During the last few months, the Charlotte Bobcats have stood at an organizational crossroads. Should the team attempt to soldier on in mediocrity with veterans, hoping to break through the proverbial 8th-seed-in-the-East wall, or begin afresh with a core of young players? After trading away the greatest player in franchise history, Gerald Wallace (sorry, Eduardo Najera), to Portland in order to acquire two first-round draft picks, the latter process began. A series of moves followed, including the trading of Stephen Jackson (and the immediate drafting of Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo), and the Bobcats seemingly moved into "rebuilding mode", an oft-dreaded but necessary period of time. As a fan, the important notion to understand when your team begins "rebuilding" is that results will almost definitely not be immediate. It can be a lengthy, difficult, and even unsuccessful process, but the long-term possibilities can easily be worth the struggle. Come along with me on a magical journey of reading after the jump!
As the process of rebuilding begins for the Bobcats begins, there are several important things to keep in mind:
The team will probably be terrible next year. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the leading scorer for the team this year (if there is a season) will most likely be Corey Maggette. Based on my basketball knowledge, that doesn't bode well in the wins department for the Bobcats.
- The core of the team must consistently be the focal point of team moves. Currently, the "core" is comprised of two guys definitively, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker (Gerald Henderson and even D.J. Augustin may also be included in this group, but I'd be surprised if they were deemed "untouchable" by the team). After next year's strong draft (and what I expect to be a lottery pick, though nothing can be certain), another player will be added to this young "core". Beyond developing them as players correctly, it's also important that other players are added to fit cohesively with their skill set.
- Basketball teams aren't built in a day. It usually takes years, and this won't be any different. For all purposes, the Bobcats are starting over with a new (though promising) foundation.
Rebuilding can be scary, mostly because it's called "rebuilding". The very nature of the term implies the barren nature of the initial movement to "rebuild". The fear of wallowing in the cellar of competition for too long exists, as does the fear of continual irrelevancy (which terrifies the fans of every small-market team). This fear can often lead to difficult questions.
What if we can't compete with the large-market teams?
What if our fan base doesn't grow?
What if our team is dysfunctional and we never reach our goal of forming a legitimately competitive team?
What if they make another Hanes commercial with Charlie Sheen and Michael Jordan?
What if the top never stopped spinning at the end of "Inception"?
The first three are legitimate questions, and unfortunately, distinct possibilities. Long-term plans often hit walls that can't be overcome, but at least they strive for goals that are worth attaining. Remaining in a flux of mediocrity doesn't ignite cities, improve fan bases, or create a team with a constantly hopeful outlook.
I've heard complaints from some Bobcats' fans about the moves that have been made to change the team. I'm aware of the pain accompanied with losing a genuinely good guy and a franchise cornerstone like Gerald Wallace. I understand that the Stephen Jackson-Shaun Livingston trade left the Bobcats with very few good scoring options. But the moves were necessary. When a team is mired in mediocrity and carrying the questionable contracts of Matt Carroll, DeSagana Diop, and now, Corey Maggette (I'm choosing not to mention Boris Diaw due to the expiring nature of his contract), it needs to make moves that look to the long-term, when its financial straits will be improved, and it will hopefully have a "core" to build around.
All of this will take time. As I stated, the Bobcats will likely struggle next year, and probably the following year as well. But the recent moves made by the Bobcats don't indicate a wish to immediately be a successful NBA team. They aren't intended to create a juggernaut in 2011 (season permitting), or 2012. The moves were made with 2013 and the long-term future of the team in mind. Because of the nature of these moves, a fan's mindset should mirror the likely outlook of the Bobcats' organization. It'll be a struggle, and there will almost certainly be moments when it's difficult to believe in a team that seems to resemble "the same-old Bobcats", but those moments should be coupled with an understanding of what could possibly lie in the future.
Sometimes it's easy to brush aside an unknown future because of fear, but the path of a small-market team's fan is rarely easy. If you choose to wait, the possibility firmly exists that your patience might finally be rewarded to an extent that you aren't accustomed to reaching. As fans, isn't the hint of that moment the reason we spend countless hours devoted to the mindless exercise of watching sports?
That moment may very well exist in the future of the Bobcats, but it must be coupled with the reasonable quality of patience.