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January 31, 2011

No Deron Williams tonight

The Utah Jazz will face the Charlotte Bobcats tonight without All-Star point guard Deron Williams (strained tendon, right wrist).

The Jazz has lost seven of eight, including at Golden State Sunday night. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan says his team's defense has slipped considerably.

"We're not as physical,'' Sloan said, pre-game. "To win, we've got to be physical -- all the good teams are.''

Posted by Observer Sports on January 31, 2011 at 08:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 30, 2011

Will Silas stay beyond this season?

Here’s what I think first when someone asks me whether Paul Silas will be Charlotte Bobcats coach beyond this season:

          Paul really wants this job, but Paul doesn’t need this job.

          He saved his money from when he coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, so he’s set up for life at 68. I think he means it when he said this is the only job he would have taken, because he didn’t want to be uprooted from his home on Lake Norman.

          Silas is having fun coaching this team, and his level of engagement is beyond what he expected. Paul is a different guy from when he took over for Dave Cowens with the Hornets all those years ago, and that’s for the better.

          When Cowens quit (in that mercurial way Cowens has lived his life), Silas was desperate to prove he could be a head coach again. He took over the Clippers straight from being a player. By his own description, he wasn’t ready for that job, and it colored teams’ perception of him for years.

          The pressure entailed in proving himself hurt Paul back then. After making a fortune with the Hornets and Cavs, he’s no longer that guy. He has faith in his own judgment and understands his gift is his people skills.

          I think he should be here beyond this season because the players believe in him, want to win for him, and that matters.

However, I can’t blame owner Michael Jordan for taking a wait-and-see approach. There are three months left in the season and a lockout could (worst-case scenario) wipe out next season.

Silas said he’s fine with that, which says a lot about how comfortable he is in his own skin.

SOME STRAY THOUGHTS: Some of you emailed to ask why Eduardo Najera didn’t play against the Clippers, when they obviously needed help guarding Blake Griffin. Watching Griffin live for the first time, the thing I noticed most was he's frighteningly fast for a power forward and a fine dribbler. So it makes sense you’d tried to counter that with Dominic McGuire’s feet, rather than Najera’s bulk….

I wonder if the Pacers would turn to Larry Brown, after firing Jim O’Brien Sunday. Brown desperately wants to coach again and the Pacers have enough talent to get to the post-season. Wouldn’t it be intriguing if Brown was coaching the Pacers, in a duel with the Bobcats for one of the last two playoff spots.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 30, 2011 at 07:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Silas, managing the schedule

I’ve often written Paul Silas’s approach to coaching resembles that of a baseball manager. Saturday was a good illustration of that.

          Silas has always believed you’re fighting the schedule as much as you’re fighting any individual opponent. So you take your available resources and try to apply them as best you can to maximize victories.

          Or as Silas described it after the 15-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, “we’re not in the basketball business. We’re in the wins business.’’

          That might sound obvious and simplistic. But in practice it’s more subtle: Silas looked at the situation – three close victories in four nights, including overtime Friday in Golden State, and pretty much called it a night (with over a quarter left) once the Clippers got up 25.

          He emptied the bench (who played well enough to trim the deficit to 11) and made sure no starter reached 30 minutes. With a day off Sunday (before the game in Salt Lake City) and another day off Tuesday (before a game in Auburn Hills, Mich.), he can have his team ready to squeeze out at least one more win from this six-game trip.

          One of Silas’ strengths is being a realist – accepting that every game can’t be saved and that sometimes rest is the best remedy (as opposed to practicing Sunday in Utah).

          I did ask Silas how close they would have had to get for him to put the starters back in. Silas said if the deficit had dropped below 10, he would have seriously considered it. But the reality is, the starters were so tired, and they’d been out so long, they might not have been up to finishing what the reserves accomplished anyway.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 30, 2011 at 01:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

January 29, 2011

A dejected Stephen Curry

Former Davidson star and Warriors point guard Stephen Curry on the overtime loss to the Bobcats:

(How bad does this one hurt?): "It hurts because of the way it happened, being up 16 and giving it away. The frustration level is pretty high. We had a chance to win the game, and we didn’t. It’s really frustrating.''


(Was there any chance to foul between Gerald Wallace’s miss and Stephen  Jackson’s make?): "We were in scramble mode, for sure. We didn’t get the rebound, and it’s not your natural instinct to foul after that. You’re trying to get the ball and trying to find your man. I tried to contest the shot, but he made it.''

 (How can you close quarters and games better?): "We need to focus. We tend to get a little fatigued after playing a high-paced game for that long. In the last two minutes, we need to dig deep, protect the ball and rebound. We haven’t been able to do that.''


(Did Jackson call bank?): "No, but I know he’ll take it anyway.''

Posted by Observer Sports on January 29, 2011 at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jackson thanks the basketball gods

Hey, who wouldn’t try his best with Mom in the house?

          There were 18,000-some Warriors fans booing Stephen Jackson every time he touched the ball Friday night. But Jackson’s mother was also there, watching him play for the first time since the Charlotte Bobcats-Orlando Magic playoff series last season.

