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November 30, 2013

Charlotte Bobcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist practices, expected to play vs. Miami Heat

            It looks like Charlotte Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be back to play against the NBA champion Miami Heat Sunday, after Kidd-Gilchrist missed Friday’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks with plantar fasciitis.

            Certainly they need him, matched against Miami’s LeBron James, last season’s league most valuable player and probably the most versatile offensive weapon in the NBA.

            Kidd-Gilchrist fully participated in practice Saturday before the team flew to Miami for a 6 p.m., Sunday tip-off at American Airlines Arena. Coach Steve Clifford said he plans to start Kidd-Gilchrist unless there’s some unexpected setback between now and the game.

            Kidd-Gilchrist told the Observer his right foot is still sore, but it’s nothing like it was Thursday morning, when he spent to day in a protective boot.

“I feel a lot better. I’m going to take it day-by-day. I worked with the trainers a lot,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.  “I’m working through it. I want to get back on that court.”

Obviously they need him as the first defensive option dealing with James, who is third in the NBA in scoring (26.5 points per game) and second in field-goal percentage (59.8 percent). But James is so much more than a scorer; he’s often the Heat’s primary ball-handler/decision-maker and can excel as a power forward when Miami chooses to go small.

So the Bobcats need options – Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor, maybe Gerald Henderson or Anthony Tolliver – to give James various defensive looks.

Now that he’s guarded James a few times, Kidd-Gilchrist sounds impressed but not intimidated.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him, of course. But at the same time I’m my own man and I won’t back down against anybody,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

“Playing against All-Stars is always fun. Practice is fun, too – guarding Gerald Henderson. It’s not easy guarding Gerald, so I get some practice for this.”

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2013 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Shaken by video of errant pass, Charlotte Bobcats' Gerald Henderson hopes to find woman who was hit Friday

    Charlotte Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson went on Twitter Friday night, hoping to reach the woman who was hit by his errant cross-court pass in the victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Video here: http://blogs.charlotte.com/inside_the_nba/2013/11/gerald-henderson-bobcats-hits-woman-head-basketball-vine.html

            The woman was walking behind the Bucks’ bench, and was hit on the head. Henderson apologized to her when it first happened, but was rattled by video of the accident that he viewed after the game.

    “I hit her pretty hard. I went over and apologized to her, but after looking at that clip enough times, I need to apologize some more,’’ Henderson told the Observer at practice Saturday.

    The Bobcats made sure she got medical attention and gave her a pair of signed, game-worn shoes as a gesture.

    “I saw it hit her pretty square. I didn’t know if she fell or hit her head or anything. It was pretty brutal,” Henderson said.

      It’s not uncommon for courtside fans to come in sudden contact with the game action, but Henderson said this went beyond the norm.

    “You get guys jumping into the stands and (fans) spill their drinks. You see passes go over dudes' heads,’ Henderson said. “But very rarely do you see something like that happen. That was one for the ages in a negative way.”


Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2013 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Gerald Henderson throws errant pass, hits woman, apologizes

Gerald Henderson had five turnovers in the Bobcats' 92-76 home victory against the Bucks on Friday night, but there was one in particular that had him apologizing after the game.

In the third quarter of Charlotte's runaway win, Henderson attempted a cross-court pass to a teammate and hit a woman walking behind the Bucks' bench.


A Bobcats events employee said the woman was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons but that she appeared to be OK.

After the game, Henderson tweeted a mea culpa.


The Bobcats also gave the woman a signed pair of Henderson's game-worn sneakers.


--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Post-game thoughts on Bobcats-Bucks

I don’t want to dismiss any victory two years removed from 7-59, but the Milwaukee Bucks are really bad right now. When you’ve beaten a team twice in their first 15 games, and they’ve mustered 72 and 76 points, you must ask why.

            The Bucks shot 33 percent from the field. That’s partially about the Bobcats defense, which I’ve written repeatedly is dramatically improved. It’s also about a team that is a mess and has been ravaged by injuries.

            At the other end, center Larry Sanders’ injury makes the Bucks pretty much defenseless in the post. That’s why the Bobcats outscored the Bucks in the paint 44-26.

            -- I loved what Bismack Biyombo did Friday in getting 14 rebounds and scoring seven points. But you know something? When Gerald Henderson called him an “energy’’ guy post-game, it summed up what Biz is and isn’t. When they drafted him, I thought it was a Theo Ratliff type of decision: That he’d be so impactful a rim-protector that you could live with what else he didn’t do.

