December 04, 2013
Never a better time for Bobcats' Jeff Taylor to realize his considerable potential
Jeff Taylor has the most unrealized potential among current Charlotte Bobcats. That has to change.
Preferably over the next four to six weeks.
That’s how long Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be out after fracturing his left hand Tuesday in a road loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Taylor is the obvious first option to pick up Kidd-Gilchrist’s minutes. I hope he sees this as a great opportunity, because he needs to function that way.
Taylor was terrific from the start of summer league in Las Vegas through Eurobasket playing for Sweden through the Bobcats’ preseason. He way outperformed Kidd-Gilchrist in that span of time. I saw it, I wrote it.
Trouble is, once the games started counting, Taylor shrunk a little. He’s shooting just 38 percent from the field and averaging 7.9 points. He’s now gone eight games without reaching double figures.
Even with Kidd-Gilchrist out, Taylor never played in the second half against the Mavericks. Yeah, that was partially about a good matchup to play Anthony Tolliver, but if Taylor was playing well, that would have been moot.
Now it’s no longer optional that Taylor plays. He must play better and that’s certainly within his grasp.
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford often talks about Taylor’s gifts: His strength, quickness and intelligence (even athletes don’t just get into Vanderbilt) make him a natural defender. Beyond that he’s a 3-point shooter on a team lacking for 3s and maybe the best leaper on this roster (just ask Gerald Henderson, no slouch athletically).
Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t have Taylor’s wide skill set. But he’s intense in a way that is constructive. I asked Kidd-Gilchrist Saturday about playing LeBron James, and his answer was illuminating: That while he respected James, he doesn’t back down to anyone.
That’s how he played Sunday night in what was almost a big upset. He doesn’t back down.
Taylor isn’t always that assertive. He needs to impose himself, and there’s never been a better time than the next month to do so.
Everyone in that organization sees Taylor’s potential. It’s up to him now to turn talent into production.
Broken hand will cost Charlotte Bobcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 4-6 weeks
The fractured left hand Charlotte Bobcats suffered Tuesday night in Dallas will keep him out four to six weeks, the team announced Wednesday.
The fracture is on Kidd-Gilchrist’s left ring finger. An X-ray in Charlotte Wednesday confirmed the original diagnosis, made during the Bobcats’ 89-82 road loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Kidd-Gilchrist said he wasn’t aware of when he suffered the fracture. He looked down at his hand during the second half and realized his finger was pointing in an unnatural angle.
A four-week absence would cause him to miss about 13 games through the end of the year. A six-week absence would push that number out to about 20 games.
Kidd-Gilchrist has played in (and started) 18 of the Bobcats’ 19 games this season. He missed a game last Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks with a case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Kidd-Gilchrist is probably the Bobcats’ best individual defender.
With Kidd-Gilchrist out, it’s likely Jeff Taylor will move into starting lineup. The other options at small forward are forward Anthony Tolliver and shooting guard Gerald Henderson.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has his flaws, but losing him is a big blow to defense
DALLAS – This was a big hit. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken hand, and for all his offensive limitations, he’s pretty important to why the Charlotte Bobcats were bobbing along around .500.
That fracture, along the ring finger of MKG’s left hand, figures to sideline him for weeks. Yeah, I heard the jokes – that it wasn’t Michael’s shooting hand because he doesn’t have one – but defense is the Bobcats’ thing these days and he’s arguably their best defender.
Over the past month, when you asked first-year coach Steve Clifford why this team has been so good, so quickly, on defense, here’s the reply: That wing players Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Gerald Henderson can all guard without needing much help. Clifford says the Bobcats don’t have an elite rim-protector (which might imply his misgivings about Bismack Biyombo) so they need serious perimeter defense.
The Bobcats are really good defensively – 11 games in a row of holding opponents under 100 points. The dirty little secret in that is they must be that good defensively. They’re sure not going to outscore many teams shooting 41 percent and averaging 89.2 points.
So what happens from here? Jeff Taylor is obviously the new starter, but it’s ironic that he didn’t play a single minute in the second half, even with MKG out. Anthony Tolliver (long, smart, 3-point range, but…) played 26 minutes overall and 17 in the second half.
Tolliver works at small forward only when the opposing team has a bigger, slower 3 (Shawn Marion Tuesday). So on those nights when an opponent goes small (most backup small forwards are basically shooting guards), you’ll logically see Henderson shifting over to the 3 and Ramon Sessions or Ben Gordon picking up minutes at shooting guard.
