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January 31, 2014

Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker will not play tonight against Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES – Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker will not play tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, and coach Steve Clifford sounded less confident Friday about Walker’s availability the rest of this West Coast trip.

            Walker missed the last five games with a sprained left ankle suffered Jan. 18. He tried to participate in morning shootaround at the Staples Center, but felt pain during the initial stretching and had to leave the court.

            Walker practiced for the first time since the injury Thursday at Southern Cal.’s GalenCenter. The Bobcats didn’t scrimmage Thursday, but Walker went through a number of drills that required him to sprint and cut. Walker and Clifford both said Walker was “close” to being ready to play, hopeful that would be against the Lakers.

            Now Clifford isn’t confident Walker will be available for Saturday’s game at the Phoenix Suns. The last game of this four-team swing is Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 31, 2014 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (59)

January 29, 2014

Denver Nuggets star Ty Lawson out for tonight vs. Charlotte Bobcats

DENVER – The Denver Nuggets have lost their point guard, former North Carolina star Ty Lawson, for tonight’s home game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

            Lawson is out with a shoulder injury. As Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said, he doesn’t have another pure point guard in Lawson’s absence.

            Well, yes and no: Andre Miller is still on Denver’s roster, but he’s been separated from the team following a spat with Shaw over playing time.

            Shaw said he’s uncertain who he’ll start in Lawson’s absence. The seemingly obvious choice is Nate Robinson, but Shaw has misgivings about shaking up the chemistry of his second unit. So it’s possible he’d have Randy Foye or Evan Fournier be a fill-in point guard.

            Lawson is a big loss. He’s posting All-Star like numbers of 17.9 points, 8.9 assists and 1.5 steals. He is the single biggest factor in the Nuggets’ fast-break, arguably the best in the NBA.

            “Nobody has the end-to-end speed that Ty does,” Shaw said pre-game. “Hopefully we can throw the ball ahead more” to Denver’s speedy big men.

            There was enough chatter about Lawson’s injury – he didn’t practice Tuesday – that Bobcats coach Steve Clifford prepared for the possibility Lawson would be out at shootaround this morning.

            Clifford told his team getting back on defense and minimizing turnovers were crucial to giving the Bobcats a chance tonight. The Bobcats haven’t won in Denver since the 2006-07 season. The last two losses here were by 22 and 30 points.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 29, 2014 at 07:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Some pre-game chatter on Bobcats-Nuggets: This one is all about tempo

At shootaround this morning I asked Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford how important transition defense would be tonight against the Denver Nuggets.

            “It’s the whole thing,” Clifford replied.

            The Nuggets try to run as often as possible. They haven’t been particularly effective on defense, but former North Carolina star Ty Lawson, a viable All-Star candidate, pushes the tempo such that it’s not a rarity when the Nuggets threaten to score 120.

            Clifford wants to run when possible. But obviously the Bobcats play more deliberately than the Nuggets and defense is the best part of their game this season.

“It will be a test of wills – their will to slow things down versus our will to keep playing at the pace we’ve been playing, especially as of late,” said Brian Shaw, who replaced longtime Nuggets coach George Karl in the off-season.

(A quick aside: It was just weird this morning not to see George at the Pepsi Center. He and Doc Rivers were the best quotes among NBA coaches. Now one of them is gone and Rivers I get to see just two times a year now that he’s with the Clippers.)

Shaw got a lot of questions this morning from Denver media about how Clifford has turned around the Bobcats defensively. I thought his description was pretty good in scouting Clifford’s priorities.

“They flood the paint and shrink the floor. Any kind of penetration and (perimeter defenders) come into the middle,” Shaw said. “So if we engage their bigs in our pick-and-roll sets and attack the middle, we should be able to get the perimeter shots that we need. We want to put that pressure on them to flood the middle to open up” the 3-point shot.