             But at the end of the day he might just be a high-end backup long-term, which is not what you expect from a seventh pick.

            -- The real issue might be this: Regardless of the alleged gusher that could be the 2014 draft, NBA fans need to stop pinning their hopes on lottery picks. As I write this, I’m watching Ben McLemore and he’s exactly what scouts described – Brandon Rush, not Paul Pierce.

            -- If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist misses more than a little time with plantar fasciitis (which, by the way, can be horribly painful) you’re going to see a game-by-game rotation variant: Anthony Tolliver will play when the other team’s small forward is big. Versus a smaller lineup, you’ll see some Gerald Henderson moving over to the 3, and Ben Gordon getting some minutes.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 30, 2013 at 12:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 26, 2013

If you disagree with Clifford sitting Biz, that's cool. But understand this is about quantifiable performance

Here’s what’s interesting about Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford’s decision to play Jeff Adrien over Bismack Biyombo:

            Whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent, he backs up his choices with facts. When I quizzed him Tuesday about how little Biyombo has played the past three games, he pointed out that the plus-minus differential between Adrien and Biyombo was dramatic in the games leading up to this decision.

            So I fact-checked Clifford’s contention and it was dramatic. In the five games leading up to this decision, Adrien was plus-24, while Biyombo was minus-38. While I find plus-minus an imperfect measure of players’ contributions, that gap is wide.

            Clifford said he’d feel “guilty” playing Biyombo over Adrien in the face of that. I think that was his way of saying players know who’s succeeding at their jobs and who isn’t, so to act like that’s not relevant is phony.

            I don’t think this is a permanent circumstance. My guess is Biyombo will win back his status as backup center to Al Jefferson. But the key word is “win” it back. Don’t be presented it based on where he was drafted.

            I get a lot of feedback about this issue that Clifford should be concerned with player-development. Interesting, because early-on I used that “player-development” term with Clifford, and he pointed out that player development isn’t just about young guys improving their skills in a vacuum. It’s about everyone understanding how what they do fits into a team’s success.

            I didn’t pay much attention to what he was saying when he said it. Now, as it relates to playing time, I see what he what he’s pushing.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 26, 2013 at 11:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

Bobcats post-game: Crash explains, Jefferson heals and Biz is still sitting

Some post-game thoughts on a game against the Celtics when the Bobcats lost touch with who they are:

            -- The Bobcats got to 7-7 because they owned their weaknesses. This team is so limited offensively that it must defend efficiently, must limit turnovers and must outscore the other team at the foul line. They were deficient in two of three areas Monday, with too few free-throw attempts (20) and too many turnovers (17).

This is what coaches call a “teachable moment.” If I were Steve Clifford, I’d spend a lot of time Tuesday showing video to the players how they renounced the identity they were building.

            -- There are a lot of theories out there why the Bobcats have played better on the road than at home. Yeah, maybe it’s partially about who they’ve played on the road versus who they’ve played at home. But players – particularly veterans – are intuitive about these things, and I found what center Al Jefferson said insightful:

            “I don’t know what’s happening at home. It’s not the same energy. I never heard of that,” Jefferson said.

            -- Speaking of Jefferson, he volunteered that he felt better tonight than at any time since initially hurting his right ankle in the second exhibition against the Miami Heat. Jefferson says he now can run pretty much normally, but doesn’t yet jump quite as well.

            -- I asked Gerald Wallace what the Celtics did to take away the Bobcats’ preferred sets. (Remember, the Bobcats led end-to-end in the previous game in Boston). Gerald said beating the Bobcats is about limiting Kemba Walker’s trips to the rim and keeping Jefferson away from his favorite post-up spots. Translation: Who else scares you offensively?

            -- Speaking of Wallace, I asked him if he’s receptive to the Bobcats retiring his jersey someday. He replied of course, then asked me if I knew something he didn’t.

            No. I’m thinking the first retired jersey at Time Warner Cable Arena will be the one the Bobcats inherit from New Orleans in the deceased Bobby Phills.

            But Wallace should be the first true Bobcat so honored. He’s every bit as iconic to the Bobcats’ beginnings as Sam Mills was to the Panthers’ early seasons. I was just curious if Gerald cared, since he’s still miffed how little warning he was given when they shipped him to Portland.

