So the Bobcats beat the hapless Raptors last night in Canada of all places…who knew they played basketball up there? The ‘Cats and the Rap’s were both 1-6 headed into last night’s contest, however, coming into the season, the Bobcats were a revised version of a playoff team and the Raptors were 4 games worse, subtract the one dude they had that gave them any wins at all and ehh, not so surprising the Raptors were 1-6 but somewhat surprising that the Bobcats were. Prior to the win, most of the true fans left were either on the ledge or in a brisk walk towards it. It’s hard not to be concerned when a team is averaging around 18 turnovers and losing games to teams they theoretically should beat.
I thought, before the win, of proposing a team name change to the Charlotte Chuckin’ Turnovers, as the game versus San Antonio was a chuck-fest with the starters a combined 17 of 54 from the field. Bad enough for Larry Brown to leave Jackson and Wallace on the bench for the final stretch. I was so pissed about the shot selection I made some notes that are a bit un-readable and probably in bad taste to air in a public forum such as this. It wasn’t just a 1-6 start, it was an ugly 1-6. I realize there are growing pains (or regression pains) from losing your starting center and point guard but I didn’t think the fall off would be this bad.
I guess it was the high of the playoffs and the expectations going forward. Young talent taking hold, a defined path from leadership on and off the court and a renewed fanbase just starting to shake off the cobwebs from being jilted those many years ago. I think a lot of people were like me, expecting great things. Sure the loss of Raymond Felton would hurt, but Larry Brown, Rod Higgins and Michael Jordan had a plan in place and DJ Augustin, while having the sophmore slump, was no slouch. Tyson Chandler being traded for Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera and Dust (oh by the way, we were relieved of the French Wonder in that trade as well), while wasn’t an improvement, shook things up and took away 2 of the great what-ifs (as in “What if Tyson could stay healthy?” and “What if that taller Frenchman will ever see real PT in the NBA”). I didn’t know what to expect but I thought the team would be alright.
Then the turnovers and the chucking and the referees getting into everyone’s head and pockets caught up with these guys. A core of Diaw, Wallace, Jackson and Thomas couldn’t be 1-6 material, with the one win coming off of the lowly Nets, not in my mind.
So, how bad is it? In recent history how bad could a 2-6 start be? It’s only 8 games right? At 8 games, you’re 9.75% of the way through the regular season. 2 weeks out of 20. More importantly for this team however is the time to the trade deadline. You know they’ll pull the trigger but when? They have until February 24th…15 weeks and 49 games away from right now. 14% of the games before the trade deadline. I think it’s somewhat significant to look at the starts of playoff teams, if that is the goal.
Yes that previous paragraph was an explanation to myself for why I spent 2 hours on basketball-reference.com Someone told me it was stupid so I had to talk myself into explaining why I did it. Either way, here is the breakdown:
Going back to the Bobcats’ inception, only 2 teams have made the playoffs after starting 2-6, the ’07-’08 76ers and the ’04-’05 Nets. Both were bounced in the first round, and the Nets were swept. I looked deeper into Larry Brown’s “notoriously” slow starts. After 8 games, Coach has a losing record in only 8 of his last 16 years coaching, the rest were .500 or better. I quit looking at his ’92-’93 stint with the Clippers, just so I could help you understand his starts aren’t “notoriously” bad. So, 2 things can be gleaned from that, #1 this is not ordinary for coach Brown, #2 no one, NO one has been successful after such a poor start in many years.
That is, until I saw the ’93-’94 start of the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, under coach Brown started a paltry 2-6. Ugly games I’m sure under a new coach. However, the Pacers finished out 45-29, good enough for a 6th seed in the playoffs where they made it a game short, points short even, of making it to the NBA Finals. Losing to the Knicks in 7 games.
So is a poor start that big a deal? Yeah, kinda. It doesn’t happen often, but a poor starting team can catch on late in the year to make a run. And we just happen to have a coach who has done just that….here’s to 45-29 and a run to the conference finals!