The Big Picture: So begins the most difficult stretch of the season for the Charlotte Bobcats. Over the next nine days, the Cats will play six road games in western states, and though only one of them, the Utah Jazz, has even an inkling of championship hope at the moment, none of them looks to be an easy game, starting with tonight's game against the Sacramento Kings.
Imagine, for a moment, that the Bobcats had Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. Dancing in the streets. Visions of two superstars anchoring title runs for the next decade (beginning in 2012, when they really get their footing and start putting it together). Reality may not be so generous, but the mere possibility of pairing early-career Grant Hill with mid-late-career Chris Webber would blow my mind. Any team given the chance to develop those two talents ought to embrace that challenge and the chance for seemingly-perpetual glory.
But while those guys are supremely talented, the Kings haven't quite figured out how the pieces fit together, and they've got other players from previous experiments still on the roster who don't necessarily help 'Reke and Boogie. Additionally, it appears management is struggling with the truth that they run the team on the consent of the players, and until the franchise gets all that sorted out, Evans and Cousins are less likely to reach their peaks with their current club.
Musical Interlude: Wanda Jackson -- "Thunder on the Mountain"
Key to Victory: If D.J. Augustin gets matched up on Evans for most of the game, I'll be watching their back and forth all night. Evans is 6-4 without shoes, and Augustin, apparently, didn't submit to public measurement in the runup to his draft, so we'll call him 5-10. Does Evans have much of a post-up game? We'll see.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Maurice Jones-Drew, one of many who criticized Jay Cutler for not playing the second half of the NFC Championship Game through a sprained MCL... missed the final two games of the season with a knee injury, when the Jaguars' still had a chance at the playoffs. Lesson: Accusing elite athletes of "softness" or "wimping out" is more likely to make you look a fool than righteous.