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December 10, 2013

Defense was big first half and Zeller sure needs to get bigger, stronger

Some post-game thoughts on the Charlotte Bobcats’ 115-111 victory over the Golden State Warriors:

            -- It might sound odd for me to talk defense first on a night when they gave up a season-high 111 points, but no way they win this game without that first half (35 percent shooting and 41 points by the Warriors). They did it without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Bismack Biyombo.

            As in two of their best three wing defenders and their best rim-protector being injured. Against perhaps the most diverse collection of scorers in the NBA.

            Gerald Henderson played like this was personal for him, and this team can benefit from that attitude. Kemba Walker singled out the seldom-used Anthony Tolliver for how precisely he gave help and got back to his man. And there’s this:

            Eight days ago someone asked Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to describe the difference in the Bobcats. He said they always played hard, but now they’re organized. Yeah…Clifford.

            -- There was a cool willfulness in the way Walker played in the fourth quarter, scoring the Bobcats’ last 15 points. They needed every one the way Stephen Curry did so much in the second half to try to steal a win.

            Walker and Henderson keep reminding me they’re sick of losing. Not in a phony slogan way, but as if to codify what they’re thinking internally. Talent is great and all, but these guys care about their teammates in a way that is genuine.

            -- Glad for Ben Gordon that he had a decent game (12 points, 4-of-9 from the field and his first made 3 of the season). When Gordon has two steals and no turnovers, it’s a good night.

            -- Speaking of turnovers, the Bobcats totaled a season-low seven. If you’re going to beat a team with as many offensive weapons as the Warriors, you better not give them extra possessions.

            -- I get why fans want to see the No. 4 overall pick play. But the gap in production at power forward between starter Josh McRoberts and rookie Cody Zeller is wide right now.

McRoberts finished with 11 points off 4-of-7, 10 rebounds and six assists (and one turnover). Zeller had five points, three rebounds and one assist, and shot 2-of-5. Also, those numbers don’t describe what in some ways is Zeller’s biggest liability: At this point he gets thrown around physically on defense like he’s filled with hay. He needs to get a lot stronger.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 10, 2013 at 12:27 AM | Permalink


Steve Clifford appears to be a solid coach. The Cats are respectable and that says a lot.

Posted by: Airbrush2020 | Dec 10, 2013 3:56:23 AM

"McBob" and Zeller are both a waste of time. One will probably be stuck with the team a little longer. Both can't play defense btw.

It's nice to see Henderson play with an edge and some aggression. If only he could consistently make his jumpers.

Walker is undeniably the best offensive player on this team. He was slumping the past couple months because of the shoulder injury he took against the Knicks. Glad to see him bounce back tonight.

Posted by: D.W.G. | Dec 10, 2013 6:57:32 AM

Team was undermanned and beat the Warriors. Should have closed out the Heat and Mavs on the road. They are much better than I thought they would be. Maybe a little too good this year.

Posted by: Nick | Dec 10, 2013 7:43:12 AM

Zeller is tired and overwhelmed. He worked hard to get drafted, worked hard for us during the summer league, and then took extra reps at Center throughout training camp when Big Al and Haywood were out... He hasnt had a chance to catch his breath and enjoy the scenery! I still think he will be the best Charlotte Hornet in 5 years. I just wish he would drive more from the top of the key. He was so good at making decisions in the lane over the summer, by either taking it up for a shot, foul, or passing out to open shooter. Next season I would begin to start Zeller over Mcbob- he will post at least 15pts and 10 rebs at some point in his career, his skill set speed and size are undeniable.

Posted by: RobertKatz | Dec 10, 2013 8:34:43 AM

Zeller is McBob in the making only with more upside. He'll be fine if the team sticks with him and (yes) if he adds some strength. I understand he values his speed, and he does have excellent lateral quickness for covering stretch 4's and for recovering on switches, but I don't think 10 extra pounds of muscle will change that. The thing is he needs to add the weight and muscle gradually during the season, which is tough, then over the summer.

He'll show improvement in his second year and be as good as McBob in his third. If we don't have the patience with him, Indiana will.