But the defense took a hit Tuesday, and that was really the one thing that got you excited about the Bobcats’ first month.
Some other thoughts:
-- Gordon played 13 minutes Tuesday: 2-of-8 from the field for four points. I respect that Gordon has been shelved for so long that rust was inevitable. But since Clifford offered him minutes, he’s 4-of-16. He isn’t a defender or a ball-mover. He’s got to make shots.
-- Rookie Cody Zeller had some decent moments guarding Dirk Nowitzki, not being overpowered physically and contesting jump shots. But in 18 minutes he made one of five shots from the field. Remember when Zeller was out-athleting everyone at summer league? There’s a reason November doesn’t resemble July in the NBA.
-- Ramon Sessions was bad Tuesday: 1-of-9 from the field, and got to the foul line only four times in 21 minutes. He had two turnovers. But if you read my Twitter feed, you’d think he was the worst basketball player in NBA history.
-- The Bobcats should have won one of these two road games. They were very frustrated by how poorly they managed that lead in Miami, but they did pretty much the same thing in Dallas.
November 30, 2013
Charlotte Bobcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist practices, expected to play vs. Miami Heat
It looks like Charlotte Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be back to play against the NBA champion Miami Heat Sunday, after Kidd-Gilchrist missed Friday’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks with plantar fasciitis.
Certainly they need him, matched against Miami’s LeBron James, last season’s league most valuable player and probably the most versatile offensive weapon in the NBA.
Kidd-Gilchrist fully participated in practice Saturday before the team flew to Miami for a 6 p.m., Sunday tip-off at American Airlines Arena. Coach Steve Clifford said he plans to start Kidd-Gilchrist unless there’s some unexpected setback between now and the game.
Kidd-Gilchrist told the Observer his right foot is still sore, but it’s nothing like it was Thursday morning, when he spent to day in a protective boot.
“I feel a lot better. I’m going to take it day-by-day. I worked with the trainers a lot,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’m working through it. I want to get back on that court.”
Obviously they need him as the first defensive option dealing with James, who is third in the NBA in scoring (26.5 points per game) and second in field-goal percentage (59.8 percent). But James is so much more than a scorer; he’s often the Heat’s primary ball-handler/decision-maker and can excel as a power forward when Miami chooses to go small.
So the Bobcats need options – Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor, maybe Gerald Henderson or Anthony Tolliver – to give James various defensive looks.
Now that he’s guarded James a few times, Kidd-Gilchrist sounds impressed but not intimidated.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him, of course. But at the same time I’m my own man and I won’t back down against anybody,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
“Playing against All-Stars is always fun. Practice is fun, too – guarding Gerald Henderson. It’s not easy guarding Gerald, so I get some practice for this.”
Shaken by video of errant pass, Charlotte Bobcats' Gerald Henderson hopes to find woman who was hit Friday
Charlotte Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson went on Twitter Friday night, hoping to reach the woman who was hit by his errant cross-court pass in the victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The woman was walking behind the Bucks’ bench, and was hit on the head. Henderson apologized to her when it first happened, but was rattled by video of the accident that he viewed after the game.
“I hit her pretty hard. I went over and apologized to her, but after looking at that clip enough times, I need to apologize some more,’’ Henderson told the Observer at practice Saturday.
The Bobcats made sure she got medical attention and gave her a pair of signed, game-worn shoes as a gesture.
“I saw it hit her pretty square. I didn’t know if she fell or hit her head or anything. It was pretty brutal,” Henderson said.
It’s not uncommon for courtside fans to come in sudden contact with the game action, but Henderson said this went beyond the norm.
“You get guys jumping into the stands and (fans) spill their drinks. You see passes go over dudes' heads,’ Henderson said. “But very rarely do you see something like that happen. That was one for the ages in a negative way.”
Gerald Henderson throws errant pass, hits woman, apologizes
Gerald Henderson had five turnovers in the Bobcats' 92-76 home victory against the Bucks on Friday night, but there was one in particular that had him apologizing after the game.
In the third quarter of Charlotte's runaway win, Henderson attempted a cross-court pass to a teammate and hit a woman walking behind the Bucks' bench.
A Bobcats events employee said the woman was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons but that she appeared to be OK.
