#39

New O takes on an improved Charlotte team tonight at the hive. Stuff to watch for: CP, the 4th pick in the 2005 draft takes on the 5th pick in that same draft, Raymond Felton. It’s interesting that Felton gets almost none of the pub CP and Deron get, but then again, he hasn’t played as well or for as good teams. Peja may have a tough matchup defensively against the athletic J-Rich and uber-athletic Gerald Wallace, but other than that, I really don’t know much about the Bobcats. So I found a great remedy for that- namely, asking the Charlotte Blogcat some questions of interest. Check out what the Blogcat had to say about the ‘Cats thus far:

At the Hive: The Hornets obviously didn’t leave Charlotte due to a lack of fan support, but mostly due to a variety of “other reasons.” I personally like to blame it all on the owner. Anyway, how’s the support for NBA basketball been these last four years, especially with college basketball powerhouses in the area?

Charlotte Blogcat: Oh brother, where to begin? This is like trying to diagnose what’s wrong with Brittney Spears. The Bobcats have less support than Dennis Kucinich these days. First of all, attendance is embarrassing. My high school study hall had a better attendance record than Bobcats Arena. We’re pulling in about 14,000 fans a game to a brand new arena with a capacity for 20K. That’s fourteen over twenty, and that’s a terrible fraction.

And speaking of “Bobcats Arena,” that’s a huge problem right there—we can’t seem to sell the stupid naming rights, which would probably be good for a couple of hundred million. I find it laughable that the Jazz can sell the rights to a toxic waste disposal company, and the Nets can sell their naming rights to Izod, even though it’s OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGED that they’re moving as soon as possible, and we’re still sitting on an unnamed arena after two years, even though the team resides right where a bunch of name-brand corporations call home. I totally don’t care at this point, but we’ve got to get this revenue. It could be called “Hooters Arena” or “Paco’s Bail Bonds Arena” for all I care—somebody pony up, please!

The other huge issue is the television rights—they’ve been a mess since the team’s inception. I’m in NYC now, but even when I lived in Durham it was totally unreliable. 30-40% of the games just randomly wouldn’t be on—sometimes even if you had League Pass—and they’re all really low-budget; you feel like you’re watching the Cold War-era Polish National Team or something.

As far as the college basketball powerhouses cannibalizing fans, I think that’s kind of a cop-out on the part of the ownership and/or the media. The big college super-powers are clustered in the Raleigh-Durham area, which is a good two-and-a-half hours away from Charlotte; it really shouldn’t be that big an issue. Plus, the college basketball season is only meaningful for a fraction of the pro season—the overlap isn’t that significant, so I don’t buy that excuse either. Nor do I understand why leftover resentment for the way the Hornets left would detract from having a new team—look at Cleveland football fans, who had no problem embracing the new Browns.

But despite marketing/television issues, the bottom line is on-court performance. I’m sure that once the team gets consistently successful on the court, we’ll start to see the interest improve (although I suppose that as a Hornets fan, you might not believe me!). Suddenly all these people will be coming out of the woodwork and claiming to be “hard-core” and insisting that they were “there from the beginning.” It’s exactly what happened when the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team got good two years ago. And sure, I’ll make fun of the posers, but it’s a problem I’d like to have.

At the Hive: After a really solid rookie year, Emeka Okafor hasn’t really progressed much, statistically speaking. In fact, his first year at 15.3 ppg and 11 rpg is still his best year in terms of numbers. Given his amazing physical shape, what do you think this guy needs to do to take his game to the next level?

Charlotte Blogcat: First of all, I’d argue that he is not in “amazing” physical shape. He’s in decent physical shape, but no one’s going to be confusing him with Brad Pitt in Troy. Conflating the problem is that he’s had injury issues, all of the chronic, big-man variety. He had back problems coming out of college, then he missed 56 games his second season and another 15 games last year. As far as games missed, it’s a question of “when” not “if” with him.

The other problem is that he’s only 6’-10” and better suited as a power-forward, but he’s played the majority of his career out-of-position either at center, or as the center-by-default for the injured/incompetent Primoz Brezec. So it hasn’t exactly been fair for him to go against the more natural 5’s like Shaq, Yao, Chandler, Howard, etc. Hopefully we can get him into the 4-slot more frequently now, because as you know, in one of the few trade announcements that ever made me want to pop a bottle of champagne, we finally, finally FINALLY got rid of Brezec.

But all that’s not really Emeka’s fault. What IS his fault are two things: he’s a terrible free-throw shooter (he hovers around the 50% mark), and he has no touch around the basket. I swear, he takes every shot like he’s playing a game of dodge ball or trying to throw someone out from right field. If he could just be a bit more subtle down low and improve his free-throws, our wings and guards could get him the ball with more confidence. And then he’d presumably get more foul shots, of which he would make more. Ahh, a virtuous cycle—it’s a beautiful thing.

