The Big Picture: The Bobcats will tangle with the Washington Wizards tonight, which means the Cats will have to deal with John Wall. It's not so much that Wall is an utter force of nature, about to change everything we know about the NBA, as much as it's clear he's an exceptional point guard already. Get it?
Not that there isn't anything scary about my team facing a guy who's put up a triple-double in one game and gotten nine steals in another game, both within his first six starts in the league, but pardon me for pointing out we've seen this movie before. If Wall does what Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings have done, consider him a success. If he does what Tyreke Evans did last year, then we can start whispering about his potential place in the history of the game. Odds are, he'll end up producing closer to Rose's and Jennings's levels than Evans's*.
*Why didn't I choose a guard without an S at the end of his surname? Because these guys best fit my point, thus I cherry-picked them. Also, I wholeheartedly defend my use of the possessive apostrophe-S at the end of all singular names, even those that end in the letter S. Good enough for Strunk & White is good enough for me.
Until then, I'll just be everyday-frightened by Wall's first step, his ridiculous court sense, pinpoint ball-hawking, all combined with competent three point shooting. If Andray Blatche's shot is falling -- the big-man version of Stephen Jackson -- we'll be in for a fight.
Musical Interlude: Jonathan Coulton -- "Re: Your Brains"
Keys to Victory: During preseason, the Wiz experimented with a crazy-small lineup, with Kirk Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas at the two wing positions and Wall at the point, as it looked like a three-guard lineup would put their best players on the floor. During the regular season, though, with Arenas plagued by injury, they've been bringing Gil off the bench and starting Al Thornton. Furthermore, JaVale McGee seems to be splitting time with Yi Jianlian, with Blatche taking the lion's share of big-man minutes.
Basically, all that means that the Wiz are staying away from the three-guard look, which I believe could cause the Cats problems, because D.J. Augustin wouldn't be able to guard any of those guys effectively, and forcing Gerald Wallace to guard one of them would pull him farther away from the basket than he'd want to be. Instead, Gerald can guard Thornton and be a help defender as much as he wants, because Thornton simply doesn't shoot well enough from distance to warrant much attention.
Up front, McGee worries me because he's too much of a runner/high flyer for Nazr Mohammed, and Boris Diaw isn't equipped to handle his bulk in the post. I'd prefer not to use DeSagana Diop on McGee, so I'm hoping Flip Saunders sticks with his regular rotation, which would allow the Cats to play Diaw on Blatche and Tyrus Thomas on Yi for big chunks of the game.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Wall's high school team lost its division's North Carolina state championship game on a buzzer beater.