How The Bobcats Can Improve : Escaping The Nottery – Ver. 1.0

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Charlotte Bobcats Offseason Checklist

Ah, the Eastern Conference. ‘Tis a place where a bad team can go 2-9 in a late season slump and still be only a game or two out of the Playoffs. The current Race for Eight bears more resemblance to peewee football hot potato than a professional sports exercise. Someone please just win some games and put us all out of our misery.

Which brings us to the titular “Nottery,” a place where franchises go to die: Not good enough to be good and not bad enough to get good. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan understood this more so than any other when he made the controversial Gerald Wallace trade last month. Good isn’t good enough and if you want to get better, sometimes you gotta get a little worse.

SECTION 1. WHAT WE GOT

Before we head out to the supermarket, we should take a look in the cupboard. As poor as the Bobcats have been playing recently, the team does have a few assets.

a.) D.J. Augustin

Has clearly shown that he can be a top 15-20 starting PG in the league. Can shoot and has figured out how to score from in close. Defense isn’t as big of an issue as current rules have made it nearly impossible to defend the position. Proved that he could shoot his way out of a slump. Still on his rookie deal.

b.) Stephen Jackson

Volatile and playing too many minutes for his age, Jackson is nonetheless the Bobcats’ best player. He’s the only guy who can consistently create his own shot and when he’s on, can single-handily carry the team to a victory. His contract is probably untradeable until at least the summer of 2012 so look for JAX to remain in his role with the team next season.

c.) Tyrus Thomas

Needs to prove that he can stay healthy and stay focused but when he’s in physical and mental shape can really change the game from a defensive perspective. Solid rebounder and excellent shot blocker who has a nice mid-range jumper. Bobcats have invested a ton of cash hoping the Tyrus experiment works out. Best case scenario: Starting Power Forward for the next five seasons. Worst case scenario: Severely overpaid role player.

d.) Gerald Henderson

Very good defensive guard. Very athletic. Shown promise as a cutter but jump shot is still erratic. Henderson is another unknown. He’ll probably never be a great long ball threat but if he can develop a consistent mid-to-long range shot could become a very good player.

e.) D.J. White, Dante Cunningham (RFA), Shaun Livingston

Three youngish rotation players who have shown flashes of potential. White seems to have the most upside and is still on his rookie deal. Livingston has managed to carve out a place in the league after destroying his knee a few years ago. Cunningham should keep improving now that he’s playing the three position full-time.

Total it up and you have seven players who’ll most likely be suiting up for the Bobcats next season. That’s half a roster. Combine them with two first round draft picks in June and the CAP CRUNCHERS (Gana Diop, Matt Carroll, Eddie Najera) and you’re down to just two roster spots available to improve the team.

SECTION 2. WHAT WE NEED

Augustin, Jackson, Thomas and Henderson will most likely return as four of the team’s starters. Livingston, White and Cunningham will be solid contributors from the bench. That still leaves some major needs:

a.) Men in the Middle

As pleasantly mediocre as Kwame Brown has been, he’s an unrestricted free agent come July and the team will need to make a major upgrade if it wants to compete. Gana Diop is currently the only center on the roster and he was bad before the season ending achilles injury.

b.) Bench Scoring

Augustin, Jackson and (if he develops a jumper) Henderson can handle most of the scoring as starters but the team lacks any sort of big time scoring presence from the bench. The Bobcats will need to find someone capable of taking off some of the scoring load.

c.) Stars

Either through the draft or through crafty trades, the Bobcats will need to find a way to bring in a guy who’ll move the turnstiles and put down game-winning buckets.

SECTION 3. THE DRAFT

Charlotte will most likely pick around #10 and #18 in the draft barring a improbable Bobcat Playoff berth, lottery miracle or a late-season collapse by New Orleans.

The ‘Cats will should have the opportunity to nab players like Kentucky’s Terrence Jones (Iggy-type SF), John Henson (long defensive SF), Texas forwards Tristan Thompson (poor-man’s Elton Brand) and Jordan Hamilton (O.J. Mayo, Jr. check that, DrE is saying Rashard Lewis or Danny Granger, Jr.). Kentucky point Brandon Knight (Jordan Crawford-like combo guard) and Moorehead State’s Kenneth Faried (Reggie Evans with upside) should also be on the board.

It’s by all accounts a weak draft and the ‘Cats would be better off not drafting for need. The center crop is thin but fortunately there are enough solid SF candidates who could be brought in to eventually replace Stephen Jackson a year or two down the road.

