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Time to jump on Bobcats?

Time to jump on the Bobcats’ bandwagon?

Don’t look now, but Michael Jordan the executive – the same Michael Jordan the executive who drafted colossal busts Kwame Brown (with Washington) and Adam Morrison (with Charlotte) – is building a winner in Charlotte under Coach Larry Brown and the Bobcats suddenly are great betting value in the NBA.

Thanks to Monday’s 105-103 win over Sacramento, the Bobcats have won five straight overall and eight in a row at home. Charlotte is 8-1 in 2010 (5-4 ATS; lone outright loss at the Knicks) with six of those wins coming over teams currently at .500 or better. The Bobcats are very solidly in the current playoff picture in the East and looking more and more like the best team outside the Big 4 of Cleveland, Boston, Orlando and Atlanta.

At 20-19 (24-15 ATS), Charlotte is above .500 this late in a season for the first time in team history. Much of the credit for this turnaround has been the acquisition of Stephen Jackson from Golden State. The Bobcats are 17-13 since Jackson arrived. He and the underrated Gerald Wallace have been terrific together. In addition, guard Raymond Felton, who nearly had a triple-double in Monday’s win over the Kings, is making 46 percent of his attempts this season, compared to a career average of 40 percent. Basically, the additions of the offensive-minded Jackson and sixth man Flip Murray have meant less pressure on Felton to rescue bad possessions with a bad shot.

Charlotte is doing all this without center Tyson Chandler, who hasn’t played since Dec. 22 because of a foot injury. Chandler was acquired for center Emeka Okafor in the offseason in what has been one of the NBA’s most lopsided trade (for New Orleans) as Chandler was averaging just 6.6 points and 7 rebounds per game before getting hurt again. Wallace has helped big time to make up for Chandler when it comes to rebounding as Wallace is fifth in the NBA in rebounding despite playing small forward.

It’s on defense where this team is shining – ranking third in the NBA in defensive efficiency. The Bobcats are second in the league in opponent turnover rate at 17.2 percent and are the second-hardest team to get a shot off against. The defense simply should get better when Chandler gets back – Nazr Mohammed is a nice backup center but is no Chandler on defense.

Certainly the Bobcats are far from perfect. While they have the second-best home record in the East (behind Cleveland), the Bobcats have just three road wins – only the Nets have fewer. But two of those wins came in their last three road games, where they beat Cleveland and Miami.

We’ll find out if this team is for real starting later this week. After ending a six-game homestand on Wednesday against the Heat, the Bobcats play seven of their next eight on the road, including a six-game trip out West. Watch and see how Charlotte fares in that first road game or two before betting on them as it as a road dog on the upcoming trip, but prepare to get some good value if they start out well because these are the Bobcats, after all, and they will remain under the radar.

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