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 10, 2013 9:41:53 AM

the only difference between zeller and a stud 4 is that zeller gets zero calls. part of being a rookie. he gets those calls, guys can't be throwing him to the floor all the time and getting away with it. dude takes a beating every night and it's just part of the nature of NBA officiating.

but anybody questioning his talent is off base. as for his size....he's 21, he won't fill out entirely for a few more years. the plays he IS making are impressive. like the fast break block the other day after he got his pocket picked. guy is a player.

henderson and walker blanked out last night. henderson 1st half, walker 2nd half. these stat keepers LOVE ramon sessions. he had 2 turnovers in a row in the 2nd quarter and they credit him with 1 for the game. I KNOW that's not accurate. pocket picked by curry and immediately fouled by jeff adrien and the play right before that he threw the ball out of bounds. I know i'm not imagining these things. it's every game. the guy has been nowhere near as good this year as last.

and ben gordon had the ugliest solid stat line I've seen.

we gotta start losing these kinda games though. seriously. good to know we have some guys that can play at a high level, but we need one more crack at a potential superstar. making the playoffs with a sub .500 record is not an accomplishment. just makes the team look like the dumbest guys in the room.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 10, 2013 10:17:43 AM

Great game last night!! Interesting it was fairly empty and no big roars for Curry like in years past. You wouldn't have known he was ever from here. Was strange.

Gerald- when he plays hard and is on he is awesome!! He has potential to be borderline all-star if he consistently plays with that energy.
McRoberts vs Zeller: Josh is so much better. Its not even close. The bag of hay is spot on for Zeller. That draft class is looking horrid. Oh by the way Cho was really hip on Bennett. So Zeller is a hero compared to that.
Walker- looked really good and solid. He was passing more last night
Speaking of passing: this team (even Ramon and Ben now) actually look to pass the ball. The past 3 seasons they hadn't.
Tolliver: was actually solid enough considering he is 3rd string.
Big Al: he is starting to gel as is team around him.

Overall this year's team is exciting and games are fun!! We will make the playoffs and win 35 games is my guess.
Give up our pick but bet we get the other 2 we are owed.

Posted by: Season Ticket holder for now | Dec 10, 2013 10:29:24 AM

Were is brandon haywood?? Zeller just need to make the officials give him a call by showing them he is not a nice guy & get a tech maybe even get kicked out a game for letn them have it. do this & i bet they start giving him calls

Posted by: tre'4boi | Dec 10, 2013 11:01:31 AM

^^^^^^ right.....because stephen jackson got tons of calls going that route.

he's played tough, he's respected among his peers....he'll get calls when he's not a rookie. and when he isn't on a mediocre-bad team. but again, that dude is a PLAYER.

haywood is out until january.

the past 3 seasons they didn't pass the ball? almost none of these guys were here 3 years ago. gerald and........? stephen silas? stephens an effing ballhog right?!

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 10, 2013 12:02:49 PM

These guys are ready, willing, and able to win now. I wouldn't want to squash that out of them even for the pick. We have to lose it eventually anyway, and there's no way we could be bad enough this year (with the race to the bottom competition out there) to score a top 3 pick anyway. What about pulling off a trade to land a 2012 first round pick, specifically Jeremy Lamb?

OKC sounds open to trading him for a veteran who can provide more consistent contributions off the bench. Their timetable is different from ours as they have a chance win it all this year, so why not pick up a guy with tons of upside like Lamb who has already shown himself to be a solid three point shooter? In a couple years when we're ready for a run, he'll be ready too.

I like Sessions a lot, and I think he gives the bench a nice boost, but his contract is expiring anyway. What about a trade of Sessions for Lamb? Then we use our pick from Detroit, assuming it falls to us, to land a backup point guard who can shoot the the three. With Kemba, the draft pick, Lamb, and Taylor all capable of shooting the three, Henderson playing like a Kobe in training, our young bigs benefiting from additional time to develop, and our veteran bigs providing a consistent anchor, we should be in a great position when the Hornets come back to town. Throw in a good free agent signing, and we might just have a contender.

Throw in James (heck we'd have a better supporting cast next year than Miami, Cleveland, or LA) and we'll be champions.

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 10, 2013 12:58:25 PM

Players play to win - or they shouldn't be in this league. Coaches want to win. Fans want to see their team doing its very best, and enjoy more than anything else beating good teams, like the Warriors. Fans also get disgusted when their team doesn't play hard, and loses winnable games.

Only the management of a few teams is tanking on purpose. This season, only the Bucks and the Jazz are really sinking to the bottom of the league. Besides them, the Sixers and the Celtics were arguably built to tank. The Raptors' management may be doing this now, though with them it's more complicated. They wanted to win now, they traded for and overpaid Rudy Gay, they saw that doesn't take them very far, and they traded him.
That may result in tanking, but it wasn't their original goal for this season. They corrected a mistake they made last season.

