Oh boy, it's the third week of August! Do you know what that means? It means it's the exciting time when nothing in the NBA happens except the occasional pickup game (Rucker/Drew League, etc) or praying players on your team don't do anything stupid (coughcoughTyLawsoncoughcough).
With that boredom in mind, let's delve into the annals of the rich, storied Bobcats history. Step into my 1988 Volvo stationwagon and we will travel back to December 29, 2006.
Like any early winter day in the South, the temperature in the daytime would eventually climb to a comfortable 60-ish degrees, similar to the day before. But hell, the current below-freezing cold frosting over the grass and dirt kept you insulated in bed under the covers that morning. Your toes could get a taste of that and the rest of the Friday could easily wait. Your whole day was a blank slate. Pretty much everyone was still in post-Christmas recovery playing host to their kin or out of town.
Still somewhere between awake and asleep, your mind wanders.
Ugh, just two more days. I'm so ready for this depressing year to be over. First James Brown died on Monday and then Gerald Ford passed away on Tuesday. And just today, Ghanaian football player Charles Addo Odametey died.
Wow, it's so true. They always go in threes.
But then you recall the good times, too. Like when that guy from Korn left the band to manage his restaurant or when Aerosmith had to cancel their tour because Steven Tyler needed surgery.
As you slip back into sleep comforted by these memories, you remember that the Bobcats play the Lakers tonight.
The game starts in an hour but you don't have tickets. With Kobe in town, you can forget about it. The arena will be packed with yellow shirts anyway.
The Lakers aren't even that good, though: Kobe may be near the top of his game, but Lamar Odom is their second-best player and he's hurt right now. Luke Walton's playing decently, though. He's more of a 'jack of all trades, master of none' type of guy anyway, which helps the Lakers more as a cohesive unit. After that, uh, well, there's Brian Cook? Smush Parker? Kwame Brown? The Bynum kid is nice, but he's still so young. With the glamorous Lakeshow at 19-11, you're not convinced of much.
But the Bobcats aren't good either, you think with a chuckle. The 8-21 record does have some bright spots, however. Gerald Wallace is a cold-hearted terror on both sides of the court. Emeka Okafor is good for a double-double on most nights with a great defensive acumen. And then they too run into a talent problem. Raymond Felton is running the floor and racking up decent assist numbers, but he can't shoot well. The much ballyhooed mustachioed rookie Adam Morrison is, to put it nicely, still adjusting. To this point, he's scoring about 13 points per game, but his percentages leave much to be desired considering shooting was supposed to be one of his strong suits.
Oh, and Primoz Brezec is still starting! Matt Carroll's the sixth man! The gang's all here!
Besides, parking would be a hassle. You decide to just watch on TV. Time zips by as you listen to the CD your buddy burnt for you. That D4L will be around forever, I bet! James Blunt is the next Elton John, you think.
Not aloud, thankfully.
You plop down onto the couch and turn the TV to the game.
This is gonna be sweeeeeeeeeeet.
Hah. Easy there, television crew. Let's not get too excited.
On the first Bobcats possession, Charlotte recycles two missed shots to get an easy layup for Primoz off a dish inside from Adam Morrison. He missed one of those shots but there's no way he'll be doing a lot of that tonight. He's overdue for a good night!
Felton penetrates the paint in transition and dumps it past Brian Cook for Brezec, who finishes through the contact for the bucket and the foul. Primoz has five points now. Kobe has four. The battle is on.
A missed shot from Morrison again? OK, but just wait until he gets to the free-throw line. Then he'll really get going, just you watch!
An According to Jim x Bobcats promo? Lord, the jokes write themselves.
After the timeout, the Bobcats keep trying to keep the pace in a sad way, like a hurt animal. Luke Walton blocks Adam Morrison's reverse layup attempt. Everyone on the floor for Charlotte seems to be stymied by the mechanics of a functional jump shot. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant is 4-for-4 for 10 points with over 6:30 left in the first quarter.
Bah, another missed shot from AmMo. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll find his touch. Just as I'm sure Kobe will regress to the mean, Adam will do the opposite.
See, Kobe missed and now Morrison hit a nice contested midrange jump shot! The ebbs and flows of the game, man. Ebbs and flows, bro. Adam will get to double-digits for sure now that he's in rhythm.
Walter Herrmann just stepped back for a three from about 24 feet out. Unfortunately, he shot it only 22 feet. Either he airballed so horrendously that Kwame Brown was shocked into bobbling the easy rebound, or Kwame Brown's hands once again were Kwame Brown's hands.
