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April 27, 2009

Bobcats have a shot at signing McDyess?

Mcdyess200P       This one is a longshot, but some of you seem to prefer longshots:

      I wonder if the Bobcats would have a shot at signing unrestricted free agent Antonio McDyess (at right, MCT photo) this summer.

      McDyess expressed great disappointment with his Detroit Pistons being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He said that disappointment could affect whether he chooses to re-sign with the Pistons.

      At 34, McDyess would logically be looking for a sure contender if he leaves the Pistons. But if there's an X factor in this, something that could keep the Bobcats in contention for McDyess, it would be his warm relationship with coach Larry Brown. Those two were so close when Brown coached Detroit that other Pistons would tease Brown that McDyess was his son.

       While McDyess ultimately re-signed with the Pistons, after getting his buyout from the Denver Nuggets (it was a by-product of the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade), McDyess at least considered the Bobcats.

       Obviously the Bobcats need a backup to power forward Boris Diaw. Despite his 6-10 height, it's apparent Vladimir Radmanovic is more comfortable playing small forward.

       McDyess can still play and he'd definitely help. The question becomes what the Bobcats would have to do to compete for his services. That would probably mean offering the mid-level exception (an annual salary well in excess of $5 million). Could the Bobcats justify that when they also face re-signing Raymond Felton and paying for a lottery pick?

      That's a tough call.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2009 at 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

April 24, 2009

Allen Iverson in town? Why?

Three readers emailed me overnight and this morning, to say they'd seen Allen Iverson in uptown Charlotte Thursday. Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins was adamant Friday morning that has nothing to do with the local NBA team.

"I've never seen him here,'' Higgins told me. "If he's here, it has nothing to do with us.''

One alternative explanation: 50 Cent is performing in Charlotte Friday night, and Iverson is a reportedly a big fan. But still, all this begs the question about Iverson becoming a free agent in July.

Iverson is an intriguing name because he potentially brings two things: Scoring (the Bobcats were 29th among 30 teams) and some star power to sell tickets (the Bobcats were 26th in home attendance).

But consider the complications: Iverson made it clear he wouldn't accept a complementary role with the Detroit Pistons. He expects to be a starter, with a high volume of shots. This was his 14th NBA season; does he still have the skills to justify all that?

The best thing about the Bobcats is their selfless ball-movement. They're all vested in each other's success. Would adding Iverson to that mix disrupt their greatest strength?

Posted by Observer staff on April 24, 2009 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (57)

April 23, 2009

Does Curry fit Bobcats' needs?

Now that Stephen Curry has turned pro, the next logical question is what the hometown Bobcats might think of him.

Granted, it's two months until the NBA draft and the Bobcats won't even know their first-round position until the lottery is held May 19. NBA officials -- Bobcats or otherwise -- are barred from discussing underclassmen until the league office announces next week who turned pro.

But at first glance, Curry's skill set and size don't seem a great match with the local team's needs.

Curry is going to be a scoring point guard at the NBA level. A scout whose opinion I greatly respect (and who requests anonymity) said a while back that Curry would be best off playing with a shooting guard with a lot of ballhandling skill (a Dwyane Wade or Brandon Roy, for instance). That would free him to come off the ball for spot-up jump shots. (Think B.J. Armstrong with the Bulls.)

The Bobcats already have a smallish point guard with lots of shooting range in D.J. Augustin. If anything, they need to get bigger in the backcourt by finding a reliable backup to shooting guard Raja Bell.

Assuming they don't luck into a top-3 pick, I'm sure the Bobcats will take a long look at Curry. I'm just not so sure what he brings matches what they need most.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 23, 2009 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

April 22, 2009

NCAA making a bad call on eligibility

 Given a choice between helping kids make the most informed decision whether to stay in the NBA draft, or helping college coaches keep their rosters tidy, the NCAA is predictably siding with the coaches.

The NCAA is in the process of reducing the time underclassmen have to pull their names from the draft and retain eligibility. The new rule, approved by an NCAA panel, would move a mid-June deadline to early May, starting next year.

It's easy to see the incentive for this. Coaches, particularly those from elite programs, hate waiting until June to find out whether their rosters might be decimated. North Carolina coach Roy Williams looked awfully uncomfortable at the pre-draft camp last spring, wondering whether he'd lose three of his top players (ultimately, they all returned to school and won a national championship).