Playing NBA basketball is one thing, playing the NBA lottery is a different one. There is absolutely no reason for a fan to even bother to watch his team if he doesn't root for it. You might as well read the scores, get angry when they win and celebrate every loss.
Do you watch to see how the young players develop? Well, they really develop only if they play hard and play to win. E.g., this is what they Hendo and Kemba did last night. They were capable of playing a great game because they wanted to win (Rick reported on this). But it looks like that's what you DON'T want to see this season.

Tanking and an addiction to the NBA lottery are foreign to the nature of a sports competition, and are unnecessary too.
Teams that get repeatedly high lottery picks don't necessarily become contenders.
On the other hand, there are all the various other ways of improving a team. These should be well known, so there is no need for me to start repeating this stuff now.

Posted by: Sandy | Dec 10, 2013 12:59:46 PM

Jeff, sure there are different ways of upgrading the roster, and I think we need some tweaking, some additions to what we have - not a major overhaul.
But "throw in James" ?!! Sorry, that doesn't belong to the many different realistic options.

Posted by: Sandy | Dec 10, 2013 1:09:59 PM

it's about logic. we could be the 5th seed in the east with a team that's the 20th best in the league. Why would you not want to lose 2 more games and be picking 7th instead?

Jeff you might want to brush up on how the lottery works.....we can be 14th and end up picking 1-3. the hornets did it when they got baron davis and that was a HUGE boost to turning them into a contender the last few years they were here before davis and mashburn got hurt leading them into the paul/chandler/west era.

I would be all about jeremy lamb. what veteran do we have to offer? sessions? salaries don't match up.

top 6 picks are wiggins, parker, randle, exum, smart, embiid in no order. let me know in 3 years when these guys AREN'T absolute studs. Exum might be the best of the bunch and he might go as low as 7th.

we pick 6-10 we're either getting somebody that was passed on because everyone overthought it (a la andre drummond) or we get a talent that would be a top 3 pick in any average draft but now becomes a late top 10 pick because of the talent boost.

drafting michael jordan wins championships
drafting kobe bryant wins championships
drafting dirk nowitzki wins a championship
drafting isiah thomas wins championships
drafting magic johnson wins championships

you can ALWAYS sign and trade for mid level guys and make the playoffs. ALWAYS. this is the LAST year we should be accumulating talent from the draft for a WHILE. but because we aren't developing the young guys we have and we're giving away our pick to chicago.......we're going to get scraps in this draft, lose value on our previous 3 drafts, and ultimately be rebuilding again in 2 years when cho gets fired and someone else gets hired after another 1st round sweep.

what is it you guys want? you want mediocrity? that's what you strive for in life?

I'm not pro-tank in the sense that you go against your plans in order to lose or you waste the season entirely in order to lose.
but winning games with guys on 1 year contracts isn't helping either. not playing young guys up isn't helping.

we're going nowhere fast. we can't look at any position on the roster besides MAYBE the 3 and feel like we have a player that will be top 5 at that position within the next 5 years.

walker/henderson/MKG/mcroberts/jefferson is eeeeeeeeeeerily similar to felton/jackson/wallace/diaw/chandler(really mohammed/ratliff)

I mean eeeeeeeeeerily similar. you can't possibly think those are the horses that are gonna win anything real.

if they were 15-6 or 14-7 i'd feel different. but they are far more likely to finish below .500 in the 6th seed. somebody with a brain please explain how that is a good thing. to be both bad AND without a draft pick in a great draft.

please answer THAT.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 10, 2013 1:25:41 PM

No question we need a superstar for this cast of players to be better than the last Bobcats team that made it to the playoffs. That team, however, was older and more expensive than this one and didn't play as solid defense. Those things matter because a superstar wants 1) max money, 2) the ability to win for a long time, and 3) guys who are willing to defend around him.

With Gordon and Sessions coming off the books, we will have max money. Rather than playing the lottery and hoping we beat the odds and get a a top 3 pick even though we're the 13th or 14th worst team, why not make a statement and convince a superstar that, if we can make the playoffs and maybe even win a round without him, we can win it all with him?

Why not convince a superstar to take our max money instead of max money from Cleveland (not winning) or LA (aging) or Miami (aging) or New York (dysfunctional, two dimensional)?

Last time I checked, James made it pretty clear that he wanted to go down as the greatest of all time. If he comes to Jordan's team and makes Jordan's playing years a memory by turning a small market team with zero championships into a perennial championship team, he will go down as the best ever.

Otherwise, he will never surpass Jordan's legacy.

