Wow! It’s been a long time coming. That’s probably the most excited I’ve been watching a Bobcat’s game in like 2-3 years. And to think it was for a late night, Friday the 13th summer league game.
First, I do realize its just summer league, and any great performances you see here by either a player or team don’t normally translate to the regular season. Who knows, maybe next game they get throttled by 30 and we go back to our nice warm spot as the league’s laughingstock. But I do believe there are bits and pieces, signs and symptoms here which definitely are cause for hope.
Here’s what I took from the main cast of characters tonight.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – What a start!! I loved how he had that slight injury/tweak to his knee at the beginning of the game and didn’t require a wheelchair, he just brushed it off like nothing happened. As advertised, he relentlessly attacked on offense and defense. I noticed on a couple of his power drives that he jumped off the wrong foot, to maybe throw off the defender’s timing and avoid the block. Definitely a veteran move. As for his handle, while it seemed a little loose at times, you could obviously tell he knows how to make a move off the dribble to beat his man. Natural instincts are good to see more than technique right now. Just tighten that up, and nobody will be able to stay in front of him with his incredible first step.
Also showed good court vision and passing. Defensively, he is afraid of nothing, even taking on big burly Thomas Robinson head-to-head a couple times – and winning! He played free safety perfectly in the middle, collecting any and every loose ball that traversed his path. And maybe most impressive, besides scoring 18 points, grabbing 8 boards, dishing 5 assists, and gathering 4 steals in about 20 minutes, was that none of his offense was forced, as most rookies do when trying to make an impression. Everything came within the flow of the game, and yet he still had a tremendous impact on both sides of the ball. Can’t wait to see more.
Jeff Taylor – Knockdown shooter, aggressive, intelligent defender, explosive athlete. And to think we stole him in the 2nd round! He just looks like a seasoned pro and that he definitely belongs in the league for the next decade. His shooting stroke was smooth and basically automatic. He really knows how to read defenses, as he easily maneuvered his way through screens to get wide open for many long range shots, and made a beautiful backdoor cut for a highlight dunk.
On defense, he hounded ballhandlers relentlessly all night. Kings guards we’re coughing up the ball like when you accidentally swallow a bug while riding your bike. We’ve just drafted two 6’7, long, strong, aggressive, hungry defenders to guard against the elite wings in the league. Lebron, D-Wade, they’re coming from you (in a couple more years of course).
Kemba Walker-In just a few minutes, you could tell the difference a little structure went into helping his game. I know he was being guarded by the Jimmer, but he seemed like he was at a different speed than everyone else on the court tonight, and could explode at any second. While his deep shooting is still a work in progress, he seemed much more in control of the offense than at any time last year. The offense ran smooth, he got the ball to people in the right places, and his attacks on fast breaks were poetry in motion. In the halfcourt, he ended up getting buckets or free throws every time he ventured into the lane. Now if that J ever comes around….
Byron Mullens- I was bothered at first by him shooting so many 3s, but I guess he is what he is. He’s never going to be a post up player, but maybe we have plans to develop him into a Ryan Anderson type player, which I’d have no problem with.
When he’s in rhythm, his outside shot is as good as anybody’s. I still think he needs to become much more versatile on offense though, in learning how to drive past a defender closing out on his shot, and at least a couple back to the basket attempts per game. He’s a good offensive rebounder, and even though he doesn’t have good defensive awareness, he’s a good shot blocker off the ball. Shoot on, Mully.
Bismack Biyombo – I’m just enjoying seeing all the improvements in his game as time goes on. He seems much more coordinated and comfortable now. He actually caught passes cleanly and finished with authority, and yes, nailed his free throws. I also loved watching him against Robinson, as he absolutely relishes playing against physical guys. Robinson tried to dunk on him and run through him a couple times, and Biz started smiling and then proceeded to body him up the next few possessions. And I liked his touch and decisive post moves on his couple opportunities down low. Sky’s the limit on this kid.
Thomas Robinson – The guy many of us wanted to draft. I think this game shows you the difference that coaching makes. He showed much more ability than I knew of in terms of his ball handling and passing. But he was trying to do WAY too much out there, shooting too deep, continuously dribbling into trouble. I’m sure Coach Dunlap wouldn’t have put him in such vulnerable positions if we had him. Also, I kind of expected him to try to post up more instead of settling for shots, but maybe thats what their coaches want. But I think he still has tons of potential and look forward to watching him grow.
Jimmer – Holy s**t, what the hell happened to this guy! To have played a full NBA season and look this lost in a Summer League game? Couldn’t dribble, couldn’t pass, terrible shot selection and awful shooting in general. All he needs to do is grow his hair long and grow a mustache, and he’ll follow in the footsteps of our favorite draft bust.
Last but not least,
Coach Dunlap – I think with Dunlap, he has all the best qualities of Larry Brown and Paul Silas, without any of their weaknesses. Like Brown, he stresses fundamentals, technique, and attention to detail, but he isn’t so anal that things have to be run to an exact specification (PG spin move anyone?) otherwise you’ll be on the trading block. Like Silas, he gives the young players confidence and some freedom to use their skills and creativity, but he actually has a game plan and more than two offensive plays.
Just watching the offensive set where Taylor kept getting free at the top for a couple threes showed more off the ball movement, screening, and structure than anything ran all last year. Bismack and Mullens were actually setting solid screens, and the guards seemed to actually know what to look for in pick and rolls. And seeing them push the tempo at all opportunities and relentlessly attacking the rim was a thing of beauty. I mean, they scored 121 points in just 40 minutes!! Last year it took us 2 games to score that many points.
The defense was AWESOME, although true NBA point guards would know how to beat the press, so I don’t think that could be an all game strategy, more of a surprise kind of jump attack every now and then. But just seeing that attacking style reminds me of our defense during the playoff season with Tyson Chandler, Felton, Wallace, and Jackson.
If anyone follows the Carolina Panthers at all, he reminds me so much of Coach Rivera in the sense that he understands the right balance between being a disciplinarian but also a player’s advocate. Players love to play for him and would stick their necks out for him, but they know he means business and will be held accountable for everything. Charlotte has been doing it right on these last two coaching hires.