Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 4/22

Rick Bonnell needs to step his game up. And apparently I’m not alone in that conclusion: the second posting following Bonnell’s recent player-by-player review leads with the damning words “very soft analysis.” Indeed, I’ve seen more in-depth sports analysis in TV Guide’s NFL Preview issue. If you’re a paid commentator for the city’s largest newspaper, you’ve gotta deliver more than that, RB—especially in the off-season, unless you’re also the Observer’s horticultural expert or something else I don’t know about. And this was on the heels of his spectacularly milquetoast assessment of Charlotte’s off-season agenda, wherein he makes the following non-committal banalities:

1. “Do you cut the cord now or hope Vincent improves? I'd say the odds are 50-50.”
2. “If the Bobcats have the chance to draft Memphis' Derrick Rose in June, it wouldn't be bad to develop an alternative.”
3. “Kansas State's Michael Beasley is more a scorer than a defender, but he'd be a nice upgrade if the Bobcats luck out in the draft lottery.”

“50-50”? What kind of prediction is that? And as for taking Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley in the lottery? Gee, no kidding, Rick—you really think we should pick one of them over, say, Italy’s Danilo Gallinari? Way to put it out on the line like that. Hey, I think I realized what Bonnell’s other job is: advising the President on deadlines for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Anyway, because we clearly can’t rely on Bonnell for anything that would inspire critical thought, let’s keep it in-house by posing this question: who would you say was the Bobcats MVP this year? This is almost certainly a silly question. It’s a little like asking, “What was the best Gerardo song?” But if you had to pick someone, who would it be?

First, I’ll go out on a Bonnell-like limb here and assume it’s either Richardson, Okafor, Felton, or Wallace. Second, I don’t have any sort of set criteria that I’m looking for in an MVP; however, whenever I’m choosing an MVP—whether it’s from the NBA, the NFL, or the cast of Battlestar Galactica (gotta be President Laura Roslin: strong but vulnerable, with the added bonus of looking like a former 80s metal video groupie)—I prefer that the decision be based on some sort of rational analysis. In other words, don’t do what ESPN’s J.A. Adande and Chris Broussard seem to always do, which is make a snap decision based on whatever they just saw two minutes ago. These lead to skewed perceptions, and this country is already overwhelmed with those. They’re why Citigroup posts a $5 billion loss and sees its share price rise while Bank of America’s stock plummets even though it was technically still profitable last quarter; they’re why Barack Obama rises out of a poor, single-parent household only to get branded an “elitist” (and also a “whiner” and “not tough enough” by someone whose most memorable televised moment in the past 6 months was crying after a loss in a primary).

So anyway, let’s take a look at the numbers. As an admitted worshipper at the Temple of Hollinger, my first stop is the PER category, which measures a player’s overall efficiency through the use of complex statistical analyses, calculus, the cosine, pi, and the blood of a freshly slaughtered calf. After mixing it all together, ESPN stat guru/witchdoctor John Hollinger tells us that Richardson led the way with an 18.48 in this category (15 is average), compared to the 17.57, 17.45, and 13.85 scores of Wallace, Okafor, and Felton, respectively.

A quick surf over to 82games.com, which is great for +/- measurements (which are regarded in hockey about as highly as RBI’s are in baseball, yet inexplicably ignored in basketball), and we see that Wallace was the category leader, with a Net48 of -2.3. This means that the Cats were outscored by 2.3 points per 48 minutes of playing time for Wallace. You’re probably saying to yourself that “-2.3” doesn’t seem like a very good score—let alone the best—and you’re right, it isn’t. This is why we were a bad team. But in this case the -2.3 bested Felton’s -3.3, Richardson’s -3.5, and Okafor’s -4.3. (It’s also worth noting that Matt Carroll tied Wallace’s mark of -2.3, and also that anytime Carroll was on the court, he and the rest of his 5-man unit outscored the opposition 51.3% of the time (none of the other “big 4” tops Okafor’s 44.3%). But this is where we get into the murky area of first-unit vs. second unit, which I imagine explains most of this discrepancy.)

