x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Bobcats turn a different tale this season

For the first time since the 2009/10 season, and only the second time in the 10 years since the NBA returned to the state of North Carolina in a 2004/05 reboot, the Charlotte Bobcats will appear in the play-offs.

Al Jefferson, centre, is having a career year for the Charlotte Bobcats, one of the reasons they are back in the play-offs for the second time in 10 years. Kent Smith / AFP
Al Jefferson, centre, is having a career year for the Charlotte Bobcats, one of the reasons they are back in the play-offs for the second time in 10 years. Kent Smith / AFP

Thanks to this year’s notably weak Eastern Conference, one NBA team will be making a rare post-season appearance.

For the first time since the 2009/10 season, and only the second time in the 10 years since the NBA returned to the state of North Carolina in a 2004/05 reboot, the Charlotte Bobcats will appear in the play-offs.

It offers a chance for the Bobcats to do something they have never done, and something they will never have another chance to do, as the Bobcats, because they are taking back the Hornets name next season.

Win a play-offs game.

Not a series. A game.

In their only play-offs appearance, the Bobcats were swept by the Orlando Magic in four games.

Not that it will leave a large impact on NBA history, but it would be a remarkable testament to their decade of futility if the Bobcats go down without having won at least one play-offs game.

It will be no small task, but it could happen.

If they really want to have a chance, it would help them to overtake the Washington Wizards, whom they trail by one game in the Eastern standings, for the conference’s sixth seed.

Do that, and they will likely get to play the unimpressive Toronto Raptors.

However, if they finish seventh they will take a swing at the struggling Indiana Pacers, who in their current state are not above dropping a game to a much-lesser squad. The key for Charlotte will be Al Jefferson. The 6ft 10ins centre has always been a poor defender, but this year he has managed to hold his own while, by at least one advanced measure, having one of the 15 best seasons in the league, on offence.

Averaging 21.7 points per game (nearly five points better than his career scoring rate) and 10.6 rebounds, if the 29-year-old veteran can have the kind of game he had against Orlando on Friday (29 points, 16 rebounds) or the game he had against the Brooklyn Nets on March 26 (35 points, 15 rebounds), the Bobcats will have a chance in any contest.

And, if the point guard Kemba Walker avoids the kind of miserable shooting game that torments him from time to time, he could add enough scoring to put the Bobcats in a position to win.

They have a decent cast of supporting players in Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo, Ramon Sessions and Josh McRoberts.

And they play enough defence for the Bobcats to put it all together for a stretch and surprise a team, such as the Pacers, once or twice in a seven-game series.

It will not register shock waves, but Charlotte fans deserve at least one play-off victory from the otherwise forgettable Bobcats era as they get ready to welcome back the beloved Hornets name for 2014/15.

jraymond@thenational.ae

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