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Blogcat's Take, 1/24

I would rather recap a man being forced at gunpoint to drink from a toilet for 48 minutes than recap last night’s Hornets-Cavs game. It was the nightmare apotheosis of how I fear every Charlotte game is actually going to turn out, and I’m frankly stunned that it doesn’t happen more often. Because the Hornets cannot shoot, there’s an air of flukiness to every one of their wins, as well as a sense that they’re really just frauds who are managing to forestall an inevitable downward spiral. Thus I approach any opponent who features multiple All-Stars and a high-powered offense (e.g., Cleveland) like a recovering drug addict approaches an all-expenses paid trip to Bonnaroo; it’s a potential fall-off-the-wagon incident that could lead to an annihilating descent to the gutter. Let’s hope this blowout was just a bad one-night bender and not the beginning of a full-blown relapse that exposes our team’s true nature.

Oh, and since to my relief I see that we’re not playing the Cavs again this year, I just want to insert my annual denouncement of the Cleveland announce team—specifically play-by-play man Fred McLeod. The dude is SO irritating...so, so irritating. Most people who hate the Cleveland announce team cite analyst Austin Carr as the reason, basically because he doesn’t analyze anything and just recites corny catchphrases. And while that’s sound logic on paper, it’s incorrect in reality. McLeod is the actual reason that the Cleveland announce team should be muted faster than a Penthouse Forum letter read aloud by the Pope. Of course there’s a cosmic level of Homerism from McLeod, but what really sets him apart is the over-the-top screaming that comes out of his hole with practically every Cavaliers basket. And because many Cleveland baskets end up being the product of genuinely spectacular LeBron James athleticism, McLeod has lately unsheathed new levels of banshee horror. If you don’t believe me, just listen the next time a Cleveland highlight reel is on ESPN or NBA TV—one of those scenarios in which they’re narrating the highlights but you can still hear the original TV announcers in the background. I don’t even need to tell you to listen closely; if McLeod was calling the game, after every Cleveland basket it will sound like some guy in the next room is getting his testicles microwaved.

Turning to other media criticism, this has been a terrible week for the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell. On the 17th, he shat an article called “Five Key Factors For Charlotte Hornets To Reach NBA Playoffs.” First of all, does he really need to specify that he’s referring to the NBA playoffs? As if the Hornets are also in the hunt for the NHL playoffs or the Europa League. But that’s not really my problem with the article. My problem is those aforementioned five factors, which are (in summary): 1) return to health; 2) find a role for Lance Stephenson; 3) survive a 5-game road trip in March; 4) “feast on the East,” specifically the 6 remaining games the Hornets have against the worst of the Eastern Conference; and 5) what Bonnell refers to as “beat your peers,” which are the 8 games still to play against Miami, Detroit, Indiana and Brooklyn. Okay, there’s nothing really wrong with the first two points, other than being blindingly obvious to even the most casual and mentally feeble fan of the team (especially at the time Bonnell wrote this, when Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, and Stephenson were all out with injuries). But look again at points 3-5. In the article, Bonnell expands on those points by stipulating that the Hornets need to go at least 2-3 on that March road trip, 4-2 in that “feast on the East,” and play .500 against their peers. In other words, according to Bonnell, in order for the Hornets to make the playoffs, they need to...win a bunch of games. Well thanks, Rick, for that analysis. To recap: in order to qualify for the Chase For The Sprint Cup—sorry, I mean the NBA Playoffs—the Hornets need their three best players to get healthy and play better, and they also need to win the majority of their remaining games.

Rick wasn’t done analyzing though; he got even more anal on Tuesday with this beauty: “A Faster Pace Served the Hornets Well in Center Al Jefferson’s 9-game Absence.” Besides having another catchy, short-but-sweet title, the article is all about how...well, it’s all there in the title, actually. But let me do a quick paragraph-by-paragraph summary:

· Paragraph 1: Without Jefferson, the Hornets had to try something new on offense
· Paragraph 2: What they tried was increasing the pace, and it worked (“work” being defined as a 6-2 record)
· Paragraph 3: It worked so well that the Hornets are considering maintaining a fast pace even with Jefferson back
· Paragraph 4-6: Extended quote from Kemba Walker on the benefits of playing fast
· Paragraph 7-9: Explanation that the Hornets’ particular brand of fast pace means moving the ball quickly past half-court
· Paragraph 10: Observation that although the Hornets have played faster, they haven’t increased their turnovers on a per game basis
· Paragraph 11: Quote from Brian Roberts on the benefits of playing fast
· Paragraph 12-14: Extended quote from coach Clifford on how playing faster is really just one component of his overall strategy of trying to emulate the San Antonio Spurs

Okay, why did I just put everybody—most of all myself—through that? To point out that in a 14-paragraph article about how the Hornets increased their pace, there is not one mention of what the previous pace had been and what it became. You might have thought I was omitting it in the summary; I was not. There is not a single sentence that says something like, “Before Jefferson was hurt, the Hornets averaged X seconds per possession, and since his injury they’ve averaged Y seconds per possession.” Or a mention of how possessions-per-game have gone up. Or anything at all quantifying a rate of movement. Bonnell doesn’t even anecdotally mention an example of how the Hornets had increased their speed of play. In fact, the only evidence that Bonnell seemed to have that the Hornets were playing at a faster pace is because a couple of players and the coach told him so.

Look, I’m a numbers guy...probably to a fault. But I’m not Asperger’s about it. I don’t think less of Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car” because the lyrics never specify the make, model, and 0-to-60 time of her supposedly fast car. But if you’re going to write an article in a newspaper to inform the public about how the Hornets pace has increased, some sort of inclusion of a measurement of a pace increase seems warranted. The problem for poor Rick is that game pace data doesn’t come in a standard box score. And if data is not available for Rick in a box score, then it might as well be buried beneath Hogwarts, because he is NEVER going to look for it. So I went to the obscure website NBA.com and took a look myself. Now, believe me, I was DYING for the data to show that the Hornets’ pace had decreased during the Jefferson injury. Alas, through Jefferson’s injury on December 29th, the Hornets averaged 94.8 possessions per 48 minutes. During the games he was injured, the Hornets averaged 96.4 possessions per game. So they were indeed faster...although is that 1.8 possession difference even significant? Again, going deeper into the catacombs of the uncharted frontiers of NBA.com, one can gaze upon the heretofore unearthed rankings of pace-per-48 minutes. The fastest team in the league is Golden State at 101.1. The slowest team is Miami at 91.7, a difference of just under 10 possessions. So it’s debatable that the difference in the Hornets pace was even all that significant and not just random noise. Whatever. The point is, we as Hornets fans were underserved by the local paper’s coverage of the team this week.

But in a way, I’m thankful for Bonnell, because the annoyance he caused me also allowed me to momentarily set aside my extreme distaste for McLeod's announcing. That guy, man, let me tell you...

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    Should just say they need a legit starting Center, who's 7'0"... Every top team in the NBA is starting a 7'0" Center

    Ugh, I'm just listening to this week's "This American Life" about internet trolls, and I sound like dangerously close to some of them here. I hope no one actually thinks I have "lethal hatred" for beat reporters or Cleveland announcers. I swear I don't. They're just annoying, that's all. From now on I promise to not even write the word "hate" unless it's for things that truly ARE hateful, like Nazis or Dwyane Wade flops.

    the other problem with the team's pace aside from al-fense which apparently = 1.8 possessions, is that aside from kemba and the occasional mkg or hendo drive, nobody wants to shoot. ever. it is like pulling teeth with these guys to get them to shoot or dribble/shoot. sub in competent offensive players around kemba and the pace would definitely go up.