Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Bobcats’

Jefferson Hits Stride With Bobcats


VIDEO: Al Jefferson dominates in the Bobcats’ win over the Knicks

Few NBA observers were wowed last summer when veteran big man Al Jefferson, 10 days after hitting the free-agent market, signed with the Charlotte Bobcats. That whole dance that goes on every year when notable players seek new destinations – “I want to win. I want to get a ring” – was conspicuously absent. The Bobcats were a long way from winning, conventional wisdom said, and everyone knew it. Jefferson included.

So when Charlotte guard Kemba Walker, who shares the same agent (Jeff Schwartz), nudged Jefferson in New York with the idea in the days prior to his team-shopping, “Big Al” scoffed.

“At first I thought it was just a joke,” Jefferson told NBA.com in a phone interview Monday. “I was like, ‘Heh. Yeah, right. Whatever,’ “

Then Schwartz suggested Jefferson make a visit to Charlotte to at least hear the Bobcats out. The rest has been a happy half-season of history for all concerned.

“I met the coaching staff. That was the first impression right there,” Jefferson said of Steve Clifford and his assistants. “That showed me that MJ [team chairman Michael Jordan], Rod [Higgins, Charlotte president of basketball operations] and those guys, they went and got a great coach and staff. That let me know right there they were trying to turn this franchise around.

“Then I looked at the young talent: Jeff Taylor, MKG [Michael Kidd-Gilchrist], Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson. Bis [Bismack Biyombo], a great high-energy big. Brendan Haywood and [Jannero] Pargo, guys who have been around the league and know what it takes to win.

“You add a guy with my talent and the things I’m able to do on offense. And then you look at the East, I really thought that was the best decision for me.”

To the outside world, Jefferson’s decision to leave the Jazz and choose the Bobcats looked like a cash grab. It was pretty nice grab, too: three years, $40.5 million. But for a player entering his 10th NBA season whose teams in Boston, Minnesota and Utah were a combined 160 under .500, with just one playoff appearance (four games) after his rookie year, it seemed like misplaced priorities or a competitive surrender.

Jefferson shrugged off that perception much like he did Walker’s initial suggestion.

“I could care less what the world says about what I was trying to do,” he said. “It wasn’t just about the money. I told Kemba when I first signed, ‘I’m not coming here to lose. I’m not coming here to be the best player on a bad team.’ I was coming here to try to turn this thing around. So far, I feel like everybody’s on the same page.”


VIDEO: Al Jefferson talks about his footwork-focused game throughout his career

No kidding. At 19-27 on the eve of a four-game trip out West that begins at Denver Wednesday, the Bobcats are eight games better than they were at this point a year ago (11-35) and only two victories shy of their 2012-13 season total. If they maintain their current .413 pace the rest of the way, the Bobcats will finish 34-48, an increase of 13 victories.

And based on the East’s mediocrity so far, that would be good enough for a playoff spot. Last season, only Orlando (20-62) finished behind the Bobcats out East.

Individually, Jefferson is averaging 18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds, with nine consecutive games of 20 points or more – most recently, 32 on 15-of-26 shooting against Chicago Saturday – and 19 double-doubles. He missed nine of Charlotte’s first 12 games with a bruised ankle suffered early in the preseason but clearly has caught up and hit his stride. His January numbers: 22.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 53.3 percent shooting.

“What we’re seeing now is really the fruits of his labor,” said Clifford, who considers Jefferson a leader and his best player. “Both doing a lot of extra rehab and a lot of extra conditioning, to get his ankle stronger and get into the kind of game shape he needed to be in, in order to do well. Now he’s not just back to where we hoped he could be, but really playing at a level more efficient than we could have hoped for.”

Even on defense, never a Jefferson strength. Clifford is happy with the results overall – defensively the Bobcats rank in the top 10 in points per possession, points in the paint and free throws attempted – and suggests the veteran’s good instincts at that end are being matched more often with greater effort. When he’s on the floor, Charlotte’s defensive rating goes up but its net scoring differential goes down.

Clifford is happy with how Jefferson has fared on defense, which has never been Big Al’s strength. Overall defensively, the Bobcats rank in the top 10 in points per possession, points in the paint and free throws attempted, which suggests the veteran’s good defensive instincts are being matched more often with greater effort. When he’s on the floor, Charlotte’s defensive rating goes up but its net scoring differential goes down.

Jefferson credits the system, along with some extra work with assistant Patrick Ewing. “He feels like my offensive game really don’t need that much work. So he’s trying to get me to be more of a defensive-minded player,” Jefferson said. “Just being more of a helper. I’m the big man. I’m not a shot blocker like some of the great bigs in this league, but I can be over to help a lot earlier, just to get them to see a body and make it more difficult.”

Jefferson has been playing well enough lately that, as the conference coaches make their picks for All-Star reserves, he is worthy of consideration. But he learned a long time ago not to get too hopeful about honor.

“I don’t really get caught up in it no more,” he said. “Because there were some years where I was really disappointed. I remember that one in Phoenix [in 2009], I was so close to buying flights to get my family out there, ‘cuz I knew I had an opportunity that they’d vote me in. But they didn’t. So I made a promise to myself then that I’m not going to worry myself about it.”

Jefferson had 30 double-doubles in his first 50 games with the Timberwolves that season, averaging 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. No sooner had he learned he wasn’t selected, though, than his season ended with a blown right ACL in a game at New Orleans.

Said Jefferson: “It’s something every player dreams about, just because it’s recognition, having ‘All Star’ behind you name. If they vote me in, I’ll be very thankful and very happy. But if they don’t vote me in, I’ll be OK too.”

He isn’t nearly as casual about the Bobcats’ quest for success. “

“The Charlotte Bobcats always have been one of the laughingstocks in the league,” Jefferson said. “But where we at right now, two games of tying the victory total from last year, to me, I’m not satisfied with that. The other guys aren’t satisfied with that.”

