Its a big deal when New England or Green Bay or Denver comes to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers. Its also a big deal when Seattle or Minnesota or San Diego comes. Almost every NFL game is a big deal.
Most NBA games are not. While every team has players worth watching, few offer glamour, controversy and a genuine superstar.
So welcome to Charlotte, Los Angeles Lakers. On Wednesday the Bobcats played one of their least watchable games of the season they lost by 27 on the road to Cleveland. We feel entitled to a break.
The Lakers, who play the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena Friday, are the most interesting sub-.500 team in sports.
They were going to be a special, remember. After last season they collected the talent that would enable them to challenge Miami and Oklahoma City.
To Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol (who is now injured) and Metta World Peace they added: Steve Nash (who turned 39 Thursday), one of the great point guards of all time; Dwight Howard, as fearsome as any big man in basketball until this season; and Antawn Jamison, formerly of Providence High and North Carolina, a great guy and an unconventional scorer and rebounder whom the Bobcats wanted badly.
Los Angeles has another Charlotte connection. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff was the first head coach of the Bobcats.
Mike Brown began this season as Los Angeles head coach. He went 1-4. He was fired and Bickerstaff was promoted to interim head coach. He was 4-1. Bickerstaff was replaced by Mike DAntoni.
Who knows what would have happened if Bickerstaff had not been a temp. He knows basketball and knows how to sell his vision to players.
Bickerstaffs Bobcats won 18 games their first season, 26 their second and 33 their third. Every night, or almost every night, they had less talent than their opponent. Despite small crowds and an owner, Bob Johnson, who did not like to spend money, Bickerstaffs teams played unusually hard.
So the Lakers have had three had coaches, each with his own philosophy, already this season. Nash was hurt. Gasol is out with a foot injury. And Howard, who helped destroy the Bobcats the lone season they made the playoffs, has had problems with his right shoulder and his heart.
The Lakers are to a team what The Expendables 2 is to a movie. Their cast also is full of aged stars, among them Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. I dont think it did well, either.
In spite of a dysfunctional start, the Lakers have slowly moved toward .500. Theyve done this because Kobe hates to lose more than he likes to score.
In the old days, Kobe went one-on-world. But taking his customary mass quantity of shots didnt work. So hes become a facilitator, finding Nash and anybody else who has a better shot than he does.
To reinvent his game at the age of 34, young for a Laker but old for a basketball player, is a neat twist to his legacy.
Kobe once was a Charlotte Hornet, technically, although the story has become confused. Kobe never refused to play for Charlotte. He was never going to play for Charlotte. The Hornets traded their 1996 first-round pick, the 13th, to Los Angeles for center Vlade Divac before the draft. The Hornets took Kobe only because the Lakers asked them to.
Kobe entered the NBA when the Hornets were in Charlotte, and could still be in the NBA when (if) the Bobcats again become the Hornets.
I dont know how many more seasons hell play.
But whether you show up to boo him or cheer him on, arent you glad you still have the opportunity?
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