Bobcats find way to stay in East playoff race
The Bobcats changed coaches after a terrible start and traded
away their only All-Star. Their top scorer has a chronic hamstring
injury and is dangerously close to a one-game suspension.
They played their most recent game without a center and saw
their top two point guards sidelined with injuries in a one-minute
And yet Charlotte has won three straight and sits only a game
out of a playoff spot.
Perhaps it’s only possible in the forgiving bottom half of the
Eastern Conference, but the Bobcats (31-42) are making no apologies
for sticking around in a season that’s featured a little bit of
”It just shows me that the guys really want it. They’re not
going to give up,” coach Paul Silas said Tuesday. ”They’re going
to keep working hard. Everybody’s contributing and that’s what’s
With so few players available, Tuesday’s practice featured
little more than tossing a football around and playing shooting
games. But after somehow pulling out a crucial victory a night
earlier against Milwaukee, Silas felt it was the right time to
With starting center Kwame Brown dealing with a family emergency
and backup Joel Przybilla sidelined with knee pain, the Bobcats had
no centers against the Bucks. They then lost starting point guard
D.J. Augustin (sprained left ankle, bruised right knee) and backup
Shaun Livingston (bruised tailbone) early in the fourth quarter and
fell behind by nine points.
All they did was hold the Bucks scoreless over the final 3:52.
Gerald Henderson, barely used under former coach Larry Brown before
being thrust into the starting lineup when Gerald Wallace was
traded to Portland, scored the game’s final seven points in an
Boris Diaw, who may have to play some point guard Wednesday
against Cleveland if Augustin and Livingston are out, played center
in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee. Stephen Jackson, who said
his left hamstring strain is ”getting better,” had to play power
forward and avoided a suspension-inducing 16th technical foul of
Dante Cunningham, a bit player in Portland before being acquired
in the Wallace deal, played in crunch time. Garrett Temple, who was
in the NBA Development League earlier this month, played the final
10 minutes at point guard and hit a big 3-pointer.
Temple, who had been on a second 10-day contract, was signed for
the remainder of the season just before the game.
”I guess it was a good move because we needed a third point
guard,” he said.
The win kept the Bobcats a game behind eighth-place Indiana in
the East and moved them two ahead of 10th place Milwaukee. The
resurgence came after an embarrassing 23-point home loss to the
Pacers last week left many thinking owner Michael Jordan’s team was
out of the postseason equation.
”Obviously, it took a lot of wind out of our sails,” Henderson
But two nights later, Charlotte staged a stirring comeback with
Jackson sidelined to become the first East team to win at Boston. A
victory over New York followed a day later before another
improbable comeback against the Bucks makes the playoffs possible
”I’ve seen crazier things happen,” Jackson said.
The volatile Jackson sure has in his well documented career. But
Jackson has also effectively led this team after the Wallace trade
stunned the team.
”I’ve been on five NBA teams and I think this is the most
close-knit group,” Temple said. ”We have team barbecues.
Everybody jokes around with each other. We’re laughing in the
”When you go into battle you want people that you’re close with
and that you know have your back. And we’re going through a battle
right now trying to get this eighth playoff spot.”
The Bobcats have nine games left and the Pacers seven. Indiana
holds the tiebreaker, so the Bobcats need to make up two games and
get healthy quick. Augustin is hoping to play Wednesday and Kwame
Brown is expected back.
It would just be another obstacle to overcome for a franchise in
which even the support staff gets hurt. Assistant coach Charles
Oakley has been away from the team for nearly two weeks with a
severe back injury. Play-by-play announcer Steve Martin is in a
”I think,” Silas said, ”we have a pretty good shot of doing