Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Season Tip-Off, Bobcats Notes

The NBA season tips off tonight, with TNT airing a double-header of Portland/San Antonio and L.A. Lakers/Houston.

The Bobcats' season doesn't begin until Friday, of course, when the Bobcats play the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are going to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. Hopefully the game will allow the Bobcats to start the season with a W and gain some confidence in the process.

Rick Bonnell is reporting that Othella Harrington has been medically cleared to practice. There's no clear timetable for his return to the Bobcats lineup, but this is an encouraging step. Although Othella was a sub-par player last season, his injured knee could have been a contributing factor. Hopefully his off-season surgery will propel him to unchartered levels of productivity.

I demand that the Bobcats re-sign Emeka Okafor before the November 1 deadline. Emeka is a franchise player, one of the elite big men in the NBA. He is the future of the Bobcats, and he must be locked down immediately. Emeka deserves to receive quite the "treat" on Halloween.

Something I'll be checking in the box scores tomorrow: how did the Jason Richardson-less Golden State Warriors fare? Also, with the Warriors apparently opting not to re-sign Andris Biedrins, I am officially ready to start pounding the "sign Biedrins" drums. We need a center, and he's a young prototype. The Bobcats' management should have their scouts focusing on Biedrins all season long.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bobcats Links

Let's take a quick look at some Bobcats-related sites:

Bobcat Johnson is a promising new Bobcats blog. Recent posts: review the Suns game, question Okafor's preseason play, discuss the injury bug, and spotlight the Lady Cats. Well worth a visit.

BobcatsPlanet's discussion forum remains the best spot on the Internet for Bobcats-related discussion. If Bobcats news breaks, you can be sure it's being discussed on this forum. I visit the site several times a day and post under the user name "bobcatsden".

Queen City Hoops looks at Ryan Hollins preseason performance, noting that he was unspectacular against very weak competition. When Bynum, Mihm, and Pachulia are giving you fits, it's going to be a long season.

Finally, BobcatsBonfire provides its 2007-08 Bobcats Preview. The post points out a need to transition the team's scoring responsibility from Felton to Richardson/Hermann. I certainly agree. Strangely, there's no mention of Jared Dudley in the "key additions" passage. As I've written many times, I'm expecting an impressive rookie campaign.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bobcats News & Notes

As expected, I took some heat from readers for my previous post. I stand by my thesis - that Morrison's minutes will be filled by superior players - but this is one debate that has no definitive answer. So let's move on to other Bobcats news.

It appears that Primoz Brezec has passed Ryan Hollins on the depth chart and will start at center. I still have some misgivings about this. Primoz had a bad year last year, and year-to-year performance for NBA players tends to be fairly consistent. But maybe a combination of injuries, personal issues, and reduced playing time held Primoz back. Here's hoping.

Hermann has been very impressive in recent preseason games. There's some allure in starting Hermann at PF and Okafor at C. Would that lineup be big enough to stop opposing teams and scrap for rebounds? That's apparently Vincent's rationale for avoiding it.

Brandan Wright, the 2007 draft pick we parlayed into Jason Richardson, was recently demoted to the NBA Developmental League. While Wright is destined to be a solid NBA player, this is yet another indication that Wright would not have provided the Bobcats with much short-term help. I still applaud the "win-now" trade for J-Rich.

Only one preseason game to go before the regular season starts...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Adam Morrison Tears ACL

Adam Morrison tore his ACL last night. He is likely out for the season.

First things first - I regret that Morrison was injured. Morrison clearly cares about the Bobcats. His preseason performance was encouraging, and he was eager to prove that he deserved his draft position. I feel bad for Morrison, and I'm rooting for him to make a full and speedy recovery.

That said, the Bobcats are a better team today than they were yesterday. I know that's brutal, but it's true. Morrison was one of the least effective players in the NBA last season. Barring an unprecedented turnaround (literally unprecedented), Morrison was going to be a below-average player this season too. Post-injury, all of those unproductive minutes will be distributed to two superior players - Walter Hermann and Matt Carroll.

I am struggling with the fact that a part of me is glad Morrison got hurt.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bobcats Previews

A couple new Bobcats previews that I wanted to spotlight.

