CHARLOTTE, N.C. As the Bobcats' season came to a close Wednesday night with a 21-61 record, Gerald Henderson emerged into the locker room singing Queen's We Are The Champions. Kemba Walker, one locker stall over, told reporters they can "compete with anyone when we want to."
Even head coach Mike Dunlap used words like "unbelievable" and "exciting" in his post-game press conference, when describing the improvement throughout the season.
That's a dramatic change from the previous season. A 21-win campaign, culminating with the Bobcats' 105-98 win over the Cavs, rarely ends with such promise. For Charlotte, which closed everything with a three-game winning streak, avoided the dubious act of posting the NBA's worst seasonal record.
That dishonor, in a matter of speaking, goes to the Orlando Magic.
"I want more wins. I think the organization wants more wins," Dunlap said. "But 'inch by inch, lifes a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.' I was raised on that. I never thought we were going to blink our eyes and have 35 wins. I thought it was always going to be a slog, and we're slowly moving this thing around."
In that slog came significant peaks and valleys. The peak came early, just 22 days into the season, when the 7-5 Bobcats matched their win total from the previous year. The back-to-reality jolt soon came in the form of an 18-game losing streak, relegating the Bobcats to second-class status once again. That miserable stretch eventually ended and Charlotte found stability once more, winning seven of its last nine home games.