Friday, February 29, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/29

Riding the subway over to MSG on Wednesday night, I was suddenly seized with panic. It occurred to me that by seeing the game live, I’d be missing out on the inane television commentary, which tends to account for 50% of my jokes (bizarre and/or unintentionally hilarious post-game comments and Jeff McInnis comprise the other 30% and 20%, respectively). Fortunately, former Bobcat/Piston Primoz Brezec came to the rescue by giving a Toronto paper a candid yet insanely distorted view of his legacy in Charlotte. Brezec’s account of his time here is almost 100% inaccurate; you could say it’s "exactly inexact." From the opening observation that Sam Vincent wants to be more “run-in-gun” (by playing Jeff McInnis for 30+ minutes?) to just two sentences later, when he claims he can “run for 3 days” (this guy missed practically half the season last year from “exhaustion”), Primoz delivers the most remarkably false piece of commentary I think I’ve ever heard. Anyway, thanks, Primoz! I hope you find success with the Raps, and that you get more than just garbage time. Because that’s not you, man. That is not you.

As for the Knicks game, I shelled out 120 bones for the affair, which in NYC translates to “nosebleeds.” I was pretty disappointed with the quality of the seating, to say the least. For $120, I expect to be close enough to get splashed when Zach Randolph throws a water bottle at one of his teammates. Instead, I was so high up that the only object visible was Jamal Crawford’s shoulder bandage. Funniest of all was when Earl Boykins matched up with Nate Robinson—it just looked like a ball dribbling by itself.

Too bad I wasn’t alone in not seeing Nate Robinson—Jason Richardson failed to see him just before getting his eyes gouged out by him. Things went south almost immediately, as the Knicks rattled off 15 straight points to close out the half. I’d love to get worked up with outrage and spew forth vitriol over this latest embarrassment. And sure, at one point we trailed by 30 to the Knicks, but I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to go on a rampage, you need to have a target. And who am I going to blame for this? Jermareo Davidson for not getting a triple-double? Jared Dudley for not going for 20-and-10? Matt Carroll for not willing the team to victory like Kevin Garnett? I mean, look who we were playing out there.

The Knicks weren’t exactly spellbinding either. In fact, as I looked around at the faces on the crowd, everyone seemed slightly uncomfortable and embarrassed to be there, watching this dreck. It looked like 15,000 people who’d simultaneously been watching porn flicks just had their mothers barge in. David Lee hustled beautifully but only scored 4 points (I finally figured out what Lee looks like, by the way: he looks like what would happen if you combined BOTH guys from the movie Superbad into one person). Quentin Richardson had 17 and 6, but continues to play like the sole representative of an unnamed third team on the court (emphasized by his decision to wear jet black headbands, sleeves, and pads, which match nothing on his uniform). In general, it wasn’t just a bad game, but a sad game.

Saddest of all is that we could have used a win before going to Boston tonight, because I’d bet a front-row seat at MSG that we’re not winning this one. If you’ll recall, not only did we win against them last time, but Raymond Felton made the ill-advised decision of getting in Kevin Garnett’s face at the end. Garnett’s already bloodthirsty on a normal day, so ticking him off is kind of like ticking off Hannibal Lecter. We don’t want this kind of heat...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/25

Call it the “Dime Magazine Cover Jinx.” The very night I got the latest issue of Dime, which promised an in-depth article about Gerald Wallace on the cover, Crash got clocked by a Mikki Moore elbow and knocked more unconscious than Trent Green. Opening the magazine, I became uncomfortable straight away when the article began with a quote from Arthur Ashe. These comically earnest attempts to hold up athletes as transcendent, Christ-like figures are never a good idea, and unless the subject is Mohammed Ali, authors should avoid it (especially if they’re later going to write that their subjects also like NASCAR and enjoy sandwiches from Chik-Fil-A). Yep, bad karma was everywhere, and I probably didn’t help things by dissing Moore the last time we played Sacramento. Sure enough, early in the third quarter, Mikki landed a shot to Gerald’s jaw that was better than anything in the entire Klitschko-Ibragimov bout.

