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September 30, 2008

Rhythm of practice faster under Brown

Based on the first two sessions, Larry Brown is practicing triage at this training camp, spending most of his time with the core eight players he needs to be up-to-speed in his system for the season-opener at the end of the month.

Brown had 16 players Tuesday (Shannon Brown missed the start of camp for the birth of his first child). During teaching sessions, he broke them into two sets of eight.

The group he primarily worked with included Raymond Felton, Matt Carroll, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Adam Morrison, Sean May, Emeka Okafor and Nazr Mohammed.

Jared Dudley and rookie point guard D.J. Augustin were with the other group of eight, working primarily with assistant coaches.

Seemingly that means Morrison gets the initial nod over Dudley as the backup to small forward Gerald Wallace. I don't place too much emphasis on Augustin not being with the core unit; he's a virtual lock to back up Felton as the point guard.

The rhythm of practices is decidedly quicker than under Sam Vincent. During a full-court drill, all ten players stopped running when the ball went through the basket, so Brown got animated, yelling he wants the ball in-bounded immediately to replicate game-speed in practice.

Also, everything seemingly involves stakes. He broke the group into three teams to work on a half-court drill, and kept a running total on who scored and who got stops.

So when one of the three groups "won" that drill, the other two groups hit the floor for push-ups.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 30, 2008 at 10:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 29, 2008

Brown's candor on display at media day

There was no lack of candor when new Bobcats coach Larry Brown spoke with media Monday, on the eve of training camp. A quick smattering of Brown’s comments:

  • He said he asked the front office for three things when he took the job – three point guards who could dribble through the press, two small forwards who could defend and five athletic big guys.    Brown said he isn’t sure he has a third point guard in the group headed to UNC Wilmington or a small forward who can defend as he wants. He seemed disappointed they failed to add another big man and indicated – as he has previously – that Sean May will get the first shot at starting at power forward.
  • He said he expects to play Raymond Felton and rookie D.J. Augustin together some in the backcourt, so like his predecessors, Brown sees Felton as a combo guard, although Brown said the ballhandling in that backcourt would be interchangeable.
  • Ideally, he’d like the third point guard to be a bigger player, similar to how he used Aaron McKie and Eric Snow while coaching the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • He hopes to play Emeka Okafor exclusively at center and Gerald Wallace exclusively at small forward.
  • He said, based on pickup games the past month, he wouldn’t be reluctant to use rookie center Alexis Ajinca in regular-season games.
  • He said Adam Morrison started out the summer in poor condition, but has improved that dramatically over the past month. “Much, MUCH better shape,’’ Brown said of Morrison. “He couldn’t do three things without going to the waste-paper basket (apparently to vomit). Now he’s as ready as anybody.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2008 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

September 27, 2008

Bobcats wise to promote Thompson

I’m not the least surprised the Bobcats promoted LaSalle Thompson to a full-time coaching position.

Coach Larry Brown brought him to the franchise in a strength-and-conditioning position, but it was obvious Thompson’s true value would be working with Charlotte’s big men.

Watching summer-league practices, it was obvious Thompson has the makings of a coach – bright, extroverted and articulate.

Inexperienced as many of the Bobcats’ big men are, they need someone like Thompson on this staff.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 27, 2008 at 06:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

September 26, 2008

Bobcats place burden on Brown to win

The Bobcats confirmed my news from yesterday that they’re making layoffs to their workforce.

          The press release didn’t say how many people lost their jobs or specifically what departments took the hits. But it said the basketball operations staff went unaffected by these reductions.

          That’s consistent with the rumors I heard for awhile; that they’re now counting on winning as pretty much the only way to market the team.

          Yes, that’s a lot of pressure on new coach Larry Brown.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 26, 2008 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

September 25, 2008

Sources say Bobcats planning staff layoffs

The Charlotte Bobcats work force is about to take a trim.

Several sources confirm the Bobcats plan layoffs, probably for Friday, that will significantly reduce their total employees.

No sense yet how many will lose their jobs or in which departments, but this figures to impact the business operations more than the basketball operations.

From what I hear, the community relations department will be minimized when all this is completed.

Obviously layoffs are happening all over – including the Observer – in the face of economic downturn, but the Bobcats were already operating with pretty tight staff.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2008 at 06:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (79)

Bobcats' offer to Landry was worth a shot

   My, that didn’t take long.

    The Houston Rockets didn’t need a full business day to match the Bobcats’ offer sheet on Carl Landry. That sounds like a failure, but I don’t see it that way.

    We all know the Bobcats need another power forward, to serve as some insurance should Sean May’s right knee not hold up. At $9 million over three years (and the last season wasn’t guaranteed, I’m told) Landry would have been an affordable insurance policy.

