Bobcats basketball. It’s not exactly a phrase that inspires confidence, much less the rabid cheers typical in the world of fandom. And it’s going to stay that wasy, for a long, long time. Decades. Millennia. Until Michael Jordan fires himself (and we all know that he sold his soul for fame and immortality, just forgot to include the anti-aging bit), every day is going to be one step closer to the franchise collapsing on itself. And even that day will be underwhelming.
59 points. That’s not even three score. And it’s beyond embarrassing that a NBA team is capable of that output, even if it is against one of the best defenses in the league. Here’s what I know: For a series of reasons that are completely beyond my comprehension, the Charlotte Bobcats have played well against the (contending) Boston Celtics. On paper, it would seem like the ‘Cats have few advantages:
- Rajon Rondo has the length to turn Felton’s bad jump shots into terrible jump shots, and the anticipation to pick off steals like crazy. He also has the quicks to keep pace with D.J. Augustin, and the height to alter D.J.’s looks.
- Even a healthy Raja Bell would have trouble chasing around Ray Allen, who remains one the league’s preeminent shooters due to having the benefit of a million screens.
- Gerald Wallace stands as good of a chance of blanketing Paul Pierce as anyone else, but there’s no arguing the Truth comes out in the fourth quarter regardless of circumstance. Wallace also typically doesn’t contribute enough offensively for his scoring output to be significantly better than a limited Pierce. If that were the case, it’d be a wash for the ‘Cats, which isn’t a bad thing.
- The bigs should be lumped together, because asking Boris Diaw to cover Kevin Garnett is cruel. Each player’s strengths, weaknesses, and roles are pretty well defined at this point, but a big rotation of Garnett-Perkins-Sheed just rocks the Bobcats’ world. Boris Diaw is going to feel Crowded without Emeka’s surprisingly decent scoring relief, and Tyson Chandler isn’t just a ghost of his former self, but an amorphous blob of a ghost that looks less and less like a real basketball player.
- Intangibles, bench, and just about every quantifiable advantage goes Boston’s way. They’re a championship-level team, Bobcats are not, la-dee-da-dee-da.
But if you break down that list, only a few things have changed: The injured Raja Bell was replaced by Stephen Graham (which is even worse than it sounds), the Celtics added Wallace, and Emeka Okafor was traded for Tyson Chandler.
Boom goes the dynamite.
Over the last two seasons, the Bobcats and Celtics have met seven times in the regular season. Only once did that result in a blowout, an inexplicable 23-point loss to the hands of the C’s B-Team. But aside from that outlier, the Bobcats have lost by 1, won by 12, lost by 8, lost by 5, won by 8, and lost by 2. I know it’s not a shimmering achievement, but that’s not a bad track record for a sub-.500 team against the cream of the crop.
Chalk it up to opening night rust, but even a decades-old rusty tractor could do better offensively than Charlotte did last night. Nothing came easy (aside from badly missed shot attempts), and Tyson Chandler’s play was painfully reminiscent of his completely ineffective 2008-’09 in NOLA. Somehow, in making that one simple trade, the Bobcats have surrendered their status as a troublesome match-up for the Celts.
One of two things is true: the Bobcats will be bad this year, or the Bobcats will be terrible this year. Against the Celtics, at least. In all honesty, there’s a chance that last night’s game was an aberration. But where does anyone honestly expect the points to come from? Charlotte was struggling to reach the scoreboard even with Okafor’s 14ish PPG. Emeka was a part of the Bobcats top eight 5-man lineups last season, which can’t be said about any other Bobcat. I obviously can’t say beyond any doubt that Emeka was the difference between a competitive game and total annihilation, but I’m going to anyway. Replacing Okafor with Chandler was a terrible, terrible basketball move, and it’s the difference between the Bobcats being a decent team and a miserable one. When you’re a struggling team in a small market, you only surrender your assets at gun point of for draft picks. Cap space means nothing when you can’t even lure DeSagana Diop to your squad, a point which the few remaining Bobcats fans will need to face when a team of D.J. Augustin, the Geralds, and Flip Murray are forced to carry the load.