I don't remember if I heard this from someone else first -- probably someone British, because it sounds Douglas Adams-ish -- so I'm tentatively taking credit for making it up: It's not really a worst case scenario unless it involves an earthquake and a paternity test gone wrong, and it's not really a best case scenario unless it involves an unmarked Swiss bank account and multiple Olympic gold medals.
With that in mind, the Bobcats' worst reasonably likely scenario this season is a horror show, while the best reasonably likely scenario would catapult Michael Jordan's management record from punch line to tale of redemption. After the jump, I'll describe how the season plays out in my nightmares and in my unguarded fantasies. All of this is assuming the roster doesn't undergo any more major changes.
1 -- Gerald Wallace gets injured, misses most of the season, and his career is threatened. This is my biggest long-term fear, as a Bobcats fan. Basically, if Crash goes down, the season's toast, and if his career gets sidetracked, we lose a legitimate franchise cornerstone. Knowing how concussions affect athletes, too, his injury history will be a risk factor the rest of his time in the NBA.
2 -- D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston stink. The Bobcats can be competitive, though probably not a playoff team, if these two guys both soil the bed, like Augustin did at the start of last season. However, after Gerald Wallace's health, I suspect the Cats' PG play will have the most influence on their final record.
3 -- Larry Brown bounces; the Cats hire some incompetent retread like Mike Dunleavy. I continue to maintain the Bobcats have gotten better because the players got better, but going from Sam Vincent to Brown made a huge difference, at the very least, in the professionalism the players bring to games and their crispness on the floor.
4 -- Stephen Jackson grows unhappy and pulls a power play... again. For all his gifts on the floor and his knack for uniting teammates, Jax has some pretty pronounced Respect Issues. From what I've gathered following his career, Jackson seems to have a pretty rigid code of honor, and when anyone breaks that code, it causes a problem. (/Amateur Psychologist)
5 -- Tyrus Thomas reverts to the Bad Tyrus that infuriated and frustrated Bulls fans for years. In many ways, this has all the hallmarks of the Boris Diaw Era. Monsieur Nonchalant came over to Charlotte and suddenly started shooting threes at 42%, on top of distributing and doing little things like it was 2006 all over again. But then the 2009-10 season happened, and we realized that Boris was the same guy he'd been every other year of his career, and there was a reason why both Atlanta and Phoenix had grown weary of his game. Thomas has been a very good defender, but there's a real chance he doesn't "get it", to use Dwyer's term, and Brown grows so annoyed by the freelancing, freewheeling, seat-of-his-pants play that he doesn't see the floor more than 20 minutes per game.
6 -- Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown don't play.
7 -- The team wins 20 games.
1 -- Gerald Wallace takes another small step forward, maintaining the All-NBA level defense, but adding consistency to his jumper, and ten percentage points to his free throw shooting, to go with his elite rebounding and slashing skills. In other words, he goes from being a borderline All-Star to the obvious choice to supplant Paul Pierce as a perennial SF for the East.
2 -- D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston both improve and form a perfect platoon. When the situation calls for offense, D.J. plays, and he repeats his rookie season's three-point shooting while showing a newfound ability to slither among the bigs in the paint, drawing contact for free throws. Meanwhile Livingston proves to be a defensive beast, able to guard ones and twos equally well. He allows the Bobcats to put out a lineup entirely 6-6 and taller, making it near impossible for anyone this side of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrea Bargnani to shoot over the defense effectively.
3 -- Larry Brown continues to mellow and display a surprising willingness to work with the players' personalities as they are, instead of trying to force them into roles that suit them ill. This results in a faster game. Since Wallace and Thomas are exceptional flying down court on the wings, and neither point guard is noted for his ability to create in the half court, the Cats embrace the Red Auerbach truism that the easiest baskets are uncontested layups and dunks and use a smothering defense to spark fast breaks, with forwards finishing at the rim and guards shooting threes or faking then driving. Like in the ABA, Larry!
4 -- Stephen Jackson continues to mellow and settles from firecracker to relentless professional. What I love most about Jax is that he so obviously cares about doing his job well and takes great pleasure in team success. There's a balance somewhere in there below KG-esque barking, but above laconic jogging, where Jax can fire everyone up and lead by example without making everyone uncomfortable and without letting bumps in the road negatively affect his play.
5 -- Tyrus Thomas becomes every bit the player Gerald Wallace was when he was blocking two shots per game and grabbing two steals per game, only with more rebounds.
6 -- Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown each play over 1,000 minutes and match last year's production from, say, Arron Afflalo and Darrell Arthur, respectively.
7 -- The Bobcats finish with 50 wins, and win two playoff series.