Three games out with five games to play. Obviously, the most important of the remaining contests is the one at Chicago, but, in all likelihood, all the remaining games are must-win for Charlotte.
Tonight, the Cats close out their home schedule with a game against the 76ers before ceding the Cable Box to the Charlotte Jumper Classic, a show jumping competition that nobody really believes exists, because Bob Johnson wouldn't force his team to play the final four games on the road in favor of a vanity project.
The odds are long. Victory will be sweet, as it usually is. Defeat will be bitter. As it usually is.
Ultimately, though, I'm looking forward to the closure. Not that I want this season to end, mind you, but that sense of finality is reminiscent of what us mildly OCD folks feel when we balance out the touches and the matchsticks.
On the eve of the season's first game, I wrote:
...it may seem I'm dreading this season, but I'm more excited for this year than any other NBA season I can remember. Really. Today is always the first day of something, and the Bobcats have a chance to make it the start of their journey to prosperity.
With the trade for Boris and Raja, the journey took an unexpected turn, and there is plenty of good reason for trepidation moving forward, but it was a decidedly good turn. Boris Diaw discovered three point range, becoming a solid player. Raja Bell didn't exactly turn back the clock, but he wasn't the total black hole he certainly could have been, considering where his production was trending in Phoenix.
Going from Richardson and Dudley to Raja and Boris was an upgrade of, off the top of my head, one win over the course of the season. Two, tops. Also off the top of my head, Gerald is the same guy he's been since busting his shoulder (when he stopped blocking shots). Emeka has improved by about a win, and DJ Augustin is about two wins better, in limited playing time, than the disgustingly horrible backup point guards last year were. That might look like fitting the end result to match the hypothesis, but it passes my smell test.
We'll have all off season to talk about how the team will get better, but I want to leave you with one of my strongest memories from this season. It comes from Boris and Raja's first game with the Bobcats, the epic near-comeback against the Pistons back in December.
...I saw, with the clarity generated only by intense fear, that Gerald wasn't in the game. I saw number 30 drifting at the top of the arc, only Augustin near him, and I screamed before Sheed even caught the pass. His shushing finger to the lips was so audacious, in light of his team's epic collapse, that in that moment I loved him completely, just as much as I cursed him...
...I'm grateful. If pro basketball brought this kind of insanity every night, there wouldn't be any other forms of entertainment. The pleasure and pain of this one game is enough to carry me until the next high or crisis.