Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the Hawks, Washington returns home to face Southeast Division rival (if you could call it that) Charlotte. Trevor Booker is unlikely to play due to knee soreness, but Nene is back, so the team that plays tonight should be at least a little bit better than the one that was on the wrong side of a 92 - 76 shellacking the other week.
Where, When, and What Channel? The game will take place on November 24 at 7 PM at the Verizon Center and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet.
Why You Should Care? Despite being completely destroyed the last time they squared off against the Bobcats, the Wizards still have a decent shot at picking up their first W of the season. Charlotte's outperformed expectations this year, but at the end of the day, they're still a team that only has two guys (Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions) who can create off the dribble. The last time they played the Wizards, they were being guarded by human traffic cone A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo, and the results were as expected. Now that Shaun Livingston is in the mix, the Wizards defense is a lot better at defending point guards. Also, with Nene in and Trevor Booker out, the Wizards' frontline will be a lot better than the one that Haywood, Biyombo, Mullens and company saw a few weeks ago.
What Do They Do Well? Run the pick and roll. As per MySynergySports, Charlotte's pick and roll ball handlers are fifth in the NBA in points per possession, while their pick and roll dive men are eleventh. This is largely a result of the occasional brilliance of Sessions, a player who is good at one thing (running pick and rolls) and who had been misused last year with the Lakers. How well the Wizards handle Sessions and Walker could very well determine whether or not they win or lose.
Who Do They Do Poorly? Communicate on defense. Charlotte's big man rotation is built around Brendan Haywood (indifferent and old), Bismack Biyombo (inexperienced), and Byron Mullens (indifferent and inexperienced), and as could be expected, they tend to do a very poor job of hedging on pick and rolls, cutting off dribble penetration, and recovering after any kind of defensive breakdown. Basically, Charlotte's defense is a lot like Washington's during the McGee years when the team would always seem to leave guys open for corner threes and layups.
Other than Sessions and Walker, it seems like no one on the Bobcats can create a shot ... and yet the offense is a very respectable 20th in the league. How are the Bobcats pulling this off?
Well, I don't know if I'd call it respectable just yet, but how much they've improved certainly is. The team is getting a ton of second chance points off some of the league's best offensive rebounding. They're also dumping the ball in the post with some success. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is also a surprisingly strong option in creating his own shot because he can get to the rim and knows how to create space with his body to make shots. And a bunch of their offense comes in transition, which is often unassisted.
Bobcats fans were mainly split between Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, and Beal. Frankly, there wasn't a clear favorite at two. Kidd-Gilchrist's concerns on offense had him floating anywhere from two to four. The Gerald Wallace similarities have been well documented, but there are some differences. Wallace is more lithe and vertical, and MKG uses his body more. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer told me Kidd-Gilchrist reminds him of Charles Barkley in the way he doesn't have to use his versatility while rebounding but uses his positioning instead. So what do I expect him to develop into? With any luck, he'll be a guy who can drop about 17-20 points a game, getting to the free throw line a fair amount and still be dynamic on defense. I think that's fair.
He has adjusted well, I'd say. Haywood starts and has played really well, considering his age and healthy. He adds some post offense (as sad as that is) with that hook shot of his. He also rebounds and defends pretty well. I'm certainly satisfied with his contributions. Haywood also comes with the benefit of being a veteran to help this team full of young kids.
Charlotte's always flown under the radar, and there's really not been a lot of national coverage of the team. Is there anything in particular going on with the Bobcats that casual fans ought to know about?
Yes. They should know that the Charlotte Bobcats are fun to watch. Kemba Walker is tin foil in a microwave. They bust their butts in defensive rotations. They even have a comedic foil in Byron Mullens!
No. OK, so there's more to it but it's not looking good. Thomas is out for at least a couple months. He was much better than last year but that says next to nothing considering how terrible he was. But facing rehab once again and constantly giving inconsistent levels of effort have left fans with little reason for hope.