NBA AM: Bobcats Aren’t Laughingstock Anymore

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Bobcats Aren’t Laughingstocks Anymore

Not long ago the Charlotte Bobcats were the recurring butts of daily NBA jokes for their futility. The criticisms, in most cases were warranted, as the team won a combined 28 games during the 2012 and 2013 campaigns. Entering the 2014 season there wasn’t much expected from the franchise, other than another appearance in the annual draft lottery.

But last summer the Bobcats made two moves which didn’t get much mainstream publicity but ultimately paid immediate dividends in the franchise’s efforts to change their culture.

First, the hiring of longtime assistant coach Steve Clifford has seemingly put an end to the revolving door of sideline generals in Charlotte. Clifford  spent last summer working tirelessly implementing his system and securing the all important buy-in from his roster. From rookies to veterans through the halls of the team’s front office, support for Clifford has remained high.

Secondly, the Bobcats opened their wallet and signed free agent big man Al Jefferson to a lucrative three-year $40.5 million deal, finally giving the team an established low post presence to pair with emerging guard Kemba Walker.

The 29 year old Jefferson is averaging 21.5 points and 10.4 rebounds on 51 percent shooting from the field on the season.  But his play after the All-Star break, pushing the Bobcats into playoff contention has been remarkable. Since the mid-season classic Jefferson is averaging 24.5 points on 53 percent shooting.

After winning just 28 games combined the past two campaigns the Bobcats have surged past those results this season with 36 victories already on the mantle.

Jefferson’s recent play earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March after leading the Bobcats to a 9-7 record. Charlotte (36-38) is currently seventh in the Eastern Conference standings and have a slight chance to catch the sixth place Washington Wizards before season’s end.

While the Bobcats’ first round playoff matchup will be a tilt versus either Indiana or Miami as huge underdogs, the fact remains the franchise turned the corner much quicker than most forecasted and the team still has room to grow into even more success.

Currently the franchise has just $41 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for next season. This will allow the franchise to be active on the free agency front or the flexibility to acquire salary via trade for additional assets.

However the rest of the season shakes out the Bobcats have already clinched the second best record in franchise history and in all likelihood the team’s second playoff appearance.

The future is much brighter in Charlotte moving forward, but can they make the necessary moves this summer to climb the Eastern Conference’s ladder even further?

Dwyane Wade Talks Free Agency, Future of Big Three in Miami

The partnership of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James has produced three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and back-to-back titles. Safe to say the experiment has worked tremendously for the Miami HEAT. However, there is an old adage which says all good things must eventually come to an end.

This summer could potentially be the beginning of the end for the union with all members of the trio containing the options to test the free agency market.

Bosh and James are in their respective primes, while there are legitimate questions regarding Wade’s health, specifically his knees, over the long term.

With such a huge free agency decision coming, Wade maintains the trio will come together as a unit to make a decision about their future with the HEAT.

“I’m at a position where I don’t really have to worry about it,” Wade said as part of an upcoming issue of ESPN the Magazine. “I’ve been with the same organization for now 11 years. We’ve won multiple championships, so it’s no reason where I need to think about that yet. I’m not at a point where we are a bad team and I need to think about the future so right now I’m really focused on just enjoying this team, enjoying our quest to try to ‘Three-peat.’ And when the season is over, and whatever happens, then I will sit down and I will sit down with Chris and I will sit down with Bron and I will sit down and make the best decision for myself and my family.”

Wade is averaging 19.2 points per game on the season which is the lowest since his rookie campaign (16.2) in 2004. However the veteran guard is playing strong basketball after the All-Star break averaging 20.3 points on 54 percent shooting.

Wade is on the books for $20.1 million for the 2015 campaign. If Wade chooses to opt-in this summer, he would also have a player option after next season where he could also opt for free agency.

Warriors Players Rallying Around Head Coach Mark Jackson

The Golden State Warriors are on pace for their first 50 win season since the 1993-94 campaign but there are lingering rumors in play which imply head coach Mark Jackson’s job security is decreasing.

On the surface things are looking up for the Golden State franchise. The team’s financial value continues to rise, point guard Stephen Curry finally reached All-Star Status and is an emerging star and the club is on the verge of consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1991 and 1992.

Currently the Warriors are sixth in the Western Conference but are just two and a half games ahead of the ninth place Dallas Mavericks. But the biggest drama surrounding the club these days is the future of Jackson with the franchise amid rumors he’s lost control in the locker room.

Two-time All-Star forward David Lee says those reports are laughable in nature. Lee maintains the Warriors players fully support Jackson and that the team’s chemistry remains solid overall.

“We have one of the best locker rooms, in my opinion, in the whole league,” Lee told Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. “I’ve been on teams that had awful chemistry and the coaching staff is constantly arguing with players and vice versa, and there has been none of that here. The word ‘dysfunction’ (which has been used in the media to describe the Warriors) is one that we’ve been laughing about, almost making a joke out of it, like are you serious?

“We trust Coach Jackson. We trust each other as teammates. There’s not a whole lot else you can worry about. Our chemistry is great. I think that we have a chance to do special things this year, so I’m just not going to let this bother me. We believe in Coach.”

Making the playoffs isn’t a foregone conclusion for Golden State but the team is positioned strongly to outlast the rest of the field. Six of the team’s remaining eight games are versus teams below .500 with Denver (2), Los Angeles (Lakers), Minnesota, Sacramento and Utah on the docket.

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