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November 29, 2008

And the Bobcats' MVP so far is ...

Not that it's a great distinction to be the most valuable player on a team losing two out of every three games. Still ...

Based on November, the Bobcats' early-season MVP is an easy call: Raymond Felton.

Obviously, scoring 31 points in an overtime road victory would catch anyone's attention. But I would have seen it this way if Felton hadn't played a minute against the Indiana Pacers Friday.

It's more about Felton's approach than anything else. He's finding different ways to impact a game – scoring, passing, rebounding – each night.

And he's demonstrating character and leadership in a situation that would bring out the worst in others. Rookie point guard D.J. Augustin is obviously a big part of the Bobcats' future, which certainly adds to the uncertainty Felton faces with his contract expiring at the end of this season.

If he went into a pout over Augustin's presence, he'd be acting no more childish than plenty of NBA players. Instead he's adapting to however he can help coach Larry Brown win games. As Felton said recently, he'd be perfectly happy playing small forward, if that keeps him on the court.

A while back Brown told Felton not to worry about free-agency -- that if he plays well, he'll have numerous suitors competing to sign him.

Based on the past two weeks, Felton is implementing that advice just fine.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 29, 2008 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

November 28, 2008

Thoughts on Bobcats' future in Charlotte

I just read Max Muhleman's comments in Friday's Observer, speculating how Bob Johnson could either try to move the Bobcats or sell to someone who'd try to move them over the next five years.

Max has forgotten more about sports marketing than I'll ever hear. I respect him greatly. However, his comments disregard three factors that could be significant in any effort to move this team:

1. For all the city gave away to bring the NBA back to Charlotte, the arena lease includes perhaps the toughest relocation penalties in the league. Johnson or whoever he sold the team to would potentially have to pay the city hundreds of millions to move.

2. Where would you move an NBA team right now that would guarantee profitability? Oklahoma City is gone as an option and the league obviously has sports-book misgivings about moving to Las Vegas. Kansas City has a new arena but it's doubtful that market can support three major-league teams.

3. The NBA is less than happy with how the Bobcats have been run. When Johnson publicly called out the Charlotte business community in the Observer, he made no friends in the league office. I should think the bar would be set pretty high, as far as justifying any future relocation that would bail out ownership.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 28, 2008 at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

November 25, 2008

Source: Brown makes scout's job tougher

I had to chuckle Monday night, listening to a friend describe how the Charlotte Bobcats' coaching change added to his workload.

This guy is an advance scout for another Eastern Conference team. He says the Bobcats firing Sam Vincent and hiring Larry Brown changed them from the easiest team to scout to the hardest.

The way this scout put it, Vincent ran the same 10 plays the same way all last season, so other than personnel, nothing much changed between scouting reports.

Brown's plays expand and evolve by the week. A scout will hear a play called, think he knows what's coming, then realize the same call is now attached to a whole new play out of the same offensive set.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 25, 2008 at 09:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Richardson fully participates in practice

Charlotte Bobcats guard Jason Richardson went through his first full practice Tuesday, since inflammation in his right knee shut him down the past two weeks.

          Richardson said he feels fine, but isn’t positive he’ll play against the Toronto Raptors Wednesday. He wants to see how his knee reacts overnight Tuesday before giving the all clear.

          If Richardson does play, coach Larry Brown would likely move him straight back into the starting lineup. Brown would likely make D.J. Augustin a reserve again, though you can bet Augustin would still get plenty of playing time after that 25-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 25, 2008 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Felton's actions set right tone

It’s easy for an NBA player to become selfish and self-absorbed. This is a league where statistics matter, particularly when your contract expires at the end of the season.

And that’s what makes me admire Raymond Felton so much these days.

Everyone says they’ll do what it takes to win, but Felton lives it. When Larry Brown moved rookie point guard D.J. Augustin into the starting lineup, Felton could have treated this like a threat. Had Felton frozen out Augustin, leaving him to figure out the NBA by himself, Felton would have been no more selfish than half this league.

Instead, Felton took charge of the transition. He mentors Augustin so much, he should draw a coaching salary atop his player salary. With Augustin scoring and passing, Felton has channeled his energy toward defense and rebounding.

The two of them carried the Bobcats past the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday in an almost organic process. Felton and Augustin simply shot so well (16-of-22 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3-point range) that it didn’t matter much what any of the other Bobcats did.

That won’t happen every night, and I’m not sure Felton will be here next season, once restricted free agency takes hold over the summer. He might well be more valuable to some other team than he is to the Bobcats.

But the Bobcats are better for Felton’s presence: he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s accountable. He sets the right example.

Posted by rbonnell on November 25, 2008 at 12:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

November 24, 2008

Tapscott tapped by Wizards

Ed Tapscott has done just about every job of consequence in pro basketball, except play and be the head coach.

          Playing was never an option – Tufts point guards are more suited for MBA’s than the NBA – but now the Bobcats’ first president is head coach of the Washington Wizards.

          Tapscott was named interim coach Monday after basketball operations chief Ernie Grunfield fired coach Eddie Jordan and lead assistant Mike O’Koren.

          It makes sense that Grunfeld went with Tapscott in the interim job. The two are extremely close. Grunfeld brought Tapscott into the NBA when he was running the New York Knicks and I’m confident Tapscott would have hired Grunfeld as the Bobcats’ first GM, had Grunfeld been available.

          Tapscott was last a head coach in 1990, at American University. Since then he’s been a sports agent, a director of player personnel, a GM, a team president and most recently the Wizards’ director of player development.

          Ed is the smartest guy I know. He’s also personable and witty, which will come in handy taking over a team that lost 10 of its first 11.

          And I can’t wait until Dec. 23, to see Tap coach in the arena he helped make happen in downtown Charlotte.

         

Contagious?

