2012 was a year of rock bottoms and yet at times encouraging looks to the future for the Bobcats.
I really don't want to endure thinking about this year again, but as the saying goes, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it" or something like that. So here goes nothing.
The previous season was an absolute mess. The roster lacked talent. They got injured. They had no offseason to prepare. The coaching systems were not implemented well whatsoever, to say the least. The effort on-court was lacking, as you might imagine when teams blow you out in the middle of first quarters. Tyrus Thomas got in a physical altercation with then head coach Paul Silas. No one played well. The Bobcats were crushed nearly every game and it would have been a very hilarious time were I not a fan of the Bobcats or if I didn't know anyone affiliated with the team or being a fan of the team. But none of those are true, and the season was extremely painful.
But as NBA seasons are wont to do, it came to a merciful end. The Bobcats had claimed the worst winning percentage in NBA history, but at least it was over. They got the second overall draft pick and took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the first round, then Jeffery Taylor in the second round. Corey Maggette was traded for Ben Gordon and a nice first round pick and Charlotte hired Mike Dunlap, a relatively unknown college coach.
The new season started with something Bobcats fans hadn't seen in a while -- hope. With nowhere to go but up from such a dismal season, it seemed things were on the up and up.
The Bobcats won their first game of the year, ending the 23-game losing streak that could have continued into the new season. They beat the Dallas Mavericks for the first time in franchise history. What's more, the Bobcats jumped out to their best start in team history at 7-5. But it was all a mirage. Most of their wins had come against teams whose best players were sidelined by injuries.
The uplifting tale of the new-look Bobcats fell down to the earth as soon as it had risen. They put up strong efforts way more often than not, but the occasional demoralizing blowout could still happen. The defense was certainly better than last year but that doesn't say much. It still rotates poorly and lacking a guard off the bench that can defend, struggles on the perimeter. The offense is inconsistent and has its moments, but the team has been stumbling ass-backwards into losses they should close out. Such is the territory with being a young team that lack experience, but 18-game losing streaks don't just happen out of pure luck.
This may all sound rather depressing, but this season has not come without encouraging sentiments of its own.
Mike Dunlap may be struggling on this 18-game losing streak, but I still have trust in some of his core strategies. The roster has many flaws, that contribute more to the team's flaws than he does and I can't fault him for that. I don't think zone defense is that effective, but adjusting for that and playing it less often with, say, a guard that can defend anything off the bench would help a bit. His strategies certainly have given the Bobcats better shots at games than last season, not that that's a great argument. He's also clearly committed to giving the young players the playing time they need.
Kemba Walker turned around an underwhelming rookie season and has put up amazing numbers early in this season, well past the mark of small sample size. His field goal percentage is up 16 percent from last season (note: not percentage points, but percent). In fact, all of his shooting percentages are up this season. It was no secret he could become a dangerous scorer if his shot was more consistent and he's proven this so far.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has proved to be a dynamic young wing, with great talent. Sure his jumper is hard to watch and he can get a little too confident in trying to get to the rim, but he is a fantastic defender, runs the floor well, can get to the hoop and is a smart player, which may be an undervalued attribute at times. I'd love to see him get more playing time as the season goes on, but this has been hampered at times because of foul trouble and Dunlap's desire to have a better scoring threat on the court to keep the Bobcats close (though I disagree with this at times).
Gerald Henderson has missed a bunch of time due to injury so this is at risk of small sample size, but I don't think it can go without saying that his improvement as a shooter must be noted. He's taking more threes per game this season than any hence, and is making 48 percent of them, an unusual number for Henderson, who previously was a disappointing three shooter. His general field goal percentage is down, but perhaps both of these numbers will find their equilibrium. It's very encouraging to see Henderson shooting better from range, as this was a missing piece from his offensive skill set. If this proves to consistent, perhaps he becomes a piece the Bobcats cannot afford to let go on the free market.
Bismack Biyombo's number have not improved, except for his rebound, but make no mistake, I think I've been more impressed with him this season that his rookie season. He's looked better in the post on defense and stronger in rebounding, especially on offense. In fact, his defense in the post has yielded only 0.77 points per possession this season, down from 0.86 PPP last season per MySynergySports.com.
Bobcats fans and the team were sure as heck pummeled this calendar year, but things are beginning to look much brighter than they had been. The past was a rough result of poor decisions and it seems the Bobcats have learned from it. Let's hope they continue on this path, for I can see the dark past moving further into the rearview.