In a delightful twist of fate, the Charlotte Bobcats clinched the franchise's first playoff berth last night against the New Orleans Hornets. It was very fitting considering the next step taken by the Bobcats came with a victory over the team that had abandoned the Queen City 8 years ago. The Bobcats have struggled for their six years to gain acceptance in the Charlotte community; some of it has been their fault, but some of it was from the scar the Hornets left on the city. It was a bitter parting and both sides regret what transpired. The central antagonist in the drama, George Shinn even admitted he is disapointed with how he handled it. Nevertheless the parting led to a struggle for the fledgling Bobcats to gain a following. New ownership and leadership this season has paid dividends on the court and with the fans. The seats in Time Warner Cable Arena are no longer sparsely filled and the team on the court plays exciting, Larry Brown basketball.
In the Bobcats 104-103 win last night the two direct ties to the respective directions of the franchises had contrasting games. Emeka Okafor, who is as good a guy as you will ever see in pro sports, finished with 7 points on 3-4 shooting and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes. Tyson Chandler collected 16 and 10 in 33 minutes of work on 7-9 shooting. The two were traded for each other in the offseason. Chris Paul, the player taken before the Bobcats could get him in the draft, another local North Carolina product that left for New Orleans and attained glory, could only watch from the sidelines in a suit.
It seems hokey to attempt to point to this game as a cathartic moment in sports, but given the history of these teams, the city of Charlotte, and what the win last night gave the Bobcats I think it makes sense. You really cannot move forward until you reconcile your past. It was poetic justice, something that is not always doled out in sports. The Hornets and Charlotte had a love affair, and when it turns into a messy parting of ways it takes a lot to get over it. Most of all it takes time. Like the old adage goes; you wake up in the morning and it hurts a little less each day. Now that the Bobcats are functioning in a positive manner, the city can embrace them. Charlotte has found someone new and after being just a rebound relationship for the city, it has found a lasting partner. The Hornets will never be forgotten, and we look back time to time at old memories which gave us great joy.
/wipes tear away from eyes
The Bobcats likely first round opponent will be the Orlando Magic, the team that reached the finals last year. It is unlikely the Bobcats will win, but the team is on the path to something special. Larry Brown has brought teams to the next level time and time again it appears he will do the same for the Cats. Wherever they go from here, I think the win and who it was against last night signifies the legitimacy of the league approving a second franchise for Charlotte seven years ago.