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Projecting the Bobcats' Next 42 Days

There's a sense in Charlotte that the Bobcats are arriving. I've got friends at work who are taking notice of the Cats' run of success and asking me questions about it. (Of course, it's possible they're just being polite to the Rufus on Fire guy and asking about one of his interests and not talking about it with anyone else, but bear with me...)

The thing is, this is likely a bubble that will burst in due time. It doesn't mean the Cats aren't getting better or aren't headed in the right direction; it means they've had some extremely favorable conditions the past couple weeks and will be headed into some hostile territory soon, where I expect they'll be brought back to earth a bit.

Consider that the Bobcats are one of the best home teams in the league, but also one of the worst road teams. Consider that they're nearing the end of a six-game home stretch and will then play a road-home back to back to finish it. Consider that for the next month, the Cats are staring down a stretch with 12 road games and 5 home games.

Assume they win the next two home games against Miami and Orlando, and lose at Atlanta. Say they go 4-1 at home and 3-9 on the road in their next 17. Suddenly, they're back under .500, but still ahead of the 37-win pace optimistic pundits predicted when Stephen Jackson came aboard. This would be in line with the team's established talent level, a correction after such a hot streak during the homestand.

What's the worst-case scenario? They go 3-2 at home, then 1-11 on the road. That would put them right at about a 35-win pace, which is what just about everyone predicted for them at the start of the season, with still plenty of time to regroup and claw back into playoff contention. Taking care of business at home has put the Bobcats in a great position to go on a couple long road trips with some breathing room. In theory -- and this probably won't happen, given Larry Brown's substitution patterns -- they could go all out after a few road wins and go twelve deep in other games during the trip instead of playing the same rotation all the way through, giving some guys more rest during the grueling month of travel with the goal of maintaining key players' freshness when the insane part of the schedule concludes. Whatever the method, winning 3 road games would be slightly disappointing, but still acceptable.

Here's the thing: You and I know these things happen and we know the NBA is unforgiving to road teams. The home team wins 60% of the time in the modern NBA, and a middle of the pack team like the Bobcats should be expected to lose at least that often on the road, possibly more often due to this team's specific tendency to lose away from the Cable Box.

However, the general public, and even the NBA-phobic general sports media in Charlotte, don't understand that. They tend to be football people, and football people, like George Steinbrenner, adopt the attitude of living and dying with each game, whether home or away. In the NBA, one game, or a stretch of road games, does not necessarily count as an indication of character, fortitude, moral fiber, or overall fortune the way a single NFL game does in people's minds.

If the Cats survive the next 42 days and go 7-10 over that period, I guarantee that will burst the bubble for the general public, the non-NBA people in our midst. They'll go back to what they've been doing, thinking the Bobcats are the same as they've always been. It will seem to indicate that the Cats aren't "for real", when, really, you and I know it will be as good an indicator of "for realness" that we'll have had to that point.