Nights like tonight are when I remind myself why I suffer through losing streaks, ownership issues, bad tv deals, and all the other problems of being a Charlotte Bobcats fan. Being a Bobcats fan means all that, but it also means an annual win or two against the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers, in front of a packed house sprinkled with fair-weather Kobe-lovers, Ric Flair, Bob Johnson, and MJ himself. Tonight was no different, and Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and crew led the Bobcats to a win, 98-83.
After a disappointing road trip out West and two poor games this week, it seemed the ship was taking on water at the very least. But for tonight, if not the future, Gerald Wallace returned to his pre-All Star Game form with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, and Stephen Jackson did his part with 21 points and 4 steals. But while the stars were part of the story, the Bobcat Bench was the glue that sealed the win, led by Tyrus Thomas (14 pts, 9 rbds, 2 blks) and DJ Augustin (12 pts, 5 ast, 2 st) but supported very well by Gerald Henderson and newly-returned Tyson Chandler, who had been out with the foot injury that’s hurt him all season long. Augustin, who had been a miserable 2-27 in a 5-game stretch prior to the Boston game Wednesday, went 5-8, and 2-3 from 3 point range, which is encouraging for all ‘Cats fans. Henderson received his first meaningful playing time of the year (albeit someshort), and delivered with Raja Bell-like defense on Bryant, who scored 26 on 9-21 shooting (0-4 on threes). The rookie had 6 points and 2 rebounds along with a steal and a block. Larry Brown said afterwards “I was proud of Gerald Henderson. The first time we played the Lakers in LA he said ‘Coach, I’d like to play against them,’ and I was a little nervous about that, but I saw him play in Boston; If he makes mistakes, if he takes a bad shot, it’s not because he isn’t trying so I think I’m gonna put him in more, give him a chance.” In the locker room post-game, Michael Jordan came up to Henderson and congratulated him. Perhaps that highly publicized game of HORSE, which Henderson called a “blessing in disguise,” had a major impact? Coach Brown also said that Tyrus Thomas would be a “helluva player” and said his attitude was comparable to Gerald Wallace in terms of wanting to learn. Speaking of Gerald, he summed up the night rather well with these words on the sporadic Laker jerseys in the stands:
“We want them to come with whoever they want to go with, as long as when they go home they’re Bobcats fans we’re good with that.”
So are we.