The Big Picture: Let's give a big hand to the Phoenix Suns for pulling off a trade heist this weekend, applaud the Wizards for dumping millions of dollars in future obligations, and give a sympathetic pat on the back to our Magic fan friends (if we have them), for they deserve our sympathy in this difficult time. Somehow, and for reasons that elude me, Orlando took one of the five worst contracts in the league, Rashard Lewis, and turned it into another one of the five worst contracts in the league -- only in a one-to-one comparison, Lewis is clearly more valuable to the Magic than Gilbert Arenas is, because Gil should be behind Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick on the wings (check out the three-point percentages), and stretching the opponents' defense is infinitely easier with a distance-shooting power forward than it is with yet another shooting wing.
In other words, if I were running Orlando, I might have taken my chances with Richardson and a return of Hedo Turkoglu, precisely because I'd imagine Lewis standing in the corner, ready to take a three. Now? I don't get it. Is Arenas going to run point for them? Is he going to play ahead of Redick? (Probably.) And Turkoglu? There's no way I see Gil starting, unless they plan to use Turkoglu as the starting power forward ahead of Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson, which would be a denial of how much that was an utter disaster in Phoenix.
As for Washington, they must be thinking of using Lewis as more of a wing than a big, replacing Al Thornton, not Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, or, when he returns from injury, Yi Jianlian. Tonight, the Bobcats could show how much of a dead end that strategy is.
Since Gerald Wallace will likely miss several more games, it comes down to whether Dominic McGuire (sigh) or Stephen Jackson plays more minutes matched up on Lewis. If it's McGuire (sigh) trying to take Lewis to the hole, that probably won't work particularly well due to a lack of a credible outside shooting threat. But Jackson could take advantage of Lewis's defensive deficiencies by mixing his shooting and off-the-dribble penetration well, and this will be a major story of the game, running parallel to John Wall's absence due to a bone bruise in his knee. On the flip side, both McGuire (sigh) and Jackson have enough size to bother Lewis in the post and sort of contest his high-release threes, while they both do have enough quickness that he shouldn't be able to put it on the floor and go by them.
Musical Interlude: Jermaine Dupri -- "Live Like Me"
Key to Victory: As noted before, Wall will be out with a knee injury, opening up playing time for Kirk Hinrich at the point and Nick Young at wing. Hinrich has been playing out of position most of this season, as he did with Derrick Rose in Chicago, playing defensive-minded off guard while the younger guy establishes himself at the point. But he's best used as a point guard, himself, where his brand of on-ball defense is much more of an asset, his play-creation actually gets put to use, and his jump-shooting is better than average, rather than below-average.
Hinrich's currently shooting at career-low-levels from three, which is fine and dandy by D.J. Augustin, and his mid-range game is exactly the same as it's always been. However, this year, perhaps due to the different role, or just because he wanted to try something new, Hinrich is producing at career-high-levels on shots from 15 feet and in. He's generally taking fewer shots, overall, so perhaps there isn't much there, but Charlotte has defended AT the rim very well, while defending just a little farther out (HoopData's category: "<10 feet") very poorly.
Specifically, the Cats are excellent at the rim, poor just a little away from the goal, very good in the deep mid-range, and then almost exactly middle-of-the-pack on threes. Ideally, you'd want to be great at everything, but if I had to choose distances at which to be excellent, very good, middle-of-the-pack, and poor, I'd prefer being excellent against threes, very good at the rim, middle of the pack from short mid-range, then poor from deep mid-range. So, not bad.
As for Hinrich, I'm guessing that means Augustin can take a risk on sagging off him and daring him to shoot more, because if Hinrich is shooting, that means Lewis, Blatche, et al, aren't, and it also means he's not creating plays.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Bullets Forever is holding a Gilbert Arenas Tribute Day. The festivities are pretty extensive, so check it out.