Sources: Cody Zeller is destined to be a Spur, and also, How We Got Mozgoved

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It’s been a while since my last post.  Please allow me to explain.

Being a Hornets fan is really hard.

I spent the latter weeks of the regular season clinging onto the slim hope that the Hornets could get the 8-seed in the East.  And then on March 8th, they lost to the vastly inferior Brooklyn Nets by 14, and a few days later, they lost to the Knicks by 23.  Neither game was as close as the score indicates.  That is when I threw a white flag up on 2018.

If you read any of my earlier posts, you know that I held two things to be true: 1) Steve Clifford’s time as an effective coach was over (though I knew he would be hired by the Magic, check that Twitter feed to the left!), and 2) Dwight Howard was a black hole on offense.

Both of these situations have now been remedied.  By all accounts, an effective replacement for Clifford has been hired in James Borrego.  And today’s trade (that will become official after July 6th) of Dwight Howard for Timofey Mozgov, two second round draft picks and cash concerns is a classic case of addition by subtraction.

The Dwight Howard move was terrible.  It was never going to work out.  Every team he has ever played for claims that he is a cancer in the locker room.  He is a notorious goofball.  He is a child abuser, which was never going to fly longterm in Charlotte (this is the city that chased the original Hornets franchise out of town because the owner–George Shinn–had an affair with a cheerleader).  He is a center in a league where the center position–as Dwight Howard plays it–is no longer important.  Atlanta took on the terrible Plumlee contract just to get rid of him.  I could go on and on.

Timofey Mozgov may never play meaningful minutes for the Hornets.  He may not even be on the roster by Friday.  But if this trade results in Kemba Walker staying and/or the shooters on the team getting actual opportunities to shoot and develop a rhythm, this will go down as one of the most important trades in franchise history.

***

In other news: Cody Zeller is destined to be a San Antonio Spur.

Have you ever seen the sweet third passes that the CZA makes on the regular?  Those passes have ‘Popovich’ written all over them.  Sources say that Cody Zeller is the next Boris Diaw.

Kawhi wants out of San Antonio.  The Hornets are in a good spot to make a trade or be a third team facilitator for a draft day trade.  My gut says these sources are correct.

***

As for me, I’m in that pre-draft sweet spot as a fan.  Anything is possible.  Optimism reigns supreme.  The Dwight trade has me jazzed.  If the Hornets have to go down, I’d rather see them go down missing open threes and running an actual offense than see Kemba pass the ball in to Dwight and then stand around and watch until Dwight shoots just before the shot clock expires.  But the Hornets don’t have to go down.  The 8-seed is in sight.  The time is now.

(Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Baseline Buzz Hot Taeks: Cho’s Firing

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Hello again, and welcome to Baseline Buzz Hot Taeks!

The reason I never followed up with a trade deadline recap after the Hernangomez trade is…  There was nothing to follow up with!

Which less me into:

THE TIMELINE THAT LED TO THE FIRING OF TRADER (TRAITOR?) CHO

1) Cho leaked to the media that Kemba Walker was available for trading, thus damaging the team’s relationship with their All-Star point guard.

2) A trade is made for Hernangomez.  This is obviously a precursor to another trade.

3) Jordan leaks that he is looking at Kupchak as a possible replacement for Cho when Cho’s contract expires because he is pissed off about the Kemba fallout.

4) Cho says “eff it, if I’m getting fired anyway, I’m not making another trade.”  The team is stuck with a bunch of PF/Cs.

5) Cho is fired.

Sound about right?

 

 

Rookie Mistake

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Greetings, and welcome to my first post for Baseline Buzz!

First, a brief history: I have been a Charlotte Basketball fan since 1988. My family owned season tickets during the franchise’s golden age (top row section 238, seats 1 and 2). I was at the playoff game when Zo hit the shot to beat the Celtics, and I was at every home playoff game in 2001 when the Bugs swept the Heat (and would have beaten the Bucks if Sam Cassell would have kept his glad-hands off the refs’ backsides). During the decade I lived in San Francisco, I bought NBA League Pass every year specifically for the purpose of watching every Bobcats game, and I was surely the only person to ever purchase a ticket to a game in Oracle Arena to cheer on Gerald Wallace. And no disrespect to Muggsy, Kendall, Johnny Newman, LJ and Zo, but I believe the greatest Hornets lineup of all-time was Baron Davis, David Wesley, Jamal Mashburn, PJ Brown and Elden Campbell (and the best bench player on that team was Eddie Robinson, for what it’s worth).

