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Old 09-26-2010, 04:07 PM   #1
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Default Getting ready for Training Camp

Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell addresses five key questions on the Charlotte Bobcats entering training camp Tuesday at UNC Wilmington.

1. How do they compensate for the loss of Raymond Felton?

That’s still to be determined, relative to whether this four-team trade goes through. It would bring one-time All-Star Devin Harris to Charlotte, and he’d certainly be the starter at point guard. At his best, Harris is good for 20 points and seven assists per game. He’s creative and skilled with the ball, though he’s probably not as much of a driver as he once was.

He has a reputation as a strong defender, although some around the Nets last season thought his defense regressed, particularly in his willingness to fight through screens. Harris’ salary – slightly less than $9 million – exceeds what Felton would have accepted to stay. However, Felton’s poor performance in the playoffs versus the Orlando Magic left doubt about whether he could be Charlotte’s long-term solution at the point.

If this trade doesn’t go through, then the Bobcats are crossing their fingers that D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston can hold down the position for the season. Augustin didn’t play well last season and Livingston’s left knee is always a question.

2. How much will Tyson Chandler’s departure hurt them?

I get that question a lot and it disregards something important: Do you realize Chandler made all of two starts last season after Christmas? Do you realize he wasn’t the Bobcats’ best center last season, even when healthy?

That player was Nazr Mohammed, who showed up for training camp a year ago in incredible condition. It’s not an overstatement to say coach Larry Brown felt guilty over how quickly he dismissed Mohammed to the bench the season before. Mohammed forced Brown to play him with his performance.

Do you recall how Brown used Theo Ratliff? It reminded me of a pitching rotation, where you see how long the starter can go before turning to the relievers. I think Brown will tell Mohammed to give him 25 good minutes a game, then let Kwame Brown and Gana Diop fill in the rest. I’m less concerned about Mohammed’s performance than his durability; just keep the guy healthy.

Brown told me last spring that Diop got it about why he wasn’t playing. We’ll see if that took, as far as showing up in Wilmington in great shape, ready to earn minutes. I like the Kwame Brown signing, if you understand it for what it is; he never should have been the first overall pick, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be useful as a big-body defender.

3. How do you manage the Boris Diaw-Tyrus Thomas situation?

Obviously this is self-correcting if Diaw goes to Utah in the proposed trade. However...

Diaw will always be more nonchalant than fans would prefer, but that doesn’t mean he’s not useful. How many NBA players can fill all five positions in a pinch? Ten? Diaw is one of them.

Diaw went through a hard time, redefining his role with Stephen Jackson dominating the ball. Diaw will never be a conventional power forward; you can either fight that or exploit it.

If Diaw stays, I’d start him at power forward, but make Thomas the first sub off the bench. Rather than sitting Diaw when Thomas enters the game, I’d use Diaw all over the court. How many guys can guard centers, yet have point-guard ball skills? That’s the kind of opportunity/challenge Larry Brown relishes.

It doesn’t matter whether Thomas starts, just that he plays starter’s minutes. And he will.

4. Will Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown have bigger roles this season?

There was an agenda among the fan base that because Henderson was chosen 12{+t}{+h} overall, it was Brown’s obligation to play him. Brown’s obligation was giving his team the best chance to make the playoffs. That meant veterans Stevie Graham and Larry Hughes were generally better options than Henderson.

Henderson didn’t enjoy sitting, but he learned. And Derrick Brown is the last guy on this roster you have to worry about; he’s programmed for success, intent on sucking every morsel of potential out of his being to last as long as he can in this league.

So, yes, they’ll both have larger roles.

5. Is this Larry Brown’s last season as Bobcats coach?

Probably. I call Brown unpredictably predictable. Bear with me, and you’ll see what I mean:

No one predicted Brown would implode after a single, awful season with his hometown Knicks. But if you review his career, there’s something that wears down about three seasons into his tenure most places, and screams for relocation.

He’s a nudge, which is both his gift and liability. He challenges his bosses to do their best, just as he does his players. Brown is the smartest basketball coach I’ve covered, and I’ve covered four other Hall-of-Famers. Still, I suspect it’s exhausting being his general manager or owner.

That dynamic is multiplied by Brown’s unease, being separated six months a year from his wife and two teenage children.

Brown’s intellect would be missed and he’s the best teacher in the NBA, but no one has ever confused him with a lifer in any one job.
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Old 09-27-2010, 01:13 AM   #2
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Default Re: Getting ready for Training Camp

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Old 09-27-2010, 08:31 AM   #3
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Default Re: Getting ready for Training Camp

Originally Posted by onewickedlady
And Derrick Brown is the last guy on this roster you have to worry about; he’s programmed for success, intent on sucking every morsel of potential out of his being to last as long as he can in this league.

Did Bonnell take a creative writing class over the summer?
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