The Charlotte Bobcats will get a much-needed shot in the arm on Wednesday when Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas return to the line-up against the Chicago Bulls. While Jackson has only missed two games with a nagging hamstring injury, Thomas has been out since January 18th with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Since the Gerald Wallace trade, the Bobcats have struggled mightily, winning only one of the six games they've played. That lone win was the first game without Wallace against Sacramento at home and since then, Charlotte has lost five in a row by an average of over 18 points per game.
Gerald Henderson, who took Wallace's place, has filled in nicely at times, averaging almost 13 points per game, but his inconsistency and lack of rebounding prowess has cost the Bobcats dearly. Wallace was averaging just over eight rebounds per game in Charlotte, while Henderson has averaged just under three. That may not seem like a huge difference, but Henderson doesn't command the constant body contact that Wallace did, allowing more defenders to crash the boards on a regular basis.
Stephen Jackson has all the tools necessary to accept a tougher work load on the offensive side of the ball in Wallace's absence, but without him healthy, the Bobcats lack a go-to scorer, and that has been painfully evident in the two games Jackson has missed.
Thomas' return has been highly anticipated since the time of his injury. A fan favorite off the bench, Thomas injects the Bobcats' reserves with a high level of intensity with his knack for blocking shots and emphatic rebounding. It will be interesting to see what kind of minutes, and where, he plays down the stretch this season, as he is undoubtedly the team's best option off the bench at both the power forward and center positions. It is likely that Thomas will see more than the 21-plus minutes he was logging before the injury.
The Bobcats host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena, a team they have already beat twice this season. With Thomas and Jackson back for Charlotte, they have a fighting chance to knock off the streaking Bulls and regain some momentum in what has become a stalled chase for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.