By doing most everything wrong, the Charlotte Bobcats managed to prove their coach right.
They really weren't ready to play.
Coach Larry Brown had said as much two days before this season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But even in his darkest mood, it's hard to imagine Brown anticipating what happened in a 96-79 loss Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena.
They shot horribly (34 percent from the field). They rebounded meekly (a 46-34 deficit). They allowed the Cavaliers to score 22 fast-break points.
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Even when they showed a smidgen of fight in the third quarter, “those old habits came right back into play,” forward Gerald Wallace said, and they shrunk into the night.
Certainly the Cavaliers, favorites to win the Central Division, had something to do with this. Small forward LeBron James assembled a near-triple double (22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists) and Daniel Gibson scored 25 off the bench.
It's hard to miss all the ways the Bobcats decomposed. They opened the game by shooting 1-of-11 from the field. Two of the starters – power forward Sean May and point guard Raymond Felton – finished the game a combined 1-of-16.
Brown hopefully suggested before the game that his team's preseason shooting – 38 percent in losing all eight exhibitions – was an aberration. Not so, from what transpired in the first half.
May was particularly ineffective, missing all six of his shots and laboring up the court in 15 forgettable minutes. The conditioning problems continue, following last season's knee surgery, and Brown suggested it's unfair to keep trying to play him even this little until that improves.
“I didn't think he was ready to play. He can't get out on screens and he doesn't have lift right now,” Brown said. “Somehow, some way, we've got to get his weight down.”
Brown spent the preseason pounding on the importance of better shot selection. Clearly it didn't register, as the Bobcats shot 3-of-12 from 3-point range and kept jacking up quick, ill-conceived attempts.
“We just kept forcing up jump shots, which means we're not putting any pressure on the other team” to guard, said Wallace (13 points and five rebounds before fouling out). “That's just leaving them to run free.”
Free and easy – something the Bobcats have yet to experience, once they stopped guarding each other in training camp.