Charlotte aimed for a mediocrity, and it's paying off

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Thumbnail image for Brown_Jordan.jpgThe “right way” to build an NBA franchise is from the ground up. Clear out contracts. Draft well. Sign value free agents to smart deals. Stay young and stay flexible, in the hope that one day an elite player will finally fall into the team’s lap. Unfortunately that’s not a blueprint most small-market clubs can afford to take, as the pressure to reach a certain level of commercial success ends up superseding the actual team-building strategy.

That financial reality coupled with the fact that there are only so many franchise centerpieces to be had makes it quite common to see teams shooting for playoff berths rather than championships. Though bad management is surely to blame for a lot of the NBA’s bad contracts, the impact of small market difficulties should not be discounted. It’s something franchises like the Lakers (and even the Knicks, despite the troubles they’ve had over the last decade) never face, but there’s a legitimate and unfortunate motivation for teams in smaller markets to overpay for second and third tier talent.

The Bobcats are such a team, as evidenced by their willingness to take on Stephen Jackson’s absurd contract via trade, as well as Boris Diaw’s. Now, Charlotte isn’t responsible for committing huge amounts of money to either of those players, but they did sacrifice financial flexibility in the process of acquiring them. Not because anyone with the Cats thought that Diaw or Jackson would legitimately push the team into the conference’s top tier, but because they needed to get better, contracts and roster limitations be damned.

It didn’t matter that both players have definite flaws in their games that prevent them from being focal points of a championship-level team, even if they’re being paid as such. Charlotte needed talent to make a jump (even if it wasn’t the jump), and they went out and got it. In the process, it may have crippled their hopes of really elevating the quality of the team in the near future, but y’know what? It’s paying off. In terms of their bottom line, anyway.

From David Scott of the Charlotte Observer (via Tom Ziller of FanHouse):

The Bobcats, who reached the playoffs for the first time in their
six-year history last spring, have renewed 91 percent of their season
ticket holders and sold 1,575 new season tickets for the 2010-11
season, which begins in October.

Both those numbers are in
the top 10 in the 30-team league, according to Bobcats president Fred
Whitfield, who got the news at a recent NBA executives meeting. The
Bobcats have never been in the top 20 of the league in either of those
categories, Whitfield said.

So what if Charlotte barely even has a point guard anymore? Raymond Felton walked because the ‘Cats weren’t in a position to pay him, and yet the most successful season the Bobcats have ever had (one that saw them swept in the first round of the playoffs, mind you) was very much dependent on Felton’s talents. Stephen Jackson was the catalyst and Gerald Wallace the team’s heart, but Felton’s defense and ability to run the offense (even if Charlotte’s operation on that end is far from pristine) were quite valuable.

Apparently none of that matters. Butts are going into seats, and more dollars in the Bobcats’ name. Charlotte may not be on the up-and-up, but they live to fight another day, and that’s something. It’s not the direction any fan would want their franchise to go, but not every small market team can be the Spurs. Most face a lot of hardship, both on the court and off of it, and as a result, approaches like Charlotte’s — good in the short-term, not so much in the long-term — aren’t as uncommon as they should be. 

Russell Westbrook’s triple-double hands Warriors fourth straight loss

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook recorded his first triple-double of the season as Oklahoma City defeated the Golden State Warriors 123-95 Wednesday night in a game in which Thunder rookie Hamidou Diallo was carted off on a stretcher with 7:17 left with an apparent left leg injury.

Diallo’s left leg was stabilized as he was wheeled away to applause from the Oracle Arena crowd. The team it turns out not too serious.

Westbrook began 1 for 6, then hit stride, finishing with 11 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds. It was his second game back since missing five with a sprained left ankle, then another when he welcomed twin daughters Saturday night.

Paul George had 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Steven Adams contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Thunder sent the two-time defending NBA champions to their first four-game skid in nearly six years.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson scored 27 points apiece with Durant grabbing a season-best 14 rebounds for the Warriors, who were again playing without All-Star starters Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, as well as key reserve Alfonzo McKinnie.

Clearly in pain, Diallo moved himself off the court and was under basket for several minutes.

In a loss Monday at Sacramento, Diallo became the first Thunder rookie ever to go at least 7 for 7 from the floor. He made both his 3-point tries on the way to 18 points.