Now Crash will be out for two weeks with a 3rd degree concussion (apparently, they’re measured like burns), and the hole he leaves in the lineup looms larger than Hillary Clinton’s Dunkin’ Donuts bill. Against the Kings, the Bobcats rallied to send the game to OT—thanks largely to a gonzo-ridiculous 3-poitner by Jason Richardson with 20 seconds left—but faltered pitifully in the extra frame, because we lacked Wallace’s scoring ingenuity. We had a 114-112 lead with 2:40 to go, and—I feel like I’ve written this before—POSSESSION OF THE BALL, and we proceeded to commit--in rapid succession--a shot-clock violation, two missed free throws, a missed layup, and a-(sigh)-nother missed free-throw. And yet we STILL had a chance with 3 seconds left and trailing by 1. But Raymond Felton missed a baseline jumper for the win, and Sack-Town (the Bay Area, and Back Down), went back to California, a state where they allegedly know how to party.

Anyway, apart from the Wallace injury, which was just plain tragic, there were some quirky aspects to this one. The strangest of all was Kevin Martin’s stat line of 15 points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field (and 13-of-15 from the foul line). There was also Francisco Garcia’s extraordinary 6-of-8 three-point shooting. Meanwhile, Ron Artest—who wouldn’t recognize ordinary if it threw a cup of beer on him—finished with 20 points, 9 boards, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Finally, replacing Mike Bibby (although let’s face it, there’s no such thing as “replacing” a guy like Bibby), was Beno Udrih, with 17 points, 6 boards, 8 assists, a block (?), and, um, 6 personal fouls—weird…

One of the Sacramento announcers called Udrih the “Tasmanian Slovenian,” although I’m not sure if that actually works as a nickname. If you wanted to label him as a sort of whirling-dervish type, wouldn’t he have to be called the “Slovenian Devil”? After all, it’s the “Devil”-part of “Tasmanian Devil” that lets you know someone’s crazy and out-of-control; otherwise, the person is merely from Tasmania and not necessarily crazy (unless you’re prejudiced against Tasmanians). A “Tasmanian-Slovenian” would technically just be a guy who lives in Slovenia and has Tasmanian ethnicity, similar to an African-American here in the U.S.

Whatever. These are the things I try to concentrate on amidst the rubble that is the 07-08 season. The next night brought no respite from this barrage of hopelessness either, as we lost even more decisively to Washington. These were the same Wizards, mind you, that were coming off a loss to a Cavaliers team that essentially started LeBron James and 4 D-Leaguers. And Damon Jones, who ended up as the second-highest scorer of the game with 27 points. Actually, this was probably the worst thing that could have happened to us, because it meant Antawn Jamison would be pissed. Indeed, Jamison went for 22 points, 9 rebounds (almost every one of which seemed to be a Felton layup that rimmed out), 5 assists, and 2 steals. The Wizards were brutally efficient, finishing with just 7 turnovers and a staggering 22 offensive boards, good for 28 second-chance points.

Jesus, did Jeff McInnis play for Washington too? I thought I heard one of the Wizards announcers say it…Yep, he sure did: in 1998-99 he was with them. Huh. Traded for the immortal Isaac Austin (how could I have forgotten that blockbuster?). Having McInnis on your team is the equivalent of dating an older slutty girl, because you have to listen to all these other TV announcers talking about when they “had” him, no doubt smirking at the fact that he’s now your problem. Anyway, McInnis put in another 31 minutes, while Earl Boykins continues to play in the mid-teens. And speaking of PT, I know his 25 points were great and all, but why did J-Rich only play 39 minutes? Without Wallace, shouldn’t Richardson be on the court for basically the whole game?

In honor of the Razzies, my nominee for this game would have to be Nazr Mohammed. Besides owning a large share of responsibility for the appalling difference in rebounds, Mohammed went 1-of-9 from the field for 5 points and 2 turnovers. The worst supporting actor would be Ryan Hollins, who played 3 minutes and got a technical foul for taunting. It was just a bad, bad game. If this game were a hip-hop song, it would fall somewhere between “Ice, Ice Baby” and one of those Smash Williams “raps” at Dillon pep rallies.

