Prior to last night, I hadn't been to the Izod Center (formerly known as Continental Arena) in close to four years. Now, I know why the Nets are moving to Brooklyn as soon as possible. That said, there is plenty to babble about in regards to both the Bobcats-Nets contest (a 102-96 New Jersey victory) and the crowd. Or lack thereof.
- Perhaps it is the arena. Perhaps it is the location. Perhaps it is the team (hard to imagine though, what with Jason Kidd et al. involved). Perhaps it is the fact that the PA announcer adds next to nothing for the home team. But the truth remains: The atmosphere at the Izod Center is terrible. Just absolutely miserable. The Nets won this basketball game, and the arena never got louder than a high school gymnasium for a moderately bad-blooded rivalry game. The arena was largely empty, and the fans that were present didn't seem to care about much that was going on while the ball was in play. The "Make Some Noise" graphics got the crowd going a bit, but there wasn't much beyond that. I walked out wondering whether or not there are actually any fans out there that live and die with this Nets team. Having lived in the Tri-State area for the entirety of my life to date, I would really like to think I would have a more definitive answer than "Hey, they could be out there" at this point. I don't.
- Watching the 'Cats play up close only made me more sure of my assessment that Ray Felton should not be playing off the ball in the Charlotte offense. Though he wound up with 8 assists for the game, Felton looked uncomfortable and out of sorts all night at the off-guard spot. He can't shoot the ball from the outside, and playing off of the ball only appears to push him toward looking to shoot more rather than to penetrate and distribute, and the 4-for-12 he shot for the night was indicative of the way things have been going for Felton as of late. Without the ball in his hands, the franchise point guard of the future for this team can't create and can't push the tempo of this game the way he should for a Bobcats team loaded with athleticism. Furthermore, starting Jeff McInnis, Felton, Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace leads to match-up problems defensively for this team. They can end up outsized at four positions with surprising regularity with that lineup on the floor. This makes pushing the tempo (Ray's specialty) that much more important. The current setup isn't good for Felton, and it isn't good for the 'Cats. Jeff McInnis simply isn't enough of a deal-breaking point guard that Sam Vincent should be reshuffling his cards to fit him in to the lineup.
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- Jason Kidd is really good. Seemed like he was having an off night, and then -- bam! -- triple-double: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists. Presto! The man can impact a game in so many ways. Truly a joy to watch each and every time.
- Worth checking the video highlights of this game if you get a chance: Sean Williams gave Emeka Okafor one of the more dynamic facials I have seen in person. Came off of a perfect feed from VC to end a beautiful pick-and-roll to boot. If only it wasn't for the punkish chest-bump of Okafor that Williams threw in at the end of the play, all would have been perfect.
- Classic sign that Charlotte is a young team with a relatively inexperienced coach: trouble scoring after timeouts. With 3:50 left and the Nets on a run to stretch their lead to 10, the 'Cats called time, only to come back to the floor in complete disarray. Jeff McInnis appeared to reset the offense and change the play at least once, and the best look the 'Cats could ultimately get was Gerald Wallace (a poor jump shooter) firing up an off-balance and contested three from the left corner as the shot clock ran down. I wasn't in the huddle, of course, but it seemed fairly evident from the body language of the 'Cats all around that not all of the guys on the floor knew the play that was supposed to be run. Next thing everyone knew, Richard Jefferson was dunking, and the game was on its way out of Charlotte's grasp for good. Execution is key in basketball, and at this level, being able to get a basket -- or at least a good look -- coming out of a timeout is a must. The 'Cats couldn't do it when it mattered most last night.
- Another sign of a lack of focus from the 'Cats: Inattentiveness to detail. Charlotte players threw not one but two lackadaisical inbounds passes from under the Nets' basket that New Jersey picked off over the course of the game. These are the differences between winning and losing.
- Still seems like the rather unheralded Josh Boone adds a nice game to his resume every time I watch him: 6-for-13 shooting, 12 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks, 2 steals. Lots of lay-ups and dunks, and a great screen-and-roll for an uncontested dunk to seal the deal in the game's final two minutes. Plays hard, plays smart.
- The game was a testament to what Vince Carter can do when he is interested and has his head in the game. After a 15-point first quarter, Carter wasn't spectacular, but he did everything he had to do. He hit timely shots, posted up when he had physical mismatches, got to the basket and the foul line and moved the ball smoothly and efficiently. VC didn't force shots and didn't seem to mind playing the secondary role to Richard Jefferson when RJ heated up later on in the night. This led to VC finishing up with a tidy 10-for-19 shooting (and 10-for-14 from the line) for 30 points to go with his 7 boards and 4 assists. I'm no Carter fan, but he did just about everything right this time around.
- Jason Collins still seems to excel at doing nothing.
- Still love Gerald Wallace's game. He isn't a great shooter, and he understands that he has to work at that, but he manages to do just about everything else well. G-Force uses his athleticism to get to the rim with ease, finishes around the rim even with considerable contact, hits foul shots, rebounds and defends very well, especially for a swingman. The dude is 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, yet his athleticism (and, unfortunately, Sam Vincent) allows him to play power forward for this team with some regularity, and for the most part he does a yeoman's job. Wallace kept his team in the game for much of the second half, and observing his continuing growth into a complete player remains one of my favorite parts of watching professional basketball. Last night's performance, complete with 25 points (8-for-15 shooting from the field, 9-for-10 from the line) and 12 rebounds, proved to be just another pleasant step in that growth.