2011 NBA Draft

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.

 

Three questions to answer: Cavaliers vs. Warriors rematch (plus notes on other MLK Day games)

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It’s the best rivalry going in the NBA — the game that matters most to both teams. Even if they try to deny it. This is a rematch of the last two NBA Finals and a likely preview of the next one, and this January game is a measuring stick. Here are three things to watch for, and after that notes on the other nationally televised games on Martin Luther King Jr. day.

1) Can the Warriors break the Cavaliers’ mental advantage in this series? The Warriors will say the Cavaliers are not in their heads, because that’s not just what competitors say, it’s what they have to believe. However, The Cavaliers have won four straight games against the Warriors dating back to last year’s Finals — Cleveland came from 3-1 down on basketball’s biggest stage to take the title, then came from 14 down to beat the Warriors on Christmas Day. In those games, LeBron James has been nothing short of brilliant and Kyrie Irving has been a late-game killer.

January games don’t decide June series, but the Warriors certainly could use the confidence boost against the Cavs. David West was honest about that speaking to CSNBayArea.com.

“This is a very important game for us,” West said Sunday, “because this is the last time we’re going to be able to measure ourselves against these guys. The only other time we’d get to face them would be in The Finals.”

Two straight Finals meetings means these teams know each other and their sets very well. There are no secrets. That’s an advantage for Cleveland: Golden State runs a lot of deception, fake screens, relatively meaningless actions designed to distract from what they really want to do. But by now the Cavs have seen it all. They aren’t fooled. The Warriors need to beat the Cavs one-on-one occasionally. That is what’s at the core of the Cavaliers game plan — we’re going to force Stephen Curry onto LeBron James or Kyrie Irving (via a switch on a pick), then isolate and bet he can’t stop them. It’s simple but it works, and the Warriors have not had an answer.

Being at home should help the Warriors. The bottom line is they can say the Cavaliers are not in their heads all they want, the Warriors could use a confidence-boosting win to convince themselves of that.

2) Kevin Durant was the best player on the court on Christmas, can Stephen Curry be? There is another way to phrase that question (which ties into the first one): Are the Cavaliers in Curry’s head? He had a rough Finals at points. Curry was a relatively passive 4-of-11 for 15 points on Christmas Day, and immediately after said he needed to be more aggressive.

In the Cavaliers’ four straight wins over the Warriors, Curry has shot  37 percent overall (36 percent from three) and has 15 turnovers to 10 assists. Cavaliers use physical defenders and are aggressive against Curry, they try to trap him and bait him into the flashy, playground-style passes that ignite the Warriors — except the Cavaliers have the defenders to turn those passes into steals and transition buckets. It’s the reason Durant was the best player on the Warriors on Christmas Day (36 points on 26 shots) — the Cavaliers are a very good help/schematic defensive team, but they have guys who can be beaten in isolation. Durant thrives in isolation.

Curry needs not to be baited into bad passes, be aggressive looking for his shot but pick his spots, get to the line a little more, and just knock down some shots.

3) How do the Warriors handle Kyle Korver? This is the one change after the Christmas day matchup. After they finally got a practice under their belts to figure things out, Tyron Lue slid Korver into the “LeBron and the bench” lineup —LeBron James, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, Korver, and Channing Frye. It worked well, as you might expect LeBron surrounded by shooters would work, and Kover had 18 against the Kings. How well this works against the Warriors though could be different — it’s not easy for the Cavs to keep Frye on the court against the Warriors matchups.

That said, the fact defenders can’t leave Korver to help is a boost to the Cavs when they start to run picks to get Curry switched onto Irving or LeBron. Either Korver is going to get some “butt-naked looks” (Tyronn Lue’s words) or he’s going to open it up for teammates. Either way, it will be interesting to see if the Warriors go with Shaun Livingston or someone else off the bench to counter Korver Sunday.

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There are other interesting games on Martin Luther King day, here’s a few things to watch (all times Eastern):

Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks, (1 p.m. NBA TV). The Hawks have won 8-of-9 and are defending incredibly well. The Knicks have won 2-of-12 and have defended very poorly — and that has led to all kinds of speculation and rumors around the team. Another loss would just stoke that fire.

Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets (5 p.m. NBA TV). The teams have struggled but there are two players worth watching here. Denver’s Nikola Jokic is one of the best sophomores in the league, averaging 13.3 points a game on 58 percent shooting, plus he is a gifted passer. Orlando’s Aaron Gordon is struggling in his adjustment to playing the three, but he’s a good perimeter defender and the games he is aggressive on offense good things happen.

Oklahoma City Thunder at LA Clippers (10:30 p.m. TNT). The Clippers have won six in a row, and Chris Paul has been phenomenal since his return. Russell Westbrook has been phenomenal all season, 18 triple-doubles in 40 games, but the Thunder are on the second night of a back-to-back.

James Harden’s 12th triple-double helps Rockets end 2-game skid

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NEW YORK (AP) James Harden had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in his 12th triple-double of the season and the Houston Rockets easily ended their first losing streak of the season by beating the Brooklyn Nets 137-112 on Sunday night.

Held to 105 points in losses to Minnesota and Memphis, the Rockets bounced back with 104 after three quarters and handed the Nets their 10th straight loss.

Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 24 points and Trevor Ariza added 23. Houston made 21 3-pointers and had five players with at least 16 points.

Houston shot just 40.8 percent during its two losses, well below its 46.8 season average, while being held nearly 10 points below its season scoring average. But the Rockets had no trouble bouncing back against the Nets, who allow an NBA-worst 114.3 per game.

Joel Embiid helps bring hundreds of fans to D.C. with ‘Bus the Process’

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Joel Embiid has fans all around the NBA. Some even came out to see him during the Philadelphia 76ers game against the Washington Wizards on Saturday despite the Cameroonian big man sitting out due to restrictions on playing in back-to-back games.

#BusTheProcess was the hashtag used to get 350 Sixers fans to the game in D.C. thanks to Embiid, coach Brett Brown, and the podcast The Rights to Ricky Sanchez.

Via Twitter and ESPN:

Fun stuff for some dedicated fans, even if they didn’t get to see Embiid play.

Unfortunately for the #BusTheProcess folks, the 76ers wound up losing to the Wizards, 109-93.

Ball ricochets off Robin Lopez’s face, Bulls score anyway (VIDEO)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31:  Robin Lopez #8 of the Chicago Bulls look on against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Barclays Center on October 31, 2016 in New York City. 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 Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Michael Carter-Williams is still shaking the dust off after being inserted into the starting lineup, I guess. At least, that’s about what you can say when you pass the ball off your starting center’s face.

But there’s good news! The Chicago Bulls scored on this play.

Let’s take a look at the whole thing, shall we?

I think the more important question is whether Carter-Williams received a secondary or primary assists on the NBA.com tracking site.