I don’t know how much more I can stand of this. Like Axl Rose, I ain’t got time for the pain. Screw it, I’m done with basketball. I think I’m going to get back into comic books—cancel my subscription to Dime and replace it with Wizard Magazine or something. At least comic book characters never die or get seriously injured. Wonder what Captain America’s up to these days…This sports stuff is just too…real for me. My wife accuses me of being spacey and antisocial, but I think I actually need to withdraw further from reality—maybe I’ll play some World of Warcraft or D&D online and get into random arguments with strangers over who has more hit points and whatnot.

But it’ll have to be after Wednesday, because next up is the Knicks, and I’ll actually be in person for this one at the Garden. Oh yeah, Knicks-Bobcats, baby—I can hardly wait. If anyone’s going to be at MSG, let me know and maybe we can try and meet up. I’m guessing we shouldn’t have much trouble finding each other…

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/20

"I thought we had a whole lot of All-Star (break) rust," Coach Sam Vincent said after the Bobcats managed to pull off the rare feat of holding the opposition to 85 points and still getting blown out. I really don’t know how one can chalk this up to “All-Star rust,” considering we had no involvement with the All-Star game whatsoever. We didn’t even have any Rookie-Sophomore Game participants this year. So we ought to just call it “Sitting-Around-On-The-Couch-And-Playing-Lots-of-Halo-3-Break Rust,” because Emeka Okafor, Jason Richardson, and Gerald Wallace combined to shoot 5-of-29 in a loss to San Antonio that was more rambling and incoherent than Michael Jordan’s latest ESPN: The Magazine interview. Based on our collective 28% shooting, we’re also not going to be a threat to send anyone to the All-Star H-O-R-S-E competition either, if the NBA ever creates one.

Tim Duncan, against whom Okafor normally plays fairly decently, shot just 2-of-12 himself, but he was a key component anyway in the Spurs win. “(Duncan’s) defense at the rim and that sort of thing is always important to us,” Coach Gregg Popovich noted (5 blocks, 5 assists, 15 boards, and a steal was presumably the “sort of thing” Popovich was talking about). Duncan also held former teammate Nazr Mohammed to a paltry 5-of-13 shooting and a measly 6 boards. Mohammed was our biggest bench contributor, but possibly I only mean that literally and not figuratively, because Vincent somehow thought it was a good idea to give Jeff McInnis 33 minutes of “run.”

Tell me we’re showcasing McInnis for a trade, Coach, please? Just do that and all my pain will go away! Apparently, Memphis’s Kyle Lowry is on the trading block. You know Lowry only makes about a mil? We could give the Grizzlies McInnis (or, more accurately, McInnis’s expiring contract) plus either Jermareo Davidson or Ryan Hollins and it’d be nearly even. And here’s a really scary thought: we trade them Othella Harrington ('s expiring contract) for Lowry and they’d actually owe US a million. Welcome to the wacky world of bad contracts! I know these are stupid and—with any other team—borderline insulting trade proposals, but considering the shrewd deals Grizzlies have been pulling lately, I thought it was worth mentioning. Boy oh boy. 33 minutes...Four points...No assists. This guy should be the 5th PG option for the Sacramento Kings, behind Beno Udrih, Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, and Quincy Douby. Instead, he gets 33 minutes for us.

Anyway, besides the decision to play Jeff McInnis for 33 minutes, the Spurs relied heavily on Manu Ginobli (18 points, including 9-of-11 FT shooting), and they also got random contributions from Michael Finley (14 points) and Ime Udoka (12 points). Because of his first name, I’m sort of hoping that Udoka someday develops a reputation as a selfish prima donna and gets traded to the Knicks—the headline writers for The Daily News and The New York Post would have a field day with that one. The Spurs also defended their way through a memorably muddled first half for everyone involved, and they leveraged our cold stretch before halftime to take the lead for good.

