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Old 12-19-2011, 12:36 AM   #2
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Default Re: PRESEASON Official CatCast: Hawks @ Bobcats, 12/19, 7 PM EST, Time Warner Cable Arena

Bobcats' Augustin looking over his shoulder?

By Rick Bonnell

Monday night is the only Bobcats exhibition in Charlotte before they tip off for real Dec. 26 versus the Milwaukee Bucks. What to watch when they face the Atlanta Hawks at Time Warner Cable Arena:

1. Is Kemba Walker pushing D.J. Augustin? Remember the day after the draft, when rookie Walker promised to push Augustin every day? That was not an indication Augustin slacks - he doesn't - but coach Paul Silas said he has noticed Augustin is much more focused with Walker around. If the net result is Augustin playing more assertively, it can only help. Also, with Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson gone, there's no compelling reason for Augustin to defer - he now has the longest continuous service on this team.

2. How will it go with Boris Diaw as the primary option at center? An exhibition won't be close to the final word, but Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford will be a better test of how Diaw will hold up guarding big guys in the post than anything the last week of training camp demonstrated.

3. How long until Gana Diop can really contribute? Silas said he saw improvement in the center's conditioning over the course of last week. But he started 25 pounds overweight (rehab from a ruptured Achilles), and he kept fouling in the intrasquad scrimmage, trying to guard in the post. They need him in some capacity, because he's this team's only 7-footer.

4. Will Corey Maggette carry the scoring load? Maggette sat out the past few days with back spasms, so it's questionable whether he'll play Monday night. But Silas expects big things, in the form of a 20-point average, as this team reconfigures offensively, post-Wallace and Jackson.

5. What about this running game? Silas wants this team in transition as much as possible, a natural reaction to what figures to be a struggle to score in the half-court. The Hawks will offer some resistance to that objective you wouldn't see in an intrasquad game.

6. Is Tyrus Thomas ready for a breakout season? He'll start, and there will be nothing circumstantial holding him back from everything he aspires to be. The Hawks are long and athletic, with Josh Smith and Marvin Williams, so this is a good measure of Thomas' readiness to excel.

7. Can ex-Bobcat Melvin Ely help again? Ely says he has never felt more at home in the NBA than he was in his first stint with the Bobcats. His low-post scoring knack addresses a need. He sat out Friday and Saturday, due to a dehydration issue, so his availability for Monday night is uncertain.

8. Is anyone among the non-guarantees worth a long look? Maybe forward Ismail Muhammad. He's a heck of a leaper and seems to be decisive and assertive.

The question is roster spots; if Ely makes the squad, 13 of the 15 maximum appear taken.

9. Is Gerald Henderson fully back from hip surgery? Judge for yourself. Not once in a week of training camp did Henderson appear to be favoring an injury or failing to push himself athletically.

10. You see any Blake Griffin in Taylor Griffin? He seems well-schooled in basketball. Obviously he doesn't have his famous brother's physique or fierce style.

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