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Losing to the Pacers--and A Thought on Shared Responsibility

Dude. Seriously. The bench shouldn't be so bad that the Indiana Pacers would thoroughly outplay them. But that's what I see in the box score. That, and a bunch of missed free throws (Emeka, especially, at 4-11). And getting outrebounded 52-37. That'll lead to a 98-93 loss.

We can break this down between starters and bench.

Gerald was abysmal from the field, going 1-8, but making up some of that suck by going 8-8 from the charity stripe. Diaw scored 18, but needed 19 shots to do it. He also missed two free throws in the final minute. Zero turnovers for Boris is awesome. Raymond went 4-11 from the field, tallying only 9 points, but he did get 12 assists to only 2 turnovers. That's neither spectacular nor embarrassing. Raja got 18 points on 14 shots in 38 minutes, but didn't rebound or create much. He seems pretty settled into his jump-shooting role. And then there's Emeka, who finished with 14/8 in 31 minutes, but that was marred by 4-11 on free throws.

As for the bench, DeSagana Diop was the only semi-bright spot, with 8 points on 4-5 shooting. Maybe you could put Juwan Howard's workmanlike 6 points and 4 boards in that category, too. The thing is, no one on the Bobcats had an extraordinary game, while a couple guys on the Pacers did.

Danny Granger will be the story, but he didn't exactly go off. He played about 38 minutes, scored 27, grabbed 6 rebounds and had 3 assists. Per 36 minutes this season, Granger's scoring 25, rebounding 5, and dishing 3. It was a typical Danny Granger game. Unfortunately, Jeff Foster and Troy Murphy dominated on rebounds. Murphy was right around his per 36 average this year, pulling down 14 in 38 minutes, but Foster well exceeded his average, with 13 rebounds, 10 offensive(!), in only 31 minutes. Given that rebounding discrepancy, especially the 19-10 advantage on the offensive glass, plus the Cats' free throw woes, it's no wonder Indiana won a close game.

This is why the Bobcats' absolute ceiling is the 6 seed. In conventional terms, they don't have a go-to guy. I conceive of the issue as an extension of the shared responsibility flaw. Currently, the offense runs through both Raymond and Boris. The scoring options have no clear hierarchy, though Gerald, Raja, and Boris seem to be higher than Raymond and Emeka. But Raymond is entrusted to take crunch time shots. It's confusing.

Essentially, in some systems, sharing responsibility like that is a bad thing. When there is one goal, sometimes it's better for the job to be assigned to one person instead of two or more, because that way, there is no ambiguity about who is responsible for what.

Imagine you and I have been assigned to share responsibility for checking a voicemail box's messages every day. If we share responsibility equally, it's very easy for each of us to tell ourselves the other person will check the voicemail. Messages will be missed.

Such is NBA ball, too. Instead of Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Adam Morrison, or whoever, knowing he's got to take the team on his back and score some points--and it should also be noted that upon his teammates acknowledging that time has come, they should work all-out to get that guy going--we have a situation where the Bobcats defer to an unknown other to take responsibility for leading the charge. If they don't know whose responsibility that is, everyone will think it's likely someone else's.

(This is also why it's very difficult to teach people how to play zone defense effectively. When people first start playing it, their default attitude is to revel in the apparent lack of responsibility. Effective zone requires that everyone be alert to his potential responsibilities at all times and work hard to ensure he chooses the correct one at any given moment, which means paying attention to the big picture beyond just the left wing, or the space between the blocks, or whatever.)

The Celtics have a "Big Three", but they still have a hierarchy, going to Pierce when they absolutely need a score. Everyone knows Kobe is ahead of Gasol and Odom and everyone else in the Lakers' hierarchy. The Magic put the ball in Hedo Turkoglu's hands to get things done. The Blazers depend on Brandon Roy. Maybe those teams and their management don't think about such things explicitly this way, but it certainly seems to work out like that quite a bit.

I nominate Gerald to be The Man. If you've read the FD Macrophenomenal, you know LeBron's the only human able to score gamewinning shots in the paint regularly, but Gerald might be next on the list of guys best able to get crunch time scores via slashing.