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March 26, 2014

Bobcats' Gary Neal to miss a couple of games with knee, ankle injuries

Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford is shutting down reserve shooting guard Gary Neal to allow Neal to recover from ankle and knee injuries.

Clifford estimated before Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets that Neal would miss 2-3 games.

Clifford didn’t play Neal in the second half of Saturday’s victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to rest Neal’s sore knee. Since then, Neal has also developed an ankle injury. Walking into the Bobcats’ locker room, Neal was limping noticeably.

“To me, until he can play (effectively), it’s not wise” to use him, Clifford said. “It will hurt us here the next two or three games, but getting him well is the best way to go.”

Neal is the Bobcats’ leading scorer among reserves, at 10.5 points per game. It seemed clear in his last appearance, against the Houston Rockets, that his injuries affected his play: Neal missed all eight of his shot attempts, most of those bouncing off the front rim.

“He’s not able physically to play,” Clifford said. “He can’t push off” his legs effectively.


Posted by Observer Sports on March 26, 2014 at 05:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (75)

March 24, 2014

Dwight Howard -- likely to play vs. Bobcats -- expected the first-year success Steve Clifford experiencing in Charlotte

First thing to know about tonight’s Charlotte Bobcats-Houston Rockets game: Rockets coach Kevin McHale says he’d be “shocked” if superstar center Dwight Howard doesn’t play, after missing the past three games with an ankle injury.

            Howard seemed mildly surprised McHale would be that open with reporters at shootaround Monday, but he didn’t give any counter-indication. He recently had a procedure to remove part of a cyst and drain fluid from his left ankle.

“I’m feeling a lot better. A lot of the inflammation went down,” Howard said. “They couldn’t remove all of the cyst, but the fact that they could remove a lot of the fluid, that was good. Hopefully a couple of days of rest and it’s back to normal.”

            Howard reminisced about the six seasons he spent with first-year Bobcats coach Steve Clifford in Orlando and Los Angeles. Howard was an assistant coach with the Magic and Lakers while Howard played for those two franchises.

            Howard is not the least surprised Clifford has the Bobcats in playoff contention.

“Cliff has done an excellent job with these guys. I really enjoy watching them play,” Howard said.  “He had a great mentor in Stan (Van Gundy in Orlando) and he’s always wanted the opportunity.

“I knew coming in he was going change the way the Bobcats play and make them a better team. The (way he) compacts (the floor) at the defensive end is incredible. I’m happy for him.”

            Clifford’s defense in Charlotte focuses on minimizing points in the paint, giving up some room at the 3-point line. Howard said that’s precisely how the Magic played when he was there as a dominant rim-protector.

“For it to be his first year (as an NBA head coach), he’s had a successful season. I really like how they’re using Al (Jefferson) to his full potential and he has guys around him who can make shots and make plays.”

Bobcats center Jefferson also has a reunion game of sorts, having worked with Rockets coach Kevin McHale when both were part of the Minnesota Timberwolves organization.

Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel recently observed that Jefferson’s game most resembles McHale’s when he played for the Boston Celtics. McHale called Jefferson’s skill set “unique,” but he also acknowledged the similarity, as far as post scorers who could create space in tight places with a variety of spin moves and ball fakes.

“I just played,” said McHale, suggesting he didn’t think about how little room he needed to get off a shot until he’d see it later on video.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2014 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

March 21, 2014

Once-again Bobcat DJ White familiar with 10-day contract life

The bottom line on DJ White: He’s not new to the Charlotte Bobcats or to 10-day contracts.

            The Bobcats filled the open spot on their roster Friday, signing 6-9 forward White to a 10-day deal. This is White’s second stint with the Bobcats, having played here 82 games in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

White is the third player to be a Bobcat in two separate stints. The other two were Matt Carroll and Derrick Brown.

            Ideally, the Bobcats would have signed a player with true NBA-center size, but 7-footers with NBA skills don’t hang out on the street corner this time of year. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said the team worked out numerous players for this spot, and White was clearly the best available alternative.

            “He’s been in this league and he picks things up quickly,” Clifford said of White, who started out with the Oklahoma City Thunder, was traded to the Bobcats, and then played 25 games last season with the Boston Celtics.

            White (he spells DJ with no periods, by the way) said that stint with the Celtics prepares him for coming to the Bobcats this late in a season chasing a playoff spot.

            “I did it in Boston – just be yourself,” White said of playing on a 10-day contract. “I’ve been in this position, last year (fitting in) on a playoff team.”

            White was playing in China for the Sichuan Blue Whales, averaging 20.2 points and 8.5 rebounds and 67 percent shooting from the field. When his China League season ended, White was free to sign with an NBA team.