With Adam’s departure from Baseline Buzz, I am stepping in midseason and attempting to fill some gigantic shoes. It is no simple task, to say the least. Rather than pick one thing to hone in on, I am going to about two bad things, two unknown quantities, and two good things. Without further ado.

NEGATIVES

—Steve Clifford’s Refusal to Give Rookies Meaningful Minutes

Look, I get it. Steve Clifford is an old-school coach, and making rookies earn their place in the Association is an old-school move. The problem is that the Hornets are not old-school good.

I like Steve Clifford, and he is a much better coach than his predecessor. He seems like he would be a fun guy to have a beer with. But his propensity for driving rookies into the ground before they get their feet wet is one of his least endearing qualities. Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon are both solid picks with gigantic potential upsides, but they need to play in order to develop into anything more than second or third-tier role players. Bacon is a solid second-rounder—if he develops into a solid NBA player, that is all gravy. But Monk needs to be in games early and often. He is a rhythm shooter, and you can’t develop rhythm on the bench. Give him meaningful minutes now, and he could be a star. Bench him so he can “learn the game” and he could be…. reverse-MKG?

—The Dwight Howard Experiment

Speaking of old-school basketball.

Unlike Adam, I hated the Dwight Howard trade from the beginning. The shedding of Plumlee’s contract was huge, and Howard’s star power is undeniable, but Dwight has a reputation of being a cancer in the locker room, and he is an admitted child-abuser.

That being said, he is putting up All-Star numbers on the basketball court, he obviously cares about the team’s performance, and I get the sense that he is trying very hard to push his teammates into the playoffs.

The problem is that he is a black hole on offense. A large portion of the Hornets’ plays so far this season consist of Kemba (or MCW) bringing the ball up court, passing it to Dwight, and then dropping back and watching Dwight either shoot or pump fake until he gets fouled.

In the past, the Hornets offense has worked with Cody Zeller at center because the CZA knows how to make the second, third and fourth pass to a cutting teammate or a shooter out on the perimeter. Of course Cody has been injured for a season and a half, so he hasn’t been an option of late.

Look, Dwight Howard is very good at basketball. There is a solution out there, I am just not sure if that solution is to teach Dwight how to pass to his teammates or look to trade him to a contender who needs a center that doesn’t know how to pass to his teammates. Either way, he has been a disruption to offenses on both sides of the floor.

 
UNKNOWNS

—The Coaching Situation

Coach Clifford took a hiatus from the team for undisclosed health-related issues, and though Stephen Silas has a strong tie to Charlotte Basketball’s past (his father is former Hornets coach and current season ticket holder Paul “Huggy Bear” Silas), he doesn’t appear to be the answer should Clifford’s health or job performance become a longer term issue.

Jason Kidd just became available.  Just throwing that out there.

—The Kemba Walker Fiasco

Floating Kemba Walker’s name in trade conversations was a mistake.  Woj knows all and Woj tells all. The only scenarios that make sense regarding this mistake:

1) Motivation

Kemba has been a little stagnant of late. Maybe a trade rumor is the fire he needed to get going.

2) A Godfather Offer

An offer along the lines of Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love and the Brooklyn pick or a package including Andrew Wiggins makes sense for both sides (Minnesota has always been high on Batum).

3) The Steph Factor

There is a Berenstainian possibility that a trade of Kemba Walker could pull Steph Curry further towards the Hornets in the future.

Reasoning: If Kemba does not get traded, he is all but guaranteed to pass Dell Curry as the leading scorer in Charlotte Basketball history.  A trade to preserve Papa Curry’s legacy is sure to be looked upon favorably.

Now, the trade scenarios that do not make sense:

1) Cap Relief

I don’t believe the Hornets are willing to dismantle their franchise to save a few bucks so long as Jordan is at the helm. Jordan wants to win, even if he hasn’t figured out how to do so as an owner.

2) Anything Involving Draft Picks

The Hornets are terrible at drafting and even worse at developing rookies. Trading an All-Star caliber player for draft picks does not make sense for this franchise.

