I was scrolling through things here at RobertoGato.com and I noticed something. Lots and lots of pessimism. If you just click on the home page and went through reading everything I wrote for the past few weeks and months, you’d probably think I was on suicide watch. ”What will be missing when the Lockout ends,” (oh great, even when we go back to basketball, things still won’t be quite right), “Lockout Continues,” ”Bryant Gumbel, Bashing David Stern,” (ohhhh, awesome, long time news guy brings up “plantation overseer,” things just get better every day), “Can the Bobcats Survive the Lockout?” (the mere question being asked can’t be a good sign), “Fan Disillusionment Will Get Worse,” (Worse, it’s right there in the title!), “NBA Cancels first 2 Weeks Of Regular Season,” (cancel, another bad word), “Drop Dead Date,” (dropping dead can never be good), and finally, my favorite title in this whole string: ”Lockout Downer.”
So we need a shot in the arm here, we need to pick up the spirits here. There will be basketball again, and I don’t want to believe that the entire season will be lost. (See, this optimism thing is working already!) Looking forward, I think there are at least 5 different reasons to be optimistic about the Charlotte Bobcats’ season going forward, whenever that is (soon!).
#1 Kemba Walker.
Simply Put: Kemba Walker will have me tuning in to games by himself. If the main rotation guys get hurt and all that’s left are Kemba Walker, Diop, Najera, Acie Law IV and Kareem Rush, I’ll be watching intently. Not to sound too much like Charles Oakley, but the guy has the “it” factor. He won a national title and honestly, I can’t name another player from that team (although, they’re ranked pre-season #4). I just want to see what the kid has got on the NBA level. I believe he’ll be good right away. He drives and shoots, how different can those skills be from NCAA Tournament and Big East play to the NBA? Defenses are more stout and everyone is on your level athletically, but he found a way to lead UConn all season last year and they were unstoppable in March.
I’m psyched to watch him work with the other guys. I’m also excited to see what that addition does to D.J. Augustin. The “two-undersized-PG” sets that Paul Silas is no doubt working on should be interesting. I seem to remember DJ and Raymond Felton working well on the court at the same time, so there’s no reason not to think that DJ and Kemba couldn’t do the same.
#2 First Full Year Under Paul Silas
While the lockout will undoubtedly cut short any preparations that teams would love to have worked on in training camp and pre-season, Paul Silas and his staff will come in with an entire offseason to prepare, albeit without the players. The stretch just after Paul joined the team was incredible. It was a complete revitalization to the entire roster. As I’ve said before, he did things that fans were sitting at home on their couches screaming for and the ability to begin a new year will make him that much better.
Oakley may not be back, but Rob Werdann is a solid assistant. Stephen Silas might be the glue to that whole outfit and I’m interested to see if he works his way into being an heir-apparent to his father. With preparation and the return of some key guys to his system and his way of doing things, I think Paul Silas could be a coach of the year candidate if the Bobcats exceed expectations.
#3 Larry Brown is GONE
This might be me running after a guy to kick him in the ass, long after he’s out the door, but the strength and stability, that precious stability, that comes with Paul Silas and the front office team that are now in place, as compared to those Larry Brown years is so comforting. You could title this #3a: Rich Cho is here. That’s a huge asset for the organization. For me, it’s the logic and structured way of looking at things that I like. Larry would say “Get this guy out, bring some other guy in and don’t ask me to explain myself.” Rich and Rod Higgins are a perfect combo, in theory, to lead the Bobcats and shape the roster and the on-court product for years to come.
I had a flashback when I was talking about training camp, to watching from above the Bobcats practice court as Larry Brown ran one of the early tw0-a-days with the team that would go on to make the playoffs. His halting, nit-picky way of running practice was hard to watch and it must have been harder to do. It was like the way Ben Stein taught in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” “STOP! Ok, why do we not look to pass out of the post here? Anybody? Anybody?” and he’d do that every play, 5-6 times through a play turning a running practice into a 2 hour walk-through. It was horrible and although DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson are the only guys left from that training camp, I’m sure the guys who were around before Paul took over are going to appreciate the way he does things far more than the way Larry did them.
#4 Nothing to Lose
The Bobcats didn’t make the playoffs last season. They had a chance and they weren’t very bad, but they didn’t make it. Before last season, true, the Bobcats traded Tyson Chandler for Najera, Matt Carroll and DUST, which decreased the odds of making it back, but there were expectations. That third year under Larry Brown. First full season with Stephen Jackson. Better determining people’s roles and with Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown looking to make a contribution, the Bobcats looked poised to do as well as they had the year before.
Well, Larry Brown tanked the hell out of the first 2 months. He started throwing players under the bus, I’m sure he was going to Michael Jordan and saying “I can’t win with these guys.” He was thankfully fired and Paul Silas came in and almost saved the day. If not for the decision to trade Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed and a boat load of injuries, the Bobcats might very well have made the playoffs, but they didn’t. In the off-season, they traded away another component that had led to success in Stephen Jackson, basically in order to draft Bismack Biyombo.
We don’t know what it will look like. We don’t know if Corey Maggette will fit with Boris Diaw, D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson. We don’t know if Bismack Biyombo will even be available with his buyout issues in Spain. We don’t know if D.J. Augustin will fold or flourish with the addition of Kemba Walker. We don’t know a whole lot of things. Hell, we don’t know if there is a starting center at this point.
That’s what’s great though. No expectations, no pressure. The Bobcats can surprise a lot of people with a very young team. It reminds me of the end of the Bernie Bickerstaff era, where you had Gerald Wallace, Okafor, the a bunch of youth and untapped talent that could be very impressive some nights, but could also disappoint you others. It’s the fun of starting over.
#5 You guessed it,
That was a Nic Watson contribution. His list: #1 Lockout Means No Losses, #2 Save Money On Gas, No Trips to the Arena, #3 Don’t Have To Deal With Guy In The Seat Beside Me, #4 No Larry Brown, and then “You Guessed it, Frank Stalone.” He hasn’t caught onto the fact that I meant when the season starts nor has he caught onto the true meaning of the word optimistic.
My actual #5: Gerald Henderson’s Continued Development
While he wasn’t a high draft pick (#12) he was a lottery pick. No one drafted behind him is one of those that you say “Well the Bobcats should have definitely taken him over Henderson.” There’s not a lot of pressure based on where he was selected, but there is pressure in that the Bobcats scuttled the other Gerald (Wallace) off to Portland and expected Henderson to pick up where he left off and fill his spot in the starting line-up.
He stepped up big time after the trade and I thought, proved himself to be a legit player in the NBA. The problem is, that in the NBA over the last, I don’t know forever, a team hasn’t won much of anything without a superstar player at either the 2 or the 3 and legit won’t cut it for the Bobcats long term. I’m looking forward to seeing how Hendo has developed after his hip injury. I know he’s been putting in the work, and I’d like to see it come to fruition.
What gets you excited for the Bobcats upcoming season?