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January 31, 2012

Bobcats' Matt Carroll leaves an impression

Last week, when the Charlotte Bobcats injured list went on forever (five guys, including three starters and two more rotation players), coach Paul Silas had a chat with those who still
could play.

Silas reminded them what an opportunity this represented: How this was their time to shine, with abundant playing time for everyone. He told them to leave an impression, so that they’re not forgotten when all the injured guys come back to reclaim their minutes.

Based on performance, only one Bobcat took that to heart: Matt Carroll. He seized the opportunity, and it will be interesting to see how much or little that affects the rest of his season.

Carroll was having just an awful season until Gerald Henderson hurt himself in an ugly crash with New York Knicks forward Jared Jeffries (Jeffries was called for a flagrant foul as a result of the play).

Through 15 games, Carroll was shooting 13-of-48 from the field and 1-of-15 from 3-point range. It’s fair to say if Carroll isn’t making shots, there’s no reason to play him.

Then he got an unexpected start in Washington, and shot 7-of-10 for 17 points. Next game in Philadelphia, he shot 4-of-7 for 11 points. In another start, at home vs. Washington, he shot 4-of-13, but got to the foul line five times, so he finished with 13 points.

All that caught Silas’ eye. It might not make a huge difference, because Reggie Williams is now available, and Silas wants to use him extensively. But there’s no question Carroll changed Silas’ impression of how Carroll could help.

“I’m so proud of him,’’ Silas said of Carroll. “He showed he can get it done, and I expect him to come with it whenever I can get him into a game.’’

I talked to Carroll about this on Sunday, and he made some interesting points about making your living in the NBA as a rhythm shooter. Carroll said that when he was playing five minutes in the first half, and maybe none in the second half, he was pressing.

As Carroll described it, if he misses his first four shots, he feels he’ll make his next four. But if his first four misses mean he never plays in the second half, then his shooting doesn’t even out. Starting those two games lifted pressure, and helped him perform.

Carroll doesn’t expect minutes, and certainly won’t demand them. But the last week shows he still can help the Bobcats, and it’s gratifying to him that Silas sees that, too.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 31, 2012 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

January 30, 2012

Henderson, White, Williams all ready to play for Bobcats vs. Lakers

The injury report improved dramatically Monday for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Coach Paul Silas anticipates Gerald Henderson, D.J. White and newcomer Reggie Williams all playing Tuesday night when the Bobcats play the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. That’s the closest to full strength the Bobcats have been in weeks.

Henderson missed both games last week against the Washington Wizards with a lower-back contusion. He aggravated that injury in Philadelphia, while taking a charge. He didn’t practice Monday, but said the injury was feeling much better, so he expects to play against Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.

White has been out several games with a knee bruise and a sprained ankle. He fully practiced Monday and expects to play. He would likely back up Boris Diaw at power forward.

Williams, a 3-point specialist, hasn’t played all season, after needing knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He was signed as a free agent in December, after shooting 42 percent from 3-point range for the Golden State Warriors last season.

Williams originally wasn’t supposed to play before late this week in Phoenix or next week in Boston. But based on his movement in practice, he was cleared to play against the Lakers. Coach Paul Silas is particularly elated by Williams’ availability. The Bobcats were the NBA’s second-worst 3-point shooting team last season.

“He looked good’’ in practice “and he really understands the game. He’ll really help our offense,’’ Silas said. “How he passes, how he shoots. Two or three weeks from now I think he’s going to be unbelievable.’’

The Bobcats are still without two starters – point guard D.J. Augustin (inflammation in his right big toe) and small forward Corey Maggette (hamstring strain). Neither is expected to play on the upcoming four-game road trip.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 30, 2012 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

January 28, 2012

Some post-game thoughts on the Bobcats

--Have you noticed that Bobcats rookie Kemba Walker has taken the most shots in each of these three decisive losses? Have you noticed Walker is shooting 16-of-50 since D.J. Augustin was shelved with that big-toe injury?

You might live with this shooting percentage if Walker was getting to the foul line. But he’s averaging three free-throw attempts in that span.

It reminds me of my first season covering the NBA, with the Hornets. I asked then-coach Dick Harter why he so loved Kelly Tripucka and had such disdain for rookie Rex Chapman when they were shooting roughly the same percentage.

Harter pointed out that Tripucka was averaging about seven free-throw attempts and that no one bothered to foul Chapman; they wanted him to shoot more, not less. That’s the deal with Walker right now.

--Based on email and Twitter, many of you can’t figure why Paul Silas won’t play Bismack Biyombo more. It’s Silas’s position that minutes need to go to Gana Diop and Boris Diaw to end this losing streak.

I get Silas’s point, if you care how many games they win or whether they can at least stay competitive. I get your point, that if you use the No. 7 pick on a rookie, you might want to play him.

There’s a solution: Owner Michael Jordan should be frank in saying either the record doesn’t matter or play the veterans. Jordan hates the word “rebuilding,’’ but what else is this?

--I’d love for the Bobcats to be in the hunt for center Chris Kaman. But I wonder how hard it must be to work a trade with the New Orleans Hornets.

