Fans traditionally filed out of Time Warner Cable Arena halfway through the fourth quarter Friday, as the Chicago Bulls put the finishing touches on another double-digit Charlotte Bobcats loss.
The Bobcats have the league’s worst home record, despite a franchise-best in attendance this season. Fans have seen blown leads, fourth quarter droughts and plenty of blowout losses. Hardly anything can phase the Bobcats faithful or players right now.
Sitting three rows up near the Bobcats bench, I got a close-up of the waning attention of Bobcats players by quarter.
Tyrus Thomas was again a healthy scratch, sitting behind the Bobcats bench in dress clothes. Thomas seemed more interested in his twizzlers and the texts from his phone than the Bobcats latest misery.
Who could blame him?
Certainly not Ben Gordon, who along with Thomas makes up more than a third of the Bobcats payroll. Gordon was a healthy DNP Friday following a practice dispute with head coach Mike Dunlap before all-star weekend.
Gordon calmly warmed the bench, as he watched his former team effortlessly pick apart his current. He declined to speak to media following the loss, while Dunlap never refuted the notion that Gordon was being punished for his actions in practice.
Bobcats chairman Michael Jordan sat towards the end of his teams bench midway through the first quarter. Jordan sat with a stern facial expression, blending into the melancholy mood of the Bobcats bench. After taking in all the shortcomings of the Bobcats, Jordan left before the end of the second quarter, and clearly wasn’t pleased.
As Coach Dunlap clapped for anything slightly positive Friday night, players on the bench collectively seemed disinterested. Body language was at a season low, as the comradery of a Bulls team playing without their superstar echoed after each stop and score. The Bobcats are again on pace to have the worst record in basketball and despite a big jump from Kemba Walker, there hasn’t been any growth on either side of the ball.
In 25 games, it will all be over. Bobcats fans will look ahead to the NBA Draft Lottery, hoping for ping pong balls to finally bounce in their favor. More importantly, fans could be hoping for a new coaching hire to bounce in their favor too.
Dunlap has done little, if anything, to show signs of changing the Bobcats losing culture. While nobody expected the Bobcats to be a playoff contender in the East, more fans would have a positive outlook on losses, if the team was shedding bad habits and developing a winning playing style. But they haven’t, and while personel decisions are front-office driven, Dunlap has left a lot to be desired on the court. He often resembles an interim coach than one with stability and leadership.
On more nights than not, the Bobcats are not in basketball games. They are rarely competitive, frequently unconfident and most NBA writers and analysts would give you a blank stare if you asked them to pinpoint the Bobcats offensive and defensive gameplan.
While getting better players is a given, every rebuilding project needs the right coach to help steer the ship. Dunlap’s first year as head hasn’t paid off for a team that desperately needs to start finding ways to win games and coming together as a team. Friday night, the Bobcats looked no more closer than they were with Paul Silas as the head coach.
Good coaches separate themselves from losing situations and inspire a new culture among their players. For 56 games, Mike Dunlap has joined the losing culture of the Bobcats.