Well, MKG is developing well, and he showed up his old college teammate tonight...so I guess that's a bright spot...
Oh boy! It’s one of those games nobody in sports journalism cares about! ESPN’s presence will be limited to a guy in a ratty t-shirt that interned for them in 2002. Nobody cares. That is of course, unless you’re a fan of one or both teams. Truth be told, most of us once loved this New Orleans team. In fact, roughly half of the fans in the Charlotte area are praying that Michael Jordan will steal the team name back during the coming off season. Muggsy Bogues however is a fan of the Charlotte Bobcats and that, my friends, is good enough for me. Robert Parish is a fan of the Charlotte Bobcats too and that my friends, is icing on the cake. Though I too was once true to the teal, I fervently hope that a Hornets return to Charlotte means nothing more important than a Bobcats victory in December. The game means nothing to the standings but everything to the morale of our young Felines. So how meaningful was it? Well…
You know it’s a game devoid of significance when even the local commentators leave their “A” game on the dresser back at the house. Here’s a sample of the actual dialogue:
Steve Martin: “Teams have been feasting on the Bobcats from the 3 point line lately, averaging 11.3 made per game.”
Dell Curry: “That’s the key Steve. You can take all the threes you want and it don’t matter. They only count the ones that go in.”
(Just in case there are any 6-month olds out there that still think missed shots get added to the score. Thanks guys.)
As might be expected, play was sloppy in the first quarter. Brendan Haywood had his way with the Hornets at the offensive end in the early going, gaining an offensive rebound, and redirecting two others. He also slammed home a dunk and dished off to Michael Kidd Gilchrist for a pair of quick stuffs as well. Sadly, MKG quickly picked up a matching pair of fouls at the other end of the court and took a spot in the exclusive Milton Bradley Seats courtside where injured teammate Byron Mullens quickly sank his battleship.
The early advantage (what I’d call the “hustle momentum”) was all Bobcats. Our young Klawin’ Kittens would open up a 5 or 6 point lead and Hugo’s Hummers would fight back to within a basket. But overall it seemed as if the Cats wanted it more. After one quarter the ballyhooed battle between this year’s one and two draft picks ended with the scoring advantage slightly in favor of Charlotte with the Cats leading 25-22.
That’s right. I said the Bobcats WERE LEADING after the first quarter. True fans please take a moment to savor the sound and flavor of that last sentence. It’s such a rare thing. As a Native American I can tell you that sentence is the “white buffalo” for Bobcats bloggers this season.
In the first minute of the second Hakim Warrick was involved in 3 steals that resulted in an 11 point Charlotte lead. Moments later, when the Hornets came up empty on yet another possession and the lead stretched to 13 it was desperation timeout time for a coach that WASN’T named Dunlap. As a Native American I can tell you THAT sentence is the “albino eagle” for Bobcats bloggers this season.
Despite being collared with a pair of early fouls, MKG decided to make New Orleans regret their decision to let him fall to second in the draft. Midway through the quarter he already was well on the way to a double-double with 12 points and 6 rebounds. Three short minutes later MKG scored point number 18 for the night and stretched the Cats to a whopping 21 point lead. As a Native American I can tell you THAT sentence is the “as soon as FedEx finishes delivering the 40 acres & a mule to the brown people, the palefaces are giving us back Manhattan” for Bobcats bloggers this season. In other words, “that stuff NEVER happens!” (For the less linguistically loving in the group, the word “stuff” is actually a replacement for another, much browner word that we don’t use here at TSP.) (Oh, and for the melanin-challenged in the group, don’t worry. Both the big apple and the 40-acre blocks of land are safe. I was merely using artistic license. Nothing to see here. Please Disperse. Offer may be withdrawn without notice. Member FDIC. (Substantial penalty for early withdrawal.)
The Cats shot 15 of 22 for the quarter thanks to an almost constant barrage of fast break points and the Hornets were being pummeled. At the half, Kidd Gilchrist led all scorers with 18 points and the Bobcats were holding on to a very healthy lead 57-40.