            “China was OK,” White said after his first practice back in Charlotte. “The culture was a little different and the basketball was not the same level, but I got the opportunity to play (31 minutes per game) and get better.”

            White doesn’t figure to have a big role here, much as his 10-day predecessor, Justin Hamilton, did little more than practice and play a few mop-up minutes. But he’ll fit in – he’s already friends with many of the players – and at least make it easier for center Al Jefferson to get the occasional break from practice as the playoff approach.

            “It’s very exciting,” White said. “Me and Al have competed for years. I know Bismack (Biyombo) and Gerald (Henderson) well.

            “These are good people and the weather is nice.”

Posted by Observer Sports on March 21, 2014 at 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

March 19, 2014

Source: Charlotte Bobcats to sign forward DJ White

The Charlotte Bobcats will bring back a familiar face when they sign power forward DJ White later this week.

            A source familiar with the situation told the Observer Wednesday that the Bobcats plan to sign White, a 6-foot-8 forward, as soon as FIBA clears him. The deal will be a 10-day contract.

White has been playing this winter in China for the Sichuan Blue Whales, and his obligation to that team is over.

            White played for the Bobcats in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons following a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 82 games with the Bobcats he averaged 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds.

            The Bobcats have an open roster spot after center Justin Hamilton’s 10-day contract expired and he chose to sign a rest-of-season contract with the Miami Heat. The Bobcats spent the past week looking through big-man options.

            Coach Steve Clifford has said he wants a third center in that 15th spot, but acknowledged it’s very difficult this time of year to find an available center of NBA quality. White is a front-court player, but not really a center.

            The Bobcats have Al Jefferson and Bismack Biyombo at the center spot. Clifford has said he’s not counting on Brendan Haywood, out since training camp with a stress fracture in his left foot, to return this season.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 19, 2014 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

March 18, 2014

Bobcats define Matt Carroll's role, bring Muggsy Bogues into the fold

The Charlotte Bobcats are defining Matt Carroll’s role with the team and bringing Muggsy Bogues back into the fold.

            A couple of months ago I reported Carroll, who played 7 ½ of his 10 NBA seasons as a Bobcat, was joining the organization. The franchise didn’t initially define his role.

            The Bobcats are now calling Carroll a “team ambassador” with a variety of roles. He’s started doing radio color analysis on home games (long overdue Scott Lauer got someone to interact with).  Carroll will also serve a variety of community-relations roles with the team.

            I hope the team considers having Matt do some road games on radio, at minimum in the playoffs. Radio might not be the Bobcats’ top platform, but doing this well, particularly in the post-season, should matter.

            The Bobcats are calling Bogues a “Hornets ambassador” as the team transitions to the new name, logos and uniforms next season. Muggsy was an original Hornet and an incredibly popular Charlottean who still lives here. Having him make appearances at games and community events can only be a plus.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 18, 2014 at 12:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

March 14, 2014

Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford now thinks center Brendan Haywood is out for the season

Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford is now working under the assumption he won’t have center Brendan Haywood at all this season.

            Haywood has been out since the preseason when doctors diagnosed a stress fracture in his left foot. Though the prognosis at the time was he’d miss roughly 12 weeks, Haywood has yet to be cleared for weight-bearing activity on the basketball court.

“I just think it will be difficult,” for him to play this season, Clifford said. “Even if he progressed to the point where he could get on the floor, it’s been a long time and he’s a big man. It’s hard to be out that long and get your rhythm to play.”

            With Haywood out, the Bobcats’ best use of the 15th roster spot is a third center. They lost one Friday when Justin Hamilton signed with the Miami Heat after Hamilton’s 10-day contract with the Bobcats expired.

            Clifford said one of the toughest things to do this time of year is find a capable free-agent big man.

“We’re working on,” Clifford said. “We need a third center and it’s hard to find those guys.”

Posted by Observer Sports on March 14, 2014 at 06:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

March 13, 2014

A look ahead: The Bobcats should start figuring out how to keep Josh McRoberts around

Roughly this time each NBA season – two-thirds of the way through – I remind myself to look at the Charlotte Bobcats’ player salaries to see if anyone is vastly under- or overpaid.

            Ben Gordon is gone, so that’s more a “How much did you pay for a future first-round pick?” issue. The more interesting situation going forward is starting power forward Josh McRoberts.

            Boy, is he underpaid.

McRoberts makes slightly more than $2.6 million this season. That makes him the eighth-highest paid player on this team. He is the third-best player on this team behind Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. Some perspective:

It’s not rookie Cody Zeller’s fault he makes $3.8 million. That’s the system, and if the Bobcats drafted Zeller fourth overall, he should make that much. But if you’ve watched the last 60-some games, two things would strike you about McRoberts and his backup, Zeller.

