Sorensen: Bobcats becoming worth talk

July 17, 2012 

The Charlotte Bobcats have a 23-game losing streak. They were terrible last season and they were boring and they were the lesser team every night they ran onto the court. Every day, too.

Yet I would contend there is more interest in the Bobcats now than there has ever been.

True, interest spiked when they made the 2010 playoffs. But for Charlotte, the playoffs lasted nine days and four games. The Bobcats lost to Orlando by nine, 15, four and nine points. They weren’t merely swept. They were exposed.

Based on email, Twitter and conversations, fans care more now than they did during 2010.

The Bobcats made what could be the best trade in franchise history last month when they gave up Corey Maggette for Ben Gordon and a first-round pick.

Of course, Detroit wanted to shed Gordon’s contract. But to attain a first-round pick was a coup.

The Bobcats hired Mike Dunlap.

Dunlap coaches as if he’s in a sweaty, small-town gym where fans huddle on wooden bleachers, cheerleaders cheer and a pep band plays. Talk to him 15 minutes and you want to set the alarm for 5:45 a.m. and run 5 miles in boots.

I have no idea if Dunlap can coach in the NBA. But he’s wildly enthusiastic about a team that won seven games last season. He believes. Fans are looking for a reason to.

The Bobcats signed 7-foot Brendan Haywood. While never anything akin to a star, Haywood offers an old-school game. He defends and rebounds and plays as if he is 7 feet. If you see a big man pop a long distance jump shot on a fast break, it won’t be him. He knows his role.

The Bobcats dumped D.J. Augustin and added Ramon Sessions, who is taller. Sessions played well for the Los Angeles Lakers last season until the playoffs began. The playoffs won’t be a problem next season for Sessions.

Charlotte drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

I wrote approximately 11 columns before the draft advocating that the Bobcats take Kidd-Gilchrist. In my defense, I wrote only two Kidd-Gilchrist columns after it – one the night of the draft and one the next day. Then I went on vacation.

Kidd-Gilchrist will be an unconventional star. But he’ll be a star.

With the first pick in the second round the Bobcats selected Jeff Taylor of Vanderbilt. The only Charlotte second-round picks who have contributed are Derrick Brown (2009) and, to a much lesser extent, Ryan Hollins (2006). But Taylor looks like a pro. You know this if you watched him at Vanderbilt.

The Bobcats pursued Antawn Jamison, who would have been a beautiful fit – great guy, great mentor and an effective and unorthodox scorer who lives outside Charlotte.

Jamison reportedly has chosen a different suitor, the Los Angeles Lakers, who have retooled their roster to prepare for one last deep playoff run with guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.

Despite the absence of Jamison, it’s evident the Bobcats have a plan and are willing to spend a few bucks to fulfill it.

They’ve stopped trading for and flinging mass quantities of money at veterans such as Tyrus Thomas. (Can you imagine what this team could do if Thomas somehow becomes the player Charlotte envisioned?).

The Bobcats will be better next season, but they won’t be good. Nobody goes from where they were to where they want to in one year.

So why are fans excited?

Because even a summer league victory feels important.

Because last season felt like a forced march, and it was all uphill.

Because fans would love to love this team.

And because the Bobcats finally might be giving them a reason to.

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