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 10, 2013 1:53:40 PM

- Projections for "absolute studs": that's what Michael Olowokandi was expected to be. He wasn't a "cat in a sack", like Kwame B. The Candy man proved something in college ... and then? Greg Oden, another 1st pick overall; with him, it's not his fault, injuries wrecked his career.
Or, maybe Bernie Bickerstaff was right and we should've used our 3rd pick overall in 2006 for Brandon Roy. Portland did. What happened next?
Can we check now the injured lists of 2015 (or '16) ?

These are only a few examples of busted high expectations. Moral of the story: don't build too much on the draft.
Especially, don't lose on purpose for the sake of the draft. You only have the certainty of the self-inflicted losing.

Evidently, anybody can get burnt after getting a new player, NOT from the draft only; it can happen with traded players, or free agents signed as well.

My point is NOT that you should prevent such disappointments (which is impossible), but that you should NOT make sure you lose, for some iffy prospects. You need to plan for improving in the future, but not at the price of wrecking your present (because, when you're tanking, losing now is the only certainty, while the future results are not under your control).

- Hooray for the Cavaliers, they kept getting lucky in the Draft. They really got some talented young players. Didn't they pick very well, for Kyrie? Wasn't Bennett expected to be a "stud" , based on college performance? They did so well in drafts, that they aren't planning to tank this season.
They also own a worse record than the Cats.

Do the newspapers of 2016 or 2017 say that they will certainly be contenders then? I had no chance to read them yet, so I really don't know...

- How did Utah get a real stud, like Enes Kanter (3rd overall in 2011)? They traded up in the draft, no tanking was involved for this high pick. (One among many examples of trading up. More smashing ones are the trades for the draft picks that became Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant)

- Trades have their ways of being unpredictable. People keep making their own scenarios, rumors are always swirling around, and then the unexpected trades are often those that actually happen.

Again, with our talent we don't need a major roster overhaul, just some smart additions, and I can bet these will take place in the '14 and '15 offseasons. Maybe through the draft picks owed to us, maybe by trading up in the draft, maybe through other trade(s).
Don't forget free agency. We only have $40 mil. in salary commitments for next season.

This shows just what I said in my previous post: our roster won't stay the same, there are various way of upgrading (and with few smart changes we can be at the next level in the East, while this season we could already get in the playoffs, even in the 5th or 6th spot). On the other hand, no draft pick is a guarantee for the future.
We can continue improving without any sick tanking.

- - -

The above was all about calculations. It's not the only important thing. At least equally important, or actually more important, is the issue of values.

The first paragraph in my previous post was about values, about what people (players, coaches, fans) care about in the real NBA (not just in future projections), regardless of any calculations.

Even if your calculations had any degree of certainty (which they can't have), losing on purpose is still unacceptable. I mentioned before that this is contrary to the nature of a sports competition. I posted earlier in this season a comment about love of the game and respect for the game - on what they mean and on their being inconsistent with any losing on purpose.

If you don't care about these values, or if you think your calculations are more important and those values can be put on hold, I have no way and no wish to change your mind.
All I can say is that in the real world there is a real, instinctive, attachment to these values. It's unconditional (not depending on any calculations) and it's always present (not put on hold).

"Players play to win - or they shouldn't be in this league. Coaches want to win. Fans want to see their team doing its very best, and enjoy more than anything else beating good teams, like the Warriors. Fans also get disgusted when their team doesn't play hard, and loses winnable games."

I'm glad our management is out of the tanking mode, and back to respect for the game.

Posted by: Sandy | Dec 10, 2013 3:43:35 PM

"drafting dirk nowitzki wins a championship"

Dallas traded for Dirk.

I you are ANYTHING...

...you are definitively "PRO TANK" in the fullest measure of the term!!

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Dec 10, 2013 4:31:43 PM

"....and makes Jordan's playing years a memory by turning a small market team with zero championships into a perennial championship team, he will go down as the best ever.

Otherwise, he will never surpass Jordan's legacy."

This is one of the best I've seen in a while!

So, your scenario is the ONLY one in which Lebron can surpass Air Minimum huh?!?

Can't make this stuff up folks...

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Dec 10, 2013 7:17:05 PM

The only one. And time shall prove it so.

