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October 31, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats exercise options on Walker, Biyombo and Kidd-Gilchrist

    The Charlotte Bobcats locked in an additional $12 million-plus into their player-payroll for next season Thursday when they exercised contract options on Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo.

            Thursday was the deadline, under the NBA’s wage scale for first-round picks, for the Bobcats to guarantee those options. Had any of the three not been guaranteed, he would have become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

            The season salaries are based on when a player was selected in the first round, not how he has performed since being drafted. As the No. 2 pick in 2012, Kidd-Gilchrist’s salary next season is about $5 million. Biyombo (seventh pick in 2011) will make about $4 million. Walker (ninth pick in 2011) will make about $3.4 million.

            While it’s typical for teams to exercise these options, it’s not automatic. For instance, the Sacramento Kings Thursday chose not to exercise the option on guard Jimmer Fredette, the tenth pick in the 2011 draft.

            The rookie scale doesn’t apply to Bobcats small forward Jeff Taylor, since he was a second-round pick in 2012.


Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2013 at 05:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

So far Clifford doesn't seem afraid of stating the truth

    HOUSTON -- If you asked me to sum up Steve Clifford’s point of view in a sentence, it would be the following:

            Don’t be afraid to tell the truth.

            I’ve covered a lot of NBA coaches. I’ve been lied to craftily. I’ve been lied to clumsily. The other extreme is someone who uses truth as a weapon, as in bludgeoning people with candor in a way that degrades, rather than informs.

            So far, for a rookie coach, Clifford gets it right. You ask him a direct question and you’ll typically get a direct answer. That’s what happened post-game when I asked Clifford why shooting guard Ben Gordon didn’t play against the Rockets.

            Clifford said it was nothing against Gordon. He added that the week Gordon missed while getting treatment on a sore knee was a factor. But basically Gordon didn’t play because Jeff Taylor played so well in the preseason, and Clifford wasn’t going to steal minutes from Taylor to get Gordon on the court.

            I like how Clifford doesn’t mind explaining himself. I should think he’s at least as candid with the players as he is with the media. Clifford said that if he plays four wing players, at least two of them won’t get enough minutes to be effective. Wednesday that meant Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor played while Gordon sat.

            I’m sure Gordon didn’t enjoy sitting, particularly if this becomes a trend in the last season on his current contract. But I would think he and the others would appreciate that Clifford explains himself and lets you know where you stand.

            Anyway, some stray thoughts on Wednesday’s season-opener:

    -- That was a rough start for rookie Cody Zeller, the fourth overall pick. He shot 1-of-6 from the field for two points and grabbed four rebounds in 15 ½ minutes. I’m sure he expected to play more, and he will, but for now the gap between his performance and Josh McRoberts’ is wide.

    --  Thursday is the deadline for the Bobcats to exercise Bismack Biyombo’s option for next season. It would cost them about $4 million in guaranteed salary. In return, they would continue controlling his rights. Minus the option, Biyombo would become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

    This is an interesting call. In a similar situation a few years ago the Bobcats gave Adam Morrison an option that proved to be a regrettable decision. But not exercising this option is a statement that they question the long-term value of a former top-10 pick.

    Increasingly the trend these days in the NBA is to cut your losses. Note that Kendall Marshall and Royce White, first-round picks in 2012, are already waived. We’ll see how this plays out.

    -- We all know Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is struggling. That 1-of-5 from the foul line illustrates his shooting issues. But those eight rebounds Wednesday demonstrate his effort.

    -- McRoberts made three of the Bobcats’ four 3s Wednesday. The guy continuously surprises me.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2013 at 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

October 30, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson starting vs. Rockets

    HOUSTON – New Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson will play, and start, tonight in the season-opener against the Houston Rockets, after missing about three weeks with a sprained right ankle.

            What that means, as far as minutes, is still an open question.

            “He’s gonna play. I don’t know how many minutes he can play or how many minutes in a row he can play,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said pre-game.

            Jefferson, signed to a three-year, $41 million contract in July, always expressed confidence he’d play in the opener, even after some stiffness and soreness in practice Tuesday. But Clifford and the Bobcats’ medical staff put off a decision until after shootaround Wednesday morning.

            Jefferson was brought in for his low-post scoring. He can force opposing defenses to double team in a way no previous Bobcat has.

            “For us to play well each and every night, he has to be in the middle of it,” Clifford said of Jefferson.

            That makes a crowded early schedule – the Bobcats play three of their first four nights and 17 of the first 31 – difficult. Jefferson acknowledged after practice Monday that his wind concerned him as much as his ankle. Regaining game shape won’t be easy and the team also has to reintegrate his skills into the offense. Jefferson played only one exhibition, plus the first quarter of another, before being injured.

            “Without him we can be OK. With him we can be a lot better,” Clifford said.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2013 at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 29, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson experiences soreness in ankle; still questionable for Wednesday opener

            Center Al Jefferson experienced some pain and stiffness in his sprained right ankle at practice Tuesday, so the Charlotte Bobcats will continue to list him as questionable for the opener Wednesday in Houston against the Rockets.