An early-May deadline is just too early to set up workouts and get the feedback to make the best decisions. The kid with the most at stake would be a marginal first-round pick (since first-rounders get two-year guarantees under the collective bargaining agreement and second-rounders don't).

Most of the teams that would draft such a prospect are still in the playoffs. Maybe those front offices can find time in early May to work out a kid. Maybe not.

You can't watch a news conference at the NCAA tournament without hearing 10 references to the "student-athlete.'' If that's such a noble concept collectively, then perhaps the NCAA should side with the 20-year-old kid, versus the 50-year-old coach, in who gets cut some slack when facing a tough choice.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 22, 2009 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 20, 2009

Some here, some there

A few thoughts with the season completed: 

-- If you read this blog regularly, you know how much Larry Brown values practice. Brown is different from most NBA coaches I've covered, in that he doesn't accept that a player isn't good at something that Brown believes can be corrected.

With that in mind, three statistics jumped out this season. They finished 27th among 30 NBA teams in free-throw percentage (74 percent). They also committed the fourth-most turnovers (15.59 per game) and had their shots blocked most (at 5.95 per game).

The poor foul-shooting isn't for a lack of practice; the Bobcats take as many free throws as any NBA team I've covered. But the centers -- Emeka Okafor at 59 percent and DeSagana Diop at a striking 28 percent -- drag down the team's percentage.

I asked Brown about the turnovers Friday, and he wasn't all that concerned, in part because he doesn't consider all turnovers the same. He doesn't want to restrict Boris Diaw's creative passing, for instance, because this team was so hurting for easy shot-opportunities before he arrived. The turnovers that bug Brown are the careless ones at mid-court that lead directly to opponent baskets.

It's nothing new that the Bobcats get a lot of shots blocked. Since Brown wants more drives and fewer jump shots, it's inevitable they'll stay high in this category, but Brown hopes the contact that results will get them to the foul line more going forward. They were just about in the middle of the league in free throws attempted at 24 per game

-- Some of you have emailed me, wondering what I'd think of the Bobcats pursuing Allen Iverson in free-agency. I get why that would be intriguing, particularly considering the Bobcats were 29th in scoring.

Still, I'd have misgivings. Iverson made it clear enough as a Detroit Piston that he still perceives himself as a star. The best thing about the Bobcats is they function as such a team; there are no prima donnas screwing up the group dynamic. Also, this team is already pretty small in the backcourt, so it would be a challenge to hide Iverson defensively.

Brown always says he "loves'' Iverson's competitiveness, but I suspect that's an admiration better expressed from afar at this point.

-- Did you see ex-Bobcat Shannon Brown playing prime minutes in the Lakers' playoff opener? Brown is persistent and athletic; his problem here was he'd make key mistakes -- particularly turnovers -- while trying too hard to impress.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 20, 2009 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

April 17, 2009

Brown on Okafor, Naz, and more

Candid to the end, Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown said at his post-season news conference Friday that he’d love for center Emeka Okafor to love basketball more.

As in, use the off-season to become a better player, not just a better-conditioned athlete.

“I always tease that he has an ‘A’ in stretching, Pilates and yoga. I’d like him to have an ‘A’ in basketball,’’ Brown said Friday.

Okafor is well-known for his post-game stretching regimens and off-season conditioning experiments. Brown said he’s impressed that Okafor hasn’t missed a game in two seasons. However, Brown and the front office would like Okafor to spend more of his summer fine-tuning basketball skills.

“He’s got to work at his game,’’ Brown described. “There’s no better guy than him. I want him to have a passion (for basketball) because it ends so quickly.’’

Brown suggested Okafor might over-think: “He analyzes everything he does. I think he’s just got to play.’’

Brown addressed numerous topics Friday.

On reserve center Nazr Mohammed wanting a larger role or to be traded: “I told him we tried to trade him, and we had some possibilities fall through. With Nazr’s contract, in these economic times, it’s not easy to move.’’

Mohammed makes about $6.47 million next season and $6.88 million the following season. He played in just eight of the team’s final 41 games, after the Bobcats acquired another center, DeSagana Diop, from the Dallas Mavericks.