George Shinn’s last great business deal was convincing NBA commissioner David Stern to buy the team. But now every transaction the Hornets make becomes a political process. Imagine if Congress controlled the Carolina Panthers; every time they signed someone or traded someone, it would have to survive a three-day debate.

As the Chris Paul deal demonstrated, the Hornets must find the perfect deal to get anything done. Moving Kaman figures to be a real mess.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 28, 2012 at 12:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

January 26, 2012

For Bobcats center Mullens, this is a do-over, not a demotion

Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas did center Byron Mullens a favor Thursday. I don’t know whether Mullens has enough life experience to see it that way, but Silas took Mullens off the spot.

Mullens playing off the bench isn’t a demotion. It’s a do-over.

It was too much, too soon for Mullens to go from a guy constantly sent to the D-League to a guy starting at center for an NBA team. Handy as it might be to claim the Bobcats are a D-League team, this transition for Mullens had to be as rattling as it was gratifying.

First he was the guy shooting 70 percent from the field because no one understood he’d make every open 20-footer. Then the scouting report caught up to him, and he was the guy shooting 5-of-19 in his last three games.

Of more concern, he was “soft guy’’ – the starting center on the team that gave up 104 points in the paint in just two games, against two sub-.500 teams (Knicks and Wizards).

Being a center is first about defending the rim, the same way being a point guard is first about getting teammates easy shots. You want a center who can make jump shots and roll to the rim for dunks and pass out of double-teams. But all that is secondary to being the last line of defense. Right now, Mullens isn’t so good at that, and that isn’t entirely his fault.

It’s not his nature to be physical and he hardly ever played real, NBA basketball in his two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So now it’s time for Mullens to sit back, play off the bench against reserves, and learn and adapt. Watch if Gana Diop can change the dynamic some defensively at the rim. Play to your strengths, yet address your weaknesses.

Mullens is a great kid who’s a long way from figuring all this out. When they decided to start him, he accepted the challenge, but also acknowledged he likes watching the first 5-8 minutes of a game to evaluate the action, and how he could contribute.

Time to go back to doing that. No reason that can’t be a productive process.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 26, 2012 at 07:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

Bobcats' Kemba Walker needs to listen and learn

                Remember when Antoine Walker was described as a “volume shooter?’’ It was a validating way of saying, “He puts up a lot of bad shots, but he’s talented enough that some of them go in.’’

               Kemba Walker is in the early stages of “volume shooter syndrome.’’

                This was a predictable phenomenon, and hopefully temporary. It’s somewhat a function of what he was asked to do at UConn last season, when either he shot a ton, or the Huskies were the eighth-best team in the Big East.

                But it’s having a half-life, and as the 4-of-19 performance against the Washington Wizards demonstrated, he needs to be reined back. Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas intends to call a lot of plays Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, and I suspect that will be the norm until D.J. Augustin is back from injury.

                Silas hates calling plays because it takes the spontaneity out of his point guard. I remember last season when Silas took over from Larry Brown, and Augustin would constantly look to Silas as he advanced the ball. It was a learned response to the way Brown demanded a lifeline between himself and his point guard.

                Silas is dramatically less controlling. Augustin didn’t understand it at the time, but he needs that freedom. Right now, Walker doesn’t.

                Right now Walker isn’t a point guard. I get some grief when I write that, and that’s fine, but some of you don’t get that Walker is much more a scorer in a vacuum than a facilitator. That doesn’t make him a bad person or a bad player. As Silas is prone to saying, NBA players tend to define what they are, rather than coaches. If Walker continues down this path, he’s a combo guard off the bench. He’s not a lead guard.

                Nothing wrong with that, and we’re a long way from a final judgment. But when Silas said two games ago that it was Walker’s responsibility to think others get theirs first/Walker gets his second, this isn’t working at all.

                Change is coming and Silas is patient. Kemba should go with the flow and learn.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 26, 2012 at 12:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

January 25, 2012

Bobcats' Henderson signed through summer of 2013

The Charlotte Bobcats exercising the fourth-year option on Gerald Henderson’s rookie-scale contract Wednesday was a no-brainer.

At a time when there’s little else to like about the Bobcats, Henderson has shined. He took some strong advice from team owner Michael Jordan to go to the basket more, and that’s resulted in about 54 percent shooting and 43 free-throw attempts in the last six games.

Henderson scored 21 or more in three of those games. He’s figuring it out quickly as an NBA shooting guard.

Paying him about $3 million next season is pretty cost-effective, and that gives the Bobcats the option of making him a restricted free agent the summer of 2013.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

January 24, 2012

Bobcats guard Augustin will miss 4 games

Charlotte Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin will miss at least the next four games (over the next five nights) after getting a second diagnosis on inflammation in his right big toe.

Charlotte physician Dr. Bob Anderson examined the injury, and Augustin will go through electric stimulation and other therapies, rather than the injection initially suggested when Augustin was examined in New Jersey Sunday night.

