What’s a week without some Charlotte Bobcats? A less enriching one, as agreed upon by four out of five dentists. As we all are fans of the fellows from the Cable Box, I thought it’d be a good idea to look back at the week that was in Bobcats basketball as well as taking a small look ahead towards the week that will be. We’ll look at the news and games while having some fun along with way. I think it’ll be enjoyable and hope you will as well. Now join me as we begin our trip down (short term) memory lane.
- Tuesday was the deadline to cut players with non guaranteed contracts and not owe them the remainder of said contract. Jeff Adrien and Chris Douglas-Roberts both made it past Tuesday, thus guaranteeing their salary for the remainder of the season.
- Finally, Thursday brought us a report by Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld that Charlotte is shopping Ben Gordon. Kennedy also reported that Charlotte is looking to be a “buyer” in the upcoming trade market.
Tuesday, 1/7 at Time-Warner Cable Arena: Washington 97, Charlotte 83
After coming off a rough road trip, Charlotte looked to build upon the momentum gained in their win against Sacramento. Following an impressive National Anthem by an all-girls a capella group from the University of South Carolina, (wittily named The Cocktails…good work there, ladies) the Bobcats continued a trend of struggling offensively. While their defense was respectable in the first half, the offense failed to capitalize on the job their defense was doing. Trailing 43-39 at the break was the fruit of Charlotte’s mismatched efforts.
The second half did see those offensive and defensive efforts even up, though unfortunately not in a way that was geared towards winning. After pulling to within two points of the Wizards at 47-45 with 9:31 left in the third, Charlotte was leveled with a 17-0 run that garnered Washington a 64-45 lead and effectively conjured a win for the Wizards. Charlotte would pull to within seven points late in the contest, but would pull no closer and fall 97-83.
As had been evidenced in previous games, this contest also showed just how small Charlotte’s margin for error is. Though allowing 47% shooting is not usually a recipe for winning, holding a team to 97 points should give most teams the opportunity to win. However, as noted by head coach Steve Clifford, multiple offensive inefficiencies that included too many turnovers that led to Wizard baskets and too little post production spelled doom for Charlotte.
Friday 1/10 at the Target Center: Minnesota 119, Charlotte 92
With a chance to right the wrongs committed against Washington, Charlotte traveled to the land of lakes to lock horns with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Heading into this contest, a simple strategy revealed itself. The Wolves were 0-10 in games decided by four points or less but also had 7 wins of 20 points or greater. For Charlotte, keeping it close would be the way to go to escape the frozen midwest with a win. And for the first quarter, Charlotte held to that “keep-it-close” game plan, trailing only 29-28.
The second quarter, though, was where Minnesota salted away this game. A 29-8 run started by Minnesota’s reserves and aided by questionable, at best, effort by the Bobcats in all facets of the game put this contest well out of Charlotte’s reach. Giving up 55% shooting overall, 47% 3-point shooting and being outrebounded 54-33 were just part of a performance that was reminiscent of the 2011-2012 squad that holds the dubious record for lowest winning percentage of all time. Minnesota’s dominance of the paint, along with Charlotte’s poor perimeter defense, was key to their easy win according to Clifford.
The loss was so embarrassing, in fact, that Douglas-Roberts took to Twitter to address the events of that evening.
Saturday 1/11 at the United Center: Chicago 103, Charlotte 97
Reeling from the beating they received a night earlier from Minnesota, Charlotte stepped into the Windy City to take on the defensively stout Chicago Bulls. A much-improved effort was on display early, but Charlotte’s defense remained a tick off. Allowing the Bulls to shoot 53% in the first half put a damper on a more-efficient-than-usual 47% shooting display by the Bobcats. Chicago’s success earned them a 52-42 halftime lead, punctuated by Mike Dunleavey’s last-second, perfectly placed full-court alley-oop to DJ Augustin, the shortest man on the court.
Resuming play after some first half injury scares that included Chris Douglas-Roberts and Kemba Walker, Chicago picked up where they left off and then some, building a 15 point lead after Carlos Boozer’s layup with 7:09 left. Faced with a situation that was becoming all too familiar, Charlotte’s “Big 3” of Walker, Al Jefferson and Gerald Henderson went to work, seeking a different result than the blowouts that were becoming the norm.
