We’re entering the homestretch of the schedule, which in this miserably depressing season feels like the end of a 10-mile escape on foot from a homicidal maniac with a butcher knife, only to encounter a finish line surrounded by a hoard of reanimated cannibal corpses. Bobcats fans seem to run this race annually and know the course well, so it’s no surprise when we get games like last night’s, in which Fox Sports Carolinas is openly hyping other games on other networks that are infinitely more interesting right on the broadcast, such as the Heat-Celtics or UNC women’s lacrosse. In the case of last night’s Wizards game, I’m guessing those who didn’t switch channels either had their TVs on earlier in the day and at some point either died, went blind, or were abducted.
Only the Bobcats could make Martell Webster look like an unstoppable offensive force. The career journeyman connected on 4-of-8 3-pointers for 20 points, enabling the Wizards to humiliate the Bobcats, 104-87. The loss extended the Bobcats’ North American Humiliation Tour to 10-straght games on Saturday, thanks to Webster, as well as Trevor Ariza, who jumped off the bench like it was covered with pigeon turds and scored 26 points. Webster and Ariza had plenty of open looks, because the Bobcats were busy trying—and failing—to stop Washington center Nenê, who burned them down low like a Brazilian wax. Nenê’s stats—19/8/4 with 2 blocks—weren’t staggering, but his frequent body checks into Kemba Walker sure were, and the Brazilian’s overall dominance stripped the Bobcats of any hair of a chance in this one (he finished with a game high +26).
This wipeout followed the previous night’s shenanigans in Charlotte, where the Bobcats bowed down to the awesome glory of Hashim Thabeet and his backups, the Oklahoma City Thunder. As expected, Thabeet led his still-developing supporting cast with 4-of-6 shooting, at times showing his impatience with their overall lack of skills and maturity. The good news for the Bobcats was that they improved upon their previous results with the Thunder by 51%; the bad news was that this meant they still lost by 22 points.
I’ll start off with a full confession: I didn’t see the second overtime of the Bobcats win against Washington, because I had recorded the game and only gave myself a half-hour buffer afterward. But even if I had been watching the game live I might not have seen it, because I probably would have passed out from the agony of the regulation and the first OT—I was the Steve Austin to that game’s Bret Hart, and I was caught in the sharpshooter. Thus after dealing with the several minutes of suspended, tortured horror that was Chris Singleton’s free throw sequence to end the first OT, I had to do the thing in which I raced to the computer to look up the score…and the computer was loading really slow…and when the screen finally populated, the first thing I saw was this totally indeterminate picture of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist:
Finally, though, I saw Rick Bonnell’s headline and write-up, and thus did Rick deliver me from my suffering. You’re beautiful in your way, Rick, ‘cause God makes no mistakes.
But first, let’s tackle the Atlanta Hawks game, which took place the night before. Even with a good visiting team in the house, the crowd was somewhat listless, which I chalked up to Black Friday fatigue. It’s so depressing to see such mindless consumerism devour people’s souls, a fact I noted to Siri in my brand new iPhone 5. As it turned out, the crowd didn’t miss too much, because Atlanta was firmly in control of this game from start to finish. Seemingly every time the Bobcats got it close, Atlanta it would answer with a devastating 3-pointer. You know what, I don’t even think it was “seemingly,” I think it was literally:
- Devin Harris made it 29-21 after the Bobcats had cut the lead to 5
- DeShawn Stephenson made it 39-33 after the Bobcats had cut it to 3
- Jeff Teague made it 42-36 after the Bobcats had cut it to 3
- Kyle Korver made it 60-53 after the Bobcats had cut it to 4
- Korver made it 65-57 after the Bobcats had cut it to 5
I find the start to this season to be not just surprising but unfathomable. Last month if you had told me that the Bobcats would start the season 4-3 with a three-game winning streak, I would have assumed it was a sick joke. Incidentally, this also would have been my response if you’d told me they were remaking Red Dawn. But both events are now happening, and given their improbability, I’m worried that it’s more than a coincidence. What if our world and that of Red Dawn are now fusing? I half expect to look out my office window and see parachuting Russian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan soldiers in vaguely racist dark skin paint hit the ground and gun down my boss while he’s giving me a lesson on Genghis Khan. Fortunately, if this happens, I’ll know just what to do: load up my car full of Coke, get used to the taste of deer blood, and put the fate of the free world in the hands of Charlie Sheen.