SECTION 4. FREE AGENCY

No one knows what the new CBA will look like next season (if there is one) but I’d be willing to bet that the Bobcats’ situation won’t change much. Once all of the expirings come off, the team will sit at around $49 million in salaries, around $10 million south of this year’s cap. Add in the two first rounders along with re-upping Dante Cunningham and the team should be at around $54 million.

Obviously, the remaining $6 million wouldn’t be enough to bring in a big-name star (even if there was one in a weak FA class) but the extra wiggle room may help them pull off a deal or two IF the team is lucky enough to import a decent center from another team.

Free Agent Centers 2011:

a.) DeAndre Jordan.

Made big strides this season but the high-flying athlete probably doesn’t make much sense to pair with a similar player in Tyrus Thomas. Clippers also seem intent on keeping him.

b.) Marc Gasol.

Will likely command around $10 million/per on the open market. Gasol is a lower rent version of his All-Star brother but is only 26 and could develop into top tier center himself given the right circumstances. He’s a restricted and the Griz have stated that they’ll re-sign him but given the historical ownership thriftiness and the fact that Z-Bo’s deal is also up makes me think that Gasol could be had with a big poison-pill offer sheet. To make a move for Gasol, the Bobcats would likely have to find a taker for Boris Diaw’s $9 million expiring contract first (see TRADE section).

c.) Kwame Brown.

Performed adequately for the team as a starter this season and could be brought back as a backup if the price is right.

d.) Other Potentially Interesting FAs.

Big Baby Davis, Nene (ETO), Shane Battier, Carl Landry (who they’ve tried to sign before), Sam Dalembert, Craig Smith, Brandon Wright.

SECTION 5. TRADE

Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw. Did I mention Boris Diaw? I just can’t see any way the Frenchman stays on the Bobcat roster come training camp. Only on the books for a final season, in a contract year (so will likely be motivated – see Chandler, Tyson) and has proven that when he gives a crap can be a game-changing presence in the lineup. All these factors combined with the Coach’s obvious dissatisfaction in Diaw’s inconsistent performances will likely land Boris in another uniform next season.

Potential Trades:

a.) Boris Diaw to Toronto for Leandro Barbosa.

Colangelo wanted him last summer and they need size. Both players on expirings, Bobcats trade big for small but also shave another $1.4 million off the books to go after a FA. ‘Cats get the bench scoring they’ve so desperately needed.

b.) Boris Diaw to LAClippers for Chris Kaman.

Again, both players on expirings. Clips get the third big to rotate with Griffin and Jordan. Bobcats take on an additional $3.2 million and risk Kaman’s recent injury history but if it works out, then they have a high-scoring starting center for the first time in franchise history.

c.) Boris Diaw + Future First Rounder to TeamX for cap space.

In this deal, the ‘Cats could find a team with cap space in need of a versatile big and compensate them with either this year’s late first rounder or Portland’s pick in 2013. The ‘Cats would then have around $18 million to pursue a free agent target like Marc Gasol.

SECTION 6. WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

Whenever the ’11-’12 NBA season starts, the Bobcats (barring major injury) will look quite a lot better than currently configured.

If the team simply follows the recipe above, they could trot out:

PG: Augustin/Livingston/Brandon Knight

SG: Henderson/Carroll

SF: Jackson/Jordan Hamilton/Cunningham

PF: Thomas/D.J. White/Najera

C: Kaman/Brown/Diop

The team would still be well under the $60 million cap and have enough flexibility the following summer to make a major splash in the vaunted Free Agent summer of 2012. No need to fret, Bobcats fans. I think MJ has a plan and if he follows it correctly, the team may well be in contention sooner rather than never.

Until Version 2.0…

Enjoy the Nottery, Bobcats Fans,

-ASChin

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

  • Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Not Re-Signing Raymond Felton (14%, 26 Votes)
  • Starting Nazr Mohammed (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Firing Larry Brown (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Wallace (32%, 59 Votes)
  • Re-Signing Tyrus Thomas (6%, 11 Votes)
  • Cutting Sherron Collins (4%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 182

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Waiting for The Next Good Hand

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Although we’ve seen a lot of huffing and puffing recently from Bobcats fans and local media, the team’s latest stretch of road beat-downs and lackluster efforts shouldn’t be so hastily bundled into last month’s Gerald Wallace salary dump (cue Abraham Lincoln voice) “for this was their path all along.”

You see, there’s a very good reason why the Charlotte NBA franchise dropped five consecutive road games to solid Western Conference teams and that reason is that the Bobcats aren’t very good. They aren’t good without Gerald Wallace and they weren’t good with him. They were simply adequate.