    

These coach-firings tend to be contagious. First P.J. Carlesimo got it Saturday in Oklahoma City and now Jordan gets canned on Monday. I’m hearing murmurs that Sam Mitchell is in jeopardy up in Toronto.

          The Raptors are last in the Atlantic Division, and you don’t want to see the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks above you in the standings this season. If the Bobcats manage to knock off the Raptors Wednesday, Mitchell could get the axe.

       

  Richardson on the mend

    

Jason Richardson went through a brisk workout after Bobcats shootaround this morning and said his right knee feels good. Richardson might be cleared to practice Tuesday. If that happens, playing Wednesday in Toronto or Friday in Indianapolis looks like a strong possibility.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 24, 2008 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 23, 2008

Thoughts on Bobcats' losing streak

Thoughts on a four-game losing streak:

When Matt Carroll and Adam Morrison shoot a combined 0-of-9 (versus Milwaukee), what’s the point of playing either one? Their 0-for-6 from 3-point range was a huge factor in the Bobcats’ 3-of-17 from the arc Saturday.

It would be easy to assume Raymond Felton feels threatened by rookie D.J. Augustin starting. Just the opposite is true, based on his actions. Felton is using more of his energy on defense now that Augustin can pick up some scoring and playmaking duties. Felton’s seven steals and nine rebounds versus the Bucks define hustle.

  I’m all for experimentation with the last couple of roster spots until coach Larry Brown finds guys who can contribute in his system. Still, experimentation has a cost, and the Bobcats have spent nearly $1 million this season on players no longer on the roster between Jermareo Davidson, Andre Brown and Linton Johnson.

  If the Bobcats really want Antonio McDyess (and the longer this stretches, the more likely McDyess is headed back to the Pistons), they have a $5.5 million salary slot (the mid-level exception) available.

  With the Bobcats seemingly headed back to the draft lottery, some of you have wondered about the protection on the first-round pick they owe the Denver Nuggets. (That’s for the first-round pick that became rookie center Alexis Ajinca).

The pick goes to Denver in June if the Bobcats reach the playoffs (in other words, 17 or lower).

That lottery protection diminishes in following years to 12 (2010), nine (2011), eight (2012) and so on.

Since so many of you are dreaming up your own trade scenarios, it’s pretty much futile to include Emeka Okafor in any hypothetical deal.

Okafor’s new contract (and huge raise) means he’s a base-year compensation player for now. That would make it virtually impossible to trade him for anything of comparable value.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 23, 2008 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

November 21, 2008

A ridiculous technical called on Larry Brown

In 20 years of covering the NBA I've never seen a more ridiculous technical foul than the one called on Larry Brown in the first half against the Hawks.

Quite literally, Brown yelled out, "Hey, ref'' – nothing more – and it caused referee Eric Lewis to 'T'' up Brown. Brown was standing right in front of me at the time, so I know what was and wasn't said.

Is it now a punishable offense not to recall a particularly referee's name during a game?

Posted by Observer Sports on November 21, 2008 at 08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Bobcats lack parts to get Chris Kaman?

I was told early this evening there are not active trade discussions going on between the Bobcats and Los Angeles Clippers involving center Chris Kaman.

I'm thinking that means the Clippers are down the road with other teams about Kaman, because the Clippers certainly appear overloaded with big men.

Assuming the trade involving Zach Randolph goes through, the Clippers will have tied up over $35 million this season in Randolph, Kaman and Marcus Camby. Too many big men is a nice luxury, but it's still a luxury. It's hard to believe you could distribute minutes between those three in a way that would be cost-effective, relative to their salaries.

The Bobcats inquired about Kaman weeks ago, and were quickly rebuffed. Don't be surprised if the Chicago Bulls become a suitor for Kaman. The Bulls need a true low-post scorer and sufficient depth at a variety of positions to assemble a package the Clippers might consider.

As for the Bobcats, talks with the New Jersey Nets involving big man Sean Williams are at least still flickering. I hear the Nets had some sticker shock, upon reviewing how long Matt Carroll's contract goes out (three more seasons beyond this one at an average cost of $4.3 million.)

Posted by Observer Sports on November 21, 2008 at 07:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Ajinca, Augustine: Experimentation justified

     Based on shootaround in Atlanta this morning, coach Larry Brown does, in fact, plan to start rookies D.J. Augustin and Alexis Ajinca tonight against the Hawks.

          Whether or not this helps literally, it should at least remind some veterans that playing time is no given. Brown is demanding more energy, more enthusiasm, and Augustin and Ajinca are a step in that direction, regardless of whether they’re ready for this.

          And if it doesn’t work, how much worse can it be after this team lost four of the last five, all at home? Brown can always go back to what he was doing, but right now some experimentation is justified.

          -- For the Bobcats to get better, they have to get center Emeka Okafor cooking more in the post. Okafor has made eight of his last 22 shots. He’s generally taking no more than six shots a game, and he goes some games without a single true post-up basket (getting what he does off put-backs, transition or a slip when a teammate’s drive opens up the lane).

          It’s not like his teammates are depriving Okafor of the ball. He needs to be more assertive offensively. Opponents almost never feel the need to double-team the post, which helps explain why the Bobcats are last in the NBA in scoring.

          -- I wrote on this blog two weeks ago that the New York Knicks were the team most intent on acquiring Al Harrington, and now it’s happening.

The Bobcats were never particularly interested in acquiring Harrington, and I understand why. Though he can play power forward, he’s mostly a long-range jump shooter offensively, and the Bobcats already have too much of that.

Still, I can see why he’ll be useful in New York, where new coach Mike D’Antoni wants such a speedy tempo.

The only way the Bobcats would have been involved in a Harrington deal was as a third team, getting something else out of the mix.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 21, 2008 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

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