On the other hand, I certainly don’t expect this to last, because circumstances have been hugely favorable to the Bobcats lately. Starting with injuries: the Mavericks were without Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, the Wizards were without John Wall and Nene, and the Timberwolves…well, there have been healthier teams emerging from plane crashes. Beyond the fortunate injury rashes, other strange stuff has been happening. For the season, Charlotte is ranked 24th in opponent 3-Pt %, but for the last 3 games they’ve been 4th. And I am here to tell you it is NOT because they’ve done a better job closing out the other teams’ shooters. Troy Murphy and his mid-80s feathered haircut were so wide open that he could have built a time machine and transported himself back to the set of Bryan Adams’s video for “Run to You.” Most Washington players, meanwhile, would rather pass a kidney stone than the ball, resulting in a 5-for-31 three-point chuck-fest. As for Minnesota, I think all lines of any kind in that game were simply contaminated. Both teams shot a combined 9-35 on 3’s and 29-51 on free throws.
Not only are the Bobcats 7-57 against the league, they’re now 0-2 against national columnists. In SI.com, Michael Rosenberg wondered how someone as competitive as Michael Jordan could let something like this season happen. In his ESPN Insider Per Diem column, John Hollinger demonstrated how the team’s atrociousness is historically significant. I halfway expect to turn on tomorrow night’s game against Orlando and see Anderson Cooper solemnly reporting from outside of the arena, wearing a CNN-branded raincoat and describing the situation as an “ongoing catastrophe.” The Bobcats are officially in Secret Service-territory now, a national embarrassment. They’re also the worst nightmare for fans like me, who hope that if their teams can’t be any good then can’t they at least not make a scene?
Nope, they’re making that scene. In fact, they’re getting drunk and throwing up in a crowded restaurant while picking their noses. With spinach in their teeth. “When the Kings arrived in North Carolina on Saturday evening,” wrote Jason Jones in the Sacramento Bee, “they had a practice that focused on what they needed to do to beat the Bobcats.” Does that mean they practiced showing up? Because I’m not really sure what else is required nowadays. The Kings owned more paint than Sherwin-Williams, scoring 78 from close-range. DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, and Travis Outlaw rampaged through the Bobcats’ frontcourt like George, Lizzy, and Ralph. It wasn’t just Sacramento’s bigs, either; the Bobcats made Isaiah Thomas look like Isiah Thomas, and Tyreke Evans’ notorious inability to develop long-distance range didn’t really matter when all of his shots were slam-dunks. To me, this felt like the first time the Bobcats had genuinely stopped trying, especially on defense. Everything about their effort was humiliating, including the technical foul on Bismack Biyombo (although I guess that means his English must really be coming along).
Amazingly, the Bobcats continue to break new records in humiliation. I personally thought they topped out by losing back-to-back blowouts to the Cavaliers and Wizards last week, but it turns out they were just getting warmed up. In fact, those games were mere wedgies and “Kick Me” signs compared to the bucket of pig’s blood that was Monday’s Hornets game.
But before getting to that one, I don’t want to take away from Sunday night’s loss to the Celtics, because it was marvelously putrid in its own right. For starters, the C’s rested their “Big 3” of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen. It made no difference, though, because right now the Bobcats couldn’t beat the band Boston, let alone the basketball team. PG Rajon Rondo (20-16-6) had his way with the entire team, frequently tangling up Kemba Walker and DJ Augustin in screens like Batman villains on the old 60s TV show. Rondo was hardly alone, though. Greg Stiemsma, a cross between Serge Ibaka and Eminem, blocked 6 shots and owned the paint. Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass combined to go 18-for-33 from the field. Ryan Hollins played 20 minutes. That’s how bad it was.
And then came the Hornets game, which was the NBA’s answer to the Pete Campbell-Lane Pryce fight. In a spectacular display of joint-incompetence, both teams threatened to break the all-time lowest scoring mark held by the Celtics and the Hawks…That would be the Milwaukee Hawks of 1955, back when the league was populated by guys named Dickie, Whitey, and Adolph. Poor Spencer Percy’s recap of this embarrassing monstrosity for ESPN’s Daily Dime read more like a cry for help. “That was painful, pitiful, pathetic. Take your pick,” Percy wrote, “I’m just not so sure this team isn’t really the worst ever. Every night it gets harder to watch the Bobcats play.” Percy should just make a hologram of himself reading his recap and send it to David Stern, Princess Leia-style.