Sooner rather than later, Jefferson doesn’t want anyone scoffing or smirking at the idea of joining the Bobcats the way he did last summer.


VIDEO: Bobcats coach Steve Clifford praises Al Jefferson’s play of late

Melo Sets Knicks, MSG Scoring Records

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Carmelo Anthony’s 62 points against the Bobcats on Friday night were the most in Knicks franchise history, the most ever scored in the current Madison Square Garden, and the most scored in the NBA in almost five years.

Kobe Bryant had the previous MSG record (61 on Feb. 2, 2009) and was also the last person to score at least 62 (65 against the Blazers on March 16, 2007). He’ll get to congratulate Anthony when the Lakers visit the Knicks on Sunday.

Here is Anthony’s shot chart from Friday. Clearly, he took too many shots from the right side of the floor.

20140124_anthony_shots

Here’s the NBA.com/stats video of all 23 of his field goals.

A few more thoughts…

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had done a really nice job defending Anthony in the first three meetings between the Knicks and Bobcats. In those three games, Anthony shot just 13-for-42 (31 percent) with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor, and MKG had blocked his shot five times. Well, Friday was a different story, as Anthony shot 13-for-16 with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor.
  • Until late in the game, the Bobcats allowed Anthony to catch the ball within 15 feet of the basket. And at that point, Kidd-Gilchrist was mostly helpless, because Anthony’s face-up game was sharp. Thirteen of his 23 field goals came on catches at the mid-post or the high post. And 13 of the 23 (including five of his six threes) came without a dribble.
  • This performance came just a few hours after I wrote that the Knicks were better off without Andrea Bargnani, who tore a ligament in his left elbow on Wednesday. Now, Friday’s performance was just one game and this is not an “I told you so,” but the Knicks’ spacing looks so much better with Anthony, Tyson Chandler and three guards on the floor.20140124_nyk_spacing
    Bargnani would sometimes space out to the 3-point line, but he wasn’t a threat out there (shooting 28 percent on threes) and often liked to hang out around the elbows. Replacing him with a guard not only gives Anthony more space to operate, but also makes it harder to defend pick-and-rolls with Chandler.
  • Anthony just might have traveled on the bucket that got him points 50 and 51.
  • Through Dec. 18, Charlotte ranked third defensively, allowing only 97.4 points per 100 possessions. Since then, they’ve ranked 25th, allowing 107.4.
  • The previous high game since Bryant’s 61 at MSG was Deron Williams‘ 57 on March 4, 2012. That also came against the Bobcats.

Morning Shootaround – Jan. 2


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Miller argues with Shaw | Garnett continues to struggle | Gordon seeks contender

No. 1: Miller argues with Shaw — This season has been a roller-coaster ride for the Denver Nuggets. After a disappointing 1-4 start, they surged to 11-6 thanks to a seven-game winning streak. It looked like the 50-win Nuggets from last season were back. But now Denver is 14-17 and in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Emotions are as high as the altitude. So much so that point guard Andre Miller has been suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team. Miller decided to voice his frustrations to head coach Brian Shaw during last night’s game, according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post:

After the Nuggets’ eighth consecutive loss, 114-102 to Philadelphia on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, J.J. Hickson agreed with the notion that the Nuggets have hit rock bottom. But that point may have come earlier, in the second half, when Andre Miller, headed for his first healthy scratch, decided he would verbally take it out on coach Brian Shaw.

Miller yelled about the disrespect he felt he was being shown by sitting. And if he was being disrespected, he’d do the same to the Nuggets’ first-year head coach.

“There’s a time and place for everything,” Shaw said. “In the middle of the arena in front of everyone … I just tried to calm it down.”

Asked if Miller understood the reasons for his one-game seat on the bench, Shaw said, “You’ll have to ask him.”

But by that time, Miller had already left.

Many of his teammates remained, however, to explain the free-fall the Nuggets are in.

It is the team’s longest slide since dropping eight straight to end the 2002-03 season. It is also the Nuggets’ fifth consecutive home loss. And this one came with an increasingly agitated fan base that peppered the team with boos at the end of the half and in the third quarter, and then flat-out started leaving en masse with 5:33 left in the fourth and the team down 104-89.

The fans booed again as time ran out on the latest defeat.

“We deserved every bit of that,” Shaw said.

It was that kind of night.

“It’s not even a slump right now,” Shaw said. “It’s worse than a slump.”

***

No. 2: Garnett continues to struggle — The Kevin Garnett acquired by the Brooklyn Nets this summer was never expected to be MVP-level Garnett from the mid-2000s. But his massive struggles so far this season were equally unexpected for the future Hall-of-Famer, even at the age of 37. Garnett is still searching for a rhythm within the Nets’ offense, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“It shouldn’t,” Garnett said when asked if his shooting struggles have impacted his confidence. “Obviously, the most frustrating thing about me is I could see if I wasn’t hitting shots and I wasn’t in here working or taking [expletive] days off.

“I put time into my craft for it to come out, but then that’s rhythm on offense. And I don’t have that right now. I’m not [expletive] about it, nor am I complaining. I’m just trying to adjust to it.”

After missing all five shots he took Tuesday, Garnett is now shooting a dismal 36.4 percent for the season — more than a full 13 points below his 49.6 percent clip last season in Boston — and looks as if he is years removed from the player who averaged 12.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in Boston’s first-round exit against the Knicks at the end of last season.

“Honestly, I have no rhythm,” Garnett said. “I’m trying to establish some confidence, and figure out where I fit into this whole ‘where I fit into the offense’ thing.”

