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November 21, 2013

The post-game blog: This start feels different than 7-5 last season

Some thoughts on the Bobcats’ 95-91 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, making them 6-6 on the season:

-- Bobcats coach Steve Clifford was asked a very good question post-game that elicited a better answer. If a 7-5 start became a 21-61 finish last season, then what is it about this team that would make fans trust 6-6?

            Clifford replied that what this team has accomplished defensively, plus what they have done without due to injury, speaks well of the early record.

            “We’re defending and rebounding. We have yet to play any sustained minutes with our best offensive player,” Clifford said, referring to center Al Jefferson. “We’re playing younger guys, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

            Translation: When Mike Dunlap said at 7-5 last season that he didn’t trust the record, I agreed. I’m not saying the Bobcats will finish .500, but this 6-6 start feels so much more authentic of what they are.

-- Many Bobcats fans expressed exasperation last season over how many 3s they gave up defensively. I generally replied that while that wasn’t ideal, the alternative – giving up 50 points in the paint – was far worse.

            Clifford said pretty much the same Wednesday, when I asked him about the Nets shooting 47 percent (9-of-19) from the arc. He isn’t satisfied with this team’s 3-point defense, but he wouldn’t sacrifice the things they’re doing now to improve it.

            Clifford said the top two priorities are not giving up a slew of post points and not fouling needlessly. Three-pointers, while important, fall way behind those two absolutes.

            Clifford said 3-point defense is somewhat about team communication and judgment, so it can only improve gradually. He used Paul Pierce and ex-Bobcat Alan Anderson as an example: You don’t want Pierce getting to the rim and you don’t want Anderson making open 3s, but there’s a balancing act there, and it’s pretty nuanced as far as to when to give help and when you stay with your man.

-- I admire Kemba Walker’s toughness. He’s never missed a game as a Bobcat. But I wonder sometimes if it wouldn’t be the worst thing if he succumbed to an injury and took a night off.

            Clifford acknowledged tonight there might be a connection between Walker’s recent injuries (left shoulder seven games ago and sore ribs in Chicago) and his shooting slump.

            Clifford won’t get Walker to sit when he’s hurt. Not in Kemba’s DNA. I just hope down the road Kemba understands the difference between “hurt” and “injured.”

            -- Jeff Adrien is one tough dude. Ask yourself why in the second half – when the Bobcats extended a three-point lead to 16 and never trailed – Adrien played 17 minutes at center and starter Bismack Biyombo played 7 ½.

            I’m not saying Adrien is a greater asset than Biyombo. I am saying Adrien applies himself more effectively than Biz ever has. Adrien is a survivor. I’ll be writing more about this in the Observer

Posted by Observer Sports on November 21, 2013 at 12:33 AM | Permalink

Comments

If Adrien were a little taller he would be nasty. Cue Charlottean to tell us all Biz is the next Mutumbo.

Posted by: Jeff Otah | Nov 21, 2013 9:08:10 AM

Good summary.

It was a great game that we almost blew in the last 3 minutes.

Observations:
- Crowd was dead and lifeless for such a good game against a team many thought could win it all a month ago.
- Kemba was back on again and trully brings life and energy to the team and fans. He also looks to pass..
- Sessions never looks to pass. Ball goes in his hands and he is driving to the net on any road seeming even remotely open. If he doesn't get foul calls its even worse because he never get's the basket and the shot at a and 1.
- MKG is just continuing to do alot of things really well. Defense is killer and offense coming along.
- Coach had some interesting line-ups in 2nd half. Agree Adrien looked really good.
- Taylor seemed hesitant last night.
- Hendo has been out of sorts all season and his 3 point shots are bricks that aren't even close.
- If this team could actually shot from the foul line we would average 6 more points agame it seems easy.

Nets:
- Plumlee has the worst looking foul shot stroke I have ever seen. Makes MKG look smooth.
- Pierce and KG are not up to the level they once were and this team lacks connection.
Shaun is no Deron at point. He had lots of assists but lots of balls thrown out of bounds etc.. That team just needs to work together and they will be way tougher end of season for sure.

Team looks so much better than last year and the defense is way better. I actually give us a slight chance of getting #8 in playoffs and then swept. The east is just that bad this year.

