The Charlotte Bobcats held their annual media day Monday. The session was about hoops and hope. Everywhere you looked you saw a possibility. They open camp in Asheville Tuesday.
The last time I was around such a feel-good team was at Carolinas training camp in late July. The Panthers believed as strongly in their talent as any Panthers team Ive seen, and Ive seen each of them.
The Panthers are not the team I thought theyd be. Theyre not the team they thought theyd be.
Their season isnt doomed. They have to beat Seattle at home Sunday and have to use their bye like an extended pit stop to fix what they can. If they fail to perform either task, they return to the garage, hood up and out of the race.
A team has to win at least nine games to make the playoffs. Thus the Panthers have to win at least eight of their remaining 12.
I dont know how many games the Bobcats will win. Last season they won seven, and lost their final 23. Nobody goes in a year from where they were to where they want to be. They could win a third of their games and be successful.
Reasons for optimism: five new starters or rotation players, a new head coach, a new court and new uniforms.
Change was necessary. Last season was like driving I-85 from Charlotte to Atlanta to Charlotte to Atlanta for four months. Youll see little that reminds of you of 2011-12.
I dont really want to talk too much about it, says shooting guard Matt Carroll, who will begin his seventh season with the team. Whats done is done and its time to move on and move forward. All I can say is weve worked harder this off-season as a team than Ive ever seen since Ive been part of the Bobcats. Weve had more guys in town doing two-a-days starting back in June.
The Bobcats went on the road during the Democratic National Convention, and their convention lasted much longer than a week because Time Warner Cable Arena had to be altered to accommodate politics and altered again to accommodate basketball.
The Bobcats played at Johnson & Wales, Providence Day, Red Ventures and various elementary schools. Have a backboard and a hoop? Maybe you saw Carroll and the fellows. Somebody would send a text and there they were.
Everybody who was part of it last year obviously has a lot to prove, a lot to make up for, a lot to just show our fans its going to be different this year and the future is going to be brighter, says Carroll. And thats in us and we think about it daily.
Carroll, 32, has seniority with the Bobcats. A gracious and unpretentious athlete, he enjoys fans.
I had some people say, Hey forget about it, move on, were still with you guys, says Carroll. And some say some things that I didnt like. But that comes with it. Im not mad at them. I think if I was paying for tickets last year wed be hard to watch also. I try to show my appreciation and thank the people that stuck with us and keep them encouraged.
Training camp, which runs Tuesday through Friday, is brief but essential.
Just starting with a lot of fresh faces the chemistry is huge, says Carroll. And if you can build that starting (Monday night) with our first team dinner it can go a long ways and it can get you extra wins.
This is the season after the disaster. All the Bobcats have to do is play hard, win a few games theyre not supposed to win and show fans a good time.
This is the honeymoon. As the Panthers will confirm, honeymoons dont last.