“Cold stretch”—like we were ever hot. Gerald Wallace was a total ghost, as was Jason Richardson. Raymond Felton attacked the hoop with his usual gusto, but he frequently failed to finish on the Spurs’ bigs. 21 Spurs turnovers (the first 11 on steals) and their own poor shooting were the only reasons the game was ever competitive. Their 54 rebounds to our 33—sorry, 38 (I can’t seem to get that number out of my head)—was one of the many reasons it eventually wasn’t…

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/14

Here’s a crazy headline for you, pulled from today’s Charlotte Observer: “FT Shooting Leads to Win.” Before last night, I’d have lumped that with “UN Solves Crisis” as two headlines I’d be least likely to see in my lifetime. But it’s true; we hit 22-of-28 foul shots to break a losing streak I’ve long since lost count of. And in fact, posted a similarly impossible-to-believe headline of its own from last night’s OT-win over Atlanta: “McInnis Hits Hook as Cats Rally.” Superb foul shooting? A game-winning shot from Jeff McInnis? I feel like I’m writing science-fiction; I ought to put this column on pulp paper and entitle it “Weird Tales” or something in wavy font.

“I went in and made my little floater,” McInnis modestly explained afterward. Actually, McInnis has been making little floaters all year—the kind you find in toilets, so it was good to see him make a positive contribution for once. McInnis is still about as useful as tonsils when it comes to defense, as Atlanta’s PGs proved by combining for 55 points and just 5 assists in a dribble-penetration free-for-all; and I have no idea why Earl Boykins played just 5 minutes, but hey, let McInnis have his floater. We didn’t have Gerald Wallace, we twice came back from 14 points down, and we were trailing by 10 with just 9 minutes left, so I’m not complaining.

I’m also happy for Raymond Felton, who followed up a 29-point, 8-assist game against LA with a 22-point, 7-assist performance last night—in 52 minutes. The guy is obviously in “kitchen-sink” mode right now trying to produce wins. And without Wallace to distract opponents, not to mention Jason Richardson scoring just 10 and 19 over the last two games, Raymond is getting covered more than Beatles songs. It’s not like he’s feeding off of the crowd, either. Against LA, the crowd was pro-Kobe; against Atlanta, the crowd was pro-staying home. Bobcats Arena was so dead last night that I could have studied for mid-terms in there. Felton has been getting some creative assistance from Nazr Mohammed (22 and 11 vs. LA) and Emeka Okafor (20 and 21 vs. Atlanta), but that’s about it.

Perhaps the Lakers game on Monday was a turning point. Though we lost—and pretty handily—we at least showed some spunk against a team that’s got everything going for it, getting to within 3 with about 6 minutes to play. I also can’t be too critical when it comes to losing to LA because—and I’m shamed to admit this—I have NO IDEA what the Triangle Offense is. Seriously, I really don’t know. Why do I have such a problem understanding it? After all, it’s not like a triangle is a particularly complex shape—heck, it’s only got three sides. But you might as well call it the “Bermuda Triangle Offense," because it’s totally mysterious to me. Pao Gasol appears to have it down, though. He must have been studying it during those times when most people are normally shaving and combing their hair. His 26 boards, 6 points, and 6 assists—to go with Kobe’s 31—made us look like the Flint Tropics.

Remember that old line from the 40s or 50s about the Yankees: “rooting for them is like rooting for US Steel”? Rooting for the Bobcats is the exact opposite. It’s like rooting for Charlie Brown or Ziggy. We already dropped two to lowly Atlanta this year, for crying out loud, and they weren’t even close. The first two times were earlier in the season, when I was na├»ve enough to be disappointed. This time I fully expected a trouncing, because—as the Atlanta announcers duly noted—physically, every one of our starting 5 is on the wrong end of a complete mismatch with their starters. But Josh Smith got into foul trouble early (eventually fouling out), as did Al Horford and Marvin Williams, to negate the size advantage. This facilitated Okafor’s 20-20, as well as illuminated one of his more underrated skills: staying out of foul trouble while maintaining his high-caliber defense. Next thing you know, we’d stolen an OT-win and get to go to All-Star Break on a high note. McInnis hit his floater, we stopped their last-gasp effort, and the crowd went…back home.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/11