Posted by: Season Ticket holder for now | Nov 21, 2013 9:36:37 AM

With Adrien playing this well we should shut down Big Al until after Christmas. Then with him and Haywood coming back we'll have a pretty nice rotation of bigs.

I feel sorry for the Nets. The Cats were horrendous in the 4th, only scoring 12 and giving the ball away right and left and they still won. I guess it shows that you can't buy team chemistry. It's also puzzling how they spent all that money to assemble a veteran team and then go and hire a rookie coach.

Posted by: apauldds | Nov 21, 2013 9:45:29 AM

My observations:

-Last year, and most of the last 9, we'd have fought to give away the win last night. That alone is an improvement.

-least common sentence in the NBA: "Cats seal the win on free throws." Wondered if I was having an out-of-body experience.

- Sessions does shoot a lot. If his FT percentage was in the 90s, I'd say give him the ball every possession.

-Garnett is his usual punk self. The original "Who? Me?" guy, he probably deserved at least 3 or 4 more fouls than he got.

-Livingston would have been a beast, if he hadn't lost so much time to the catastrophic knee injury.

- No way we don't make the 8th seed. Surprised if we don't get 7th. Almost willing to bet that 6th is a possibility.

- Apologies to the Garnett fan, 1 row in front, and 3 seats to the left of me, for my "You suck Garnett" taunts. Nothing personal against you. Figured he was talking trash- someone else should too. No offense to you, or your jersey intended.

-Wish we could see half of the enthusiasm from Cats fans that we do from Heat, Knick, Net, etc fans. Really, folks? These guys are working harder than any Cats team ever has. How about a little hometown love??

Posted by: Hoagie58 | Nov 21, 2013 10:03:28 AM

Exactly my thoughts last night, about this 6-6 start of the season.

I also trust this team won't slide into the losing streaks and blowouts we've seen last season.
I was commenting last season that, for all the zone defense we were using, being so badly beaten inside was unacceptable.
Now, the interior defense is far superior, and that's our main engine to achieve a better record this year. And yeah, wait until the other engine, the offensive one, comes back into the games...
I just hope that they learned the lesson of the past attempts, and they won't rush Big Al back before he's fully healthy. An ankle injury is always worse for a center than for a guard (harder to recover from), because of that extra weight carried on his ankles.

I was glad to see Kemba got his shot back, after the damage caused to it by injuries.

Who is his resilience, and insistence on playing hurt, reminding of? Raymond Felton as a Bobcat, of course.
Kemba is still very young. With mileage and wear-out adding up, he'll sure have to become more conservative about returning to play while hurt. This is what happened with Raymond.

(Of course, there are other examples, outside of our team. Look at Kobe, how he was killing himself, playing with a variety of broken parts, until this season, when he HAD to be sidelined. Hope it won't take THAT much for Kemba).

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 21, 2013 10:14:47 AM

I like Adrien. He's a fighter.
I think he does best when he feels
"hungry" - when he's coming off the bench, without being assured of his minutes.
This is how we need him, a tough player who feels the need to prove himself. That also means, not feeling comfortable about his playing time...

But, what about those point blank shots he missed last night in the paint, in the fourth quarter? I counted three of them.
He's not just a human bulldozer, he has the skills to make those shots (or, at least two out of those three). Was that because he started feeling a bit too comfortable about his PT, with Biz left on the bench ?!

Coach Clifford has good reasons to like Jeff Adrien. But his minutes on the floor will have to continue to be earned. He can earn them only by always doing his very best. He did it last night in defense and rebounding. But, his shooting last night was not HIS best.

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 21, 2013 10:33:01 AM

Totally different start last year, which was predicated on swarming zones and pressing defense that could not be sustained over an 82 game season; getting the jump on less prepared or undermanned teams early in the season who easily shook off the same types of energy later in the season; and a few fluky wins that were good old-fashioned non-transferable beginners luck.

This year we have a seasoned NBA coach (albeit formerly an assistant) who has a strong history of developing big men (explains the rebounds) and interior defense (explains the defensive effectiveness). Rebounding and defensive effectiveness are much easier to sustain over the course of the season than defensive energy, which depends on rattling or outworking your opponent. Now we're outthinking the opponents on defense.

