Pump Up Music: Black Sabbath -- "War Pigs"
The Big Picture: My side lost the battle for control of the Bobcats this season. Ever since starting Rufus on Fire, I'd advocated that the Cats sit through their bad contracts (Matt Carroll) and their less-appealing contracts (Jason Richardson), or jump at opportunities to trade them for untested youth and more-appealing contracts, before starting a rebuild in earnest in the summer of 2011 around Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace, and whichever draft picks we'd made. But at a certain point, after they took on Boris Diaw and gave away Jared Dudley, and after they took on Stephen Jackson, marginalizing Gerald Henderson, it became apparent that it was no use to keep advocating that the Bobcats undergo such a rebuild. We're on this path, and the only way to make good on it is to follow through by making the playoffs the next couple years. When we get to the crossroads, we'll figure it out, then.
I'm still convinced that, long-term, I'd be happier if the Cats had set themselves up for sustained success and a real run at a championship someday, and the current administration's moves have only served to delay that jump a few years, but I can still be happy with the run for the playoffs.
Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff serve that goal. At first blush, if used to their full potential, they will make the Bobcats deeper and better for the rest of this season by providing a badly needed defensive presence in the paint. Diaw is a solid defender, but he's no Thomas or Ratliff, and Tyson Chandler can't be expected to be full strength the rest of his career, let alone the rest of this season.
Per Bonnell, both should be in uniform tonight, a good thing, since Nazr Mohammed, Chandler, and Diop could all be out. Here's hoping they start with Felton, Jackson, Wallace, Thomas, and Diaw, the most athletic and long lineup this side of the Thunder.
For the Cavaliers, I'm not as much a fan of the Antawn Jamison trade as others appear to be. I think he's an excellent scorer who's not really needed since they've got one of the three best scorers in the game already. What they needed was someone like Jax, Caron Butler, or, best yet, Andre Iguodala, to be a good scorer, but a great defender, upgrading from Delonte West, Anthony Parker, and Jamario Moon. As is, if the Cavs don't get Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in 30 days, I think come playoff time they'll regret not having a big man who, at least, has no defensive or free throw liabilities. In crunch time, this means they'll have either Shaquille O'Neal, Anderson Varejao, or Jamison, out there at any given time. Shaq and Sideshow Bob can't shoot free throws, and Jamison is a defensive liability. And if you don't want to play LeBron at the four with both Parker and West out there, then you'll have two of those three in at the same time.
Key to Victory: Last night, LeBron James had a game for the ages, putting up 43 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds against the Nuggets. The Cats are as well equipped to cover him as anyone else in the league, able to throw Crash, Jax, and now TT (need a better nickname for Thomas) at him without seriously compromising their ability to guard anyone else. James will produce as he usually does, but I'm more concerned about Diaw and Ratliff being our only two centers against Shaq and Varejao. I don't have a solution, either. Just hope it doesn't become an issue.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Leon Powe, who's still injured and will be out for this game, had a shockingly good career at Cal. His final year in college, he scored 20.5 per game and grabbed 10.1 rebounds.
BONUS UPDATE: I know a lot of you will be going to the game tonight. If you do, consider stopping by to at least say hello to the Bobcats Baseline guy selling Sarcophocrash t-shirts outside the arena.