Charlotte Bobcats vs. New Orleans Hornets preview -- Game 38

The Big Picture: I've written a lot about video games and how they've affected me as a young sports fan, but I'm kind of curmudgeonly when it comes to one aspect of the EA Sports-ification of real life sports: the notion that precise value can be assigned to any aspect of a player's skill set has seeped into popular consciousness.

Maybe it's just the way I see it through my prism, but I have to remind myself that player progression and improvement is not a series of upticks in "awareness" from 63 to 67 to 72 to 73 to 75; athletic improvement is a constant process of ups and downs that mostly happens away from public view. The glimpses we get in games might offer some insight into how much young Bobcats like Gerald Henderson, or Derrick Brown, or D.J. Augustin are improving this season, but attempting to chronicle those improvements on a day-to-day basis is probably folly. We had our baseline at the start of the year, and once a large chunk of games are in the books, we'll have both memories and stats to begin measuring how much improvement they've made.

Until then, games like last night's are just one tiny slice of data that we fans can point to as evidence that the team is getting better than they were at the start of the season. Tonight's game represents another good opportunity to take the team's temperature, so to speak. The Hornets are third in the Southwest Division, but the Spurs are leading that division with the best record in the league, and the Mavericks are doing what they do, just ahead in the standings. And perhaps New Orleans's record is still distorted by their ridiculous 11-1 start, but I don't think anyone would doubt that they're a better team right now than the Cats, and they'll have the best player on the floor, Chris Paul, going head to head against our weakest defensive link.

Musical Interlude: The Faint -- "Agenda Suicide"


Key to Victory: Though the Cats have been playing a little bit faster, it's not quite the breakneck pace that I think fans envisioned when Paul Silas said he'd push to run more. Rather, I think what the Cats have been doing is getting into the half court much more quickly than they used to, which gives them more shot clock to play with. That becomes much more important against good defensive teams like the Hornets (5th in DRtg). I'd like to see them make a concerted effort to get out ahead of the defense, rather than "just" rushing them into the defensive half court, but it's an improvement on the old "start the offense at 15 seconds in the shot clock" offense. (See what I did there?)

Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Chris Paul wrote a children's book encouraging kids to follow their dreams, even if everyone tells them they're too short to achieve them.

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