The Charlotte Bobcats regular season gets kicked off on October 30, and the team is looking again to rebound from a disappointing year. This is also the last year before the team reclaims their name as the Hornets, and they are hoping that some new player and coaching additions mean success in their last year as the Bobcats. Tom Sorensen, sports columnist for the Charlotte Observer joined me in studio with a look ahead at the upcoming season.
Kevin: Tom I just moved to Charlotte a little over a month ago from Seattle, so you can imagine with everything that I have been through with the Seattle Supersonics leaving town that I am just happy to live in a city that has a professional NBA team. But this wasn’t exactly a playoff caliber team last year was it?
Tom: No, but two years ago they had the worst winning percentage in NBA history. And last season they played more games – there was no work stoppage – and they tripled that. So I thought that last season was actually pretty good for them. Two seasons ago you could make the case that Charlotte, like Seattle, did not have an NBA team. But they had one last season and they sure have one now.
Kevin: Ok, so what sort of changes have been made to this Bobcats team over the offseason?
Tom: Well, they hired a coach who is credible. They have a tendency to gamble on coaches and I don’t know if it is to save money or if they think they see things that others don’t. They guessed way wrong last season with a guy named Mike Dunlap. Players didn’t like him and he had no connection with the city. They hired a long time NBA assistant by the name of Steve Clifford. A smart and respected guy within the league. And he added to his staff Patrick Ewing, one of the best big men of all-time, and Mark Price, one of the best small men of all time. And they also signed the most expensive and important free agent in franchise history. A guy named Al Jefferson, who when he has the ball down low he is going to score, and you almost have to double team him. And the Bobcats have never had a player like that. And they also drafted Cody Zeller. A little bit of a gamble. He’s a 7-footer out of Indiana. But he runs. He is really fast, and he has an outside jump shot. And just the idea of those two guys - plus Kemba Walker who was their best player last season – this is the most excited I think Charlotte has ever been about this team.
Kevin: Ok. Preseason predictions. Do we see an improvement this year? More than 21 wins? Do we see the playoffs this year? What do you think?
Tom: I definitely see an improvement. I think they will win at least 30 games. And last season in the Eastern Conference Milwaukee finished six games below 500 and still made the playoffs. You can do that in the NBA. If everybody stays healthy, I think it is conceivable they make the playoffs. They aren’t going to do any damage when they get there, but they are credible now. I mean there is a reason to go see them now other than LeBron James or the visiting team. There is a lot of anticipation.