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November 30, 2009

The cost of face-saving

Sometimes I wish the Charlotte Bobcats spent less time worrying about how things look and more time worrying  about how things are.

Here's what I mean: A little more than a year ago, they shouldn't have exercised Adam Morrison's contract option. And a little more than a month ago, they probably shouldn't have exercised Alexis Ajinca's contract option. I'm not taking glee in the Bobcats' screw-ups, as some of you accuse me. I'm looking to deal in reality.

Had the Bobcats never exercised Morrison's contract, they wouldn't have traded him and Shannon Brown for Vlade Radmanovic. You can say Radmanovic and Raja Bell became Stephen Jackson (a great trade) but take a step back and think: Wouldn't the Bobcats be better off without Morrison? And don't you think they still would have found a deal with the Warriors that would have gotten Jackson here?

This is where it comes back to Ajinca. There's nothing wrong with taking a chance. The Bobcats thought they'd inevitably get a big man who could help them with the 20th pick. Then Roy Hibbert and J.J. Hickson were chosen and Ajinca became the pick. And it didn't work out so well. He was a long, thin, awkward guy with just enough skill to be a tease.

They came to a hard choice about exercising his third-year option in October. They waited almost to the deadline, then they exercised a $1.47 million  guarantee. If I were running the Bobcats, I might have done the same thing out of fear of being wrong. But at some point any major-league front office must know when to stop chasing potential, and that's never been more important than in these cost-conscious times.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2009 at 08:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Wallace East's player of the week

Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace has just won Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time in his career.

Certainly he deserves it: In the three games played last week -- all victories, including one over the Cleveland Cavaliers -- Wallace averaged 25.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and one block. Best of all, after a shaky start as a shooter this season, he averaged 54 percent from the field, 81 percent from the foul line and 39 percent from 3-point range.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2009 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Chandler says he wasn't tweeting

Charlotte Bobcats center Tyson Chandler told me at practice Monday that he wasn't actually using his Twitter account during last week's Toronto Raptors game. Someone from his web site was, on his behalf.

That's pretty much what I anticipated -- Chandler wouldn't be pecking on a Blackberry or I Phone during a game. But to the NBA, the appearance that Chandler was othewise engaged during a game cost him a $7,500 fine under the league's social-media policy.

I can see both sides: Chandler is saying the NBA is supposed to be all about the fans, so someone at his web site trying to engage fans is a good thing. The NBA is saying they don't need the perception that players have something better on their minds than a game during a game.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2009 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Some quick follow-up on Ajinca situation

I got a couple of reader questions in the past few minutes, in reaction to the Charlotte Bobcats sending Alexis Ajinca to the development league. Some quick answers before they open practice to the media:

Does this open a roster spot?

 No. If you have a player under contract, regardless of whether he's playing for you or your D-league affiliate, he still counts against the maximum 15 players per NBA team. However that is somewhat moot, since the Bobcats have had 14 players under contract throughout this season.

What's the situation with the future draft pick they owe for getting Ajinca in 2008?

They got that pick from the Denver Nuggets, who traded the future first on to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Ty Lawson deal. As best I've established, there's a sliding scale of lottery protection that works this way:

The pick goes to Minnesota if....

The Bobcats aren't drafting top-12 in April, or...top 10 in 2011...or top-8 in 2012....or top-3 in 2013.

The Bobcats currently have the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference at 7-9. If that status held up throughout the season, by definition they'd lose the pick since all the non-playoff teams choose before any playoff team.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2009 at 12:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Ajinca headed to D-league stint

The Charlotte Bobcats are sending French big man Alexis Ajinca to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA's development league, to work on a game that has gone dormant of late.

Ajinca, who last month received a $1.47 million guarantee for next season, was inactive for the Bobcats' last three games and either inactive or active but did not play in 10 of the team's 16 games.

This is the second D-league stint for Ajinca; he played in Sioux Falls, S.D., during part of the second half of last season as a rookie. Bobcats assistant coach LaSalle Thompson, a former NBA center, will accompany Ajinca to Maine to monitor his progress.

The Bobcats still owe a future first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves (passed on from the Denver Nuggets) as compensation for the No. 20 pick the Bobcats used to select Ajinca in 2008.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2009 at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

November 29, 2009

No in-game Tweets, Tyson

Charlotte Bobcats center Tyson Chandler was just fined $7,500 for posting a message on his Twitter account during last week's Toronto Raptors game.

