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2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats Preview

Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats are still stuck in a Larry Brown hangover, failing to follow up on the back Paul Silas.

When Brown's shelf life in the Queen City expired in December last season, Silas spent most of his time putting out fires. Now the former rebounding machine will be given every opportunity to put his stamp on the club.

Entering last season Charlotte leaned on two proven commodities that have since exited, Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace, along with defensive-minded center Kwame Brown, who signed with Golden State as a free-agent.

The reset button was hit in June and the Bobcats began the rebuilding process with two top 10 draft picks, projected Congolese defensive stopper Bismack Biyombo along with former UConn superstar Kemba Walker.

One-half of Charlotte's new equation was not expected to be available this season. Biyombo actually sued his Spanish team Fuenlabrada for breach of contract and the right to play in the NBA season but the courts and FIBA originally sided with Fuenlabrada. Biyombo, however, reached in his own pocket and paid a $1 million buyout and the 6-foot-9 shot blocking specialist will be available.

Of course that doesn't help the offense and with limited assets at that end of the floor Silas expects to play up-tempo small ball with the 6-foot-8 Boris Diaw slated to start in the middle and Walker pushing D.J. Augustin at the point.

"We can look at it two ways," the coach said when talking about his projected undersized lineup. "There are some negatives as far as defense and rebound and things like that with Boris in there. But there are some positives too. If Boris is in, the (other) center has to guard him. We want to run and I don't know of those centers will be able to get up and down the court."

2010-11 Results: 34-48, fourth in Southeast. Missed playoffs.

ADDITIONS: G Kemba Walker, F Corey Maggette, F Bismack Biyombo, G Reggie Williams, F Derrick Brown.

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- D.J. Augustin SG- Gerald Henderson SF- Corey Maggette PF- Tyrus Thomas C- Boris Diaw

KEY RESERVES: G Kemba Walker, C DeSagana Diop, F Eduardo Najera, G/F Reggie Williams, C Byron Mullens, F Bismack Biyombo, F Derrick Brown

FRONTCOURT: Diaw brings the type of passing and shooting ability that can really make a Princeton-type offense go from the pivot. His consistency from night to night has always been a problem, however, and he obviously doesn't have the size, bulk or temperament to hold up on the glass or at the defensive end.

Tyrus Thomas, who signed a five-year $40 million deal last summer, has all the physical tools you look for at the power forward spot. An excellent interior defender, Thomas will be asked to make up for a lot of Diaw's deficiencies on the block.

Corey Maggette is a nice offensive player and the best proven scoring threat at Silas' disposal thanks to his ability to create off the dribble and get to the foul line. That said, when Maggette is your No. 1 offensive option things aren't looking very good.

BACKCOURT: Augustin has developed into a more than serviceable point but he is just holding down things until the dynamic Walker is ready. Augustin's jumper is not quite there and he lacks a certain swagger that basically defines Walker as a player.

Gerald Henderson has shown signs in limited opportunities and brings a high basketball IQ, a winning mentality from college and solid, if not spectacular on-court skills to the table.

BENCH: Walker, who basically carried UConn to a National Championship last season, is undersized but exudes self-confidence and has the skills to torch any defense. In fact, Jordan was reportedly the driving force in selecting Walker since he saw some of his own alpha-dog personality in him.

Walker isn't a true point, but the game is changing and he certainly proved to be a playmaker at the college level. His amazing speed, along with the quickness and ability to change direction on a dime is tough to deal with. That said, his lack of size will certainly hurt on the defensive end and it's tough to imagine he and Augustin excelling together. Walker should also learn a lot sitting under Jordan's learning tree.

"He's the greatest player to ever play the game," Walker said when asked if he planned to pick Jordan's mind. "Anything I can learn from that man, I'm going to ask a lot of questions. I'm going to go in there with an open mind and just be ready to learn."

The bench looks shaky from there with injuries really thinning things out. Less than 24 hours after inking forward Reggie Williams, who was expected to be the team's top offensive threat off the bench, it was reported that he needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will spend 6-to-8 weeks on the sidelines.

The same timetable was listed for Eduardo Najera, the ultimate energy player, who underwent surgery back on Dec. 16 to repair a cartilage tear in his left knee

Meanwhile, Gana Diop, a player that has not fully recovered from a torn right Achilles' and still needs to lose about 25 pounds to see his playing weight of 275, as the only true center on the roster.

Biyombo is certainly physically impressive and athletic but he is as raw as it gets. As a member of the World Select Team at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit, Biyombo recorded the first triple-double in the history of the event, tallying 12 points, 11 rebounds and a Hoop Summit-record 10 blocked shots. Raw or not he could have a major impact at the defensive end early on in his career.

A wild card in the mix at center could be Byron Mullens, who was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a 2013 second-round draft pick. The 7-0 Mullens was originally a first round pick 2009 NBA Draft but played sparingly in OKC after just one season at Ohio State. At the very least Mullens could offer a presence in the paint.

Finally, the team is mulling over whether to match a three-year offer sheet from Memphis for forward Dante Cunningham, a capable player that averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 on 51 percent shooting after being acquired from Portland last season.

COACHING: Silas' proved to be a calming presence after Brown and got the Bobcats to keep playing last season. He's a solid teacher, especially with big man so Biyombo's and perhaps Mullens' progress will be monitored closely. Silas, of course, was known for his board work and defense as a player so his philosophies as a coach tend to mirror Brown's but the message is certainly packaged differently.

OUTLOOK: Looking at the team's roster, the cupboard is basically bare and Charlotte will be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference unless Thomas takes the next step, Maggette develops far more consistency, Henderson takes off as a player and Walker hits the ground running right out of the box, highly unlikely scenarios.

"My drive right now is to be mentioned," Thomas said. "It just disgusts me when you watch ESPN, and out of the 30 teams you're not mentioned. I think a lot of our guys have that chip on their shoulders. Just to show we're in the league, too, you know?"