To preview the Mavericks game against the Bobcats on Thursday, we've brought in Cardboard Gerald from SBN's Rufus on Fire, whose had the thankless joy of being a hardcore Charlotte fan over the last few years.
Check back later in the day for answers to his questions about Dallas.
1) How painful is it to regularly watch Charlotte's games this season? I feel like anyone who sits through all 66this year deserves some type of award.
It's tough. Really tough. Thankfully, I don't watch every game. Work or school usually preclude me from watching at least a game a week, sometimes more, but yes, I have seen most of their games this season. It's difficult, especially as a blogger covering the team on a daily basis. It hurts to see the team struggle like this and have such a blurry future yet you want them to be as competitive as soon as possible, but it takes so much time.
Back in their dreadful losing streak, I felt like game recaps were just so repetitive. A lack of effort and focus, an inability to defend in the paint and the incapacity to get shots at the rim. And when the losses consistently become by 20 points or more, you can't help but question if any of the players have a future with the team. Luckily, injuries healed and the Bobcats look slightly more competent as of late, but they're still not easy to watch.
2) This team was in the playoffs only two years ago. Do you think tearing it down to its foundations OKC style was the right thing to do?
I do. Their ceiling with that team was a 6th seed, tops. Chemistry was falling apart and the team leaders were at the age that we deem their peak years. Maybe they didn't get a great deal for Gerald Wallace; it's tough to say without knowing what else was out there on the table. But they made the necessary move to start the rebuilding process. They had limitations in talent and cap space taken up by plenty of bloated contracts. The team had little room for improvement and next to zero odds for playoff contention. It had to be done.
3) How have the Bobcats two lottery picks, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, progressed this season and what do you their NBA ceiling is?
They've been OK. Inconsistency haunts both of them, but that's to be expected. Kemba's shown nice flashes of what he can contribute and I think if he tightens up his shot and becomes a more consistent midrange shooter, he can be really dangerous. He has great skill to create space, but his shot doesn't fall as much as it needs to. But he's making improvements aside from shooting; his passing and running an offense looks better than earlier, too.
Biyombo's play is up and down as he continues to learn the game. We knew he'd be a project coming into the season, and with a shortened offseason even more shortened by his Fuenlabrada contract troubles, he had to learn the NBA transition on the fly. His shotblocking already proves to be top-notch, though his post defense can easily be beaten by savvy post players. Biyombo's strong and can hold his ground, but that finesse game with pump fakes and head fakes is just something he has trouble defending right now.
Offensively, he's not as bad as I thought he'd be. His hook shot is more credible than you'd expect, though it's far from solid. He hasn't shown to be a spectacular rebounder, but you have to keep an eye on him on the boards. No one on the Bobcats goes after rebounds like him. With his athleticism and desire to soak up knowledge about the game, I like his potential.
4) With Walker's arrival, former Texas great DJ Augustin doesn't seem to have a place in Charlotte anymore. Do you think he's a legitimate NBA starting PG and if you had to guess where do you think he'll be next year?
I do think Augustin can start in the league. He's not going to be a good first or second scoring option for a team, but he's a guy who can run the pick and roll decently well and take care of the ball. He might be best in a Derek Fisher type of role on a contender, knocking down open shots. But perhaps he might be better as a first or second guy off the bench. It's hard to say where he goes from here. He could get traded before the deadline, or he could sign elsewhere as a free agent. The world is his oyster, but it certainly seems like he won't be in a Bobcats jersey next season.
5) After two years at the end of the bench and in the D-Leaguefor OKC, Byron Mullens isn't exactly a household name. However, he has put up some interesting per-36 minute statistics in Charlottethis year. Talk a little about his game.
Byron Mullens set the world aflame with his hot shooting early in the season. He returned back to earth not too long afterwards, but he's back to old tricks lately. Mullens is best in pick and pop plays getting shots in rhythm off the pass from the guard. His size and high release in addition to playing far from the paint make him a difficult guard for most big men who don't want to stray too far from defending the rim. Mullens also plays the pick and roll pretty well and shows decent hands around the hoop.
All that said, the rest of his game is pretty subpar. His attempts to create his own shot, whether facing up or back to the basket, often end in failure. His defense is laughable one-on-one. Mullens is too weak to hold his position against most centers in the post and he has trouble reading pick and rolls defensively. He's better guarding the rim with defensive-minded players like Biyombo playing beside him, but I'd attack him regardless were I an opposing player.