But they were tearing up the league once Sugar Bear Silas took over,” you contend. Yes, they were putting notches in the win column but the vast majority of those wins came against the lowliest of Eastern Conference opponents and most of the quality victories came at home. To “beast it” in the Association, a team must be able to not only beat good teams at home but also occasionally on the road and, most importantly, must do both of these things consistently. *

Combine the Bobcats lack of talent with the early season Larry Brown-orchestrated funk, the loss of Tyrus Thomas and the unexpected lights-out play of Philadelphia and Indiana and you can see why Michael Jordan pulled the plug. A seasoned gambler looking at these Playoff odds would fold and wait for the next hand. That’s exactly what MJ has done and while it might not be pretty now, the ‘Cats are in a much better position long-term to be relevant.

ROSTERBATION NOTES:

-It’s been a pleasure watching Gerald Henderson go through the ups & downs of a young starter. Some nights the guy looks like a keeper and on others he looks rather lost. His jumper is still not as consistent as it needs to be and I’m hoping that he and his family enlist a specialist to work with him on the skill during the summer. The athleticism that Henderson leans on so much now won’t be there in six or seven years. Hopefully Gerald fulfills his potential as a Kobe-lite by rounding out his skill-set over the next few offseasons.

-I don’t think it’ll be too difficult finding a taker for Boris Diaw’s expiring contract if he puts up a few more performances like the one he did against the Clips last evening. My gut (pun intended) feeling has always been that Boris is simply bored with Charlotte and the systems in place. He’d be much better off in a more metropolitan city. Moving him this summer (along with one of the first rounders acquired in the Wallace trade) would put the Bobcats in the position to take on a max-level star via trade or signing for the first time in a very long while.

-In my opinion, Jordan’s rebuilding plan was hinted at the day the team extended Coach Silas’s contract for next season. It was a clear move to the coach that the blame for the team’s struggles wouldn’t be placed exclusively on his shoulders. Unless the ‘Cats can recruit top notch talent to come to Charlotte this summer, the team will most likely struggle for another season as they build their young nucleus of players for a successful run in ’12-’13.

-ASChin

*Let’s go ahead and call it “The Dallas Test.” The day that the Bobcats go into Big D and scalp the previously unscalpable Mavericks easily on the road, they’ll have made the jump. Until then, they’re either bad or not good enough.

Bobcats Down Raptors; Trade Deadline Approaches

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DJ (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Bobcats handily defeated the Toronto Raptors, 114-101, on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  DJ Augustin led the way with 23 points and 8 assists/o turnovers, while Gerald Wallace relentlessly drove at Toronto’s weak interior defenders en route to 14-15 FTs and 20 points.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The Bobcats took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back.  They stretched the lead out to double digits in the second and nearly out to 20 briefly in the third.  A meaningless Raptors rally cut the Cats lead to 11 midway through the fourth before Gerald Wallace closed the door for good by getting to the line for 5-6 free throws on three consecutive possessions.

Boris Diaw had a strong game with 16 points (6-10 FG), 9 assists and 4 steals.  Gerald Henderson added 15 points (5-11 FG) and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.

The Raptors are pretty much a mess, and it starts with their best player.  7’0″ center Andrea Bargnani is about as soft as they come, and his nonexistent defensive ability and effort set the tone for the rest of the young team.

Notes

  • Stephen Jackson left the game in the third quarter after taking contact and landing awkwardly during a layup.  Jackson left the floor limping and holding his left hamstring.  He soon returned to the bench, but did not re-enter the game.  Jackson said after the game the injury was not a concern and that he could have played if called upon.
  • Nazr Mohammed did his best Kevin Love impression, grabbing 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Boris capped his night of with a breakaway dunk that was rather out of character.  After a feed from DJ, who had stolen the ball in the backcourt, Boris cocked it back behind his head before stuffing it two-handed.  I would say that he was inspired by this past weekend’s slam dunk contest, but you and I know there’s no way Boris watched that.
  • Weird line for Jerryd Bayless.  He was about as relentless going to the rack as Gerald Wallace and had 11-12 FT, but was 0-4 from the field.   He also tallied 10 assists, but gave up 4 turnovers and committed 4 fouls.
  • The Pacers took care of the Wiz tonight, so maintain their one game lead on the Bobcats for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Bobcats don’t play again until Friday night when they host the Kings at the Cable Box, 7 PM ET start.  The Kings will be without Tyreke Evans, who is missing time with plantar fasciitis, and Carl Landry, who is about to get traded to the Hornets for Marcus Thornton.

