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Bobcats' Futility Could Be Historic

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Matt Carroll (right) at practice.

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Matt Carroll (center) at practice. The Charlotte Bobcats have struggled to get attention in their eight-year history. But lately, that's changed. A lot of people are paying attention to the Bobcats these days, because they're in danger of going down as the worst team in NBA history. The Bobcats' record right now is just 3-26. They've lost 16 straight games. "It's tough to sugarcoat it," said TNT analyst Steve Kerr Wednesday, before the Bobcats lost their latest game. "When you lose 15 games in a row, there's no other way to put it - you're bad." This time two years ago the Bobcats were headed for the playoffs. But then last season owner Michael Jordan decided the team couldn't contend for a championship. So he traded his best players, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, for first round draft picks. Kerr - a former teammate of Jordan's who's also worked in the NBA as a general manager - says Jordan's thinking is clear: struggle now to win later. "In order to set the table for the future, it does make sense to clear your salaries and bundle as many draft picks as you can together," Kerr says. "And then you're working from a position of strength. But it's a difficult process to go through because you're gonna lose a lot of games in the meantime." Last week Charlotte hosted the Chicago Bulls. A lot of the expensive seats in the lower bowl at Time Warner Cable Arena were empty. The nosebleed seats were full of Bulls fans and school groups. But late in the game, what had been a subdued crowd all of sudden got noisy. Problem is, it has nothing to do with the Bobcats. They were down by 30 on the way to yet another loss. All the excitement was over t-shirts being shot into the stands. Bobcats players at practice. But as bad as it's been, the team isn't moping. At a shootaround this week players smiled and even joked at times as they take turns shooting 3 pointers. Practices like this one have been rare, as the league crams in as many games as possible into a season shortened by last year's lockout. Veteran Matt Carroll says that's made the typical grind of an NBA season even worse. "Mentally it's tough, and physically also," Carroll says. "The days that we would usually have off in a regular season schedule, we don't get off. We have to practice because we need practice time. But those are days that guys are tired and guys are banged up, but you gotta find a way to get through it mentally and physically." The Bobcats have also been bitten by the injury bug. D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson - two of the team's best players - have missed significant time. Rick Bonnell covers the Bobcats for The Charlotte Observer. He says the team is worse than anyone expected, but adds that players have stuck together. "I've covered enough bad teams that I know sort of the culture of what happens when people lose a lot," he says. "It starts eroding people's self confidence, camaraderie, teamwork. I don't see any evidence of that with this team. I don't see backbiting, I don't see sniping." Bonnell credits Head Coach Paul Silas for a lot of that. Silas has made it a point to stay upbeat. He says the losses have cost him sleep. But the coach doesn't seem interested in beating up on a team that talent-wise just doesn't stack up with the rest of the NBA. "We got good guys," Silas says. "If we had bad people, then it would be worse. But we got good guys and they like each other. It's just the fact that we've had so many injuries. But the fact is that if we didn't have those injuries, we'd be much further ahead than we are right now." Silas is optimistic the team will win more games - and soon. Fans meanwhile, will have to be patient. Terrence Hayes has been rooting for Charlotte's NBA teams since 1993 and a little futility isn't scaring him off. "There is no team in the NBA that doesn't have its ups and downs," Hayes says. "Even the great teams of the Celtics, the Bullsthere were years when they were rock bottom and they had to build up. And that's what's gonna happen with the Bobcats. It's just a matter of how long will this rough period be." Hayes and others who root for the Bobcats can look to the Oklahoma City Thunder for optimism. Three years ago, that team started 3-29. Last year, the Thunder made the Western Conference finals. Right now, their winning percentage is among the best in the entire league.