Sports

Playoffs not in Bobcats' future

Was the Emeka Okafor-Tyson Chandler trade a good move?

I thought so, in the sense that, at worst, it's a wash.

Let me digress: I think fantasy leagues are fun, but they've skewed how fans view sports. I'm a numbers guy to a degree, but I never thought a player's value at the bottom line was purely a compilation of statistics. Some players fit a team's needs more than others, regardless of what last year's stats say.

It became clear Okafor wasn't Larry Brown's kind of center. He plays mostly below the rim. He's a power forward in height, yet he can't defend outside the lane. And smart as he is, Okafor didn't seem in love with basketball.

So they tried something different in Chandler. In a worst-case scenario, they reduced future payroll by $40 million. That strikes me as a no-risk look at Chandler, who has impressed me as a guy who wants to improve and has taken to Brown's fine-tuning.

What's the biggest concern for this team?

It spent a lot to get a little better.

Vlade Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop represent nearly $18 million on this season's payroll, and each player has at least one season on his contract beyond that, guaranteed.

If this were the NFL, in which contracts are partially guaranteed, there is no way those three players would continue to take up that much money for a team so close to the salary cap.

I'm not glomming those guys together. Each one came here for a different reason. But the Bobcats have gone from a team with minimal long-term obligations to a team that is slightly better with significant long-term obligations

Will Larry Brown stick around?

I hope so. Brown is the smartest guy to earn a check from the Bobcats.

Brown has to be protected from his emotions. He needs gate-keepers to veto his more impetuous instincts. But there is a chess-master genius about this guy, and I wonder if he'll tire of the Bobcats spinning their tires in deep mud.

This could be the first time he's spent two seasons with an NBA franchise without reaching the playoffs.

What's missing?

A star. I hear a remarkably similar description of this team from advance scouts all the time: There are six or seven players any franchise would want, but not one who should be a team's first option.

Some of you thought the solution was signing Allen Iverson. No. He would have wrecked a great locker room without being the difference-maker he was five years ago.

They needed to get lucky, and mistakes were made: Bernie Bickerstaff should have traded draft picks Nos. 5 and 13 for Chris Paul. Michael Jordan should have chosen Brandon Roy over Adam Morrison.

That's old news. Now what? Do they make the playoffs?

In April, I thought so. The Brown effect was in full force, even if they fell short last season. They played great defense, they went from lousy ball movement to something fluid and effective. They should have won that big game in Boston, and then they crashed.

This summer, they watched Toronto and Washington improve dramatically. They had no juice left to trump those moves. The Bobcats are 10th-best in the East.

- Rick Bonnell

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