            “I think I can play,” Jefferson said, his ankle wrapped in ice. “I’m not going to be 100 percent pain-free. But I can tolerate a little pain.”

            Jefferson sprained his ankle Oct. 11 in an exhibition against the Miami Heat. He missed the remaining six exhibitions and just started practicing Sunday.

            The Bobcats could obviously use Jefferson, one of the NBA’s top low-post scorers, in a matchup with new Rocket Dwight Howard, a three-time defense player of the year. Howard signed with Houston over the summer, as Jefferson did with the Bobcats.

            Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said it’s too soon to tell if Jefferson would play Wednesday, and if he does, whether he’d start or how many minutes he could handle. Clifford will consult with head athletic trainer Steve Stricker on the best course medically after Jefferson is reevaluated pre-game.

            “If not tomorrow, then definitely soon because he’s doing better,’’ Clifford said of Jefferson.

    The Bobcats play three games in the first four nights of their season. After Houston they’re at home Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, then play Saturday at the New Orleans Pelicans.

    Jefferson increased his activity each day from Sunday through Tuesday until the soreness
started late in Tuesday’s practice.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 29, 2013 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

October 28, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson 'questionable' for opener

CAgbH.St.138While Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson is still optimistic he’ll play in Wednesday’s season-opener in Houston, the team is listing him as “questionable’’ with a sprained right ankle.

Jefferson was hurt early in the preseason when he stepped on the foot of Miami Heat center Chris Bosh and landed awkwardly. He participated in most, but not all, of Monday’s practice after sitting out nearly three weeks.

“He did some contact, some 5-on-5, but not everything,” coach Steve Clifford said following practice.

Jefferson said “in my head” he’s ready to play Wednesday against perennial All-Star Dwight Howard, who the Rockets signed over the summer. The two have played since their mutual rising senior summer in high school. Both turned pro out of high school in 2004.

“The ankle felt good,” Jefferson said following practice. “My lungs were hurting more than anything, my wind.”

Jefferson said he understood why Clifford and the team’s medical staff might be cautious in projecting whether he will be ready for the opener. Part of the issue will be how Jefferson’s ankle feels overnight, now that he’s tested it in practice.

Assuming there’s no setback, Jefferson said, he’ll participate in an eight-minute full-court scrimmage Tuesday to test his mobility and conditioning before the team flies to Houston.

The Bobcats signed Jefferson over the summer to a three-year, $41 million contract. He’s among the best low-post scorers in the NBA, averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds over nine pro seasons.

Jefferson’s absence this preseason has been challenging, since the Bobcats offense runs very differently with and without him.

In other news, Clifford said power forward-center Jeff Adrien and small forward James Southerland have made the opening-night roster. Both are playing under unguaranteed contracts.

Adrien, who played for the Bobcats last season, wasn’t much of a surprise, particularly with center Brendan Haywood out 12 weeks with a stress fracture. Southerland, an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse, was less expected.

“He has size, he can really shoot and he’s a good worker,” Clifford said of Southerland.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 28, 2013 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

October 22, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats guard Ben Gordon expects to be fine for the opener

            Charlotte Bobcats guard Ben Gordon was back at practice Tuesday after spending the weekend in Phoenix having what he called a “maintenance’’ procedure done on his right knee.

            Gordon played one-on-one after practice against Bobcats rookie James Southerland and expects to be fine for the Oct. 30 season-opener against the Rockets in Houston.

    “By game night? Yeah, definitely,” Gordon said. “It usually takes about a week for the swelling to go down. I’ll do a little more each day without overdoing it.’’

    Gordon indicated he had PRP therapy, in which blood is drawn from the patient, then injected into an injured area of the body. The PRP (platelet-rich plasma) promotes healing. Sometimes doctors add a lubricant to the PRP injection.

            Gordon said this isn’t the first time he’s had this procedure

    “Like many athletes, or people with a little bit of wear-and-tear, it’s just something to make you feel a little better,’’ said Gordon, entering his 10th NBA regular season. “PRP is kind of new – to take your own blood and put it back. And if you need a little lubricant, they do that, too, for a little cushion.

    “It’s pretty basic: Get it done now, so it wouldn’t affect me during the season. Mostly a precautionary thing. I’ll be fine.”

    Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said Saturday he didn’t expect Gordon to play in either of the remaining two exhibitions, Thursday at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers or Friday in New York against the Knicks.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 22, 2013 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

October 21, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats defense by the numbers

    It’s pretty clear the Charlotte Bobcats have played improved defense this preseason.

            It’s certainly quantifiable:

    As of Sunday, the Bobcats were giving up the fewest points per game in the NBA at 82.7. They’re the only one of 30 teams not to allow 90 or more points in any game, one of two teams (with Chicago) not to allow 100 or more.

