There’s no other way to put it: last night’s 122-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was an inexplicably savage butchery. I’m at a total loss for words. I guess that’s not technically true, otherwise I couldn’t be typing anything. But still, after every few sentences I manage to force out, I stare at the box score in mute horror. I wish I had as strong a stomach as coach Dunlap apparently does. After reviewing the statistical bloodstains and brain matter from the Cavs’ slaughter, coach Dunlap merely commented, “There are three or four of those that happen to you. They’re not pretty.” A) Duh. B) This was actually the 5th time this season that the Bobcats have lost by 25 or more, so I would challenge coach Dunlap to revise his definition of “those.” He also added that the team’s “physical effort was unacceptable—our front door and our back door is effort.” Okay, but the rest of the house is a meth lab, and that falls on every executive on the team who let it come to this.
The Bobcats have dropped two straight games harder than Manny Pacquiao, causing coach Dunlap to do things like allow Gana Diop on the court. It’s a disturbing sight for Bobcats fans, as the obese Diop can’t jump and can barely move. Offensively, he shoots it like he eats it: In-N-Out; his 6 points against the Bucks were his first of the season. Needless to say, the tactic hasn’t worked; the Bobcats have lost violently to Milwaukee and San Antonio, allowing both teams to fill up the stat sheet like a port-a-john outside a taco stand.
The first half against the Bucks was the Bobcats’ worst since they were thunderstruck in OKC. It was also more of the same story: the Bucks had 23 offensive rebounds and 14 more rebounds overall. On offense, if Charlotte didn’t score on its first attempt, it wasn’t going to happen; the Bobcats had more 1-and-done’s than a Kentucky recruiting class. Coach Dunlap countered in the second half by bringing out Diop—basketball’s equivalent to bringing out the gimp. To Diop’s credit, he finished a +4 on the night in 22 minutes of so-called “run,” joining Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as the only Bobcats with a positive plus-minus who played at least 20 minutes. On the other hand, much of that has to do with the tail-end of the 4th quarter, when Milwaukee emptied its bench.
I don’t know. I’ll be the first to tell you, I don’t know. Whether the Bobcats are good, bad, lucky, suckering teams, winning close ones early in the year only to lose them later, a fluke or on to something real and sustainable. I don’t know. All those adjectives or suspicions have definite truths to them. That’s easy to say though. Like I’m standing up on the street corner saying “God exists! Maybe! Repent! Or do whatever you want! He’s coming soon! Or he’s not coming at all! Maybe he’s coming later!” Nothing too bold about saying “I don’t know.”
Just the not knowing, this year is a big deal though. Last year the team was awful. The whole way around, we know that. So, just thinking “Hey, this is great!” is an incredible feeling. My mind is still of the pre-OKC beatdown however. Those were the Bobcats I expected to see. Not the ones who beat Dallas for the first time and were 7-5 until that horrible, worst ever loss to the Thunder. Actually, I can say now, I didn’t know what to expect.
New coach, new players, new jerseys, new floor, new year. I was hoping for 20 wins. Seriously, that was around what I really thought was possible. Being a third of the way there, less than a seventh of the way through the season was very surprising but when you see how it was done, it’s somewhat comforting.
Shocking the NBA by having a winning record early in the year isn’t the trick. The trick is sustaining that progress, that evidences itself in wins, throughout the full 82 game slate and on into the future. I’m realizing that after every statement about the Bobcats you can and should read into it “after the single worst season in NBA history, based on winning percentages.” That cloud hangs still, and it casts a shadow, but far from an all encompassing one.
“I think everybody that has been watching all of our games,” said coach Mike Dunlap, obviously addressing me personally and a handful of others, “say that MKG gets a little bit better and then all of a sudden he had what you would call a breakout game.” I definitely would call it a breakout game, coach, and thanks for the shout-out. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist spearheaded the Bobcats’ first ever win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night in 17 tries, in a game that featured so much crazy crap at the end that I can’t even describe it all; it’s like trying to describe the ending of The Departed. For example, Brendan Haywood missed separate free throw attempts—one at the end of regulation and one in OT—and both times it ended up being a good thing.
That’s because on both occasions the Bobcats got the rebound. I was thinking that it was MKG who grabbed both of them, but I forgot that it was Kemba Walker who did it the first time (the Bobcats were trailing by 2 with 22 seconds left). It’s seriously like trying to remember who was who between Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Anyway, Walker got it to Ramon Sessions, who missed, and then MKG grabbed that one, and made a great feed back to Sessions for the tie, which sent it into overtime. Then in overtime, it was indeed MKG who boarded Haywood Misses Critical Goddamned Free Throw, Part II and found Byron Mullens, who flushed the ball like a toilet and gave the Bobcats the lead for good.
The one thing about the beginning of the season is that everyone literally starts on the same plane. Prior to the first game of the season everyone is undefeated and theoretically has just as much of a shot to get to the Finals as the next guy.
Of course in time realism sets in as the teams start to play and the men quickly begin to separate themselves from the boys.
Until that moment happens though one could make a positive argument for the future of any team until it loses. So with that in mind I feel the need to pose what I think is an interesting question—
Should we get excited over the Charlotte Bobcats season opening win over the Indiana Pacers?
The easy answer is yes, because after all a win is a win is a win is a win, right? Indiana was one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference last season with a record of 42-24 and is expected to be pretty competitive this season as well. Anytime you beat a team of that caliber is reason to be happy.
Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the furrrr!! What an opening night to the season! The last time the Bobcats won an opening night game so thrillingly was last year, so this is clearly a sign of great things to come. What can you say about this effort? If you’re David West, you can say that the Bobcats “junked up” the game with their zone defense. If you’re coach Mike Dunlap, you can say that you just slaughtered an elephant. But if you’re just a simple fan, like me, you can say farewell to a losing streak that’s longer than Morgan Freeman’s IMDB profile.
Of course the big hero was Kemba Walker, who hit 10-of-21 from the field and 9-out-of-10 free throws. He style of play wasn’t much different than what he did last year, and in fact he almost submarined the whole thing by tossing up a horrid, Nate Robinsonian 20-footer with 16 seconds to play. But the big difference was that this time his attempts in the key were either on target or drew fouls—or, at the very least, didn’t lead to turnovers. Full credit goes to him and his mentor, coach Dunlap. I have to admit that I was not feeling encouraged about this relationship, especially when just last week, Dunlap called Walker “an unusual player who can do some things very special.” It honestly sounded like a parent awkwardly describing a child with severe autism. But perhaps there has been real improvement.