In addition to the above, as has already been stated, we are a young team. Not only does this mean we can continue to improve this year, but it also means the young guys (Taylor, Hendo, Walker, Biyombo, MKG) have all gained experience and improved from last year. Big difference maker. Plus we got Josh McRoberts late last year, and he made a big difference then as he is making now. The remaining question in all of this is Jefferson.

Seems to me, when he was on the floor playing effectively, the Bobcats looked like an entirely different team on offense. Much more organized, effective, and in synch. Right now, whereas our defense looks more seasoned than last year, offensively we are relying too often on hustle, energy, put backs, fast breaks, individual plays, and drives to the hoop.

All of those things will be harder to come by as the seasons goes on and teams improve their defensive sets. We need cuts and rolls and 3 point shooting feeding off consistent post play.

For us to be successful in a big way, we need big Al to come back with unstoppable back-to-the-basket offense while playing solid, not perfect, defense. If he can do that with our defense staying about where it is now, or even a touch less effective, then I think the Bobcats could surprise everyone with their seeding.

With an effective Al Jefferson and continued improvement, I could see the Bobcats securing a 5 seed and playing Atlanta as a 4 seed in the first round. This would be huge because I think we could actually beat the Hawks in the playoffs, securing the Bobcats first (and last) playoff series win and setting up incredible momentum for the return of the Charlotte Hornets.

Posted by: Jeff | Nov 21, 2013 11:07:45 AM

Let's not forget without Jefferson we are a .500 team. The Jazz without Jefferson (ok, and Millsap) have struggled to win ONE game after being a playoff team in 2011 and a borderline one in 2012. And that was in the competitive West. The East is worse than ever.

A fifth seed is in reach for us as is a four seed. Pacers, Heat, and Bulls should easily take the top three, but as long as we avoid those teams in the first round, we have a chance to win a series.

Posted by: Jeff | Nov 21, 2013 11:31:29 AM

We're doing both, Jeff - outthinking and outworking the opponents in defense.

Our interior defense is better organized, and evidently coach Clifford has a great merit here. Well, he is known as a defensive specialist. But also, our players are putting a great deal of effort in defense. They are always in motion, they help each other, they won't allow easy open shots inside. It is organization and effort.
Also, they spend lots of energy running for the transition defense.

Will this level of effort be sustainable throughout this long season? Yes, thanks to our depth. Minutes can be shared between enough rotation players to make this effort sustainable in the long run (well, we know, it gets harder with the road trips to the West, but still, our depth will help).
Hopefully, the team won't be decimated by serious injuries.

I agree, of course, on Jefferson's impact on our offense; he can make life easier for everybody else, and create opportunities for better offensive plays, due to the defensive attention he attracts.

Still, it's very important not to rush him back.

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 21, 2013 11:43:45 AM

Starting to look like an actual rebuild. Don't know where they go after this season in draft, free agency, etc. But this year should be better than the last and next is looking promising as well. Just Al coming back will be like adding a good FA. I like the way it is shaping up.

Posted by: Mike T | Nov 21, 2013 12:16:32 PM

Enjoying watching this team compared to the 2 previous year. Hope it continues. Progress is definitely being made in Bobcat land.

I watched Kemba closely last night. Anyone that thinks he can't play defense is flat wrong. He was very aggressive. Stayed in front of his man, played the passing lanes, was very active with his hands without fouling. You better be a heck of a ball handler if you take it at him. Then when he gets his offense going like last night he is a borderline all-star. Fun to watch.

Really like Adrian. Brings a physical presence to our team and he has surprising athleticism. That was one heck of a free agent find. Lock that guy down because someone will pay him. Reggie Evans with more offensive ability.

Posted by: David | Nov 21, 2013 1:05:37 PM

i'm a HUGE jeff adrien fan - i was going nuts last night over his effort (and over his many missed layups)

that said......how did he get credit for extending the lead, but not for losing the lead also? he finished the game with a +2 and biyombo a net 0. where is this comment even coming from?! we went on a run. they went on a run. dude was on the floor for both.

i love adrien + biyombo way more than i do jefferson. they combined for 16 and 16 in 48 minutes at the center spot. both get at it in on both ends of the floor and play way more to our identity of toughness and grit. hopefully that rubs off on jefferson and he develops a nasty streak (that's really all he needs to become a complete player).