Garnett and Nets coach Jason Kidd were asked Wednesday if part of Garnett’s inability to get into a rhythm stemmed from him being placed on a minutes restriction this season, as he’s played less than 30 minutes in every game he’s participated in and hasn’t reached 20 in four of his last five games and seven of his last nine.

“[We’re] sticking with this,” Kidd said when asked whether the minutes limit could change, adding it’s in place to “get [Garnett] through the season.”

“He’s getting great looks,” Kidd added. “Some of them haven’t gone in, but we believe as a team they will.”

Garnett said that more than just the minutes, this season has been difficult for him because of all of the adjustments he has had to make.

“Yeah, and a lot of the offenses I’ve been in I’ve been pretty much a primary,” he said. “This has been an adjustment period. Coming here, I didn’t expect a lot of minutes, I didn’t expect a lot of touches, so I figured I would come in here and help and be a kind of liaison, or kind of attach things to where they lacked at.

“I don’t [think] the objective to bring the three of us [Garnett, Pierce and Terry] here was to play a bulk of minutes or be primaries … it’s [been] a lot of moving parts throughout the year, and it’s hard to get a rhythm with that.”

***

No. 3: Gordon seeks contenderIt’s no surprise that an NBA player would prefer to play for a contender. But this urge must be especially high for Ben Gordon who has spent the better half of his career on the struggling Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats are finally making some noise this season, but that didn’t stop Gordon from voicing his aspirations to Lang Greene of Hoopsworld:

For Gordon, an unrestricted free agent next summer, his present and future is all about getting back into the mix of contenders as he closes out his career.

“It means everything,” Gordon told HOOPSWORLD on the importance of closing his career with a title. “That’s why we play the game, just to have a chance to get into the playoffs and see what happens. For me especially, I haven’t been to the playoffs the last four seasons so making it this year is a big goal of mine. Not only for me but my teammates as well.”

However, Gordon says he’s learned through the years free agency is based on many other factors outside of box score results and maintains he isn’t letting his looming free agency status this summer impact him mentally.

“You pretty much don’t think about,” Gordon says of his impending free agency. “It’s something I learned earlier in my career, that those situations are out of your control. A lot of times it’s just a waiting game. But the most important thing is what you’re able to control and do on the court out there. It’s the same mindset.

“I’m a veteran now so I know [free agency] relies on so many factors  that are out of my control that I’m just focused on the things I can control and take it all day by day.”

The rise in the standings didn’t come as a surprise for Gordon, who credits the arrival of head coach Steve Clifford as one of the reasons Charlotte has significantly improved over last season.

“Not at all because coach has been around a really long time,” Gordon said. “He hasn’t been a head coach but he’s been around as far as being an assistant. He’s worked with some of the best coaches in basketball, so it’s not a surprise. I think with the talent we have we’re still building chemistry.

“I think that’s our focus night in and night out with the pieces we have. The Eastern Conference has allowed us to have a decent record so far. I think we still have huge room for improvement, but right now I wouldn’t say our play is a surprise at all. We expect to be a playoff team.”

.***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kyrie Irving has a left knee contusion and is questionable for tonight’s game … Philadelphia 76ers Arnett Moultrie participated in scrimmages and may return later this month … Cody Zeller tried to dunkPortland assigns C.J. McCollum to the D-League … Boston Celtics Rajon Rondo is expected to travel with the team soon … Some believe there is not much of a trade market for Andrew Bynum

ICYMI of The Night: The Toronto Raptors continued their hot streak last night with an impressive win over the equally hot Indiana Pacers.

VIDEO: Raptors Cool Pacers

Blogtable: An Outrageous Pick For ’14

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Fixing the lottery | A 2013 highlight | One bold prediction for ’14


Paul George, the NBA's new scoring champ? (Issac Baldizon/NBAE

Paul George, the NBA’s new scoring champ? (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

Now, Nostradamus: Give us an outrageous (but realistic) prediction for 2014.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Somehow, some way, perhaps even in spite of a playoff berth and maybe the Atlantic Division title, the Toronto Raptors are going to wind up with top prospect and Canadian product Andrew Wiggins when the smoke clears from the 2014 Draft.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDwight Howard shoots a perfect 20-for-20 from the free throw line in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and the Rockets beat Miami for the championship.  Oh, you said realistic?  He makes 19 of 20.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Lakers finish with the worst record in the Western Conference and win the Draft Lottery.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comPaul George wins the scoring title. Nobody would have predicted it at the start of the season, and I don’t know if many would even now. But George hasn’t reached his peak and still should be in the MVP conversation. Watch the upward trajectory continue in the second half.

Kobe Bryant (by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I don’t know how outrageous this is considering the state of the Eastern Conference, but … the Charlotte Bobcats will not only win their first playoff game, but they’ll win four to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kevin Durant will snatch the MVP trophy away from LeBron James this year. He’s tired of finishing second. I’m tired of hearing about him being tired of finishing second. And I suspect plenty of other people are, too. No one can dispute LeBron’s impact on the game night after night. But 2014 is KD’s year to take that trophy and perhaps a few others down the line …

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blogKobe Bryant returns and has at least one 50-point game down the stretch. I’m on record thinking that Kobe will (eventually) come back healthy. And if the Lakers are in full-on rebuild mode, why not let Kobe get as many shots and points as possible in pursuit of the all-time scoring record? The Lakers might not be fighting for a title, but fighting for something is always better than fighting for nothing.