First, Tony Meija points to Morrison's excellent preseason shooting percentage and predicts a resurgence. Here's hoping. As an aside, Tony Meija is one of the best NBA columnists in the country. I highly recommend that you check out his CBS Sporstline columns.

Next, The Sporting News provides a very positive perspective on the Bobcats' upcoming season. They point out, as I did in a recent post, that one of the biggest question marks for the Bobcats is Coach Vincent's capacity to run an NBA team. I'd like to add a similar plug for The Sporting News - if you are reading Sports Illustrated or ESPN The Magazine, stop immediately and subscribe to TSN. It's a different class of coverage - deeper analysis, a willingness to wade into X's and O's, and a steady focus on the major sports.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bobcats Shelled by Magic

Ouch. In the Bobcats' first preseason game, the Orlando Magic shot 64%. Did the Bobcats play any defense?

Some damning stats:
  • J.J. Reddick hit 5 of 8 three-pointers.
  • Carlos Arroyo, Trevor Aziza, Patt Garrity, and Keith Bogans all scored in double digits, and all did so on 60%+ field goal shooting.
  • Jeff McInnis went 0-3 with 4 fouls and a turnover in 23 minutes of play (Derek Anderson did not play).
That said, there were some bright spots for the Bobcats. Jermareo Davidson played well, making 5 of 10 shots and pulling in 3 rebounds in 18 minutes of play. Morrison was 6 for 11. And Richardson pulled in 6 rebounds to go with his 17 points.

A few lingering questions:

1. How severe is Dudley's "left big toe sprain"?

2. Where is Primoz? Not only did he not play - he wasn't with the team.

3. When will Derek Anderson (who rode the bench last night) start to receive some of McInnis' minutes?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Preseason Points of Emphasis

The Bobcats' first preseason game is tomorrow night. Here's where my attention will be focused:

Raymond Felton's shooting. Last season, Felton took the most shots on the team, but had the second-worst shooting percentage. Felton cannot continue to heave those long, errant jump-shots. He also needs to shoot less. Richardson, Wallace, and Okafor are all superior scoring options, and Felton must focus on feeding them the ball. Felton no longer has to carry the offensive load; this season, he must be a pass-first guard. That is a difficult, but crucial, transition.

Okafor & Wallace's free throw percentage. Okafor and Wallace were a combined 484 for 742 (65%) from the free throw line last season. That's a lot of points left on the table. If Okafor and Wallace could each boost his FT% by 10%, the team would be in a significantly better position to win games. I hope this was a point of emphasis in the off-season.

Sam Vincent's demeanor. Vincent said all the right things in training camp, and installed an offense that could score a lot of points. But I have no idea how he'll coach on game day. Between shuffling lineups, addressing refs, and managing the clock, Vincent will be cutting his NBA teeth this month.

Should be fun to watch.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ryan Hollins: Seizing Opportunity

Primoz Brezec skipped training camp. The Bobcats jettisoned Jake Voskuhl and Melvin Ely. Sam Vincent wants Okafor to play power forward. This all amounts to an enormous opportunity for Ryan Hollins.

It reminds me of Tiki Barber's Cadillac commercial - professional sports is all about seizing opportunities. Tiki says, "Opportunities are seldom perfect, but I've learned that if you're not ready for them, they may not come again."

Hollins seems ready. A UCLA high-jumper, Hollins has flourished during training camp as Sam Vincent installed his new, up-tempo offense. He appears committed to playing the role of rebounder/shot-blocker/defender, a role the Bobcats so badly need filled in the wake of the Sean May injury. As Hollins told the Observer, Richardson, Wallace, Okafor, and Felton will be taking the majority of shots - it's up to him to provide provide off-the-ball support.

As the Bobcats gear up for their first pre-season game on Wednesday, Hollins takes the next step towards proving that he deserves to be the Charlotte Bobcats' starting center.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

May Out - What is Plan B?

Sean May needs microfracture surgery, and is out for the season. This is simply terrible news. Sean May was one of the Bobcats' best players last season (WP48 of 0.175), and he provides desperately needed rebounding support. The Bobcats are now scrambling to implement "Plan B".