(i'm putting this one in all caps, eff it)

THIS YEAR IS DIFFERENT BECAUSE KEMBA IS A YEAR OLDER. TAYLOR IS A YEAR OLDER. SESSIONS IS A YEAR OLDER AND IN HIS SECOND YEAR WITH THESE GUYS. ZELLER IS AN IMPROVEMENT OVER MULLENS. TOLLIVER IS AN IMPROVEMENT OVER THOMAS. GORDON ISN'T PLAYING. MKG ISN'T 12, HE'S ALL OF 20 NOW. BIYOMBO IS A YEAR OLDER AND CONVERTING 65% OF HIS FIELD GOALS THROUGH 12 GAMES. IT'S DIFFERENT BECAUSE IT'S YEAR 3 OF THE REBUILD NOT YEAR 2. IT'S NOT CLIFFORD VS. DUNLAP, THEY ARE BOTH GOOD COACHES. IT'S ABOUT THE PLAYERS BEING FURTHER ALONG AND THE TALENT LEVEL INCREASED ACROSS THE BOARD (EVEN WITHOUT JEFFERSON).

even adrien is clearly more comfortable and aware of his clear cut role on this team. henderson has been struggling to find himself (it seems) but his maturity shows through with the clutch buckets like last night. 13 on 15 possessions + 5 assists is not bad at all.

mcroberts being here and clearly being the starting 4 has been a HUGE difference.

I see bonnell wanting to make this all about clifford and I don't want to take anything away from clifford because I have no complaints at all. I feel very similar talking clifford vs. dunlap as I do hurney vs. gettleman. gettleman and clifford have the benefit of the young core being a year further along. they were able to bring in ANOTHER draft class to refill the talent. another offseason to make the tweaks to add around the young core. comparing year 2 to year 3 of the rebuild, year 3 SHOULD be better. and it clearly is. and the biggest thing to me is........


we're winning games with the young guys. i believe it's 1-2 with jefferson and 5-4 without. small sample size and not much of a difference between the 2 but the point there is that it wouldn't be so encouraging for the future if we were 6-6 on jefferson's back. the fact that we're 5-4 without him says that this has longevity. especially when you look at how young biz, MKG, and zeller are and they are firmly planted in the rotation in these games. mcroberts is our VET in this bunch and he turns 27 in february. sessions is 27. adrien is 27. everyone else is younger. there's a lot of room for guys to grow FROM here.


we just have to be careful with the draft picks and cap room so that we're able to keep the guys together long term. let the chemistry and coaching go to work.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 21, 2013 1:19:24 PM

I don't want to get too ahead of ourselves here, but I am certainly willing to say we look much better this year then we have ever looked in the past. This game particularly there was stretches of amazing defense and runs of fluid offense. I think that Coach Clifford should receive the majority of the credit here. His impact has been seen in our newly tuned defense that is highly ranked in the nba right now. He also has brought us closer together as a team and providing the leadership that makes players give everything they have.
player notes:
-if Kemba can continue to play like he did last night, or at least continue to be a efficient offensive threat and being active on the defense end, this team will continue with its success.
-Jeff Taylor has some confidence issues that will get ironed out in time. He is one of the better three point shooters on the team right now and he passed up multiple opportunities last night.
-Gerald Henderson is driving me crazy because i can't decide to love him or hate him. His defense is spectacular but our team style calls for him to have an effective three point stroke, which he doesn't. As long as MKG is our starting and future SF, one of the two of them needs to be hitting threes well soon, or it will be to the trading black.
-Cody Zeller needs to find his own way offensively because it's going to hard for team mates to set him up or trust him in general if he continues to miss badly and turn the ball over. I have high hopes and expectations for him and think that time will be the best thing for him to learn how to nail these issues out.
-Sessions needs to hit his FTs if he plans to continue attacking the rim with reckless abandon.
-Biz showed a little more confidence in the post this last game which energized his defense and rebounding. This is important to pay attention to.
-McRoberts shied away from the 3 pt line last night. He still shoots at a decent percentage and is important when we are stretching the floor. Keep that confidence up when stroking the three, even if you miss you are still helping more than you know.

