What the Bobcats should do when the lockout ends

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This is the latest installment of PBT’s series of “What your team should do when the lockout ends.” Up next is the Charlotte Bobcats. You can also check out our thoughts on other NBA teams here as we work our way through all 30 squads.

Last season: Hope that four-game sweep in the playoffs was fun/worth it, Charlotte! The Bobcats plummeted back to Earth last season. No. Plummeted isn’t fair to objects that plummet. The Bobcats rocketed back to Earth. No. That’s insulting to rocket ships. The Bobcats were instantly teleported back to Earth last season after their first playoff run in 2010. There we go. The whole season fell apart nearly instantly.

Larry Brown was fired, Paul Silas was brought on. D.J. Augustin flourished, but the team could not, would not get out of its funk. Despite progress from Gerald Henderson and a surprisingly competent season from Kwame Brown, the Cats were dreadful. But the awfulness lead to some good things, actually. The Bobcats finally, mercifully agreed to blowing the team up and building towards the future. Gerald Wallace, the team’s biggest star, their All-Star, was sent to Portland for Dante Cunningham and draft picks. They still managed to win 34 games. For perspective, that’s only three games fewer than the 8th seed Indiana Pacers. While, yes, this does tell you how crappy the East continues to be, it still shows the the Bobcats weren’t wretched. Just awful. Bright side!

Since we last saw the Bobcats: Everything is different. Rich Cho was brought on in June, and subsequently oversaw a draft day deal that sent Stephen Jackson, the other pillar of the playoff appearance to Milwaukee and picked up Corey Maggette, but more importantly added the seventh pick in the draft, giving them two in the top ten. The result?

The Bobcats have a… young core? Where did this come from?

D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Tyrus Thomas, Dante Cunningham. That’s a six-man rotation of 25-years of age younger, with Thomas the oldest (depending on your Biyombo impression). All of a sudden the Bobcats are looking like one of the most hopeful teams in the league after being the most hopeless for the past few years. Just shows what committed management and ownership can do. The Bobcats begin having a shot at Portland’s first-rounder in 2013 and while their 2012 pick could be held by the Bulls from the Tyrus Thomas trade, it’s lottery protected in 2012, then protected in various forms all the way to 2016.

The Bobcats are headed in a new direction, and while it could be rough for fans, they’ll have Kemba Walker as a bonafide star to bet excited about.

When the lockout ends, the Bobcats need to: continue the process. They’ve started a true rebuilding process. They’ve begun to move away from veteran contracts and towards younger players. They’re building a core of rookies through the draft. They’ve still got some flotsam in the pool, however.

Desagana Diop is reason No.1 why the Cats need the amnesty clause. From there, Maggette should be on the block for cheap for any team looking to add a wing. If Maggette can bounce back from a downright bad 2011, he might pull in interest. He is an efficient scorer (18.3 career PER), and shot 36 percent from 3-point range last season in a down year. Tyrus Thomas needs to have a heck of a year to justify keeping him and his salary around, especially with a deep draft of power forwards hanging round.

But the young guys bring a lot of promise. D.J. Augustin’s improvement means Kemba Walker can develop at his own pace, likewise with Thomas and Biyombo. They’ll need to work out the point guard confusion eventually, but that’s the luxury of rebuilding. They’ve got time, as long as they’re patient.

So yeah, 2012 will probably be a struggle for Charlotte. But if they take on the right identity, they could be the young team that loses but is fun to watch every game. And that’ll be a real first in franchise history.

 

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.