Sufjan Stevens - Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
Game Overview: Well, 'tis the new season. The old has been excised, and mostly the young remain. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson will of course be missed (varying person-to-person, obviously), but the team has moved in the necessary direction of rebuilding. It will be ugly, especially in the lockout-shortened season to come, which is short on preparation and sure to be (though well-intentioned) rushed basketball. Turnovers will skyrocket, even more for a team like Charlotte, whose youth and task of integrating new players will not be a smooth transition. I'm not sure what you're expecting tonight, but just to be safe, go ahead and lower those expectations a notch or two.
As with the case for all of the season, the focus will be on the Bobcats main pieces tonight. How does D.J. Augustin play as he tries to keep the starter's reins from Kemba Walker? Does Kemba have the court vision and passing touch he's said to have? Will Corey Maggette halt ball movement from getting to the young fellas? Is Gerald Henderson's range improvement legitimate? How much of an effect will Biyombo have? Etc, etc.
The visitors hail from Milwaukee, led by Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. Jennings is a shoot-first point guard with unimpressive passing and subpar ability to finish at the rim, yet also doesn't shoot the ball exceptionally well either. But Jennings does easily have the talent to improve. He's extremely quick and can slip past defenders easily and has good ballhandling skills. Bogut is a strong, quality big man, when healthy. Unfortunately, he's had many problems, most recently his right elbow, after a freakish mid-air collision, which resulted in a nasty dislocation of the elbow, sprained wrist and broken hand. That was two seasons ago. It ended that season for him a tad early, and the following year he returned, only to have to sit out again after arthroscopic surgery to remove "loose particles and scar tissue." Regardless, he rebounds and defends well, and is adept on offense. Honestly, simply being seven feet tall and having arms gives the Bucks a clear advantage over the Bobcats, who will start Boris Diaw at center. Milwaukee should get more than a handful of extra possessions. DeSagana Diop will be sure to see plenty of time, as will Byron Mullens, as the team's only seven-footers. Diop's being out-of-shape hurts, but he's still tall and can rebound, and Bogut won't especially test his quickness. Still, Bogut has plenty of post moves and skills on both sides of the ball to take on whatever Charlotte throws at him.
But then again, this is the Bucks, who run a 'Larry Brown if he didn't wish long jumpers would die a bloody death'-esque system: it's slow, point guard-heavy, and scores inefficiently. The swapping of Stephen Jackson for Corey Maggette can't hurt too much, with Jackson being a better facilitator and better three-point shooter. With luck, Stephen Jackson will permit the Bucks to space the floor for Jennings to become more a more effective playmaker.
Injury Report: Tyrus Thomas hasn't practiced since his ankle injury in the first exhibition game, so I wouldn't expect him to play today. In his stead, D.J. White will probably get the start. Corey Maggette should also be in the starting lineup, after nursing some small back issues. Of course, Eduardo Najera and Reggie Williams are both out with their knee injuries.
Key Matchup: Brandon Jennings vs. D.J. Augustin & Kemba Walker - In last year's meetings between the Bobcats and the Bucks, Jennings demolished the Bobcats, averaging 26 points in the three meetings, including one triple-double. Though both are smaller than Jennings, Kemba stays in front of his man better, from what I've seen in the preseason so far. If Jennings can be cut off from turning the corner driving to the paint, his effectiveness can be limited.
Fun Stuff! The Bobcats released their media guide as a PDF for the first time, which is very cool. One of my favorite fun facts was from Byron Mullens: "when speaking to children, [he] tells them to enjoy life because it goes by fast..." It doesn't mention Mullens having any children of his own.