Thoughts at the Trade Deadline

Bonus trade deadline thoughts!  Now that the Carmelo deal is done, some other smaller deals are starting to go down.  The deadline is at 3 PM ET on Thursday.  Several sources have indicated that the Bobcats have been active on the phones.

But Paul Silas has been quoted both Monday and Tuesday as saying that he doesn’t think the Bobcats will be making a trade; his quote from Tuesday made it sound as if the Bobcats had only received ludicrous proposals from other teams: “We’re not just going to give people away and that’s what most teams want you to do.”

That’s basically code for: “You know who we’ve got on the block.  We’re ready to deal, but you’re going to have to step your offer up.”

And while I agree that the Bobcats should only trade Gerald Wallace if they get a Godfather offer, and should be pretty picky about giving Boris Diaw up, I wouldn’t be as choosy about a Stephen Jackson trade.  I’d jump on a mix of an expiring contract and a draft pick in a heartbeat, but that’s probably not happening.

Whatever the case, despite Silas’s proclamation that “nothing’s happening”, expect to hear the Bobcats continue to come up in deadline buzz over the next day and half.

-Dr. E

POLL : What should the Bobcats do at the trade deadline?

  • Trade Gerald Wallace (23%, 12 Votes)
  • Trade Boris Diaw (17%, 9 Votes)
  • Trade Stephen Jackson (34%, 18 Votes)
  • Stand pat and make a playoff push (26%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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The Emergence of Gerald Henderson

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Gerald Henderson (Photo Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

One of the primary knocks against the Charlotte Bobcats has been the lack of young talent on the roster.  The Bobcats draft history is littered with busts that will not be rehashed again here.  The lack of success in the draft has forced the Cats to rely on trading for players with considerable baggage (Stephen Jackson, Tyrus Thomas) and signing third tier free agents (Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire).

But since the coaching change from Larry Brown to Paul Silas, Charlotte’s recent drafts are looking a little better.  The improvement of DJ Augustin immediately after the arrival of Silas was well noted (though DJ has slumped recently as opponents have adjusted and he’s dealt with a wrist injury). But an even newer development has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson, the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.

Buried Under Larry Brown

Henderson played little his rookie year and showed little when he did.  But if you looked hard enough, you could see some strengths: driving/slashing/finishing and defense, both on-ball on the perimeter and help from the weakside.

This season, Henderson was on a roller coaster for the 28 games that Larry Brown coached — he played regularly to start the season, but then found himself in Brown’s doghouse and didn’t get off the bench for 14 straight games from mid-November to mid-December.  Henderson did make his way back into the rotation for a few games during Brown’s last days in December.

Here are Henderson’s per game numbers and shooting percentages for the 14 games he did play in under Brown this season:

  • 11.6 mpg  |   2.6 ppg  |  37.5 fg%  |  58.3 ft%  |  1.5 rpg

Nothing worth writing about, but again there were flashes of his strengths with no team-killing weaknesses to speak of, which made it all the more frustrating that he was in the doghouse instead of on the court getting the “royal jelly”.

Emerging Under Paul Silas

At the All-Star break, Paul Silas has now coached 28 games and has played Gerald Henderson in all 28.  Henderson has been increasingly productive over this time.  Let’s break up those games into three chunks and look at the trends (unfortunately, 28 is not evenly divisible by three, so I’m splitting it into the first 10, second 9 and third 9 games).

First 10 games — Henderson immediately sees increased playing time and responds:

  • 21.9 mpg  |   6.6 ppg  |  46.7 fg%  |  66.7 ft%  |  2.9 rpg

Second 9 games — Henderson increasingly becomes a legitimate option on the offensive end.  He goes from averaging 6 shots per game to just under 8 and maintains his field goal percentage.

  • 21.8 mpg  |   8.2 ppg  |  44.2 fg% |  73.3 ft%  |  3.0 rpg

Last 9 games (which conveniently coincides with February, meaning I didn’t have to tally these numbers myself, thanks to Basketball-Reference.com’s monthly splits) — the whole reason for this article.

  • 23.4 mpg  |  11.4 ppg  |  51.5 fg%  |  78.0 ft%  | 4.1 rpg

In the 9 games thus far in February, Gerald Henderson has increased his shooting to 51.5% from the field and 78.0% from the free throw line.  He’s  averaging 11.4 points per game, which projects to 17.5 points per 36 minutes.  With DJ Augustin slumping, Stephen Jackson frequently more engaged with the refs than with the opponent, and Boris Diaw fading in and out of relevance as he is wont to do, there have been nights when it’s felt like Henderson’s been the second best offensive option.

