Basketball

Bonnell: Bobcats leave little wiggle room

The problem with guaranteed contracts is they're so, well, guaranteed.

Pithy as that sounds, it sums up the Charlotte Bobcats' immediate roster challenge.

New coach Larry Brown said the day before training camp that the roster needed tweaking. He wanted a reliable-veteran third point guard, another wing defender and more big men he could depend on to rebound and guard.

So far the sole step in that direction was keeping Andre Brown, a rugged if limited power forward. He's the only guy on this team's 15-man roster who wasn't guaranteed money entering training camp.

The majority of NBA contracts are guaranteed for performance entering training camp. In fact, there's a date at midseason when all contracts are guaranteed for the rest of the season.

But if you're going to lock in that many positions entering camp, you either make sure the roster suits your coach or be willing to eat a contract or two to fine-tune.

And that's where the Bobcats have a problem.

It's clear from how Brown managed minutes in the exhibitions that he has misgivings about Ryan Hollins and Jermareo Davidson as rotation players. It's also apparent that while Shannon Brown is a spectacular athlete, he's a reach to play point guard at the NBA level.

If you flip through the fan forums out there on the Web, the answer is simple: Cut 'em, and while you're at it, cut Sean May and most everyone else following a winless preseason.

Of course, that's classic OPM reasoning, as in the joy of spending Other People's Money.

In fact, the Bobcats are practicing such austerity that they laid off 35 or so employees just before training camp. Basketball operations were spared, but you can see how the general manager might be reluctant to cut someone with a six-figure guarantee.

“There is some wiggle room,'' GM Rod Higgins said Thursday, “but you have to make sure that you're addressing something the team really needs.

“Every team is different,'' Higgins continued. “We're trying to stay in certain parameters – whether it's a roster issue or a budget issue. Salary cap, luxury tax – all those things come into play.''

Translation: If you're waiting for the Bobcats to spend like the Lakers or the Knicks, you're living in some alternative dimension.Despite those circumstances, they loaded up on guarantees, whether through re-signings (Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll) or trades (Jason Richardson and Nazr Mohammed). Each of those decisions could be justified individually. But as a group, they leave little margin for error.

Now they've hired a Hall of Fame coach who's never shy about asking to have input on the roster. If you're 68 and you've won a title in the NBA and the NCAA, you've earned that input.

Tight as money is for this NBA team, there's got to be room to fill some of Brown's prescriptions.

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