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December 04, 2013

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has his flaws, but losing him is a big blow to defense

DALLAS – This was a big hit. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken hand, and for all his offensive limitations, he’s pretty important to why the Charlotte Bobcats were bobbing along around .500.

That fracture, along the ring finger of MKG’s left hand, figures to sideline him for weeks. Yeah, I heard the jokes – that it wasn’t Michael’s shooting hand because he doesn’t have one – but defense is the Bobcats’ thing these days and he’s arguably their best defender.

Over the past month, when you asked first-year coach Steve Clifford why this team has been so good, so quickly, on defense, here’s the reply: That wing players Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Gerald Henderson can all guard without needing much help. Clifford says the Bobcats don’t have an elite rim-protector (which might imply his misgivings about Bismack Biyombo) so they need serious perimeter defense.

The Bobcats are really good defensively – 11 games in a row of holding opponents under 100 points. The dirty little secret in that is they must be that good defensively. They’re sure not going to outscore many teams shooting 41 percent and averaging 89.2 points.

So what happens from here? Jeff Taylor is obviously the new starter, but it’s ironic that he didn’t play a single minute in the second half, even with MKG out. Anthony Tolliver (long, smart, 3-point range, but…) played 26 minutes overall and 17 in the second half.

Tolliver works at small forward only when the opposing team has a bigger, slower 3 (Shawn Marion Tuesday). So on those nights when an opponent goes small (most backup small forwards are basically shooting guards), you’ll logically see Henderson shifting over to the 3 and Ramon Sessions or Ben Gordon picking up minutes at shooting guard.

But the defense took a hit Tuesday, and that was really the one thing that got you excited about the Bobcats’ first month.

Some other thoughts:

-- Gordon played 13 minutes Tuesday: 2-of-8 from the field for four points. I respect that Gordon has been shelved for so long that rust was inevitable. But since Clifford offered him minutes, he’s 4-of-16. He isn’t a defender or a ball-mover. He’s got to make shots.

-- Rookie Cody Zeller had some decent moments guarding Dirk Nowitzki, not being overpowered physically and contesting jump shots. But in 18 minutes he made one of five shots from the field. Remember when Zeller was out-athleting everyone at summer league? There’s a reason November doesn’t resemble July in the NBA.

-- Ramon Sessions was bad Tuesday: 1-of-9 from the field, and got to the foul line only four times in 21 minutes. He had two turnovers. But if you read my Twitter feed, you’d think he was the worst basketball player in NBA history.

-- The Bobcats should have won one of these two road games. They were very frustrated by how poorly they managed that lead in Miami, but they did pretty much the same thing in Dallas.


Posted by Observer Sports on December 4, 2013 at 01:44 AM | Permalink


The Bobcats are a boring team to watch on offense. No rhythm. No swagger. No reliable scorer.

What I've noticed is that it's not the Cat's playing better defense. It's them being so terrible on offense, it brings the other team down in scoring too. The turnovers, the jacking up shots, the bad decision making all carries over to the other team and drags the games out.

And MKG is a bust. He's worthless on offense, just like Biyombo. The youth excuse is getting old. There are players in their early 20's putting up good numbers and more reliable on offense.

Posted by: D.W.G. | Dec 4, 2013 6:20:40 AM

They are very boring this year and still not much improved. I hope this year in the draft they can get a scorer. The lead scorer by commitee isn't going to take you far.

We are much improved on defense this year. However, I'm starting to wonder if this team (Cho assembled) will be any better than a 5-6 seed. Which is what I thought we/MJ didn't want to see happen again.

Posted by: Timmy | Dec 4, 2013 7:42:33 AM

I agree with Rick that the defense has looked good this year. How else could we be talking about playoffs when we have the worst scoring team in the league. I like the team that we have with the exception that we need a couple of consistent outside shooters that we can bring in at the end of games when the other team packs the lane and starts making some of their outside shots (Bosh, Dirk, Ellis). The only outside shooter that we have is Ben Gordon and he is 2-for-8, which is not what I would consider a consistent outside shooter.

Posted by: MJ | Dec 4, 2013 8:25:09 AM

There has never been a more important time to trade Gordon. We must find a guy who WANTS to be here and wants to play in the role the coach decides. Ben has been crying about his minutes/role since he got off the jet. He is poison for this young team. If our season rests on his shoulders, we are in very good shape for a top three lottery pick.

