Come on back down Bobcats fans. We got some stuff to talk about.
Hello Bobcats fans. Before everyone blows last night’s loss completely out of proportion, I feel that I need to share a few things with everyone. This is done to keep everyone, including myself, calm. We have to be realistic about this team. They are better than last year. Make no mistake about it; we will have a better win percentage this year than we had last year. That is a given. The harsh reality is that we will most likely not be a playoff team. If we DID happen to make playoffs, our ground-up rebuild would quickly be derailed. You build through drafts, acquisition of young talent via trades, and free agent signings. A playoff appearance would erase a high draft pick for the year unless Cho can pull off some sort of trade to net us a high first round pick. Follow me on this journey through the very young history that is the 2012-2013. There’s a lot to be proud of, but everyone needs to keep some things in perspective.
Our rookies are developing ahead of schedule, and that is due in part to an early injury to Gerald Henderson. Coach Dunlap has said it himself. If only Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown would have had that luxury back in the days of Larry Brown. Things that could have been…Lopez over Augustin…what if we would have kept Dudley and Richardson…Gerald Wallace…Ajinca…AmMo….STOP!!!
If there’s one thing we need to do, that is to not dwell in the past. Forget past players, past records, past coaches. The team hasn’t even been in existence for 10 years yet (we’re getting close though). We’ve never defined ourselves. We went from an owner who just wanted to have a team as a status symbol but not break his wallet, to an owner who wants to build a winner. Michael Jordan wants to build a team to rival those teams from his playing days. He’s had bumps in the road, but he’s maturing and figuring out what mistakes that were made in the past, what mistakes that were his, and what not to do again. Jordan is learning how to be a better owner. He’s learning how to trust his teammates. Sound familiar? It should. Why? That’s how the greatest player ever started winning championships. When Jordan stopped trying to shoulder the load, and allowed the TEAM to play ball, things started falling their way. Jordan is putting trust in Cho. He’s letting him run the show. I believe that they are a staff member away from having that all-start crew in the front office. We’re close now, but we can’t rush things.
Ah, rushing things…we do it all too often. We rush into things, and more often than not, there are bad results. Cry for a big man and you get a great big Diop, complete with a matching contract (I’m not dwelling in the past, just pointing out that his contract ends this season). Larry Brown, with some assistance from Jordan, built a “Playoffs Now” team. A rag-tag group was put together that propelled the Bobcats into a playoff experience (It was a 4-game sweep, but we were there). What was the result? Well, the team was dismantled, and we were at ground zero by the end of last season, and we were sporting the worst win percentage as the dust cleared (Still not dwelling in the past…just building up to my point).
Article moving too slow? Good things come to those who wait. As that dust cleared, the stage was set for us to possibly have the #1 draft pick. Now things happen for a reason. As the cards of the draft lottery fell, we wound up with the #2 pick. Was this the luck of the Bobcats? Perhaps. Did we want “The Brow”? Perhaps. Instead, we wound up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with our #2 pick in the draft; A very young player with tons of potential and a motor that will never quit. We make a player swap and get a future 1st round pick, and Ben Gordon. As luck would have it, a 1st round player falls to our 1st pick of the second round and we are able to snag a steal in Jeffery Taylor. 2 guys from the SEC that were fierce competitors, known for their stellar defense, and their “never give up” attitude. That’s a pretty good pickup for a draft. We might not have gotten the diamond that was up for grab in the mainstream media, but we got what we needed. We were able to draft our culture. We drafted our fingerprint in the NBA. TougherStrongerFaster. Add to that mix a rookie coach that is defensive minded and has a plan to attack, attack, attack, and there’s nowhere to go but up for the 2012-2013 season.
The following is written based on what I observed of casual Bobcats fans:
We jump into this 2012-2013 season and win our first game, breaking the 23-game losing streak. Hooray! Playoffs, here we come… Second game of the season is against the Dallas Mavericks and we lose by a healthy margin, followed by losses to Phoenix and New Orleans…fire everybody…who is this coach we hired? Why were we not more active in the free agent market? What the heck is Cho doing? We beat the Dallas Mavericks who is without Dirk. With him or without him, we finally got the Mavericks off of our back and we have beaten every team in the league at least 1 time. We are back in action fans. Follow up that win with wins against Washington and Minnesota. Is this the year? I mean, we are a .500 team now. We’re riding a 3-game win streak, and it feels oh so good. A Memphis loss reveals some things we need to work on with the team. That’s all OK. I think Dunlap can fix it. We beat Milwaukee and Toronto. We’re above .500! It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that. I really think we will make the playoffs this year. A tough loss to Atlanta teaches us more that we need to work on. We’re OK. Hey, hey! We beat Washington…Playoff city! OKC beats us by 45…Doom and gloom…sell the team…
OK fans…time to pump the brakes. If you’re not a fan that has had these reactions, you must feel the pain I feel when casual fans go crazy.