Not even Kobe Bryant could get through the Matt Caroll-Jake Voskuhl double-team defense.
Time's running out! Oh no! Quick, pass it to Luke Walton cutting on the baseline!
And suddenly, the Bobcats are back in the game. Matt Carroll hits a three, draws a foul and finishes the four-point play, then drains another trey a couple possessions later. Adam Morrison misses a layup but it's a charge anyway, so it's just as well. No worries, he'll get back into his groove and knock some shots down for sure.
Ok, maybe he'll miss that three, but AmMo'll be back to knockin' 'em down in no time, right? He's 1-for-6 now. Shoot, just four makes and he'll be at 50 percent. No biggie.
Matt Carroll and Kobe, the two Philly kids, are really going at it. Kobe may have scored more points in his high school career, but Carroll had two Pennsylvania Mr. Basketball awards to Kobe's one. Kobe hits a ridiculous off-balance jumper from the sideline. Carroll counters with a three. Pennsylvania is split, a house divided between its two greatest sons. Sorry, Benjamin Franklin.
After a first quarter troubled by jump shooting issues, Wallace has come back in force. He hits a layup and gets the foul to give the Bobcats their first lead in a long time. Wallace has particularly taken a toll on Kobe in the post, backing Bryant deep into the paint. Gerald's instincts in the post against Bryant are terrific. He backs Kobe into the paint with his size advantage, then fakes inside before spinning and turning Kobe onto his back, closing any chance for his layup to get blocked. He's also worked the passing lanes, in transition and in the traditional Crash manner on ferocious gambling offensive rebounds.
But the Bobcats have really made up ground in the battle of the second squads. Neither team has decent frontcourt depth, but Voskuhl gets a bucket and Melvin Ely did some work in the post drawing fouls and helping facilitate offensive rebounding opportunities. It also doesn't hurt that Kobe missed five straight shots in the second quarter at one point.
Morrison travels. Then he misses his shot on the next possession. He's now 1-for-10. I'm not too worried. He's gotta even out in the second half, right?
We'll see in the next half. As for halftime, we get a nice inside look at Emeka Okafor's pre-game training, but the major tidbit of value comes in a commercial -- Rufus' eyes underneath his sunglasses!
The Bobcats open the second half with Primoz Brezec lobbing a pass to Gerald Wallace. Wallace snags the ball over Kobe, hits the layup and draws the contact to get to the charity stripe. Then he misses his free throw but got his own rebound and drew another foul to make a four-point play. Man, this guy's will is indomitable.
Kobe is entering 'Destroyer of Worlds' mode. The Bobcats are committing to double-teaming Kobe pretty much every time up the court. And it's not even working that well. Kobe's combination of touch, jump shooting and footwork is shredding Charlotte. But the strategy is sound: trying to force Kobe to pass and to make the Lakers to get production from their other players is a good idea, considering the scoring prowess of everyone else on this team.
Charlotte starts to play sloppily on offense. Tons of poor communication, missed entry passes, bad shot selection. But they are trying to get their offense through the paint because they're a terrible shooting team. The result is a more efficient offense and one that's frustrating Kobe Bryant.
Bryant draws his fourth foul and follows it with a technical. Wallace's post play and energy is taking a toll on Kobe's defense. Yet Kobe plays on despite being two fouls away from leaving the game with about a quarter and a half remaining in regulation. The Lakers can't really afford to take Kobe off the floor because their offense and defense comes to a grinding halt, but it becomes more or less of a moot point because Bryant can't defend Wallace's physical play effectively. The Lakers decide to sit Kobe for some rest as they nurse a two-point lead.
Felton immediately hits a three off great ball movement swinging to the weak side. And Phil Jackson still has no answer for Matt Carroll, who hits another three. Moments later, another three. It's a 9-2 run since Kobe went to the bench. Thankfully for Lakers fans, he's definitely getting ready to play the rest of the game.
The color commentator is gushing about Melvin Ely. He said earlier that Ely, if focused and ready to play, has one of the best post games in the league. Alrighty then.
Man, sitting courtside, taking pictures on your PHONE of NBA star Matt Carroll? This guy is living the dream.
This color commentator is on fire. "You know, Raymond has so many nicknames."
"There's 'Ray-Ray.' The other night he told me about 'Ray.'"
That's literally it. Great insight.
Back to the game. Uh oh, Jake Voskuhl picks up his fifth foul. Tit for tat, Lakers. We'll have to sit Jake and you'll have to sit Kobe. Agh, and Morrison misses a three at the end of the third quarter. Man, that fourth quarter is going to be nothing but fire, though. It has to be.