Scouting Gerald Henderson

Henderson’s offensive game is limited, but fairly polished, and certainly evolving.  His two greatest strengths are his mid-range jumper and his driving/slashing ability.  He readily hits the mid-range jumper curling off of down screens, but also strokes it nicely off the dribble moving to his right. Here are some great examples from the January 20th win over the 76ers that Henderson played a huge role in:

Henderson is also blessed with a quick first step to his right (ask Kobe Bryant, who was victimized a couple times in the Bobcats recent win over the Lakers) and above-average leaping ability and strength once he gets to the rim.  He gets a fair amount of dunks and layups and trips to the free throw line.  Here’s an example (stick around for the Gerald Wallace alley-oop, too):

Henderson lacks range out the the three-point line, and doesn’t have much of an iso/one-on-one/post-up game — these are both areas that can be developed.  His ballhandling is OK for a 2-guard, but it’s not good enough that you’ll ever see him slide over to the point like some 2s can.

Defensively, Henderson is very good.  He’s quick with his feet and strong, making him an solid on-ball perimeter defender.  Here’s a great example from the January 18th win over the Bulls.  Watch the whole highlight package and note how many times Derrick Rose abuses DJ Augustin. With the Bulls down one with a chance to win at the end, Silas inserts Henderson in the game specifically to check Rose.  Watch Henderson hound Rose on the last play, forcing him out into taking a fading, off-balance, 22-footer that he misses.  Aren’t many people can do this to Derrick Rose:

And if you do get a half-step around Henderson, please remember the aforementioned leaping ability:

82games.com only has their advanced stats updated through the January 19th games this year, but even without the last month in the sample, Henderson’s defense shines through.  With Henderson on the court, Bobcats opponents average 102.4 points per 100 possessions — with Henderson OFF the court, opponents average 108.1 points per 100 possessions.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but compare it to Stephen Jackson, starting and playing ahead of Henderson.  With Jack on the court, Bobcats opponents average 109.4 points per 100 possessions; with Jack OFF the court they average 100.0 points per 100 possessions.  Wrong direction for Jack. This particular statistic deserves more attention as the season goes on and the numbers are updated.

So, What Does This Mean?

As I’ve said many times in this space before, nothing is more important to a small-market/low-revenue franchise’s overall success than drafting well. Big market teams in desirable locations can afford to botch drafts, then save themselves with A-list free agent signings and forced trades (see: Miami Heat, New York Knicks, etc.).  But when a team like the Bobcats has a productive player on a rookie-scale contract, it’s something of an equalizer.  It gives you a fighting chance.  It also gives you flexibility.

As the trading deadline approaches, the Bobcats (currently one game out of the 8th playoff spot in the East) will undoubtedly be listening to proposals involving Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and possibly even Nazr Mohammed.  Contending teams like Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles will be looking for a veteran piece to put them over the top in their championship drive.

From the Bobcats perspective, you have to look at those guys and ask:  Whose game is declining (especially if their contract is still inclining)?  Who’s not fitting in, either from an Xs-and-Os or a chemistry standpoint?  And, who has a backup that’s starting to push them for playing time?

Stephen Jackson is the answer to a lot of those questions (so is Boris Diaw, but that’s for another day).

Now in fairness, Jackson’s offense isn’t overtly declining, and it’s still vital for the Bobcats from and Xs-and-Os standpoint.  He’s a volume shooter with range to the three-point line, a good post-up/isolation game and a barely-still-there ability to attack the basket.  He’s also got the swagger to be the go-to guy for a team that otherwise doesn’t have one.

But Jackson’s defense is almost certainly on the decline (if it ever was very good, I’m not sure). Chemistry-wise, his preoccupation with the referees is a huge negative.  There aren’t any stats for this, and credit the rest of the Bobcats for not ever publicly throwing Jackson under the bus, but there’s no way it doesn’t affect the morale/chemistry of this team.

It also hurts from a sheer basketball perspective at times — not just when Jackson is ejected early in games as he has twice this season — but also when he doesn’t get back on defense 2-3 times per game because he’s engaged with a referee about a perceived missed call (which may be partially reflected in those team defensive statistics).  Likewise, that stuff undoubtedly affects how the referees officiate the rest of the team to a (hopefully) limited extent.

