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The Bobcats started off strong this season, but since have built another sadly similar losing streak before beating Chicago. Such play has surely frustrated fans and called into question the front office's decisions.
It is written in the religious text, the Book of Job, Satan tells God that people are only so faithful to the deity because of the protection God gives to the righteous. In return, God permits Satan to test Job, a man of great success and spirituality, in an effort to disprove Satan. Satan destroys Job's possessions, kills his children and afflicts him with disease. Yet Job refuses to blame God, saying "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord."
I'd almost liken Bobcats fandom to the tests of Job in recent years, but the only problem with this allusion is Job was described as a successful person prior to his experiences, something the Bobcats never have been. Being a Bobcats fan is almost like a constant test: a test of will, a test of turning the other cheek, a test of loyalty. Some of us are willing to take on that baggage and eschew the easy fanship of the Miami Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers, or just about any other team in the NBA. And so many Bobcats fans are forged in the fire of constant underdogship, making for a small group of devoted fans.
For a small market team desperately trying to reconstruct a franchise marred by underwhelming high draft picks, short-sighted roster moves and a front office that hasn't exactly instilled its fanbase with any persistent confidence in their actions, perhaps we should have expected this.
All those things have crafted the unfortunate and often unenjoyable environment for us where the Charlotte Bobcats are the punchline of many shameful jokes, whether ignorant or spot-on derision. It's no enigma why fans are frustrated, dismayed and perhaps even a bit disillusioned.
The team hasn't been competitive in years, since their playoff season in 2009-10 when they laid claim to a top defense, an all-star in Gerald Wallace and the franchise's only winning record.
They haven't been able to attract the high profile free agents. The roster has rapid turnover, with Gerald Wallace having the longest tenure before his eventual departure when the team was forced to blow up an aging roster to rebuild. The front office has made inconsistent roster decisions. Combine all this and you have a franchise just off of rock bottom, just having recently undergone a complete facelift in the past three years.
Even with Charlotte breaking their losing streak against the Bulls, that still gives them losing streaks of 16 games, 23 games and 18 games all within the past two seasons.
For a roster so vastly different from its immediate predecessor, this recent skid was depressingly familiar and unwelcome for everyone except the other 29 NBA teams.
So it's no surprise fans are getting fed up, like in this FanPost. The rebuilding process is a long and arduous journey, more difficult than the simple shouts of "Blow it up!" would make it seem. Chance is more of a factor than people care to admit.
Yet I can't follow the logic that I read there. Just as much as the draft is risky for buying into players like Tyrus Thomas, there is the risk of trading for those players. Thus, it's not the inherent riskiness of the draft that is so dangerous, it's the risk of the front office buying into risky talents that may not pan out whether on draft day or the day of a trade. It's about having a front office that knows what talent to invest in. The Bobcats of the past opted to put their trust in the present with costly high-risk, high reward players like Thomas or Stephen Jackson and paid dearly, putting them in the situation the team finds itself in now. The Bobcats of the present opt to put their trust in their youth and the chance of finding talent in the draft, which may be risky but at least they have more options than trades.
Further, I take issue with the argument here that I've seen and heard elsewhere from fans, too:
Lets face it, Charlotte is not a glamorous place to play. Some players drafted will leave as soon as they are developed and finally able to really help the team for the draw of the larger market NY or LA teams.
I wonder how many said the same about Oklahoma City after their 23-win season in 2008-09.
The thing is that where players want to play is not so cut and dry. Undoubtedly, New York and Los Angeles with their basketball histories, thriving nightlife, attractions and markets can be a driving factor for players deciding where they want to play.
However, players are human beings and not all is driven by a dominant hunger for championships. Desires are complex with so many moving parts from the easily-discernible to the deeply-hidden. Perhaps one of the larger factors is role within a team. James Harden felt his talent was worth a larger role than he received in Oklahoma City and decided not to accept the extension the Thunder offered. Maybe it was the challenge of being the first option on a team. Maybe he felt a desire to prove something to not only himself but also the world. Maybe he wanted more money (not that this is a bad reason, but it definitely factors into many player decisions). Who's to say? Regardless, these are things most big markets like New York or Los Angeles just can't offer. Yes, players want to play on more successful teams with shots at engraving their names in history but not every player wants to be the accessory on a championship team. Just ask Adam Morrison.
Those teams are often strapped for cash and can be simply rebutted with restricted free agency anyway. There may not be a hard cap, but with the restrictions of the soft cap and salary cap, it can often have some similar effects. The Lakers can't just sign anyone in free agency. It's not so deserving of defeatism. If players want to leave badly enough, their play or attitude will reflect it and they likely won't remain on said team.
There's also the factor of loyalty, which is involved in every decision, period. How the front office respects players can detract or deepen the relationship between player and franchise. There's also loyalty to the players' selves, their ideals, the community, as we've seen in Kevin Love in Minnesota with GM David Kahn. Every decision is a result of a complex web of values.
Further, I'm not sure how this season can even be called out as an example of tanking. For goodness' sake, whether the Bobcats would make the playoffs was a point of discussion earlier this season.
Tanking is the action of deliberately setting out to lose games. The Bobcats have reasonably done their best with the pieces given to them after last season. They dealt the oft-injured Corey Maggette for Ben Gordon and a good draft pick. They drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who looks like a strong candidate for rookie of the year. Kemba Walker has improved his play so much on the court and on paper. Just on an eye test, the team is giving more effort. The Bobcats just have so many holes in the roster and strategic flaws to make them competitive.
More often than not, they're entertaining despite how they founder and often lose leads. They have a nice little stable of young talent to build upon and have the draft picks to position themselves for young talent. Or perhaps they can bundle a pick or two with other in trade offers. GM Rich Cho said it on his first day on staff that one of his biggest ideals is acquiring assets and it seems clear he and the front office are finally now able to explore options with these assets. The flexibility they have now hasn't been seen in a long time in Charlotte, and it's much more welcome than their past modus operandi that stranded them on Rebuild Island.
I know these losing streaks are borderline unbearable, especially after last season, but the Bobcats aren't opting for mediocrity by staying where they are. They're being cautious. It's why they haven't added major over-the-hill veteran salary. Cho and Higgins and the FO are constantly looking at ideas to improve the team, especially young ones. They tried for James Harden. Perhaps now they're trying for DeMarcus Cousins.
Fans have no choice in this matter besides to voice their frustration. Maybe the best choice is to be patient. The losses not only hurt fans now. The organization also feels the brunt of poor performance on the court. They see it in ticket sales, in merchandising, in sponsorship, in embarrassing public perception.
Yet through this all, the Charlotte Bobcats are placing all their trust in that the direction they're taking this team and its emphasis on building will be the foundation of sustainable success in the future.
I don't know if it will pan out. No one does. But I like their chances more than the 2009-2010 Bobcats or any team built in that mold.