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 10, 2013 8:13:48 PM

jeff you are delusional if you think we are going to get a max level player who is actually worth max money to sign here instead of stay where they are or go elsewhere.

we got jefferson by giving him more money than other teams.

and we aren't the 13th or 14th worst team. whoever is the last team out in the east will have a top 10 pick. the west will very likely have 4 teams out with better records than ALL of the eastern conference teams out and even some of the playoff seeds. the east is top heavy with miami and indiana looking like 2 60+ win juggernauts. the west is loaded with a ton of 45-50 win teams.

make the playoffs means picking 15th-20th based on seeding. not making the playoffs means 1-10. it's not a "crap shoot", it's a worst case scenario 9 or 10 with something in the area of 25% chance of a top 3 pick.

and we aren't talking about losing many more games to get there. we're talking about the difference of 2 or 3 games. 35 wins or 38 wins might be the difference between top 10 draft and 7 seed in the east.

and you might want to look up the list of potential free agents in this offseason. there are none unless you think miami is going to break up a back to back (to back) champion team or you think carmello would at all be interested in charlotte (almost as delusional as lebron).

the closest thing after that is greg monroe and evan turner who are both RESTRICTED free agents and playing great. monroe won't get traded and they'll match deals for him up to any reasonable over payment. turner is obtainable NOW but our front office doesn't have the balls to go after a guy like him who could easily be the franchise guy for 10 years and would fit PERFECTLY alongside kemba and MKG.

explain to me what AVAILABLE options there are that beat a 25% chance at a surefire superstar franchise player and a 100% chance at a top 10 talent in one of the most loaded drafts ever. explain it to me.

i agree about this team being younger (although slightly) but let's keep in mind the older team won 45 games that year and this team isn't doing that without a whole lot of help from the tanking crowd. i do not agree about this team being way better defensively and that's mostly because of the experience. henderson is no doubt better than jackson skill wise, but jackson had better size. diaw was a better defender than mcroberts and tyson chandler OR nazr mohammed OR 95 year old theo ratliff were all better than jefferson defensively. young MKG who gets no calls vs. all-star wallace, wallace wins every time but of course I think MKG is actually better long term. walker vs. felton a wash. felton size offsets walker skill.

there's no doubt this team has more longevity than that team, but the point is....if we're leaning on the older guys and not developing the young guys, there's no difference.

that team had augustin, henderson, ajinca, tyrus thomas, derrick brown. how many of them were developed properly? how did that turn out?

obviously with injuries to MKG, taylor, and biz, our hand is forced momentarily....but when those guys are healthy......they should be played up. and zeller should be getting more 2nd team touches. the franchise only gets better if they get better. the good franchises develop their young talent. that's how they get better.

look at indiana, look at houston, look at san antonio, look at OKC, even miami with chalmers, and cole and haslem and wade.

that top 10 pick holds way more value than playoff seed with a losing record this year.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 11, 2013 10:45:02 AM

The young Bobcats are getting plenty of playing time. The problem in the second unit is that they are not getting enough touches and scoring opportunities. When given a chance, Zeller showed some desire and promise tonight.

Competing to win games helps guys develop because they're playing in real, contested games. So that we have some veterans who help us compete and win some games isn't the problem. The pick is, of course, valuable, but this year it's almost going to be as hard to lose games in bunches as to win them.

What we really need to decide is the personnel direction for the team. What type of team do we want to put on the floor every night to establish an identity and develop our young talent?

Sessions' game is predicated upon driving to the basket and finishing or getting fouled, not focusing on setting guys up as indicated by his three assists a game, but he can help you win some games this way. Gordon's game is coming off screens and taking threes or (if the defender bights) driving to score. Both of these guys have expiring contracts and could help a team contending to win now. If you don't think we're going to land Carmelo or Lebron with all that cap space, then why not consider trading Gordon and/or Sessions for bad contracts, so long as they expire in 2015, and draft picks?

Whether we're competing for the playoffs or for the draft, I think the theory should be go big. If you think your market is not ready to attract max quality guys, then the kind of move we made by absorbing Gordon's contract for a draft pick is the way to go.

Build through a combination of collecting draft picks AND establishing a winning identity as we launch the Hornets.

If we go this route, we can go out and compete every night, grow, and not have to fret about the potential of losing one pick.

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 12, 2013 12:53:11 AM

And there's a pretty obvious trade out there that could accomplish this goal, though it'd require taking on one extra year than I'd like.

The Celtics, unlike the Cats, might have reason, because of their history, to think they can attract a true max money guy; they have some burdensome contracts they might like to unload, and they are stacked with first round picks that look very promising. Why not help them create some additional cap room?

Why not trade Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions for Gerald Wallace and Brandon Bass AND a first and second round draft pick?

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 12, 2013 1:07:15 AM

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