“Unspeakable” is one of those dramatic “movie words” that characters in films and TV shows toss around with frequency, but it’s something that you rarely encounter in real life (by the way, “amnesia” is a “movie disease” for the same reason). Wizards, for instance, will warn heroic warriors and their dwarf sidekicks of “unspeakable danger”; fictionalized secret agents will remind their photogenic blond partners that the terrorists have committed acts of “unspeakable evil” and therefore must be stopped. But when was the last time you heard an employee complain of “unspeakably bad” coffee or an “unspeakably bland” PowerPoint presentation? Thus, I’m describing the Bobcats’ weekend performance as “unspeakably crappy” to really emphasize my disgust.

Start with Friday against the Nets. Coming off of several days’ rest and playing a slothful team languishing under the girth of their own bloated contracts, I wanted and expected victory. But as much as I relished the thought of obliterating NJ, I was also gritting my teeth at the thought of this game, because Nets games are like dentist appointments: even if they go well, they’re still painful and uncomfortable. The Nets tend to have a contagious ugliness with their bogged down, turnover-prone style. In fact, I actually refused to watch Pao Gasol’s debut with the Lakers earlier in the week—even though I wanted to—because it was against New Jersey.

What I expected in our game was what I got—except the lack of hustle and nonchalance was entirely on OUR part. The Nets led practically wire-to-wire, assisted each other all over the place, out-rebounded us, and—here’s a new “out-“ one for you—out-hearted us en route to an easy and embarrassing victory. Jason Kidd demanded a double-team like he demands trades, racking up a triple-double, completely controlling the game, and enabling his teammates to pile up the offense. Down low, Sean Williams gave us more fits than his old Boston College guidance counselors. The stats don’t completely reflect it, because he only played 20 minutes, but he (and Josh Boone) was more disruptive than a loud fart in a business meeting, holding Emeka Okafor and Nazr Mohammed to just 15 points on the strength of 3 blocks and shutdown defense. The Nets were intense and efficient in a way you don’t expect from them--or anything else from New Jersey for that matter.

For reasons that later became clear, Gerald Wallace looked uncharacteristically tentative. He still put up some good numbers overall, but he shot a low percentage (6-17) because he wasn’t driving. Apparently his interviewing skills are still injured too, because he said afterward, “We have the rope around our necks. Can we leave ourselves hanging?” Hmm. That’s either really deep or really nonsensical. Coach Sam Vincent was a little bit easier to follow, saying he “was not happy with the effort” and that for a team desperately trying to make the playoffs, we in no way resembled a group “dying of thirst.” Actually, if Sam meant that in the literal sense, we DID resemble a group dying of thirst. It was just a terrible, terrible game.

As unspeakable as things were on Friday, they were downright mute on Sunday against Detroit. At the start of the game, I was actually relieved slightly to hear that Gerald Wallace was injured. If you recall the last time we played Detroit, we didn’t have Raymond Felton and almost won. So when I didn’t see Wallace on the court for the tip-off, I was worried for a second that Coach Vincent was trying some sort of misguided strategy of holding out a key player to rally the guys. Turns out Crash is going to rest for a week. And that was the last bit of good news for the evening, because the Pistons proceeded to completely overwhelm us.

I’ve come up with a new term for these sorts of blowouts: “straight-to-video” games. You know how that’s industry code-speak for a terrible movie? It works here too. Not that I ever rent them, but I imagine most people only get movies that went straight-to-video so they can fast-forward them right to the sex and/or violent scenes. That’s similar to what I did with this game, which was tailor-made for DVR-ing. And by the way, god bless the DVR! Last year at this time, when I was too cheap (read: “broke”) to pay for a DVR, I’d actually have to watch a burning building like this game in agonizing real time. Now I can sit in my chair, watch the Pistons drill 3-pointer after 3-pointer for the first several minutes (at the start of the game, it almost looked like Detroit had a bet going, in which they’d try to win by shooting nothing but 3-pointers), get every possible rebound, force us into 7 turnovers in about 7 minutes, build up an absurd 27-7 lead, bring in their scrubs just about as fast as I’ve ever seen any team do it, and I can then fast-forward ahead to see if we ever make it close and/or start a brawl.

