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March 31, 2009

Jefferson signed; Brown on Calipari

 Rookie point guard Dontell Jefferson hasn't yet played for the Charlotte Bobcats, but he's on the squad for the rest of the season.

With his second 10-day contract expiring, the Bobcats had a choice of signing him for the rest of the season or discarding him. They decided to keep him, which is not a huge financial commitment, since there are only three weeks left in the reguar season.

Jefferson is 6-5, and coach Larry Brown wanted a bigger third point guard.
 Brown is close friends with Memphis coach John Calipari, who's deciding whether to take the Kentucky job. Calipari worked with Brown at Kansas and with the Philadelphia 76ers, and Brown said he spoke with Calipari on what's become a difficult and emotional choice.

"I told him Memphis (when he took the job) was a phenomenal opportunity because they had great support, great tradition and great high-school basketball. But their conference was a lot different (before Conference USA lost) Louisville and Marquette and Cincinnati. Still it was a basketball school with great tradition.

"All along he's been thinking he'd like to be (at a program like Kentucky). How can anybody fault him, no matter what he does? If he leaves, they'll be upset, but that's because he's done such a phenomenal job. If he left after doing a bad job, they'd be happy he was gone. It's a really tough decision because those opportunities don't always present themselves.''

Posted by Observer Sports on March 31, 2009 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

March 30, 2009

Brown: Morrison couldn't handle expectations

Bobcats coach Larry Brown made it clear Monday that Adam Morrison is no longer here because he didn't want to be here, and couldn't handle the pressure associated with being chosen third overall in the 2006 draft.

"I was happy Adam got to leave because he was never comfortable here. You were hoping it would be a new lease on life for him. I still think it can be,'' said Brown of the Feb. 7 trade that dealt Morrison to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Brown said the other factors -- the glut at shooting guard and small forward and Morrison's recovery from a knee injury that cost him the previous season -- were secondary to how expectations rattled Morrison.

"As the season progressed, I sensed (his frustration). You'd hear some things in the crowd and see him react. So I had some talks with him and that's when I realized (how unhappy he was.) He said all along he's never felt comfortable here.

"He told me everybody had high expectations. When you're the third pick in the draft, that's just the way it is -- it's not going to change. Hopefully with a year under him (elsewhere) he'll fill his potential.''

Brown said he sympathized with Morrison's frustration over his playing time. The Bobcats were 19-30 before the trade, (14-10 since then) and Morrison still wasn't playing much.

"His agent was calling and his dad was upset. And I'd spoken with him a few times. I could understand it. When you're with a team that is struggling, all you want to do is play,'' Brown said.

"My thing was expectations were never going to change no matter where you go. It's not always better somewhere else. But he was thankful when he went. And we got a player (in Vladimir Radmanovic) who was thankful to be here. So you hope it works out for everybody.''

Posted by Observer Sports on March 30, 2009 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (59)

March 28, 2009

Wallace is figuring it out

Gerald Wallace had his best game as a Bobcat Saturday, and that wasn't so much about what he did as what he didn't do.

He didn't make mistakes.

Wallace was often what coaches call a "mistake player.'' That's someone so spectacular that a coach tolerates his tendency to do things you might not put up with from others. For Wallace that usually meant three things: Holding the ball too long, forcing a drive into too much traffic or playing reckless defense in pursuit of steals.

Saturday, Wallace assembled a near-triple double while committing one turnover in over 43 minutes. That's exceptional efficiency. And speaking of efficiency, he scored 23 points off 12 shots from the field and made eight of nine free throws.

Billy King -- former Duke player and Philadelphia 76ers GM -- predicted all this. or at least he predicted it as one of two possibilities. I spoke with King over the summer to get his impressions of coach Larry Brown, who King worked with in Philadelphia and Indianapolis. King had a conviction that Wallace would either improve dramatically playing for Brown or revolt so dramatically that he'd be traded elsewhere.

