With Gerald Wallace's return, the great irony of the Diaw/Richardson trade comes to light: This team is even more of a run and gun roster with Boris than with JRich, which I can't imagine Larry Brown envisioned when they made the trade. However, to Brown's and the players' credit, Diaw has been played an inspired game since joining the Bobcats, and Brown appears to be loosening the reins on the style of offense the Cats play. As long as they continue to buy in to the twin pillars of defensive effort and taking the best shot every possession, they'll have more wins like their beatdown of the Grizzlies last night, 112-83
, and they may provide a significant challenge to the top-tier teams in the league.
Wallace drove all day from Alabama through Tennessee to Memphis in order to make this game. I'm not going to pretend I know how his emotional state since losing his grandmother and father in the space of a week, but I do know that vintage Crash showed up last night, to the tune of 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals. Rudy Gay wishes he'll be able to do that regularly, someday. With Diaw and Juwan Howard sharing the four, Gerald is free to get in the lane on offense and wreak havoc on defense since he knows the other guy is actually a competent professional.
Like I said, Diaw's been giving us some inspired play, much better than he's shown for any season in his career, so I'm expecting him to come back to earth. He's not going to shoot 11-13 from the field again, but I'll take it for one night. If, somehow, Larry Brown buys in to the roster that he's got, Diaw and all, we could be a borderline playoff team. Which is why we have to trade Diaw, because if we keep him, then our only hope of transcending the "borderline playoff team" tag in the next half decade is through the draft, and I'd prefer keeping all options open. We're going to try rebuilding through the draft, so why not keep cap space open, too?
Finally, I'm going to start a potentially unpopular drumbeat. Dwight Howard is going to be the Eastern Conference's starting center in the All Star Game, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas is probably the consensus reserve, but Emeka Okafor deserves consideration over Big Z. In just about every
relevant offensive category
among starters, Howard is ahead of everyone, then it's either Okafor, Ilgauskas, or Bogut. If we limit our All Star choices to those four, Okafor is the second best defender among them by a good margin. Bogut's not really in the conversation, and Ilgauskas uses his size to good effect, but putting a rejuvenated Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao next to him gives a lot of leeway on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Emeka has had total negatives next to him all year, in the form of Sean May, Alexis Ajinca, Nazr Mohammed, and a handful of Ryan Hollins, Dwayne Jones, et cetera, and then a mixed bag in Jared Dudley and a little bit of Gerald, Diaw, and Juwan Howard. All that's to say that, barring further developments, Emeka is probably the best choice to back up Big Bad Dwight in the All Star Game.
Back in Charlotte tonight to face the Golden State Warriors' traveling BizarroShow, look for the Bobcats to do exactly as they did to the Grizz: Commit to shutting off the fast break and commit to scoring in the lane on every possession. If they have to bring in Ronny Turiaf to go with Andris Biedrins, all the better, because that gets them away from what Don Nelson loves to do, which is play a hyper-mega-speedy pace.
Playing the Warriors requires a certain discipline. The last thing you want to do is match the Warriors' pace, because that takes you further away from what your team will want to do. Even if you are a fast-paced team, Don Nelson pushes his guys to a different level, and the moment you adjust, you're making a compromise that will weaken your team.
I'm a little tense today because of the Felton-Randolph/Wright trade rumor
, because this could be a little showcase for each of them. I like Felton, but it's clear that the Offense First crowd will shout him out of town and choose Augustin over him, so his future is elsewhere. If we can get Randolph or Wright, that should be regarded as a coup for the Bobcats. Despite my pre-draft reservations, Randolph is putting up solid per-minute numbers
, outscoring, outrebounding, and outblocking the likes of Brook Lopez and Jason Thompson. And Wright hasn't played much since being drafted, but he's still putting up respectable numbers. Either player would be a wonderful addition, but Randolph has more ridiculosity potential.
The most interesting aspect of this trade, should it go through, is the continuing development of a most un-Larry Brown roster, if Brown represents orthodoxy at its stodgiest. He talks the talk about slowing down the game, walking the ball up the court, playing good help defense, and abhorring the three-ball. However, moving from Raymond Felton to Anthony Randolph or Brandan Wright is moving yet again closer to the Boris Diaw/Gerald Wallace model of one-through-four swingman. Consider more Augustin, who's a score-first point guard, and Okafor's expanding offensive game. Might we see Augustin and Okafor at the one and five, with three interchangeables in Diaw, Wallace, and Randolph? Shhhhhh! Don't say anything, or you might jinx it!