Archive for the ‘Charlotte Bobcats’ Category

We’ve mentioned “Tank Nation” hundreds of times already in this lockout-shortened season, and we all know that many Raptors fans have applied for citizenship to the Nation. With the “tank” theory comes the understanding that the Raptors have to or should lose to other cellar-dwelling teams to secure a rightful spot at the bottom of the league standings and the top of the lottery.

With a team like the Pistons, who come in to Toronto to finish this seven game homestand next Wednesday, I can understand why Tank Nation subscribers might secretly want Toronto to produce a loss. After all, the way it’s currently looking, the Raps and Pistons will be in a heated “battle” for the same lottery positioning.

But there are some who are looking at tonight’s game against the embarrassingly woeful Bobcats as another opportunity to strengthen the tank, and with this, I heartily disagree.

The Bobcats may have the worst collection of “talent” I’ve ever seen on an NBA roster, and their record backs it up. They’ve lost 16 in a row to fall to a putrid 3-26, which translates to a winning percentage of .103. If you’re wondering, yes, that would be the worst winning percentage in NBA history. The ‘Cats are on pace for 6.6 wins in a 66-game season and would be on pace for just 8.4 wins in an 82-game schedule.

Realistically, the Raptors, or any other team for that matter, are not going to “catch” Charlotte for the league’s worst record and the highest chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft, so losing to the Bobcats would really mean nothing for Tank Nation. It would result only in utter embarrassment. I don’t know about you, but over the years, I’ve had just about enough of that as a Raptors fan.

This Raps team is playing hard and at least competing with upper echelon teams. Sprinkle in a win every now and then, and it makes it a lot easier for the young players to buy into Dwane Casey’s message and the overall changing of the culture.

Now obviously, as much as casual fans might not want to admit it, there are such things as “good” losses in a rebuilding season that’s about getting the team in good position for the draft and the future. Just look at Wednesday night against the Spurs as an example.

But losing to arguably the worst team in NBA history on your home court and being the team that hands them their first win in 17 games would not qualify as one of those good losses, and would probably do more harm than good.

So please, be careful what you wish for.

Gerald Henderson

I talked some trash about the Bobcats in the game thread, but this game reminded me that they still have more young talent than the Raptors so I really shouldn’t throw stones. They seemed to keep the Raptors at arms-length all game long and finished the job with some key defensive plays in the last two minutes.

There was an intensity to this game like both teams were fighting for a playoff spot. The Bobcats are absolutely playing for a playoff spot, while the two hardest working Raptors today — Reggie Evans and Leandro Barbosa — could both be free agents depending on whether Barbosa decides to decline his player option for next season. Regardless, while the quality of play wasn’t particularly high, the intensity was surprising considering the teams involved.

D.J. Augustin was definitely the star of this game and he had his way with Jose Calderon whenever they were matched up. Augustin is quick, he can make open shots, and it’s becoming clear I wrote him off too early. Gerald Henderson is another potential bust who has broken out lately, and his 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting and four steals give Bobcats fans some hope that they have a good backcourt foundation going forward.

As we’ve seen multiple times this season, the Raptors don’t have players who execute in late-game situations when the score is close. Even if they did, I’m not confident Jay Triano would be able to draw up plays that would get the most out of them. Nothing new here, right? We’re just playing out the string.

Raptors Player of the Game: Reggie Evans — 29 Min, 6 Pts, 2-3 FG, 0-1 3Pt 2-3 FT, 17 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO

Bobcats Player of the Game: D.J. Augustin — 34 Min, 23 Pts, 8-14 FG, 3-5 3Pt 4-4 FT, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa — 23 Min, 15 Pts, 6-18 FG, 2-7 3Pt 1-1 FT, 0 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl 3 TO

Stephen Jackson

Think you have it bad as a Raptors fan? Try being a Bobcats fan. After they shipped out Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed at the trading deadline, it was obvious that finances would continue to take precedence over winning in Charlotte.

In spite of that, the Bobcats are tied with the Pacers for the eighth seed in the West with a scintillating 27-38 record — whether they should actually aspire to make the playoffs or go into “tank mode” at this point is open for debate. Anyway, they’ve lost six of their last seven games, so this dilemma will most likely resolve itself.

Injury report

Toronto: Amir Johnson and Alexis Ajinca are both questionable for today’s game. Holly MacKenzie reports that Leandro Barbosa has a really sore back, but if he can score 29 points in 26 minutes like he did on Friday with that sore back, I’m going to assume that he’ll play today.

Charlotte: Joel Przybilla will miss today’s game with a sore right knee.

Five questions

1. After the impressive performances of Leandro Barbosa and Reggie Evans on Friday, do you think the Raptors should try to re-sign them after this season?

2. Where does Tyrus Thomas rank among the biggest wastes of talent in the NBA?

3. Considering that Shaun Livingston has played more minutes this season than he played in the previous three seasons combined, should he be considered for Comeback Player of the Year?

4. The Bobcats waived Morris Peterson last month. Would you like to see the Raptors sign him for the rest of the season, for the sake of nostalgia?

5. Since the Toronto Maple Leafs are now just four points out of eighth place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, will you be happy if they make the playoffs so that a major Toronto sports team will finally provide some post-season action?

Start time: 1:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani
Charlotte: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Kwame Brown

Today’s pregame song is a live performance of “Regular John” by Queens of the Stone Age, from their 1998 self-titled debut album which was re-issued this year. I figure it’s a good choice to get my adrenaline pumping a little for a game that isn’t going to make that happen on its own.