Unfortunately, according to Mark Bonnell, the Bobcats haven't decided what Plan B is yet. Some potential candidates:

1) Start Ryan Hollins. Hollins barely played last season, so his statistics are of questionable value. That warning aside, his play was poor (WP of -0.161, worse than McInnis). We need a center who can rebound, and rebounding has never been Hollins' forte (he averaged 8 rebounds/40 minutes his senior year). If Hollins is going to be the team's starting center, he must commit to rebounding and defense. If he can't fill this role, the Bobcats will be dominated on the boards and in the paint.

2) Sign Marc Jackson. As I discussed previously, this is a terrible option. Jackson has nothing left in the tank, and the Bobcats would be better off saving their money. Why sign someone who will give opposing teams a mismatch each night? Hollins provides that already.

3) Locate Primoz. I came down hard on Primoz for skipping training camp again this year. He's been MIA for weeks, addressing "family issues" (the new "exhaustion"), and hasn't practiced with Coach Vincent at all. Even when available, he doesn't help the team (WP48 last season of -0.110). That said, he is experienced, under contract, and in the past has shown glimmers of adequacy. Rumor has Primoz in Charlotte now, waiting for training camp to break. This makes the Primoz option a viable, if ultimately undesirable, solution.

4) Play Dudley/Hermann at PF, move Okafor to C. Vincent apparently refuses to slide Okafor over to center. So as of right now, this option isn't happening. But it would allow us to put another good player on the court, and keep a bad one off of it. Vincent needs to weigh the downside of playing Okafor at center against the downside of playing a scrub at center and benching Hermann/Dudley.

5) Spend big money on Anderson Varejao. He is easily the best center available, but rumor has him asking over $7 million/year. Obviously his leverage has dwindled given the Cavs' refusal to pay him, and the league's disinterest in his availability. But he would still come with a hefty price tag. I don't see the Bobcats springing for such a contract, but if there was ever a time to spend our mid-level exception, this is it.

I have no idea which Plan B the Bobcats will embrace. I would prefer the latter option, but who knows if the Bobcats will even consider it. One thing is for certain: our season rides on this decision.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bobcats' Offensive Composite Scores

I was reading Queen City Hoops today (a must-read for any Bobcats fan) and followed a link to 82games.com's Offensive Composite Score - a combination of PER, Dean Oliver's offensive rating system, and offensive +/-. Click here for the numbers for all NBA players in the 06-07 season.

I am obviously a big stats guy. Although I prefer the Wins Produced metric created by David Berri (author of The Wages of Wins), I am interested in any statistic that can help sculpt my evaluation of NBA players. So: the idea of combining various statistics to create a comprehensive score holds great appeal.

Below are the Offensive Composite Scores for each of last season's Bobcats.

Derek Anderson: 31.4
Matt Carroll: 28.3
Emeka Okafor: 25.0
Gerald Wallace: 21.8
Sean May: 20.4
Walter Hermann: 15.5
Raymond Felton: 6.6
Brevin Knight: -3.3
Primoz Brezec: -16.4
Jake Voskuhl: -21.3
Jeff McInnis: -47.5
Adam Morrison: -51.4

Morrison and McInnis both shot below 40% last season, and they are at the bottom of the pack. That makes sense.

Conversely, Derek Anderson is a big surprise. Last season he shot 43% from the floor and 34% from 3-point range. How does that translate into such an outstanding Offensive Composite Score? His Offensive Composite Score is higher than Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard, and Al Jefferson!

What gives?

Starting Lineups/Primoz

It's tough to predict the Bobcats' starting five. The Observer is reporting that Okafor, Felton, Wallace, Richardson, and Hollins are practicing as the first team during training camp. But Hollins is subbing in for Brezec (more on Primoz below). That seems to suggest a starting five of:

PG: Felton
SG: Richardson
SF: Wallace
PF: Okafor
C: Brezec

This leaves Okafor in his natural PF position, which is clearly desirable. But the trade-off - playing time for Primoz - may not be worth it. Instead, as Rick Bonnell suggests, we're likely to see:

PG: Felton
SG: Richardson
SF: Wallace
PF: Hermann/May
C: Okafor

This is an all-around better team, but we lose the advantage of playing Okafor at PF. Also, when Hermann is in the lineup, Okafor has to modify his game to disproportionately focus on rebounding, since Hermann plays so much smaller than his 6'9 frame. If May can get on the court, he would be a welcome rebounding force and should get the nod as the team's starting PF.

