If you believed my last article, the Bobcats-Hornets have progressed from terrible to mediocre. If you believe last week's first two performances, the Bobcats-Hornets have done no progressing, and I am a moron who does not deserve to write about basketball.
How did we get here?
While ushering in the era of mediocrity so early in this season, I pointed out the then-.500 Bobcats-Hornets proclivity for beating bad teams. Immediately upon my analysis, the Bobcats-Hornets lost to a bad Celtics team and then played a putrid offensive game against a very good Pacers team.
Their roster at full strength, the team had no excuses to lose to Boston. They had beaten them previously with a healthy dose of Al Jefferson, but the rest of the team needs to score for the team to consistently win. Kemba Walker's early season scoring troubles have left the team without their best creative threat while the defense continues to keep them in games.
Where will the offense come from if Walker cannot initiate it? He's averaging 16 points a game with 4 assists, hardly good enough to lead an offense unless a team has multiple threats.
Jefferson has been solid - exactly the acquisition we thought he could be when healthy - but without Walker, Charlotte must rely on players that have not developed the kind of offensive prowess the team hoped thus far.
Newly re-signed Gerald Henderson leads the non-Walker/Jefferson players with a highly inefficient 14 points a game. Shooting 38 percent from the floor, Henderson represents the problems the past few teams have had scoring. He continually shoots untenable shots - fadeaways, long jumpers, running one-handers and expiring shot clock prayers - which is only partially his fault. Still, his shooting has to improve for this team to improve.
Ramon Sessions has given the team good bench production in 20 minutes per game, but his particular skill set borders on redundant with Walker starting. Clearly, the team needs to improve their passing, though neither point guard has that ability in bunches.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's offense keeps improving, but he will need an astronomical leap to contribute on a regular basis.
As for the rest of the bench, head coach Steve Clifford's week included a subtle message to some possible rotation players. Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Adrien, Cody Zeller and Anthony Tolliver saw limited minutes in normal playing situations. That said, against the Pacers, all of the bench big men ended up in foul trouble, limiting their effectiveness.
Clifford likely switched his lineups to counter a Pacers team that has a wealth of offensive weapons and to get Jefferson more minutes against the Celtics. Jefferson played extremely well in limited minutes against the Celtics earlier this season, so it made sense to get him involved more the second time around.
Even if that were the reason, the bench understood one thing: minutes in the rotation must be earned no matter how much you may have played in the past or where you were drafted.
No matter the decisions behind the lineup shuffling, the Bobcats-Hornets fell below .500 and looked poor doing it. The Celtics overmatched them at nearly every skill position, and they do not do that often.
Walker struggled mightily on both ends, leaving Henderson to take approximately 325 fading baseline jumpers.
The Pacers, though the score showed a blowout, really won the battle of the fouls. The refs called the game so tightly that players themselves were often confused when they got calls. To call this game ugly would be lazy. That game was entirely unwatchable. What could have been a fantastic defensive struggle turned into a one-sided free-throw shooting contest.
By the time the Bobcats-Hornets ruthlessly beat the Bucks for the second time this season, the win felt tainted. A week that could have announced their triumphant arrival as a league talent turned sour.
They could not score consistently and they alarmingly recalled earmarks of the Era of Despair.
While I stand firmly behind the arrival of the Era of Mediocrity, there will be setbacks. This week provided some disgusting basketball, but 1-2* does not define this season.
At least, not yet.
*I have not included Sunday's loss to the Heat, because it will get a separate article.