            -- Bismack Biyombo has now gone “Did Not Play – coach’s decision” twice in three games with five minutes of garbage time in-between in Milwaukee. Some thoughts:

            Clifford has established he’s going to play whoever he believes gives him the best chance to win, regardless of where a player was drafted or how much money he makes (see: Ben Gordon).  Does Jeff Adrien have more potential than Biyombo? Nope. But the real question is whether Biz will overcome his deficiencies to deserve 20 to 25 minutes a game.

            I bet when/if Biz gets back into the rotation, he’s a better player, if only because he’ll have seen how close he is to being on the street, looking for a new NBA gig.

            -- And speaking of Bobcats lottery picks, three of the last four – Biz, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller – aren’t doing much. Based on my twitter reactions, fans question whether Clifford has offered these guys enough minutes.

            I wonder this: The Bobcats front office (all the derivations) has been decent acquiring veterans and shaky with draft picks. Adam Morrison was a disaster and Sean May washed out of the league. Meanwhile they got a starter (Josh McRoberts) for nothing, Ramon Sessions has been cost-effective and Jefferson could prove to be a coup.

            Makes me wonder: As rich as the 2014 draft is portrayed, are you so sure the Bobcats would mine it well?

Posted by Observer Sports on November 26, 2013 at 12:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (62)

November 25, 2013

Some lunchtime reading: Why haven't Charlotte Bobcats been as good at home as on the road?

            Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford reminded his team at shootaround this morning that, for whatever reason, it’s not playing as well at home as it does on the road.

            He’d sure like to see that change in the three-game homestand that starts tonight against the Boston Celtics.

            “They all know, they’re shaking their heads,’’ Clifford said of the 3-4 home record and the 4-3 road record.

    “On the road we are a team to be proud of: Fighting and together and getting through the tough times. At home, it’s not like we’re terrible, but we haven’t played with same togetherness, approach, whatever. We haven’t played nearly as well.

            “I don’t know what it is, but I know it has to change.”

            If you separate Bobcats statistics into home and road games, this is the conclusion you draw: They’re the same struggling offensive team in either setting, but dramatically better defensively on the road than they’ve been at Time Warner Cable Arena.

            The numbers:

    Offensively they average 90 points on 41 percent shooting at home versus 89 points on 40 percent shooting on the road.

            Defensively they give up 88 points on 41 percent shooting on the road versus allowing 96 points on 46 percent shooting at home.

            The only other thing I noticed on home-vs.-road is the games center Al Jefferson has played. The two home games he’s played came right after injury layoffs. So predictably he averaged 9.5 points in those two games. In three road games Jefferson has averaged 18 points.

            -- Two very interesting stats from this season:

            1. Twice in the first 14 games the Bobcats have led an opponent from the first point scored to the final buzzer: At Boston and at Milwaukee. You know how often that happened prior to this season? Twice in the nine seasons of franchise existence.

            The previous end-to-end leads were against the Los Angeles Lakers in February of 2006 and the Phoenix Suns in January of 2010.

    2. The Bobcats are averaging 49.3 points in the paint (scoring in the lane area) over their last three games. In that span they’re outscoring opponents in the lane by 20 points per game.

            Think about what dreadful deficits this team has had in points in the paint the past few years. Part of that is Jefferson’s low-post scoring, but it’s also how the guards have reacted when opponents get up on them in half-court defense. Clifford said the best way to beat that kind of defense against the pick-and-roll is driving decisively to the rim.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

November 24, 2013

The next step in rebranding: That inconvenient "Are they really the Hornets" problem

    Something interesting that I couldn’t report until my story ran that the Bobcats go teal-and-purple once they become the Hornets:

            Who will ultimately own the Hornets’ history? Think for a minute: Alonzo Mourning – a viable Hall-of-Famer – never played for the current NBA franchise in Charlotte. He also never played for the team now called the New Orleans Pelicans. So what was he?

            If you root for the Bobcats, do you want Zo in your record book?

This is a real issue being discussed at high levels of the NBA. The Bobcats are receptive to accepting the Hornets history, but when you ask them about the inconvenient disconnects, it gets a little blurry.

Understandable. They would love for you to get nostalgic about LJ and Zo and Muggsy. And they’ll be more than happy to retire the late, great Bobby Phills’ jersey.

But this isn’t like the Browns leaving Cleveland, and becoming the new-beginning Ravens. It isn’t the Sonics leaving Seattle and becoming the new-beginnings Thunder. For whatever reason, those two cities retained their history as part of the drill. Cleveland got a new NFL team. Seattle is still waiting/watching for an NBA franchise to poach.

