When I write about the Charlotte Bobcats, or write that on most nights I enjoy watching the Bobcats play, I hear this: The team is terrible, has no future, past or plan, and would lose to the Washington Generals, albeit in overtime.
But it’s ludicrous to expect the Bobcats to come back from a season such as the last one, when they had the worst winning percentage in NBA history, and suddenly contend. The Bobcats have the worst record in the NBA and probably are the worst team.
So why show up at Time Warner Cable Arena?
You show up for a night like Monday, when Charlotte beat the Boston Celtics 94-91.
Early, it looked like a good night for Boston. The first player introduced was Boston’s Kevin Garnett, and the applause was passionate and loud.
The teams would exchange the lead all evening. As they went back and forth, so did fans.
Boston fans were louder most of the evening.
A trend for corporations and cities is to go green (or at least say they have). Much of the crowd went Celtics’ green. Garnett and Paul Pierce jerseys were common, and a “Let’s Go Celtics!” chant that began in the cheap seats filled the gym.
Three nights earlier, fans at Time Warner Cable Arena wore Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and shouted “MVP” when the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant went to the free throw line.
I’ve heard from a lot of locals who believe the support for Los Angeles and Boston is somehow tragic and embarrassing.
They’re wrong. A once-a-season visit by Kobe and the Lakers is a big deal to a lot of people. A visit by the Celtics is a big deal, also. You might have noticed there are a lot of transplants from Boston in Charlotte.
Until the Bobcats and Carolina Panthers win consistently, seats at home games always will be filled with fans from teams with glamour and/or a national fan base.
If you can’t live with it, stay home.
Or enjoy the show.
Charlotte trailed by six at the half Monday but led by three going into the fourth quarter.
Boston had won in triple overtime in Boston Sunday. The Celtics talked in the hallway as they stretched before they ran onto the court. One player asked another how he felt. “Tired as (blank),” the second player said.
Which would play the larger role late in the game – Boston’s fatigue or Charlotte’s reputation?
The reputation is that when an opponent tightens its late-game defense the Bobcats turn tight.
With five minutes remaining, Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo made a huge dunk. The shot cut the lead to four and reminded fans whose territory they were in. You could say it brought back the buzz.
The last five minutes were frantic.
The Celtics, who had won seven straight, led 91-87 with 2:14 to play. They would not score again.
Kemba Walker, meanwhile, found Gerald Henderson for a 3-point basket. Walker found Ramon Sessions – Sessions was fearless as always – and Sessions found the basket from 18 feet.
With 14.8 seconds remaining, and a one-point lead, Walker went to the line. He squeezed the ball, bounced it once, paused, and bounced it twice. He hit both free throws.
Boston missed two more shots and Charlotte rookie Jeffery Taylor grabbed the final rebound.
If you’re a fan of the home team, or of the sport it plays, this is the reason you show up.
This also is the reason you return.