Twenty-one is a good number.
Roberto Clemente, the legendary Pittsburgh Pirate star, wore 21.
At 21 we attain adulthood.
Receive a 21 from your new best friend of a blackjack dealer and life, for at least a moment, is superb.
Win 21 games and, if you’re most NBA teams, you’re offended. The Charlotte Bobcats are not most NBA teams.
I see them winning 21 this season. That’s triple what they won in lockout-shortened 2011-12.
A disclaimer: This column is about the Bobcats, who play in the NBA. When I write about the NBA I hear from people who want to know why I write about the NBA. This doesn’t happen when I write about the NFL or college basketball or football.
I write about the NBA because I was a fan long before the Bobcats or Charlotte Hornets came to town, because TV ratings, the true barometer of interest in any sport, jumped considerably last season and because the Bobcats are our connection to LeBron and Kobe, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.
Watching talented visitors was about all the Bobcats offered last season.
So with the second pick in the draft they selected forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who plays with the frantic energy of a kid who raided the refrigerator and drank all the Cokes. He sprints, steals, rebounds, goes to the basket and fiercely defends. He might evolve into a good shooter. A shot can improve, as Bobcats owner Michael Jordan will attest.
Charlotte added 7-foot center Brendan Haywood. We saw true centers such as Haywood last season. They played for other teams.
The Bobcats added veteran talent in guard Ben Gordon and point guard Ramon Sessions and potential talent in rookie forward Jeff Taylor.
Gerald Henderson ought to be Charlotte’s best player. I wasn’t a fan of Henderson at Duke; he seemed like a robotic Blue Devil with a clanging jump shot who someday would average 10 points in the NBA.
Last season, Henderson’s third, he averaged 15. He aggressively gets good shots and hit 45.9% of them.
Point guard Kemba Walker is the most interesting player. As a rookie in 2011-12 he often went one-on-one against the world. His footwork is dazzling and he can get his shot against anybody. Occasionally it went in.
This season he leads more and shoots less. He will earn whatever success he attains. You hear about players who spend so much time in the gym the coach gives them the key. Walker has the deed.
These are the ages of the players who will start for Charlotte: 32, 24, 23, 22 and 19. Except for the 32-year-old Haywood, Brigham Young might have an older lineup.
Yet one of Charlotte's captains is 32-year-old Matt Carroll, who some nights might not play.
Why is Carroll a captain?
After nine seasons in the NBA he’s still addicted to the game and what it requires. He’s from Pittsburgh but came of age in Philadelphia and encourages teammates, in that subtle Philly way, to get it right. A young team needs a veteran leader, especially a team with a first-year head coach.
Team executives praise coach Mike Dunlap, emphasizing his ability to teach and the manner in which he immediately made the team his. His main attribute, however, is that he’s new.
We need to remember that last season’s head coach, Paul Silas, was good at what he did. Anybody who watched him turn around the 2010-11 Bobcats 28 games into the season shouldn't have to be reminded. Last season was not the fault of Silas. The Bobcats were young, small and terrible.
This season they’ll be less young and less small, and some nights they’ll be pretty good.
Twenty one victories is a good number for the Bobcats.
Twenty one means their collection of mostly young talent is coming together. But it's not coming together so quickly that they'll forfeit a shot at the top pick in the 2013 draft.