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June 30, 2011

The lockout -- your primer

Hi. As I said previously, I'm a little out of pocket this week, due to family concerns. But since the NBA goes into lockout mode overnight, I thought I should offer some thoughts on each side's issues and how this might eventually play out.

The most interesting thing about this is it's hard to take sides, because they're both right. I can make a great argument for why the NBA and the union each has reason to think the other's position is unreasonable. Here goes:

THE OWNERS' TAKE: There are so many exceptions to the salary cap that the cap is a joke. The only number that matters is the luxury-tax threshold, and that is habitually exceeded by the free-spending teams.

David Stern made a great argument in Memphis a while back that the system is so broken that any team not paying luxury tax is precluded from a deep playoff run. He said that Green Bay-Pittsburgh Super Bowl could never be recreated in the NBA because two markets of that size can't get to the Finals in the current climate.

Stern wants competitive balance, and is prepared to do the revenue-sharing to make that happen. But the union has to meet him halfway to assure that every well-run team in the NBA has a fighting chance to be successful, both artistically and financially.

THE UNION'S TAKE: Have you noticed the NBA just had its most successful season in decades? Have you noticed that no one thought it was bad that Mark Cuban emulated the Yankees? Have you noticed the great story line it drew when the Miami Heat assembled a super team?

Most importantly, have you noticed the union is asking nothing of the NBA? In fact, the only thing they're trying to protect is something resembling the system that already exists. Why is it the union's problem to help collectively block what the Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, Mavericks and Heat spend?

The union is prepared to make a worse deal than the last collective bargaining agreement. But a deal that pays the players 30 percent less? With less job security in the contracts? Come on, really?

THE NO-SPIN ANALYSIS: This is going to be much worse than the NFL for a simple reason: In the aggregate and team-by-team, the NFL still makes money. Football management and labor are haggling over a split of the revenue, but everyone in the NFL has far more to lose by cancelling games than the NBA does.

There's a faction of the NBA (and the Bobcats might fall into this category) that could lose less money canceling a season of revenue and avoiding player-payroll (particularly if the end result is a different model). That tells me that once the lockout starts, it will likely last months and months and months.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 30, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

June 29, 2011

An unflattering review of Biyombo

One independent draft scout, Matthew Maurer of TheDraftReview.com (and formerly, for better or worse, of NBAdraft.net), takes a look back at the NBA draft and calls Bobcats' selection and Congolese center Bismack Biyombo the player with the most questions surrounding him drafted in the top 10.

Given that the Bobcats have staked a big chunk of their future on Biyombo and undersized Connecticut guard Kemba Walker, the ninth pick in the draft, it will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Where any of us stand on Biyombo's game at this point largely depends on our point of view -- trust in Jordan and new GM Rich Cho or doubt them. None of us have seen enough of Biyombo to know if he's NBA-ready.

And a long NBA lockout will make the questions linger. For now, it's an interesting debate. Your thoughts?



Posted by Observer Sports on June 29, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

June 28, 2011

Some thoughts from afar

As some of you know, I'm dealing with some family issues. But some really interesting things happened of late, and I thought I should address them.

SILAS NAMES MAGGETTE THE STARTER: You know how I call Paul Silas "Coach Feel Good?'' This is what I mean.

The Bobcats will never say this, but paying Corey Maggette more than $20 million over the next two years is the price for acquiring the No. 7 overall pick. I'm not at all surprised that Silas is trying to make the best of it.

Maggette should not be a starting small forward at this juncture in his career. But he's the best they have, and if Dante Cunningham is his backup, that probably won't change. Have you ever waded into a rough sea from the shore? You can either get knocked off your feet or ride the wave.

This is Silas, the guy with an exceptional amateur-psychologist feel. trying to ride the wave. He's stuck with Maggette, so he'll try to rehabilitate him with the nurturing that Silas has always been about. Maggette wants to be a starter. Fine, start him. Hopefully he'll have the same rebirth Kwame Brown did. But it's no given.

Still, given the limited alternatives. Silas handled this with the finesse that has defined his time as a head coach.

100 PERCENT?...IF YOU SAY SO: Bismack Biyombo said there's no way he's not playing for the Bobcats next season. I thought it was cool that he was so blunt last week, but it's more complicated than that.

The Spanish team he last played for expects $1.4 million, as a buyout, to let him be in Charlotte ASAP. The Bobcats are in mediation, trying to get that number lowered, particularly since NBA rules bar them from contributing more than $500,000.

I hope this gets worked out. I suspect this will get worked out. But when Biyombo said it was a 100 percent chance he'd be cleared, I  thought, "It's never that simple.''

