Patience in a Small Market

Patience is a very difficult virtue to attain. In today’s Western society where you can have a grilled cheeseburger making sweet love to your gums within minutes, we all want everything fast and of excellent quality.

As we all know, this extends to sports as well. The Heat, Knicks and Nets have all made their best effort to turn their mediocre franchises into contenders in a season or two. For Miami and New York, this was creating cap space for last season’s free agency bonanza, while New Jersey and New York traded much of their respective teams to get franchise players.

And yet, meanwhile in Bobcat Land, we sit with a team that has made the playoffs once (and were unceremoniously swept) and that has made questionable decisions that has led to the roster we have now with bloated contracts that will probably last past the next two or three Raptures.

Without many valuable trade assets, the Bobcats will probably be stuck with more than just a few of these cringe-worthy deals and the roster will likely only marginally increase in talent.

But that should not be the incentive to hastily buy talent in free agency. Heck no.

Firstly, the Bobcats don’t have much cap space to sign free agents to begin with. According to HoopsHype, the Bobcats have $49,979,421 tied up in player contracts for the upcoming season. Assuming the Bobcats draft three players with the picks they currently hold, the 9th pick’s salary will be a little over $2 million, the 19th will cost about $1.5 million and the 39th pick will be paid around $500,000. With four million more dollars tied up in contracts, that leaves the Bobcats with a team salary totaling around $54 million. Of course, the CBA negotiations have given us very little indication of what the soft cap will be set at next year (if there even is one). However, this 2010-11 season’s salary cap was set at $58 million, and I seriously doubt any increase in the cap. Left with nothing but our best guesses, you have to think that at best, there is only about $4 million to sign one or two players. If you look at last year’s free agency, even the signings of young talent that went a little under the radar (Wes Matthews, 5 years for $33 million) would exceed our cap space. Shaun Livingston was considered a good deal at $3.5 million per year. If the Bobcats are indeed devoted to signing a talented, young free agent, their best option is to sign said player to a back-loaded contract, which would fit under the current cap space and increase each year.

But that’s highly unlikely.

Say the Bobcats finagle a trade and clear some extra cap space; the other risk the team runs is overpaying for impulse players that seem to fit the system. The player that most comes to mind here for me would be J.R. Smith.

Look, I like J.R. Smith. He has thrilling athletic gifts and is a good scoring threat, which this team has loads and loads of depth at. Just kidding -- of course we need scoring. But we don’t need crazy and we don’t need streaky, eye-gouging quality shot-selection at a high cost. He’s much better fitted to be a backup shooting guard rather than a starter, and the Bobcats don’t need to drastically shrink their cap space any more for a 6th man.

When it all comes down to one thing, it’s patience. We’re a small market team and small market teams always get the short end of the stick. But that’s just the way it goes. Big market teams have the flexibility to make mistakes and to bounce back. On the other side of the spectrum, teams like the Bobcats don’t have the same leeway to make a questionable, desperate decision like signing Amir Johnson to a five-year, $34 million contract (Toronto) or Travis Outlaw to five years for $35 million (New Jersey) that larger market teams could sustain and keep on truckin’ with. Small market teams like the Bobcats must be smart, savvy and cautious with their roster moves.

As fans, we can’t expect them to make quick moves to turn the team around at the risk of impeding the rebuilding process. We must be calm and understanding of the team’s situation.

I know this sounds hard to stomach since the team has had so little success in its history and we all want success as soon as possible, but haste often makes waste, especially for small market teams. Being careful and deliberate with team moves is the best option. It is best to bear in mind that shortchanging the future at the chance of moderate improvement in the present impedes progress.

The team may dwell in the basement and in mediocrity for a few seasons, but that may bring about a new and better era in Charlotte Bobcats basketball.

Make us proud, Mikey. We're waiting.

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