Akshay Manwani, NBA India: If Indiana can maintain home court advantage right through to the 2014 Finals and have no injuries, the Pacers can win it all. Remember, it was these same Pacers who pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in the 2013 East Finals. Now with Danny Granger back, a stronger bench and home court advantage, they can go the distance.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: The 2014 NBA Finals will have a rematch of the 2012 edition and the OKC Thunder will win the Larry O’Brien trophy in seven games against the Miami Heat.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 11


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Aldridge may pass on Team USA | Rondo mentoring rookie Olynyk | Jazz parents question lineups vs. Blazers | Charlotte to unveil new Hornets logo soon

No. 1: Report: Aldridge yet to talk to Colangelo about Team USA spot — Big man LaMarcus Aldridge has been a crucial reason for the Blazers’ early-season success and standing among the upper crust in the Western Conference. It was reported in October that Aldridge, who is among the names being bandied about for this season’s MVP, would want to play on Team USA for the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain. But so far, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Aldridge hasn’t contacted USA hoops boss Jerry Colangelo about his interest:

Despite saying he would reach out to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and express interest in playing this summer, Aldridge has not done so, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because of the fluid nature of the relationship.

In October, Aldridge told CSN Northwest that he planned to contact Colangelo about playing for the U.S. in the summer. Earlier this year, Aldridge said, “If they call me, I’m definitely interested in doing it.”

But Aldridge hasn’t called, and if he truly wants to play (and he might not), he misread the situation. Colangelo is not going to call Aldridge and ask him to play, believing that USA Basketball doesn’t need solicit players.

Colangelo is a strong believer in what he calls equity, a term he uses repeatedly when discussing players who have shown a commitment to USA Basketball.

Aldridge has not built that equity. In 2010, he withdrew his name from the pool of candidates for the world championship team. And in May 2012 hip surgery took Aldridge out of consideration for the London Olympic team.

In 2007, Aldridge withdrew from with the U.S. select team, which scrimmaged against the national team before the FIBA Americas Championship, and in 2009, he pulled out of USA Basketball mini-camp, one year before the world championship.

Team USA could use Aldridge. But if he doesn’t want to play, Colangelo isn’t going to beg, not when others — such as Anthony Davis, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins — have shown a willingness to play.

***

No. 2: Rondo takes on mentoring role with rookie Olynyk — Celtics star guard Rajon Rondo ended his long media silence yesterday, providing Boston fans with a long-awaited update on how his recovery from ACL surgery is going. In short, Rondo isn’t about to rush back, but he’s seeing progress more and more each day. That means, for now, Rondo will continue to sit on the bench in a suit. But when he’s on the bench, Rondo often sits near rookie center Kelly Olynyk and does what he can to offer words of teaching and praise to the youngster, writes Jessica Camerato of HoopsWorld.com:

There are no assigned seats on the Boston Celtics bench, but the unspoken arrangement had been consistent early in the season. Team leader Rajon Rondo, sidelined by an ACL injury, had the first chair next to the coaches while 11th-year veteran Keith Bogans, who plays sparingly, sat next to him. The rest of the team followed after with levels of experienced mixed in across the sideline.

The order shifted when rookie Kelly Olynyk suffered a sprained right ankle on November 22 in a game against the Indiana Pacers. Dressed in a suit, he initially sat next to Bogans. During his injury, the order changed again. Olynyk began taking in games one chair up the bench flanked by Bogans and Rondo. Bogans made the decision to help the rookie learn in the midst of the action.

“[I gave him my seat] so he could talk to ‘Do (Rondo), sit in between the two of us,” Bogans explained. “We could talk to him about the game a little bit, educate him a little bit. He’s a young guy. He needs to learn. [I decided to] put him between us, listen to what we’re talking about.”

Even though he has not played in nine straight games, including Tuesday’s contest against the Brooklyn Nets, he is finding out about pro basketball from a different perspective.

“I try to learn as much as I can [watching the games next to my teammates],” Olynyk said. “It’s a great opportunity. You’re there for three hours, critiquing the game. … [It helps] just being able to see what drives success at this level and what works, what doesn’t work, how guys like to play, that sort of stuff. You can learn everything. A lot of times it just comes down to playing hard, playing smart, playing tough.”

Sitting in between a savvy veteran and one of the top point guards in the league has bolstered that learning experience. Both Olynyk and Bogans emphasized the educational value watching a game next to Rondo.

“He’s like a coach,” Bogans said. “He’s into the game the whole time, he knows everything that’s going on, pays attention to everything.”

Echoed Olynyk, “He’s real intellectual. I learn tidbits from the game, angles, good stuff, bad stuff. It’s like a tutorial basically.”

Olynyk is working to return to the court, and when he does he will have years of his teammates’ experience to add to his own.

“It’s a great opportunity, to learn to grow, to become a better player,” Olynyk said. “It’s something you can’t take for granted.”

***

No. 3: Parents of Jazz youngsters question lineup moves — This is perhaps all to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, especially when considering much of the conversation took place via Twitter. That being said, Andy Larsen and the fine folks over at SaltCityHoops.com noted that both Jazz veteran Brandon Rush and the parents of rookie guard Trey Burke took to Twitter during Utah’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers to question either their role on the team or the team’s rotation. In short, Rush — who was a DNP-CD for the Portland game — was asked why he didn’t play while Ronda and Benji Burke (Trey’s parents) questioned why veteran Andris Biedrins were playing over rookie big man Rudy Gobert:

With the frontcourt of Richard Jefferson, Mike Harris, and Andris Biedrins starting the 4th quarter tonight, Alec Burks not getting playing time in crunch time after leading the team in scoring, and Rudy Gobert’s DNP-CD, there was much consternation surrounding the team, especially on the Twitterverse. Jazz Twitter, even nationally, is well known for its slightly kooky opinions, and general tendency for overreaction.