Onto:

 
POSITIVES

—The Remaining Schedule

Over the first half of the season, the Hornets had one of the toughest schedules in the league (anywhere from the toughest to the fifth toughest, depending on metrics used). For the remainder of the season, they have the easiest schedule in the league. Barring further injury or a dumb trade, the playoffs are still in reach (as of this writing, the Hornets stand four games back of the 76ers for the eighth seed).

—Chemistry

The advantage of developing an organization where you draft and retain players is that the players have the opportunity to learn together and grow together as professionals. Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrest, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon have all spent the entirety of their careers as products of the same developmental system. They don’t know anything different than Charlotte Basketball. Injuries to MKG and Zeller have derailed several potentially prime years, but they still know how to contribute if they are able, and everyone mentioned above is still very young.

And speaking of oft-injured players, Nic Batum isn’t a native Hornet, but he has recently built a house in Charlotte, so one can imagine that he has bought into the organization as much as he possibly can. If Dwight Howard and Michael Carter-Williams are able to become more comfortable with their teammates, good basketball could be over the horizon.


 

Gerald Wallace Gains Respect and Recognition

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The Basketball Media Has Discovered Gerald Wallace

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For over five years, the Bobcats faithful have watched Gerald Wallace throw his body across the court, attempting to make the effort plays that few are willing to risk.  Anyone that’s ever played basketball understands how hard it is to run end-to-end on every play.  Imagine sprinting, leaping, sliding, diving and picking yourself up to do it all over again for the length of an NBA game.  Wallace’s athletic abilities should catch any basketball fan’s attention, but the effort he exhibits each game is hard not to admire.  “Crash” is finally starting to build a following outside of the small Bobcats cult.  This past week we’ve seen several major sports news outlets share some love for Gerald and his impressive play this season.

NBA Fanhouse’s Tim Povtak has helped to spread the word about #3 with an article about the small-forward’s uncanny rebounding streak.

“Gerald Wallace doesn’t see this as unusual. He just sees it as a necessity for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Wallace, 6-7, 215 pounds, is bidding to become the smallest rebounding champion in NBA history, an athletic small forward who has ventured into the land of the giants.”

“Gerald Wallace doesn’t see this as unusual. He just sees it as a necessity for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Wallace, 6-7, 215 pounds, is bidding to become the smallest rebounding champion in NBA history, an athletic small forward who has ventured into the land of the giants.”

More good vibes followed from Sekou Smith of NBA.com

“Charlotte small forward Gerald Wallace plays with a relentless force that cannot be matched by any of his peers. He’s not celebrated the way he should be. And Hang Time’s here to change that today.

We don’t need a straw poll, secret ballots or any other of clandestine method to determine the hardest working man in basketball.”

ESPN.com has another bit of praise from Matt Moore (of the True Hoop Network, not the Carolina Panthers)

“I’m not going to sit here and say with 100 percent certainty, “Gerald Wallace is a robot sent from the future to save mankind from opposing teams’ offenses.” I’m just saying I would be very interested to see the results of an X-ray. I’m beginning to think his missing time for a collapsed lung was just factory maintenance.”

Ultimately, we don’t know what it will take for Wallace to become an All-Star.  For three seasons, he’s been the most exciting and visible member of the Bobcats. Still, there’s just about zero chance that the fans will vote Gerald into the game as a starter.  Can the coaches (who vote for reserves) find a better option than a player that sacrifices himself on the court, continually improves each year, and won’t let bumps, bruises, tweaked knees, dislocated shoulders, concussions, or a collapsed lung keep him on the bench?

Oddly, each off-season we hear rumblings about possible trades that will dump Gerald’s contract.  It’s been hard to believe some of those trade rumors we’ve read from “insiders” over the years. There are plenty of bad contracts in the NBA, and Wallace is as good of a value as you’ll find in any pro league.  Earlier this season, when the Cats were scoring 30 pts. a half, I felt horrible for Gerald.  As much as I follow the Bobcats, I couldn’t help but think that Crash deserved more.  Finally, Charlotte has found their identity and begun to show consistent success.  Despite their early failures, Wallace never gave up.  Now, try to imagine the way Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady, or Joe Johnson would conduct themselves on a team doing as bad as the Bobcats were in October/November.  The Bobcats have a gem in Wallace and if he does receive a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star squad, those trade rumors will likely settle down this off-season.

