This past March, the great Michael Jordan became the first NBA player ever to own his own franchise. He took over a Charlotte Bobcats team that was coming off of five straight losing seasons, hoping to get them turned around and headed toward contention in the Eastern Conference.
Sure enough, the Bobcats won 44 games and made the postseason for the first time in their history. Now if only His 47-year-old Airness could hop in a time machine and take the court again, they might have a chance at something more.
2009-10 Record: 44-38 (fourth in Southeast Division, seventh in Eastern Conference, lost to Magic in first round)
Celtics' record vs. Bobcats: 16-5 all time, 3-0 last season
Familiar faces: None. The Bobcats are a motley mix of castoffs from everywhere but Boston.
Key additions: Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera (all traded from Mavericks), Shaun Livingston (free agent), Dominic McGuire (free agent), Sherron Collins (draft)
Key losses: Tyson Chandler, Alexis Ajinca (both sent to Mavericks in Dampier trade), Raymond Felton (signed with Knicks), Theo Ratliff (signed with Lakers)
Burning question: Do the Bobcats have enough of a supporting cast?
Gerald Wallace is one of the most underrated players in the NBA today. He can beat you in any number of ways offensively, he can defend even the biggest and most athletic wing guys, and he rebounds incredibly well for his position.
Stephen Jackson is a nice second fiddle. He's a great shooter, a great athlete, and even a decent veteran leader at 32.
And then what?
If the Bobcats are going to be a threat to anyone in the playoffs, they need to be deeper and tougher. They need a solid big man — maybe a former Maverick, either DeSagana Diop or Erick Dampier, can fill that role. They need a point guard — Raymond Felton's gone, so they'd better hope D.J. Augustin is ready. They need a bench. Who knows what'll happen there?
The Bobcats have two good players and a lot of holes surrounding them. That might not be enough to make a contender in a competitive Southeast Division. The Bobcats are hoping for a couple of pleasant surprises when they take the court this season.
2010-11 outlook: The Bobcats have four games a year against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Washington. If they're going to take on that slate, they'd better be ready, and there are more than enough reasons to doubt the depth and the cohesion of this Charlotte roster. Maybe someone in Larry Brown's rotation steps up and surprises this season, vaulting the Bobcats into serious contention, but more likely, they're just another also-ran in an increasingly tough East rat race.
Did you know? The Celtics' 16-5 record against the Bobcats is their best against any active NBA team. Their next-best matchup historically has been against the L.A. Clippers — they're 82-31.