09-28-2012, 11:09 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Tyrus has gained weight, Diop has lost
Ramon Sessions, the new backup point guard, brings the ball up court and a tall guy reaches in, slaps it away and scores.
The tall guy hits a jump shot, and another.
Iíve seen the tall guy before, but itís been two seasons since Iíve seen him like this.
Welcome back, Tyrus Thomas.
A few of us watch the Charlotte Bobcats work out Thursday morning from a perch above the court. Coaches huddle with players early and then 13 players scrimmage.
The Bobcats donít open camp until Tuesday in Asheville, but the closer camp gets the more likely players are to show up at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The only Bobcats not on the court are first-round pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, free-agent Ben Gordon, Bismack Biyombo and Matt Carroll. Some of them lift or work out in other parts of the building.
I had forgotten about Thomas. At 6-foot-10, he weighed about 175 pounds last season. Iím being sarcastic. If I donít announce that, some of you will write me and say: ďYou idiot! He weighed 180!Ē
Thomas lacked energy last season and his game is fueled by energy. Heíll never be the prototype post-up power forward. He doesnít have to be. When heís right, he runs, blocks shots and finds easy baskets. He imposes. He disrupts.
If Thomas, who usually plays at 225 pounds, is his old self, the Bobcats have a power forward.
Another player who looks good is 7-0 Desagana Diop. When I say he looks good, I mean heís lost a lot of weight. Itís as if he and Thomas made a trade. Diop no longer is 350 pounds or 330 or whatever he played at last season. Heís less than 300. He can run down court without pausing to rest.
Guard Gerald Henderson is the best player in the scrimmage, and he plays as if he knows it. He is especially effective in the lane, freeing himself with a quick step or a sudden stop.
Kemba Walker Ė thatís him in the bright orange shoes Ė takes fewer shots per minute than he probably did at any time last season. Heís the point guard now and the offense is his.
Before the scrimmage, new coach Mike Dunlap talks to players. One of things he says Ė one of the things every coach who has ever worn a whistle has said - is: ďKeep passing the ball.Ē Dunlap says it to the team, but Walker plays as if Dunlap is talking to him.
Brendan Haywood, 32, formerly of Greensboro, formerly of North Carolina, formerly of the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks, is Charlotteís new center.
Heís 7-0 and smart, especially on defense. Heís a presence, challenging shooters and calling for the ball.
Reggie Williams, the teamís designated outside shooter last season, hits some pretty long-range shots. But the Bobcats have so many shooting guards itís as if they collect them. They have too many shooting guards, two few power forwards. How much time will Williams get with Ben Gordon on the court?
Whatís obvious from the perch is that the Bobcats will be better this season. They canít be worse. If Kidd-Gilchrist is what the team anticipates, if new players mesh and young players such as Walker and Biyombo develop, the Bobcats should compete.
I canít fathom them winning half their games. But I can see them making basketball interesting.
The player who interests me most Thursday is Jeff Taylor, the first pick of the second round, a 6-7 forward from Vanderbilt.
Thatís him playing relentless defense. Thatís him slipping through bigger players beneath the basket for an offensive rebound and following with a layup. Thatís him on the next possession sprinting down court with Walker, two-on-one, getting the pretty pass and going for the dunk. Thatís him outside hitting the open 3-point shot.
Itís just a scrimmage, just a group of players getting work in before the real work begins.
If you like the NBA, you want to see more.
This is encouraging.