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December 29, 2013

Steve Clifford raising the bar on what you should expect from the Charlotte Bobcats

Jeff and Stan Van Gundy are brothers, they’re not identical twins. I find Jeff a little more of a political animal than Stan, who doesn’t spend much time caring how others perceive him.

            But here’s the way they’re notably similar: They both will say what they think, particularly when something is going the wrong way.

            It’s pretty obvious the last week that’s one of the lessons Steve Clifford learned from the Van Gundy brothers.

            Clifford is uncomfortable with his players not entirely grasping how small this team’s margin for error is. He likes his team. He admires their character and competitiveness. But it’s apparent he thinks all the recent losing in Charlotte sets the bar too low.

            Here’s what Clifford said pre-game in Atlanta Saturday: “For us to win we have to be exceptional guarding and exceptional in rebounding.”

            Here’s what he said after they blew a 16-point lead to the Atlanta Hawks to lose in overtime: “We have to get past the point where everybody is happy the Bobcats don’t get beaten every night. We’re better than that.”

            Here’s what I find interesting: Many coaches – and this is understandable – try to lower expectations to protect their job security. Clifford doesn’t want to continue a perception that the bar is so low that any improvement is achievement.

            That’s a little edgy and daring. And very Van Gundy.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 29, 2013 at 02:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (86)

December 27, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has cast removed from broken hand

The cast has been removed from Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s broken left hand, but that doesn’t mean he can start practicing just yet.

            Kidd-Gilchrist had a doctor’s appointment Friday, where it was determined he’d healed enough that the cast could be replaced with a splint. Kidd-Gilchrist broke the hand at the base of his left ring finger during the Bobcats’ Dec. 3 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

            Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said Friday’s examination was a positive step, but that it isn’t yet safe for Kidd-Gilchrist to catch a basketball. So he’s not yet cleared to practice.

            The Bobcats are hurting for small forwards right now. They lost Jeff Taylor last week to a ruptured Achilles tendon. That injury will keep Taylor out until sometime this summer.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 27, 2013 at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

December 23, 2013

D-League spokesperson: P.J. Hairston would be eligible to play there this season

If former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston wants to play in the NBA’s Development League this season, and a D-League franchise wants to sign him, there’s nothing in the league’s rules that would preclude that.

            According to D-League spokesperson Joanna Shapiro, if a player is ruled ineligible by the NCAA (as Hairston was) and he’s at least 18 and his high school class has graduated (applicable), he’s eligible to sign a D-League contract.

            Shapiro added that once a player signs a pro contract, D-League or otherwise, he immediately becomes eligible for the NBA draft the following spring.

            Hairston has given no indication of his options, beyond a statement from a family spokesperson Friday saying he’ll address future plans sometime in the next few weeks.

            North Carolina announced last week that it would not seek Hairston’s reinstatement from the NCAA. That followed Hairston sitting out the season’s first 10 games and an investigation by both the school and the NCAA about impermissible benefits Hairston might have received.

            The investigation centered on Hairston’s use of certain rental cars over the past year.

            The Hairston family expressed displeasure that North Carolina chose not to pursue his reinstatement, effectively ending his playing career as a Tar Heel.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 23, 2013 at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

December 21, 2013

Charlotte Bobcats' Jeff Taylor lost for the season with Achilles rupture

The Charlotte Bobcats have lost small forward Jeff Taylor for the season after he suffered a rupture of his right Achilles tendon, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Observer.

            Taylor, in his second NBA season, was averaging 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds. He became a starter eight games ago after teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a broken left hand in a Dec. 3 road loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

            Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t expected back until sometime in January. Coach Steve Clifford said recently Kidd-Gilchrist will remain in a cast at least until Dec. 26, when he’ll be re-evaluated medically. Kidd-Gilchrist’s fracture is at the base of his left ring finger.

            With Taylor and Kidd-Gilchrist both out, the Bobcats’ alternatives at small forward are Anthony Tolliver and newcomer Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Bobcats can also go small, moving shooting guard Gerald Henderson to small forward in certain situations.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 21, 2013 at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

December 19, 2013

Jeff Van Gundy: Bobcats should make the playoffs and will make the playoffs

ESPN analyst, and former NBA coach, Jeff Van Gundy says the best course for the Charlotte Bobcats this season is making the playoffs, and he believes that will happen.

            Van Gundy brought Bobcats coach Steve Clifford into the NBA years ago as a scout. He watches almost all their games and says the one thing holding them back this season is a lack of shooting.

            Van Gundy doesn’t buy the theory that losing, to get into the 2014 draft lottery, is the answer.

            “They’ve had a lot of high picks,” Van Gundy said on a media conference call Thursday. “No guarantee they’re going to be stars.”

            Van Gundy said reaching the playoffs would be valuable both to the players and the organization as a whole because there is no replacing what you learn through the post-season.

            “A lot of these guys were beaten down” by two seasons of going 28-120, Van Gundy said, adding a team needs to test itself to grow.

            “There are playoff teams and then there are championship-caliber teams,” Van Gundy said. “(In the playoffs) you get to see what you need to get where you want to go.”

