Ladies and gentlemen, fans of all ages. Welcome to the Trade Street Post. What is about to come is each writer's best attempt to just break down what exactly happened this season. It hasn't been easy to stomach, but it is all over. Keep watch as we each chime in as to our own versions of what happened and how we are to cope This edition gives Bryan Beck's account.
As the Knicks drove the final nail in the coffin to a historically bad season last night, I’m left to wonder exactly how things turned out so poorly. First of all, I’m not naïve and neither are the rest of the Bobcats fans. I peruse a few of the popular Bobcats message boards and I cannot recall a single person who thought we were a playoff team before the season started. Everyone understood the rebuilding plan and realized we were taking a step back to take two steps forward. The roster was admittedly flawed and loaded with young, inexperienced players who weren’t quite ready for the set of challenges thrown at them this season. However, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
But now that the season is over, we are forced to face reality. We are fans of the worst team to ever lace ‘em up in the NBA. It’s sobering, embarrassing, frustrating, but also inarguable. The Cats finished 7-59 with a .106 winning percentage, “besting” the ‘72-‘73 Sixers mark of 9-73. Statistically, we ranked as the worst offensive and defensive team in the league. We endured losing streaks of 16 and 23 games, the last of which is still active and 3 away from the all time record. Opponents outscored the Fighting Felines by an average of 13.9 points per game, which is good for the second worst scoring margin in NBA history. One third of our games (22) resulted in a loss of 20 points or greater. To sum it up, the numbers don’t lie and they are telling a sobering story. The Bobcats really stunk this season.
There is, however, a rather important distinction between a rebuilding year and the worst year in NBA history. The league has a handful of bad teams every year and it seems like ¼ of the league is rebuilding at all times. So what turned a knowingly challenging season into an utterly unwatchable and historic season? Here is a look at a few of the factors:
1) Injuries. As I mentioned earlier, this roster was low on talent to start the season and couldn’t really afford the massive amount of injuries that plagued the team throughout the year. The starting lineup was supposed to be Augustin, Henderson, Maggette, Thomas, and Diaw but that lineup did not start a single game together this season due to injuries. Scoring was always going to be a problem for this team and the top 3 scorers (DJ, Hendo, and Maggette) were especially hit hard. When all 3 of those guys played, we were 5-19. When one or more were out with injuries, we were 2-40. This doesn’t include the injuries to other players which left us dressing only 8 or 9 guys a few times late in the season. Anyone who says injuries weren’t a big reason the Cats broke the futility record is kidding themselves.
2) Coaching. I’m not going to take the time to bash Silas and his staff because quite honestly, I like them. I cannot think of a coach being put in a tougher situation than Silas was this season. The lockout eliminated summer league, virtually destroyed training camp, and left a season so crammed full of games that practice time was extremely limited. Throw in the injuries and a talent-depleted roster (you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken feet) and you have yourself a very tough situation. However, those disclaimers don’t completely absolve Silas from taking some criticism as well. On the surface, it was difficult to watch this team play 66 games and not find yourself thinking, “This doesn’t look like a well-coached team” from time to time. Defensive rotations, especially the pick and roll, were terrible and didn’t seem to get much better as the year went on. Teammates appeared to be on a different page on both ends of the floor. Ball movement was always a problem. The offense morphed into a lot of standing around isolation plays and we didn’t have any players good at creating their own shot (other than Walker, who can get any shot he wants but isn’t particularly good at making them yet). But the biggest complaint I have of Silas and his staff was their inability to keep players motivated and playing hard. The Cats rolled over far too many times for my liking, something even Bickerstaff never allowed during some trying expansion seasons.
3) The Detroit game on March 31st. Look, I know it’s absurd to call out one game in a season this terrible but one more win was all we needed to avoid history! It had reached the point of the season where the only thing us Bobcats faithful really wanted was that elusive 8th win and this loss was the first time I began thinking about the record. The Cats were up 8 with under 2 minutes to go and melted down. Henderson was trapped and made a sloppy turnover, with Reggie Williams compounding the mistake by fouling and allowing a made layup. Brandon Knight hit a pair of 3s and Will Bynum finally capped off the run with another 3 to force overtime. I also recall the officiating being so terrible in overtime that I wondered how we finished the game without a few guys getting tossed. Anyway, this was the one that got away and put us in clear view of the dubious record.
4) Boris Diaw. Yep, I couldn’t resist one more shot at him! Going into the season, it was pretty obvious this team was going to go as Diaw went. He was brilliant in an opening night victory over Milwaukee (9-11-9) and a one-point loss to Miami (16-16-8) two nights later. The next week he absolutely torched the Knicks in Madison Square Garden (27 points, 12-15 FG). Then something happened. I’m not sure what it was... maybe a falling out between him and the coaching staff? Maybe Diaw just happened. Regardless of the reason, if Diaw had played up to his potential this season the Cats wouldn’t have sniffed the worst record in the league, much less the worst record of all time.
There are other reasons why the Cats made history for all of the wrong reasons but there is something to keep in mind about history. It’s history. It’s over. We don’t have to relive this season again (at least I hope not!) and in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Does finishing 7-59 vs. 8-58 really change anything? I don’t think so. So let’s scoop up everything we have about this season, find a time capsule, and bury it in a hole somewhere. We can dig it up one day to keep us humble and remind us how far we have come. We’ve reached the bottom. Let’s start climbing out.