Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
It was quite a week for the Bobcats, challenging the Heat and Lakers before losing late and also getting beat by the Cavs and 76ers. There were some good things mixed in there too. We review the highlights here and take a peek at what's ahead.
The Bobcats at least had an interesting, if completely unsuccessful four-game stretch this week. Monday, Charlotte traveled to Miami and put the defending NBA champions to the test. In one of the more exciting games of the season for Bobcats fans, Charlotte played pretty well. LeBron James played better. James missed only one shot from the field (still no clue how he didn't make that one), took all of them from the paint and willed his sleepwalking Miami team to victory. The Bobcats played another pretty good game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night but that song sounded pretty much the same. Kobe Bryant, scoreless in the first half, dropped 20 in the second as the Lakers did what you know they would do and came from behind to win. The other two "efforts" this week by the Bobcats were not that cool. Charlotte gave up 100 points to Cleveland in the first three quarters, and looked bad doing so. They lost that game. Saturday night, reserve big man Lavoy Allen snagged a career-high 22 rebounds helping the Philadelphia 76ers hand the Bobcats their fourth loss of the week.
Ramon Sessions was steady this week, as he has been for much of the season. He got to the line well against Miami and Philadelphia (10 and seven free throw attempts, respectively) and played another effective game against his former team, the Lakers, on Friday night scoring 12 points and chipping in seven assists. Sessions is most effective when he is getting to the line and he's continued to force the issue when he can. He was pushed into extended action against the 76ers because Kemba Walker was benched in the second half.
Sessions scored 18, 14, 12, and 20 points this week which is not going to win many awards (except this one, congrats) but was the most reliable Bobcat this week and at times their best player. Sessions has been such a massive upgrade from D.J. Augustin I find myself just being thankful he's here. Unfortunately, you're not going to win many games with him as your best player but he's done a great job of being a leader when called upon and being effective when needed.
The aforementioned Walker. Kemba has been the Bobcats' best player this year and is vastly improved and more comfortable running the team than he was last year. But over the last couple of weeks, it looks like he might be hitting a little bit of a wall. (His points, assists, and shooting percentage are all down from a very hot December. He's also playing just a few minutes less per game than he was in December so perhaps the staff is mindful as well.) That's not overly surprising and certainly nothing shocking, players hit a wall before the All-Star break all the time, and certainly Walker has been the workhorse for the team this year. But this was not his week.
Aside from the limited duty in Philly (six points on 2-9 shooting), Walker scored just five points on 2-11 shooting against Cleveland; he scored 11 points, only three assists with three turnovers versus the Heat; but he did have a nice game against the Lakers using his quickness to beat Steve Nash for 18 points, eight assists and his best shooting night of the week hitting 7-15 from the field. Picking out one player on this team as worst in any given week is tough. You could probably throw a number of guys in here and Ben Gordon makes a strong case shooting super crappy most of the week (2-5, 3-14, and 3-10). But of the guys that play heavy minutes, and from what we expect from players at this point in the season Walker's lows this week were abysmal. Perhaps too much is expected from Walker but that goes with the territory of being the best player, even on this team.
Gerald Henderson against the Lakers. Henderson was charged with guarding Kobe Bryant and held him scoreless in the first half. You're not going to stop Kobe all night, even new passing Kobe, so he eventually got his. But Henderson did a good job on him for most of the night. He was also effective on offense scoring 20 points of his own to go along with 10 rebounds. Quite frankly, Henderson needed a game like this, against a player like Bryant. Decisions will have to be made on Henderson's future with this team and he's got to start defining himself as a player.
Oh my, let's see...Walker had two real stinkers against Cleveland and Philly. Henderson was pretty blah against Philly as well shooting 4-12 from the field (0-5 from three point range) and has hit only two three-point shots since hitting 4-5 on JANUARY 4, 2013. Byron Mullens was 7-19 for 16 points and missed all four attempts from three against Philly whilst committing zero fouls and grabbing just three rebounds. Gordon tossed up those three awful shooting games against Cleveland, L.A., and Philly. Sorry, I can't stop staring at the car crash that was Walker's 18% shooting for five points against Cleveland.
The return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG took a nasty fall in Houston and thankfully recovered quickly without any permanent damage. In his first game back MKG played well against the Lakers, grabbing 10 boards but only scoring four points. He hasn't scored in double-digits in almost a month and is still curiously absent from late game situations. It's not like he's being asked to score on this team, but it would still be nice to see him get back into some of the early season form where he was having some success with the ball, mostly driving to the basket. Still, just to see him back out there was a welcome sight.
When the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter in Cleveland and the Cavs had scored 100 points. Cleveland is not a whole lot better than the Bobcats, but they have a game changing player in point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving is poised to be one of the best point guards in the league for years to come, and already has a reputation for closing out games in the fourth. No such heroics were needed against Charlotte as he spent most of the fourth quarter laughing it up from the bench. Charlotte played horrible.
Close second: "M-V-P" chants for Kobe in Charlotte. I know the same thing happened in Brooklyn earlier in the week but it was almost scary watching Lakers fans literally pop up from nowhere in the fourth quarter of that game.
The Week Ahead:
Charlotte gets on oddly rejuvenated Boston Celtics team (7-0 since losing Rajon Rondo for the season) in Charlotte on Monday night. The Bobcats then travel to Indiana to face one of the tougher teams in the NBA in the Pacers on Wednesday before breaking for All-Star weekend.
The Bobcats have no one playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday, but do have both Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist competing on Team Shaq in Friday night's BBVA Rising Stars Challenge (in another life known as the Rookie-Sophomore game). It's great to have representation during All-Star weekend regardless of the event, and outside of the actual game, it's good to have two recent picks in the Rising Stars Challenge.
The NBA trade deadline is February 21 so be on the lookout for rumors on rumors. We'll have coverage here and stay tuned as things heat up this week and next. The latest rumor involving Charlotte has Ben Gordon going to New Jersey in exchange for Kris Humphries, your basic buckets for boards trade where the salaries line up almost perfectly. This one is far from a sure thing, and who knows what could transpire over the next couple of days so keep it here for the latest.