San Antonio welcomes the Charlotte Bobcats tonight, who lost to the Spurs in a close one last month. I caught up with DBWalker from Rufus on Fire again to exchange thoughts on both teams as they look to make their postseason push. The Bobcats recently welcomed former Spur Gary Neal to their team, who was one of the many topics we discussed in anticipation of their matchup.
You can read more of what DBWalker writes over at Rufus on Fire, and follow him @davidbwalker.
The Spurs seem to always add the perfect guy for a playoff push around this time of year because...they're the Spurs. Danny Granger seems like the most popular possible target. Do you see him or someone else getting a look from San Antonio?
I definitely think they'll keep an eye on the market as more are bought out by their teams, but I'm not sure if Granger is that ideal pickup. I don't think his diminished role in Indy sat well with him, and San Antonio couldn't offer him much better. Plus, he's not a particularly good three-point shooter or defender and, although he might play with a chip on his shoulder should he end up in Finals matchup against his former team, he's not exactly the type of guy you can plug into a new system and know what you're going to get. The Spurs might just focus on bringing their team back to full strength rather than trying to integrate a new piece.
Speaking of moves, the Bobcats are welcoming former Spurs fan favorite Gary Neal to the Queen City. He could really help spread the floor for Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. How do you see him fitting into the system?
Exactly what you said, he should really help with spacing. For as much as Ramon Sessions gave this time during his time in Charlotte, he did not add a whole lot of punch with his outside shooting. He was great at getting into the lane and getting to the line. He was really the only offensive punch coming off the bench for most of his playing days in Charlotte. Only recently has the bench been able to provide some outside shooting behind Anthony Tolliver, but perimeter scoring remained a major need for this team and that's why they made the move to acquire Neal. Even though his shooting may be down a little this year, that's still his game. And he's going to give you more scoring punch with his jumper than Sessions, or just about anyone on this team past Kemba and Tolliver. Gerald Henderson has not turned into a consistent threat shooting the ball, to the dismay of everyone involved I'm sure. So by brining in Neal, and Luke Ridnour as well to handle some back up point guard minutes, the Bobcats didn't risk a whole lot giving up Sessions in an effort to make the team better offensively.
Looking ahead to the Playoffs, I feel comfortable saying the Spurs will be there, is their a matchup San Antonio wants to particularly avoid or is there a team with which the Spurs matchup especially well?
With the way the West is this year I suppose you have to start with the few more favorable matchups and go from there. I wouldn't mind a first round matchup against a Suns team who, I presume, will be happy just to be there. I know the Spurs just recently lost to them, but I don't see them having problems once they settle into a series. Memphis is a team that San Antonio has dominated over the past few years. I know they were responsible for upsetting them as an eighth seed not long ago but, since then, the matchup has been all San Antonio. I also think the spurs match up well against Dallas, especially with the way a guy like Boris Diaw can stick with Dirk. From there it gets tricky. Portland has been tricky for SA this season, though they've definitely cooled as of late. We all remember the epic clash with Golden State from last year and, though they're not the offensive juggernaut they were then, a series against the at full strength won't be easy. Houston has given problems this year, as they combine youth and pace with a few players that need to be guarded by committee, and the same goes for the Clippers. Neither team can play defense, but it might not matter if they get hot enough in a seven-game series. As for OKC, no comment...
What's a best-case scenario, realistically, for Charlotte in the postseason?
Best case scenario...assuming Charlotte can hold tight and make the playoffs...is getting past the seventh and eighth seed to avoid a first round matchup with Indiana or Miami. And that pretty much goes for any team not named Indiana or Miami. After those two, the rest of the East is such a hodgepodge I think the remaining teams would find matching up against each other, regardless of who it is, more favorable than facing those heavy weights. That's the best case playoff scenario...getting to sixth place or better.
(Following the clearing up of recent rumors that Tony had announced retirement plans) Tony Paker is NOT retiring from the Spurs, I say NOT retiring, after the 2016 season. But obviously the window for this era of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Pop has more time behind it than it does in front. Do you see them all staying around together, possibly leaving one by one or do you think these guys will just keep going, forever? Is there some thought towards what's next for the organization? I'd be in favor of them staying forever.
Obviously all good things must come to an end. It's kinda like Toy Story 3 -- although we grow old just as our favorite players do, fans are also kind of ageless in our own way and we struggle with watching a group we've become close to fade away. I personally would rather not have a scenario where one guy leaves each year. I feel like at least two or three will march off together, with possibly Tony riding it out for a few more years.
I know getting to the playoffs and seeing what your young guys can do is what's mostly on this team's mind right now, but have you given much thought to what you'd like out of the draft? What kind of players do you think Charlotte will add around its core?
