Winderman: Celebrating all that has gone wrong in Charlotte (and still making the playoffs)

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Brown_Jordan.jpgToday, we salute the Charlotte Bobcats.

No, not for any front-office wizardry (in fact, far from it), but rather for the fact that the franchise, somehow, is coming off its first-ever playoff berth.

Because today we also celebrate all that has gone wrong with the franchise.

It is the day we learned that Adam Morrison had a recent tryout with the Boston Celtics (we’re assuming Antoine Walker was unavailable).

And it is the first day of the two-day waiver period for just-released center Erick Dampier.

So how do the two tie together?

By how they have tied the hands of a franchise that required Larry Brown’s divine intervention for that playoff berth last season.

By now, the Morrison misstep has been well-chronicled, how Michael Jordan squandered the No. 3 overall selection on the one-dimensional, defensively lacking forward in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Ahead of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay and even Thabo Sefolosha.

But Dampier also speaks to a failure just as pronounced.

No, there was nothing unsound with the selection of Emeka Okafor with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft. It’s not as if the Bobcats had any input to what, at the time, was the debate over whether Dwight Howard should go No. 1. And it’s not as if Charlotte missed out on all that much, with the best of the lottery lot that year including Ben Gordon, Devin Harris, Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala. Big men always go higher.

But it’s how the Bobcats then flipped Okafor’s contract last summer to New Orleans for the shorter contract of Tyson Chandler. And how Jordan then flipped that contract this summer to Dallas for Dampier’s non-guaranteed and just-dumped contract.

The sum total of a pair of top-three selections over a two-year span?

An argument could be made that Stephen Jackson  resulted, in an obtuse way, from the dumping of Morrison. But that was more about matching salaries (for Vladimir Radmanovic who was acquired for Morrison from the Lakers).

Closer to reality is that absolutely nothing was gained, two prime pieces of draft real estate squandered.

Oh, Larry Brown may yet get the Bobcats back to the postseason, the Bobcats stifling in their halfcourt defense.

Actually, another playoff berth would do more than save face.
 
It also might save future embarrassment, considering how little the lottery has produced for Charlotte, where No. 2 plus No. 3 have equaled zero.

(And that’s not even getting into Raymond Felton going at No. 5 in 2005 and then leaving this past offseason as a free agent to New York for nothing in return. Another story best left for another day, when the likes of D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson also can be measured.)

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.
 

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.