Let’s quickly move on from there—because, frankly, the +/- scores are depressing—and look at the more traditional stats. This is where Richardson really achieves some separation. J-Rich led the team in scoring—21.8 to Wallace’s 19.4, and Richardson played in 20 more games. He was efficient about his scoring, too. His adjusted field-goal percentage (all points less FT’s, divided by FGA), .524, trailed only Okafor’s .535. He wasn’t shabby at all on the boards either (5.4 rebounds-per). Plus he was good for 3.1 assists and nearly one-and-a-half steals a game. There’s also that aforementioned durability: J-Rich played in all 82 games (tied with Okafor) and tied Wallace for 38.4 mpg.

Thus my vote Team MVP would be (in order) Richardson, Okafor, Wallace, and Felton (the order of the last two depends on how much stock you put in durability). Congratulations, J-Rich! Your prize is an autographed player review by Rick Bonnell, in which he describes you as “the best move on Michael Jordan’s watch” (Really? Sure it wasn’t the decision to draft Adam Morrison third overall, Rick?).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 4/18

The Bobcats season ended with a whimper on Wednesday—a literal whimper, that is, as owner Bob Johnson complained about a lack of “support” (or in other words, “money”) from Charlotte businesses. As always, Johnson’s timing was perfect…ly bizarre. Just a few days earlier, Johnson had publicly praised the “commitment of the community.” All of a sudden, however, Johnson was “absolutely concerned,” about the local corporations’ lack of “commitment to be a part of the Bobcats.” Jeez, talk about a flip-flop!

Johnson also claims to have lost “significant money” on the team so far. (Note: I’m assuming that at some point in the interview, he eventually expressed disappointment about his team still being lousy after four years and then followed it up with a public pledge to get better on the court, but I didn’t actually see anything about that). There are a staggering number of questions/interpretations that spring from the “significant money” remark. Off the top of my head:

1) What’s a “significant amount” of money for a billionaire?
2) How is losing a significant amount of money possible when your arena was built for free?
3) How is it possible after you’ve raised ticket prices for two straight years?
4) How is it possible when you’re one of just a handful of teams who don’t exceed the salary cap?
5) How is it possible when you compete in a league with built-in cost controls and revenue sharing?
6) How is it possible when you just sold the naming rights to your arena? We don’t know how much money was exchanged in the Time-Warner deal, but the average annual price for naming rights is $3 million.*

But the most interesting question of all is: how would Johnson wish the public to react to these complaints? The way I see it, there are only two choices: sympathetically (which is sort of unrealistic, considering—forgive me if I’m having a little trouble getting past this particular point—he’s a billionaire) or scornfully (as in, “How incompetent can one be to fail in the impossible-to-fail industry of sports-team ownership?”). If you’re Johnson, neither of these reactions seems desirable (I guess he’d rather be viewed sympathetically, but that’s not very manly of him, is it?), so what’s his motive? He’s practically turning himself into a real-life configuration of the pro wrestler-heel, who actively tries to get the crowd to hate him and complains to the refs when they don’t rule in his favor. But unless he’s about to announce he’s wrestling Mark Cuban in a “Loser-Leaves-the-NBA” Cage Match at SummerSlam, none of this makes sense.

Maybe he’s just bitter. You know, you go to some of these small town owners in the NBA, and like a lot of small town owners in other leagues, treating their teams as tax write-offs has been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced it. Instead, the paying fans actually want you to care about the team and make it competitive. So it's not surprising then that these owners get bitter, they cling to fan indifference or lack of corporate sponsorships as a way to explain their frustrations.

Anyway, I’m no billionaire businessman who rules his sports team from afar and is almost never seen in public except to exploit the fan base, but my advice to Johnson would be to get in on the new Foreclosure Prevention Act that’s currently kicking around in Congress and the Senate. True, his problems don’t have much to do with housing foreclosures, but then again neither do GM’s, Ford’s, or the domestic airlines—yet they’re all lined up for some sweet tax breaks and refunds that will be part of the bill. Oh wait, Johnson doesn’t actually have to pay any taxes on his arena. That’s right, not only was it built for him, he pays no property taxes on it. Is it possible to get breaks or refunds on taxes you don’t pay in the first place? I’m not even sure if Halliburton can answer that one.

