Posted Apr 9 2009 5:44PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Gerald Wallace called it "poor management." It irks coach Larry Brown, too.
As the Charlotte Bobcats barely cling to playoff hopes, they loaded into plane on Thursday to become the first NBA team in 12 years to close the season on a four-game road trip.
Blame it on a horse jumping show that has their home arena covered in dirt -- and the NBA schedule maker
"That comes from upstairs from the organization, as much as you hate to say it," said Wallace, Charlotte's top scorer. "You don't want to send your team at the end of the season on a four-game road trip. That's hard for anybody to do, especially for us since we're so young and we're trying to fight for the playoffs."
Trailing Chicago and Detroit by three games, the only way for Charlotte to make the postseason would be to sweep games at Oklahoma City, Chicago, New Jersey and Orlando and hope the Bulls finish 1-3 or the Pistons 0-4.
The Bobcats' 12-25 road record makes it even more daunting.
"I knew the end would be difficult," Brown said.
The Bobcats have their arena occupied by the Charlotte Jumper Classic this weekend. It's a pet project of owner Bob Johnson, whose daughter competes in the event.
"It's no secret that our owner's daughter is an equestrian and he has a huge affinity for the jumping business," Bobcats president Fred Whitfield said. "It's just one of the events that he feels strongly about, that he feels should be a part of the whole cultural experience that we offer in this building."
Last year the Bobcats went on a three-game road trip during the horse show and returned home for the season finale. The year before it was a two-game trip before the final game was at home.
Even though the dirt will be hauled out of the arena by Tuesday, the NBA kept the Bobcats on the road for this year's season finale, too.
According to STATS LLC, Charlotte is the first team since the 1996-97 Toronto Raptors to close with four straight on the road. At least it's not as bad as the 1972-73 Buffalo Braves, who closed with a record eight straight road games.
"If the league had given us a game, we would have been ready to go on Tuesday," Whitfield said. "But the NBA has a tough job and they're trying to be as fair as they can to every team."
"One of the things we're doing for next year is, we have the opportunity to request three days that are priority for us, that if absolutely if there's any way to have them, let us have them. We put the last day of the season next year as one of those priority days. We don't know if it'll happen, but we certainly requested it."
The Bobcats didn't take advantage of a cushy early schedule that included 14 of their first 20 at home. That all came before the December trade of Boris Diaw and Raja Bell that made them much better.
Since starting 7-18, the Bobcats have gone 28-25 ahead of their brutal finish in part due to Johnson's love of horses.
"Maybe next year Bob will forecast us making a playoff push down the end," Bell said with a smile, "and get us some home games."
Notes: Bell (strained right calf) walked on a treadmill Thursday and will make the trip. Bell said he might be able to play in the final two games next week if the Bobcats are still in the playoff race. "I'd like for us to still be alive at that point and have a decision to make," he said.
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