The Charlotte Bobcats are now 5-2 since switching coaches. And that is not a coincidence according to the Bobcats' players, who clearly prefer Paul Silas' style to that of Larry Brown.
"The mood is calmer, guys are more relaxed," forward and co-captain Gerald Wallace said. "They're more enjoyable to be around now that everybody isn't moody anymore. Guys are hanging out after practice, just laughing and joking. The atmosphere is totally difference."
Charlotte's other co-captain, guard Stephen Jackson, echoed Wallace's sentiment.
"Everybody's confidence is high right now," Jackson said. "Give all our thanks to coach. He's got everybody feeling good about playing basketball again. Sometimes changes do that."
Point guard D.J. Augustin has seemed to benefit the most from the coaching change that was made after the Bobcats fell to 9-19. Augustin admittedly was pressing in an effort to replace Raymond Felton, who left for the Knicks as a free agent last summer. While Brown was often critical of Augustin, Silas has told him to relax to take the shot whenever he is open.
"He's having fun," Wallace said of Augustin. "He's being himself, the guy we knew he could be. He's relaxed. He's back to smiling and having fun. That's the D.J. we were used to, the D.J. we like to see."
Smith Not Worried About Magic's Post Depth
The Orlando Magic have been down a big man ever since trading backup center Marcin Gortat to the Phoenix Suns last month. However, general manager Otis Smith is in no rush to find a replacement for Gortat, especially considering the Magic are on a nine-game winning streak.
"Why do I need one?" Smith told the Orlando Sentinel. "Look, if I wanted a big, I could get a big. A lot depends on what's available. I'm not going to bring anybody in here just to have a body. I'd rather work with guys who know our system and how we do things."
It was generally assumed that Orlando would acquire a backup center to spell center Dwight Howard for 8-10 minutes a game. However, power forward Ryan Anderson, who had been all but forgotten before Gortat was traded, has scored in double figures in six of the last seven games. When Anderson enters the game for Howard, power forward Brandon Bass shifts to the pivot. Anderson is not a physical player but can stretch defenses with his outside shooting ability.
"Why do (other Southeast Conference teams) have all those bigs? To match up with Dwight," Smith said. "When he's not in, we're going to play a different way."
Veteran power forward Malik Allen is also expected to see some minutes at center once he recovers from a severely sprained ankle.
James, Wade Pile Up Blocks
The Miami Heat's dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade isn't usually considered game changers on defense. Yet James recorded his 500th career blocked shot last week and Wade is getting close to that milestone with 457. They rank 36th and 37th in the NBA in blocks since entering the league in 2003-04.
James' 6'8" listing is legitimate. However, Wade's official height of 6'4" is very generous, which makes his block total impressive.
"I take a lot of pride even though a lot of people give me stuff on the team, because I get a lot of weak-side blocks and things of that nature," Wade said. "But I still get 'em."
The Houston Rockets' Shane Battier is the only perimeter player who has more blocks over the last eight seasons. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra certainly enjoys the defense James and Wade provide, particular since his team does not have a strong defensive presence inside.
"Instead of shaping your defense where you always have a big, they've earned the confidence of their teams to leave them back there, where they can make possession-saving blocks at the rim," Spoelstra said. "We've seen it so many times with Dwyane and LeBron. They're so competitive with that will, they want to impact every single possession. Those plays at the rim are spectacular plays that only a few can make. They have the athletic ability, one, but also the timing and the effort to make those plays."
Love and Twitter
Free speech lives. Kevin Love is back on Twitter.
The Minnesota Timberwolves forward has dusted off his Twitter account and is tweeting again after an absence of about a year. Love said he stopped because it was being looked at unfavorably by some Timberwolves' executives, including Fred Hoiberg, who left the organization last summer to become head coach at Iowa State, his alma mater.
"Guys like Freddy Hoiberg would call me up and say, 'Tweet this,' or 'Don't tweet that,'" Love said. "They were always bugging me about Twitter. I said, 'Whatever happened to the First Amendment?'"
Love did not hesitate to exercise his right to free speech again. One of his recent targets was Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis and his new haircut. Love tweeted: "(Same Great Clips) hair cut as Randy aka 'Freakshow' from the movie 'Harold and Kumar.'
Love was once a prolific tweeter and broke the story that Kevin McHale would not return as the Timberwolves' coach. He is glad to be back in the Twittersphere.
"It was about time," Love said. "It's a good way to connect with the fans. It's good because everybody's on Twitter."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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