Hmmm. Where to go when you’ve already received every possible hand-out? There’s got to be some sort of loophole out there—right? Otherwise, the only alternative would be to (shudder) put a better team on the court. I know, I know, that’s some serious outside-the-box thinking. But it’s just crazy enough to actually work.

*Ask.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 4/15

(Note: This is what I get for posting this late: first, the Pacers go on to get eliminated from the playoffs, rendering the second paragraph moot; second, Bob Johnson publicly vents his frustrations over the taxing life of being a billionaire sports owner, making a bunch of claims that--though I haven't read them thoroughly yet--are undoubtedly a) unintentionally funny, and b) intentionally hypocritical. I promise more analysis later in the week.)

You know how I was making fun of Shawn Marion the other day? Well, it’s worth mentioning that Marion’s antithesis is Joakim Noah. Reading Noah’s comments (he’s got a recurring journal in SLAM this year) after Marion’s is like chasing grapefruit juice with a cherry Slurpee. I’m still slapping my knee over Noah’s recap of a game against the Knicks at the Garden. “They came out for me, my people from 51st Street and 10th Ave. That’s how we do it,” wrote Noah, later adding that his family and friends “look good on him.” Anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with the layout of Manhattan knows how ridiculous this sounds. 51st and 10th Ave?? I live over in the East Village, where it’s not uncommon to see men openly walk around in dresses, and I think I’m even more hood than that. I’m surprised Noah didn’t give a shout-out to his homies in the "Bear Sterns projects" and tell them to keep their heads up. But I’m laughing with Noah, not at him, because he’s a total crackup, is team-first, and probably a joy to be around. Even when he’s understated (like when he described the situation in Iraq as “kind of disappointing”), he’s a treat to experience. And he can rebound—we could have used him this year.

Oddly, we didn’t need Noah on Saturday night against Indiana. "Rebounding was the key," Matt Carroll said of the Bobcats’ 107-103 victory over the Pacers. "There have been a lot of games this year when we were on the opposite end of the rebounding total. It's been our Achilles' heel." Similarly, the Bobcats have been Indiana’s Achilles’ heel, taking 3-of-4 games from them this year. Now the Pacers will play with the sword of Damocles over their heads, because they need to win their remaining two games and have Atlanta lose their two in order to seize the last playoff slot. In short, it’ll take a Herculean effort.

Okay, enough with the Greek allusions. The rebounding disparity in the series finale with Indiana—59-43 in favor of us, including a preposterous 20 offensive boards—was somewhat befuddling, especially when the Pacers had home court and an urgent mandate to win. However, before you ask why we can’t do this more often, just look at Indiana’s center situation: Jeff Foster started, and he can barely make a put-back, let alone a long-range jumper; and Jermaine O’Neal continued playing desultory minutes. The only other big of consequence, Troy Murphy, took just 2 shots (and missed them both). Thus, when the opposition has a front court as limited in their offensive capabilities as our own, we look good by comparison.

All of this makes me wonder what Rod Higgins’ current relationship with Andris Biedrins is like. Because they were together with Golden State, do you think there’s any chance Higgins has enough goodwill to lure Biedrins over here? If I remember correctly, AB wanted something in the neighborhood of $10 mil at the beginning of the season, and the Warriors were having none of it. If both parties are still stalemated, Higgins could be our opening. Biedrins is three years younger than Emeka Okafor and three million cheaper, plus he’s more offensively gifted and a certain double-double if given enough minutes.

Two final thoughts about the Pacers: first, watching our guards chase around Flip Murray was semi-depressing, because I couldn’t help but wonder how this season would have gone if we’d had Flip on our team all along. It’s not like he wasn’t available or overly expensive. Effective backup point guards are so abundant nowadays, I just don’t see how we failed so spectacularly to acquire one. I’ll admit it: Earl Boykins never materialized into what I’d hoped, although I still argue that he was better than Jeff McInnis—at least somebody had to cover Earl. Come draft time, I’m leaning closer and closer to advocating a big guy with rebounding ability and picking up a veteran backup PG second-hand.

