Gerald and I are similar in this way: We’re both small-town kids who learned to live in big cities. I think you learn patience in places where the train passes twice a day. You don’t become a cynic in your teens and you figure out how to watch and learn.
So I wanted to know what Wallace thought about taking on the Magic, and he got just what I was asking. He appreciates that while many in this group have been to the playoffs, they haven’t been there together. And he knows Dwight Howard is a player who should be respected but not feared.
We talked a bunch about Orlando’s 3-point shooters and how to take Howard out of his comfort zone by making him guard screen-and-rolls away from the basket. But then Gerald said something more basic, but no less valid: That for them to have any chance to beat the Magic, they need to challenge Howard, and that means driving at him. Because if you let that guy get in your head so much that you don’t try to get to the rim there’s not much reason to fly the charter down to Orlando.
That’s the uncomplicated savvy you develop in a little town in Alabama. It travels well.
And so it is that Charlotte will be welcomed to the playoffs against one of the most dominant offensive teams in basketball. We’ll talk a lot in the coming days about the matchups and play and schemes in the next few days, and a LOT about what it means for this franchise, beleaguered, mocked, and degraded by smart writers everywhere, to make the playoffs.
But for right now, put this one in the back of your head. Because even if they can’t do it. Even if Jackson’s tendencies and the poor passing of the bigs and the length of the Magic derail their intentions, the Bobcats get it, just like Bonnell’s headline suggests. They know what it’s going to take. You want to beat the Magic? Are you the most talented team in the league? No? Then you’re going to have to punch them in the mouth. And you’re going to have to do it every quarter for as many games as it goes and pray that a few three pointers rattle out.Â The only shot the Bobcats have is to take this out of the spread-it-out, make-it-rain game that Orlando adores and into a painful, brutal grind, something subterranean of the type of game the Celtics aspire to. They need to get so deep beneath the surface into the muck and grime that the sulfer singes their nostrils.
They have 24 fouls to use on Howard between Chandler, Ratliff, Nazr, and Thomas. They need to use every single one of them. And they have to keep going at him. Unrelentingly, and without fear. It’s what Crash was made for. A situation where he has to ignore the physical risks that suggest he should stick to the perimeter, to the edges, and simply go bone-on-bone to the rim and force Howard into uncomfortable places (like the back of a Volvo).
It’s their shot. It may be the only one they get.