Obviously Lawson is one of the quickest point guards in the NBA, but it’s not like Ramon Sessions is slow. When Lawson sits Nate Robinson comes in, so the Bobcats will have to defend two rockets at point guard tonight.

One small roster development off morning shootarounds: Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur is available tonight after missing seven games with a hip injury Arthur was missed in the Nuggets’ defense the same way Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s absence limited the Bobcats’ ability to guard.

While Arthur is available, Shaw cautioned it’s hard to gauge how many minutes he can handle tonight.

Many of you have asked about Kemba Walker’s recovery. Clifford told me Walker had no setbacks after some activity at practice Tuesday. Hopefully he can practice Thursday in Los Angeles. That’s the next big step to getting him back into a game.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 29, 2014 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 23, 2014

Kevin Durant says Stephen Curry is the 'best shooter to ever play'

Kevin Durant has scored 30 points or more in 13 of his past 15 games.

In the month of January, he’s averaging 36.9 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting as Oklahoma City has shot to the top of the Western Conference standings.

While Durant is in the discussion for being the best scorer in the NBA, he’s not even putting himself in the conversation of best shooter in the league.

That goes to Charlotte native and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

 

Not just in the league, Durant said. In the game ever.

Curry is averaging 23.5 points per game—the most of his career—on 44.2 percent shooting. His 128 made 3-pointers this season is third-best in the league after he set a single-season NBA record last year with 272 3-pointers.

We’ll see later tonight if Curry joins Durant as a starter on the West in this year’s All-Star Game when the rosters are announced at 7 p.m. on TNT.

--Jonathan Jones

 

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2014 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (61)

Years later, Mike Krzyzewski gets a mulligan about coaching Stephen Curry

It was funny and classy Thursday morning when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he blew it a few years ago, not recognizing Stephen Curry’s huge potential coming out of high school.

            “If I was smart I would have (coached) Stephen a long time ago,” Krzyzewski said during a Team USA media conference call.

            As expected, Curry – the former Davidson and Charlotte Christian star – was named to the pool of 28 NBA players under consideration to play in the next World Cup and Olympics in men’s basketball.

            While Krzyzewski missed out on Stephen Curry, now point guard for the Golden State Warriors and a likely starter in next month’s All-Star Game, he coached younger brother Seth for three seasons after Seth transferred from Liberty.

            I asked Krzyzewski how Stephen Curry’s skill set translates to the international game. He said a big plus is Steph’s ability to play either point guard or shooting guard. Krzyzewski has always valued versatility; for instance, he loved that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony could play all over the frontcourt on the last Olympic team.

            Then Krzyzewski added the following: “He’s definitely not afraid.”

Translation: Steph has never backed away from taking big shots in big moments. That’s the personality type you want if a gold medal is at stake.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2014 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 22, 2014

Thoughts on what Forbes says the Charlotte Bobcats are worth

The Charlotte Bobcats are worth 30 percent more than they were a year ago, if you buy into Forbes magazine’s annual estimate of NBA team values.

            Forbes estimates the Bobcats are worth $410 million in 2014. That’s a 30 percent value increase from 2013, the magazine estimates. Forbes also believes the Bobcats made about a $7 million profit in 2013.

            Of course all of this is an educated guess. The Bobcats don’t have to open their books to anyone, including the city of Charlotte, which built Time Warner Cable Arena and allows the team to manage the facility at their own profit or loss.

            If the Bobcats are now in the black, that probably has a lot to do with the new collective bargaining agreement, which includes a more aggressive revenue-sharing system between big-market and small-market teams. It can’t be a coincidence Forbes raised the value of No. 29 Charlotte and the No. 30 Milwaukee Bucks by 30 percent each.

            If someone would pay majority owner Michael Jordan $410 million for this franchise, that would likely be a tidy profit for Jordan. He took over control of the team in February of 2010 from original owner Bob Johnson primarily by agreeing to assume Johnson’s debt service.

