Stringent brats

I need answers, for without them I'll wither and die. Tonight I was talking to a friend on the phone when out of nowhere he started berating me for having ever talked up the Bobcats. Seems that, between myself and some guy who actually comes from Charlotte, he'd been expecting notable observations from this thoroughly enriched, Jordan-owned squad. From top to bottom, they've got all the makings of a team rife with both quality and quidity: the maverick Wallace, franchise point Felton, endearing worker bee May, cerebral post player Okafor, and vaguely mysterious vet Brevin Knight. And as much as I despise Adam Morrison, he should be a useful sixth man once he stops trying to pull the same shit that worked for him at the college level. Yet somehow, the team is positively abysmal. This despite the fact that the organization has done everything in its power to responsibly build a roster through the draft, getting credible, experienced players to fit together like clockwork. In five years, this roster could be a contendor. Now, though, it's looking like a failed experiment—that is, if you think it's enough of vision to qualify as an experiment.

Compare this with the Hawks, the other great outpost of cult basketball, who are now undergoing unprecdented pangs of accomplishment. They've been mocked for a decade for their unorthodox, or just plain stupid, draft picks, and their somewhat pathetic attempts to woo free agents. The 6-8 Mafia of last season is a long-forgotten hoax; let us not, however, lose sight of the fact that this current team was built by hording small forwards, breaking the bank on a "complementary" star, refusing to draft a point guard, and somehow picking up the one seven foot Euro that no one ever cared about. I can't quite say why things are working for them now, or why their haphazardly assembled team shines while the Bobcats falter. Unfortunately, I'm forced to say that it comes down to Joey Johnson; for all of Charlotte's thoroughness, they lack that single, definitive presence who has seen the game and is capable of ruling it. I think that, for some reason, they thought Morrison could be that. But at best, he'll be able to score. What Johnson brings is not just the ability to produce points, but the larger-than-life willingness to take over games, strap the team on his back, and inspire others with his higher-levelness.

JJ wasn't a household name when he came to ATL, and plenty of fools thought that the franchise had buried itself once and for all with that signing. Still, anyone who had followed him knew that the skills were major, and that at very least he could be a multi-faceted dazzler of a scorer. The best Charlotte can do is Okafor or Felton, both of whom have a ways to go before they can reliably play that role. As much as it disgusts me to say, teams need veteran leaders; as much as it might upset some other sorts to hear, things work even better if the featured creator is also that guy. I have no idea how any of this relates to the Baby Bulls, who once made playoff runs with a team perenially suffering from Bobcats-syndrome. They were deeper, I guess, though there should be a lot of middle ground between abject failure and underdog musk. I also worry that Emeka and Raymond are destined for a Gordon, Hinrich, or Curry-like purgatory, capable of great feats but never substantial enough to earn stripes.

Maybe the real kernel here isn't that the Hawks have stumbled upon something, because most likely they haven't. It's that the Bobcats could have been so repsonsible, failed to turn up a single bust thus far, and yet still stink like soil in wartime. There are innumerable ways for a young team to make that leap, or for youth to allow a mired squad to break free. Landing LeBron, Chris Paul, or Melo, sticking Dwight Howard into a line-up of competents. . . each season, so many wanderers find their way to the gates. Yet the Bobcats would seem to be going about this the only surefire way possible, judiciously picking their pieces and assembling a stable of future safe bets who don't all play the same position (as long as Morrison stays on the bench). That they have seen so much woe shouldn't be a surprise, but to see them not even laying the groundwork for chemistry and order is more than a little disturbing. You'd think they were the Celtics or something.


At 11/14/2006 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great Post, but I think people have to be a little patient with the bobcats. Without a dominant scorer they're just a team waiting for Raymond Felton to be that point guard who makes everyone else better.
It's a known fact that you can be a good team even with a draft bust or two, but you can't be a good team without a special player to make it all work.