The other thought was, what happened to Jermaine O’Neal? He seems a shell of himself. I never hear from him anymore, and frankly, I miss him. He used to have opinions that were refreshingly honest—he was the original Noah. Now he just looks like he needs a good cry, possibly after a psychiatrist tells him repeatedly that it’s not his fault.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 4/11

Bad news, everyone: according to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, 81 percent of respondents believe that when it comes to the Bobcats, “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” Oh hold on, I read that wrong. Sorry, they were the talking about the country, not the Bobcats. Never mind then, that’s not nearly as important. That’s an odd way of wording that survey, though. “Things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track”? It’s a bit cluttered—makes me wonder what the other options were on the questionnaire. Was it something like:

1. When it comes to the country…
A) Things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track
B) You know, it is what it is, but for the most part it’s, you know, all good
C) Sometimes things happen and you have to kind of make adjustments
D) I thought it was sort of crazy before, but lately, it’s like, WTF?

For what it’s worth, Bob Johnson thinks things are pretty seriously on the right track. In a recent interview, the Bobcats owner told The Gaston Gazette, “We've got a beautiful, downtown state-of-the-art arena. We've got a naming rights partner that's dominant in the media-content business. We've got a dominant carrier in the region in the content and sports promotion business. We've got a team that is building every year, we believe, to be a winner. And we've got a community that's committed, I'm convinced, to supporting the Charlotte Bobcats.”

We’ve also got an owner who’s delusional. I wonder what’s "convincing" him—the 8th worst attendance in the League? The sub-1 television ratings? The fact that 100% of the $265 million it took to build his “beautiful” arena came from the taxpayers’ state-of-the-art wallets? He’s right, the evidence is overwhelming. Mission accomplished. You had me at “no-jerseys-ranked-in-the-top-15-best-sellers.”

It’s also nice to see that Johnson’s the latest mogul to fall in love with saying the word “content” as much as possible. Guys like him LOVE to talk about “content,” especially when they can also talk about people “consuming” content. It really dresses everything up and makes it sound much cooler and more sophisticated, even when 90% of the time the “content” in question is sports, sit-coms, or blogs about celebrity pregnancies—“crap,” in other words. How refreshing would it be if Johnson or Rupert Murdoch called all of it "crap" instead? I guess that wouldn’t present as nice a picture though, especially in the context of “consuming” it or—worse—“streaming” it.

I assume Johnson was somewhat less convinced by the team’s two most recent showings: a narrow win over Minnesota and a sad loss to the Knicks. Coach Sam Vincent inexplicably praised the win over the T-Wolves, even though it came about more from missed Minnesota opportunities than anything else. “It was closer than we wanted, but we are trying to learn how to win close games,” said Vincent. This was funny for two reasons. First, it’s always absurd when coaches refer to “learning how to win close games” as if it’s a skill that can be achieved through lots of practice, like speaking Spanish or playing the guitar. Second, Vincent’s got it all wrong: we never trailed this game and at one point we were up by 18 against a team with just 19 victories—we should be learning how to win blow-outs. And maybe the Bobcats should consider switching majors, because after a 2-point loss to the Knicks on Wednesday, I don’t think we’re ever going to learn enough.

At least I didn’t pay to watch the Knicks game live. Neither did their new President, Donnie Walsh, but he got to attend anyway. In fact, not only did he attend, he was the whole storyline. I'm serious: in the NY Times recap, there actually wasn’t a single mention of the game itself; the entire article was a description of the Yoda-looking Walsh’s seating arrangements. Walsh is being hailed in these parts as a savior, even though the bulk of his credentials—as far as I can tell—are that he was born and raised in New York. Knicks fans certainly can’t point to anything he did with the Pacers in recent years as reasons for optimism. In the Times article, Walsh also had a bunch of quotations, all of which were—you’ll never believe this—spectacularly uninformative. Without getting into it, he assured everyone he’d be evaluating his options but offered no timetables on any major decisions. At least he didn’t use the word “content.” Hmm…Really old, doesn’t want timetables, bases his credibility on events that occurred decades ago…is this the Walsh Presidency or the McCain Presidency?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts 4/7

In the aftermath of another joyless loss on Saturday that explored new depths of meaninglessness, there’s only one thing that will make me feel better: skewering Shawn Marion. Bashing him is like my blog comfort food, especially without McInnis and Primoz to kick around anymore. But before I get started, did anyone else notice the “repetition”-themed series between Atlanta and Philly? Check it out: they played twice (home-and-home), and the games featured 2 Andre’s, 2 Josh’s, 2 Smith’s, 2 Williams’, and 2 Za’s. I had to bust out Jay’s “22 Two’s” to honor the occasion. If only Atlanta hadn’t traded Anthony Johnson and Sheldon Williams, because then we could have had 2 Johnson’s and 3 Williams’.

