Years ago I began my public career as a Charlotte Bobcats devotee with the online handle, “Our Day Will Come.” I chose that nick in the firm and optimistic belief that the team would indeed one day shake off the curse of being an expansion team comprised of castoffs and utility players rejected by their then current teams and contend for the NBA championship. Now I have no choice but to accept the fact that our day will in fact, never come. After the season just starting is over, the Charlotte Bobcats will cease to exist and once again become the Charlotte Hornets. “Our Day” has to come this season and despite some savvy draft decisions and expert rebuilding by current management, the team isn’t going to be good enough to be a threat… yet.
Most fans of the game knew it would take some time. Even with a wise hand steering the team their time of being largely comprised of twelfth men would be short, but painful to watch. I settled in for several long seasons of building and slow improvements. I’d been through it before as a fan of the expansion Hornets, just like many other fans of the new NBA squad on Trade Street. We all know what happened. No point in rehashing. Suffice it to say that it took half a decade for a reasonably competent upper management staff to gain control of the tiller. Supposedly teetering on the verge of bankruptcy each season, we watched as “his Airness” hired Rich Cho as General Manager and the team made several controversial moves.
The reconstruction of the team is well underway and, according to most experts, is going quite well. With the addition of Al Jefferson and some of the youngest legs in the NBA running the court each game the Cats cruised to a 5-3 preseason record leading up to tonight’s opener in Houston. Instead of predicting a finish in (or close to) dead last in the league, most league power rankings and season evaluators place the Cats at 22nd or 23rd providing our rookie stays healthy. Jefferson’s health is a fairly large issue as he’s already been sidelined before the season even gets going. Long-time fans of the Bobcats already know that the league seems to love handing the Fighting Felines with one of the most grueling schedules in the league each season and 2013-14 will be no exception. The team will face 22 double-doubles, 17 of which will be home-away. To rub some salt into the wounds, the guys will play 4 games in a week no less than 7 times and in the second week of March will play a mind-numbing 5 games. That will make for an interesting start to the final run for playoff positioning!
Just to round out the predictions, ESPN, as usual, has the most pessimistic assessment of our Trade Street Beasts, once again saying the Cats will fail to break the 30-win mark. Thanks guys. Nothin’ but love for ya.
So what does it all mean? Well, this fan believes the team will, as usual, surpass the expectations of the pundits and surprise the league in many ways. Kemba Walker is continuing to develop into a truly premier player, Josh McRoberts is becoming very efficient at the offensive end, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has begun showing some genuine spark in the post, albeit slowly. All this is before you add in the Jefferson factor and his plan to be a leader and teacher to some of our younger bigs. Apart from his own prodigious skills and scoring ability, his impact in developing Cody Zeller is a HUGE intangible asset to the team. I also expect James Southerland may turn out to further strengthen our bench patrol as the season progresses. My own prediction is that the “lame duck” Bobcats will conclude their existence in the NBA by posting a winning record (yeah, that’s right, I said a winning record) and entering the playoffs for the second time. I don’t believe they have the juice to survive the first round, but barring injuries they should manage to be more competitive and dangerous in their sophomore visit to the post season.
At that point the Charlotte Bobcats will cease to exist and the Charlotte Hornets version 2.0 will be born. Will I continue to be a devoted fan and blogger at the site I co-created with my brother-from-another-mother? I have pondered that question heavily in recent weeks. In fact, I’ve been delaying the writing of this “season preview” article in the hope that I would reach a final decision. After massive consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no freakin’ idea whatsoever. I was dead set against changing the team name and yes, I do realize I was in the extreme minority holding that opinion. But I fell in love with the Bobcats, feel that Rufus is one of the best team mascots in professional sports, and the LadyCats look the bomb in the current team colors. Did I love the original Hornets? You bet I did! But they left and our current squad is NOT the same team. The name change will cost the team millions of dollars and the final result will be a net gain of ZERO wins for the team. Owner Michael Jordan is taking an all-or-nothing gamble that the adoption of the Hornets name will result in the return of some of the “old guard” fans – enough of them to erase the red ink from the ledgers and financial statements of the team. My fear is that the growing legion of young Bobcats fans that weren’t even born when the Hornets left town will feel abandoned, confused, and forgotten when the Cats cease to exist. Time will tell. I am pulling for the team and for Michael Jordan’s ability to answer the, “what’s in YOUR wallet” question with a smile on his face. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to open my own wallet long enough to buy seats at the new “Hive” next year.
My days at Trade Street Post may be drawing to a close when the Bobcats disappear. The big question is, will anyone notice or will I be one more invisible casualty along with Rufus? As always, you can let me know your opinion via email or comments here at TSP. Hopefully the final season of the Charlotte Bobcats will provide a few more opportunities for me to meet up with some of you as well as my second family of Andrew, Misty, and the boys. Look for me in my wheelchair along with the woman of my dreams and maybe we can have one more night cheering on the Fighting Felines, down on Trade Street.