The few times the Bobcats have opened up big leads this season they have, without fail, made the same mistake. They would start trying to milk the clock too early. The result being that it gave opposing teams multiple opportunities to climb back into contention. It’s so common that sooner or later someone will find it etched into a stone wall that in the NBA the trailing team will always make a run. Whenever the Cats have hit that cruise control button they have proven unable to hit the gas and regain the energy they need to withstand a run from the opposition. The “deer in the lights” look comes into the eyes of the Cats players and suddenly the clock is running out and we’re suddenly trailing once again. As cruel as this might sound, Coach Dunlap needs to keep his starters running and sweating. If the opportunity is there to win by 50 then we need to try to win by 60. Why? Because NOTHING comes easy for this team anymore and we need a win like the polar bear population needs a new ice cap. We need a win like the Sahara needs a monsoon. We need a win like… well, you get the idea.
In the early 1990’s National Geographic researchers discovered a human body encased in a receding glacier in northern Iceland. It was the remains of a perfectly preserved hunter that was so completely intact that they were able to identify the remains of the hunter’s final meal of dried mammoth jerky still in his stomach. My point? That body wasn’t as cold as the Bobcats shooters were at the start of the third. The lead, once 21 points, disappeared and became a very-fragile margin of 7. It wasn’t anything new. In fact, it was the same old story. They missed layups. They missed open jumpers. They made unforced errors. Mr. Magoo would have had a higher shooting percentage. Stevie Wonder would have had… well, again, you get the idea.
The lead fell to a single point with three-and-a-half to go in the quarter. Coach Dunlap voiced his frustration (apparently HE has no such reluctance to using the brown word) and received a technical foul. A moment later the score was tied. As a Bobcats fan I can tell you that it was business as usual. The Bobcats had a whopping one (1) field goal in the first 5 minutes and 50 seconds of the third quarter. At Time Warner Cable Arena children sobbed. Grown men wept. Stephanie Ready got twins while Tyrus Thomas chose a college career in a tightly-contested game of Life. The score after three was a dead heat. Hornets and Bobcats each knotted up at 73 points.
The fatigue of the 743rd back-to-back of the season (give or take a couple) began to show in the legs and arms of the Bobcats. Shots began clanking off the front of the rim, Ben Gordon missed a fast break dunk for the first time in his career, and Hakim Warrick stole the ball and ran out of bounds with it to stop the clock. Too bad it’s the NBA and not the NFL or it would have been a heck of a play. Despite these concerns the Cats managed to eke out to a fresh lead of 6 in the early minutes of the final frame. Having already proven conclusively that no lead is safe in Bobcats hands this seasons, fans in the seats continued to chew on their fingernails. No, their OWN fingernails. Some of y’all are sick man, just sick. Still, we’re glad you’re here. Relax, you’re among your own kind.
Charlotte’s woes continued. Kemba Walker missed a wide open layup. Suddenly MKG couldn’t even dunk a donut. Once again the score was tied – this time at 79. New Orleans took its first lead 82-81 on a trey. Coach Dunlap had to be restrained from biting at his own wrist. Another Hornets trey and Assistant Coach Rivers had to be stopped from giving himself a lobotomy with his own pen. MKG missed a pair of free throws. One of the Bobcats towel boys began making a noose around his own throat and was seen eyeing the height of the backboard. Kemba committed an offensive foul. A Coke vendor began drinking deeply from a clearly marked cup of Pepsi. Yes, it was that bad friends, it was that bad.
With 2 minutes remaining the Hornets were still clinging to a lead of three. MKG traveled in the paint. Rufus rolled beneath Hugo’s stinger, bared his neck and was heard to be saying, “do it man, just do it.” With a minute and fifteen seconds to go the Hornets stretched their lead to 7 and Dunlap called for time out. Rumors that Michael Jordan was seen climbing into the rafters with a high impact sniper’s rifle with dual laser triangulation scopes were just that – rumors...for now – but I have a sneaking suspicion that Coach Dunlap’s career dissipation light is flashing in overtime. Gerald Henderson drained a trey. Kemba Walker managed a miracle steal that MKG converted. The lead was reduced to 4 points. A single ray of sunlight broke through the dark clouds coating the upper reaches of Time Warner Cable Arena. Somewhere in the building the optimistic coo of a white dove could be heard. Hakim Warrick rattled in a pair of free throws to cut the lead down to 3 with just over 16 seconds left to play. Every rabbit in Mecklenburg Country began rubbing its own feet. Eric Gordon, back from a brutal injury and playing his 25th minute off the bench for the Hornets hit a pair of his own from the stripe to stretch the lead to 5. MJ shot the dove as it flew in front of Dunlap. The Cats score and Eric Gordon loses the ball out of bounds. With 10 seconds left the Cats trail by 3. Ben Gordon misses a trey. With one second left, Henderson gets the rebound, kicks out to Ramon Sessions. The ball is in the air as the buzzer sounds. You can already guess what happened. It clanked off the front of the rim and the “can’t lose” opportunity for the Bobcats turned in to loss number 19 in a row. At this point one has to wonder if the Bobcats can beat a rug.
