After watching my Charlotte Bobcats finish out their preseason winless last night against the LA LaKobes, I was left with mixed feelings.
For starters, the game was incredibly sloppy. I suspect someone sprayed the ball with PAM while they were fixing that net issue because during the first quarter, nobody could seem to get a handle on the rock.
The two teams managed to give the ball away a staggering 45 times in 48 minutes. Once the game finally got rolling, both teams committed bad fouls and put up some horrendous shots. Charlotte shot 33% from the floor, and the invisible lid on the basket left the Lakers shooting only 42%.
Still, the game gave me hope. Hope that the team will be better this year. Hope that Larry Brown can work his magic like he always does, except for that embarrassing stint with the "other" blue-and-orange team.
The team played some excellent defense, and the offense was much more lively than the sedentary pick-and-walk offense run by former coach Sam Vincent. The players hustled all game, even though they trailed by as many as 16. These observations led me to analyze five reasons the Bobcats will be better this year than last.
5. DJ Augustin: The rookie point guard will serve as a much better alternate to Felton than Jeff McInnis. Having Augustin to come in off the bench will give Felton some well-deserved rest from the 37.6-MPG he averaged last year. Also, the fact that Augustin is one of Larry Brown's pet picks should motivate Felton to do a play well so as not to lose the starting slot.
4. Core is still in tact: Let's face it-for better or worse, this team is built around Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, and Emeka Okafor. None of these guys is a superstar, and Richardson is the closest to being one, despite wildly casting up outside shots at any glimpse of the net.
Still, the three are a solid foundation and all athletic, with Okafor penciled in for 14 points and 11 rebounds per game for the rest of his life, Wallace playing tenacious D while chewing on his mouthpiece, and Richardson with all of the moves necessary for a poster to remind you that he was the 2002 Slam Dunk Contest Champion.
3. Larry Brown: Hurrah! We have a coach who can coach. Everything he touches, with the exception of the New York Knicks, turns, at least partially, to gold.
He's notorious for helping teams turn around in his first year. Brown is a backcourt specialist who runs an effective offense and is able to motivate all but the most stubborn players (and last time I checked, the Bobcats weren't interested in picking up Starbury's dump-truck-of-money contract. Isn't that guy making enough selling $15 shoes anyway? I know I buy 'em, but I digress).
2. Everybody's healthy: For now, at least, the team has no major players out with injuries. Sean May and Adam Morrison are both healthy now after missing all of last year with injuries. If both can stay healthy, the team's frontcourt play should improve dramatically over last year, when they cobbled together such underachievers as Walter Hermann, Primoz Brezec, and Jamareo Davidson.
1. Bernie Bickerstaff is gone: Finally. I groaned when Bob Johnson announced that Bernie Bickerstaff would be the first coach of the team back in 2004. I almost puked when I heard that he would be coach and GM.
Bickerstaff didn't exactly have a sterling record when he came in as coach (337-343 lifetime when he started) and had absolutely no experience as an executive. Some of his player personnel decisions were questionable, but the offense he ran, which I like to call the "pick-and-walk" or the "no (e)motion offense," wasted whatever talent he put on the court.
Even when they took the clipboard out of his hands, the team didn't improve with him still calling the shots. Despite the fact that he managed to acquire Jason Richardson from Golden State, the guys on the court weren't built as a team, which ultimately led to the same results as before.
Goodbye and good riddance, Bernie. Maybe your assistant coaching skills can help bring the Bulls back to glory. Yeah, right...
So there you have it. Five reasons the Charlotte Bobcats will do better than you think this year. Look out, Atlanta. Bobcats are gunning for 3rd.
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