            The Bobcats’ only previous playoff appearance was in 2010 when they were swept by the Orlando Magic 4-0. The only current Bobcat on that roster was then-rookie Gerald Henderson, and he never played in the Magic series.

            Van Gundy said making the playoffs would be valuable to Charlotte fans as well.

            “That fan base has been beaten down, too,” Van Gundy said. “Something has to happen.”

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2013 at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Being the 6th seed -- unlikely but not crazy -- would do the Charlotte Bobcats a lot of good this transitional season

The Charlotte Bobcats absolutely should pursue the playoffs if they have a realistic chance of being the sixth seed in the East and avoiding the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers in the first round.

            Right now that’s not crazy talk. The Eastern Conference is wide-open, not in a “You might get to the conference finals” way, but in a “You have a puncher’s chance to get to the second round’ manner.

            Fans talk all the time about how the Bobcats can only be so good until they have a great player. OK, I get that. But in these times when real world gets confused with “Joe-from-Matthews-fantasy-team,” here’s what becomes trivialized: There is next to no one on this team with consequential playoff experience.

            The Bobcats’ only playoff experience was a 4-0 sweep by the Orlando Magic. The series wasn’t what it appeared, in that there were several close games. But you know how it has no lasting value? The players with serious experience in that series are long gone.

            Gerald Wallace. Stephen Jackson. Raymond Felton. To a lesser degree, Tyson Chandler. That’s who got the Bobcats into that series.

            You don’t think the Bobcats would be better if Kemba Walker was exposed to the post-season? You don’t think Gerald Henderson or Jeff Taylor would benefit? Or MKG?

            I get tired of the stale “tanking” scenarios. I watch Parker, Smart, Randle and Wiggins constantly, and here’s what comes to mind:

            When/if one of those guys becomes Adam Morrison, then what?

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2013 at 12:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

December 12, 2013

On who the Bobcats must be, and the misguided path called tanking

Some thoughts on what might have been the Charlotte Bobcats’ worst performance of a young season:

            -- The three people on this roster who might just shoot you out of a predicament were all bad tonight. Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson shot a combined 11-of-42 against the Magic.

            But, curiously, that is not why the Bobcats lost tonight. They lost because the thing that kept them bobbing around .500 disappeared: A genuine hunger to defend, then grab the ball to end a possession.

            The Bobcats gave up 14 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. That’s what gets you beat all the time against a good team. It sure got them beat against a bad team…no, a really bad team, Wednesday.

            The Bobcats – who’ve been one of the NBA’s worst rebounding teams – did a phenomenal job early-season of limiting opposing teams to one shot. Tonight they were terrible in that regard.

            The scoring/shooting issue isn’t going away. They must continue to be special defensively.

-- Tanking has become the trendiest discussion on Twitter. I don’t really get it. Sure, the 2014 draft is full of potentially good NBA players. Here’s the problem: LeBron no longer plays for Cleveland. Carmelo no longer plays for Denver. Even Chris Bosh is no longer a Raptor.

            Collectively, how many of those players won titles for the teams that drafted them? Yeah, zilch.

            -- Rookie Cody Zeller is still figuring it out, but I suspect he progressed tonight: He was 5-of-7 from the field with some moves off the ball-fake he didn’t demonstrate before.

            He’s been passive offensively (elbow jumpers are good, only elbow jumpers are not) and bad defensively. Tonight he saw that Magic bigs couldn’t match his quickness, so he got to the rim. If he has the “basketball IQ” he’s labeled to have, this will register.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 12, 2013 at 01:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (107)

December 11, 2013

Clifford tells Douglas-Roberts to be ready to play Friday vs. Pacers

The urgency involved in signing Chris Douglas-Roberts out of the Development League as an insurance policy at small forward was undeniable Wednesday.

“Friday -- that’s what I expect,” Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said, when asked when Douglas-Roberts should be ready to play.

“It’s the NBA, he knows it. When he’s in there, we’ll be careful what we run but he needs to be ready by Friday (against the Indiana Pacers).

“That’s a big part of why he’s here. I was around him for a month (as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers). He picks things up quickly. I trust him as a competitor. I told him, ‘The reason you’re here is because you may be needed, so we need you ready.’ ”

            The Bobcats signed Douglas-Roberts, a 6-7 guard-forward, out of the Development League Wednesday, waiving rookie James Southerland to create a roster spot. This was in reaction to various injuries at small forward. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand and Jeff Taylor missed Monday’s victory over the Golden State Warriors with an inflamed heel.

            Taylor played and started Wednesday against the Orlando Magic. But Clifford felt Southerland wasn’t experienced enough to play yet, so the team turned to veteran Douglas-Roberts.

            He was averaging 18.7 points this season for the Texas Legends, a development-league team run by the Dallas Mavericks. More importantly he has 161 games in the NBA since the 2008-09 season, playing stints with the Nets, Bucks and Mavericks.

            In his NBA career, Douglas-Roberts has averaged 7.5 points, shooting 44 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range.