    Unlike the Anderson Varejao offer sheet last season, this had a reasonable chance of succeeding. Landry isn’t as dynamic a player as Varejao, and the Rockets historically haven’t been comfortable crossing the luxury-tax threshold. It was worth a shot.

    Higgins says there’s no imminent Plan B, now that Landry is back with the Rockets. We’ll see. I’m guessing Larry Brown is uneasy entering training camp without another big guy. 

Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2008 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Rockets quickly match offer for Landry

It took just a few hours for the Houston Rockets to match the Charlotte Bobcats’ offer sheet and retain power forward Carl Landry.

    Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins confirmed to the Observer that the Rockets matched the offer. Higgins said that while he’d still like to add another big man, nothing imminent is in the pipeline.

    Late Wednesday the Bobcats signed Landry, a 6-9 forward, to a three-year, $9 million offer sheet. Since Landry, a second-year pro, is a restricted free agent, the Rockets had a 7-day window to match that offer and retain Landry.

    There was hope the Rockets would let Landry leave, since they are in danger of passing the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold, which would increase their effective payroll by millions.

    Higgins said he wasn’t that surprised the Rockets matched, particularly since they’re seen as a title contender with Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest. Higgins said that in that situation, it’s understandable a team would do whatever it took to retain assets.

    The Bobcats could still use another power forward. They’re counting on Sean May to stay healthy at the position, after he missed all last season following micro-fracture surgery on his right knee.    

Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2008 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Bobcats have realistic shot at Landry

Regardless of how the Carl Landry offer sheet works out, I like what the Bobcats did Wednesday.

          The Bobcats have a realistic chance of making the Houston Rockets blink by offering restricted free agent Landry $9 million over the next three seasons. The Rockets might just decide, in the face of paying luxury tax, that matching that offer is more trouble than it’s worth.

          And that’s what separates this gambit from what the Bobcats attempted last winter with Anderson Varejao. It was obvious the Cleveland Cavaliers would do what they had to not to lose Varejao for nothing. But Landry isn’t as important to the Rockets as Varejao was to the Cavs, so this could work.

          And even if it doesn’t, it shows some willingness to take a risk to address a problem.

          It’s not a secret the Bobcats are hurting for power forwards. They’re counting on Sean May’s health, and while I’m more open to May holding up than some of you are, it’s a huge mistake not to have a Plan B. Landry, second-team All-Rookie last season, would be that plan.

          Now they wait up to seven days to see whether this was worth the trouble.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2008 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

September 24, 2008

Bobcats extend offer sheet to Rockets' Landry

0924landry The Charlotte Bobcats are extending an offer sheet to Houston Rockets big man Carl Landry, looking to address their lack of depth at power forward, an informed source told the Observer.

Restricted free agent Landry played extensive minutes for the Rockets in the second half of last season after Houston lost all-star center Yao Ming to injury.

This is the second time in the past year the Bobcats attempted to take a restricted free agent away from another team. They failed to get Cleveland big man Anderson Varejao last season.

However, the Bobcats seem to have more hope that the Rockets won't match their offer and keep Landry.

That's because  the Rockets have a multitude of big men and are believed to be close to luxury-tax territory that could add considerably to their costs.

Details of the Bobcats' offer to Landry have not been revealed.

The Bobcats' greatest area of need entering next week's training camp in Wilmington appears to be power forward. Assuming new coach Larry Brown plans to start Emeka Okafor at center, the team's first option at power forward appears to be Sean May, who missed all of last season and much of his three-year NBA career with a knee injury.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 24, 2008 at 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

September 22, 2008

Free throws? They cost Bobcats plenty

One week out from training camp, I was looking through the Bobcats’ various statistics from last season, thinking about what has to change under Larry Brown for this team to reach the playoffs.

    Two numbers grabbed my attention: They were 9-21 against Eastern Conference playoff teams last season and they had the NBA’s second-worst free-throw percentage, at 71.4 percent.

    That foul shooting has to improve for this team to start beating quality conference opponents. I suspect that’s an area Brown can impact.

    I watched him the other day, spending about 15 minutes breaking down Emeka Okafor’s technique at the foul line. That’s time well spent; Okafor was just a 57-percent foul-shooter last season.

    When Okafor misses free throws (161 of them last season, or roughly two per game), he’s not just turning down gifts, he’s sending a message to opponents. Teams aren’t afraid to foul Okafor, and that’s part of the reason he got his shot blocked so often last season.

    Brown has a reputation for being relentless about cleaning up technique; footwork, passing, dribbling, whatever. Just a glance at the stats – the Bobcats missed 605 free throws last season – should point this new coaching staff to its first problem-solving mission.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 22, 2008 at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)