After the game, Henderson tweeted a mea culpa.
nailed a lady tonight with a pass.if u follow me on twitter PLEASE tweet me. I know that hurt. I'm not that good of a passer...I AM SO SORRY— Gerald Henderson (@GhJr09) November 30, 2013
The Bobcats also gave the woman a signed pair of Henderson's game-worn sneakers.
Post-game thoughts on Bobcats-Bucks
I don’t want to dismiss any victory two years removed from 7-59, but the Milwaukee Bucks are really bad right now. When you’ve beaten a team twice in their first 15 games, and they’ve mustered 72 and 76 points, you must ask why.
The Bucks shot 33 percent from the field. That’s partially about the Bobcats defense, which I’ve written repeatedly is dramatically improved. It’s also about a team that is a mess and has been ravaged by injuries.
At the other end, center Larry Sanders’ injury makes the Bucks pretty much defenseless in the post. That’s why the Bobcats outscored the Bucks in the paint 44-26.
-- I loved what Bismack Biyombo did Friday in getting 14 rebounds and scoring seven points. But you know something? When Gerald Henderson called him an “energy’’ guy post-game, it summed up what Biz is and isn’t. When they drafted him, I thought it was a Theo Ratliff type of decision: That he’d be so impactful a rim-protector that you could live with what else he didn’t do.
But at the end of the day he might just be a high-end backup long-term, which is not what you expect from a seventh pick.
-- The real issue might be this: Regardless of the alleged gusher that could be the 2014 draft, NBA fans need to stop pinning their hopes on lottery picks. As I write this, I’m watching Ben McLemore and he’s exactly what scouts described – Brandon Rush, not Paul Pierce.
-- If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist misses more than a little time with plantar fasciitis (which, by the way, can be horribly painful) you’re going to see a game-by-game rotation variant: Anthony Tolliver will play when the other team’s small forward is big. Versus a smaller lineup, you’ll see some Gerald Henderson moving over to the 3, and Ben Gordon getting some minutes.
November 26, 2013
If you disagree with Clifford sitting Biz, that's cool. But understand this is about quantifiable performance
Here’s what’s interesting about Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford’s decision to play Jeff Adrien over Bismack Biyombo:
Whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent, he backs up his choices with facts. When I quizzed him Tuesday about how little Biyombo has played the past three games, he pointed out that the plus-minus differential between Adrien and Biyombo was dramatic in the games leading up to this decision.
So I fact-checked Clifford’s contention and it was dramatic. In the five games leading up to this decision, Adrien was plus-24, while Biyombo was minus-38. While I find plus-minus an imperfect measure of players’ contributions, that gap is wide.
Clifford said he’d feel “guilty” playing Biyombo over Adrien in the face of that. I think that was his way of saying players know who’s succeeding at their jobs and who isn’t, so to act like that’s not relevant is phony.
I don’t think this is a permanent circumstance. My guess is Biyombo will win back his status as backup center to Al Jefferson. But the key word is “win” it back. Don’t be presented it based on where he was drafted.
I get a lot of feedback about this issue that Clifford should be concerned with player-development. Interesting, because early-on I used that “player-development” term with Clifford, and he pointed out that player development isn’t just about young guys improving their skills in a vacuum. It’s about everyone understanding how what they do fits into a team’s success.
I didn’t pay much attention to what he was saying when he said it. Now, as it relates to playing time, I see what he what he’s pushing.
Bobcats post-game: Crash explains, Jefferson heals and Biz is still sitting
Some post-game thoughts on a game against the Celtics when the Bobcats lost touch with who they are:
-- The Bobcats got to 7-7 because they owned their weaknesses. This team is so limited offensively that it must defend efficiently, must limit turnovers and must outscore the other team at the foul line. They were deficient in two of three areas Monday, with too few free-throw attempts (20) and too many turnovers (17).
This is what coaches call a “teachable moment.” If I were Steve Clifford, I’d spend a lot of time Tuesday showing video to the players how they renounced the identity they were building.
-- There are a lot of theories out there why the Bobcats have played better on the road than at home. Yeah, maybe it’s partially about who they’ve played on the road versus who they’ve played at home. But players – particularly veterans – are intuitive about these things, and I found what center Al Jefferson said insightful:
“I don’t know what’s happening at home. It’s not the same energy. I never heard of that,” Jefferson said.
