If you are a fan of Charlotte's two highest-profile pro teams, you have to be desperate for a win right about now.
The Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) haven't won since Oct.5th and have lost five games in a row. The Charlotte Hornets (4-11) haven't won since Nov.14th and have lost six games in a row entering Wednesday night's home game against Portland.
After a banner season last year, when both teams made the playoffs, things have gone very sour. And yet both teams are far from out of the playoff picture -- the Panthers because the NFC South is so bad, and the Hornets because it's so early and they also are in the right conference (the Eastern, where only five of 15 teams were above .500 Tuesday morning).
The Panthers just finished up their most successful Sunday in more than a month.
They had a bye, and thus managed not to lose.
In the meantime, New Orleans and Atlanta both lost, leaving Carolina only a half-game back in the South behind those two 4-7 squads. A win against Minnesota -- the team that Carolina beat to turn the tide in 2013 -- would at least make December interesting.
As for the Hornets, they've got a lot more time to right the ship, but they are a mess right now. I went to the Hornets' game Monday night and sat in the stands with some friends (I had written my column for the day earlier on Jeff Taylor and his apology for his domestic violence conviction). Four things struck me:
1) The early returns on Lance Stephenson have not been good. Coach Steve Clifford again benched Stephenson for the fourth quarter of the 113-92 loss to the L.A. Clippers. Stephenson shot poorly and dribbled too much, and so Brian Roberts and Gary Neal got his minutes.
Stephenson is no savior. That has certainly been established. But he can do a lot of things pretty well (sometimes). One thing he rarely can do, though -- hit an open jumper. And he has got to buy into moving the ball on offense more quickly.
2) Marvin Williams is no Josh McRoberts. Williams can hit an open jumper -- sometimes -- but he is not a connector like McRoberts was. Few can pass like McRoberts, but have you noticed that Williams also never gets to the free-throw line? He does not drive the ball effectively at all. In 15 games this season, Williams has shot exactly two free throws.
3) Cody Zeller is getting better. Zeller still gets bumped around by bigger guys, but at least he's not hesitating as often to use his quickness. He had 17 points Monday and guarded Blake Griffin more effectively than Williams, although really neither one of them had much of a chance.
4) The Hornets really miss the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- their defensive stopper. While the Hornets' offense has been sporadic, the team has had even more trouble guarding people. That's why Charlotte's losing streak includes losses by 25, 27 and 21 points. Like the Panthers, the Hornets just don't play defense well enough right now.
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