That being said, typically reaction does not come from personalities so close to the team. Brandon Rush, also the recipient of a DNP-CD, responded this way when he was asked why he didn’t play:

Then, both of Trey Burke’s parents got in the action. Trey’s mother Ronda started by calling for the rookie French center Rudy Gobert to receive playing time over Andris Biedrins and whatever Biedrins is at this point of his career:

Then Benji, Trey’s father and agent, got into the mix, denigrating the Jazz’s 3rd quarter performance and the overall veteran-heavy strategy:

.***

No. 4: Charlotte to unveil new Hornets logo before Christmas — During the offseason — on July 18, specifically — the NBA approved the Charlotte Bobcats’ request to switch their name and colors to that of the last NBA team in town: the Charlotte Hornets. That name change and color swap won’t take effect until the 2014-15 season, but in keeping with the team’s season-long push to drum up interest in the change, the team will reveal their new Hornets logo on Dec. 21. The Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell has more on the news:

The Charlotte Bobcats plan to unveil their new “Hornets” logo at halftime of the Dec. 21 home game against the Utah Jazz. This is the next step in their rebranding to the Hornets, which takes force at the start of next season.

The team previously revealed, in an interview with the Observer, that it will adopt the Hornets’ traditional teal-and-purple as primary colors next season. Uniforms will be the next step, sometime over the next few months.

Bobcats owner Michael Jordan will do the logo unveiling at a halftime ceremony for the game, which starts a half hour later – 7:30 p.m. – than most Bobcats home games at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The game against the Jazz is the first of five “Buzz City”-themed giveaway nights. The team will distribute long-sleeve “Buzz City” T-shirts that night to the first 10,000 fans through the doors. Later giveaways will include bobbleheads for former Charlotte Hornets Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues and Kelly Tripucka.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: So far this season, Sixers big man Spencer Hawes is hitting 3-pointers at a rate better than Ray Allen … Rockets guard Jeremy Lin says he’ll play against Portland … Fresh off a win over the Heat, the Pacers get more good news — Danny Granger says he should return soonShaquille O’Neal once put former Suns teammate Gordan Giricek in a sleeper hold

ICYMI Of The Night: There are fadeaway jumpers, and then there are faaaaaade-away jumpers like this one John Henson hit last night in Chicago …


VIDEO: John Henson clinches the win with a rainbow fadeaway jumper

Kidd-Gilchrist’s Fractured Hand ‘A Big Hit’ For Bobcats


VIDEO: Bobcats lose Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in loss to Mavs

DALLAS – Call it an epidemic.

Charlotte Bobcats second-year forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, emerging as a top defender in the league, became the fourth player in the last few days to sustain a broken hand.

Kidd-Gilchrist sat glumly in front of his locker, awkwardly attempting to get dressed with his fractured left hand secured by a metal brace and tightly wrapped, his ring and index fingers taped together. He didn’t know yet how long this freak injury would keep him out. Incredibly, he didn’t even know how or when the damage occurred, other than that something happened at some point before the 4:35 mark of the third quarter.

“I looked down at my finger and it was pointing the wrong way,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of his left ring finger. “I didn’t feel anything at the time.”

He exited the game, disappeared into the tunnel to have X-rays taken. Soon after, Kidd-Gilchrist was told his hand was fractured.

“I was really surprised,” he said.

The range of time Kidd-Gilchrist can expect to miss will likely range from two to eight weeks. How severe the injury is will obviously dictate his recovery time, but two to eight weeks is the range of time cited for the other three players who suffered broken hands within the past five days.

Two nights ago, Kidd-Gilchrist’s former teammate at Kentucky, New Orleans’ rising star and the league’s leading shot blocker, Anthony Davis, broke his left hand against the Knicks. A huge blow to the improving Pelicans, Davis is expected to miss four to six weeks. Nets forward Paul Pierce will miss two to four weeks with a broken right hand and Los Angeles Clippers sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who suffered a broken bone and tore a ligament in his right hand, is feared lost for six to eight weeks.

For the Bobcats, an offensively challenged club desperately trying to string together consistent performances and compete for a playoff spot in the downtrodden Eastern Conference, the loss of their 6-foot-7 wing is substantial.

“He’s our best defender,” dejected Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker said. “I don’t even know what happened yet. I hope we get him back soon.”

When Kidd-Gilchrist left the 89-82 loss against the Dallas Mavericks, the Bobcats were leading 60-51. They took a 67-60 lead into the fourth quarter only to be outscored 29-15 two nights after a heartbreaking one-point defeat at Miami.

“It’s a hit, it’s a big hit,” first-year Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s been playing well. Foul trouble has limited his minutes lately, but he’s been playing really well, so he’s going to be a tough one to make up for what he does.”

Clifford said Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Taylor will have to pick up the slack. Kidd-Gilchrist was averaging 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, but the Bobcats, ranking third in defensive rating in the league (97.9 points per 100 possessions), and allowing fewer than 92 ppg, will have to drum up the defensive determination from elsewhere.

“He’s been great,” Clifford said. “If you watched him in Summer League, I think his progress from how he played in Vegas to now, he’s a much-improved player in every area. People talk about his shooting, he’s done a great job with his body, his conditioning, and he can be an elite defender in this league. He’s got toughness, his technique has gotten better and he’s very bright.”

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 11


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nash injures back in loss to Wolves | Woodson rips Knicks’ effort vs. Spurs | Jefferson may return tonight for Bobcats | Adelman cautiously uses advanced stats

No. 1: Nash leaves game with back pain, will see doctor — Through eight games this season, the Lakers find themselves at 3-5 after getting off to a 2-2 start. Point guard Steve Nash has played in only six of those games this season as the Lakers and coach Mike D’Antoni have attempted to keep the point guard as fresh as possible by resting him in the second night of back-to-back games, a plan devised by D’Antoni. But as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports, Nash suffered a back injury during last night’s loss to the Wolves and will see a specialist soon:

Steve Nash exited the Los Angeles Lakers’ 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves early on Sunday night because of back pain and will visit Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist, on Monday for evaluation.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni pulled Nash from the game with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter and the point guard did not return, finishing with two points and three assists in 13 minutes.