          You didn’t really expect him to let down mom, right? It took some luck (banking in a 3-pointer to force overtime), but Jackson dominated with 31 points in a 121-113 victory over his former team.

          About that game-saving bank shot…

“You need the basketball gods sometimes. On that shot off the backboard, the basketball gods had my back,’’ Jackson said. “On the road, you just want to hang around and try to find a way to get some luck to win the game. We’ve done that on this road trip.’’

They’re 3-0 to start a six-game trip that heads to the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, the Utah Jazz Monday and the Detroit Pistons Wednesday. Coach Paul Silas said he happily would have taken a 3-3 trip and found it just about inconceivable they’ve won their first three.

What’s the difference between that team that lost four games by 30-some in late December and the team that came back from a 16-point second-half deficit Friday?

“Believing in each other, staying together and not giving up,’’ Jackson said. “Coach (Paul Silas) has given everybody confidence to get the job done. We support each other and we stay focused.’’

The Bobcats are now 11-6 since Silas took over for Larry Brown and a repeat playoff appearance is again a viable goal.

One of the things Silas has done is develop Gerald Henderson as a defensive option off the bench. Silas put Henderson on Warriors leading scorer Monta Ellis, switching Jackson to small forward in the process.

“Monta is hard to guard, and he guarded him really well, guarded him better than anyone else on the team,’’ Jackson said. “Gerald Henderson is a main reason we won tonight; we wouldn’t have won without him.’’

Jackson did quite a job of shutting up Warriors fans Friday, but he said no hard feelings afterward.

“It’s not a problem. I loved the fans here. They supported me and I had a great time And the organization was great to me,’’ Jackson said. “I don’t have any bad blood. People are entitled to their own opinions, but I love them anyway.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on January 29, 2011 at 02:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 28, 2011

Silas: D. Brown might play tonight

Charlotte Bobcats forward Derrick Brown might get back into the rotation tonight against the Golden State Warriors.

          Bobcats coach Paul Silas told me at shootaround this morning that Brown has played so well in practice, he hopes to use him tonight. Brown hasn’t played in nine of the last 10 games, either because he was inactive or because he was active but didn’t play.

           Brown grew up in Oakland, so I'm sure he'd particularly enjoy playing in this one.

          You might remember Silas starting Brown in Minnesota Jan. 5 (Gerald Wallace was hurt), and it not working out. Silas said Brown looked overwhelmed by the occasion, and the coach blames himself, in part, for that reaction.

          Silas said he teased Brown about the tough match-up he faced against Michael Beasley. Some players benefit from that, while others get psyched out. Silas said Brown was the latter.

          Silas said it’s tough to play Brown and Gerald Henderson together right now because of their combined lack of experience with an NBA game on the line. But Silas doesn’t want to keep playing Wallace and Stephen Jackson 40-plus minutes a night.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 28, 2011 at 04:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 27, 2011

Four thoughts on Bobcats-Suns


          -- Interim coach Paul Silas watched plenty of Bobcats basketball in semi-retirement in Lake Norman. He knew panic when he saw it.

          “They didn’t get rattled and I applaud that,’’ Silas said of how the Bobcats stood up to the Suns’ barrage in the second half. “Because before they did.’’

          Sure, they got rattled. The term I’d use is fragile. They’d be really good for 10 minutes, then something bad would happen and doubt would prevail. Gerald Wallace, who can’t help but say what he thinks, believes the difference is two things: This coaching staff is continuously positive and it doesn’t switch everything up in the face of adversity.

          Wallace made it clear that wasn’t so under Larry Brown and staff.

          “It’s his demeanor,’’ Wallace said of Silas. “They let us know everything is OK. The coaches are making us calm. We don’t panic.’’

          Then, when asked how they adjusted defensively in the second half to Phoenix’s pick-and-roll, Wallace said they didn’t adjust.

          “In the past we’d change things. We’d panic,’’ Wallace said. “This time we stuck to our (defensive) principles.’’

-- Gerald Henderson will help fill the Tyrus Thomas void.

There’s no ideal replacement for power forward Thomas, Henderson included. But 6-4 Henderson is showing enough versatility defensively to provide Silas options.

          The problem is figuring out a way to use Boris Diaw at center, particularly late game. Over the last two weeks, Henderson has effectively guarded an All-Star point guard (Chicago’s Derrick Rose) and a former All-Star forward (6-8 Grant Hill). Those back-to-back blocks Henderson had in the second half Wednesday (on Hill and Marcin Gortat) were huge.

          After the Suns game, Henderson reminded me he regularly guarded 2s, 3s and 4s at Duke. That broad-spectrum defensive experience is handy right now.

-- Diaw gets revved against his former teams.

He’d beat up on the Hawks as a Sun and he again beat the Suns as a Bobcat.  That’s four victories in a row in this series.

          Silas sad a huge factor in this game was Diaw shutting down Marcin Gortat, after Gortat went off in the first half.

          -- They’re still so dependent on Wallace and Stephen Jackson.

Wallace played 84 minutes over two nights. Jackson played 82. They were literally exhausted in the post-game locker room, leaning against locker stalls with their eyes closed.

