon have put a spring in the Bobcats’ step. According to Teamrankings.com, the Bobcats are currently 12th in the league with 98 possessions per game, up from 19th place last year. And they’re an amazing third in the league in turnover rate (just 13.5% of possessions), up 13 slots from last year. In other words, they’re playing faster and less sloppy, which makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience—win or lose. Indeed, the Bobcats raced to a 9-2 lead on Dallas to start the game in the most pleasurable two minutes I’ve had since I was thirteen and saw the naked lady come out of the bathtub in The Shining. Their furious pace also holds the potential for some high comedy: poor Gana Diop had to enter the game with 5:37 left in the 3rd quarter and wasn’t brought back into captivity until there was just under 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter. This led to a priceless shot of him sucking for air on the bench and utterly drenched—the amount of salt water pouring off his hide could have sustained a hammerhead shark for weeks.
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