KEMBA NEEDS SHOOTING RANGE: An NBA scout whose opinion I greatly value says the Bobcats didn't screw up by taking Biyombo seventh, passing on Brandon Knight, and then taking Kemba Walker ninth.

However -- and this a big however -- the scout said Walker has to dramatically improve his shooting range. The scout's assessment: The things he did at UConn -- beating people mid-range to create spacing -- will be of dramatically less impact in the NBA. So if he doesn't develop true NBA 3-point range, he won't max out all those other things that attracted him to the pros.

The good news: This scout says the guy is such a competitor that he'll likely figure that out.    

WERDANN -- A GREAT MOVE: With Charles Oakley's status in doubt, this is a very good hire. This is the definition of the guy who didn't do it well enough to play in the NBA forever, so he he figured out how to teach it. Kenny Gattison always struck me as that guy. Obviously Stephen Silas is that guy. Glad they're filling the staff with those guys.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 28, 2011 at 08:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Werdann joins coaching staff

The Charlotte Bobcats just announced what I blogged Saturday -- that former NBA big man Rob Werdann is joining the coaching staff.

A former center for St. John's, Werdann has coached for New Orleans and Golden State and scouted for the Hornets. With Charles Oakley's coaching future in doubt -- he faces back surgery -- it looks like coach Paul Silas wanted to make sure he had an assistant with some big-man expertise.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 28, 2011 at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 27, 2011

Thoughts on Cunningham's offer

Hey. I was off today, dealing with a family-health issue. Frankly, my 90-year-old dad had a heart attack Saturday. But when I opened my email to see the Bobcats tendered a qualifying offer to Dante Cunningham, I thought I should offer some perspective.

I suspect had the Bobcats drafted a small forward -- Chris Singleton comes to mind -- Cunningham might have never gotten that guarantee of about $1 million. Still, the Bobcats sent a message by waiting as long as they did to restrict Cunningham's free-agency.

He did something really silly. And I don't mean smoking a joint. I mean -- at the exact moment you have the chance to make life-changing money -- you draw the attention of a cop in the off-season, and when the cop takes a look (and apparently a sniff) inside your truck, he knows you've been smoking marijuana. As one former NBA general manager said to me, "his judgment is the real issue here.''

I think the Bobcats were sending a message by waiting so long to qualify Cunningham, who was raised well by military folk. The message was: Feel embarrassed. Grow up. Understand how close you were to throwing all this great life away.

One other thing: It will be interesting to see whether Cunningham's arrest dwindles the suitors for Cunningham's services when the lockout ends. My guess? He signs the one-year qualifying offer.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 27, 2011 at 11:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

June 25, 2011

Werdann joining coaching staff?

Rob Werdann may be joining the Charlotte Bobcats coaching staff, head coach Paul Silas confirmed to the Observer Saturday.

Silas said the organization has reached out to Werdann, a former NBA and St. John's center. He's been an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets. He also scouted for the Hornets and was an assistant in the NBA's Development League.

Bobcats assistant Charles Oakley has been having back problems that could preclude him from continuing as a coach. Silas said Oakley is scheduled for surgery next week.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 25, 2011 at 05:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

June 24, 2011

The day-after news conference

A couple of quick notes off the Bobcats' news conference with first-round picks Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker:

-- Biyombo says no one should be concerned his contractual issues in Spain would preclude him from playing for the Bobcats next season: "I'm going to play in the NBA for sure next season -- 100 percent I'm sure of that.''

-- Both of these guys are extremely confident and competitive. There won't be any rookies-should-be-seen-and-not-heard from these guys. Quoting Walker: "I think everybody should be confident...I'm going to push D.J. (Augustin) and he (Biyombo) is going to push Tyrus'' Thomas.

-- Walker says no one should be concerned he can't play like a pass-first point guard. "I scored out of necessity,'' Walker said of his 23.5 ppg., average in Connecticut's championship run. "At the end of my sophomore season coach (Jim Calhoun) told me, 'You've got to go to the basket. I need you for that.' ''

-- General manager Rich Cho said there was no way they could have drafted someone else at No. 7 and still have gotten Biyombo at No. 9. Cho said all their "intel'' said the Detroit Pistons were a lock to take Biyombo at No. 8.

-- Coach Paul Silas said there won't be many situations, at least as a rookie, where Biyombo will be able to guard NBA centers. That likely means backup minutes at power forward, with Boris Diaw moving over to center.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 24, 2011 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

Wow, it's late and yet I blog...