The NBA set a policy barring players from using social media during games after Charlie Villanueva did so last season during halftime of a Milwaukee Bucks game.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 29, 2009 at 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

November 27, 2009

Reviewing the win over the Cavs

 -- No one can say the refs gave LeBron James the star treatment Friday: He was called for two charges, both on close calls. Gerald Wallace said Michael Jordan kept reminding various Bobcats to drive on James to exploit (and hopefully worsen) James' foul trouble.

-- You might have noticed Nazr Mohammed entering the game 45 seconds after tip-off and then start the second half. The strategy was to have Mohammed spend most of his minutes guarding Shaquille O'Neal and Tyson Chandler spend most of his minutes guarding Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Mohammed typically does a good job guarding Shaq. Chandler is more mobile away from the rim, so he's a logical matchup for Ilgauskas, more of a pick-and-pop jump-shooter.

-- Boris Diaw is still having ankle problems, and it was reflected in his stats Friday -- five fouls in 19 minutes and he totaled two points, three rebounds and no assists.

-- A nice little uptick in the 3-point department: They were 6-of-14 from the arc. Gerald Wallace made 3-of-7 3s, after missing his previous seven 3s.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 27, 2009 at 11:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

November 26, 2009

Sorensen: Why won't Jordan chase Lebron?

Tom Sorensen's column in Friday's Observer explores why Michael Jordan hasn't put himself in better position to enter the Lebron James sweepstakes.

And here's an early look at Rick Bonnell's gameday preview of Cavaliers at Bobcats.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 26, 2009 at 11:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Reflecting on the Raptors game

 Stray thoughts on a butt-kicking:

-- Larry Brown said post-game that he didn't know previous to this trade how wide Stephen Jackson's skill set is. I've had the same reaction: We all knew Jackson was a scorer and a marvelous athlete. What's harder to detect, until you see him night-after-night, is what a strong defender and playmaker Jackson is. Brown said he has to start devising ways to better exploit Jackson's passing and decision-making with the ball in his hands.

Don't misconstrue this: Jackson isn't a great player (and that's no knock). But he's a very good player, night in/night out. He has no obvious holes in his game. I don't know whether he'll be worth $28 million over the next three seasons, but I do know he's a fix for what most afflicted the Bobcats early.

-- While we're on the subject of Jackson's impact, I'm not sure how this will affect Boris Diaw. He was all but non-existent Wednesday (five points, two rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes). Brown mentioned that Diaw has nagging injuries; I hope that's it. But I wonder if Jackson is negating some of Diaw's playmaking impact, and if he'll have a hard time finding other ways to contribute.

 Diaw reminds me a little of another power forward, Anthony Mason -- different personality but similar skill set. Mason didn't care how many points he scored, but he cared intensely about how often he touched the ball. That's because he trusted his decision-making above others' -- he wanted to be the hub of the wheel.

If the offense stops running through Diaw in the post, this could get sideways. When Mason felt marginalized, he'd rage. I suspect when Diaw becomes marginalized, he'll shrug. Neither reaction is ideal.

-- Of all the good things that happened Wednesday night, here are the two best:

The Bobcats turned 18 Toronto turnovers into 29 Charlotte points. Those are the easy baskets the Bobcats so seldom got earlier this season.

I feel like I've learned something from every coach I've covered, and here's what I learned from Bernie Bickerstaff: An efficient NBA team averages a point for every opponent turnover it creates. If you turn 18 turnovers into 29 points, you must be (a.) stealing the ball at the optimum spot to get an uncontested layup, and (b.) attacking on defense in the way most teams aspire to attack on offense.

The Bobcats had 13 blocked shots to Toronto's four. The Raptors aren't going to block a lot of shots -- they're softer than a Ritz-Carlton towel -- but Tyson Chandler showed what he can do. The intimidation factor -- the Raptors skewed all kinds of shots to avoid Chandler's grasp -- was apparent.

-- I so respect Nazr Mohammed for relentlessly staying in the conversation. Chandler came back from injury, and should have started. Mohammed wouldn't have argued with that. But he kept playing like a starter in the minutes he got: 11 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes. 

Posted by Observer Sports on November 26, 2009 at 01:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 25, 2009

Brown to Iverson: Don't retire

Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown says he plans to contact Allen Iverson, to try to talk him out of his intent to retire.

Don't confuse that with Brown recruiting Iverson to be a Bobcat. Brown has maintained throughout this process he wouldn't put Iverson in a position where he wouldn't be guaranteed a featured role. As well as Stephen Jackson has played here, Iverson in a featured role would be less likely than ever.

Brown simply hates the idea of Iverson's career ending this way; that walking away from a brief stay with the Memphis Grizzlies would be Iverson's final act. And as difficult as the Brown-Iverson relationship became in Philadelphia, Brown's affection and respect for Iverson is genuine.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 25, 2009 at 10:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)