If the season ended today the Charlotte Bobcats would be .500, I would mark down Mike Dunlap, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and a Ramon Sessions/Ben Gordon hybrid for Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player and Sixth Men of the Year respectively on my ballots.
Couple things: I don't have any such of ballot, if I did it would sound pretty crazy, the season doesn't end today, and everyone from Mike Woodson, Anthony Davis, whoever is thrown out for Most Improved Player and Jamal Crawford would have pretty good arguments. But one thing does ring true today, the Bobcats are 3-3, .500 overall for the season and have put together back-to-back wins for the first time since the last full NBA season.
Facing a short-handed Washington Wizards team at home, the Bobcats dominated the paint 46 points to 24, won the fast break race scoring 18 points to Washington's 13, won the turnover battle 13-17, and fought to a standstill on the boards grabbing just as many (50) rebounds as the Wiz in this game for 92-76 victory.
Make no mistake the Wizards were pretty awful tonight. Without marquee players John Wall and Nene Washington was forced to count on Trevor Ariza, rookie Bradley Beal and I suppose former Bobcat Emeka Okafor to get the team's first win of the season. It did not work.
Ariza led Washington but was the only Wizard in double figures with 19, mostly because the Wizards shot 29.8% form the field and 65.6% from the free throw line and good gracious is that horrible. There were Bobcat-last-year-like looks coming from the Wiz sideline at the end of this game and for good reason.
But we like sports and we don't care who knows so the concerns of the Washington NBA franchise are not something the Bobcats really have time to deal with.
Charlotte was without two key players of it's own tonight as Ben Gordon sat out for personal reasons and Gerald Henderson is still out nursing a foot sprain. Normally (last year) the loss of just one competent pro basketball player would have doomed any chance to be competitive. But with the addition of Ramon Sessions and the maturation of Kemba Walker the Bobcats can stand to play on this year.
Sessions was terrific again off the bench scoring 21 points and grabbing five boards. He didn't exactly shoot the lights out, needing 18 shots to get those 21 but Charlotte shot below 40% as a team so he was basically on fire. Walker was equally ok from the field making just five of his 13 attempts. Both guys were able to make their money at the free throw line tonight, key for any scorer but especially encouraging for Walker.
He's averaging two more attempts per game this year (small sample size), up to 5.4, and making a higher percentage (85.2%) than he did as a rookie. He only had two assists tonight, but the team high was 4 (from both Byron Mullens and Jeff Taylor).
Taylor got the start tonight and was sneaky steady (6 points, 6 boards and those assists) for a rookie.
It makes such a difference for this team to bring someone like Sessions (or Gordon for that matter) off the bench. To not only not lose an inordinate amount of talent but actually gain some skills when your reserves come in is a nice facet to have.
Also nice? Kidd-Gilchrist. After having his best game as a pro over the weekend Charlotte's second win, MKG had another very solid performance shooting 6-11 from the field for 15 points (no threes...still 100% on the season!), including six of six free throws, and grabbing eight rebounds. He's starting to finish with the confidence he had in college and even went to work on the low block tonight with some success.
Brendan Haywood also had another solid game nearly missing out on a double-double when a put back rattled out late. He finished with eight point and 11 rebounds.
It almost pains to mention the play of Bismack Biyombo on a night when the Bobcats kicked off their first winning streak since April of 2011. But so far it is hard to see any progression on offense whatsoever, and his positioning for rebounds hasn't improved that much either. Tonight he had one rebound.
What? No, that's it. Also, three fouls.
It's likely that it will be this time next year before it's really fair to expect to see anything from Biyombo on offense that would resemble productive, at least from an individual standpoint. But it would be nice to see him make more space for himself, get a couple more easy baskets on put backs or something but there's just not much there right now other than the occasional block. He's only had one game with more than five rebounds (13 against New Orleans) and of the six games played he's had one or zero boards in four of them. Even in about 14 minutes a game he needs to be doing a little more than that.
But, perhaps the addition of Hakim Warrick (I don't know) and the new found aggressiveness of Tyrus Thomas (he had a great hustle play to block a sure two points tonight) will give Biyombo some time to grow. We'll see.
For now the Bobcats head off to a tough game tomorrow night in Minnesota against a scrappy, if also a little banged up, Timberwolves team. The streak stands at two.