“It’s tough,” Nash said after the game. “I hesitate to even talk about it now because it’s probably not a good time. I’m a little emotional. It’s hard. I really want to play and I really want to play the way I am accustomed to playing. To be so limited is frustrating and also to not know where kind of a cleanish bill of health is [coming] is a little daunting, too.”

The two-time league MVP told reporters last week he is still struggling with nerve issues stemming from the broken left leg he suffered last season that caused him to miss 32 games.

“I still feel that almost every day all over,” Nash said of the nerve discomfort. “It’s not just in that spot [in his left leg]. It’s like the nerve system and nerve roots are on guard. So the whole system in a way is different now. It’s just a little more sensitive, and you face different things because of it. So, freaky, freaky thing, but I can’t complain. I’m still playing basketball and I’m still effective and I can get better physically and my game will come around the more I play.”

Nash detailed his injuries after the game on Sunday.

“I have, obviously, back issues,” Nash said. “It’s nerves coming from my back. You could call it the back, you could call it the nerves. I’m getting the pain in the hamstring. … It’s basically the same thing from the end of last year.”

Nash missed the Lakers’ final two playoff games in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs last season, unable to play despite receiving three epidural injections in his right hamstring in the span of a week to try to get back on the court.

“I’m trying to play through it but at the same time be smart and try to overcome what I can and see,” said Nash, who added that the same issues had been bothering him for the last several weeks. “But it’s taken a bit of a turn for the worse.”


VIDEO: Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni on loss, Nash’s injury

***

No. 2: Woodson, Anthony rip Knicks’ effort vs. Spurs — The Knicks got J.R. Smith back in the lineup yesterday after he served his NBA-mandated five-game suspension for a substance abuse policy violation, but not even his return to spark New York to a win. The Spurs took care of business against the Knicks in Sunday’s matinee, ripping New York by 31 points, which drew the ire of coach Mike Woodson and star forward Carmelo Anthony, writes ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley:

“We didn’t compete tonight. That’s just unacceptable,” Woodson said. “Right from the start, we let our offense, shots that we missed, dictate how we defended on the other end.”

The Knicks fell behind 10-0 to start the game and trailed by as many as 18 in the first quarter. They heard boos throughout the game from the sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd.

After the game, Woodson was asked if the Knicks showed any pride in the second half as the Spurs’ lead ballooned to 37 points.

“No. No. Not at all. It’s something that will be addressed [in Monday's practice]. It’s just unacceptable,” the coach said. “It’s my job to push them through it and try to get them over the hump. I know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown.”

Carmelo Anthony agreed with his coach’s assertion.

“It was embarrassing for us to come here on our home court and lose a game like this,” said Anthony, who scored 16 points on 10 shots and sat for most of the fourth quarter. “It wasn’t about losing a game. It was just how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today, and it showed out there on the court.”

The loss was one of the worst in Woodson’s 112-game tenure and continued a nightmare start to the season for the Knicks.


VIDEO: Mike Woodson says Knicks ‘didn’t compete’ vs. Spurs

***

No. 3: Bobcats get Clifford back in practice; Jefferson to return soon? — Last Thursday night, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford began experiencing chest pains that ultimately led to him missing Charlotte’s game against New York so that he could have two stents placed in his heart. Clifford has been given the medical OK to coach tonight’s game against the Hawks (7 ET, League Pass) and while he’ll be back on the job, the Bobcats may also get starting center Al Jefferson back tonight, too. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on Charlotte’s news:

Coach Steve Clifford was at practice Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena, two days after two stents were inserted into his heart to guard against blockages. Clifford felt chest pain Thursday night and was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital.

Meanwhile center Al Jefferson, who played in the season-opener against the Houston Rockets, then missed the next five games, returned to practice for the first time since re-injuring his right ankle.

Clifford said he’s “hopeful” Jefferson can play against the Hawks, but that won’t be determined until they see how his ankle responds Monday to a full practice.

Clifford is in a dramatically better position than he was Thursday night, when the chest pains started. A first-time NBA head coach, Clifford said there is a history of coronary disease in his family.

“I was lucky. It was a warning sign and I’ve since been educated that a lot of people who have strokes or heart attacks don’t get warning signs,” Clifford said. “Also fortunate I had great doctors. They have a good plan for me, and I’m going to follow it and get better quickly.”

Clifford will have shorter workdays, at least for the next week. He can coach games and travel, but doctors want him resting most of the time in-between.

Jefferson sprained his right ankle in the second preseason game against the Miami Heat. He played in the season-opener, then was stiff and sore enough that he couldn’t play the second regular-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over a week later, he said it’s now primarily a bone bruise along his ankle that is the issue.

Jefferson played one-on-one games the three days leading up to Sunday’s practice to test the injury. He said he felt out of game shape,but has done enough workouts on a stationary bike that he should recover full game shape in about a week.

A key free-agent acquisition – he signed a three-year, $41 million contract in July –  Jefferson is wary of another setback.

“I don’t want to play one game, then sit out another two weeks,” Jefferson said. “When I come back, I want to come back to stay.”

***

No. 4: Adelman cautiously embraces new-wave stats — Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is no stranger to the the new-wave stats revolution that has swept up the NBA. He was coach of the Houston Rockets from 2008-11, which coincided with the rise of the team’s GM, Daryl Morey, and his advocacy of advanced stats. Though thought to be an old-school coaching type, Adelman isn’t so gruff that he can’t see the value in advanced stats, but he’s taking a careful view of them nonetheless, writes Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com:

Speaking before his team took on the Lakers Sunday night, he talked about the biggest challenge for a lot of coaches dealing with this — how to get the information from stats across to the players in a meaningful way.

