I learned a few things over the past several days. We moved this weekend to a new place roughly 45 minutes away from where we’ve been living for most of a decade. I learned that it’s a lot harder to watch people doing the heavy lifting than it was to do it myself. If you’re familiar with me, you already know that I’ve spent the last couple of years in a wheelchair and am no longer a “do-it-myself” kinda guy. I also learned that trying to ignore a serious spinal injury and do the hard stuff anyway has serious consequences and it will be at least several more days until I recover from the folly of abusing my body. But I also learned something about my fellow Bobcats fans.
When I “went dark” from the web to get relocated, the Cats were riding high on a 3-game winning streak on the road! The fanbase, like me, was euphoric and riding a high that only comes with unexpected victory. After some intense negotiating with our brand-new Direct TV rep, we were able to get SportSouth activated roughly 30 seconds before our heroes took the court against the Clippers. Although I tried mightily to make it to the end of the game, my body won the fight and I passed out shortly after the third quarter began. It didn’t matter. The end result was already pretty clear by that point.
I spent this morning scoping the blogs and media and getting my badly needed web fix. That’s when I discovered the impact of the loss to the Clippers had on my Bobcats Brethren. Everywhere I looked there were trade mockups and rumors of trade mockups. Trust me, dear readers, while this loss revealed several things, the apocalypse was not one of them.
Keep in mind this was 1 loss and to my used-to-be-a-coach mind, the only thing it revealed was that playing the same 4 people for 40 minutes a night every night is not a good idea. Our bench didn't get us back into the game because of innate skills. They played better because they still had fresh bodies and lungs. The breaking ball exists in baseball for one reason - to make that fastball seem even faster. After the torpid play of our starters, our bench must have seemed like lightning unleashed. Extra conditioning and stamina drills won't help. With the grueling nature of an NBA schedule - especially ours with the 2nd most back-to-backs in the league - by mid-season a starter is in the best shape they'll ever be in.
About 4 hours after the game ended, the alarms went off at the arena. Security cameras showed 5 sets of blobs moving slowly away from the entrance. It was our starter's butts, just starting to drag back to the hotel.
Without Tyrus, coach has lost all confidence in our bench. He knows he can expect finger-in-the-dyke performances from Liv and Henderson, but that's about it. What I mean by that is that those two men can hold things down well enough that our starters can get some rest without the Cats falling way behind. Like the above reference, they represent a temporary fix that will prevent the whole dam thing from falling apart – for a short while. Once in a blue moon, one or both of them will come to life and actually supply solid offensive momentum as well. But whenever our starters leave the court, Silas' whole body language changes. The smile disappears; he leans forward in his chair, and goes into "here goes nothing" mode.
What this road trip and crushing schedule have shown us is that when our "Gang of Five" is on their game the Charlotte Bobcats are a playoff team. When they have been overused as they have been recently, they have trouble beating a JV team from a community college. There is only one solution. Our bench has to be better.
Now we can work with what we have and ride out the storm until Tyrus returns from his injury, but that's still better than 6 weeks off. It helps that the AllStar Break will take care of almost an entire week of his recovery, but there are still quite a few games - against the best the league has to offer - before Thomas can start chipping off the rust.
Which is the wiser course - rebuilding now and bagging those playoff hopes or waiting to rebuild until we know exactly what the new CBA will look like and if there will be a next season at all? I myself would rather work from knowledge than take my best guess and hope that I did the right thing.
With this one trade, we'll shed some dollars, hopefully pick someone up to play the role of Designated Nonchalant until Tyrus can assume his rightful place in the starting lineup, and add someone on second string that can drop in 10-12 points or so per night.
Finally, we need to shift Gerald Wallace to the second team. I'll wait a moment for y'all to absorb the heresy and then I'll explain myself - hopefully well enough that you won't think I'm a few Okafor tees short of a clearance rack.
We have 2 team captains, right? One of them has been in a funk for so long he makes James Brown look like Clay Aiken. The second unit for other teams would be little more than meat for a player like Crash. He'll quickly be able to dominate again and get some of his old James Bond moves back while our Q (Oakley) teaches him a few new gadgets to use "in the field." Our starters are in desperate need of some down time and rest. With the Predator coming off the bench for what for him would be a casual 30 minutes per, we have the most powerful 6th man the Bobcats could wish for. Our bench would become productive and intimidating enough that our starters can perhaps cut back to 35 or even 30 minutes per themselves. Opposing coaches would either have to risk burning out their own starters to keep up (risking foul trouble) or watch as the Bobcats beat up the scrubs from their second unit. Additionally, with Crash in their midst, our own reserves will be getting better looks at the basket, better chances of being open because of double-teams, and therefore, increase their own productivity.
The Predator of old would be too essential to risk in such an experiment. But the Master of Malaise that seems to take the court most nights wearing the number 3 uniform isn't helping us pile up the Ws. I think it's a noble experiment and worth trying for 10 games or so until we have a better picture of Tyrus' return date. Take it to the break and then reevaluate what it does for us. It certainly wouldn't hurt, considering we are a mere couple of games away from a stretch against teams that will present a massive challenge to us even at full strength. So really, what have we got to lose?
This team is actually in much better shape than any of us thought. Once again, the last game represents a sum total of 1 loss. It came at the hands of a team that is better than their record playing against some exhausted and battered Bobcats. We've already fared better than most of us dreamed we would on this road swing. In fact, we're only 1 win away from doing as well as Michael Jordan wanted out of this trip. The loss showed us not only that there are some adjustments to be made, but also that we have the ability to make them without holding a fire sale and bringing a bunch of unknown faces to our favorite spot down on Trade Street.