5 Holiday Wishes for the Charlotte Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats can take solace in being one of maybe four teams at most on the positive side of Santa's naughty or nice list this Christmas.
If the Bobcats can maintain their near-.500 ball, Michael Jordan's bunch will stumble its way right into the playoffs and, even more pathetically, right into a matchup with home-court advantage.
Things are well in Bobcat country at the moment, but everyone loves a few gifts for Christmas. What wishes and presents would best suit this team during the holidays?
The Bobcats have definitely played themselves out of coal territory and will surely find some more pleasurable rewards from good ol' St. Nicholas in their stockings this season. Here are a handful of wishes that would benefit the team moving forward.
I Wish for Santa to Get a Time Machine for Ben Gordon
What kind of world are we living in where Ben Gordon is shooting 20 percent from three-point range? Seriously? That's coal-worthy!
For a career 40 percent shooter from deep, the fact that Gordon is converting at a rate less than half of his career average at the moment is severely detrimental to the Bobcats. The team is dead last in the league in three-point percentage, and he is the biggest candidate to initiate a turnaround in that department.
As well as Charlotte has played at times this season, the Bobcats are still second-to-last in the league in scoring at just over 90 points a night.
Gordon is only 30 years old. Memories of him averaging over 20 points for the Bulls are not that far in the past, which just makes his demise hurt that much more. Charlotte is almost a winning team now and could use nothing more than a spirited return to relevance from its talented shooting guard.
For all these reasons, here's to hoping the elves at the North Pole are quite tech-savvy. Gordon needs to dial it back to his early 20s and squeeze out a few more lights-out shooting performances for his young teammates.
I Wish for Cody Zeller to Shake His Rookie Jitters
Cody Zeller wasn't selected No. 4 in the draft to shoot 38 percent from the field and score five points per game.
In his brief career, Zeller has appeared hesitant and indecisive on offense instead of just letting go and allowing his natural talent to take over. He has the skill set to be a natural fit alongside Al Jefferson, but Josh McRoberts has significantly outplayed him and eaten up most of the minutes at power forward.
The month of December has seen his numbers climb ever so slightly, but he still has not had a single performance that truly announced his arrival in this league.
Once again, Charlotte has been completely mediocre on offense. One of the main reasons for that is the Bobcats' slow pace, as they average just 95.4 possessions, good for the seventh-slowest offense in basketball.
The problem with that? Al Jefferson is Charlotte's oldest rotational player at just 28. With Kemba Walker, Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson all under the age of 26, there is no reason why this team should not be running teams off the floor.
Charlotte could very easily use its newfound defensive clout to initiate fast breaks, and the man who could stand to benefit most is Zeller. The former Hoosier saw many of his buckets in college come from running the floor and using his athleticism to finish with authority.
Getting out on the break would be a big confidence booster for the young Zeller, but in the meantime he is going to have to carve out more of a niche for himself in the half court.
I Wish for a Nice Timepiece for Mr. Kemba Walker
It is a simple fact: Boys wear watches; grown men wear timepieces.
Pointless jargon aside, the truth is that Kemba Walker is starting to blossom into a cold-blooded killer for the Bobcats. He is showing more and more glimpses of the dynamic clutch player he was during his UConn days, highlighted by a recent buzzer-beater on the road in Toronto.
In his third season, we have seen Walker take the next step as a burgeoning young star in this league. He has evolved from an inefficient shot-chucker into a legitimate problem on both ends. He has put a slow start behind him and filled up the stat sheet in the month of December to the tune of 20.4 points and 5.9 assists a game while shooting 46.8 percent. It's as if he knows Christmas is right around the corner.
For his heightened level of play, the kid deserves a nice grown-man Rolex. His infectious self-confidence is starting to rub off on his teammates, and you can clearly see him becoming the go-to option in crunch time. A late-game threat is exactly what this team needs to push it to the next level.
I Wish for the Team to Feast on Humble Pie for Christmas Day Dessert
Last season, Charlotte's tryptophan-laden Thanksgiving feasts took far too long to wear off. Near the end of November, the Bobcats were sitting pretty at an astounding 7-5, which had already equaled their win total from the previous year's ghastly 7-59 campaign.
What happened next? Thanksgiving turned into Christmas, and Charlotte still hadn't gotten back in the win column. The Bobcats didn't get another win until New Year's Eve. A promising 7-5 start turned quickly into a 7-23 disaster because their holiday feasts lacked a healthy slice of humble pie.
Steve Clifford cannot allow his team to become content with raising a few early-season eyebrows. In order to truly change the culture of a historically bad franchise, he has to slam his foot on the gas pedal and ensure that there is no letup whatsoever.
This year's start has already lasted much longer than the previous season's, and the Cats are not showing any signs of slowing down. They appear to be getting stronger and coming together as a unit.
Players and coaches are all likely to see a couple of nice stocking-stuffers heading their way due to their grind-it-out attitude so far. A sliver of humble pie will do this team good by helping it keep its collective head on straight as well as keeping it hungry by not filling the players up.
I Wish for This Defense to Embrace Its Potential
In one season, Charlotte has gone from second-last in the league in points allowed to second-best.
That's right, the Bobcats are surrendering a measly 92.7 points per game. On paper, they don't seem to have the kind of group that could sustain that kind of production, especially with their lack of a rim protector.
The Bobcats only have one player averaging over one block and one player averaging over one steal per contest. What that means is that they play legitimate team defense. Each player is accountable for his own man, and they all help each other out tremendously.
Only five of the Bobcats' first 26 opponents managed to crack the 100-point mark against them. That's a pace that is somewhat unsustainable for the most part, but should not be taken lightly. The greatest wish of all this holiday season would be for this young, fiery group of athletes to keep up this level of play on the defensive end of the floor.
Even with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out for an extended period of time with his injury, Charlotte has not missed a beat without its best perimeter defender. If there is one area to point to that is responsible for the Bobcats' early-season success, look no further than total team defense.
Steve Clifford deserves something lavish and expensive under his tree just for getting these guys to put in this sort of collective effort so quickly, especially after last year's debacle. More than anything, all we can hope for is for the team to maintain this blistering pace.