Posted by: Bobcat Matt | Nov 21, 2013 1:20:24 PM

david -

kemba can PLAY defense. but his size is a disadvantage defensively no matter how you cut it. livingston (like all big guards) was able to easily get his shot and draw double teams which was part of how they came back. if livingston made his shots and didn't turn the ball over (kemba forced those turnovers) BK wins that game.

it's different 1 game vs. a playoff series. a playoff series that gets exposed. you can't have any weaknesses like that to be a contender. kind of like how miami couldn't stop west and hibbert and nearly lost the series against indiana because of that. and that's miami.

if kemba garners a reputation as forcing turnovers and missed shots - that's one thing. but if the bigger guards constantly post up and draw double teams and or get 1 on 1's for easy post up buckets.......it just won't work no matter how good he is skill wise.

we used to see that a lot with muggsy and that was back when a big pg was 6-2. now 6-2 is on the small side.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 21, 2013 1:23:49 PM

TELL ME WHY GORDON EVER PLAYS . IS HE A BENCH WARMER. 13 MILLON DOLLARS IS A LOT SETTING ON THE BENCH..

Posted by: CHARLES MUNN | Nov 21, 2013 2:22:20 PM

Problem is I don't want us to make the playoffs this year. I want our own top pick and not to give it to the bulls.
Top 6 pick in next years draft will still get anything better by a large step them maybe Davis the past few drafts.
We are one of those top players away from a real good (not great) team that can develop over a few years together just as we start the new hornets period.

Posted by: Season Ticket holder for now | Nov 21, 2013 2:27:54 PM

Jeff Adrien rocks that cool 80s hair all over the court. Hard work and a new hair style = improved Adrien.

Posted by: Cool80s@gmail.com | Nov 21, 2013 2:30:01 PM

yeah.....there's no doubt that we need our first round pick to be a top 10 pick.

problem is.......there are other teams that are way more tankable (boston, philly, orlando can all unload the few vets that are keeping themselves a float) and there are a few veteran teams that could decide to implode midway (BK, NY, Detroit if playoffs are out of the picture and they know top 8 is theres outside is ours)

I could see memphis blowing it up. their new front office just couldn't stand having a good thing going. rudy gay trade wasn't horrible but the coaching change was. denver could absolutely start giving guys away to rebuild with new GM and coach.


it's completely conceivable that we get handed a playoff birth we don't deserve. but it's also completely conceivable that we keep playing as good as we have and still only come away with 27 wins.

this is definitely not the year to overachieve and I think that's what's happening. we'll definitely have portland's 1st this year, but that might be all we have if detroit finishes poorly (unexpected) and we pick 11th or lower going to the bulls (unexpected but becoming more and more possible each win).

how crazy would an 8 seed and a miami upset be though. that would be absolutely nuts. that's the kind of scenario that grows up young players quickly. you saw that with indiana 2 years ago. chicago the year before that.

ideal to me is a top 5 pick this year and playoffs next year and onward, but I get the feeling that won't happen.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 21, 2013 3:46:40 PM

"how crazy would an 8 seed and a miami upset be though. that would be absolutely nuts."

Crazy enough to confirm the person who wrote it is insane.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Nov 21, 2013 4:46:22 PM

Bobcats cant get 4th seed. It goes to Atlantic Division: Raptors, Knicks, Nets, 76ers, or The Celtics.

Posted by: RobertKatz | Nov 21, 2013 5:40:06 PM

Don't have to worry about 8th seed. This team is looking at a 5 seed and shot at a sub par Atlantic Divsion champ.

Posted by: Skip | Nov 21, 2013 7:46:34 PM

Yo Adrian!

Posted by: Tim | Nov 21, 2013 8:30:02 PM

Everybody slowdown, 1st thing I like about this 6-6 record, is that most of the top teams on paper, are not that good.
Teams like Chicgo , New York, Brooklyn look horrible. All Bobcats gotta do, is take advantage of their lack of cohesiveness. But the time Jefferson gets really heathly we will be ready

Posted by: Rahshon Gamble | Nov 21, 2013 8:43:50 PM

You're both right. The best we can hope for is a 5th seed against the likes of Toronto. Hello, second round!