“Maybe I’m just old fashioned or whatever, but when they give us stats and everything like that I kind of know what’s coming,” Adelman said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve observed it, I may not know all the reasons, and they give you very good input, but I think it’s knowing what you run offensively, knowing what your tendencies are, those things all help…

“I think in the playoffs it gives you a bigger factor, because we play so many games in a week you know can have stats one game after another. So you pick and choose what you show players, you pick and choose how to reach them, and I think changes from week to week.”

Adelman in the end said what most coaches and scouts say about the stats — they’re a nice tool, but just another tool.

“There’s so much out there now, we had a ton of it in Houston when we were there, I think all that stuff is a tool that you can use to be better to help your players be better, but that’s what it is,” Adelman said. “You still have to play the game out on the court.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gives the Warriors a big vote of approval … The Lakers’ bench crew is the best in the leagueMarkieff Morris and the Suns continue to sizzle out West

ICYMI Of The Night: Suns coach Jeff Hornacek is showing faith in Gerald Green early in the season, who has played at least 25 minutes in each of Phoenix’s last five games. Green is responding with some great play, including this amazing jam last night against the Pelicans …


VIDEO: Gerald Green shows off his tremendous ups vs. New Orleans

Thibodeau: ‘You Could Leave The Office But The Job’s Not Going To Leave You’

CHICAGO – With two NFL head coaches down this season and the news that the Charlotte Bobcats’ Steve Clifford will be sidelined temporarily after suffering chest pains Thursday night requiring a heart procedure (stents), coaching stress is a topic cutting across sports lately.

Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Given the demeanor of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau during games – in all his stomping, raging, emoting glory – he seemed a logical choice to ask about it. And maybe be concerned about it.

“It’s a tough job,” Thibodeau told reporters before the Bulls’ game against Utah Friday night at United Center. “You have to take care of yourself. You feel for those guys. Sometimes you get wrapped up in it. You have the tendency to grind – you’re always grinding. Once the season starts, you’re never off.

“So I think you have to be careful. You have to map it out as best you can. But it’s a tough job.”

Clifford and Thibodeau are good friends, working together with the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets under Jeff Van Gundy from 2000 to 2007. The Bulls’ coach said he had been in contact with Clifford on Friday via text messages.”Thankfully, he’s feeling better,” Thibodeau said.

Clifford had two stents placed in his heart Friday and, according to a team spokesman, is expected to re-join the Bobcats soon. Assistant coach Patrick Ewing handled his duties Friday against New York.

John Fox, the Denver Broncos’ coach, had surgery to replace an aortic heart valve after feeling light-headed while golfing during his team’s bye week. Gary Kubiak fell to his knees, suffering what has been termed a mini-stroke, at halftime of his Houston Texans’ game against Indianapolis Sunday.

Like so many in his position – and perhaps more so – Thibodeau, 54, is known for his workaholic ways, the long hours he puts in, his endless presence at the Bulls’ facility in Deerfield. A single man without children, he has few competing priorities, or “distractions,” to pull him away from the game and its demands.

Even reminding himself to ease up occasionally isn’t foolproof, he said.

“It’s not that simple. You could leave the office, but the job’s not going to leave you,” Thibodeau said. “It’s always on your mind. So you have to, I think, find a couple things that can get your mind off it. Whether it’s the movies, reading a book, whatever it might be. I think that’s important.”

Improved ‘D’ Fuels Quick Start For Bobcats, Suns And Magic

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s early.

But the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t the only surprise team of the 2013-14 season’s first 10 days. The Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns – three teams projected by most to finish in the in the bottom five of the league – are all 3-2 entering Friday’s 12-game slate.

When we look at these three rosters, we see a lack of talent. And from that we can predict that they will struggle offensively. But team defense is another story, especially when you have a new coach, like in Charlotte and Phoenix. Organization and energy on defense can help teams with limited talent overachieve. And defense is the common theme in the early success of these three squads, though one of the three has been much more successful on that end of the floor.

Again, it’s early.

But the Magic, Suns and Bobcats rank third, eighth and 13th in defensive efficiency, respectively. And they all rank among the six most improved defensive teams from last season.

Here’s a closer look…

Charlotte

DefRtg: 100.4 (13th)
Improvement: -8.6 (6th)

The Bobcats’ wins have come against the Cavs, Knicks and Raptors, by a total of 13 points. So just like last year’s 7-5 start, there’s a fool’s gold element here.

In only one of their five games – the win over Cleveland – have they held their opponent under a point per possession. And the Cavs currently rank 29th in offensive efficiency. Bobcats opponents have been a hair less efficient (100.3 points scored per 100 possessions) in their 20 games not against Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean that the future Hornets don’t have anything to feel positive about. They had a hobbled Al Jefferson for just their first game and scored 107 points per 100 possessions over their last two wins. Once they add a healthy Jefferson to their Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions pick-and-rolls, the offense should be even better.

And long term, the Cats will be more organized defensively under Steve Clifford than they were under Mike Dunlap. The early defensive numbers are a little inflated though.

Phoenix

DefRtg: 96.4 (8th)
Improvement: -9.3 (5th)

The Suns have beaten Portland, Utah and New Orleans by a total of 22 points. And they also hung in with the Thunder and Spurs on the road. Their opponents have scored 100.0 points per 100 possessions in their 18 games not against Phoenix.

The Suns had the worst 3-point defense in the league last season and were particularly bad at defending the arc (41.5 percent) with Michael Beasley on the floor. There’s definitely an addition-by-subtraction element here.

They’ve also improved quite a bit on the glass, ranking 11th in defensive rebounding percentage (74.8 percent) after ranking 23rd (71.9 percent) last season. More playing time for the Morris twins has helped in that regard. The Suns have grabbed 75.4 percent of available defensive boards and allowed just 90.6 points per 100 possessions in 148 minutes with one of the two twins on the floor.

