Clawing their Way into the Thick of the Fight
by Rick Olivares
Charlotte Bobcats 2007-08
2006 record: 33-49
Sometimes all you need is a little patience. The Charlotte Bobcats are building something exciting here their record notwithstanding. Owner Robert Johnson and General Manager Michael Jordan like what they see and rather than break up the youthful core, they locked up their young stars for a serious run and added a veteran scorer who should provide plenty of excitement for their team.
There was early speculation that Johnson would tighten up with his expenses something that’s a no-no in sports for it turns off the fans and frightens away potential free agents who can really help a young team like the Bobcats. But Johnson came through to provide the new franchise with its best line-up yet.
Enter another #23 in Jason Richardson who after years of carrying the dismal Golden State Warriors suddenly found himself lost in the shuffle when Don Nelson turned to Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and Matt Barnes to lead the team.
He joins the dynamic core of Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Matt Carroll, Primoz Brezec, Adam Morrisson, and Raymond Felton that is a year older and wiser. The Bobcats have gotten better every year in the league hiking their inaugural win total of 18 in 2004-05 to 26 the following year and to 33 last year. That translates to a team that is learning and getting more comfortable with each passing season.
The Bobcats have drafted wisely investing in players who not only come from winning college programs but also have brought their teams to the NCAA Finals. There’s Okafor who won a title with UConn (with the Chicago Bulls’ Ben Gordon), Raymond Felton and Sean May who won at the University of North Carolina, and Adam Morrison who single-handedly carried the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2006 NCAA season where they ultimately fell to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen.
But also a huge part of Charlotte’s success is due to its coach Bernie Bickerstaff who had brought up his young players nicely. Unfortunately, the former Seattle coach will be moving up to a front office job so he won’t be able to guide his wards on their fourth campaign. Point guard Brevin Knight who provided sterling leadership and poise off the bench is no longer around as well.
Stepping into the breach is first-time coach Sam Vincent who won a championship ring with the Boston Celtics in 1984 and was a teammate of Michael Jordan’s for a couple of years. So the jury’s still out on Vincent.
Primoz Brezec and Emeka Okafor are solid inside and don’t just take silly shots. In fact, they are among the leaders in field goal percentage. And they’re getting plenty of help from Sean May who should be a solid contributor soon as well as from 11-year veteran Othella Harrington and Argentinean Walter Hermann.
Gerald Wallace is the kind of player you’d like to have on your team for his selfless dedication to getting better and playing both ends of the court. His zest for the game has been a positive for this team and will surely rub off on the rookies. Adam Morrison came to this team with high expectations. There were days when he could light it up, but in his one year in the pros, he’s experienced more losses than his entire stay with the Zags. Only now, he should get better after having finally adapted to the pro game.
Although Ray Felton has been the team’s starting court general for a while now, they will feel the loss of Knight who went to the Los Angeles Clippers. Knight ‘s leadership under fire was crucial. In his place is former New Jersey Net Jeff McInnis who seems to have fallen out of favor with every team he has played with.
In the shooting guard position, they have considerable firepower with super sub Carroll, Derek Anderson, and Jason Richardson.
Jordan doesn’t look to have learned anything from his ill-fated tenure as GM in Washington as he is reported to be hardly visible in Charlotte. Despite preferring to run team business from his home in Chicago, he seems to have made better decisions with regards to roster moves. He added J-Rich, an explosive scorer who is rounding out into his prime to a constantly improving unit that could very well make some serious moves this season. Now if only Sam Vincent can coach…