Some post-draft thoughts at the end of a ridiculously long day:

-- I'm not saying the Charlotte Bobcats did the wrong thing -- they had to get worse to get better -- but some of you simply ignore that this roster is now a mess.

You don't want Corey Maggette as your starting small forward. You don't know how they'll ever score more than 80 points. And their opening-day center is...who the heck knows anymore.

I get Rich Cho's vision of sustained success. I really do. But there's some real pain between now and then, and I wonder how many fans will bail on the plan before it comes to fruition.

-- The dynamic between D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker will be interesting. Walker is an alpha-male. D.J. has not always reacted well to competition (he wilted when Flip Murray challenged his right to be the No. 2 point guard in the 2009-10 season).

Walker will push Augustin hard. D.J.'s problem has never been talent. His problem is self-confidence. If he doesn't get over that, it will haunt his NBA career.

-- You realize I just lost the best quote in Bobcats history. Guys who hit a game-winning shot, then remind you "I make love to pressure,'' are few and far-between. There was a Joe Namath quality about Stephen Jackson's humor and candor. Of course I'm going to miss him.

The night he nailed that buzzer-beater in Atlanta was as fun as anything that's happened in Bobcats history.

-- I'm so glad Raymond Felton is headed to Portland, presumably to be the starting point guard and reunited with Gerald Wallace. Raymond is the best teammate in Bobcats history. He has a Jake Delhomme quality, as far as taking all the blame without expecting any of the credit.

Raymond backing up Ty Lawson wasn't going to work. He deserved to be a starter on a good team.

-- Rod Higgins continues to be non-commital about making a qualifying offer to Dante Cunningham. Small forward is the Bobcats' most shallow position, but maybe they just don't want to guarantee Cunningham a million dollars for the season.

-- Cho making a Serge Ibaka reference, when talking about Bismack Biyombo is high praise. But I can see the analogy.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 24, 2011 at 02:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

June 23, 2011

Biyombo and Walker at 7 and 9

In one of the biggest trades in Charlotte Bobcats history -- and that covers a lot of ground -- the team has traded away captain Stephen Jackson in a 3-way deal that acquired the No. 7 overall pick in last night’s NBA draft.

            Armed with the seventh and ninth selections, the Bobcats chose shotblocker/rebounder Bismack Biyombo of the Congo and Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker.

Biyombo worked out for the Bobcats just Wednesday in the final audition before the draft. The knock on Biyombo was his offensive limitations, but coach Paul Silas said Wednesday he didn’t think that was as bad as advertised.

Walker averaged 23.5 points per game last season, leading UConn to an unexpected national championship. The question on Walker is his 6-1 height, about the same as current Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin.

“I’m not 6-3, 6-4, but I’ve got a big heart,’’ Walker told ESPN shortly after the Bobcats chose him ninth.

The deal that set up these picks was finalized Thursday afternoon, but couldn’t be formally announced until the end of the first round, under NBA rules. Jackson leaves for the Milwaukee Bucks, along with backup point guard Shaun Livingston. The Bobcats gave up the 19th overall pick, and also took back Bucks small forward Corey Maggette, a one-time Duke star.

The seventh pick came from the Sacramento Kings, who technically exercised the selection of Biyombo in a pre-arranged deal.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

Thoughts on Bobcats-Bucks deal ...

This Bobcats' trade that sent Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston to the Bucks won't be official until late in the first round, just because the league doesn't want deal announcements distracting from the picks. But it's been agreed-to and here's some reaction:

-- I'll miss Jackson a lot. Say what you want about his volatility, his technical fouls, his shot selection. The guy cared deeply about winning and losing and he was the best offensive weapon in Bobcats history.

Corey Maggette was an expensive liability in Milwaukee. The Bobcats are taking on his $10 million salary each of the next two seasons as the price for a second lottery pick.

-- They're going to stink next season, and there is a saving grace in that; it means the protection on the first-round pick they owe the Chicago Bulls (Tyrus Thomas trade) will kick in for the 2012 draft. They'll keep their first-rounder but will still owe the Bulls a pick down the road.

-- Remember Rich Cho saying the building plan is all about "assembling assets?'' This is how you do that -- by accepting a bad contract attached to a lottery pick.

-- Breathtaking, isn't it, how quickly that playoff team of a year ago has been gutted: Gerald Wallace, gone. Jackson, gone. Raymond Felton, gone. Tyson Chandler, gone. You can only hope these picks work out, because they're betting heavily on their ability to draft well.

Posted by Observer Sports on June 23, 2011 at 05:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)