[Holds up four fingers]
The fourth quarter opens with a Vujacic jump shot, giving the lead back to the Lakers by one point. They not only survived their Kobe-less stretch but held the Bobcats to a meager one-point gain on the deficit despite having superior bench depth. Phil Jackson's finest hour.
Kobe follows a bricked three with a thunderous slam dunk, splitting the defense. Derek Anderson's legs are so slow on defense here that they must be made of peanut butter.
Emeka Okafor is coming on strong late. Andrew Bynum can't get any ground on him and is forced nearly into a turnover. On the other end, the Lakers' defense collapses on Felton's penetration before he dishes it past Bynum for an open Okafor.
After some great back and forth between the two teams, Voskuhl fouls out. Morrison returns to the game, boasting his impressive 1-for-12 shooting night. This last 3:42 of regulation is gonna be a turnaround of fortunes for him, without a doubt.
Kobe shakes Wallace for a spinning baseline jump shot to get his 41st and 42nd points, matching Peja Stojakovic for most points against the Bobcats this season.
Make that 45 points. Kobe hits a three from 26 feet out right over Wallace. Bryant has the Lakers' last 12 points.
OK, that's now 14 missed shots for Morrison, who nearly makes a wide open three. I'm starting to think he's going to finish below his averages. Still some time, though. He only has to hit his next 13 shots to get to 50 percent on field goals.
Matt Carroll is trying to out-Kobe Kobe. Four straight points and the Bobcats are down one. Luke Walton hits a pair of free throws but there's still 1:07 for Matt Carroll to lead the team to the holy land.
Yes! The lovable kid with Bama bangs gets two points in following his own shot for the putback. But Smush Parker is not dead and he doesn't need Kobe. He gives L.A. the three-point lead once again.
With 46 seconds left, the Bobcats need something big. Gerald Wallace drives from the top of the key, easily getting around his man. Kwame Brown rotates looking to draw the charge, but it looks like he may not have planted his feet in time. Wallace gets the bucket and goes to the free-throw line with a chance to tie up the game, which he does.
Kobe misses a midrange jumper with Wallace stuck on him but the Lakers get the offensive rebound and the shot clock is turned off. Kobe will get another shot and with little to no chance of retaliation. He drives to the right -- around Wallace -- but draws Okafor's help defense. Bryant loses the handle on the reverse layup and Okafor knocks it out of bounds. Fewer than four seconds remain.
Kobe gets the inbounds pass on the perimeter. He runs right, hounded by Wallace. In a play reminiscent of two years ago when Bryant hit a game-winning jumper over Keith Bogans, Kobe pump fakes. Wallace stays on his feet to challenge the following shot from Kobe. The buzzer sounds and the ball caroms off the rim.
Amazingly, Kobe still hasn't gathered a foul since midway through the third quarter, so he's sitting pretty with four. It's not too surprising though because his defense has been noticeably less physical and pressing.
Wallace grimaces as he jogs up the court. On the previous play, he dove to try to get a steal on Kobe. Gerald posts up but doesn't work to get better position, opting for a fading jump shot. It looks ugly coming off his hands and hits the backboard and rim in an ugly fashion.
The Bobcats' offense is struggling. Carroll misses a three and the Lakers hit Kwame Brown with an early entry pass. Taking advantage of great post position, Kwame gives his team a two-point lead. Clearly, the Bobcats need Melvin Ely and his great post offense.
Instead, Charlotte finds it in the Raymond Felton-Emeka Okafor pick and roll. On two consecutive plays, they take advantage of defensive gambles and mistakes from Maurice Evans and Kwame Brown. Adam Morrison, let's hear you!
Charlotte leads by two until Gerald Wallace fouls out defending Kobe, who ties the game on the ensuing free throws.
A Raymond Felton jumper is countered by one from Evans. The Bobcats and Lakers are tied and about half a minute remains.
Okafor misses a shot in the paint but the Bobcats get the rebound as the shot clock is turned off. They have the last shot. Felton has an apparent brain fart, nearly losing the ball on the perimeter. He's forced into a hurried three that has no chance, but gets his own rebound and...follows it with rushed baseline jumper that hits the side of the backboard.
Double free basketball.
Kobe has 49 points and four fouls. He only had two points in the first overtime and they were from free throws.
The Lakers can't stop the Felton-Okafor high screen and roll. Felton's been great with 19 points and 14 assists, and Okafor also has a terrific double-double with a 20-20 game. Then Bernard Robinson hits a wonderful hook shot over Kwame Brown, stretching the Bobcats' lead to four points.