Westbrook’s 3-pointer 4:17 before halftime put the Thunder ahead 50-37.

The Warriors, who held off the Thunder 108-100 in their season opener Oct. 16 and had won the last three matchups, trailed 60-46 at halftime with just 11 assists to 10 turnovers but opened the third with a 13-2 run to get within 62-59.

While Golden State dropped 10 of its final 17 games last season, the Warriors hadn’t endured a four-game losing streak during the regular season since dropping four in a row from Feb. 26-March 2, 2013. They also lost six straight just before that in February `13.

OKC’s Terrance Ferguson returned from a two-game absence as he welcomed a baby, then went down at the 5:41 mark of the first with a sprained left ankle and didn’t return.

 

LeBron James, Lakers prevail in Cleveland after controversial late call

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LeBron James got a warm welcome before the game. He got another standing ovation during the game. And he got favorable officiating late.

Just like old times in Cleveland.

LeBron returned with the Lakers and escaped with a 109-105 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday. With 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, he did all he could to top his old team. But an odd call also benefited Los Angeles.

With the Lakers up two late, LeBron missed a jumper, and the rebound went out of bounds. Officials ruled it Los Angeles ball with 22.9 seconds left. Per the NBA’s new offensive-rebound shot-clock rule, the shot clock goes to 14 seconds “after the offensive team gets possession of the ball after it goes out of bounds immediately following a missed field goal or free throw that hit the rim.” That seemed to apply here. Yet, the Lakers inbounded with the shot clock off, so the Cavs were forced to foul.

Ultimately, I’m not convinced it mattered, because LeBron split from the line. Is there a huge difference in win expectancy between the Cavaliers getting the ball down three with 19.6 seconds left (what actually happened) and defending down two with 22.9 seconds left and 14 seconds on the shot clock (what probably should have happened)? It seems not.

Besides, this game was more about sentimentality than result, anyway. Sure, a win over LeBron would have been satisfying during a lost season. But Cavaliers fans settled for a nice ovation to LeBron during intros and another with his tribute video:

This game was far closer than 2010, when LeBron returned to Cleveland with the Heat and routed the Cavs. This game was also far, far, far tamer.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, it seems everyone is happier to walk away with limited drama.

Kyrie Irving: ‘F— Thanksgiving’

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There’s a theory Kyrie Irving resented the way LeBron James‘ political opinions always drew attention and Irving’s didn’t. The biggest folly of the situation? Irving’s flat-earth takes were the only non-basketball thing he said that resonated.

But Irving seemingly hit on more meaningful discourse tonight.

After the Celtics’ loss to the Knicks, Irving addressed tomorrow’s holiday.

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

Irving has Native American roots and a strong connection Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I suspect that informs his opinion on Thanksgiving.

The history of Thanksgiving is more complex than the fairytale many of us were taught in school. Agree or disagree with Irving’s point of view, his remark presents a great opportunity to learn more about different perspectives.

Anthony Davis gets 5×5, but misses game-tying free throw

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When going to the line for multiple free throws, NBA players typically shoot better on each successive attempt.

Anthony Davis bucked that trend at the worst possible time.

With the Pelicans down three and 2.5 seconds left, Davis drew a foul on a 3-pointer. He sunk the first two free throws then missed the third, allowing the 76ers to escape with a 121-120 win.

Davis deserves credit for getting New Orleans so close. Before Davis drew the foul, Jrue Holiday missed a wayward quick-two attempt. Davis stole Ben Simmons‘ attempt to keep the ball in bounds and got up the 3-pointer the Pelicans should have been attempting all along.

After swishing the first two free throws what went wrong for Davis? Maybe it was the curse of Jahlil Okafor. The former 76er subbed in for New Orleans before the third free throw, working the loud Philadelphia crowd into even more of a frenzy.

I’m not sure Davis’ final steal should count, as Simmons might not have had possession. But if it holds up, Davis will have a rare 5×5 – at least five points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

For now, it’s the first 5×5 since Draymond Green‘s in 2015 and first 5×5 in a loss since Andrei Kirilenko’s in 2003.

Here’s every 5×5 since 1983-84 (as far back as Basketball-Reference records go):

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