At 11/14/2006 2:05 AM, Blogger T. said...

Not to get all off topic, but there's a lot of worrying going off on the Rockets fan boards about Bowen potentially undercutting an already gimpy TMac - this issue is at the forefront with the recent Isiah/Pop blowup over Bowens foot sticking out technique.

Personally, if there was a guy who played like Bowen does in my weekly game, he would've been beat a long time ago. That ish is intentionally - when it happens over and over again. Ain't no "accident" or "good defense." I'm hoping Van Gundy activates Sura or Bonzi to take care of Bowen.

At 11/14/2006 8:32 AM, Blogger c-los said...

Putting a team back in Charlotte was a mistake...if you watch their games notice how the camera never pans up....y...becuz no one is there....NC is a college bball town...as for the team...they're a walking injury...Wallce's style makes him injury prone...Emeka and May have been hurt since they stepped into the L...only a matter of time before Larry Brown comes callin

At 11/14/2006 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a reason you "despise" Morrison other than the fact he is white?

He seems FD to me..

At 11/14/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Unsilent Majority said...

Morrison is a fucking putz, but that's just my take.

Imagine how great ATL would be if they'd let the future league MVP Salim Stoudamire off the damn bench.
You challenge one coach to a fight and it's nothin' but DNP's for four months.

At 11/14/2006 10:30 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i said this a while ago and caught hell for it, and thus i'll trot it out all over again: morrison is nothing but garden variety college cheese to me. there's nothing interesting to me about his whole shtick, in part because it's something i'm depressingly familiar with. so yeah, it is partly because he's white.

seriously, is there another team that's tried this responsible model and suceeded? other than the bulls? it really seems like young players are foundational only if they're absolute studs or they're capped off with a known star. and there, it makes no difference how fucked up the drafting has been.

though if no one caught this, the celtics completely counter that last part. . .

At 11/14/2006 10:34 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

. . . unless you agree with me that, over the last decade, the only remotely good draft moves they've made were taking pierce and gerald green. and walker, i guess. no, joe johnson doesn't count for them.

At 11/14/2006 11:27 AM, Anonymous TZ said...

I have little to add other than to echo UM's call for Salim's freedom. Given run, Salim > Barbosa.

At 11/14/2006 11:46 AM, Anonymous Tinns said...

Memphis has been in the playoffs the last few years by stockpiling cast-off lottery picks. Their theory seems to be to grab anyone whatsoever who came from the lotto and then throw them on the floor at regular intervals. And it works well enough to find consistently the playoffs in the West.

And the Bobcats are almost exactly copying the Baby-Bulls, who looked hopelessly pathetic for years (as the Bobcats do now).

Theory (=theirs): draft guys from big-time programs/guys with deep Tournament experience, i.e. "safe" picks, have patience, and see you in five years or so. (Which really seem to make a lot of sense.) The Bobcats are gonna be fine. And it's a better idea for them than the Bulls even because their fans don't really care whereas Chicago had just gone through a Zen Master and a Captain Marvel.

At 11/14/2006 11:53 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

once they got their current nucleus in place, the bulls made the playoffs. so i'd expect the bobcats to not be losing like drunken ostrichs at this point.

At 11/14/2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous glue said...

re: bobcats, hawks, baby bulls, celtics- couldn't the decisive factor be simpler even than "take charge veteran?" teams just need an identity. the hawks identity- JJ is gonna take charge. the bulls had an identity- they could play D i.e. they were scott skiles. which, strangely, they fucked up by getting ben and making it his team and not skiles'. and the bobcats, they've got no ID, and they're coach, who's that, bickerstaff, with a neck breathing MJ? that ID is borrowing time. and felton and may playing in NC is bad- can't grow when people think they know you. the celtics- pierce is such a weird blend of under/overachieving that i don't think he even counts.
and i don't know how to work that arcane intial thing y'all do to end posts with the "wv" and whatnot, so i'll just use words:
salim staudamire=marbury personality+damon jones game. not worth the fuss.