Anyway, onto Marion. In the latest SLAM Magazine issue, he has an “op-ed” piece—I guess you’d call it—about leaving Phoenix for Miami. This rambling, nonsensical monologue makes me wish the creators of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 would start a magazine solely for the purpose of satirizing interviews. Here’s my take on it (comments in bold) (note: #’s indicate empty clich├ęs, and check out that last paragraph when he goes on a Houston Rockets-like streak of them—it's a real tour-de-force).

All right, I just want to make it clear and state for the record why I wanted out of Phoenix (he goes onto do neither). Actually let me change that: It wasn’t so much that I wanted to get out of Phoenix, but more so, always hearing my name in trade rumors really started to get to me (rumors that he started by constantly telling reporters how unloved he was—there was even a whole book on it). I love Phoenix. I played there for nine years and the fans were nothing but good to me. Time has really gone by (#1--it tends to do that); it doesn’t even feel like I’ve been in the League for nine years (huh? Okay, there’s your clear explanation).

I’ve been watching (the Suns) play lately and I think they do miss me a little bit. I do stuff on the floor they probably won’t be able to replace, but they have great players and they will be OK. What’s done is done (#2). Sometimes things happen (#3--actually, all the time things happen); God works in mysterious ways (#4—what’s mysterious about pouting until you get traded?). I wish those guys the best of luck. I have nothing but love for them (#5—nothing but good, nothing but love—quit with the “nothing buts”). That’s all I can do (huh? what’s all he can do?). This is a business (#6—just in case that first explanation wasn’t clear enough, I guess he's elaborating). But I really don’t want to talk about that stuff anymore (not that he’s really said anything useful yet), because that’s what everybody keeps talking about (sort of a variation on “nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded”—although I doubt that’s what Marion was aiming for). People are saying this and that (#7) and nobody’s getting it right (thank goodness we have his clear explanations). To be honest, it’s nobody’s business (umm, it sort of is when he’s a public figure; he and Chelsea both need to talk to someone about this). The people who need to know, know (translation: this doesn’t include any of you suckers). So I don’t even want to talk about it no more (in conclusion: he was tired of people talking, things happen, and time goes by—any questions?).

My first couple of games with Miami…well, I guess you can say it’s been different from what I’m used to. I’m so used to playing in Phoenix, having on one jersey and coming here putting on a whole new jersey in a new arena, it feels so weird. My emotions are high, my nerves at an all-time high. It’s still the same game, but it feels different, you know (“different,” “weird,” and “different,”—I do know). The atmosphere here (Miami) is unbelievable though. The fans are great, the teammates are great (sure they’re not "nothing but great"?), the coaching staff—what more can you ask for (insert first “Pat Riley abandoning team to scout NCAA games” joke here)? I can see myself in Miami for a long time. I’m trying to build a home here (unclear if this is literal or figurative); I want to grow with Dwyane Wade (ditto, and perhaps this line sounded less creepy than it looks on paper). Why not (why not “grow” with D-Wade? Is that what he's asking?)? Coach Mike D’Antoni has a certain system, and Coach Riley has a certain system. There is a big difference in the tempo of the game (I’m assuming it’s also "weird"). Everybody has their own way of approaching the game, and I was used to doing certain way for a while in Phoenix. Now it’s time to adjust (different, weird, need to adjust, he really paints a picture, doesn’t he, folks? I feel like I'm there). You have to respect Coach Riley’s way of coaching, because he has rings and that speaks for itself (insert second “Pat Riley abandoning team to scout NCAA games” joke here). It’s a learning curve for me, you know, because when you are used to winning and you come to a whole new environment and you start losing games, it’s definitely a challenge. “Extremely hard” is a better way to put it (this last move clearly exhausted him—witness the next two sentences). Nobody wants to lose, but I guess sometimes you have to lose. Everybody can’t win (#8—can’t even comment here, too busy falling out of my chair).