    Their field-goal percentage defense (39.5 percent) is third-best in the NBA and they have committed the fewest personal fouls (17.3 per game) in the league.    

    Coach Steve Clifford says his players have taken to heart his defensive priorities: Minimize transition baskets, minimize points in the paint and don’t foul needlessly. Yes, this is the preseason, so it’s dangerous to conclude too much, but they’re on the right track.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 21, 2013 at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

October 19, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats guard Ben Gordon out a week after a knee procedure

            GREENSBORO -- Charlotte Bobcats guard Ben Gordon will miss the team’s remaining two preseason exhibitions while recovering from a procedure to relieve soreness in his right knee.

            Gordon flew to Phoenix for the procedure, which will require at least a week of recovery time, coach Steve Clifford said before Saturday’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks. That effectively shuts down Gordon for Thursday’s home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the game Friday against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

            Gordon, entering his tenth NBA season, has been the Bobcats’ second-leading scorer this preseason, averaging 10.4 points. He’s coming off a 22-point game three days ago against the Philadelphia 76ers.

            Clifford said he did not anticipate Gordon’s knee soreness to be a significant concern. Gordon is in the final season of his currently contract, making $13.2 million.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 19, 2013 at 06:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

October 16, 2013

Exclusive: Michael Jordan on Steve Clifford, Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller and a "comical'' one-on-one proposal

IMG_bobcats.JPG_2_1_HO7MAU2L(2)Hours removed from the owner of the Memphis Grizzlies challenging Michael Jordan to a charity one-on-one game, MJ had a response:


That’s the word the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (and Hall of Fame player) used in a brief interview with the Observer Wednesday. If new Grizzlies owner Robert Pera wants to play one-on-one for $1 million to charity (as he said on Twitter), Jordan won’t be his opponent.

“I think that’s comical,’’ Jordan said. “It didn’t make any sense. Why would I play one one-on-one? It’s a no-win situation for me no matter what.”

On more serious matters, Jordan is very happy with the changes his team made in the off-season, hiring Steve Clifford as head coach, drafting Cody Zeller fourth overall and signing free-agent center Al Jefferson to a $41 million, 3-year contract.

On Clifford, the Bobcats’ third head coach in as many seasons:

“I’m so happy about Steve. He’s a very professional guy. Professional in a way that the players can respond. He’s worked with some very good programs. I’ve watched him with the players. He has the right patience and rapport – he knows how to position himself with the players.

“That’s a big move for us because no matter how we spend on players, it starts with the coach. I’m not putting down (predecessor) Mike Dunlap. He had some of the same qualities.”

On Jefferson:

“Jefferson is a great addition. He’s been asked to be a leader on the basketball court. He’s never been asked to do that before. But he has some credence with our guys and I think they’ll respond.”

On Zeller:

“I love Zeller. To me, he’s a connector like (Josh) McRoberts, only more talented. He’ll make teammates better. He’s not flashy in what he does, but he’ll be a really solid player for

Jeff Siner Photo: Michael Jordan explains the importance of contributing to the community during a press conference at West Charlotte High School on Thursday, March 21, 2013.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 16, 2013 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (55)

Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson (ankle) says it's "very realistic" he'll play in season-opener

            Six days removed from a scary fall, Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson said his sprained ankle has improved enough that it’s “very realistic’’ he’ll play in the season-opener Oct. 30.

    “I’m taking it day-by-day, but that’s my goal,” Jefferson said of playing against the Rockets in Houston opening night. “My ankle is healing really fast. Two days ago I was on crutches and now I’m in my regular shoes. I heal fast.

    “The doctor made it clear it’s just a low ankle sprain. It’s very realistic (to play in the opener). If it were up to me, it’d be (out) another week but I understand they want to take it really slow.”

    Jefferson suffered a right ankle sprain in Kansas City Friday, while contesting a shot by Miami Heat center Chris Bosh. He landed on Bosh’s foot, hit the floor hard, and appeared to be in considerable pain. There was initial concern he might have fractured his ankle, but X-rays were negative.

    “I sprained (that) ankle really bad in 2005, same ankle I had surgery on in 2006. I knew that’s what it was, I sprained it pretty bad, as bad as any since 2005,’’ Jefferson said at practice Wednesday. “I was thinking, ‘Here we go again.’ But better now than later on in the season.”

    Jefferson was the Bobcats’ major free-agent acquisition of the off-season, bringing low-post scoring the franchise has not previously had. Having to sit out further complicates assimilating Jefferson’s game into the Bobcats’ mix.

    “It’s always tough when you can’t get out and play, especially when you’re still getting used to” new teammates, Jefferson said. “But it’s part of the game. I came down on (Bosh’s) foot and no matter how you prepare things happen like that sometimes.

    “I’m still participating in shootaround and practice when he (coach Steve Clifford) is putting stuff in. Still watching film, still fitting in as best I can without being there. There are still a lot
of things I can do besides feeling sorry for myself.”

Posted by Observer Sports on October 16, 2013 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)