Two minutes remaining. Kobe misses a runner in the paint, his sixth straight missed shot. But just as you think about it, Kobe comes back down and hits a jumper in the post through contact to get the three-point play.
He draws a foul on the next trip down but can't convert both. After tying the game on the first one, Kobe bricks the second, leaving the game tied with 50 seconds remaining as the Bobcats take a timeout.
Hold up, hold up. Great shirt. I love t-shirts that just look like you taped a printout of a photo onto a white tee.
Ah, but back to the game. The Lakers defense collapses in the paint on Bernard Robinson of all people, leaving Raymond Felton open at the three-point line with no defender in spitting distance. He drains it and the pressure switches over to the Lakers, who have under 30 seconds to find a way to tie or win.
But Kobe only needs about six, nailing a three from just beyond the elbow over Bernard Robinson. The man has 56 points on the night. No big deal.
The color commentator says Felton is going to be "a big star in this league." Uh-huh.
The Bobcats will once again have a chance to close out the game with the last shot. Bickerstaff brings Morrison back on the court. But I get it. With seconds left, Morrison still has time to progress back towards the mean, right? Right.
Felton and Okafor run a high pick and roll above the key. Felton, future NBA big star, decides to take the runner from the free throw line over Kwame Brown and Kobe Bryant with five seconds left.
The ball bounces harmlessly off the rim and backboard, giving the Lakers 2.2 seconds to work with after they take an immediate timeout.
Fortunately, the Lakers can't even get a shot up.
Triple free basketball!
As you might expect with a triple-overtime game, the game has become mostly desperation. Kobe is the only constant. His incredible stamina is apparent. At one point he spins in the lane, dropping his defender and dumps the ball to Kwame, who fumbles the easy pass out of bounds.
The Bobcats' offense is struggling. They try to get some offense through Bernard Robinson, but holy crap, they're freaking trying to run their offense through Bernard Robinson. They catch some breaks with second-chance points from Robinson and Okafor. The Bobcats lead by four after Robinson drives and pivots in the paint for a layup.
Bryant has a chance for a three-point play but misses the bonus free throw. Then Bernard Robinson tries to make a cross-court pass that flies into the third row of the stands.
But in one of the biggest plays of the night, Derek Anderson draws a foul on Kobe for three free throws. The Bobcats are now up five points, 129-124 and Kobe is one foul away from sitting on the bench.
Kobe misses the following three and Charlotte is a minute away from winning the game, their first ever triple-overtime game.
The Lakers, in desperation, try to push the tempo to get quick buckets. Bryant runs in transition, guarded by the veteran Anderson. Recognizing Bryant's direction and blind determination, Anderson stops at the elbow and Bryant knocks him down. The referees rule it a charge and Kobe is ejected. Any hope left for the Lakers flies out of the arena into the brisk Charlotte night.
The Bobcats run out the clock as Los Angeles is forced to foul. Fittingly, Derek Anderson scores the last two points.
Kobe Bryant had a nearly superhuman night, scoring an incredible 58 points.
But this wasn't his night. This is the underdog's night. The lowly, oft-derided Bobcats overcame Kobe's one-man show and the famous zen-master Phil Jackson with a team performance, picking apart the Lakers despite numerous mistakes. But make no mistake, this Lakers team was quite mediocre, especially without Lamar Odom. Beating them is not David over Goliath 2.0. But Kobe Bryant at this time was a dynamo, more or less a scoring machine. He was incredibly quick and adept at creating space with a killer jump shot and fantastic finishing prowess. But the Bobcats just had more tonight.
Gerald Wallace gave a great performance, tearing up the Lakers' interior defense with Emeka Okafor on the boards and in the paint. Wallace and Okafor combined for 10 offensive rebounds, 33 total rebounds and 50 points. Raymond Felton distributed the ball well and limited his turnovers despite a subpar shooting night. With Felton's 22 points and Carroll's 27, the Bobcats had four players score more than 20 points. The only Laker to score more than 14 points was Kobe. Every Bobcats player played their role pretty well, with a couple of exceptions. Anderson, Robinson and Voskuhl all contributed significant, even if small, parts of the puzzle to give Charlotte a big win.
You had stayed up very late to watch that game, but it was so worth it. Morrison will be better the next game, you think. He'll definitely come around.
The last thought you have before sleep arrives warms your heart against the cold night.
Yes, indeed: 2007 will be the year of the Bobcat.