            The Bobcats have improved their season-ticket base in recent seasons and are getting a marketing bump out of the nickname and uniform change to “Hornets” next season.

             Link to Forbes' rankings: http://www.forbes.com/nba-valuations/#page:3_sort:0_direction:asc_search:

Posted by Observer Sports on January 22, 2014 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

January 19, 2014

Kemba Walker out about 2 weeks; what's next for the Charlotte Bobcats?

So Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson says his team lost its “heart-and-soul” and its “fight” when point guard Kemba Walker rolled his left ankle in the third quarter against the Miami Heat Saturday.

            Now what?

            Walker has played in all 190 NBA games he’s been eligible for since being chosen ninth overall in the 2011 draft. Walker has been durable almost to the point of reckless, playing with injuries coach Steve Clifford has said would sit most players.

            This is different. Walker sprained his ankle to the extent the ball of his joint nearly touched the floor. The Bobcats said in a statement Sunday that Walker is expected to miss 10 to 14 days with a second-degree sprain.

            How do they compensate? You need to drill into just what Walker does for this team:

            Walker might not be a great shooter (42 percent from the field), but he makes some huge shots under pressure situations. He cemented his reputation by pushing Connecticut through the 2011 Big East tournament, then on to the national championship.

            Walker leads the Bobcats this season in points (18.7 per game) and assists (five per game). He hasn’t always been a great ball-distributor, but that was improving: He had eight or more assists in each of his last three games.

            Some of that improvement was in the increased synergy between Walker and Jefferson. The Bobcats want to play inside-out, constantly feeding the ball to Jefferson in the post and forcing defenses to react. Jefferson recently said Walker was learning quickly how best to present himself as a target for passes when Jefferson draws double-teams.

            Part of the problem now is teams will be able to double Jefferson more aggressively because Walker won’t be there to punish them from the perimeter. Also Walker and Jefferson in the pick-and-roll was often the Bobcats’ best late-game strategy to score half-court baskets.

            Now that falls on reserve point guards Ramon Sessions and Jannero Pargo. Neither one plays quite like Walker.

            Sessions has exceptional straight-line speed off the dribble, which gets him to the foul line nearly five times per game. But he’s not as good a distributor (3.1 assists per game) or a 3-point shooter (20 percent from long range, as opposed to Walker’s 36 percent).

            The Bobcats signed Pargo for the season because Clifford wanted to know he had a reliable, experienced third option at the point who knew the system. He’s played in only nine of 42 games this season. Obviously that will change with Walker’s injury.

            Pargo isn’t a great distributor, but over his 10-season NBA career he’s shot 35 percent from 3-point range.

            There would never be a good time for Walker to get hurt, but this is a challenging span in the Bobcats’ schedule and they are sitting on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

            Starting with Monday’s 2 p.m. home game against the Toronto Raptors, the Bobcats play four games in six nights before a four-game West Coast trip to Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Oakland.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 19, 2014 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

January 10, 2014

Charlottean Carl Scheer to be honored by Denver Nuggets Jan. 25

The Denver Nuggets will honor Charlottean Carl Scheer, a two-time executive there, during a Jan. 25 home game against the Indiana Pacers.

            Scheer was the first general manager of the Charlotte Hornets. He now works in marketing with the Bobcats helping with, among other projects, the rebranding to the Hornets nickname next season.

            Scheer worked with the American Basketball Association Carolina Cougars, then went to work for the Nuggets in 1974 helping in the team’s transition through the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.

Back in the ’70s Scheer came up with the slam-dunk contest the NBA still uses at All-Star Weekend. He hired longtime Nuggets coach Doug Moe and acquired former N.C.State star David Thompson.

            Scheer nurtured the Hornets through their arrival in Charlotte in 1988, then moved back to the Nuggets in a business-side position. After becoming an entrepreneur in minor-league hockey, Scheer joined the Bobcats in a sales-and-marketing role.

 

Posted by Observer Sports on January 10, 2014 at 07:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

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