I Want to Be Down
Chris Ryan: I don’t know whether it was Kemba Walker running little Steve Nash pick-and-rolls, like this one with (the surprisingly with-it) Cody Zeller …
But at some point last night, as the Bobcats held off a listless Pacers team (who were on the second night of a back-to-back), I felt something incredibly weird.
I felt jealousy.
I am a Sixers fan, and this season I’ve been forced to contemplate what it is I want out of a basketball team. I’ve been trying to talk myself into the “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything” way of thinking, dreaming of a day next season when I’m watching Noah Vonleh, Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, and Michael Carter-Williams light up the night. I’ve been sitting on the floor, as Sam Hinkie pours lye on my hand, assuming that he knows best, that through pain, I will gain.
And that could still be the case.
But honestly, sometimes I think I’d rather have Al Jefferson, Luke Ridnour, and Gary Neal.
For the Sixers, the Thunder are the dream, but the Bobcats are the likelihood. Charlotte has surrounded some lottery picks with a few veterans, and have a really good coach. Is the ceiling the 6- or 5-seed? Sure. In a year or two, if the Bobcats add some more pieces and MKG finds an offensive game, could they get into the top half of the conference? Why not. They aren’t that good, and they aren’t going to scare Indy in the playoffs. But you know what they’re doing? They’re participating. That’s what’s hard about tanking — if you cheer for a team that’s doing it, you get taken out of the league, entirely. You just feel like you’re missing out on an entire season. I’ve cheered for mediocre teams like Charlotte before. At least you feel like you’re part of something.
The difference here is Jefferson. Charlotte gave him $41 million over three years this past offseason. The consensus was that this was a waste of Michael Jordan’s money and Al Jefferson’s talent. He belonged somewhere better, and the Bobcats should be thinking bigger.
Maybe. But try telling the guys on the Charlotte bench, who were doing their best Bazemore/Sacre imitations while Jefferson blacked the hell out.
Last night, Jefferson was the best player in the gym. Better than Hibbert (whom he trashed), better than Lance, better than George. He scored 34 points and he’s averaging 26 and (almost) 10 in his last 10 games, and like Joakim Noah, his sheer presence keeps the Bobcats in almost every game they play. Look at their results; Charlotte hasn’t been blown out since November. Jefferson is one of the most valuable players in the league. He’s proven his worth by elevating a dysfunctional franchise into the realm of respectability. I know the goal shouldn’t be Big Al. It should be to find the next Kevin Durant. And I shouldn’t want Charlotte, I should want Oklahoma City. But last night, Big Al and Charlotte looked pretty good.