Scott Fowler

Playoffs... playoffs?! It could happen twice in Charlotte

Let’s start today’s column with a question: When was the last time the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte’s NBA franchise played in a playoff game in the same calendar year?

A hint: it was the same year Princess Diana died, “Titanic” was released at movie theaters and people used mobile phones simply to make and receive calls.

It was 1997.

The Carolina Panthers made it to the NFC championship game in January 1997 before losing at Green Bay. Three months later, led by Glen Rice, the Charlotte Hornets finished off a 54-28 regular season. They then got swept in a first-round playoff series with the New York Knicks.

That was 17 years ago, but it is close to happening again. The Panthers went 12-5 this season, including that home playoff loss to San Francisco last month. The Charlotte Bobcats will enter the all-star break in decent position to make the playoffs for the second time in their franchise history, which began in 2004.

Throw those two teams’ bright futures in with the fact that the Charlotte Knights will open a beautiful new uptown baseball stadium April 11, and there’s a chance – not a certainty, but a chance – that we are at the beginning of a golden age in Charlotte-area pro sports.

More evidence of what he does for the Bobcats was found in this quote Tuesday night from Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, after Jefferson had scored 30 in the Bobcats’ 25-point win. Said Carlisle: “When we double-teamed him, he found people to pass out to. … And when we didn’t, he shredded us. That’s the story.”