Brown said of Mohammed, a 10-year veteran: “Of all the guys, I thought this was the most difficult season for him.’’

On attempting to retain director of player personnel Buzz Peterson: “I don’t want to speak for Buzz, but we need him. This is a good group of people (in the front office) with everyone on the same page.’’

Peterson has expressed interest in going back to coaching and Appalachian State continues to pursue him. Brown hinted he’d be open to moving Peterson to the bench.

“I talked to Michael (Jordan, the managing partner) about that. Michael’s trying to do everything he can,’’ to retain Peterson.

On forward Vladimir Radmanovic’s transition from playing the Los Angeles Lakers’ Triangle Offense: “We’re trying to de-program him.’’

After a fast start, following the trade to the Bobcats in February, Radmanovic struggled late, shooting 12-of-46 in his last seven games. Brown wants to broaden his game.

“He’s been a stand-still jump-shooter, played off other people,’’ Brown said of the Kobe Bryant Effect. “He’s got athleticism and other qualities. We hope he’ll change his game’’ to be more a driver and defender.

Brown added that Radmanovic might be trying too hard.

“Vlade is mistake-prone, but I think a lot of that is him trying to impress us.’’

On Diop’s arrival from Dallas: “Kind of up-and-down; I really believe he needs to work hard this summer.’’

Brown understood that Diop showed up out of game-shape because he was playing little for the Mavericks. His foul-shooting was awful (27 percent as a Bobcat), but Brown has patience because he needs another young low-post defender.

“I’m not disappointed at all in what he brings. He’s 26 (actually 27) and I’m his fourth (NBA) coach.’’

On the defense: “We’ve got to handle pick-and-rolls better, particularly when the center is involved.’’

On whether to tender Sean May a $3.6 million qualifying offer to restrict his upcoming free-agency: “Michael talked to me about that. He said he didn’t know what to do’’ about that choice.

On next season, relative to all the change this season involved: “People are comfortable around me when they know what to expect. Hopefully there’s a trust there now. In general, guys who’ve been around me know I’m pretty hands-on. I hope they think I’m fair.’’

On living apart this season from his wife and two school-age children in Philadelphia: “It’s been hard on our kids, moving them (in the past). If they don’t move (to Charlotte), I’ve got to do a better job of getting home without it (interfering) with my job.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on April 17, 2009 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

April 16, 2009

A classic Curry ball-fake

Dell Curry walked into a semi-circle of television cameras, anticipated the question, and delivered the update.

`"I've got news,'' said the father of Davidson guard/potential lottery-pick Stephen. "He's going to....his sociology class right now.''

Good to know Gomez -- that was Dell's nickname as a Charlotte Hornet -- hasn't lost his sense of humor in all this....

The assembled media was there to interview Charlotte Bobcats following their season-ending meetings with coach Larry Brown and front-office heads Michael Jordan and Rod Higgins.

Some things worth repeating:

-- Sean May said he was told by Jordan that the team hasn't dismissed the possibility of making him a one-year, $3.6 million qualifying offer to restrict his free-agency. May said Jordan has some concerns about losing May for nothing, after the team used the 13th pick in 2005 to draft him.

May said he'd listen to alternatives if the team came back with a multi-year contract, possibly at a lower annual number than that qualifying offer implies. But mainly, he's intent on overcoming this reputation that he's out of shape.

May said he's close to weighing about 260 pounds, after weighing over 300 last summer. But he said the primary goal is body-fat content. May said he's at around 13 percent (from a high of 20 percent) and wants to be closer to 10-11 percent next fall.

-- Bobcats center/UConn grad Emeka Okafor said he's very high on the potential of Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet, who's entering the draft.

"He already has an NBA-strong body, which is a big advantage,'' Okafor said of 7-3 Thabeet. "HIs offense still has a ways to go, but (offense) was completely non-existent before.''

Okafor doesn't make that judgment from afar -- he's worked out with Thabeet. Okafor says the improvement Thabeet has made since being a freshman shows how motivated he is.

-- Boris Diaw will spend mid-July through mid-September with the French national team, so he'll get just a brief break before training camp in October.

Diaw doesn't agree with the perception that playing summer ball for your country wears you down and exposes you to injury the following season.

