The Bobcats are not a good basketball team. We knew that going into the season, even if it was masked when they won five out of six at one point in mid November. They were a young team, not a very talented team, and you knew the regression to the mean was coming.
But an 11-game losing streak is harsh.
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap is there to develop young players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bizmack Biyombo, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson into a team that will not be so bad in a few years (and with a few more players).
And so when you have an 11-game losing streak, you try to use the frustration to teach the lessons of being a professional as a player, he said before his team took on the Lakers in the first of a four-games in five days road trip.
“You listen to their frustration. You acknowledge it. And then you move off of it to what is to be done next,” Dunlap said. “I think that here is a formula within this, I don’t care how tough it gets. You have to give them clear direction, one. And you have to have energy. You have to be the same person every day…
“I have been unrelenting in my energy every day. It’s okay to be frustrated, it’s how you handle the frustration.”
But make no mistake, Dunlap is frustrated, as are the veteran Bobcats such as Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions. Dunlap speaks like a coach of a young team, trying to teach with each step.
“I think it’s frustrating for everybody, but I think it’s how you manage the frustration, and I think you want the same person in terms of the coaching staff in front of the players every day,” Dunlap said. “So if they are up or down, you recognize the frustration.
“There’s nothing like work to cleanse the soul. And also a clear direction — I think you have to tell people how they are going to win… I think we do that every day. We have a certain style that we play and we haven’t backed off of that one iota.
“And on our individual work. I think when you are 18 or 19 or 20 or 21 you have got to work in this league in order to develop. Feet, hands, reading defenses.”
The Bobcats are doing none of those skills particularly well, and certainly not consistently. But it’s about learning, developing habits, putting together some core players that can be around in a few years.
It’s the thankless part of the coaching job. Especially when you are losing 11 in a row with a potential for that streak to grow.