I was able to get to the Cable Box this afternoon for the Bobcats' open practice/scrimmage. The team basically ran through drills and plays for a little while, then played two 12-minute halves, complete with referees and all the regulation rules. I'd like to briefly share a few thoughts and impressions from what I saw. I'll break it down by player just so no one gets left out.
Inactives -- Corey Maggette, Eduardo Najera, Melvin Ely, Reggie Williams, Bismack Biyombo (he was in attendance, sitting on the bench...I can confirm that his arms do indeed appear to be long).
WHITE TEAM STARTERS (essentially the first unit minus Maggette)
- DJ Augustin -- Loved what I saw from DJ. He picked his spots very well in terms of when to attack versus when to pass, when to push versus when to ease up, etc. He commanded the offense and actually did a great job of staying in front of Kemba, which was encouraging to see.
- Gerald Henderson -- His ball security throughout the scrimmage left a bit to be desired, but he showed nice aggressiveness on offense. He appears to be as explosive as ever, including converting a flying layup off of a lob from DJ from about halfcourt. If you were worried about his knee/hip, don't be. He still can't create his own shot all that well, but he showed a confident stroke on his jumper. He even hit a three!!! If that can become a consistent part of his game, watch out.
- Derrick Brown -- Just like you remember him. He basically tries to dunk everything, and he did draw a couple of fouls and throw down one alley-oop. Can't say whether or not he's improved his shot: he took one jumper, a brick from mid-range.
- Tyrus Thomas -- Though I look forward to seeing what he can do as a starter this year, I expect it to be a mixture of excitement and frustration. Just like last year, all he seemed to want to do today was take mid-range jumpers. When he put the ball on the floor he looked out of control but was able to draw a couple fouls by taking it hard to the hoop. It would be great to see him post up more, especially without a true post presence at the center position. He showed a lot of aggressiveness and passion on defense, though he might want to reign it in a tad, as I think he had about 5 fouls in essentially 2 quarters of action.
- Boris Diaw -- While not having a real post player at center can obviously be a disadvantage, there are certainly benefits to having a guy that can move around and be a part of all facets of the offense. Boris did a nice job setting up his teammates as usual. He also got several wide-open looks along the perimeter, which I suspect will happen a lot this year as opposing centers try to run around and guard him (now if only we can get him to take those shots...). Nothing to really judge on his defense, because he was guarding Gana most of the time.
BLUE TEAM STARTERS
- Kemba Walker -- Kemba wasn't able to really get going tonight, though he did show flashes of what makes him great. He forced some passes that led to turnovers, and his shot wasn't falling. At one point he did split a double team then pull up for a swish from mid-range, which was a thing of beauty. The real issue seemed to be that he was playing with a rag-tag group of second team players that really couldn't do anything to space the floor or free up room for him. The White Team basically just packed the paint and double teamed him when necessary, which kept him from having any room to operate. Towards the end of the scrimmage, the pace of the game finally started to pick up and Kemba was able to show off his blazing speed and set up his teammates for some fast-break buckets. DJ definitely seemed to outplay Kemba in the scrimmage, and I'd be very surprised if DJ wasn't the opening day starter. Kemba has been working out with the Bobcats for less than two weeks now, so he just needs some time to get comfortable with the offense and his teammates.
- Matt Carroll -- He can shoot. Henderson was up in his grill the whole game, but he still found some opportunities to score and get to the line. Should be able to provide scoring off the bench this year.
- Ismael Muhammed -- One of the preseason tryout guys. This guy can freaking jump. He was throwing down dunks in the pre-scrimmage drills, and it carried over into the game. He had one crazy dunk and one acrobatic hanging layup that elicited the two biggest fan reactions of the night. He has an outside shot of making the team, as we could use another backup at SG/SF. While he impressed tonight, he is 28 and never averaged more than 10 PPG in his four years at Georgia Tech, so the upside is limited. He would provide excitement amidst the many losses though.
- DJ White -- Continued to show a good mid-range stroke. He's not a great athlete, but he works his butt off for rebounds and on defense. A rock-solid backup power forward.
- Gana Diop -- Good God is he out of shape. He consistently exhibited about a 5-inch vertical and was moving around like he was tied to an anchor. He was the only one soaked in sweat after the team stretched, and -- how can I put this delicately -- it appeared he could really use some sort of sports-bra to hold himself in place. He really needs to hurry up and drop a few pounds so we can get some real minutes out of him.
THE BACKUPS (non-roster guys)
- Taylor Griffin -- He's a solid player who does just about everything at a mediocre-to-average level. He appears to be a very smart player who is active and hustles. Problem is he doesn't do any particular thing at a very high level, so there doesn't seem to be much upside to bringing him aboard. I think he'd be best suited as a high-energy end of the bench guy on a veteran playoff-caliber team.
- Ronald Dupree -- Dupree is 30, and it's painfully obvious that he hasn't stuck around this long because of his shooting prowess. The opposing team was begging him to shoot the entire game, and he repeatedly obliged with brick after brick. No chance to make the team.
- Durrell Summers -- Didn't make his presence felt any any sort of big way, but did show a good stroke from deep. He's only 22 and he can shoot, so it is conceivable (albeit very unlikely) that he could make the team as a backup SG with some range.
- Will Blalock -- He didn't really look like an NBA player. He's only 6 feet tall, not terribly athletic, and he did absolutely nothing to stand out. He's 28 and we don't need another 6-foot point guard, so I don't see how he possibly makes the team.
- Ben Uzoh -- Of all the non-roster guys, I think he definitely has the best chance to make the team. He's a big (6'3") defensive-minded point guard, which fits the profile for the third point guard we're looking for. He didn't really do anything on offense, but he played some very tight defense and showed he could contain a quick ball-handler. Combine these attributes with his young age (23), and I think he's got a shot.
In general, tonight's scrimmage confirmed what we all already know. The offense was hideous at times, but we've got some talented young players who can make highlight plays and play with a lot of heart. Adding Maggette and eventually Reggie Williams to the mix will certainly help the offense a bit. What I saw made it painfully clear that the team's biggest hole is at the center position (Andre Drummond anyone?), but again, we already knew that. It may be hard to watch at times, but I'm really looking forward to watching this young team grow and mature this season. Go Bobcats!