To our credit, we actually did cut the deficit to around 15 points or so on numerous occasions. I suppose this brings me to my second bit of good news: at least our starters weren’t routed by Detroit’s second unit—that would’ve been really demoralizing. After the terrible start, Coach Vincent called in the cavalry, which unfortunately consists of Othella Harrington, Matt Carroll, and Earl Boykins. But in their second iteration, our starters began narrowing the gap, after which the Pistons starters—clearly annoyed about having to come back in—dropped the hammer for good.

The Pistons, who average 16 3-point attempts a game, knocked down 12 of 24 against us. After nearly every make, the camera would cut to Primoz Brezec holding up 3 fingers on each hand in an eerily Nixonian pose. I’m happy for Primoz, who seems to have found a role on Detroit similar to Christian Laettner’s on the ’92 Dream Team. I was less happy with the 11 steals and 16 turnovers, and I was decidedly unhappy with all of the open shots we gave up. Even the Pistons broadcasters were starting to get annoyed with how poorly we played defensively—I kept waiting for Greg Kelser to slam down his headset and scream that Sam Vinecnt was a disgrace to MSU Spartans everywhere.

Next up is the Lakers—and to think I didn’t want to see a game between them and the Nets…

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/8

Well, well, well. Now it suddenly makes a lot more sense why Marcus Banks entered the game in the first quarter on Monday night against us. In between plugs for his numerous local restaurants, even FSN Arizona color commentator Dan Majerle expressed surprise at how early in the game Banks appeared. Majerle concluded that Coach D’Antoni must be trying to get Banks more involved with the Suns offense…survey says? (obnoxious “buzzer” noise). Turns out Banks was being showcased for a potential trade. And after 11 minutes, 0-for-5 shooting and 3 personal fouls, Heat Coach Pat Riley apparently had seen enough—sold! Off Banks went to the Heat on Wednesday, thereby ending his terrible stint in Phoenix. I don’t know who the Suns got in return, but I’ll bet they didn’t get saddled with anything worse than Banks’ $4 million-a-year contract, ha-ha! Whew!

None of this meant anything to us, of course, as we suffered another ho-hum beat-down at the hands of the Suns. Forget about having never beaten Phoenix in 8 games, I don’t even think we’ve taken 8 total quarters from them. At least we’ve earned their respect, though. Did you hear Coach D’Antoni afterwards? “It was not bad. It was just one of those games,” he said, clearly moved by the experience of playing us. “We got it over with,” he went on, sounding embarrassingly similar to my high school prom date, “and we have a great game coming up Wednesday.”

And no wonder he was so breathless with exhilaration, as this one stayed in doubt until there were only 42 minutes left. Leandro Barbosa had his own personal Brazilian Carnival on us, hitting 11-of-17 for 30 points. Meanwhile, Raja Bell drained 7 three-pointers. What is it with defensive stoppers who are also ace 3-point shooters? Don’t the ability to effectively guard an opponent and being a highly accurate long-distance shooter seem like totally random skills to have at the same time? And yet there are so many of them! Bell, Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, Anthony Parker…It’d be like if there was a thriving industry of mimes who were also certified accountants. “Those guys can shoot, man,” said our own Raymond Felton. “Barbosa and Raja, those guys were putting that thing up in the air.”

The “thing” Felton was referring to was an orange spheroid object called a “basketball.” And even more impressive than their ability to place it “up in the air” was their deft manipulation of its trajectory such that its return to the earth via gravitational attraction resulted in its bisection of a circular area created by an aluminum cylinder attached to which nylon netting dangles. They also had 7 blocks.