Time will tell if Jeff Hornacek‘s defense will continue to hold up, but the signs are good so far. They host the Nuggets and Pelicans this weekend and could face their toughest defensive test on Wednesday, when they visit the Blazers, who currently rank sixth offensively.

Orlando

DefRtg: 94.8 (3rd)
Improvement: -11.9 (1st)

Of the three teams, it’s the Magic who have looked most legit, with wins over the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers by a total of 49 points.

Last season, the Magic defense was strong early in the season, but collapsed after Glen Davis got hurt. So the prospects of them being a decent defensive team while Davis was still recovering from foot surgery were not good. But here they are at No. 3 in the league, having held the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers under 90 points per 100 possessions.

Both Brooklyn and L.A. spoke about a lack of effort in their games in Orlando. The Nets were probably feeling themselves after last Friday’s win over the Heat, and the Clippers were maybe looking forward to their own game against the champs.

But Orlando’s defensive numbers are pretty darn impressive anyway. The Pelicans, Nets and Clippers scored a combined 89.5 points per 100 possessions against Orlando, compared to 108.0 in their other 12 games. L.A. currently ranks No. 1 in the league offensively.

Orlando opponents OffRtg

Team vs. ORL Other games Diff.
Indiana 101.0 99.4 +1.6
Minnesota 103.5 94.1 +9.4
New Orleans 91.4 103.7 -12.2
Brooklyn 89.0 102.5 -13.4
L.A. Clippers 88.0 114.5 -26.4
TOTAL 94.8 103.4 -8.5

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

The Magic are forcing 1.2 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they did last season, but the early improvement has been mostly about shot defense. And there’s multiple elements to that.

They’re defending the rim better, defending the 3-point line better, and allowing less of those high-efficiency shots. Only 48.1 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from the restricted area or from 3-point range, the second-lowest rate in the league. Last season, that number was 56.7 percent, the 14th lowest rate in the league.

Of Brooklyn’s 89 shots in Orlando last Sunday, 50 came from between the restricted area and the 3-point line. On Wednesday, it was 55 of the Clippers’ 95 shots.

The Magic had a multiple-prong game plan against the Clips, and it worked. First, they sagged deep on Chris Paul‘s pick-and-rolls.

20131106_paul_sag

Paul stepped into some easy elbow jumpers, but the sagging strategy prevented him from getting past the Magic big men and really compromising the Orlando D.

Second, they dared Blake Griffin to shoot from mid-range.

20131106_griffin_space

Griffin was 3-for-13 from outside the paint before that game, but shot an impressive 7-for-13 from mid-range on Wednesday. Still, he got just three shots at the rim.

Finally, the Magic cross-matched in the backcourt, assigning Jameer Nelson to defend his old teammate J.J. Redick. And Nelson did a fantastic job of running Redick off the 3-point line. Here are a couple of examples…


Redick is a great shooter from everywhere, but three is greater than two, so if you can force him into more mid-range shots than threes, you’re doing your job. On Wednesday, Redick was 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 3-for-8 from mid-range.

One more time: It’s early. But an ability to execute a defensive game plan against a great offensive team like that early in the season is a good sign for the Magic defense.

Chandler Injury A Big Scare For Knicks


VIDEO: Tyson Chandler goes down after a collision

NEW YORK – For the New York Knicks, a 1-2 record to start the season isn’t necessarily something to worry about. An injury to Tyson Chandler is.

Chandler injured his right knee in a collision with the Bobcats’ Kemba Walker in the first quarter on Tuesday. The Knicks said that x-rays taken were “inconclusive” and that their center will undergo further testing on Wednesday.

“We don’t know the severity yet,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said afterward. “We’ll know more tomorrow morning.”

The injury forced Kenyon Martin into duty on a night he was scheduled to take off. And if Chandler is to miss more time, Woodson’s plan of using Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire* as the back-up big man on alternate nights basically goes out the window in Game 4.

* Stoudemire has looked awful in his limited action. On Tuesday, he shot 1-for-3 with five turnovers in 11:13. Both misses were blocked.

More importantly, the Knicks’ defense, which has looked terrible in their last two games, stands to suffer even more. The team that ranked 17th defensively last season played well on that end of the floor in Chicago on Thursday, but was brutal at times against Minnesota on Sunday, and especially in the first half against the Bobcats.

“Our defense … It stinks right now,” Woodson said. “Defensively, we are all over the place right now and that’s a reflection on me as a coach.”

Charlotte’s entire offense was strictly pick-and-rolls for Walker and Ramon Sessions, and New York could do little to stop them, allowing 64 points on 46 first-half possessions en route to a 102-97 defeat.

After dealing with multiple injuries last season, Chandler had looked healthy and much more active in the Knicks’ first three games, averaging 11.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He was back in Defensive Player of the Year form, with the Knicks allowing just 90.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as opposed to 107.1 with him on the bench. They got outrebounded 46-29 after he left the game on Tuesday.

“He was really playing well,” Woodson said. “He’s got his energy and his strength back this year.”

Chandler’s impact isn’t limited to the defensive end of the floor. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and will get J.R. Smith back from suspension after one more game, but need their pick-and-roll game — of which Chandler is a huge part of — to keep their offense balanced.

“He’s a big piece to what we do,” Woodson said.

“He’s our anchor on our defensive end,” Anthony added, “so we miss him big time.”

Point blank, Chandler is the Knicks’ most important player. And if he’s out long, the 1-3 Knicks could see their season go further downhill.

So New York will hope that Chandler’s injury is minor. But even if it is, it’s a worry, because we saw last season that a hobbled Chandler can’t hold this defense together.

UPDATE: The Knicks announced Wednesday morning that Chandler has “a small non-displaced fracture of the right fibula.” There was no ligament damage and he does not require surgery, but HE is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action.