Gameday Q&A: Rufus on Fire

For tonight’s game against the Bobcats, I got a chance to talk to David Arnott over at Rufus on Fire. Be sure to check out my answers to his questions later today.  

1. It’s been a few months now since the Bobcats sent Jason Richardson to the Suns for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. With the Suns 4 games out of 8th place and the Bobcats on a 6 game winning streak and within reach of a playoff spot, do you think the Bobcats front office made the right move.

Whether it was the “right move” is a tricky subject. The team got better, for sure, and there are plenty of people who visit Rufus on Fire and other Bobcats hangouts (Hi, Bobcats Planet forums!) who are plenty happy with the eight seed. The thing is, that trade, along with the Radmanovic trade and the Diop trade, is symptomatic of what I think is a faulty plan. I didn’t see the NBA’s upcoming financial apocalypse, but, apparently, every other team except the Bobcats did, and so those other teams have been cutting payroll in anticipation of a lower luxury tax threshold and a lower salary cap. Even without knowing there would be a lower salary cap for the next couple years, I thought the Cats were being silly to throw away all cap flexibilty–and with it, any chance of drafting one quality starter and then convincing a star to join a core of Okafor, Wallace, Augustin, and said quality starter–for a fifteen million dollar three man bench, a much improved chance at the seven or eight seed and nothing higher, and the right to get pounded by the Cavs.

2. Being from Texas, I’m a huge Longhorns fan and I’m sure most Spurs fans are as well, so we’re keeping an eye on D.J. Augustin. Do you think he has a future in Charlotte, even with Raymond Felton already there?

Augustin is the point guard of the future. If Charlotte can get anything for Raymond, they’ll take it, just to make DJ the clear cut starter. The thing is, Raymond is such a team-first player, it actually seems possible he’ll come back next year as the combo guard off the bench instead of demanding to start or be let go. It would be best for him to go somewhere else and compete for a starting job, but, again, stranger things have happened. Augustin’s biggest challenge when he becomes the starter won’t be on offense, where he’s already well surpassed Felton, but on defense, where his sheer lack of height and bulk will be a major obstacle to overcome, especially when he has to guard the likes of Chauncey, Deron, or any other biggish point guard.

3. Larry Brown is a former Spurs coach and he and Pop have a great friendship. Brown was coach when I first started paying attention to the Spurs when I was a kid. As you know, he’s had his share of problems with players and owners as he’s gone from team to team. What were your expectations of him coming in and how do you feel he has done as coach of the Bobcats up to now.

The main positive thing Brown’s done is provide a professional coaching figure. Sam Vincent, the coach last year, was in WAY over his head, a la Vinny Del Negro this year. Amazingly, Brown hasn’t really hung his guys out to dry much this year, as his reputation might suggest. His fickleness seems to have subsided. However, he’s still Larry My Way or the Highway Brown, so even though he had a team that had moderate success with a run n gun style, they drafted a super quick point guard who can nail threes and appears born to run the break, Brown instead forced the team to play his grinding style of offense, with the point guard jogging the ball up the court, then holding it at the top and waiting for wings to come off screens for midrange jumpers. It still seems like a monumental waste of Gerald Wallace’s offensive talents, but blowing it all up and getting Diaw and Bell has made this offense passable without giving up anything on defense.

4. Aside from Diaw and Raja Bell, the Bobcats have a few other new pieces and some, like Nazr Mohammed that I’m sure you would love to move. Aside from Augustin (or Felton) and Okafor, do you really see anyone else the Bobcats could build around and how much do you think the team could change starting this offseason.

Bell is the only piece I’d deem “moveable”, just because his contract expires after next season. Everyone else is pretty much locked in unless we take on a worse contract. Wallace and Okafor are both signed long term to contracts that pay them about what they’re worth; they’re neither underpaid nor overpaid. Diaw is somewhat overpaid and signed through 2012–and if he reverts to the Diaw we all saw in Phoenix the past couple years, he’ll be massively overpaid. Augustin is on his rookie deal. And the bench of Radmanovic and Diop are both signed for too many years for too many dollars. Keep in mind we had to trade guys who are all totally fungible and can be let go after this season in order to get VladRad, and in order to get rid of Matt Carroll’s horrendous contract we had to pick up an even more horrific deal in Diop’s. Next year, we’re pretty much stuck with this team, and the year after that, and then we can start adding pieces in the summer of 2011, but we still won’t have real cap room.

5. Let’s talk a bit more about tonight. Okafor has frustrated Duncan in the past with his long arms, but Tony Parker against either Felton or Augustin could prove to be a great matchup. Which do you think will be most important and do the Bobcats extend their streak to 7 or do the Spurs end it in San Antonio?

Obviously, I want Okafor to push Timmy into that spot where he doesn’t have enough room to put it on the floor, but it’s still just far enough away he can’t be confident in his bank shot, let alone back to the basket moves. And I’d love to see Augustin be quick enough to stay in front of Parker. And Gerald to abuse Michael Finley’s rotting corpse, or whoever Pop settles on attempting to guard him. With Manu out of the picture, the Bobcats have the talent to hang with San Antonio, but, without looking, I’d guess Vegas still has the Spurs favored handily. (I peeked, and I see Spurs by 6.)

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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