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Shaun Powell

Paul Silas and the Bobcats are hoping to turn their fortunes around starting with the Draft.
Brock Wiliams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Dreadful season is first step in Bobcats' rebuilding project

Posted Apr 13 2012 10:27AM

Does anyone recall how the Spurs coughed up 34 of their final 43 games in 1996-97, one of the all-time tank jobs? No, because they drafted Tim Duncan and the rest is history.

What about the lousy Cavaliers, who had guards named Bimbo and Smush, and how they finished in 2003? Well, those 65 losses were quickly forgotten if not forgiven once LeBron James arrived.

You think folks in Miami still sting from that 25-win season nine years ago that cost Pat Riley a few locks of his hair? No, they're too busy singing the praises of Dwyane Wade, the "reward" for being crummy.

Therefore, if the Bobcats draft a franchise player this summer, a season of infamy will be in the distant past. Yes, even farther in the rear view mirror than their last victory, back on March 17. That's March 17 of this year. Not last year. Although who could tell the difference?

It's a way of saying that these final, ugly months don't really matter much, in the big picture. True, this week alone, the Kittens lost by 28 points to the Wizards, the team with the second-worst record, then trailed by 36 before getting swept by the Pistons (losing four straight to Detroit?!). Sure, an entire league is knee-slapping laughing at them. Yes, folks are saying the Bobcats would lose to this year's NCAA champs, but not really; they'd have a good shot at beating the Baylor women. Absolutely, if they lose out from here, they'd have a lower winning percentage than the Sixers of '72-73, who won nine times in an 82-game season, and would be in the conversation for worst team all time.

"It's a struggle," coach Paul Silas admitted.

But everyone knew a roster of used-to-be players, not-yet players and never-will-be players would produce a grisly sight. And the Bobcats haven't proven anyone wrong in that regard. They are really and truly hideous some nights.

Gerald Henderson described their plight as "tough" and "a little demoralizing," a bit like calling the Hindenburg a mid-air fender-bender.

Based strictly on results, this season will be a bigger blemish to Michael Jordan's legacy than any fly ball he dropped in the outfield.

The Bobcats should become only the fifth team in history to fail to crack double digits in victories, and so what? When you aim to be bad, then be really, really bad. Historically bad, if that's what it takes. Don't be Warriors Bad, or Blazers Bad, or Timberwolves Bad, because then you don't bottom out and give yourself a chance to rise up. Then you don't increase the odds of drafting high and turning the franchise around. Would it help the Bobcats' chances of selecting Anthony Davis or Thomas Robinson if they were on a six-game win streak? No.

So, to answer your next question, the Bobcats are winning for losing. That's IF they're lucky enough to draft a game-changer this summer, whomever he might be.

Just last season around this time, we were tsk-tsking the Cavaliers, who lost 26 straight at one stretch while dealing with the rubble LeBron left behind. And yet, who in Cleveland cares anymore? They've got Kyrie Irving. And Tristan Thompson. They've also got another first-rounder coming in two months. They've got a future.

What the Bobcats need, quite obviously, is a player who challenges Cam Newton for star power in Charlotte. The real pressure isn't trying to win another game this season, which was a total write-off anyway, given the lockout. Instead, the burden will be felt first at the draft lottery, then again during player interviews and workouts, and finally on draft day. The entire season comes down to what the Bobcats do that night, not tonight against the Heat.

The most important person right now in the organization isn't Kemba Walker or Bismack Biyombo or even Jordan. It's Rich Cho, hired to make the right decision on Draft Day and also hired to spend Jordan's money the right way. If Cho ends up being the general manager equivalent of Adam Morrison, Jordan should sell. Quickly. Because then, owning an NBA franchise wasn't meant to be.

Jordan gets plenty of abuse and is accused of running the franchise into the ground, but that's only partially true. Just two years ago the Bobcats were in the playoffs. The organization suspected that team had maxed out, and rather than be stuck with a mediocre team with no shot at a high pick or championship, the decision was made to push the restart button. So long, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson and Tyson Chandler. Hello, blowouts.

This is a two-year project, assuming Cho comes up big in the next two drafts. Since '06 when they took Morrison at No. 3, there's the perception the Bobcats made major draft mistakes. That's a stretch. In '07 they passed on Joakim Noah to get Jason Richardson, a scorer they badly needed, in a trade. In '08, a poor draft after the seventh pick, they took D.J. Augustin at No. 9; Roy Hibbert lasted until No. 17. In '09 they took Henderson at No. 12; nobody selected lower became a star. In '10 they didn't have a first rounder in a draft that's shaping up as so-so, and the jury is out on getting Walker and Biyombo last summer. The big "mistake" was having the second pick in the Dwight Howard draft.

As much abuse as Jordan takes for the shape of the franchise, at least he buried his ego and conceded he isn't the best man to run the show, and went outside his inner circle to get Cho. Like any owner, Jordan's job is to write checks when it's time to sign the free agent who can take the Bobcats over the hump, instead of writing one for Tyrus Thomas.

At least this "preseason" has only nine games left. Then the season begins for Charlotte.

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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