Here’s my point, and it’s important to consider: Are Zo’s shot-blocks relevant to what Emeka Okafor or Bismack Biyombo did? Is there any connection between Muggsy’s assists and Kemba’s?

Smart people in the NBA are trying to process this. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Can’t wait for the resolution, because no matter what you do, they come across as wrong to someone.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 24, 2013 at 01:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

November 23, 2013

Conditions on the future picks owed the Bobcats and the one the Bobcats owe the Chicago Bulls

    A reader recently emailed me, asking me to write a blog about the first-round picks the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers owe the Bobcats, and the pick the Bobcats owe the Chicago Bulls.

            Here are the conditions on those picks, to the best of my knowledge:

            The pick the Blazers owe the Bobcats from the Gerald Wallace trade:

    If the Blazers’ pick is outside the top 12 in June, the Bobcats get that pick. (Portland’s 10-2 start suggests they’re a likely playoff team, which would definitely place the pick outside the top 12). If the pick doesn’t go to Charlotte in 2014, it’s again top-12 protected in 2015. After that, it’s unprotected.

    The pick the Pistons owe the Bobcats from the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette trade:

    If the Pistons’ pick is outside the top eight in 2014, it goes to the Bobcats. If Detroit keeps the pick in ’14, then the Bobcats get the Pistons’ 2015 pick so long as it isn’t the No. 1 pick. If the Bobcats don’t get the pick in 2014 or ’15, then they get it unprotected in 2016.

    The pick the Bobcats owe the Bulls, from the Tyrus Thomas trade:

    The Bulls get Charlotte’s 2014 pick if it is outside the top 10. If the Bulls don’t get the ’14 pick, then Charlotte’s pick is top-eight protected in 2015. If Chicago hasn’t gotten Charlotte’s ’14 or ’15 pick, then the Bulls get the pick unprotected in 2016.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 23, 2013 at 04:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Why would fans be so surprised/outraged Biyombo and Gordon didn't play?

    Here’s what was interesting about tonight’s events and fans’ reaction to them:

            For the better part of two years I’ve received constant response from readers that Bismack Biyombo was a wasted lottery pick who will never evolve into a legitimate NBA starter and that whatever Ben Gordon can do for the Charlotte Bobcats is negated by his flaws.

            So tonight Bobcats coach Steve Clifford didn’t play Biyombo or Gordon. And fans with an opinion generally raged that Biyombo and Gordon didn’t play. Huh?

            I guess if I were a radio sports-talk guy I’d turn this into a contrived debate, so that I could sit back and listen to fans attack each other. I’m not that guy. So instead I’ll try to offer context:

            Clifford’s position might or might not be the best course. But it’s defensible, probably far more defensible than the second-guessing I heard from y’all via Twitter during and after the loss to the Suns.

            Clifford was asked about why each player didn’t get off the bench. He answered with transparency.

            He reiterated his response from when I asked him opening night why Gordon didn’t play: That Jeff Taylor’s defense is important to the foundation they’re establishing. He’s bigger, younger and more versatile than Gordon. So while distance shooting is an obvious flaw on this roster, Gordon’s ability in that area isn’t so compelling a factor that Taylor should lose minutes to Gordon.

            Again, whether you agree or disagree, that’s not equivalent to the world is flat, not round.

            Now, about Biz…

Some fans feigned shock that Biyombo didn’t play tonight. I didn’t expect him to go DNP-CD, but I made sure to mention in my Friday story that Biyombo played only 7 ½ minutes in the second half against the Nets when the game was decided.

            You know who played Biz’s minutes? Jeff Adrien. You know why? Because while Biyombo is longer and a better athlete, Adrien is a quicker study and, to use Clifford’s word, the team “functions’’ better right now with Adrien playing.

            I’m thinking back to late last month when I wrote a lot about whether the Bobcats would exercise Biyombo’s rookie-scale option for next season. I kept saying it was not a given Biz would get that option. The reaction I got from the public was dismissive. That it was a “no-brainer.”

            Actually, no. It was a close call. Biyombo will get his $4 million or so guaranteed next season, but the idea the Bobcats are sold on his potential is poppycock. I don’t understand how that’s a surprise to the fan base. It’s sure not the impression I’ve left.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 23, 2013 at 01:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)