(They come fast and furious now; he really finishes strong) At the end of the day (#9), you live and you learn (#10). All I can do is compete the best way I know how (#11). I have no hard feelings toward any of my teammates past or present (I certainly hope he doesn’t have anything against his present teammates—he just got there!). Things happen (#12—wait, I thought that was only sometimes!). We move on (#13). (Take it home, Shawn) We just gotta do what we gotta do (#14). (If this interview were a concert, Shawn would leave the stage, the fans would beg for an encore, and he’d come out one last time and perform “It is what it is”).

Ahh. Thanks, Shawn. I feel better…Enjoy him, Miami!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 4/4

You know what’s frustrating? The “Coach of the Year” award has no qualifying adjective before it. It’s not “Best Coach of the Year” or “Most Valuable Coach,” just “Coach of the Year.” This is frustrating because it’s hard to parody when you want to nominate your pick for worst coach of the year. I’ve tossed around a couple of ideas, but none really stick: “Roach of the Year,” “Woe-ch of the Year,” “Douche of the Year,” “Faux-ch of the Year.” The “Most Valuable Player” award makes it easy, because if you want to nominate whoever you think is the opposite of MVP, well, then it’s (everybody say it with me): “Least Valuable Player” (followed quickly with “it's a three-way toss-up between Ben Wallace, Stephon Marbury, and Steve Francis”).

Additionally, people always complain that choosing an MVP is problematic because it’s undefined. But at least with MVP we get the words “Most Valuable” to work with; “Coach of the Year” is completely amorphous. Is it “Coach With the Best Team”? “Coach Whose Team Had the Biggest Turnaround”? For sure, they ought to have a “Purple Heart Coach of the Year,” which would go to the guy whose team isn’t any good, but given the circumstances, it’s just a miracle nobody’s dead. The obvious winner this year would be Indiana’s Jim O’Brien (the O’Neal injuries, the Tinsley injuries/shoot-outs, the Murphy/Dunleavy contracts, the Harrison bong-hits, the Donnie Walsh bailouts, the forced reliance on guys like Kareem Rush, the awful yellow alternative jerseys that make the team look like the “Indiana Cliffs Notes”, etc. etc.).

Anyway, you can probably see where I’m going with this. For lack of a better term, the “Anti-Coach of the Year” award should go to our own Sam Vincent. Where to begin? Actually, I know where NOT to begin, which seems to be where Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson ARE beginning: Vincent’s controversial decision to bus, rather than fly, to Milwaukee back in January. So far, this is upper management’s only public complaint, because it apparently almost cost $5 million in fines and Vincent didn’t consult with them first. Whatever. That’s like when the government gets all hot-and-righteous over earmarks, even though they only account for 4% of the deficit. Vincent's method of transportation to one game is a drop in the bucket of his underachievements.

How about playing a shooting guard who can’t shoot, a 2 at the 3, a 3 at the 4, and a legally-declared-comatose man at the 1 virtually all year? How about 8 minutes-a-game given to Jared Dudley in January, when his impact upon entry was almost always instantaneous and significant? What about all the Derek Anderson DNP’s? DA was a great glue guy last year and inexplicably marginalized this year. How about regressing in wins despite fewer injuries and the acquisition of a premier scorer (J-Rich)?

And to top it all off, Vincent began the year with guarantees of the playoffs. Yet now that we’re a smoldering grease-fire, Vincent’s actually indignant about talk of his dismissal. "Give me a break. Was I really supposed to come in in the first year and have 50 wins?" Vincent asked rhetorically of ESPN.com. No, Sam, but you were supposed to match last year’s 33.

I have this recurring fantasy in which Michael Jordan comes into a meeting one morning, sees Vincent sitting there, and spontaneously bursts into that refrain from the White Stripes’ song, “There’s No Home For You Here”: “Waking up for breakfast, burning matches, talking quickly, breaking baubles, throwing garbage, drinking soda, looking happy, taking pictures…So completely stupid, just go away!!” Instead, MJ’s just given the media the usual Donnie Walsh-isms about “evaluating everything at the end of the year.” This always strikes me as an extremely lazy, ridiculous thing to say when there are only 2 weeks left and all of the remaining games are meaningless. What’s going to change between now and then? Why don’t they just start evaluating right now?