A top-notch center is certainly the missing piece of the Bobcats puzzle.

Back to Primoz. Primoz started last season by skipping training camp due to "exhaustion". He then performed terribly throughout the season, regressing drastically from his previous productivity. I would have guessed that he'd show up to camp this season doubly committed to proving himself as a starting NBA center. Did he? Nope. Citing "family issues", he skipped training camp once again. If Primoz is dealing with an illness in the family, I apologize in advance for this criticism. But if "family issues" is the 2007 version of "exhaustion", and Primoz is once again simply collecting his paycheck, it is time to show him the door.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dudley, TV Schedule, Bonnell

As I said in an early post on this blog, Jared Dudley is going to be very good. Not just five-minutes-a-game good. Dudley is going to be in the hunt for Rookie of the Year. An AP writer, Mike Cranston, wrote an interesting article on Dudley today. He notes that Dudley is objectively unathletic, but is nevertheless very good at basketball. Personally, I don't care how fast you run the 40 if you average a double-double. Is it possible that Dudley will emerge as the Bobcats' version of David Lee? I sure think so.

Elsewhere, RealGM reviewed the Charlotte Bobcats yesterday. I hope to address this review in greater depth tomorrow. For now, I'll simply provide a link.

Here is a schedule of the Bobcats games that will be televised on News 14 Carolina. Looks like they'll be broadcasting about 50 games. I'm pleased to see that they'll be airing so many away games in February and March, when the Bobcats are almost constantly on the road.

Kudos to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, who has reemerged from his off-season cocoon and is providing consistent updates on the team's progress in training camp. I'm glad to have him back.

Finally, I invite you all to bookmark this page and check back regularly. I'll be updating daily when the season begins (I update nearly daily now, truth be told). I'm excited about the growth of this blog, and I enjoy reading your feedback in the Comments section.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Preseason Excitement

The Bobcats opened training camp this week, and I couldn't be more optimistic about our prospects for this season. ESPN's John Hollinger concurs. In his Team Forecast, Hollinger warns NBA fans not to sleep on the Bobcats. Of particular interest to me was his assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. Strength? The Bobcats starting five, which can compete with anyone in the East. Weakness? Lack of depth at center and power forward. That's spot on.

If the Bobcats can avoid an injury to Felton and keep Morrison off the floor, Hollinger thinks the Bobcats are a playoff team. He concludes:
Nonetheless, it seems to me the Bobcats' young guys are ready to step into the limelight. It will be a tight race for the East's final two or three playoff spots, but I'm guessing Charlotte will get its first playoff game since the Hornets skipped town.
Note: I would link to Hollinger's article, but it's behind the ESPN Insider wall. It's a great piece, though, and his analysis of each NBA team further cements him as a must-read NBA columnist.

  • For an insightful behind-the-scenes look at the Bobcats, check out Matt Rochinski's Training Camp blog. Rochinski is the Bobcats' New Media Manager. Based on this blog, he's a basketball fan and solid writer - not just tech support. That's great to see, as the days of fans relying on the Observer for Bobcats news are over.
  • Blazers blog "Blazer's Edge" previews the Bobcats 06-07 season. Interesting quote: "Richardson was reportedly available to the Blazers had they desired him but they passed on him because his knees had deteriorated to the point that it was affecting his game."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Bobcats Sign Derek Anderson

According to the Observer's Rick Bonnell, the Bobcats re-signed Derek Anderson. As I've said numerous times, Derek Anderson is a high-quality player and provides much-needed depth at the point guard position. This was an excellent move by the Bobcats' front office.

Presale: Single-Game Tickets

There's a 24 hour presale for individual game Bobcats tickets. For today (Oct. 1) only, you can buy individual seats before they go on sale to the general public.

Go to this link and enter redemption code TMPRE.

Some standout home games early in the season: Phoenix, Seattle, Boston, Chicago

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