Thus came to an end our first West Coast trip, and it went pretty much how we would expect, which is to say “poorly.” But cheer up, everyone, because the Nets are next, and unless they’re suddenly galvanized by the charisma and magnetism of Stromile Swift, we’ve got a chance in this one.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 2/4

I love it when the Bobcats wait until precisely 5 minutes after I submit an article to make a figuratively (if not literally) “big” personnel move, thereby rendering all of my observations instantly obsolete. Earl Boykins had been healthy and unemployed for several months, during which time I repeatedly listed him by name and wondered why we hadn’t made a play for him. Then out of the blue we sign him to the league minimum, and he plays that night (Earl must have been as desperate as us, considering it’s been days since Pau Gasol went to the Lakers and he still hasn’t played for them). Except for the fact that I’m not a) a slutty sister, or b) a flamboyantly gay best friend, I feel like the knowing sidekick in a romantic comedy in which the boy and girl are obviously right for each other but are the last to realize it.

So I think it’s a great move, although I have no idea what took so long and what suddenly made management realize that we needed a backup point guard. It’s not like Jeff McInnis’ production has been steadily declining. In fact, he’s been a remarkably consistent non-presence all year. Check it out:

Nov: 23.4 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 1.5 turnovers pg
Dec: 23.5 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 1.7 turnovers pg
Jan: 29.4 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.1 turnovers pg

Talk about flat. Plot those lines, color them red and green, and you’ve got Freddy Krueger’s shirt pattern. Maybe it was the fact that Raymond Felton now has more sprains than he has ankles that got management moving, but at least they eventually did the right thing.

At least I think they did. Maybe Boykins felt bad about joining the team after I could react, because he sure didn’t do much. In his debut against Golden State on Friday, his very first act was to get blocked by Matt Barnes. He then proceeded to miss a jumper and make a bad pass, all en route to a 2-for-11, 5-point, 3-assist night. Perhaps he doesn’t want to show Jeff up right away.

Speaking of “showing up,” that’s about all we did on Friday night. Our performance against the Warriors was so bad, we actually got blown out twice: once on a 49-29 run to end the half, and then on a 26-6 assault spanning the 3rd and 4th quarters. In the ultimate insult, Golden State brought in Brandon Wright--whose draft rights we traded to them--and he jammed home a thunderous left-handed dunk to finish off the game. In fact, Wright (6 points and 3 boards in 12 minutes) arguably outperformed the superstar we got for him, Jason Richardson (10 points and no boards in 28 minutes). The Warriors scored 37 fast-break points, hit 25-of-30 free throws, stole the ball 9 times, and almost out-rebounded us (43 to 45, and probably the only reason they didn’t beat us there was because they shot 55%). Then Felton and Gerald Wallace both went down with ankle injuries, with Wallace apparently now gone for a week. The only way this could have been worse was if the commercials were nothing but previews for Over Her Dead Body.

Next came Denver. Without Wallace in the lineup, you knew the loss was going to come in either one of two flavors: Yummy Blowout Surprise or Letdown that Melts in your Mouth. It turned out to be the latter. “We knew they were going to make a run here at home, but we thought we were going to answer back,” said Richardson about the late Denver comeback. Actually, they Answered back: AI finished with 24 points, 12 assists, and 5 steals. We also got burnt by the unstoppable Linas Kleiza. In fact, with us leading by 10 points as late as eleven minutes into the 3rd quarter, Kleiza alone nearly matched us point-for-point the rest of the way, 21-20. This is the same Linas Kleiza, ladies and gentlemen, who can’t even confidently declare that he’s confident: “I don’t think I lack confidence right now,” Kleiza said afterward.

The Wile E. Coyote moment? Had to be when Ryan Hollins clearly shouted, “Get that $#!@ outta here!” while blocking shot. Not a good idea. And even though it happened in the first half, I knew it’d just be a matter of time. “Tough game in Golden State last night, late-night travel, high altitude, but we don't want to make excuses,” concluded Sam Vincent, who just came up with three pretty good ones nonetheless.