The Charlotte Bobcats entered the NBA with a loss to the Washington Wizards. This marked the NBA’s return to Charlotte after a 2-year absence. [Discuss the Bobcats HERE]
The Bobcats didn’t play too badly. They game was nip and tuck for three and a half quarters, until a 9-0 run by the Wizards gave the Bobcats a deficit they just couldn’t overcome….eventually losing 103-96. Charlotte shot better than Washington….got to the line more….got more rebounds…and had more assists. They also had 19 turnovers…many in the 4th quarter that decided the game. This young team made some mental mistakes [foul on Dixon’s layup], unforced errors [Ely’s turnover] and un-clutch performances [Slay missing two key FT] down the stretch that aided the Wiz‘s last game run.
The Wizards were led by former UNC Tar Heel, Charlotte native and Providence High School alum Antawn Jamison. If you’re gonna get run….might as well have a Charlottean do it.
The ‘Cats roster isn’t made up of scorers. It is basically the equivalent of the “American Idol” tryouts that they have before the real contestants get selected for the real show. These Bobcats, aside from Emeka Okafor, Steve Smith and maybe Gerald Wallace….are auditioning for the big time gig when Charlotte believes it can compete in a few years. Then, the Bobcats will have 3 pretty high draft picks and a full cap that they can sign some big time names in there. Also, Miami [who is in the Cats division] should be Shaq-less and in today’s NBA, who knows how everyone else will be.
So, the guys on this team are playing to possibly have jobs as role players on those Bobcat teams….or possibly jobs elsewhere. Basically, they are weeding out the William Hungs.
Emeka Okafor will be there…the first ever draft pick for the franchise. He scored 19 points and nabbed 10 boards in his first NBA game. He will be the foundation of this franchise. A forward who can defend, board, block shots and fill it up at times….he could be to the Bobcats what Alonzo Mourning was for the Charlotte Hornets…..their solid base. In the years to come, they will surround him with shooters, playmakers and role guys. Maybesome will be a couple of these guys.
Melvin Ely is the team’s best offensive big man. Primo Brezec had a nice game at center. Gerald Wallace is the highlight guy. Jason Kapono is a streak shooter. Jason Hart could be their point guard of the future. Eddie House seems to be a nice sparkplug off the bench. Brevin Knight and Steve Smith are just along for the ride in their veteran careers.
But, it is just nice to have hoops back in Charlotte….even though it is still a work in progress. The Cats played in 16-year old Charlotte Coliseum for this season….a building built with the Hornets in mind. The color of teal fills an arena that now houses a team that wears orange. All of those 1988 amenities that are stuck in the stadium are no longer state of the art. The sound system….the traffic to the stadium….just the entire feel to the arena. Sort of like when the Carolina Panthers played at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium in their first year. Next season, the team will play in the brand spanking new Charlotte Arena that will be downtown [the Coliseum is on the far west side of the city]. Until then….the team will make do.
As for the franchise…it should be one of the interesting teams in pro sports. Unlike the “upper class” feel that Hornets games had….the Bobcats seem to have more of a party atmosphere and a much different feel. From the new Bobcat roar instead of the Hornet buzz….from Hugo to Rufus…this team is different. The place was sold out….and by sold out I mean the entire 23,000+ seats in the arena were filled [not the 18,000 seats “sold” after Shinn covered up some of the top tier seats in the arena. The owner is a billionaire that founded BET network [in Washington DC], Robert Johnson. He is the first African American majority owner in pro sports. He had done very well to mend fences with an NBA population that really had a harsh breakup with the George Shinn, owner of the Hornets. He’s started a sports programming network - C SET - that will serve as the flagship station for the games.
One of his investors is Nelly, who brings a younger hip-hop generational feel to the franchise. The team’s urban feel is demonstrated by the college-meets-Rucker Park feel to the whole game. I really hope that the team takes these things with them to the new arena…as it will really make Charlotte an interesting place in NBA circles…asidefrom being one of the top strip-club cities.
So, the team will a success, though it may take time to feel like it. It is sort of like the first date after a bitter divorce. You’re happy to be back in the saddle…but are still a little weary of getting close to something new with the something old is still out there.