And most importantly, Gerald Henderson’s play has improved to the point that he’s no longer just a valid reserve who deserves some time because he was highly drafted — he’s legitimately contributing to this team’s recent strong play and is beginning to push Stephen Jackson for playing time.  To not notice or act on this nascent trend while there may be an opportunity to trade Jackson and the two more years and $20 million left on his contract would be a significant misstep for the Bobcats.

And yes, I fully agree that trading Jackson and his offense might be a nail in the coffin for the Bobcats’ playoff chances this season.  But there are already a few nails in that coffin (Hollinger’s playoff odds gives the Cats only a 28% chance of making it in anyways) and the trade would be more about the future.

Besides, are two home playoff dates in the course of a sweep by Boston or Miami this spring really worth that much anyways?  And if they are, who’s to say that the Bobcats wouldn’t have just as good a shot with some further improvement from Henderson and whatever the trade might bring back?

Henderson’s recent emergence behooves us to consider this.

Notes

  • Strange thing I learned while writing this article: According to Wikipedia, neither this Gerald Henderson, nor his father, Gerald Henderson, Sr. are actually named Gerald.  Both are named Jerome McKinley Henderson.  Weird, right?
  • Funny thing I learned while writing this article: When you type S-t-e-p-h-e-n J-a-c-k into Google, the third thing to be suggested (after “Stephen Jackson” and “Stephen Jackson bobcats”) is: “Stephen Jackson ejected”.  If that doesn’t say it all…
  • I used some great stats websites in the course of writing this: 82games.com, Basketball-Reference.com and HoopData.com are all invaluable resources.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Extend Silas, Remove Interim Tag

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Coach Silas & GM Rod Higgins (John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer)

The Bobcats announced Wednesday that they’ve removed the “interim” tag from coach Paul Silas and extended his contract through the 2011-12 season.  Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. From Mike Cranston:

The 67-year-old Silas brought a calming influence and a more uptempo, free-flowing style. He’s led the Bobcats to a 15-13 mark to get within 1 1/2 games of the Indiana Pacers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Silas believes the Bobcats have a “very good shot” at making the postseason for the second straight season.

“My main goal when I took this job was to change the atmosphere, change the attitude and make the team more confident,” Silas said. “I think we’ve begun to accomplish those goals.”

In a story posted by Cranston on Tuesday as news broke that the Bobcats and Silas were talking extension, Silas reveals that he had dealt with some scary medical issues in recent years:

The 6-foot-7 Silas, a bruising and elite rebounder who played 16 seasons in the NBA, first fell ill after a colonoscopy in 2008. He said doctors performed exploratory surgery to determine why he was feeling poorly, which led to blood clots in his lungs.

The clots then moved to the quadriceps muscle in his left leg.

“I would walk down steps and I would just fall down,” Silas said. “It was touch and go.”

Things got worse and Silas was hospitalized on Christmas Eve 2008 and sedated as doctors tried to solve his medical problems.

“I was in intensive care for about six weeks,” Silas said. “I was out. It was scary for my family. I don’t remember anything during that six-week period.”

Eventually blood thinners eliminated the blood clots and Silas slowly got back to his feet after later problems with his liver. After gaining a lot of weight in part due to the medication, he’s lost 50 pounds and feeling better daily. Doctors later determined the cause of his initial illness was being allergic to anesthesia.

Silas said it wasn’t until about a year ago that he felt good enough to coach.

Kind of a bizarre story, and explains why Silas was out of coaching those years.  Also helps to explain why the Bobcats were careful with initially putting the “interim” tag on Silas.  Clearly, the newly svelte Silas has been able to hold up amidst the travel and daily grind of coaching in the NBA.

Overall, it’s hard to question this move.  The Cats have clearly responded to Silas; he is well-regarded amongst the fanbase; his health appears in order; and (speculation alert) he likely comes at a very reasonable price — not an unimportant concern for the Bobcats.

Not extending him might have undermined the team’s tenuous recent improvement and confidence.  So does this mean the Bobcats are committed to this squad making a playoff run instead of blowing it up at the trade deadline?

It’s a reasonable inference, especially with the absence of trade chatter around the league and the seeming lack of buyers for contracts like Stephen Jackson’s, but not necessarily.  Silas has had a more dramatic effect on the younger players like DJ Augustin, Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson who would be part of a new core anyways.  I still wouldn’t rule out a Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw or Nazr Mohammed trade next week if a great deal comes along.