Posted by: Go Cats! | Dec 4, 2013 8:32:33 AM

Can anyone explain the laid back attitude from Clifford when we are getting these bad calls late in the game? Twice in crucial possessions, Kemba gets run over, with no call made. Another time Hendo is dunking a missed foul shot, and they call a player control foul. Both cases should have coach in the ears of the officials, but both times he just turned his back and went to work. I know that arguing rarely gets the call corrected, but in a league where the "make up call" is the norm, he needs to voice some...any frustration. It can't hurt!

Posted by: Go Cats! | Dec 4, 2013 8:35:53 AM

@GoCats! : Anger and attitude are the ingredients for a technical foul which could have put the Mavs up by more! You could argue that a response from Cliff would have inspired the Cats to play harder, but at the end of the game on the road against Dirk they were already playing with a lot intensity... The refs get together and watch every call they made after the game several times to clarify theirs good calls and bad calls to the league office... those kemba fouls will probably get reported... By not showing anger and disgust he is building a controlled reputation and respect of the game that refs tend to side with more over time... so the make up calls should come over time when refs see that he does not argue their every decision, and respects their difficult positions.

Posted by: RobertKatz | Dec 4, 2013 9:14:57 AM

I think Dion Waiters would be a nice addition to this team

Posted by: spaceman mike | Dec 4, 2013 9:22:40 AM

are you kidding? waiters is an absolute disaster of a teammate. we have a good group here, that you don't want to eff with.

the losing is a good thing right now to put us back in play for a top 6 pick.

clifford watched sessions and gordon just absolutely sabotage a lead built by others and then he subbed everyone out except them. the guy is good with strategy, but personnel - he is clearly not. how many airballs did they combine for? i think they credited monta ellis for a block on one of them where he came NOWHERE near blocking it but gordon was so far short that they just assumed he did. 4 turnovers and 4 airballs between them? awesome job guys, let's give you all more minutes so you can get better contract offers this summer from other teams. that will help us build our talent base up for next year. good job coach.

there is absolutely no reason why gordon, tolliver, adrien, sessions should be eating up minutes that should be going to biz, zeller, taylor, mkg. even mcroberts and jefferson should be playing no more than ~32.

if we don't develop the talent we have, we'll look like utah - who sat their 2 bigs for a couple of years and look how that's paying off. there's no reason to think that we are in position to contend this year so why is he playing the games like larry brown used to?

somebody needs to check this guy because he's ruining the future of the franchise over one mediocre season where a sub .500 team might be a 5 seed in the east. next year we should be thinking about playoffs. this year we should still be thinking about development.

and with MKG out......that shouldn't mean an overdose of gordon and tolliver, that should mean henderson and taylor playing 36 per game. it should mean walker playing 36 per game. these guys are young.

it should also mean MKG and mark price in a gym for a month. can't hitch with one hand. perfect opportunity to fix that if that's what they're wanting to do. i'm perfectly okay with the kid having an ugly jumper for the rest of his life, but if it's going to increase everybody's confidence in him FIX IT ALREADY. he hurt his left hand, not his shooting hand. perfect opportunity there.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 4, 2013 9:52:42 AM

go cats,

there were a TON of bad calls against dallas, but they went both ways. miami gets the lebron calls, but there's nothing anybody can do about that unfortunately. disgusting to watch how bad nba refs are compared to college though. even high school refs tend to be better than NBA refs. a lot of them are just too old, too stubborn, and too friendly with certain players.

i vomit when i see guys like jefferson doing the old veteran move of playing up the refs. then he turns around and gets a complete fantom foul called. their re-emphasis on traveling has them calling several delay moves where the player DOES NOT change or pickup the pivot foot but because it's unorthodox, they blow the whistle. they miss PLENTY of times where players casually change pivot foot or like on marion's fast break where he was bobbling the ball while running which constitutes a travel at every level of the game. doesn't matter if he's holding the ball, if it doesn't hit the floor OR ANOTHER PLAYER while the guy takes 4 steps, it's traveling. by definition.

i like monta ellis a lot more in dallas than I ever have before. good fit for him and he looks like he's actually playing good basketball now as opposed to just stat stuffing.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 4, 2013 9:58:27 AM

CLTN, I think I remember Price having a broken wrist while at Ga Tech, maybe he knows some good drills for MKG.