In a 27-11 run that would be capped by a Josh McRoberts alley-oop dunk and a 73-72 Bobcats lead, Walker, Jefferson and Henderson scored all the points in that run save the McRoberts dunk. The lead was short lived, though, as Chicago immediately flexed their muscle in the paint, putting in layups and earning free throws that launched them on the 11-0 run that effectively decided the game.
At 15-23, it wouldn’t seem Charlotte could be at a crossroads regarding their season. In a usual campaign, this type of record wouldn’t give much, if any, hope of a playoff berth. This season in the East, however, is unusual to say the least. As of Sunday morning, half of the teams in the Eastern Conference playoff spots are below the .500 mark. Because of this, Charlotte finds themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt despite being 8 games below .500.
Just a half game out of the 8th spot, 1 game out of 7th, 2 ½ out of 6th and 3 ½ out of 5th with 44 games remaining, Charlotte certainly is not crazy to think they have the time to grab a playoff spot.
The question is, do they really have the talent?
The answer to that question is a rock-solid, absolute, definite maybe. Though Charlotte’s recent slide out of a playoff position suggests otherwise, the pure unpredictability of the East paired with the long-awaited return of Kidd-Gilchrist to bolster the beleaguered defense could usher Charlotte back into a playoff spot. However, that brings up more questions.
What playoff spot is that? And is that spot worth it?
As currently constructed, Charlotte appears able to legitimately fight for the seventh or eighth seed. The reward for that is a less-than-appealing series with most likely either the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat, both of whom Charlotte would likely struggle to win one game against in a series, let alone the entire series itself. Also, Charlotte would lose their draft pick to Chicago in that process as well.
This brings us back to the crossroads Charlotte finds themselves at. Conventional wisdom would suggest that a playoff beating by the Pacers or Heat or just missing the playoffs (resulting in a low lottery pick or possibly no pick of their own at all) would not be an optimal outcome. A trade to solidify a spot higher than seventh could be one course of action. The Bobcats possess assets (Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions’ $18 million combined expiring salaries, extra draft picks owed them by Detroit and Portland) to make a move that could land them an upgrade in talent right now. They could also make a trade that looks to help them more in the future than it does in the present.
Trade for talent to make a long-awaited playoff run right now or trade to set up a team that can make that run just a bit later? Or don’t trade at all right now and make those moves in the offseason? Those are the questions that General Manager Rich Cho and Director of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins must answer going forward. Time will tell what direction they decide to go, but one thing is for sure: No matter the direction chosen, it stands a chance to have a large impact on the franchise going forward.
Do What Now?
Life has it’s odd moments. Things that legitimately make you wonder what’s going on in someone’s head or just the world in general. Like what would posses a person to go to North Korea with Dennis Rodman for any reason, let alone play a basketball game. You know, things like that.
I’ll try to share the odd, funny and just mind-boggling stuff, focused on but not limited to the Bobcats, that basketball offers the world . So, without further adieu, let’s try to wrap our heads around this…
Do you like something that may surprise people? Something that would raise eyebrows? Would you be slightly ashamed to have this be public? Don’t feel alone! Al Jefferson has all of that too! Except for the shame. He has none of the shame.
The Week Ahead
- The coming week features four matchups: Tuesday at home vs New York, Wednesday at Philadelphia, Friday at Orlando and Saturday at home vs Miami. Chances to right the ship or roadblocks to success? This week will tell that tale.
- Like and/or love the new Charlotte Hornets gear? Show up at Time-Warner Cable arena on 1/18 and pick up all the hot new purple and teal you can get your hands on.
That’s this week in your Charlotte Bobcats. It wasn’t the most encouraging week the franchise has ever seen, but the return of Kidd-Gilchrist along with some games that appear to be winnable (given the improved performance against Chicago) are some things to look forward to. With an uptick in offensive output and tightening of their defense, Charlotte can claw their way back into a playoff spot. Without it? Well, that’s a different story. Let’s see which story is told this coming week.