Getty Images

You could tell that both of these teams were coming off of the All Star break, as they were running up and down the floor on every offensive and defensive possession early on. Unfortunately, for those of use who took the time to watch this game and for the sorry people who paid money to watch it in Charlotte, that inspired play lasted for about six minutes.

The Raptors were in a tight game for most of the first quarter, but when Jerryd Bayless checked in to replace Jose Calderon late in the quarter, he spurred a Raptors turnover spree that helped the Bobcats start to pull away.

Toronto was only down six after one, but it could have been much worse, as Charlotte must have missed four or five layup or dunk opportunities in that first quarter.

The second quarter started with a bang, courtesy of this monster dunk by Ed Davis, but that was the last Raptors highlight of the first half, and one of the few high points of the night for Toronto. Charlotte outscored the Raptors, 28-17, in the second quarter, and hung 61 on the Raptors in the first half, carrying a 17-point lead into the break.

From there, the game was pretty much over. The Raptors went down by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, and never showed enough grit to get back in the game. Sure, they cut the deficit to 11 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats closed the game out on a run. And besides, if you’re idea of making a game of it is getting to within 11 points, then you’ve got problems.

You could look at the turnovers or the free throw discrepancy (Charlotte attempted 42 to Toronto’s 26) as keys to the Bobcats win tonight, but if you watched this game from start to finish, you know that the Raptors were just never really locked in after that late first quarter run from Charlotte. The Bobcats are in the thick of a tight playoff race, while the Raptors are playing for next year, and beyond that. This shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.

It was nice to see Sonny Weems running the floor again, Andrea Bargnani grabbing rebounds and DeMar DeRozan continuing to attack the basket, despite obvious fatigue from All Star weekend. But really, no Raptor was great on this night, nor was any really bad. It was a mediocre kind of night, and it showed in the final score. I did like Jerryd Bayless’ fight in Charlotte. He started off shaky with four turnovers in the first half, and went 0-for-4 from the field. But Bayless fought through those struggles, kept attacking, and used 12 free throw attempts to finish with 11 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

Before tonight’s ball game, the Raptors made a small but puzzling trade. They traded Miami’s first-round draft pick (which they obtained in the Chris Bosh deal) to Chicago in exchange for 2009 first-round pick, James Johnson. The 24-year-old forward hasn’t done much in limited minutes since being drafted by the Bulls, but I guess the Raptors figure he is worth a gamble on. I, on the other hand, do not think that way. I understand that Miami’s pick will likely be the 25th-30th pick in the draft, but with proper scouting, there is a better chance you can find a solid role player for the future late in the first round than there is that James Johnson will turn into that player for you.

Lastly, the Raptors are back at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night to take on the Bulls. In two games against the Bulls this season, the Raptors have been outscored by a combined 37 points. And go figure, Joakim Noah is set to return to the Bulls lineup on Wednesday. If this game is still a game at halftime, consider it an accomplishment.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 21 Min, 11 Pts, 0-4 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 11-12 FT, 5 Reb, 10 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 TO  (No Raptor was truly worthy of a mention tonight, but Bayless fought hard enough to go from potential goat of the game to get to this spot)

Bobcats Player of the Game: D.J. Augustin – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 5-5 FT, 1 Reb, 8 Ast

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 17 Min, 4 Pts, 2-6 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 1 Reb

Charles Oakley

Are you pumped up for the return of Raptors basketball? I’m excited like Jessie Spano on caffeine pills. (#simmons) OK, not really, but now that Melo’s finally been traded we might as well watch this spunky group of youngsters play out the string, right?

When these two teams last faced each other on Dec. 14, I asked this question in the game thread: “Would you be willing to bet money that Larry Brown will make it through the season in Charlotte without leaving to spend more time with his family?” The Bobcats won that game but it would be Brown’s last win as their coach and quite possibly his last coaching win in the NBA. Since Paul Silas took over, they’ve followed up their 9-19 record under Brown with a 15-13 record and they’re now just a single game behind Indiana for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Bobcats are a tough matchup for the Raptors’ offence because Charlotte has the third-best defence in the league around the rim (60.1 FG%) while the Raptors are dead last in three-point shooting. So I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of mid-range shots tonight? Luckily, that range is DeMar DeRozan’s specialty and he’s on a nice run of scoring in double figures in 15 of his last 16 games.

Injury report

Toronto: Aside from Linas Kleiza and Reggie Evans (who might make his return tomorrow against Chicago), the Raptors have a clean slate.

Charlotte: Tyrus Thomas and DeSagana Diop are both out for extended periods.

Tonight’s Five Questions are all related to things Bobcats assistant coach and former Raptor Charles Oakley said this morning. Do you agree with Oak when he says that…

1. Raptors fans shouldn’t boo ex-Raptors because “we didn’t trade ourself, management did that”?

2. “When you’ve got a team (where) you’ve got your best player shooting three pointers you aren’t going to win nothing anyways?”

3. He and Reggie Evans are “not even in the same conversation”?

4. He made the Raptors better every season he was here?

5. Players should be flattered when they’re mentioned in trade talks because “I would take it like: ‘Hey, I’m the hottest thing on the block. I’m Beyonce or Halle Berry. So keep talking about me. My records keep selling. My red lipstick keeps selling?”

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Charlotte: D.J. Augustin, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Kwame Brown

Tonight’s pregame song is “Please, No Pictures” by BBU featuring Das Racist. Note the line that inspired my Jessie Spano reference.