The 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.
When LeBron James left Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert released his infamous letter.
When LeBron left Miami, Heat president Pat Riley issued a classy statement.
The difference was nearly not as stark following Riley’s final meeting with LeBron in 2014 in Las Vegas.
Wright Thompson of ESPN:
Riley told his lieutenant, Andy Elisburg, to get the two championship trophies LeBron had won and pack them in their hard-shell carrying cases. Elisburg also brought charts and an easel for a presentation about the free agents the Heat would pursue. The day of the meeting, a hotel bellhop followed them with a luggage cart carrying the presentation and the two trophies. Riley brought wine from a Napa vineyard named Promise. It was the same label Maverick Carter had presented Riley with when they did the deal four years earlier. Riley respects Carter, and when he walked into the suite and saw James with agent Rich Paul and friend Randy Mims but no Maverick, part of him knew the meeting wasn’t sincere. He told Elisburg to keep the trophies and easel in the hall. James and his associates were watching a World Cup game, which they kept glancing at during the presentation. At one point, Riley asked if they’d mute the TV.
Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and Paul was on the other end. The agent handed the phone to LeBron, who started by saying, “I want to thank you for four years …”
“I was silent,” Riley says. “I didn’t say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.”
The most shocking element of Gilbert’s letter wasn’t that he wrote it. People say dumb things, especially in the heat of the moment. But it was surprising nobody stopped Gilbert from publishing it. Of course, he runs the franchise. But nobody felt empowered to tell him it was a bad idea?
Riley was obviously fortunate to get that message and wise to heed it. But even he has let his disdain for LeBron leaving slip out a couple times.
The Wizards and Hawks are knotted in a 2-2 first-round series.
A subplot: John Wall vs. Dennis Schroder. They have a history – Schroder starting random trash talk and then telling a teammate to hack Wall’s recently injured wrist, according to Wall – and Wall stared down Schroder after a dunk in Game 2.
A sub-subplot: Wall’s and Schroder’s summer plans.
Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Wall, via Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
“I’ve never heard of that going on in the middle of a series,” Wall said Monday after shootaround for Game 4 later tonight at Phillips Arena. “I’m not talking about it right now. I’m locked into a series competing with a guy that’s playing well for his team, competing for his team. That’s probably a conversation I’ll have later on, but I’m locked into Wizards versus Hawks.”
Aside from that, Wall tends to be a loner during the summer when he’s getting ready. He was supposed to work out with Damian Lillard a few seasons ago, but even that didn’t come to fruition. Teammate Brandon Jennings sensed that about Wall.
“I really don’t work out with anybody, to be honest,” Wall said. “Brandon said the same thing, ‘You’re the type of guy that don’t like to work out with people.’ I just always worked out by myself a lot.”
Maybe Schroder thinks Wall will see himself in the Atlanta point guard – a fearless young player trying to prove himself by standing up to established players. And maybe Wall does.
But I suspect Wall just sees Schroder as a pest.
If that’s the case, it certainly won’t change until this series ends.
Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”
Smart, via MassLive:
Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.
That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:
Are you about that life?
Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.
Has anyone accused you not being tough before?
What was your reaction to that?
Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.
But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.
The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.
The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.
Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.
“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”
I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.
But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?
C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.
The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.