Posted by: Go Cats! | Dec 4, 2013 10:33:54 AM

We should have pulled the trigger on shipping Hendo and acquiring Ellis. Hendo is what he has been his entire career, and Ellis is an All-Star. Dumb.

Posted by: Go Cats! | Dec 4, 2013 10:38:47 AM

@ Go Cats!

Can you tell me when has Monta Ellis been an All-Star? Monta is one of the most inneficient scorer in the history of the NBA, that is the reason why no-one other than the "Free-Spending" Mark Cuban, was willing to throw any money at him. Can he score...yes...however, the collateral damage is way to big, unless you have a Dirk Nowitzki on your team.

Posted by: RobC | Dec 4, 2013 10:56:53 AM

ESPN (see link below), mentoned a hypothetical deal, between contenders and tankers. While I hate the trade suggested with the Rockets, I actually really like the suggested trade with the Clippers.

Bobcats get Reggie Bullock
Clippers get Jeff Adrien

Bullock can score in bunches, if given the minutes and Haywood should be coming back soon, providing another big guy presence. Jeff Adrien can be resigned in the summer if necessary. Then try to trade or buy-out Ben Gordon and save some money.


Posted by: RobC | Dec 4, 2013 11:02:24 AM

Ellis will be an All-Star this season. He showed why last night.

Posted by: Go Cats! | Dec 4, 2013 11:22:17 AM

Heywood is not an effective center at this point in his career. He will be god for 8-10 minutes a game, if that. Don't look for any marked improvement with his return.

I don't see Adrien in a man for man trade for Bullock. Makes no sense for the Clippers.

Posted by: Go Cats! | Dec 4, 2013 11:26:11 AM

Good post Robert Katz.

Feel bad for MKG. Terrible break (no pun intended). Hopefully he can find a way to use the downtime productively.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Dec 4, 2013 11:43:47 AM

I read last year an excellent, well documented, article on a basketball web site (and I'm sorry I didn't save the link) about attempts to change a player's shot. Briefly, the conclusion was: "leave it alone, or chances are you'll make things worse".

For a professional player - we're not talking about children who are just learning - changing his shooting manner takes YEARS - (not months, certainly not a month) and it's not successful usually.

The worst thing that can be done to a player is to make him self-conscious about his shot. He - and I mean MKG or ANY other player - needs to let it fly instinctively, not to think about the correct form of doing it. Again, changing the shot until the new form becomes instinctive can take years.

The best thing is to have the player practicing a lot, and shooting whichever way he is COMFORTABLE with, not thinking how to do it like Ray Allen.

It worked for Shawn Marion (who has the funniest looking shot in the history of the NBA) for a whole long, successful career. It will have to work for MKG too. Success rate depends a lot on eye/hand coordination too (not just on shooting form), and that's something you can't teach anyway. And, it takes practice, practice, practice.

- - -

I see no reason for ranting against Ben Gordon, though it seems to be the most fashionable thing in town to do right now.
He was focused, he was playing with determination, but he was as rusty as can be. What would anybody expect, after he didn't play 15 out of 19 games?
Ben Gordon is a 40% career 3 point shooter.

Of course youth development prevails over his 3 point shooting. That (and defense) is why he was in deep freeze all this time.
But as long as Kidd Gilchrist can't play, Ben will evidently play.
Jeff Taylor becomes the starting small forward. He already averages about 24 minutes per game, which is perfectly fine for developing a player. To get significantly more playing time, he has to earn it.

Shooting at 38% from the field and 25% for 3 points he didn't earn any extra playing time. Sessions has a little better FG percentage (40%) and a little worse 3 point percentage (23%).
But the big difference is that Sessions draws fouls and shoots FTs much better than Taylor (75% for Sessions vs. 54% for Taylor - which is horrible for a wing player), ).
Ramon Sessions made 76 free throws so far this season, Jeff Taylor made 21. This is the big difference between them, and Sessions averages 3 minutes per game less than Taylor. Taylor gets more minutes for his defense, and also for being a young developing player.

