Last year sucked.
This is neither a novel nor insightful sentiment. It's just the way it was. It sucked so much.
Getting through each game was a testament of willpower. Humans were not built to sustain viewing such terrible basketball. The opportunity costs of choosing to watch a Charlotte Bobcats game overwhelmed the benefits. I've written a short play about this.
INT apartment living room. A few articles of clothing litter the room. An empty beer sits next to a coaster on the wooden coffee table. A North Carolina Lottery commercial plays on the television, commercial jingle rhyming at its most mediocre.
JAMES is a thin 20-something. He is wearing black jeans and a Dunder-Mifflin t-shirt that he bought during the heyday of NBC's The Office. Regretting the purchase not a month later, JAMES cares little for the shirt, which now has a honey mustard stain near his sternum and a couple holes varying in size. He sits on the couch, perusing his phone as the television blares.
TODD is his roommate. He sports a blue horizontal-striped v-neck sweater, tan corduroy pants and a pair of white Puma Clydes. TODD enters.
What's up, James? What are you up to tonight?
I dunno, the Bobcats are playing tonight so I thought I'd watch that.
How about we do anything else?
Yeah, that sounds much better.
Games to look forward to were very rare. At one point, I fell asleep during a game. I could feel my hair turning grey as I watched the Bobcats play.
Though the Bobcats were young, there was nothing fun about the team. They lacked a solid offensive option and the focus to be resilient. With injuries attacking nearly every position, the only consistent thing about the Bobcats was their inconsistency. Charlotte's offense was mostly devoid of scorers, and often times Kemba Walker took on the brunt of the scoring, taking nearly 15 percent of the team's field goal attempts on the season.
What resulted is what you might expect. The rookie point guard who had won the hearts of the nation a year earlier taking his college team to a national championship tried to put his team on his back once again. But at this next level, with a team that had very mediocre other scoring options, Walker was inefficient and tried to do too much. The team floundered. It was hard to be excited about anything. Not only were the Bobcats bad as a team, but everyone was bad individually because of it.
Youth has almost become this NBA buzzword synonymous with "FUN BASKETBALL GO WATCH YAY." But it didn't play out that way. The team was undisciplined and took terrible shots, most of which were long twos, the most inefficient shot in basketball. It fell behind in nearly every game quickly. I can't even begin to tell you how much of a drag it is to watch a sloppy mess of an NBA team fall behind by 20 points in one half is. Many of you already know this feeling.
But Shammgod willing, that has changed this season.
I know this is not the final product we've been waiting for. There is still a ton of work for the Bobcats to do to make a truly competitive team. I know the Bobcats are only five games into the season and so much can change. I know last year's team also had similar times of elation early in the season. I know Kemba Walker has had five game strings of solid play and fallen back to earth before. Perhaps this glorious afterglow following a great bunch of games from Kemba Walker and beating the Mavericks for the first time ever comes to a crashing halt.
Maybe I'm naive, but this really seems like an entertaining team I can get behind.
Subbing out Corey Maggette for Ben Gordon rid the team of an often injured wing and brought in a lot of scoring help in the backcourt, along with Ramon Sessions. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist adds a lot of defensive help on the perimeter and stems what was an undying tide of scoring waves crashing at the Bobcats' rim last year. He also brings to the table great rebounding, especially offensively to extend Bobcats possessions. Furthermore, Kidd-Gilchrist helps the Bobcats score more at the rim.
Last year you couldn't count on anyone having a redeeming performance in a loss. Like Clay wrote this past weekend, it looks like though the Bobcats will certainly rack up losses, much fewer of them will be by 30 points or more. No, it's much more likely that they scrape their way back into games or lose by about 10 points or so on the coattails of one player particularly having a strong night to keep them from sinking beneath the crushing strength of an opponent's firepower. Make no mistake, I'm sure there will still be times to question and doubt the future of the Bobcats' young players. But I think there will be more games where we see encouraging performances than last season from those players -- and not only because we have a full 82 game slate this year.
Additionally, they found a coach that fit the ideology they wanted to build around at this time. Mike Dunlap preaches precision. Charlotte's players have to be quick on their feet and with their mind on both sides of the ball and attentive to thrive in Dunlap's systems. The defense is based in pressuring opponents and forcing them into turnovers. So far, the Bobcats have done that fairly well (14th in the NBA in defensive TOV% per basketball-reference.com). In turn, this leads to pushing the rock in transition and making the most of changing possessions to get advantages on offense. Charlotte is young, fast and athletic and Dunlap has his heart set on utilizing these strengths in his game strategy.
In essence, it seems the team has matched mindset and body to engender a more competitive squad, which is something I definitely couldn't say about last year's team.
Finally, something fun.