So much is up in the air right now with the draft it's hard to say who they'll be targeting, but scoring will probably again be what they hope to get out of the draft. As it stands, Charlotte will send its first round pick to Chicago if it is not in the top 10. The Bobcats will get Detroit's pick but it's top 8 protected and should get Portland's which is just top 12 protected. So mid-lottery is likely the best spot. Ideally they'd make the playoffs, and still receive the Detroit and Portland pick. That Portland pick should be used to gran the best player available. If they have Detroit they can draft a little more for need.
Let me jump back to Neal for a second. Seems like the Spurs tried to get some point guard minutes out of him. But he's a shooter, right? Anything else you get is cream cheese I think. The Bobcats shouldn't rely on him for a lot of help at the one should they?
With Neal, just as with fellow Finals bomber Danny Green, every dribble is like a spin of the roulette wheel - you're not sure what you're going to get and you'd rather not play it for too long. You want him looking for his own shot but not much else. Anything more than a minute or two at the one is not ideal. Luckily Ridnour should be able to back up Kemba well enough, right?
The Bobcats will have some salary cap space to work with over the summer. What moves do you expect them to make in terms of re-signing current players or chasing FAs?
Regarding Ridnour, yes. Exactly.
I don't think Neal exactly fills the gaping hole for some more scoring ability in the starting lineup so I would imagine the team will continue to look for some shooting in the draft and free agency. It's looking more and more like the Bobcats should be in a spot where they'll just draft the best player available but who knows what will happen once all the dust settles on the picks. Just taking a glance at the possible free agents at the two, Anthony Morrow is someone the Bobcats have had interest in in the past but he has a player option with New Orleans for next year. Does he really give you anything different than Neal? Probably not. I think they could probably resign Anthony Tolliver at a decent price, and considering he's the second best playmaker on the roster I'm sure they will want Josh McRoberts to stick around with his player option for next year. I don't know why he wouldn't at this point in time. Outside of that you've got Ridnour, Jannero Pargo, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ben Gordon. So you've got all those guys except Ben Gordon who they could look to sign. We'll see how Ridnour fits but if things stay the same I would think his presence at point off the bench would be an interest to them in the off season. Believe it or not, Pargo and CDR have contributed quite nicely when called upon, but I don't know that both Pargo and Ridnour would be resigned. Although that would be a pretty defined pecking order of 1,2,3 going from Walker to Ridnour to Pargo. Scoring is their biggest need, might they chase Chris Bosh in the off season if he decides to leave Miami? That would be two big splash signings two years in a row. And Bosh's name was tossed around in trade fodder last year. That would certainly be interesting but would obviously cost money and depends on him opting out.
Injuries have been killer for San Antonio this year but Parker could be back soon and Kawhi Leonard just returned. Is everyone else good to go now?
That'll definitely make for an exciting lead-up to the end of the season for you guys, waiting to see how everything shakes up! I hope Charlotte keeps up this resurgence. I'm looking forward to what that team will look like once they acquire some more young talent, develop Kemba, and rid themselves of that bad Tyrus Thomas juju.
It's looking like everyone apart from Tony and his maladies will suit up tonight, which should mean the team on the whole will be stronger than the last game between San Antonio and Charlotte. It's fun seeing most of the guys back in uniform again, as they really seem to be getting a feel for what it's like to play together again, and tonight will be especially nice to see how Gary is received wearing his new colors. My buddy's favorite in-game pastime was yelling "Neal with it!" (inflection on the "Neal", like "Deal with it") every time he drained a three; I think he's still going through withdrawals.
Care to give your friendly, unbiased prediction for tonight's game?
Oh man, predictions are the worst! But, the Bobcats are coming off an expanded break thanks for the quirks of NBA scheduling. Charlotte hasn't played since last Saturday which means the Cats should be very rested. Rust could be a factor early on though, but Steve Clifford does a great job and the team should be champing at the bit to continue it's current four game win streak. The Bobcats face the Spurs tonight, then travel to Oklahoma City and Miami before returning to host the Pacers. That's quite the four-game challenge. I see tonight and next week's home game against Indiana as the best spots to sneak up on one of these top teams, even if it's the end of days in OKC right now (kidding). So given the importance to get at least one win in these four I would expect a pretty focused effort from the Bobcats. If you're looking for a win prediction I'll give the Bobcats the nod tonight. They played well against the Spurs last time, and this is the definitive Gary Neal revenge game. So Neal with it.
What do you think?
Ha! Wow, that is a tough stretch. I'd rather they steal one from the struggling Thunder, if it's not too late to put in a vote. As for tonight, the Bobcats are a solid defensive team, but they struggle defending the three, which is one of the Spurs' greatest strengths. The open looks should be there for Patty (who went off for 32 in their last meeting), Danny and Marco and I have to think they'll be able to deliver. Down low the Spurs will be able to throw a combination of Timmay, Tiago and Ayres at Al Jefferson, who should defend him better with the big Brazilian back. Kawhi frustrates Henderson into a 5-18 shooting night; Patty Mills shoots his 9.9PPG back into double digits; and Spurs win by 13. Oh, and Gary Neal still goes for 30.