Owner Bob Johnson’s no help either. He thinks Vincent’s done all right, but this is the same man who can’t sell the naming rights to the arena or get a cable deal worked out, plus spends most of his free time riding on the backs huge animals who’d just as soon trample him to death than jump on command over a silly, flower-covered obstacle. Never trust the opinion of someone who chooses to ride a horse voluntarily. “Did Sam do something that was just obviously so blatant that you said, ‘This guy could never get you there?’” Johnson said in a recent interview with the Charlotte Observer. “I don't see that at all.” Nor will Johnson see that hoof coming full speed at his face one day.

Wait, what am I talking about? How could I forget about Zeke Thomas? For every horrible decision Vincent’s made, Thomas has made it three-fold, plus he was the GM, so he can’t even hide behind the “hey, I’m just playing the guys they hand me” card. Plus Thomas apparently hasn’t been showing up for work lately. Oh yeah, and he started the year off getting slammed with sexual harassment lawsuit. Ha-ha, yeah, picking Vincent for worst coach this year would be like backing Dominique Wilkins over Michael Jordan for MVP in the 1990-91 season. But still, as they with the MVP talk, Vincent’s “definitely in the discussion.” In fact, the only thing really separating us from the Knicks is that we’re too poor to screw up that badly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 4/1

I watched the Bobcats last night for the first time since the loss to Memphis—not because I really wanted to, but because the slate of games last night was horrific (at least, in the 7 to 9 PM time slots). I felt like I was trying to select dinner off a Jack-in-the-Box menu. The choices were so appalling, that it was either this game or Indiana-Miami, which had only the potential allure of a Britney Spears/VMA-fiasco comeback performance from Jermaine O’Neal. Seeing my beloved team for the first time since the season officially went up in smoke was sort of like those scenes in sci-fi/action movies wherein the humans who escaped the alien attack return home and start sifting through the rubble.

Indeed, I clearly wasn’t the only one who’d given up: the Arena was deserted. As soon as I saw the vast emptiness in the lower bowl, I spontaneously began whistling the theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Commentator Steve Martin charitably attributed the vacant seats to a “late-arriving crowd,” but as they failed to fill up, it became obvious that we were dealing with a “non-arriving crowd.” “I thought Rasho (Nesterovic) and Chris (Bosh), I could hear them talking on defense,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said after the game. So could the television audience, Sam. It’s not too hard to communicate when you’re practically the only ones in the gym.

Defense was mostly theoretical in this one. Emeka Okafor and Nazr Mohammed continue to be either unwilling or unable to drift outside the post to cover big guys with range—guys like Stoudemire, Garnett, Carlos Boozer, and, oh yeah, Bosh, who lit us up like jack-o-lanterns for 32 points. TJ Ford also had the creative freedom to penetrate in and then drift back for unopposed fade-away jumpers. Jamereo Moon stuck it to us on 6-of-7 FG attempts, Anthony Parker shot 8-of-14…Andrea Bargnani would have done some damage too, except he’s not very good.

The Bobcats also got theirs on offense. If we had just gotten a couple more 3’s to drop (8-of-24 overall)—and believe me, we were open enough—this would have been a different story. In fact, I’m not feeling great if I’m a Raptors fan right now. On the outer bubble of the playoffs and playing a road-weary team with absolutely nothing going for it (certainly not a crowd advantage), they could barely squeak out a 4-point win. Even Earl Boykins was playing some effective keep-away. Steve Martin noted as much when he observed, “Boykins is looking more and more a part of things every day.” Great, but when did we get him? Early February? I would have preferred if Martin had been saying this about a month-and-a-half ago.

Anyway, when Martin began describing the plot of the romantic comedy Pushing Tin to clueless booth partner Henry Williams, that was my cue to flip the game off (for reasons that were never made clear, Williams worried whether or not Quentin Tarantino directed). Before I forget, here’s the Helpful Office Tip of the Day: if you’re ever riding in an elevator and the only other passenger is female, whatever you do, do NOT start humming Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator.” It was on the radio that morning so it was in my head, I’m all the way up on the 34th floor, I wasn’t paying attention…I’m just glad that all I got was a funny look and not a lawsuit.