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Bobcats Appear To Be

Moving Forward (This Time)

February 13, 2014

For close to a decade now, we have been told that the Charlotte Bobcats are in a rebuilding process. We have been told this so much that I have sometimes felt that they are rebuilding from rebuilding. 

In other words, the Bobcats have not been any good. 

How does one fix a broken franchise? I would answer by saying that it is a process. Before you figure out how to win a title, you have to figure out the process for being a good basketball team. That’s the path the Charlotte Bobcats are on this season in what is at least is their third rebuilding phase. 

The Bobcats are 272-500 in their nine NBA seasons, and have undergone many attempts to make the team competitive. There was the first young-core attempt that fell apart when Sean May, Adam Morrison, and to a lesser degree Emeka Okafor failed to live up to draft promise. 

There was the just-make-the-playoffs sellout in the late 2000s when Larry Brown and the front office mortgaged long-term young assets for veteran players in hopes of reaching postseason play. They did taste first round action and were swept like they had never been there. The perception was that Charlotte was still not a good basketball team. 

Bobcats Coach Steve Clifford

The result was another rebuild. 

Rebuild No. 3 is currently in progress. Coaches have come and gone over the past decade. Steve Clifford is the current coach and he says the answer is to change the culture. I agree with him. It’s not about veterans or young players, it’s not about star power (though they are needed eventually if a title is to be won), and it’s not about scheme or system. It’s about intelligent play, discipline, and commitment. 

The NBA is ruled by star players, but what separates the talented from the truly great is the culture they help cultivate. Every team has stars. But what kind of culture do the stars create? Clifford, who was a respected assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers before moving to the Queen City, has already given the Bobcats an identity. When was the last time Charlotte was known for any specific facet of the game besides losing? 

Yes, this team can play defense. And defense has the team currently resting in a playoff slot within the Eastern Conference. Clifford, during his last 10 years as an assistant coach in the NBA, has concentrated on defense and his teams all were a top-15 defensive team in the league. Six of those seasons were top-five. 

So, are the Bobcats buying into his thoughts? Thus far, the answer is yes. Entering Saturday, Charlotte was in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Clifford has them there with nearly the exact same roster that was around last season when the Bobcats finished dead last in points allowed per possession. This season, with their only major addition being on the offensive side in Al Jefferson, the Cats are sixth in points allowed per possession. No matter who takes the floor against Charlotte, they know they will be facing a tough defense. 

Bobcats Al Jefferson

In virtually all sports, defense will keep you in game. Basketball is one those sports. So even though Charlotte’s offense is a ways off, it looks like a playoff appearance is upcoming. 

I have watched this team struggle offensively. But I have also seen something that has been missing from this franchise for years. I see effort. I see discipline. Things Clifford says are all part of building the culture. 

So, yes, the Bobcats are very much a work in progress. But there are positive signs. It has taken time to work a healthy Jefferson into the offense. But in January, Jefferson exploded. He averaged 23.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 54 percent from the field. He dropped three straight 30 point -10 rebound games while Charlotte knocked off the Warriors and Nuggets.

Now that the Bobcats are in playoff contention, there are questions going around the local sports media on how the team should finish the regular season. Some say that they should continue to move forward to get some playoff experience. Continue to create the winning culture. 

Others say that they should let up and miss the playoffs so they can get a higher draft pick in this summer’s deep deep draft. The reasoning there is that the franchise will likely pick up a potential all-star since this year’s draft is loaded with talent from selection one to 10. 

There are a number of franchises facing a similar decision. Though unproven, history tells us that teams have tanked late in seasons in hopes of landing a franchise player. Charlotte is likely one of those teams. I hope they don’t this season. I am much more into them changing the losing culture that has been their trademark for years now.




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