One, McRoberts is a lot better than Zeller. Two, that isn’t going to change at the start of training camp in October or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Again, not Zeller’s fault. He has potential for the same reason the Bobcats like McRoberts in this time in basketball when a power forward’s skill set should include the ability to make 3s, pass and dribble.

The Bobcats signed McRoberts to a two-season contract. This and next season is guaranteed, but McRoberts can opt-out after this season and hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

This was a very cost-effective move by the Bobcats. But even before the team played its first regular-season game, owner Michael Jordan acknowledged to me the prospect of McRoberts opting out was worrisome.

They want him back. As Jordan put it so well, McRoberts is the Bobcats’ “connect-the-dots” guy because of his sophisticated passing.

I’ve no idea how this will work out in July. Here’s how it should work out:

The Bobcats should make a fair, but preemptive, offer that keeps McRoberts around. I think Josh gets it he’s valued here, and he should want to keep playing for Steve Clifford.

After so many misadventures at upgrading the talent – Adam Morrison, Gana Diop, Tyrus Thomas – shouldn’t you retain somebody who’s been about as cost-effective as any player in franchise history?

Posted by Observer Sports on March 13, 2014 at 07:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

March 12, 2014

Charlotte Bobcat Gary Neal says he made a "mistake." Benching won't continue beyond Wizards game

WASHINGTON – Neither the Charlotte Bobcats nor shooting guard Gary Neal discussed specifics on why Neal was held out of Wednesday’s 98-85 victory over the Washington Wizards.

            But it was behavioral, rather than medical, and Neal said he made amends.

            “I made a mistake,” Neal told the Observer post-game. ‘Me and coach talked about it and we’ll move forward from there,”

            Coach Steve Clifford called this an “internal team matter.” He said it was over after the game and Neal’s minutes won’t be affected when the Bobcats play the Minnesota Timberwolves at home Friday.

            Neal, who watched the game in uniform, interacting throughout with teammates, sounded contrite.

“Just a mistake, something that happened in the confines of the team,” Neal said. “We talked about it, we discussed it and it’s behind us now.”

            Neal, who arrived from Milwaukee along with point guard Luke Ridnour at the trade deadline, was coming off his best game as a Bobcat. He made seven of nine shots (including 3-of-3 from 3-point range) for 19 points in Monday’s home victory over the Denver Nuggets.

            Sitting Neal opened up minutes for Chris Douglas-Roberts, who played well as a fill-in starter while Gerald Henderson recovered from a calf strain. Henderson returned to the starting lineup Wednesday, moving Douglas-Roberts to the bench.


Posted by Observer Sports on March 12, 2014 at 09:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Charlotte Bobcats sit guard Gary Neal over undisclosed "internal team matter"

The Charlotte Bobcats chose not to play recently-acquired shooting guard Gary Neal Wednesday in a road game against the Washington Wizards, saying only this was “an internal team matter.”

            Neal, who arrived from Milwaukee along with point guard Luke Ridnour at the trade deadline, was coming off his best game as a Bobcat. He made seven of nine shots (including 3-of-3 from 3-point range) for 19 points in Monday’s home victory over the Denver Nuggets.

            Neal was in uniform for Wednesday’s game and sat on the Bobcats’ bench, interacting with teammates.  He put up shots in pre-game warmups, so perhaps whatever caused the coaches not to play him was conveyed to him just before tipoff.

            Neal has said how fortunate he was to be traded from Milwaukee to Charlotte, where he’d have a bigger role on a team pursuing a playoff spot. Acquiring him addressed one of coach Steve Clifford’s season-long concerns – a lack of reliable distance shooting.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 12, 2014 at 07:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

March 11, 2014

Charlotte Bobcat Gerald Henderson says he's good to go against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday

Charlotte Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson practiced Tuesday after missing the past five games with a strained right calf. He believes he’ll be fine to play Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.

“I feel good,” Henderson said after a post-practice game of one-on-one against Jannero Pargo. “It’s tough having to be out in that stretch. But I wanted to get myself back to 100 percent and not have that calf bother me the rest of the season.

“I feel good and I’m ready to go.”

Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said if Henderson is well enough to play, he’ll return to the starting lineup. Henderson indicated the length of his time out was somewhat precautionary.

“I probably could have come back two games ago. But with the pain that was still in there, the calf can get worse,” Henderson said. “You can re-irritate it. I wanted to get all the pain out.”

            Henderson said he injured himself going after an offensive rebound against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He felt something pull as soon as he hit the floor.

“One of my goals is to play all 82 games” in a season, Henderson said. “That’s a tough thing to do. Maybe next year.”

Posted by Observer Sports on March 11, 2014 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)