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Postseason Report Card -- Paul Silas & the Coaching Staff

Or as I like to call him, Paul Smilas.

Well, he didn't play any minutes on the court for a team with a very weak frontcourt, so I'm very concerned about his future on the team.

Wait, I'm reviewing his season as the Bobcats head coach? Oh, that's completely different.

Let's begin, shall we?

(Also, my apologies for the lateness of this post. I did not expect to work 6 double shifts at work this week since Monday)

It's fantastic to go from a coach that had little to no faith in the team, as Stephen Jackson says (which I don't have a hard time believing), to one that exudes confidence in all of his players and has a positive attitude.

He came in after Larry Brown, um, "stepped down" as the head coach. Along with Larry Brown, the rest of the coaching staff went as well. Enter head coach Paul Smilas. Enter assistant coaches Stephen Silas, Charles Oakley and Ralph Lewis.

Silas had been considered for the previous Bobcats coaching opening prior to Larry Brown, before the Bobcats settled on Sam Vincent (*shudders*). And nearly four years later, he finally was offered the gig by the only team he wanted to coach.

With the hire, there were still many questions at the time. Paul is no spring chicken and clocks in at 67 years young, even though his smile and often jovial personality makes him seem much younger (note to self: smile and be happy when you're old). Still, he's had problems with his health. Further, there was the question of the roster. Silas, a guy who likes his big men to rebound and score in the post, was going to have to work with Boris Diaw, Tyrus Thomas, Nazr Mohammed, DeSagana Diop and Kwame Brown. I'm sure he was drooling at the opportunity to coach such a deep frontcourt. Whereas the Bobcats had built a team to Larry Brown's liking, that formula does not exactly include many great shooters or presences in the post. And after Jackson, Thomas and Diop went out with injury and Gerald Wallace and Mohammed were traded, he was left with even less to work with.

But give the coaching staff credit: they made a better team than Larry Brown did, and with much less talent, due to injuries and trades. They turned Kwame Brown from a bumbling center with bad hands into a more confident bumbling center with bad hands. Well, maybe that doesn't truly portray the transformation of Kwame Brown best, but he did perform well for the Bobcats, who were (and still are) in a rough situation at center.

D.J. Augustin felt closed off by Brown and rarely talked to the hall of fame coach, which reflects very poorly upon the relationship between the starting point guard and head coach. And considering that generally speaking, the point guard is an extension of the head coach onto the court, that's not a good thing. The differences between Brown and Silas are vast and contrasting. Chief among these is their respective openness with the players. One can watch any game from Larry Brown's time with the Bobcats and see how he teaches during the game. He barks at players and is very curt, which is not best for most young players. On the other hand, Silas is nurturing and guiding. He'll get his points across, but he won't beat players up for mistakes. It seems that Silas does a great job of developing young players and getting everyone to maximize their ability.

As far as rotations, Silas mostly goes with a combination of talent and the hot hand. Silas as a coach is pretty easy-going with his substitutions. He may let Stephen Jackson try to shoot out of a slump, especially since Jackson is the premier offensive option for the Bobcats, or he'll trust a player to control his fouls if they pick up a couple quick ones. But if things look like they're quickly going sour, he'll swap said player out. Once the talent level across the board for the Bobcats decreased and leveled out due to trades and injuries, Silas' rotations mostly began to depend on who was playing better. Towards the end of the season, it would not be unusual to see Shaun Livingston play out the final quarter over Augustin if Livingston was in his rhythm hitting shots. Same went for Dante Cunningham and D.J. White. Both showed similar offensive skill sets with their midrange shooting but Cunningham seemed to get the nod for simply shooting better and scoring at a better clip.

