Thursday afternoon I had the opportunity to talk with Rufus On Fire editor and Twitter Great Ben Swanson, AKA CardboardGerald, about his team, the Charlotte Bobcats. If you aren't following him on twitter, you should be. If you aren't on twitter, I recommend it. Since Dallas only plays the Bobcats twice a year, chances are you don't know much about them, other than that they've had a rough go the past few seasons. I recommend giving them a good long look this year. They won't be very good, but they will be very interesting.
1.) What's the starting lineup these days? Any injuries we should know about?
The starting lineup has been in limbo for all of the preseason as head coach Mike Dunlap plays with each one to find out which he likes best. The following players have at one point started for the Bobcats during the preseason: Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffery Taylor, Tyrus Thomas, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood. The difference between talent at nearly every position is insignificant, so it gives Dunlap tons of leeway to tinker around as he wants. They don't really have any injuries. Mullens had a sore knee a few days ago after a collision with Biyombo, but it was nothing significant. He played against the Bucks yesterday.
2.) I remember you being less than thrilled on the lottery selection night... How is to consolation prize of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looking thus far?
I guess I'd say I'm warmer to it now than I was. My concern was this: the Bobcats bottomed out last year and needed a franchise talent to be their go-to guy. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist just doesn't have that offensive skill set. But he'll be far from a bust. He has great size, defensive skills, rebounding, ability to finish at the rim, athleticism, motor, etc. His problem is just that his jump shot is broken and he's not good enough a ballhandler to make up for those shooting limitations. He can get to the rim, but he's not going to be an incendiary scorer. I haven't seen much of him this summer, outside of the one summer league game he played and an open practice last week, but I think he'll be more than just a solid wing.
3.) Bismack Biyombo was a bright spot last season. What are expectations for him this year?
Bismack Biyombo's expectations are just to build on his knowledge of how the NBA game works. He already is a great shot-blocker and can defend pick and rolls pretty well, but as he continues to play we want him to pick up defending head fakes and ball fakes in the post a bit better. Most of his room to improve is on offense, and I don't really have any expectations for him there. His offense should be the occasional dump in the post, alley-oops, or catching on cuts and finishing at the rim.
4.) Coach Dunlap seems to be willing to try some unconventional things given that the Bobcats have a slightly unconventional (young, mostly) roster. What are your expectations for the new coach?
I expect Mike Dunlap to experiment. He can do whatever he wants. The Bobcats can realistically be no worse than they were last year, so he should try some new ideas - really small ball, full-court press, you name it. I also expect Dunlap to ratchet up the defensive intensity exponentially from last year and craft the team into one that forces turnovers and gets into transition a lot
5.) Charlotte seems to have a knack for picking up Dallas big men (Erick Dampier, Desagna Diop, now Brendan Haywood). Why did the Bobcats make a bid for Haywood when he was amnestied by Dallas?
They needed size and a good defensive player and a veteran to help their young frontcourt. Haywood fills those roles. He's not spry or good enough to be a solid starter anymore, but the Bobcats really needed those things and a good teacher on the roster for this young team is always nice.
6.) You've been pessimistic about the Bobcats for as long as I've followed you on twitter. How are you feeling this year? Is there cause for hope, finally?
The development of the Bobcats' young franchise building blocks will decide how much hope we can have looking to the future. I have little confidence in any of this team's players, but I do have plenty of hope for them. I'm just glad they'll be better and more fun to watch this year.