-Mike

The Importance of Intangibles (or Turnovers)

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INTANGIBLES

Can Experience and Leadership Always Create Positive Results?

For the past year, there has been an emerging divide amongst the Bobcats fans. One camp views Raymond Felton as the undeniable leader of the team. The general view from this perspective rests upon Felton’s success as a college athlete and last season’s promotion to the starting point guard position. One of the biggest arguments for Raymond is that he’s shown leadership, “intangibles”, and holds much more experience than his backup. The other side of the Felton coin is given special attention by the so-called “Raymond Haters.” This group of fans sees Felton strictly for his statistics and his contribution to Charlotte’s losing nature over the course of his tenure with the team. The old bit about “the grass is always greener” seems to be the mantra of those hoping to see Raymond replaced.

Felton does provide leadership. For better or for worse, he stands as the struggling Bobcats’ most decisive offensive player. Unfortunately for the Tarheel, his pro career statistics have shown little to prove he should start at point guard at the NBA level. Like another local fan-favorite, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, Felton has received a load of praise about his demeanor, leadership in the locker room, and those ever-so-hard-to-describe intangibles.

Just like Jake, Raymond started off this season with a boat load of turnovers and very few passes leading to scores. The local football fans turned on Delhomme despite his great status as a teammate with stellar intangibles. The quarterback’s tendency to hand the ball to the opposition made him nearly impossible to watch. Now, the Bobcats seem to be enduring the same situation. Oddly, the expectations for this team are so low that no one is really that upset over the point guard’s high rate of failure.

NBA Starter or Reserve

Felton has shown promise as a solid pro player. He’s found ways to score and he’s been able to play defense up to Larry Brown’s high standards. The question mark for NBA fans of Charlotte is Raymond’s ability to truly lead such a desperate club as the Bobcats look this season. He’s shown grit, heart, dedication, and toughness but that only gets you so much.

So, one group of fans will inevitably ask “What’s so wrong with Raymond running the team’s offense?” The answer for this would be three-fold. First off, Felton is the leader of the worst offense in the NBA.  Secondly, a starter on an NBA team should not turn the ball over so much. Lastly, and most importantly, Felton’s hard work and intangible efforts still don’t make him a star basketball player (which is what this team needs).

It’s hard to define that frequent sports compliment of “intangibles” because you don’t really hear anyone talk about truly great players having “intangibles.” I don’t hear as much about Kobe’s “intangibles” as I hear about his scoring, his defense, and his rings. Having a lot of “heart” or determination might make the great players into legends, but it doesn’t do the same for those simply good-enough-to-go-pro guys. While folks used to love watching Jared Dudley overachieve here and there and score 4 or 5 more points than he should or get that extra “hustle” rebound, no one wants to build a team around Jared Dudley. When it’s time to make a deal, most of us would take a guy that can show us a career of solid stats over the guy that can only claim “intangibles.”

Bobcats Next Step

For Charlotte’s banker crew, let’s pose this question – “Are there any means to measure the value of a player, other than recorded statistics?” Looking at Felton’s numbers, would a speculator even bother considering this investment? Without a definition of the core intangibles that Felton seems to possess, it’s tough to have a proper debate about the pros and cons of #20 playing starting point guard for the Bobcats.

Next month, the Bobcats will have the ability to trade Felton (with his permission). Obvious needs have come to light early this season and the team will likely attempt to move any asset in order to improve.  Raymond Felton poses such a complex dilemma for the club.  The perpetually confused Bobcats organization must commit to a direction.  Will they reward Felton for his hard work or evaluate him based upon his production?

-Mike

Quick Start to Bobcats Preseason News

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It seems like the long drought of non-NBA action was so long ago now that NBA Preseason is underway.  The Bobcats have shown some good signs of growth as they’ve put together two competitive games so far against the Cavs (loss) and the Hornets (win).  For anyone who caught the last, local TV broadcast on the FS Carolinas nextwork, it may have seemed like a surreal Charlotte-NBA concoction.  The list of oddities is tough to summarize, but I’ll try –  The Hornets played against the Bobcats in Greensboro’s teal saturated arena, both wearing pinstriped uniforms, with Steve Martin and Dell Curry calling the game for the TV broadcast.