King's instincts were right on: That Wallace is the best athlete on this team, but he'd had the least coaching. He spent one season at Alabama before turning pro, then spent three seasons on the curb with the Sacramento Kings.

Wallace had two previous coaches with the Bobcats: Bernie Bickerstaff and Sam Vincent. Wallace said Bickerstaff had so much to do as this team's first coach-GM that there was only so much teaching he could provide. It was telling that Wallace never mentioned Vincent, an unqualified disaster in one season as Bobcats coach.

Brown is rare, if not unique, among NBA head coaches, in that he doesn't surrender to what players are. He doesn't think it's too late to improve players' fundamentals, and Wallace is the ideal project that way.
 However long Brown remains with the Bobcats, Wallace is better for the experience. This is truly Brown's gift as a coach.
 Wallace was so good Saturday that I didn't get a chance in my game story to address how well D.J. Augustin played. He had 19 points off 8-of-9 shooting on a night when Raymond Felton was awful (3-of-17 and six turnovers).

Augustin hasn't had much explosion since suffering that abdominal strain. That means he was essentially a wing jump-shooter the last month and much easier to guard. Saturday he got to the rim, which forces defenses to play off him. That opens his jump shot and makes him a dramatically more effective player.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 28, 2009 at 11:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

March 27, 2009

She's Ready to be TV analyst


Fox is auditioning all kinds of people to be Bobcats television analyst, when the best move is right out-front:

Seat Stephanie Ready next to Steve Martin full-time next season.

The best analysts (to me, John McEnroe on tennis is the gold standard) tell viewers things they don't know without talking down to them. Stephanie is marvelous at this. She's smart and articulate, she works at knowing the coaches and players, and she's enlightening without talking above the fans' heads.

She does some analysis and some sideline reporting. Now she's pregnant, which keeps her from traveling the rest of the season.

I'd hate to think Fox is reluctant to make her analyst full-time because of her gender. I don't know that and I'm not implying it's true. I just hope we're at a point in society where such things don't disqualify you from a job for which you're clearly qualified.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 27, 2009 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

March 25, 2009

Wizards down to 8 players tonight

Bad as the Washington Wizards have been all season, they look to be that much worse tonight against the Bobcats, with just eight players healthy enough to play.

Darius Songaila (sprained neck), Caron Butler (left hamstring) and Juan Dixon (ankle tendonitis) are all out tonight. Obviously the Bobcats need this game in the playoff chase, after playing so badly versus the Pacers Saturday. They've had three nights off so they should be rested and relatively healthy.

I spoke with center Emeka Okafor pre-game about the left-knee soreness that kept him out of practice Tuesday. Okafor said he jammed his knee cap late in Monday's practice while turning to cut off teammate Gana Diop in a drill. Okafor fully participated in shootaround this morning. He said he still felt a twinge or two, but should be fine.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 25, 2009 at 06:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

March 24, 2009

Okafor probable with sore knee

 Center Emeka Okafor sat out practice Tuesday with a sore left knee, but I doubt that's a concern for Wednesday's game in Washington. The Bobcats are listing him as probable for the Wizards game, so I think him missing practice was more preventative than a big deal.

One other tidbit from practice: Coach Larry Brown was asked about Boris Diaw's passing creativity and how that sometimes leads to turnovers. I liked Brown's analogy:

"It's like Forrest Gump and the box of chocolates -- you never know what you'll get,'' Brown said of Diaw's daring passes. "He sees things nobody else sees. I can live with that.''

That describes Diaw, but it also touches on Brown's view of turnovers. He hates careless, mid-court turnovers that lead to easy baskets for the opponent. But he doesn't fault players with the vision and skill to attempt great passes.

Turnovers are like double-faults in tennis: You'd prefer not to have them, but some are worse -- and worse-timed -- than others.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2009 at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Ford on Felton

0324raymondfelton    I thought Bobcats assistant Phil Ford made a point worth expanding on beyond the profile I did of Raymond Felton:

      The issue with Felton was never whether he had it, but rather how to use it.