Lastly, Ron Green Jr. (via Rick Bonnell’s blog) delivers an endorsement by Silas of his son, Assistant Coach Stephen Silas:

“He’s at a point now where he could take over,” Silas said. “He’s helped me immensely. He’s been in this thing for 10 years now. His time is coming. He’ll just have to wait it out… I told him I’d be his assistant behind the bench.”

I’m wary of nepotism, but in certain businesses where the pool of candidates who can get their foot in the door is so limited, it’s unavoidable.  The younger Silas seems to be a good new-school foil for his father at this point.  He’s more of an Xs and Os guy, and is generally the one diagramming plays and schemes during timeouts.  If he’s also got his father’s gift for people skills, he could be an excellent candidate for a head-coaching job in the near future.

-Dr. E

The Argument for the Bobcats to Shed Paul Silas’ Interim Status to Become Head Honcho

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“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!?” (Credit to The Simpsons)

If there’s one Simpsons quote to describe this 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats season, it’s probably that one, though it would fit better if it were reversed.

Regardless, this season for Charlotte fans has practically been a tale of two extremes. While during some games, they’ve looked like the worst team in the NBA, other nights they look like they’re a talented and competitive team.

Undoubtedly, the largest catalyst for this turnaround has been the coaching change from former head coach Larry Brown to interim head coach Paul Silas.

Larry Brown, though one of the greatest NBA head coaches of all-time, just was not effective as the head coach of the 2010-11 Bobcats. He made questionable lineup and substitution decisions and the team that was once known for swarming defense had acquiesced to a very mediocre status. The promising, much-anticipated season declined into a depressing elongated sigh of a year. The team began with a figurative stumble over their own shoelaces, starting the season with a 1-6 record. Then in December, the stumble became a full-fledged fall onto their face as the team dropped games by 20+ points to teams like Memphis, Philadelphia, Washington, not to mention the elite teams like Boston and Oklahoma City.

Change was necessary. Larry Brown was much more melancholy at post-game press conferences. He seemed to no longer enjoy coaching the games and often had a look of resignation plastered on his face.

That look of resignation shortly transformed into a real resignation, as Larry Brown and the Bobcats came to the decision as what was called a “mutual decision” (*raises single eyebrow*) for him to step down from his head coach position.

And so began the momentous organization transition. Paul Silas was hired as interim head coach with Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas (Paul’s son) and Ralph Lewis as assistant coaches.

The effect was nearly immediate. The Bobcats, though playing the dregs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, were playing more efficient on offense and defense. Interim head coach Silas had decided to try to develop the rotation’s young talent more than his predecessor and gave Gerald Henderson more playing time. Since Silas’ arrival, the Bobcats are 12-10, a respectable record (especially with two recent games against elite teams). More impressive was their 4-2 record on their recent road trip. Considering the Bobcats have suffered a couple of significant injuries during this time, Paul Silas’ record is all the more remarkable.

And that leads me to the point of this article: the Bobcats should offer Paul Silas a contract to become the official head coach and not just on the current interim basis.

I understand that the CBA negotiations complicate the situation, but at any rate, the Bobcats should get Silas to coach in the following seasons.

Just look at the change in the players’ attitudes from Larry Brown to now under Silas. D.J. Augustin has been unleashed, as he flourishes in a faster, more free-flowing offense. The players are more comfortable because Silas is encouraging the players to have more feedback so he can respond and teach them how to better themselves. Plus, look at the coaching staff that surrounds him. They’re doing an outstanding job helping Silas coach up the players. Just look at Charles Oakley’s work with Kwame Brown: about 9 points per game and 9 rebounds per game in the month of January. And that’s just one example; this team’s success is a testament to their coaching ability.

Another quality of Silas’ coaching that can’t be overlooked is his experience. Since his first year as a head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, Silas has compiled an impressive coaching record of 289-240, or about a 55% winning percentage. Winning 55% of your games is usually good enough to get in the playoffs as the 6th or 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Speaking of playoffs, Paul has also been to the playoffs four seasons, helping the Charlotte Hornets reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001. Don’t doubt the man’s experience.

On the flip side, if there was one main qualm I had about Larry Brown’s coaching style, it was his mule-like stubbornness when it came to playing veterans over the young guys. After all, it’s not often when a coach doesn’t play a first round draft pick more than 355 minutes in his rookie season without injury playing a large part in hindering their season (Henderson). And in this domain, Silas exceeds Brown by miles upon miles. Gerald Henderson already has 250 more minutes of playing time this season than he had all of last season. Even in this season alone, Henderson’s minutes per game under Larry Brown doubled in the Paul Silas era (11.78 to 22). And Henderson has responded, dropping double digit point totals in four of the last nine games. Silas has even managed to get Sherron Collins some experience lately, as well as Derrick Brown. Coach Silas inspires confidence in his young players which encourages their development as NBA players.