Here’s the reality for us all. We are roughly 2/25ths of the way into the season. Don’t laugh…13 games into an 82-game season. We are better than we were last year. This is a given. It wasn’t going to take much to be better than last year. The rookies are developing at a rate faster than expected, and that’s a great thing. I could even see MKG being in the running for Rookie of the Year. Kemba Walker is coming out of the shortened season we had last year, where he had no training camp and no summer league, into a sophomore season where is near the top of the list in the NBA in steals and is showing that he is a leader. He’s having a great season. Biyombo is a long-term project. He has flashes of brilliance on defense, and then there’s his offense that he will eventually figure out. We picked up Haywood, Sessions, and Gordon, who have all been saviors this season. All were vital pieces needed to get us through this year. The problem with building a team from the ground up is that many times, you have to build the bench before you can build the starters. We have a very good looking bench right now. Bringing in Sessions and Gordon off of the bench is working great for us. We have 3-5 players right now that could be very good to great in the coming years. Henderson is at an impasse. Once he is healthy and returned to the starting lineup, it will truly become a battle between Hendo and Taylor for that starting position. Either way, getting him back makes us better by default. Either he or Taylor will be coming off of the bench and providing all sorts of boost for the team. The problem lies in the end of the season, and the amount of money he may demand. What will he be offered? Will he get an offer? Mullens is 100% sold on Coach Dunlap and his coaching style. His game improves every week. His rebounds and blocks are up, his post-up game is evolving, and he is finding a good spot in the NBA on this team. Again, the problem will fall at season end. What kind of money will he demand? What will we offer? Will we make an offer?
I’ve spent enough time discussing the players for now. Let’s take a look at the schedule we have faced so far. We have faced Washington twice (worst record in the league right now), Indiana, Dallas twice, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Toronto, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Oklahoma. There isn’t much fire power there. At a glance, OKC, Dallas, and Memphis are 3 teams that I wouldn’t have slated us beating, and we wound up beating them once. I did expect victories against Washington, Indiana, Toronto, New Orleans, and Phoenix. I didn’t get all of the wins, but I also haven’t gotten to see the complete team compete every night either. Hopefully as the schedule grows more difficult, which it absolutely will, our team will continue to grow and continue to compete. Last night’s loss was bad. I can’t paint it any other way. It was painful to watch. An entire half where we score in the 20s was a nightmare. It was not the end of the world, though. It is a wake-up call for our Bobcats. We have been cruising through games and beating the bottom of the barrel teams for the most part. More teams are coming. Better teams are coming. The rookies will continue to grow and learn. Our team will continue to grow and learn. Even our coach will grow, learn and analyze what we have, what we can do, and what we need to do to be even better (my 3 part laundry list is a tribute to how much I love Coach Dunlap and his style). I guess the point that needs to be made is that this is a marathon and not a sprint, and fans have to be willing to weather storms like the Thunder put us through last night. We have to celebrate the highs and learn from the lows. Coach Dunlap put it best last night. He said that there could be an entire dissertation on last night’s loss, but there is no point in dwelling on that game. You learn from it and move on. You keep it simple and get back to basics. You work on what can be fixed and you go from there (Did I mention that I love this guy?).
So there you have it Bobcats fans. We’re 13 games into the season, we’re above .500, and the world has not come to an end because of a loss. We take the loss and we prepare for Atlanta tomorrow. We’ve played them once, we have game films, and we know what we can do differently from the last time we played them. That’s the beauty of basketball and Coach Dunlap’s philosophy. Keep it simple, don’t dwell in the past, build on what you have, and play to each player’s strengths. You work to bring out the best in each player. You can mention shortcomings, but don’t dwell on them. Just discuss ways to fix them. After Atlanta, we have Philly, Portland, New York, Milwaukee, and San Antonio on the horizon. That just takes us into the first week of December. Baby steps…one game at a time…pace yourselves.
TougherFasterStronger is taking root in all of our players and in the fan base as well. Folks are talking about us. They are taking interest and they are picking favorite players. They are building memories. Hop on the bandwagon Bobcats fans. The ride will be a long one, but at the end of the journey, you’ll have a quality NBA team in Charlotte. A team that will be enjoyed for a long, long time will be the reward. It will be the gift that keeps on giving. Jordan will be on top again…this time as an owner.
Our Team, our town.
Let’s Go CATS!