          It was worth all that to win these two games, but you wonder what they’ll have left the rest of the trip. As Wallace noted, it’s so much harder when each game is followed by a long plane ride.

          I thought one of Silas’s strengths, when I covered him with the Hornets, was balancing practice with rest. Off days figure to really be off days the rest of this trip.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 27, 2011 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

January 26, 2011

Five reasons this win mattered

Beating the Sacramento Kings isn’t a feat – it’s already been done 33 times this season. But that doesn’t mean the Charlotte Bobcats’ 94-89 victory was insignificant.

          Five things that made this game consequential:

1. The first half should serve as a template for how to proceed.

          In building a 10-point halftime lead, they scored 32 of 52 points in the lane. In fact, they took just one 3-point attempt among their 36 first-half shots.

          Now, I’m not saying never to take long jump shots. Sometimes those are what are open, and if they naturally present themselves in the offense, then launch. But to use Gerald Wallace’s description, the difference between winning Monday and losing Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks was “settling’’ versus not settling.

          “When Atlanta went to that zone, we just settled,’’ Wallace described. “When the Kings went zone, we got the ball into the middle and worked it it’’ through to the rim.

2. It reinforced the value center Kwame Brown can represent.

The best little story on this team is how Brown has stepped up. He had 18 rebounds, which is huge, but nearly as important, he earned 10 trips to the foul line.

          Part of the reason the Bobcats were so jump shot-happy earlier this season was there was no post presence to balance the floor. Brown has been the most-unlikely solution to that problem of late.

          “I’m so excited for him,’’ said coach Paul Silas. “He’s been much-maligned in this league. Now he’s playing up to his potential.’’

          3. It broke the tension…and there was tension.

The Bobcats went the first half of the season without an extended Western Conference road trip. There’s a bit of the unknown each season when a team heads out on one of these. They play four of the first five nights and two of the following four.

          Winning that first one – particularly one they were favored to win – loosens the mood. Wallace said Saturday night he won’t consider anything short of a 4-2 trip. That’s a high bar and to reach it, beating the Kings was a must.

4. It got both Wallace and Jackson going.

          It’s been too long since captains Wallace and Stephen Jackson have played well in the same game. Tuesday they combined for 40 points on 13-of-27 shooting.

          I particularly liked Jackson’s shot selection. He got to the foul line six times, which shows he was probing the defense, rather than just chucking up leaning jumpers.

          Wallace said he’s still working through that ankle injury. It stiffens up on him at halftime, leaving him about 75 percent in the second half.

5. It showed there’s a role for Eduardo Najera.

          They’re going to need every big body to fill in for Tyrus Thomas the next eight weeks. Najera was good for five points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.  Nothing spectacular, but also nothing shabby.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 26, 2011 at 02:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

January 25, 2011

Naz as a 4, other pre-game notes

-- Remember several years ago, when the Charlotte Bobcats said one of the incentives for trading for center Nazr Mohammed was that Mohammed could also play power forward?

          We never found out if that was true. We might tonight. Bobcats coach Paul Silas, searching for ways to replace Tyrus Thomas, might use Kwame Brown and Mohammed together for parts of tonight’s matchup with the Sacramento Kings.

          The Kings go big a lot, pairing 6-11 big men DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. So Silas asked Mohammed if he’s up for playing some power forward tonight, and Mohammed said he’s all for it.

          Don’t know how this will work, but I’m glad Silas is exploring every possibility to ease the loss of Thomas. It could be a rough ride the next eight weeks.

-- The Bobcats don’t have an advance scout this season. That’s the guy who attends games of upcoming opponents, to diagram their plays and hopefully pick up verbal and visual signals.

The Bobcats aren’t alone in de-emphasizing this task. With scouts (and media) often being moved away from courtside, the opportunity to eavesdrop on calls has been reduced in recent years. But that puts a big burden on assistant coaches to pick up opponents’ tendencies exclusively off video.

“The (assistant coaches) watch tape. We don’t have an advance scout out there right now,’’ Silas said. “Steve (Silas) and Ralph (Lewis) split that up. I gave Steve the offense and Ralph the defense – at practice, that’s what they concentrate on.’’

-- Silas was surprised, when he took over the Bobcats a month ago, how haphazard they were in some of their defensive habits.

 “It was really strange – the defensively principles just weren’t there. You would assume that they would know, especially the guys who have been around for a long time. And they didn’t,’’ Silas said.

“They’ve learned a lot and we’re much, much better,’’ Silas said, adding the pick-and-roll defense – particularly impeding the big man after he sets the pick – needed a lot of clean-up.

“The guy on the weak side wasn’t ‘tagging’’ him (impeding the big man from getting to the basket), and we’d just see layups. We had to put in a drill for that.

“Hopefully, in a month, this will all be down to a habit.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on January 25, 2011 at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

January 23, 2011

Brown misses practice

Charlotte Bobcats center Kwame Brown missed Sunday practice with a chest cold. I shouldn't think that would cost him a minute on the West Coast trip.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2011 at 07:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)