Conclusion: Taylor gets plenty of playing time for the purpose of continuing his development. He'll probably get automatically a few extra minutes while MKG is out.
But, in the long run, to play 30 minutes per game or more, he needs to raise his game to the next level (something like what we think he can achieve based on his Summer League and Eurobasket performance this year).

Earning more PT: this is also part of developing as an NBA pro. You get to play 35 or more mpg if you're on assignment in the D-League. This is the NBA. Learning that you have to earn your status and minutes the hard way is part of the player's development.

Posted by: Sandy | Dec 4, 2013 1:09:50 PM

@Go Cats

I can guarantee you that Monta Ellis will not be an All-Star this season or never. If he never made an All-Star while in Golden State, he never will.

Posted by: RobC | Dec 4, 2013 1:35:27 PM

yeah I would absolutely give gordon a pass on the rust issue, that's not on him at all. but the point was that clifford was trying to win a game and he pulled biz and zeller and left sessions and gordon on the floor. and sessions and gordon were rolling out empty possessions like they were getting paid 18 million dollars this year to do it.

i'm blaming coach.

and i don't know what the reason could have been for playing taylor 3 minutes. usually i'm the one defending henderson or MKG against the taylor supporters. taylor plays 3 minutes and almost NONE of the taylor supporters are up in arms about it?! i am. i need to hear that he was hurt or sick or something. otherwise i'm baffled.

as for the monta ellis mess........no we don't need him. I was simply pointing out that he looks like he "gets it" now compared to his previous years. he really looks like a good fit playing with dirk. might add some longevity to both of them. they make the right trade this year, they might sneak up on somebody out west in the playoffs. dirk is still dirk and they have a TON of depth once wright gets healthy.

ellis is still undersized for the 2 guard though. and he's still not a good 3 point shooter. he's playing the most efficient ball of his career right now and I think it has everything to do with the fact he never played with a talent of dirk's caliber.

in the nba you are either in win now mode or you are rebuilding for next year or the following. you can't do both and you can't do neither. right now we are doing both and neither at the same time. hopefully we rattle off like 5-10 losses with the vets playing and management tells clifford he needs to switch it up and we can get back to the original plan. and have our draft pick.

this veteran group is not going to win. it's just not good enough. the young guys COULD be in a few years. this shouldn't even be debatable.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 4, 2013 4:27:12 PM

I still believe in Taylor's high upside.

But this 3 minutes thing is just one game.
I don't know what caused it. Coach Clifford may have thought that Tolliver is a better defensive match-up for Marion (though I think Jeff too can guard Marion).

Or, I'm guessing that Coach had a feeling that this is not gonna be Jeff's night.
I can't really know this, it's just a guess; but, you can have such a gut feeling, when you're really close to somebody. So, he decided to go at SF with Tolliver, who also had an off night.

I'm sure Taylor's minutes will be back to where they should be - 24-25 mpg, and actually more now, in MKG's absence.
Only IF that's not gonna happen, then I'll be wondering too...

Posted by: Sandy | Dec 4, 2013 5:12:53 PM

i get you trying to justify the decision, but regardless.....taylor is needed next year. he will need to guard a shawn marion and he will need to play through a rough 3 minutes.

there's just no reason why he should play 3 minutes healthy and biz should ever sit healthy. there's no reason biz should play 10 minutes in a game unless jefferson is like 15 for 15 from the field and actually playing some sort of semblance of defense.

i agree about the shooting thing.....the guy is making shots right now. I've been constantly pointing to marion and noah and bonner and others who shoot unorthodox. I'm just pointing out that if there was ever a time to get some of that hitch out, you can't hitch with one hand. it's not like he isn't going to shoot for a month and a half. dude is probably in the gym shooting right now.

this clifford guy needs to be developing our young core NOW. he isn't putting ANY of those guys in any position to succeed. all those post ups for jefferson and not ONE for biz or zeller. why not just send them to the d-league if he isn't going to make them better here?

like I said...look at utah. that's our future in 2 years. it's eerily similar to our past. and the year started with such promise, too. the losses don't bother me, we're supposed to lose to those teams right now.

but we aren't rebuilding/developing and we aren't in win-now mode. we're in no-man's land. it's painful to watch.

Posted by: charlottean | Dec 4, 2013 11:37:25 PM

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