I'm no expert on the X's and O's of the sport (yet - I'm working on it), but I think I can confidently say the team looked quite simple under Silas both on offense and defense. The Bobcats' success revolved around ball movement to get good looks as the team has no player who can really create their shot at will in isolation. With this lack of offensive creativity from a single player, Silas turns to the players to make crisp passes to find space and the open man. And this is where Silas' encouragement to shoot when open must pay dividends. By rule, the most efficient jump shot (that isn't a free throw) is an unguarded one, of course. But hesitation can ruin the spacing and timing for these shots, so the players must trust that Silas knows what he's doing in advocating every guy to shoot when they're free from their defender. To create this space, Silas depends on penetration from his point guard or premier offensive player to draw defenders and then pass to teammates finding room to make sharp cuts to the basket or those whose defender has been drawn to help defense, thereby leaving the Bobcats player open for a midrange jumper or what have you. The lack of a true scoring threat for much of his short tenure as the Bobcats head coach so far leaves Paul with few options on offense when opposing defenses can key upon D.J. Augustin or Boris Diaw or Gerald Henderson to stifle the offense's most potent scorers. Outside of lacking scoring punches, Silas' other problem was turnovers. Considering the offense was already as un-potent as un-potent gets, mistakes needed to be minimized. But that requirement does not exactly work well when the trade deadline takes out half the team and chemistry must be readjusted with 25 or so games left in the season. So the team made mistakes and miscommunications that led to lost offensive possessions and turnovers that turned into points for the opponents. Regardless, by the end of the season, Silas had taken a team that had 29 turnovers against the Wizards, lost many players to injury and trades and came out with a squad that would fairly often keep turnovers at or below 10 giveaways. And although Silas says he wanted to turn the team more uptempo, they didn't force many turnovers, which would increase fastbreak opportunities. Rather, the team depended on outlet passing off of missed shots and long rebounds to run out. But even then they wouldn't get the fastbreak opportunities much.

As for defense, the team mostly sticks to man defense. I imagine assistant coach Charles Oakley would throw his chair on the court if the Bobcats ran zone defense consistently in the halfcourt. However, the team lacked great defenders for much of Silas' time in Charlotte. With Jackson and Tyrus out and Wallace traded, Gerald Henderson, Boris Diaw and Shaun Livingston became the team's best defenders. Despite this, Silas ratcheted up the defense above levels Larry Brown set in prior months, where a lazy team unrecognizable from the Charlotte Bobcats of 2009-10 half-heartedly loafed around the court on defense. With Silas creating a new environment, players looked like they cared much more than under LB's short-lived time with 2010-11 Bobcats. They closed out much better than before and didn't allow nearly as many three pointers. But even with the resurgence of Kwame Brown, the Bobcats lacked a rebounding presence. Boris Diaw is no rebound machine, to say the least, which hurts as he's labeled a power forward. The interior defense lacked, especially guarding quickness, which Diaw and Kwame are poor defending. As I noted above, the Bobcats didn't force many turnovers, which makes sense considering the lack of defensive playmakers.

On the whole, Paul Silas took a seemingly uncaring squad that seemed doomed for the bottom of the lottery and turned the ship around, nearly making the playoffs. Even with a roster short on healthy guys and utilizing young inexperienced players, Silas made do, getting more out of this team than most. If I were to award MVP of the Bobcats 2010-2011 season to someone, it would be Paul Silas.

Stephen Silas

His pa calls him "The Encyclopedia" for his extensive knowledge of the game, sets, trends, tendencies, etc. From what I understand, Stephen is the epitome of what people call a "student of the game." Constantly studying the ins and outs basketball, Stephen has been involved in the intricacies of the sport beginning as a scout for the Charlotte Hornets. As an assistant for Don Nelson at Golden State, Stephen learned much from Nelson about plays and sets. But there is more to Stephen Silas' coaching than just his deep knowledge of the sport. He also has a great rapport with players, making himself available to every player for collaboration. As Stephen Jackson said about Stephen Silas' chances as a head coach in the NBA: "Won't be long, because there aren't many smarter about this game."

Charles Oakley

I have to say I was a bit unsure about the hire of Oak as an assistant coach. As many people know, Charles Oakley is Michael Jordan's right hand man and best bud. Was this MJ just getting his pal a gig because they were friends or was it because Oakley was one of the best candidates for the job? As it would turn out, he was an excellent selection. The Bobcats' frontcourt definitely does not fit to Silas or Oakley's optimal wishes (strong post players), but they didn't have much choice. With Silas and Oakley working with Kwame Brown, they built his self-confidence back up and Oakley worked with him to get stronger, turning him into a serviceable starter for the Bobcats for his time as the starter for the team.

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