It’s been several years in the making, but the Charlotte Bobcats are into the playoffs. There’s no debate that this has been one of worst franchises in terms of success in recent years and quite arguably in NBA history. So coming into this season, the Bobcats made a conceited effort to make the leap and the efforts have paid off.
The first major step they took in the offseason was the signing of Al Jefferson. Big Al has been exactly what the Bobcats have needed and then some. He’s been a dependable 22/11 nightly, despite the double teams that opponents have thrown at him. Some felt that his three-year, $41 million contract was a bit of an overpay, but he has earned every cent of it this season. Despite some early season hiccups, Jefferson has played in 71 games this season and has been playing the best basketball of his career. While it has certainly been a team effort, Jefferson’s presence has made the jump to the postseason possible for the Bobcats.
The other major offseason signing was new coach Steve Clifford. The coaching position for the Bobcats had been a sort of carousel for several seasons as no coach seemed capable of creating sustained success. Because of this, the team itself and the relative obscurity of Clifford to most people outside of the basketball world, the hire had some skepticism. But Clifford was able to take the difficulties in stride and transform a team that ranked dead last in defense two years ago and transform them into the stout 6th ranked defense they are today. He’s even made Jefferson look competent despite the man himself admitting he wasn’t the best. Clifford deserves all the praise he can handle and then some for what he has been able to do this season.
It’s been a long time coming but the Bobcats have finally made the playoffs and that’s what matters. As they head into the final two games of the season the Bobcats also have a chance to secure the sixth seed. Last Thursday the Bobcats won an important head to head match up against the Wizards to secure a tiebreaker between the two teams. End of season seeding can sometimes be confusing but if the Bobcats win their next two and the Wizards lose once, the Bobcats will claim the sixth seed. And the chances are pretty good as the Wizards will be playing the Miami Heat tonight who are looking to secure a victory for a shot at regaining the one seed. Winning the sixth seed would be ideal for the Bobcats who would then face either the Raptors or Bulls instead of the Heat, a team that has given them a rough time this season.
But regardless of whom they play and how they finish the season, the Bobcats have accomplished what they set out to do and that alone is worth celebrating.