As always, I’ll be honest. Yesterday my partner posted the single most pessimistic article to ever appear at Trade Street Post. We’ve exchanged many an email since then. We received a very supportive message from an out of state Cats fan – the kind that really lifts the spirits and makes the whole blogging thing worthwhile. Still, the tenor of our emails was pretty grizzly. These are the beginnings of the dog days of every season. We’ve seen the same commercials enough times to have them memorized. Our pancreatic cancer awareness has been raised, we’ve decided not to buy the debut album by the guy cranked on energy drinks, and are now certain they put helium in the Subway sandwiches bought by office workers. Usually there are at least 5 of us writing recaps. Now if Andrew has family obligations and/or I am adjusting to medication changes, there is nobody to write. It’s tough writing about losing streaks under the best of conditions. Here at TSP we agreed before the logo was even designed that we’d never pee on your leg and tell you it was raining. Here are the cold hard facts:
- Last season Cleveland was in season 1 of a rebuild after the heartbreaking exit of LeBron Shames. They finished the season with 8 wins.
- This season Charlotte is in season 1 of a rebuild after the heartbreaking hemorrhage that began with the Crash Wallace trade and ended with DJ Augustin’s decision to bail. Comparisons to last season’s Cleveland team aren’t unreasonable and the Cats are already just 1 win shy of matching Cleveland’s performance with a lot of season left. We’ll best it. Partially because last season was shortened by a strike, but we will best it.
- Like Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans and Chicago Cubs lovers, Bobcats fans are no strangers to heartache. We’re used to getting laughed at. Maybe I’m alone here, but I never dreamed I’d be approaching the end of the first decade of the Cats existence and wondering if the team would ever see a winning season. This team is better than the record it carries. I still really believe that.
- For some reason they won’t play defense for Coach Dunlap. The defensive lapses being committed by the Bobcats – especially in the paint – are among the most basic and fundamental aspects of the game. Andrew and I discussed this at length today. We’re both experienced coaches (Andrew with hoops, me with soccer) and we’ve coached small children that have a better grasp of defending a perimeter rotation to the weak-side than some of the Bobcats bigs.
- In November there was discussion (and a first draft prepared) of a Claw 2 Claw debate on whether or not to fire Coach Dunlap. It was abandoned as premature. Andrew and I discussed resurrecting it today but I honestly wonder if we could publish it before Dunlap’s head rolls.
- The temptation to start trading players is MASSIVE in the Bobcats front office. We still get inside info here at TSP, but we keep it to ourselves for the most part. Why? Because I personally made a fool out of myself several seasons ago when a trade tip fell through at the last minute. Once bitten, as the saying goes, twice shy.
- This is the second heartbreaking season in a row for Bobcats fans. We can’t take much more. The laughter we hear when we wear our Cats gear has turned into derision.
On Monday afternoon the Bobcats will suit up to play the Bulls. This is the spot where I usually look at what the Cats need to do to steal a win. As much as I’d love to see it happen, I can’t see us winning unless the Bulls bus falls over on all 5 of their starters, and God forbid that. My wife and I once had a reputation as the most optimistic Charlotte Bobcats fans in America. We still are. That should tell you just how bleak things are for even the Cats loyalists. Here at TSP we still believe in the future of this team. When it arrives this long and bleak winter will seem brief. But right now it feels almost endless.
Win number 8 has been more elusive to the Bobcats than a roadrunner is to Wile E. Coyote. Monday brings yet another chance to break through and get it. That’s one thing about an NBA Bobcats schedule – you don’t have to wait long between games. So like the residents of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Drought, we Bobcats fans will continue to pray for rain… or at least for a season with a double-digit win total.