Gerald Wallace missed another game with his injured ankle, and the Hawks' Joe Johnson made a surprise return to action, so the Cats were facing an even more demanding battle before the game began. Johnson was solid, with 16 points on 14 attempts, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Al Horford and Marvin Williams did more damage for Atlanta, each scoring 16 points and pulling down 9 and 8 rebounds, respectively.
It turned out that with Johnson back in action, coach Larry Drew had the good sense to play his best players together for most of the game: Mike Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Josh Smith, and Horford, each of whom played 33 minutes or more, with Jeff Teague playing the next most minutes, 15. The Cats at full strength were already at a talent disadvantage. With Drew making good choices, and Wallace out, that put them even more solidly behind the eight ball.
Game thread comment, lowlights, and highlights after the jump.
GAME THREAD COMMENT
Stevarino -- Hahaha. "I’m so proud of Dominic…You know Dominic has a lot of Gerald Wallace in him." Actual Larry Brown quote.
-- Let's confront this: Dominic McGuire is playing much better than I thought he would. In fact, once he got hurt, I thought there was a decent chance he'd never actually play for the Bobcats.
But even though he had one game with 15 rebounds, and he got 17 rebounds in this game, it's an ongoing travesty that he's getting starter's minutes instead of Tyrus Thomas and/or Derrick Brown. Sports is, ideally, a meritocracy. Ideally, winning is what matters for the team, and management does everything it can to maximize its ability to win, prioritizing present-day needs and the need to put itself in position to have continued success in the future. McGuire may give the Cats a better chance to win today than Derrick Brown does. I'll concede this for the sake of argument, because I do believe UPS has the potential to play just as well as McGuire right now.
But what's the Cats' ceiling this year? Even if they do play up to the very best of their abilities, THEY. ARE. A. SIX. SEED. At their ceiling. There's no point in wringing value out of McGuire because he's simply not going to be a special player. The chance that Brown will be a special player in the future is infinitesimally small, but it's there, and the Cats are best off finding out if he can be that good. McGuire had his chance in over 3,000 NBA minutes before this season, and he sucked for almost all of them. At his best, he was a plus defender with horrible offense, coming out below average, but definitely useful. That's what he's doing this year, and it looks like his defense and rebounding are at career-high levels. But his offense is still abysmal. Dude is shooting 32% from the field. 32%! That's about 10% worse than any other rotation player on the Cats, and 20% worse than the guys who don't shoot threes.
You know which two players have the best FG% on the Bobcats this year? Regardless of minutes? Derrick Brown and Tyrus Thomas. You couldn't make this up. Not only is Derrick Brown, at absolute worst right now, an exact mirror image of McGuire, but he's been the most efficient scorer on the team, and even though he was on that promising offensive run, Larry Brown didn't find a way to play both him and McGuire. No, he benched him. Stone cold yanked minutes away and gave them to the guy who'd positively sucked for three seasons.
But reasonable people can disagree about the whether to give so many minutes to a 25-year-old who's nearly washed out in three NBA seasons or a 23-year-old who was up and down in inconsistent minutes his rookie year and has been, arguably, the team's best offensive player in limited minutes during his second year. They can disagree about that.
But it's completely unreasonable to say that Dominic McGuire deserves minutes ahead of Tyrus Thomas, the team's third-most efficient scorer this season after Brown and Boris Diaw, a 24(!)-year-old who developed an excellent defensive reputation (and has the advanced stats to back that up) over four previous seasons. But McGuire is a beast on the boards, right? 15 one game, right? Well, Tyrus matches him on a per-minute basis and a percentage basis. Even tonight, when McGuire grabbed an impressive 17 rebounds, he did it in 40 minutes. Thomas had 8 boards in 16 minutes. There probably isn't a single basketball skill that McGuire does better than Thomas, and yet McGuire receives Larry Brown's praise, and more important, the minutes.
Some meritocracy. I guess Thomas should, somehow, make himself appear to work harder, damn the results. Does Larry Brown not realize that, maybe, McGuire has to expend total effort at all times just to keep up with the guys who make it look easy?
I love defenders. I love rebounders. I've said it before: Dennis Rodman is my spirit baller, and I modeled my game after him because I can't really shoot and I've got a mediocre handle. Dominic McGuire would be most useful if he did the same and simply stopped shooting, but it appears he either can't help himself or Larry Brown is negligent as a coach, because much of the value McGuire produced by grabbing 17 boards, 7 offensive, was negated by his putrid shooting, 3-12 from the field. That's nothing like Gerald, who can legitimately carry the team's offense on occasion. In fact, even when Gerald was struggling in Sacramento, the worst he ever shot was 36% from the field, over 337 minutes, and he's been multitudes better in every other year. McGuire can't shoot. At all. He's at 32% from the field this season, and 40% for his career.
For reference, and to complete the Rodman comparison, McGuire's attempting 9 shots per 36 minutes, while the Worm routinely attempted between 4 and 7 shots per 36 minutes in a faster-paced era, and he was a more efficient shooter than McGuire, regularly shooting between 43% and 57% from the field during his career. Dominic: I want you to stop shooting.
-- If I were Thomas or Derrick Brown, I'd be losing my mind with bitterness and resentment. Gerald Henderson can probably relate, having gone through the inexplicable benching last year. To the argument that players must earn their playing time, so those young 'uns are just entitled whiners if they complain about not getting to play... Then why were they drafted? I'm serious about that. Henderson, in particular, has to wonder why the Cats drafted him if they're not going to bother to find out what he can do at this level. Obviously, they thought he was the best player for them when they drafted him, based on the many games he played in college, but if you're not going to play your draft picks, why not just sell them and pick up street free agents with good work ethics? It's not being unreasonably entitled to believe that one's college performance and subsequent drafting means something.
-- Here's hoping Stephen Jackson's forearm injury doesn't linger, and that we have fewer 3-14 shooting nights to look forward to.
-- Diaw stepped up tonight and played in a way his apologists believe he can play on a regular basis. He shot 10-15 from the field for 22 points, grabbed 7 boards, and had 3 steals. It's interesting that he didn't get a single assist, because that's long been his primary focus.