            He said Clifford’s expectation that he be up to speed on the team’s offensive sets and defensive principles by Friday is reasonable and he’ll be ready.

“We’re professionals. Things like this happen and you have to pick things up fast,” Douglas-Roberts said in an interview before the Magic game. “This isn’t college anymore. You’re in the NBA for a reason, and you have to pick up sets. A lot of the sets are (familiar) they’re just called” different names.

            Clifford got to know Douglas-Roberts at Lakers training camp before Douglas-Roberts was cut last fall.

            “He has toughness and experience,” said Clifford. “We needed someone who could compete in a game as needed. He can do that.”

            Since the Bobcats were already at the NBA maximum 15 players, someone had to be waived for the team to sign Douglas-Roberts. Southerland, who went undrafted last June, was the logical choice if he wasn’t ready to play and wasn’t owed any guaranteed money.

            But Clifford emphasized this decision doesn’t reflect negatively on Southerland.

            “He was brought in as a developmental player. We like him a lot,” Clifford said. “Nothing he did he could have done better. We just needed someone more ready to play.”

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2013 at 06:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson could have a big night, based on last season versus the Magic

No one is using the word “slump” in connection to Charlotte Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson lately, and with good reason.

            After shooting “terribly” (his word) the first couple of weeks of the season, Henderson has been marvelous the last five games. He’s averaged 18.8 points on 51 percent shooting from the field and 79 percent from the foul line.

            There’s every reason to think that will continue tonight, when you consider the opponent: The Orlando Magic, losers of six in a row.

            Henderson had some of his best games last season in the four-game series against the Magic. He averaged 22.8 points on 55 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and 89 percent shooting from the foul line. And he averaged over six free-throw attempts per game.

            A big factor in that productivity: Arron Afflalo of the Magic seemed utterly incapable of guarding Henderson, particularly when the Bobcats posted up Henderson. Afflalo just couldn’t physically keep Henderson away from his preferred spots to catch the ball, and often ended up fouling to give Henderson 3-point play opportunities.

            What happens tonight? The Magic could instead guard Henderson with rookie Victor Oladipo. But at minimum Afflalo’s struggles defensively is an invitation for the Bobcats to use Henderson as much at small forward tonight as at shooting guard. Because Afflalo has to guard someone…or at least try.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2013 at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Bobcats' Steve Clifford on Chris Douglas-Roberts: "Toughness, experience...We needed someone who could compete in a game as needed"

Rookie James Southerland did nothing to disappoint the Charlotte Bobcats. He just wasn’t ready to play now, and that’s what the Bobcats need.

            Bobcats coach Steve Clifford confirmed at morning shootaround what the Observer and other media outlets reported overnight: That the Bobcats are waiving Southerland to bring in Chris Douglas-Roberts, a 6-7 swingman with over 160 games of NBA experience.

            Douglas-Roberts is averaging 18.7 points this season for the Texas Legends, a development-league team run by the Dallas Mavericks. He has 161 games in the NBA since the 2008-09 season, playing stints with the Nets, Bucks and Mavericks.

            In his NBA career, Douglas-Roberts has averaged 7.5 points, shooting 44 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range.

            Injuries have beset the Bobcats at the small forward position. They lost starter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a broken hand last week that will keep him out 4-6 weeks.  Jeff Taylor missed the victory Monday over the Golden State Warriors with a heel injury, but is expected to play tonight against the Orlando Magic.

            Those injury concerns were at the base of the Bobcats moving toward veteran Douglas-Roberts with the 15th roster spot.

            “He has toughness and experience,” said Clifford, who worked with Douglas-Roberts as a Los Angeles Lakers assistant in training camp last fall. “We needed someone who could compete in a game as needed. He can do that.”

            Since the Bobcats were already at the NBA maximum 15 players, someone had to be waived for the team to sign Douglas-Roberts. Southerland, who went undrafted last June, was the logical choice if he wasn’t ready to play and wasn’t owed any guaranteed money.

            But Clifford emphasized this decision doesn’t reflect negatively on Southerland at all.

            “He was brought in as a developmental player. We like him a lot,” Clifford said. “Nothing he did he could have done better. We just needed someone more ready to play.”

            -- On the injury front, Clifford expects Taylor will play tonight, but the Bobcats will have to closely monitor how his left foot is feeling, relative to how many minutes he can put in tonight against the Magic.

            Center Bismack Biyombo (right ankle sprain) won’t play against the Magic, but Clifford said he’s hopeful Biyombo will be available Friday night for the road game against the East-leading Indiana Pacers.

            -- Tonight is the Bobcats’ first chance to win a game this season within the Southeast Division. The Bobcats are 0-3 (two losses to the Miami Heat, one to the Atlanta Hawks) so far.

            The Magic has been dreadful of late, on a six-game losing streak. One interesting side note tonight is the mini-reunion of rookies Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, Indiana teammates who went top-four in June’s draft.

            Oladipo starts at shooting guard for the Magic, averaging 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Zeller is the backup power forward for the Bobcats, averaging 5.0 points and 4.1 rebounds.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

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