At 11/14/2006 12:43 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

So do Riff Raff and friends represent the Hawks or the Cats? And who is Wordsworth?

I'm giving Morrison time right now. He has a wildness (in his game) that goes beyond the whole outward show to me. I think it's a triumph if he can make it work without totally buttoning down; just as importantly, I think he'll try.

The Baby Bulls outpace the Cats because of Skiles, right? Isn't that the simple explanation?

wv: iiikzoum = Arab Segway

At 11/14/2006 12:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

well, it was supposed to be the hawks, and riff raff was johnson.

but it is cats, after all. may is extremely round. felton could be the leader and is short. gerald wallace makes as little sense as hector.

chalk this up to my photo game being somewhat off this week.

WV=dicoxyq (chemical that makes winged serpents horny)

At 11/14/2006 1:02 PM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

as salt bagel said, skiles is the difference between the bulls' youthful success and the cat's youthful failure.

same can be said of the hawks: their coach (woodson) was "right way" brown's main assistant in the detroit heyday, while bickerstaff ain't shit now and never has been.

At 11/14/2006 2:09 PM, Blogger Brian said...

The biggest problem with the bobcats is the coaching staff. Ive been saying this ever since they hired bickerstaff. The guy doesnt really "know" basketball in an intellectual way. The way you need to know it to be a coach. Its my opinion that he was hired because he was black and agreeable with players, ignoring his many flaws as a potential coach. As long as he is there, the bobcats will reflect their coach. I think they drafted morrison because they desperately needed a scorer. Unfortunately, I dont think there were any scorers in that draft that will translate well to the nba in scoring. The style is just wrong, the draft was week. Rudy Gay will probably be the biggest stud out of that draft. Problems with bickerstaff: 1. He couldnt motivate T.O. to do a touchdown celebration. 2. He doesnt coach to the strenghts of his players. 3. He has no discernable plan.
You couple that with a bunch of young guys and there is no way youre going to win much.

At 11/14/2006 2:52 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

does anyone think that michael and the bobcats are positioning themselves to sign vince carter next summer? he's another NC guy, to say nothing of the hilarity of "vince carter, veteran leader."

At 11/14/2006 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've got to remember that the Bulls started the season on a horrendous losing streak two seasons ago, much like the Bobcats are now doing. They rebounded to make the playoffs. Memorably, they benched the "Baby Bulls" in favor of The Saucy Moor and A.D. (instead of Curry and Chandler) and they started to play a whole lot better.

Of course, Hinrich (even two years ago) is a lot better than Felton. But Charlotte's got some nice weapons.

Don't sleep on Charlotte, though I agree that they lack a coach as strong as Skiles.

At 11/14/2006 5:03 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

wait, who is the saucy moor?

At 11/15/2006 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Othella Harrington.

At 11/15/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger JoshLove said...

Lately I'm getting the eerily narcissistic feeling that FD is being uniquely calibrated to fit the contours of my own life, having recently moved from Georgia to NC and seeing official FD most-descanted-on status be transferred from Hawks to 'Cats.

I've watched at least a portion of all but two 'Cats games so far this season, and theirs doesn't seem to be a condition of being wholly outmatched so much as outexecuted in late-game situations.

Last night was a textbook example, matching the NOOCH blow-for-blow for 44 minutes (even withstanding several flurries of Peja on some '03-'04 shit) before folding in crunch-time. The lack of go-to scorer, and perhaps more damagingly, end-game foul-drawer and FT-maker, is really the primary achilles here. Emeka (a statistical BEAST so far) can't be the guy until he can at least get his freebies within shouting distance of Big Ben and Shaq.

Really I think Ray-Ray can be the guy for now, though he seems to have weirdly convinced himself that he needs to be subsumed to Mo-Town's prowess when the latter has yet to demonstrate a shred of professional clutchness.


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