Posted by: Jeff | Nov 21, 2013 8:44:12 PM

As for the draft picks, maybe the best case scenario is we make the playoffs, which has lots of value when trying to sign a free agent next summer, and we get Detroit and Portland's picks.

I'll take it. No chance, at this rate, of getting Wiggins, Parker, or Randle anyway.

Posted by: Jeff | Nov 21, 2013 8:46:24 PM

Plus because thier are only two teams
Miami and Indiana that are a sure thing for the playoffs.
So 6 spots up for grabs

Posted by: Rahshon Gamble | Nov 21, 2013 8:57:44 PM

The Bobcats 3 point shooting is dismal. They have one of the best 3 point shooters in college last year sitting on the bench & I don't think he has played one minute this year. Would like to see Southerland get some playing time. Is he injured?

Posted by: Jim | Nov 21, 2013 9:17:51 PM

Henderson and McRoberts got 5 assists each . They're saddled w generating the offense . Kemba has 2 . Their games will be up and down until they adjust .

Posted by: Iron man | Nov 22, 2013 6:47:58 AM

FA signing...hello folks we aren't getting any top players signing with us so draft is only way to the finals.
We don't need top 3 pick just even top 8 this year would be great. I mean Emblid looks like he will be around 8-12th and he is better than almost anyone in last years draft.
Besides we are getting way ahead of ourselfs here. The following teams will improve and get ahead of us:
Knicks, Nets, Bullets to name a few. Yes they look bad now but I bet come mid season it has turned around. At all-star break I think every team not in playoff hunt will go full in and start all rookies and trade all vets to get to the bottom. If we are in playoff hunt may be a chance for us to pick up someone decent or even good.

Posted by: Season Ticket holder for now | Nov 22, 2013 9:04:34 AM

I disagree on FA's coming here. If this team shows it is improving and there is an FA that thinks he can put the team over the top, he will come. After a 7 or 21 win season I agree, but attracting players would be a side affect of a better than expected season.

Posted by: Mike T | Nov 22, 2013 11:51:03 AM

What we can hope for is big 3 get's broken up and out of our conference (that will help for the 4 losses we lock each year now).
The league will be in big flux the next few years and yes I don't think a big FA will sign here the reality is the new CBA keeps any team from really being able to afford to have 3 on a team so they all need to go somewhere.
Personally would like to get a good SG as Hendo looks horrible this year and we need a shooter to go with MKG as a driver and defender.

Posted by: Season Ticket holder for now | Nov 22, 2013 12:44:18 PM

1 - there are 70 games left. you guys are talking playoffs like it's a lot after 12 games. new york gets chandler back and that's a completely different team. brooklyn hasn't been healthy either. they won't be contenders, but they could absolutely muster out playoff spots on talent alone.

2 - there aren't hardly any free agents to sign next summer. please look at the list.....it's slim pickings. that's why we signed jefferson last summer. evan turner is probably the only option and he's going to get overpaid because of that.

if we make the playoffs, the biggest free agents of the summer will be mcroberts and sessions. don't even think about stephenson, he's staying put. greg monroe is the only other legit talent available and detroit will surely match even though they'd be better off trading him now.

we could get a salary dump trade, but who would actually help our team? joe johnson? no way.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 22, 2013 5:13:15 PM

As Houston proved last year, there is more than one way to acquire a big talent. This team is in a unique position with the cap space and picks to go after any player that could be moved. If they keep winning, it will be a more attractive destination. Keep your options open. The draft is simply one way to improve a team.

Posted by: Steven | Nov 22, 2013 5:45:10 PM

houston is a big market team. they can make a few moves and then sign a dwight howard. they can afford to overpay asik and lin knowing the assets that they are.


and the biggest piece to their puzzle harden, was acquired for a bunch of draft picks. parsons was drafted by them. jones, motiejunas, etc. draft picks. it ALL comes back to the draft.

I have ZERO faith right now that cho is capable of pulling of a harden type deal, especially considering how evan turner is just dangling out there right now just as harden was.


the way you DON'T build a franchise? drafting guys high and not developing them. that has NEVER worked.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 24, 2013 1:30:49 PM

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