-- Speaking of Jefferson, he volunteered that he felt better tonight than at any time since initially hurting his right ankle in the second exhibition against the Miami Heat. Jefferson says he now can run pretty much normally, but doesn’t yet jump quite as well.
-- I asked Gerald Wallace what the Celtics did to take away the Bobcats’ preferred sets. (Remember, the Bobcats led end-to-end in the previous game in Boston). Gerald said beating the Bobcats is about limiting Kemba Walker’s trips to the rim and keeping Jefferson away from his favorite post-up spots. Translation: Who else scares you offensively?
-- Speaking of Wallace, I asked him if he’s receptive to the Bobcats retiring his jersey someday. He replied of course, then asked me if I knew something he didn’t.
No. I’m thinking the first retired jersey at Time Warner Cable Arena will be the one the Bobcats inherit from New Orleans in the deceased Bobby Phills.
But Wallace should be the first true Bobcat so honored. He’s every bit as iconic to the Bobcats’ beginnings as Sam Mills was to the Panthers’ early seasons. I was just curious if Gerald cared, since he’s still miffed how little warning he was given when they shipped him to Portland.
-- Bismack Biyombo has now gone “Did Not Play – coach’s decision” twice in three games with five minutes of garbage time in-between in Milwaukee. Some thoughts:
Clifford has established he’s going to play whoever he believes gives him the best chance to win, regardless of where a player was drafted or how much money he makes (see: Ben Gordon). Does Jeff Adrien have more potential than Biyombo? Nope. But the real question is whether Biz will overcome his deficiencies to deserve 20 to 25 minutes a game.
I bet when/if Biz gets back into the rotation, he’s a better player, if only because he’ll have seen how close he is to being on the street, looking for a new NBA gig.
-- And speaking of Bobcats lottery picks, three of the last four – Biz, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller – aren’t doing much. Based on my twitter reactions, fans question whether Clifford has offered these guys enough minutes.
I wonder this: The Bobcats front office (all the derivations) has been decent acquiring veterans and shaky with draft picks. Adam Morrison was a disaster and Sean May washed out of the league. Meanwhile they got a starter (Josh McRoberts) for nothing, Ramon Sessions has been cost-effective and Jefferson could prove to be a coup.
Makes me wonder: As rich as the 2014 draft is portrayed, are you so sure the Bobcats would mine it well?
November 25, 2013
Some lunchtime reading: Why haven't Charlotte Bobcats been as good at home as on the road?
Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford reminded his team at shootaround this morning that, for whatever reason, it’s not playing as well at home as it does on the road.
He’d sure like to see that change in the three-game homestand that starts tonight against the Boston Celtics.
“They all know, they’re shaking their heads,’’ Clifford said of the 3-4 home record and the 4-3 road record.
“On the road we are a team to be proud of: Fighting and together and getting through the tough times. At home, it’s not like we’re terrible, but we haven’t played with same togetherness, approach, whatever. We haven’t played nearly as well.
“I don’t know what it is, but I know it has to change.”
If you separate Bobcats statistics into home and road games, this is the conclusion you draw: They’re the same struggling offensive team in either setting, but dramatically better defensively on the road than they’ve been at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Offensively they average 90 points on 41 percent shooting at home versus 89 points on 40 percent shooting on the road.
Defensively they give up 88 points on 41 percent shooting on the road versus allowing 96 points on 46 percent shooting at home.
The only other thing I noticed on home-vs.-road is the games center Al Jefferson has played. The two home games he’s played came right after injury layoffs. So predictably he averaged 9.5 points in those two games. In three road games Jefferson has averaged 18 points.
-- Two very interesting stats from this season:
1. Twice in the first 14 games the Bobcats have led an opponent from the first point scored to the final buzzer: At Boston and at Milwaukee. You know how often that happened prior to this season? Twice in the nine seasons of franchise existence.
The previous end-to-end leads were against the Los Angeles Lakers in February of 2006 and the Phoenix Suns in January of 2010.
2. The Bobcats are averaging 49.3 points in the paint (scoring in the lane area) over their last three games. In that span they’re outscoring opponents in the lane by 20 points per game.
Think about what dreadful deficits this team has had in points in the paint the past few years. Part of that is Jefferson’s low-post scoring, but it’s also how the guards have reacted when opponents get up on them in half-court defense. Clifford said the best way to beat that kind of defense against the pick-and-roll is driving decisively to the rim.