Two other things about him: remember, he was one of those 3-year college players, which is an extreme rarity nowadays—it almost makes him a freak, like he’s got six fingers or a third nipple. But that means that his upside was always going to be less than someone drafted right out of high school. And remember his price: he’s had solid double-double stats throughout his career, and he’s an excellent shot-blocker, so he’s not bad for $5.4 million. Of course, his contract is up this year, so we’ll see…

At the Hive: Jason Richardson has been absolutely on fire this year, and Gerald Wallace is really putting his athleticism to use on the boards, defense, and especially offense this year. Along with Ray Felton in the mix, is this an Eastern playoff team this year? Maybe next?

Charlotte Blogcat: Well, I’d say Jason Richardson has been on fire LATELY, not all year. In fact, for the first month or so, I would have liked to SET Jason Richardson on fire. He’s streaky and completely unreliable. When he’s on, he’s phenomenal; and when he’s off I want to move to a van down by the river and grow a Drew Gooden beard. But even when he IS on, he a) doesn’t get to the foul line enough, and b) misses too many free-throws even when he does get there. Wait, was I talking about Richardson or Okafor just now?

Gerald Wallace, on the other hand, is beloved. I love him. I want his children. You know how I feel about him? Like he’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. Anyone who’s a long time wrestling fan will know what I’m talking about here. Back in the mid- to late-90s, ECW was totally underground, and while the majority of mainstream wrestling fans liked either the WWF or WCW, ECW was vastly superior to both. So if you were a fan of ECW back then, it was pleasurable for two reasons: 1) the wrestling was amazing, and 2) you felt like you were in on a great secret. I remember going to the little arenas (sometimes they were just churches!), and all of the fans in attendance would practically be congratulating each other for being in on something that was amazing that most of the country didn’t know about at all. Of course, the WWF became the WWE, and eventually absorbed BOTH the WCW and ECW and watered down everything (excuse me while I go have a little cry). And interestingly, the same thing nearly happened to Gerald when he was up for a contract renegotiation this summer; I figured he’d get absorbed by a richer team and that would be it—but happily, we kept him. Hmm, now that I think about this analogy, he’s also like ECW in a much more fundamental way: he flings his body all around the court like he’s Rob Van Damm in his prime. In fact, next time Gerald goes diving for a loose ball, I’m going to get an “E-C-W! E-C-W!” chant going.

Felton is blindingly fast—so blinding in fact that he’s got to get the fewest calls in the league. This poor guy drives fearlessly to the hoop and ends up twisted like a pretzel around the press photographers just about every time. Unfortunately, a) his shot usually doesn’t fall, and b) he apparently ended up that way of his own volition, because no foul is called. He’s got some turnover problems, but look who he’s had to go to through the years: Gerald Wallace, sometimes Emeka Okafor, and that’s about it. If he had better players around him, his assists-to-turnovers ratio would just about HAVE to go up. Of course, now that we finally get him J-Rich and Nazr Mohammed to work with, what does Coach Vincent do? Shift Felton over to the 2 and play Jeff McInnis at the 1. The entire Charlotte fan base (all 6 of us) are completely mystified by this. It’s akin to Andy Reid never giving the ball to Brian Westbrook for years and years.

The playoffs this year are totally out of the question. We’re well under .500 right now, and that’s with a favorable schedule. Okafor will soon get injured, and we’re going to play the entire second half of the season on the road.

Next year? There will be two huge holes/questions: can we re-sign Okafor, and who’s going to be the back-up point guard? Where we land in the draft will help answer at least one of these questions. Assuming we don’t re-sign Othella Harrington, Derek Anderson, and (please, lord) McInnis, and we make a “Sophie’s Choice” between the Jermareo Davidson/Ryan Hollins wonder-twin youngsters, we’ll have about $6 million in cap space, and that might increase if we decide to pull the plug on Sean May and/or Adam Morrison and package them in a deal. So we’ve got some room to maneuver. If we can re-sign Okafor or get a comparable replacement, and then get an incomparably BETTER replacement for McInnis, well…we’ve got a good chance at getting swept out of the first round by Boston—I love this game!

 

CHARLOTTE (PPG)

NEW ORLEANS (PPG)

 

J. McInnis 3.9

C. Paul 21.4

 

R. Felton 13.8

M. Peterson 8.8

 

J. Richardson 20.0

P. Stojakovic 14.5

 

G. Wallace 21.6

D. West 19.3

 

E. Okafor 12.8

T. Chandler 12.2

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One Response

  1. […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by entersandman […]

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