Youngsters Key to Holiday Set

By Caroline Sikes
December 27, 2012

Kemba Walker vs. C.J. Watson

During his sophomore season, Kemba Walker is putting on a clinic for point guards… Walker is sixth in scoring (18.6), 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.86) and fifth in steals (50) among NBA players running the point. He has put together a string of impressive performances during December, including setting a new career-high in scoring (32 points) against the Magic. To close out the month on a high note, Walker will have to face off against the Nets C.J. Watson… Watson stepped into the starting spot after three-time All Star Deron Williams was sidelined due to a wrist injury and his status for Friday’s game is in question… On the season, Watson averages 6.7 points, 1.9 assists and 1.4 rebounds. This is not the first time Watson has been called upon to back up an All-Star point guard… He has thrived in the back-up role for the likes of Baron Davis and Derrick Rose… Kemba Walker will have to clamp down on Watson’s 3-point shooting, where he currently ranks eighth (41.2 percent) among point guards.

Bismack Biyombo vs. Robin Lopez

Since becoming a regular in the starting lineup the past 10 games, Bismack Biyombo averages 6.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, all around or above his season averages. Biyombo has become even more valuable to the Bobcats roster since the injuries to Byron Mullens (ankle) and Tyrus Thomas (calf)… In Biyombo’s sophomore season with the Cats, he has stepped up and been leading the team on the defensive end protecting the paint. His maturity and Head Coach Mike Dunlap’s confidence in him has been proven through his playing time… During the first 10 games of the season Biyombo averaged 19.3 minutes and through the last 10 games his playing time has increased to 31.6 minutes… Biyombo will be given the task of defending the second Lopez brother in as many days. After facing Brook Lopez in Brooklyn, Biyombo may be seeing double when he returns to Charlotte to play the Hornets Robin Lopez… Through 28 games, Lopez puts up solid numbers. He’s shooting 56.6 percent from the field and averages 12.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and is ninth in the league with 2.11 blocks.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Luol Deng

Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knows what it takes to win. After taking the 2012 NCAA National Championship with the Kentucky Wildcats, being drafted No. 2 by the Bobcats and being named November’s Rookie of the Month, MKG has proven his will to win this year alone. On the season, Kidd-Gilchrist has started all 28 games and averages 10.8 points on 49.8 percent shooting to go with 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.36 blocks, good enough to land him 20th in the league in blocks. He has shown moments where his potential is undeniable, including two 25-point, 12-rebound showings. Defensively, MKG matches up with some of the NBA’s best night in and night out and the same will hold true when he takes on Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls. Deng currently leads the Bulls in scoring with 17.7 points while contributing 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Deng has only been held to single-digit scoring once this season when he had eight against the Clippers on December 11. MKG will have to be aggressive defensively to slow the Bulls leading scorer.

To the untrained eye, the Bobcats record may raise red flags for some fans. However, Head Coach Mike Dunlap and the players have stated this is a young team still on a learning curve showing great potential - the wins will come. The Bobcats have been developing as a team but have taken on a difficult schedule, playing some of the league’s best within the past few weeks… The talent is there for the Cats, with six players still averaging double-figure scoring, including Kemba Walker (18.6 points), Ramon Sessions (14.7), Gerald Henderson (13.7), Ben Gordon (12.8), Byron Mullens (11.6) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (10.8)… Charlotte has had to suffer through a barrage of injuries, most recently to Ben Gordon (knee discomfort) and Byron Mullens (ankle). This has left the Bobcats with a short bench, which led to Coach Dunlap sticking to an eight-man rotation against the Heat on December 26. Charlotte may have received some good news, as Gordon was able to go through practice on Thursday in Charlotte before the team headed out to Brooklyn. The Bobcats will need everyone to step up if they want to pull out a victory against their next two opponents.

After beginning the season 11-4, the Nets have dived into a slump of sorts, dropping 10 of their last 13 leading to the firing of Head Coach Avery Johnson today. Injuries have played a major role in these losses, including a nagging wrist injury to All-Star Deron Williams and an abdominal injury to Kris Humphries… Since hitting a rough patch in the season the Nets have had trouble finding a rhythm on the offensive end, currently ranked 22nd in the leagues averaging 94.6 points while shooting 44.0 percent from the field… Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson have been bright spots for the Nets, averaging 17.5 and 16.9 points respectively to lead the team. Deron Williams (16.6 points), Andray Blatche (11.4) and former Bobcat Gerald Wallace (11.1) also average double-figure scoring.

SCOUTING THE HORNETS (6-22 as of 12/27)
In a season similar to the Bobcats, the New Orleans Hornets have experienced some bumps and growing pains with a young squad. The Hornets snapped an 11-game losing streak when they beat the Orlando Magic on December 26… Rookie and No. 1 Draft Pick Anthony Davis has been consistent since returning from injury, which kept him out for almost a month. He averages 14.5 points, a team-high 8.4 boards, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals… Davis is helped on the offensive end by Ryan Anderson who leads the team in scoring with 17.7 points to go with 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists… In his third year as a pro, Greivis Vasquez has proved himself to be a solid point guard. On the season, Vasquez averages 13.1 points, 8.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds.

SCOUTING THE BULLS (15-12 as of 12/27)
After having their game against the Pacers postponed due to a snowstorm, the Bulls will face the Washington Wizards before hosting the Bobcats in Chicago. The Bulls have dropped their last two, including a 23-point home loss to the Rockets on Christmas Day. With All-Star Derrick Rose still sidelined recovering from a torn ACL suffered during playoffs last year, the Bulls have had to look elsewhere for contributions on the offensive end. Along with Luol Deng, the Bulls have four other guys averaging double figure scoring: Rip Hamilton (13.9 points), Carlos Boozer (13.7), Joakim Noah (13.3) and Nate Robinson (11.4). With Hamilton expected to return to the lineup soon after missing four weeks due to a foot injury, the Bulls might be relying on him to bring new energy to the team.

The Bobcats tip off against the Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 p.m. on December 28 in the Barclays Center and come home to take on the New Orleans Hornets at 7 p.m. on December 29 in Time Warner Cable Arena®. The Cats close out 2012 at 3 p.m. in Chicago on New Year’s Eve.

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