Bobcats still face uncertainty

Leave a comment

nba_wallace_250.jpgThe Bobcats were dogged by pretty much every pundit coming into this season. Widely considered to take a vast step back from their near-playoff-entrance season (despite losing only Emeka Okafor’s tallness in return for Tyson Chandler’s tallness), the Bobcats started the season in full-blown disaster mode; the offense looked like something your cat vomited up after it dug into that beef stroganoff you left sitting out. Gross. But then things turned and all of a sudden the Cats were winning left and right, rattling off a long home game winning streak and looking very much like a tough playoff out with Stephen Jackson as their new instant offense.

But as Rick Bonnell points out, there’s still some lingering issues in Charlotte, brought to light after Darren Collison notched a Bobcats-shaped mark on his bedpost.

Gerald Wallace is both wise and frank. He told me recently the Bobcats aren’t so much a collection of good individual defenders as they are a really good team defense. I’d disagree with him somewhat (and I mean there are strong individual defenders), but I see his point: This team doesn’t have a Bruce Bowen or a Ron Artest. When they’re elite defensively, it’s because of how they work together.

Via Rick Bonnell’s Inside The NBA blog for the Charlotte Observer

That paragraph speaks volumes on what Larry Brown has accomplished. The Bobcats moreso than any team are dependent upon a team effort to get them into the win column. They’re dependent on specific players’ specific contributions (Stephen Jackson, score a lot of points! Raymond Felton, be a bizarrely competent combo-guard! Gerald Wallace, run around like a lunatic and do everything on the box score and five things they don’t even have names for yet!), but they also work in tandem to get the job accomplished. It’s when the sum of those contributions is not able to overcome the gross output of one or two special players on the other squad that the team finds itself in a hole. That’s a tough level of effort to maintain for 48 minutes.

Bonnell also notes the growing Tyson Chandler conundrum. Chandler has spent a ton of time on the shelf this season, much like last season, but he’s close to returning and (insert cliche about tall basketball players). Meanwhile, the Bobcats best-kept-secret is Nazr Mohammed who’s averaging some stunning numbers per 40 minutes. Mohammed has been a huge reason for the Bobcats’ success, and having a capable tandem at the center position is something most teams envy, particularly in the East.

If the ‘Cats are going to make a move for whatever their missing piece is in pursuit of whatever short-term or long-term goal they have (which no one can really ascertain), the most likely moved piece is D.J. Augustin. Point guards are always at a premium, and Augustin has crawled out of the sophomore slump grave he started in to start the season and is back to “passable.” ‘Cats should cash in on that chip now before its value drops again.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

4 Comments

For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.