There has been considerable debate lately about the best future path for the Bobcats. Will Jordan be content to continue along the path blazed by Bob Johnson and bring in aging veterans in an attempt to eke into the playoffs each season? Or might it be a better idea to give up on this season and instead work with the goal of building a team that can be a true conference powerhouse for several years even though it might mean a season or two in the draft lottery while the team is under construction? Andrew Lail and Bruce Barker spent numerous moments researching both sides of the question for their latest Claw to Claw debate. As always, keep in mind that in order to fairly present both sides of the argument, the views expressed may not always be the actual opinion of either writer.
Andrew: Do I want to make the playoffs this year? When would I not want to go to the playoffs? Last year was a huge step in the right direction for our beloved Charlotte Bobcats. We gained a bit of the public eye, and we won over a few skeptics. We also were able to fill a bandwagon. Not making the playoffs this year will most certainly cost the team several of the “fair-weather” fans. Fair-weather fans can quickly become fans for life when trips into the post season become a regular occurrence.
Bruce: I’ll be the first to admit that last season was incredible. Being inside the Cable Box for the playoffs is an experience I will never forget, regardless of the final outcome. I’d never seen the place sold out before and would love to see it that way more often. For Michael Jordan, the payoff had nothing to do with the two sellout crowds though. In fact, just the “white-out” t-shirts and other freebies provided to the crowd probably ate most of the immediate profits. The payoff came later in the form of huge increases in season ticket sales and dozens of new corporate partnerships and sponsors of a much higher quality than the shady Spongebob tub toy company from last season. Jordan’s job now is to figure out not only how to maintain the new surge in popularity, but to build on it. At issue is the best way to do it.
Andrew: If you go out to any NBA site, the only Bobcats news you hear is about something that Michael Jordan is doing for the community. While it’s great having an owner that is involved with the city and motivates his players to be active in community service, it would be nice to see the team generate interest for what it does on the court as much as for what it does in the community. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sense of community involvement. But the city benefits even more if the team succeeds than it does by library donations. The revenue that comes into the city from the playoffs is greatly needed by the people of Charlotte. It draws in NBA fans that spend on room and board, patronize local restaurants, and even visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame while in town. Returning to the playoffs this season and as often as possible in the future is the highest priority for Jordan, the players, the fans and the Queen City.
Bruce: If we make the playoffs each season with a team that will call it a major success if we lose in the first round 4 games to 2 instead of getting swept, how long do you think the fans will remain interested? The team will be in the national media for a couple of weeks and then right back to stories about Jordan playing poker with his pals in Vegas and the players doling out dinner at a local homeless shelter. The city gets a minimal bump in revenue for a week or so and that’s the end of it. As I said, I was there last season. Every time a player made an exciting play, half the crowd went diving into the program to find out the player’s name. Quite simply, for a lot of the people there it was just something to do that was more exciting than sitting around the house. Being a perpetual playoff doormat will only win but so many fans and it certainly won’t get any decent players in the league thinking about joining the Bobcats.
Andrew: I disagree. We must make the playoffs every year for our team to get any respect in the NBA. A losing team seldom gets respect for losing “the right way. The ACC fans, which are some of the most passionate in college basketball, were major supporters of the Hornets during Charlotte’s first stint in the NBA. When George Shinn took the team and went to New Orleans, he broke a lot of hearts and made the naysayers certain that pro basketball couldn’t work in the Carolinas. The only way to bring those fans back is for the Bobcats to achieve success comparable to what the Hornets offered. Regular playoff appearances will make the Bobcats comparable.
Bruce: Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not content with the notion of equaling the achievements of some other team. It may cost us some casual fans if the team doesn’t excel for a season or two as they build up into true contenders. But those fans and many more will embrace the team for keeps with our first trip to the Conference Finals or NBA Championship Series. If two or three postseason games bump revenue and awareness, imagine what an actual run at the title will do. Now imagine it if the Bobcats management constructed the team with young talent that will make us postseason threats for several seasons.
Andrew: Of course we want to get further into the playoffs each year, and eventually win a championship, but when a team isn’t even in the running, fans become disinterested. We are at a point where the economy is turning around, our team is gaining popularity, and fans are looking for a winner. Right now the Bobcats are in a prime position to win even more fans as the economy turns around and the Panthers complete another losing season. We can’t do it by stepping backwards into the lottery. We need the playoffs!
Bruce: I’m not recommending that we deliberately tank the season by making Diop and McGuire starters. But the miserable record we’ve compiled thus far does give us an opportunity. We got into our current mess by bringing in aging veterans with big contracts that could get us into the playoffs sooner rather than later. Johnson was so eager to make it happen that he traded away every draft pick he legally could in the process. There are only two ways out. Either we wait until those big contracts expire, or we reverse the process by trading some of our talent away with trade picks and open cap room as the goal. Yes, it’s likely to mean that that this season will end up a wash. But with multiple draft picks and enough money to pick up a real quality star to rebuild around, our absence from the playoff hunt will be brief and we will become actual contenders for a change. The big question isn’t whether or not we should pursue the rebuilding option, it’s when. With the exception of DJ Augustin, our primary talent is aging. We aren’t going to get any better staying with the status quo. We need to rebuild while players like Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson are still young enough to have real value on the trade market. Once people (and corporate partners) see the method to Jordan’s madness they will understand. When our next trip into the playoffs takes us further than the Charlotte Hornets ever went, the success of the Bobcats in the Queen City will be permanent and empty seats in Time Warner Cable Arena will be nothing more than an old memory.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think? How badly do YOU think this team needs to make the playoffs this season? Can Chairman Jordan’s wallet handle a season in the slums if it means greater long-term revenue and popularity for the team in the future? The floor is yours! (If you have an idea for a Claw to Claw topic you would like to see debated, please feel free to let us know. We’ll argue it out so you won’t have to!