BOBCATS PRESEASON NEWS

  • Emeka Okafor has always presented himself as a great professional and has conveyed as much sophistication as any athlete.  He told reporters that we was surprised by the trade that sent him from Charlotte to New Orleans.  Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on Okafor’s return to NC this past Wednesday.
  • Brian Hendrickson of Sports Illustrated has written an encouraging piece about the Bobcats current situation.  Rarely does SI shed a positive light on the organization, but Hendrickson seems to see the team getting past all of those errors and obstacles.  Read it at SI.com.
  • The Bobcats have finally posted real images of their jerseys on the online team store.  I have to say that the home uniforms are looking great.  The road jerseys might take a little more time to settle in.  This Diaw jersey might be a good purchase.
  • Lastly, the free agent of much Bobcats Baseline adoration doesn’t look so glowingly perfect nowadays.  Memphis Grizzlies guard Allen Iverson looks to be sidelined for the entire Preseason after injuring his hamstring.  Iverson told the media that his leg “popped” when he “stopped on a dime.”  But wasn’t Dime where we read that Iverson had a deal with Charlotte?

NEXT GAME

Cavs vs Cats in Charleston, SC on Saturday night.  No Boris Diaw, Tyson Chandler, Delonte West, or Jamario Moon. . . but there will be plenty of Shaq and Lebron for ESPN to show us afterward.

-Mike

No Offense, Who Will Get Traded?

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It seems to be understood that the Bobcats’ scoring troubles are going to be a major concern for the team’s progress next season.  NBA.com even featured an article titled “Bobcats Search For Go-To Scorer.”

Recently, it appeared that some sort of progress was just on the horizon, but now it’s not certain that “The Answer” will be the answer for these problems.  It looks as though Memphis is willing to provide Allen Iverson with an offer that the Cats can’t match, so the idea of a scorer coming to Charlotte seems less likely through free agency.  The Bobcats haven’t done a lot to improve their on court situation this off-season.  Some were concerned about the “locker room cancer” of Allen Iverson.  Still, rumors have been reported that fans usually pay to see what happens on the floor, not back stage.

Despite the arguments for or against Iverson, the club needs something or someone to push the team forward.  This week, ESPN had their basketball contributors collaborate to predict the Eastern Conference rankings.  Unfortunately, the Bobcats didn’t look too high on the list ( #11).  As they put it, the Bobcats are “stuck in purgatory.”  Actually, I would say that the fans are stuck in purgatory. . .  getting paid millions to play basketball sounds a lot more like heaven to me.  Getting back to the point. . .   If the offense proves to be an issue with the club, will Larry Brown push for more moves to remix the roster mash-up he’s already created?

If a trade were to be made to strengthen the offense, the Cats would have to look at their most valuable trade assets.

#1 GERALD WALLACE

His all-around basketball skills and raw talent have got him this far, and a season under Larry Brown has made him looked as polished as ever.

#2 BORIS DIAW

There aren’t too many power forwards with Diaw’s skills.  Thanks to  last season’s unspectacular point guard play, he was able to showcase his court-vision and ball handling skills .  His value has probably benefitted the most by getting a chance to start for Charlotte last season.

#3 RAYMOND FELTON

Starting Point Guards are in demand in the NBA.  Several teams still lack a solid starter, and Felton would be much more needed among several other rosters.  His lack of improvement over the past few years subjects him to the same argument made about Okafor’s lack of progress – solid stats, but no real up-side.

#4 RAJA BELL

Defensive specialist with an expiring contract – sounds like the kind of thing every contender is looking for.  What do you do when you don’t have Kobe, D Wade, or Vince Carter?  You get someone that can keep those guys below 30 pts a game.

#5 DJ AUGUSTIN

Based upon his potential as a point guard and his solid play as a rookie last season, there could be plenty of suitors for Augustin.  His rookie-scale contract is just the right price for any team looking for a rotation player.

Giving away any of these players would be tough, but it looks like there are several quality players on the trade market – Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudamire, Stephen Jackson, & Monta Ellis.  The major question is if the Bobcats have the capacity to make a trade in which they actually come out as a winner.

Bonus :  NBA.com gives a recap of their Top 10 Bobcats Plays