A Successful Season for Bobcats?
The Charlotte Bobcats entered the 2007-08 season with the expectation of making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Yet, before the season even began the team lost both Sean May and Adam Morrison, two important pieces to the team’s success.
"Missing those guys we lost some early scoring," said Coach Vincent Tuesday night in Minnesota. "Because of that, we’ve struggled from time to time. We’ve lost some close games, but I think this team has had a chance to grow minus those guys and once you add them back in, it just makes us that much stronger. We’ll have so much more scoring punch coming off the bench."
"We miss them," adds Raymond Felton. "No question. We miss every piece of our team. Having Gerald (Wallace) out is hurting us a lot, but we still have to play basketball no matter what."
Despite the injuries to key components, this young team has found themselves in many games down the stretch, defeating some of the top teams in the league. To a man, the Bobcats are not using the injuries as an excuse for their lackluster record. In fact, led by Raymond’s bravado, they believe the playoffs are still within their reach.
"It’s definitely a confidence boost when you go in and beat teams like Boston and Cleveland," says team star Jason Richardson. "Even some of the near wins are one point losses to Houston, a double overtime loss to Cleveland and an overtime loss to Detroit. It definitely gives you confidence and lets you know you are a pretty good team."
So, what have the Bobcats learned throughout the 2007-08 season, indicating future franchise success?
"The biggest thing is we have to finish games, offensively and defensively," says Felton. "I think that’s something we still have to work on and we’ve been dealing with injuries ever since I’ve been in the league. We’ve been hit with a lot of injuries, so that’s one thing we have to try and keep down."
"It’s just maintaining a lead," echoes Richardson. "We’ve had many games where we’re winning by five points or less, we’re right there in the game and it seems like we all just fall apart in the fourth quarter. That’s just the mindset of a young team needing to get older and understanding every possession is valuable when it comes down to crunch time in the games."
While the players think about the now, their coach thinks about the big picture.
"Just how hard you have to work to be on the next level. It takes a whole lot of hard work, a whole lot of commitment and a whole lot of focus to go from being a 30-win team to a 40-45 win team. I think the guys understand that. The commitment is there for wanting to do it and now, everybody has to put the work in."
As expected with a young team, the roller coaster ride of a season will more than likely end without a playoff berth. The lessons learned throughout the ride, however, have built confidence in the youngsters and make for a bright future in Charlotte.
"This year is really about me getting a feel for my guys and the guys getting a feel for me," Coach Vincent summarizes. "We’re all trying to grow and really focusing on the areas where we need to be stronger for next year to see if we can take that next step."
With health on their side, the Bobcats will take the next step in 2008-09.