It feels a bit weird, almost surreal, to be on the eve of the last Charlotte Bobcats season.
It's nothing more than a change in nomenclature and the shift was bound to happen regardless of when New Orleans relinquished the Hornets name, but even though it's a move I support, this an odd feeling. For a full decade the team has been known as the Bobcats, a name that causes fans and non-fans to curl their lips either in disgust or derision.
Regardless, the team came into existence as my passion for the NBA began its crescendo. I went to plenty of Hornets games when I was young and I always enjoyed them, but as an adolescent with the Internet at my fingertips and an ever-waxing basketball appetite, it was like growing alongside the Bobcats.
The parallels we draw between our lives and sports as a microcosm of the grander scale of life are what connects many of us with the game. The narratives draw us in. We've never been on such a large stage, but the feelings boil down to many of the same basic factors of life: success, failure, courage, fear, growth, decline, youth, age, you name it.
And upon the closing of this Bobcats chapter, I can't help but feel a bit melancholy. For nearly a decade, the Bobcats have sputtered and stumbled hands outstretched trying to feel for a handle on pulling themselves upwards to find a successful direction. Good intentions and poor execution have led them down an unfortunate road that they're still trying to right themselves from.
It's not an unfamiliar path for expansion teams as they try to follow up the initial eager infatuation with young teams with realized potential and winning teams. As the sports version of the New Car Smell wears off, many expansion teams struggle to fulfill on their fans' hopes. The Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets had the two best winning percentages of any expansion team since 1988 through nine seasons, but they also had amazing luck (back-to-back No.1 picks for Orlando, back-to-back No. 1 and No. 2 pick for Charlotte). The Bobcats (34.6 percent) are below the average winning percentage (39.4 percent), but above Memphis/Vancouver (28.6 percent) and Minnesota (32.1 percent).
But even more unfortunate for the Bobcats is that they didn't have much of a New Team Smell because of the stench the Hornets' relocation and George Shinn left on the city. The market didn't latch onto the team, had trouble with broadcast issues, didn't draft well and flat out didn't win.
Ultimately, the obituary for the Bobcats is going to be an overwhelmingly sad one, the basketball team Biff Loman.
And so of course it's much more fun to prepare for the new life of the Hornets, the feeling of reclaiming a more successful history and leaving behind this depressing one.
What we're left with is a finale: one of real consequences for the soon-to-be Hornets and consequently one of likely no consequences for the soon-to-be forgotten Bobcats' legacy in this season of arguably their most bold roster venture.
The excitement and anticipation on the shoulders of the sheer unknown give this Bobcats team a new curiosity in their last season, like going across the Carolina border on the third of July with 50 dollars in your pocket and getting a bunch of fireworks to tie together and waiting to see what blows up.
From the possibility of Kemba Walker taking the next step forward as a playmaker to Bismack Biyombo consistently holding on to the ball in traffic to Cody Zeller turning noise in the Cable Box from angry disapproval to cheers to Jeff Taylor to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and on and on, there are plenty of reasons to watch the Bobcats in their last season as they light their weird assortment of fireworks. A stray rocket might take out our eyes or the array might light up the sky.
This season's going to be a weird, fun denouement for the Bobcats. Pour out a little liquor of the beginning of the end of the Bobcats, for tomorrow night we begin drinking the rest.