      Felton can pass. Felton can score. Felton can drive. And he can definitely defend (113 steals and 29 blocks demonstrate that). The challenge was understanding how best to use that scramble of skills to impact the Bobcats’ victory total.

      That word – impact – is key. Felton’s stats might not have changed much, but he and Gerald Wallace impact this team’s record more than in past seasons. For Felton, that’s about judgment.

     “He’s getting his teammates involved more, not forcing the issue as much as he has in the past,’’ said Ford. “That just comes with maturity and recognition – having confidence in your teammates, understanding and reading situations better.’’

     Sean May says part of the issue with Felton was that he’s such a pleaser, and he’s been asked to please five different coaches in seven college and pro seasons.

     “That’s tough on anybody, and especially so when you’re told, ‘Run this team!’ Fans don’t understand that when coaches change everything changes,’’ May said. "Most of the sets in the NBA are run pretty much the same team-to-team. But philosophies change, options change. That’s tough on a point guard.

     “With Bernie (Bickerstaff, the Bobcats’ first coach), we didn’t run many complex things. It was basic stuff. With Coach (Larry Brown) it’s 60 different plays and names, and we change them and change them back on the fly. He expects Raymond to know all these things.’’

     Brown can be pretty harsh on point guards, but he respects Felton’s intentions, so he’s patient these days.

     “There are some games where he’s got to go out and score the ball, and others games he’s going to have to make sure, playing with Vlade (Radmanovic) and Raja (Bell) and Boris (Diaw), that they get their shots. But that’s what learning is.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2009 at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

March 22, 2009

A sure thing...wasted


Did you ever see that movie "The Sure Thing''? Some gorgeous California girl has been off at Catholic school, and the guy has been promised a hook-up.

Saturday night the Bobcats were presented a sure thing. Bulls versus the Lakers. Bucks versus the Blazers. Bobcats versus the Pacers, losers of five straight and just waiting to be taken out once and for all. By Sunday morning, the Bobcats would have been tied for eighth in the East with the tiebreaker.

So it becomes some bizarre duck-and-cover exercise. They go up by eight and then go brain-dead. They stop driving and posting. Worse yet, they do two things that make Larry Brown crazy -- they turn over the ball constantly and stop covering for each other.

Welcome to the draft lottery. You don't lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Pacers on consecutive Saturday nights, and maintain the margin for error. That's a shame because they're one of the eight best teams in the East. But their record won't reflect that when this is all over.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 22, 2009 at 12:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

March 21, 2009

Brown: Okafor well enough to play

 Some pre-game updates, via Bobcats coach Larry Brown's media availability:

 -- He says center Emeka Okafor appears to be fine to play tonight versus the Indiana Pacers, after being ill most of Friday. Okafor played 20 minutes versus the Raptors, the fewest minutes he's played in 26 games.

 -- Brown anticipates the Bobcats signing point guard Dontell Jefferson to a second 10-day contract, despite Jefferson not being active for his first five games with Charlotte. Brown said there's no rush to bring Alexis Ajinca and Sean Singletary back from D-league assignment with the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce.

Ajinca (finger) and Singletary (hip) both have nagging injuries, according to Brown.

 -- Brown said he needs to use his bench more, particularly in the backcourt. That seemingly means more minutes for D.J. Augustin, and maybe Cartier Martin. Bell is in a brutal shooting slump of late: 11-of-37 from the field in his last three games.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 21, 2009 at 05:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 19, 2009

MRI says Wallace is fine

The magnetic resonance imaging on Gerald Wallace's left knee was negative for any ligament damage. They're now describing the injury as a bone bruise with some twisting of the joint.

Wallace is at practice, but working out on an exercise bike, rather than cutting and running. He figures to be fine for Friday's road game against the  Toronto Raptors.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 19, 2009 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)