Bobcats giving Carolinas something to root for

First Posted: 1/15/2009

I'm going to do it. I'm going to break one of the three key rules to following the NBA.
The first rule is never pay attention to anything that happens off the court. If you plan on watching the league for any extended period of time, you can't get too concerned about how many illegitimate children the players have or whether it was the player or one of their entourage who actually fired the shots or any of that nonsense. At least now that the league has a dress code, the courtroom won't be the only place you'll see players in suits.
The second rule is to never believe anything good can possibly come from the Atlanta Hawks. I think the last time they made the playoffs, Michael Jordan knocked them out when he was still with the Bulls. Before signing Joe Johnson to a ridiculous contract this off-season, the Hawks couldn't even get players to take their money. That should tell you something about the state of their franchise.
The third and most important rule is never get too excited about an early-season win. The Bobcats, however, made it hard for me to abide by this rule after their 122-90 thrashing of the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night.
Indiana is a solid playoff team last year, despite losing Ron Artest for most of the season after his suspension for insanity.
This year, with a healthy Artest, the Pacers should challenge Detroit and Miami for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. And the Bobcats thrashed them. And I mean torched them.
And they did it without their leading scorer Gerald Wallace, or their veteran point guard Brevin Knight. Raymond Felton started his first NBA game and all he did was put up 18 points, 10 assists, five steals, five rebounds and hit three-of-four from three-point range.
Meanwhile, fellow rookie Sean May came off the bench to get 15 points and eight rebounds in only 22 minutes of playing time.
Bobcats coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff's all-Tar Heel draft is looking better and better.
Heck, when the Pacers' best player, Jermaine O'Neal says things like, &#8220We shouldn’t even get paid for this game,” or &#8220I felt like we were the expansion team tonight. I’m thoroughly embarrassed,” it just makes you feel good to be in Bobcat Country.
For years, the Hawks have been the closest thing to an NBA team in my area. I had to resort to rooting for teams like Portland, Dallas or Phoenix just to maintain any interest in the sport.
Now I have a local NBA team I can actually root for. I realize they're only 3-6, but games like Wednesday's seem to show that bright things are in the Bobcats future, that the Charlotte franchise won't be forced to endure the long losing seasons followed by botched draft picks that have become the Hawks' trademarks.
And that's a good thing. Nobody should have to endure that.

– Dennis Pillion can be reached at (910) 739-4322, Ext. 118, or by email at [email protected].

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