The Charlotte Bobcats actually looked like a team Saturday night.
Yes, their opponent was only the Miami Heat.
But it was also the home opener, and all the seats were sold, and Michael Jordan was sitting about 5 feet from the bench, and for a change, everything looked good.
We're so used to bad news about the Bobcats that it's a little startling when they do something like this 100-87 win over Miami. Give the Bobcats their due for this one – they performed like a home team should against a Heat squad that was an NBA-worst 15-67 a season ago.
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Gerald Wallace had one of those wonderful games he can have, with 34 points. Jason Richardson (23 points) was almost as good. Emeka Okafor was as solid as a telephone pole, Raymond Felton shot just four times but handed out eight assists, and everyone else filled in as necessary.
And there was Jordan, taking it all in at courtside in a tan jacket and blue jeans. He told me he actually purchased those seats right next to the Bobcats bench. Jordan also owns a suite in the arena and plans to alternate sitting up high and down low when he's here.
One reason Jordan often says he doesn't like to be courtside is because he doesn't want the whole world to see his vigorous reactions to questionable calls by officials. But he was extremely visible Saturday, literally closer to the Bobcats on a game night than he has ever been before.
Does it really matter where Jordan sits?
Psychologically, I think it does. I think the Bobcats can't help but play a little harder when the best player in NBA history – the man who can trade them if he has a mind to – is sitting 5 feet away.
Jordan sat most of the game beside Sean May, who is so deep in Larry Brown's doghouse right now that he was deactivated for this game without even being hurt. Brown didn't want to use May among his top 12 players.
That's a pretty serious message to get in shape – or else.
The Bobcats didn't miss May. They shared the ball, played good defense and slowed Miami star Dwyane Wade considerably (19 points on 5-for-15 shooting).
You could tell new coach Larry Brown was relieved. He noted the Bobcats had been “oh-for-October” – they had gone 0-8 in the preseason, then 0-1 in the regular season before tonight.
Brown, a hall of famer, doesn't have to prove to himself that his system works; his players needed some positive reinforcement.
The Bobcats still will be physically overpowered by some of the NBA's better teams. Wallace isn't going to score 34 every night; nor will the Bobcats shoot 53.6 percent as a team as they did Saturday.
But this was a good sign for a franchise that has flashed mostly bad ones recently, including the way they laid off at least 35 people shortly before the start of training camp.
Jordan was in the house, as was team owner Bob Johnson, as were a whole bunch of real fans.
They all saw something no one anywhere has seen in more than six months – an actual Bobcat win.
Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140