For those out there who think there’s someone better out there, who do you think is superior that’s also available? Jeff Van Gundy? Puh-leez. Jeff enjoys his cushy job at ESPN too much to leave it for a developing small-market team. Mike Brown? He’s basically Larry Brown Lite – strong defensive principles and very limited offensive coaching. I can’t think of any other coach with as much experience or versatility as Paul Silas.

How about we just ask D.J. Augustin? “I would love to see him be the permanent coach. He’s great for this team organization and the whole city.”

So there you have it. We’ve already seen the blurst of times. With Paul Silas at the helm, I think he gives the Bobcats their greatest shot at getting to the best of times.

Edit: More than just a few readers have brought up Silas’ age. I don’t see it as much of a factor. I’m not saying we wrap up Paul for the next ten years – just three or four. I haven’t heard any talk of Jerry Sloan ever stepping down, and he’s a year older than Silas. Also, George Karl has had some serious health concerns and he’s currently in negotiations with Denver to re-up his contract for another three years.

– Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

SMILIN’ PAUL SILAS: A Photoessay

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(Photo credit: David T. Foster)

It’s no secret that Paul Silas was a happy guy when the Bobcats announced him as the interim head coach of the team. Way back in 2007, there was a head coaching opening after Bernie Bickerstaff was fired. And wouldn’t you know it, the team interviewed Paul Silas back then too! He was quoted as calling the gig a “dream job.” Over the years since then, the Lake Norman area resident has been asked if he’d ever consider coming back to coach a team. On coaching the Bobcats, Silas said, “That’s the one (NBA) job I would be interested in. If I had to go somewhere else, no, but I’d like to coach again here.”

So it should come to no one’s surprise that the man is happy overjoyed ecstatic to be coaching the only team he’d want to in the city he holds dear.

In fact, Paul Silas smiles so much, from now on I’m going to call him “Paul Smilas.”

Press Conference

I don't think the owner is too pleased about that jacket, Paul. (Photo credit: John D. Simmons)

"Waive Kwame? What are you talking about? I'M GOING TO TURN HIM INTO A DOUBLE-DOUBLE MACHINE." (Photo credit: John D. Simmons)

First Practice

"Son, you do the worst robot I've ever seen! MATT! Get over here and teach him how it's done!" (Photo credit: John D. Simmons)

"There's going to be a game where it snows, and so few fans show that they have to rope off the upper deck? That'll bring back fond memories!" (Photo credit: John D. Simmons)

Silas Era – Game One (Pistons)

"If I smile really hard, will you take it easy on Jack tonight? Pleeeeeaaasssee?"(Photo credit: David T. Foster)

"Psst...Dude, do ya think Bill Diehl* has ever washed his hair?" (Photo credit: David T. Foster III)

*Bill Diehl is a prominent attorney in Charlotte who has courtside tickets to the Bobcats. In the past, he defended Rae Carruth and former Hornets owner, George Shinn, in their respective cases. In Shinn’s sexual harassment trial, he channeled his inner Johnnie Cochran saying, “If she wasn’t bitin’, she wasn’t fightin’. ” His hair is usually much greasier and thinner than in this photo.

"Fresh cut, coach! You got a haircut in the middle of the game against the Pistons? Smart use of time!" (Photo credit: David T. Foster III)

"This is SO MUCH better than being a candidate for 'Sad Bench Photo' on Basketbawful." (Photo credit: David T. Foster III)

Silas Era – Game Two (Cavaliers)

"D.J., have you ever been in a Turkish prison?" (Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

"How can anyone not smile when they play the Cavs?" (Photo credit: Jeff Siner)

"Jazzercise for halftime? YES!" (Photo Credit: Jeff Siner)

Paul Silas Era – Game 6 (Wizards)

**Through gritted teeth** "Yes Tyrus, that off-balance baseline fadeaway jump shot while you were being doubled was good shot selection." (Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Paul Silas Era – Game 14 (Hawks)

"You may have won the battle, but we won the war - of smiling." (Photo credit: Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

Paul Silas Era – Game 15 (Kings)

ONE SMILE TO RULE THEM ALL (Photo credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

And one last one, just for kicks and giggles…

Words - I have none. (Photo credit: Bob Leverone)

– Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.