"You can't stop (playing) for five months anyway,'' Diaw said. "You get better against good (national) teams. And it gets you in the right (off-season) shape.''

Posted by Observer Sports on April 16, 2009 at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

April 13, 2009

Why not start kids?

 A half-hour before tip-off against the New Jersey Nets, Larry Brown was considering starting five subs.
He didn't end up doing that, but I wish he did.

You're out of playoff contention. You're on the road. Maybe I'm too clinical, but what would be the downside to using these last two games to test what's there for Dontell Jefferson, Cartier Martin, Sean May, whatever?

This was an exhibition game between two teams in the lottery. Sure, you'd rather win than lose because it counts in the final record, but will anyone renew his season tickets, based on whether they win the last two?

I'm much more interested in the configuration of the roster entering training camp. Some of you see the improvement as marginal. I don't. If the team that finished the season had shown up at UNC-Wilmington, they'd be in the playoffs, and probably would have avoided Cleveland in the first round. It's funny how some of you called me a homer for writing that. More than a year ago, when I was describing how dysfunctional this team was under Sam Vincent, you kept telling me how relentlessly negative I was.

Are there flaws? Absolutely. But I like this team better than any group that showed up in the past, and for all of Brown's quirks, he knows how to fix a roster.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 13, 2009 at 09:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

My NBA awards ballot

 I turned in my awards ballot to the NBA over the weekend. Thought some of you might be interested in my votes.

Most Valuable Player: 1. LeBron James; 2. Kobe Bryant; 3. Dwyane Wade; 4. Dwight Howard; 5. Chauncey Billups.
Thoughts: The first four are obvious in some order. I gave Billups my other vote because I thought his presence turned around the Nuggets' season; his impact goes beyond numbers.

 1st team: F James, F Tim Duncan, C Howard, G Bryant, G Wade.
 2nd team: F Dirk Nowitzki, F Paul Pierce, C Yao Ming, G Billups, G Chris Paul.
 3rd team; F Chris Bosh, F Pau Gasol, C Shaquille O'Neal, G Brandon Roy, G Tony Parker.
 Thoughts: You know the depth at guard was exceptional when Steve Nash can't make third-team.

Most Improved: 1. Devin Harris, 2. Danny Granger, 3. Gerald Wallace.
 Thoughts: I gave Wallace my third-place vote based on how much his judgment has improved under Larry Brown. He takes fewer bad risks, in pursuit of steals, and is more efficient offensively.

Sixth Man: 1. Jason Terry, 2. Anderson Varejao, 3. Nate Robinson.
 Thoughts: Terry is a classic sixth man -- a player who changes a game's tempo and intensity with bursts of energy.

Rookie of the Year: 1. Derrick Rose, 2. OJ Mayo, 3. Brook Lopez.
Thoughts: Rose's ability to penetrate off dribble-drive changes games (although he didn't play well when I saw him live twice in Charlotte).

Defensive Player of the Year: 1. Dwight Howard, 2. Kevin Garnett, 3. Kobe Bryant.
 Thoughts: Howard's shotblocking and rebounding make defense easy for a Magic team lacking perimeter stoppers.

Coach of the Year: 1. Stan Van Gundy, 2. George Karl, 3. Erik Spoelstra.
 Thoughts: Just a gut feeling that Van Gundy has driven everything out of this Magic team that it can realistically deliver right now.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 13, 2009 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

April 10, 2009

It's over; They make the playoffs next season

    I'm back.
     Thanks for all your concern when I made a reference to "family matters.'' Things are fine. Spent Spring Break with my kids. I wasn't in Oklahoma City but I do have some thoughts, after watching the game on television:
     -- Don't they so need a quality backup who could play some shooting guard and some small forward? I keep thinking Anthony Parker from Toronto. Raja Bell should be this team's starter, but not without reliable (and healthy) backup.
     -- Sure glad they retain the lottery pick, because the rotation is a long way from complete. If you show up in October with nothing more than re-signing Felton, plus the first-round pick, they're a playoff lock. Doesn't mean they're there yet.
     -- D.J. Augustin is a big-time basketball player. I'm not yet sure he's an NBA point guard. He makes big shots. He gets to the rim. But he doesn't make the game easy for others, and that's going to be his job, if he's he long-term solution.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 10, 2009 at 11:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)