When Larry Brown resigned as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats last month he left the team in a state of disarray. Not that it was entirely his fault, of course. The roster moves made (or not made) over the summer didn't exactly inspire confidence from either the fan base or NBA pundits across the country. Still, a new voice and a new direction can sometimes change the fortunes of a team, and in the case of the Bobcats new head coach Paul Silas has been a real godsend.
Silas seemed to come out of the blue when his name was announced as Brown's replacement. Health issues had taken him out of the coaching ranks, many thought permanently. Yet here he came, and just in time to change the fortunes of the struggling Bobcats.
First and foremost, point guard DJ Augustin has benefited from the coaching change more than any other player on the team. Instead of hearing Brown's voice limiting him and barking at him, he has been given basically complete freedom from Silas to go out and play freely, scoring at will and calling the shots he sees in the heat of the moment. As a result, Augustin is averaging 19.9 points and 7.1 assists per game in eight contests under Silas, with the team winning six of those games. The Bobcats had won just two of their previous eight games (against some of the same opponents, it's worth noting), with Augustin averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists over that stretch. The point guard, it's often said, is an extension of the coach on the floor, and Augustin is clearly a better extension of Silas than he ever was of Brown.
When Bobcats president Michael Jordan signed Kwame Brown this season many thought he was just making good for a player he drafted a little too high when he was running the show in Washington. Larry Brown didn't seem too interested in playing him, and when he did play he didn't play particularly well. The injury to Gana Diop, whom Silas used extensively right off the bat, meant an opening for Kwame, and he's making the most of it. Silas has him starting, and over the six starts Brown is averaging 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds. Not All-Star numbers, by any means, but those numbers are well above his career averages and he's helping the Bobcats hold down the middle. It no doubt helps that he now has assistant coach Charles Oakley breathing down his back.
Larry Brown is also infamous for not playing rookies, and that was certainly the case with Duke alum Gerald Henderson. After seeing mostly garbage time minutes as a rookie last season, Henderson wasn't seeing much more than that this season until Gerald Wallace went down with an ankle injury. Even then, it was spot duty, at best. Another significant change Silas implemented was to make Henderson a consistent part of the rotation, and over the eight-game stretch he's averaging 7.3 points, including a 19-point, 9-rebound effort against the Wizards last weekend. The Bobcats are balling on a budget, and that means making the most of everyone on the roster. That's just what Silas is doing with Henderson, who clearly has a lot to offer.
Last night Wallace returned from his ankle injury, finding his team on the rise with five wins in seven tries. With Wallace back in the mix the Bobcats rang up their most impressive win yet, handing the Chicago Bulls a 96-91 loss.
When Larry Brown stepped away from the Bobcats they seemed destined for the lottery. They had lost eight of their last ten games and seemed doomed to another year without a postseason run. Now, with Silas at the helm, the team is quickly turning things around. They've won six of their last eight games, and with Wallace back in the mix they have taken ownership of the East's eighth seed and are just one game behind the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers. Things are looking up in Charlotte . . .and all because a blast-from-the-past coach stepped in with a belief in his players and a determination to win.
they might make the playoffs after all, but unless they add some major pieces and Jordan suddenly transforms from being a bust executive, they're stuck being a fringe playoff spot contending team