Author Q&A: Steve Goldberg

The November issue features "Standing in the Shadows," an in-depth look at the front office of the Charlotte Bobcats. Writer Steve Goldberg followed the NBA franchise over the summer, interviewing and meeting with top executives, coaches, and players to paint the picture of a professional sports organization battling its past in hopes of having a successful fourth season. Jarvis Holliday talked to Goldberg to gather his thoughts on how the team will fare when the season kicks off November 2.

How prepared do you think the Bobcats will be when the regular season starts?
They've got a tough schedule coming right out of the gate. They won't have to face Greg Oden (due to injury), but that'll be more disappointing to the fans than it will be to the players on the court. There's an adjustment period. They've built a foundation on hard work and hustle. Now they're taking it to the next level by adding Jason Richardson and the ability to beat people on a regular basis. It's going to be tough, but there is promise.

How do you think they should address their shortage of big men?
Losing Sean May (to season-ending surgery) has been significant. Primoz Brezec is still a question. He's coming back, this time, from some family issues he's had to deal with as opposed to a full summer playing with the Slovenian basketball team. They're showing a lot of faith in Ryan Hollins right now. He's getting a lot of minutes with the first team. Where he really didn't play much at all last year.

Looking at some of the offseason changes made with teams in the Eastern Conference, where does that put the Bobcats' chances of making the playoffs?
The Eastern Conference has definitely gotten harder with the improvement of Boston and the continued maturation of Orlando. But the Bobcats beat six of the top eight teams in the NBA last season. And they beat all of the final four teams. So they've shown they can play well against the top teams. How they can do that consistently is still a question to be answered. Injuries and the ability to stay healthy will be critical.

How much of an impact is Jason Richardson going to have?
I think Jason Richardson is going to have a huge impact. He's just that type of player. He's a proven scorer. If you look at what he did for Golden State last year, helping them get to the playoffs for the first time in thirteen years. In addition to being a very talented and go-to player, he's also one who buys into the team effort. And that's very important for the success of the Bobcats.

What about some of their offseason changes that have been questioned?
You know, it's a business. Moving Brevin [Knight], I think, hurts more in the locker room than it does on the court because he was a leader. The fact that they did sign Derek Anderson mitigates that to a great extent because he is someone who is a great influence in the locker room. He wants to be a coach [one day] and he's now taking that aspect to his game and maturity. Having Derek Anderson back as part of the puzzle was one of the best moves they made.  

Matt Carroll signed a pretty hefty contract over the summer, but with the addition of Richardson how do you think he will handle getting less playing time this season?
Matt Carroll would sell hot dogs for the team if he thought it would help. He's absolutely the kind of player who does what it takes to make the Bobcats successful.  

Sam Vincent, not only is he a first-year NBA head coach, but he only had a couple of years as an assistant coach. Is he ready for this role?
One of the first things you notice about Sam Vincent is his confidence, and as a coach that's one of the most important aspects. Players have to believe in what you're telling them. Sam has a very strong personality and I think the players respect that. It's also going to take time. Getting your team prepared for a game is one thing. How you handle the last five minutes or even the last fifteen seconds of a game is another. It's going to be a learning experience for everyone.

Are there any all-stars on this team?
Gerald Wallace is Mr. Excitement. He has no regard for his safety, to do what it takes to help the team. With him and Richardson on the wings it should be a very exciting team to watch. Defensively they're going to have to play stronger to make sure they score more points than the other team does.

There's a stretch from mid-February to the end of March when the Bobcats play fifteen of twenty-two games on the road. That's going to be tough.
Yeah, the CIAA and the ACC [tournaments will be here]. That was part of the deal. It's not best for the Bobcats but it's good for the arena and for the city. It shows that they're willing to make a sacrifice for the community. Those two events are huge for Charlotte as a whole. And it's great for the building, too, which they're responsible for. So it's good for a business sense, but bad from a basketball sense. But the Bobcats have proven they can win on the road. But it gets tiring. Especially when there are injuries. If you go on the road without your best players, it can make for a very long trip.  

Say if come February the team is eight to ten games under .500, do they risk the chance of not being able to renew the interest of fans after playing away for so long?
If the Bobcats are in contention, it's not going to matter if they're on the road or not. Fans are going to watch them play on TV, pay attention to the newspaper; they're going to follow the team. But if they're out of it by that point, they run the risk of people looking toward other things. It's important that they win early. One, to establish themselves and also to build a buffer for that long road trip that will be coming up ahead of them.

Okay. So it's April 16 and the Bobcats have just played their final game of the regular season. What's their record?
If they can stay healthy, I think they can win forty-three games. I think they can improve ten games [from last season].  

So that would put them in the playoffs.
Last year they won thirty-three games. They could've easily won five more. And if they didn't have those injuries to Wallace and Okafor, because they didn't win any on that big road trip out West, they could've won two or three of those. I think this team can win forty-three games.

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