Augustin has had the injury about two weeks, but it became far worse in the first quarter of a loss to the New Jersey Nets. He'll be out at least until the Bobcats go west to play the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Suns at the end of the month.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 24, 2012 at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

January 19, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats' glut of power forwards

There seemed to be a lot of questions among the fan base after coach Paul Silas chose not to play D.J. White in Orlando, one game after White made seven of nine shots for 15 points Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

First, Silas was not expressing displeasure with White's performance. Second, these things are going to happen until something changes regarding the glut at power forward.

Silas said before the Magic game that rookie Bismack Biyombo would play a lot because he demonstrated in the first matchup with Orlando that he could stand up to Dwight Howard physically. It played out as Silas predicted. Biyombo had his best game to date -- 10 points and 11 rebounds, 5-of-5 from the field -- so Silas used him 21 minutes.

That left White out of the rotation.

Now, of course you can ask, "If Tyrus Thomas shot 2-of-10 and grabbed two rebounds in 28 minutes, why didn't Thomas sit in favor of White?'' That's a legitimate question and one I posed after the game.

Silas said he's trying to show patience with Thomas, who went through a sprained ankle, then was switched back-and-forth between small and power forward.

That might all be true, but it's more complicated than that: Thomas has a guaranteed contract that pays him an average of $8.6 million each of the next three seasons. That makes it an imperative to play him and develop him. If not, then they'd need to trade him.

From the opening of training camp, it was obvious the Bobcats had a slew of power forwards and needs at center and maybe small forward. White became a pleasant surprise, earning minutes and starts in Thomas' absence. Now, the Bobcats would like to extend White's contract.

Silas is going to mix-and-match Thomas, White and Biyombo, relative to who the Bobcats are playing. That means Biyombo not playing at all against Cleveland and having a featured role against the Magic.


Posted by Observer Sports on January 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

January 15, 2012

NBA's no-hand check rule makes ex-Duke point guard Kyrie Irving devastating

            Three of the last four No. 1 overall picks in the NBA have been point guards – Derrick Rose, John Wall and Kyrie Irving (who shows up with the Cleveland Cavaliers to play the Charlotte Bobcats Monday afternoon).
                Previous to Rose, it had been 11 years since a guard was taken first overall, and that was Allen Iverson.
                That’s how dramatically the NBA’s strict enforcement of the no-hand check rule on dribblers has changed the game the past few seasons.
                Chicago Bulls point guard Rose was the NBA’s most valuable player last season because no one can keep his feet between Rose and the rim without some kind of pushing or holding. You either watch him score, or foul him, or give help defensively that leaves all those other Bulls wide-open for dunks or spot-up jump shots.
                Already a similar dynamic is starting with Irving’s presence in Cleveland. He’s as productive as any rookie, averaging 17 points, 5.1 assists and 47 percent shooting from the field. The Cavaliers average nearly eight 3-pointers made a game because Irving’s dribble-penetration skews the opposing defense, leaving so many shooters open.
                We hardly saw Irving in his single college season at Duke, due to injury. But there’s a rare gift in his combination of ball-handling and change-of-direction without losing speed.
                “He’s got some things he can do with the ball that I’ve never seen anyone else do. He’s got that ball on a string,’’ said the Bobcats’ Gerald Henderson, another Blue Devil who’s played in numerous pick-up games with Irving in Durham.

    “He’s special, and that’s why he was the No. 1 pick…His agility is unique, for sure.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on January 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

January 12, 2012

Michael Jordan cut from HS team? 'A lie'


Michael Jordan, shown as a senior at Wilmington Laney High, played JV as a sophomore. But the story that legend says he was cut from the team as a sophomore, a story that continues to haunt his former coach. Wilmington Star News file photo.


Sport Illustrated has a story this week about Michael Jordan and his former coach, Clifton 'Pop" Herring.

Herring says he's still haunted by an urban legend regarding Jordan: In 1978, the story goes, Herring cut Jordan, then a high school sophomore, from the basketball team at Wilmington Laney High.

In truth, Jordan was on Laney's JV roster that year, developing the skills that eventually made him one of the all-time NBA greats.

But the story that Herring cut Jordan persists.

“It’s a lie that you continue to tell,” Herring tells Sports Illustrated.

A story by Robbi Pickeral published in The Observer in 2009, just before Jordan's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, was one attempt to set the record straight. 

In that story Pickeral quoted Ruby Sutton, who called it her pet peeve to hear the story of Jordan being "cut" from the Laney High varsity basketball team as a sophomore, and of that event spurring him to greatness.

"Back then, (most) 10th-graders played JV; that's just the way it was. Nobody ever 'cut' Michael Jordan, " Sutton said then, shaking her head as she retold the story for at least the 100th time.

"Him not making the varsity that year was not his motivator - he was motivated well before that. He just always wanted to be the best."

Still, the story endures, in no small part because of Jordan himself. He referenced being cut from the varsity in 10th grade in his acceptance speech for the Basketball Hall of Fame, first in a list of slights he said motivated him.

Herring, the Sports Illustrated story says, later resigned as Laney's coach after displaying symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, which ran in his family. He has also dealt with homelessness.

Once and for all, maybe the Sports Illustrated piece will put the story, and the pain Herring feels in dealing with it, to rest.



Posted by Observer Sports on January 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)