Thursday, December 27, 2012

Talkin’ Teamwork

Still enjoying some down time here as the year comes to a close. Mostly lazing about reading some, writing some, and watching a lot of hoops on the teevee.

After indulging in that NBA marathon on Christmas day -- a quintuple-header’s worth of games of which I watch parts of all five -- I tuned in last night to watch my Charlotte Bobcats lose their 16th straight game, this one to the Miami Heat. The Boobcats (as Vera and I like to call them) did cut Miami’s lead to two about halfway through the fourth quarter, but in truth the outcome was never in doubt. Was sort of like watching a big brother playing against a little brother, only trying enough to ensure the victory.

Of course, last season Charlotte had a record-setting year for woefulness, going a miserable 7-59 to set a new standard for lowest winning percentage ever. This year began promisingly, with the ’Cats equaling that total of seven wins in the first dozen games, racing out to a 7-5 mark. But they’re now 7-21, and if they lose a few more talk will surface regarding whether or not they’ll exceed that 23-game losing streak with which they concluded the 2011-12 season.

Since I live in the Bobcats’ market, I end up getting to see a lot of their games and thus have probably spent more time than most contemplating the causes for their mediocrity. Talent-wise, they’re well obviously behind most other teams, lacking at pretty much every position. But while each player is often a step behind his counterpart in a given game, the Charlotte team often seems not to work together especially well either, which tends to make the whole feel that much less than the sum of the parts.

The inability to work together is most obvious on the offensive end, where plays are constantly breaking down prior to a decent shot being attempted. There was an article in the Charlotte Observer just a few days ago documenting how the “Shot clock has become Bobcats’ worst enemy.” They lead the league in shot-clock violations (by a lot), and Bobcats beat writer Rick Bonnell offers several theories for why the team has so much trouble working together to get a shot off.

Basketball is a game that often rewards players being able to work together effectively, whether by passing well, creating good spacing, or just understanding and fulfilling given roles in an effective way. It reminds me a little of a game like Omaha in which you want the four cards in your hand to “work together” (so to speak), complementing each other in a way that gives you the greatest chance for success. And having just one “dangler” or odd card that doesn’t really fit with the other three can significantly lessen the potential of the entire hand.

Part of me wants to single out Gerald Henderson as the Bobcats’ “dangler,” actually. Although he’s ostensibly one of the top three or so players on the squad, it seems like at times the team functions less well when he’s part of the mix. I suppose one could analyze various stats to help support or disprove the idea, but the fact is the ’Cats have done a lot worse overall when he’s played than when he hasn’t. This year they’re 6-8 with Henderson out of the line-up, and 1-13 when he plays. (They were also 1-7 in the preseason, when he played every game.)

Then again, it’s probably putting a little much on Henderson’s shoulders to pursue such a theory, as there’s a lot else to complain about when it comes to the team’s failure to function. Still, as a Bobcats fan, it would be nice to stop getting dealt crap hands like over and over again.

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