The Charlotte Hornets’ Worst Season: 2012

The Charlotte Hornets regained the rights to their franchise history and the New Orleans edition of the franchise, which had moved in 2002, changed its name to the Pelicans and became a team treated as if it had prior been an expansion team for the 2013-14 campaign.

Which means that the Charlotte team did their business as the Bobcats in the lockout-shortened 2012 season.

And “did their business” certainly applies here, because that euphemism for dropping a deuce could easily be applied to Charlotte’s 7-59, worst-winning-percentage-ever campaign in that year.

The Philadelphia 76ers won nine games in 82 tries in 1973, to this day the only team to fail to crack double-digit wins in a full-length campaign.

But 9-73 is a .110 winning percentage. 7-59 is good for just .107, bad enough that going 2-14 in the ensuing 16 games to close the gap and tie the score would’ve actually bumped their win rate up.

Let’s face it. As much as this publication does not like trafficking in asterisks, you can’t dismiss 7-59 just because there were only 66 games. Charlotte would’ve had to go 11-5 the rest of the way just to match the Bobcats’ woeful “re-expansion” campaign in 2004-05 (they went 18-64 that year.)

11-5 in the NFL would get you into the playoffs most years…at least when the NFL still had 16-game seasons, but that’s another story for another sport’s blogosphere to consider. They can start with the 2009 Patriots.

Anyway, enough blather, on with the show.

The On-Court Record

To tank is human. To go 0-23 in your last 23 games and not even get that eighth win to get out of history’s ultimate doghouse is divine, if your divinity rests upon a trickster god.

Indeed, the Bobcats’ first two games ended with identical 96-95 scores, a win over Milwaukee and a loss to the eventual champion Miami Heat, respectively.

That’s “take a picture, you’ll want to remember this” stuff the same way the Patriots jumping out to a 3-0 lead in Super Bowl XX—the one the Chicago Bears won 46-10—counts as such a thing.

Charlotte started 3-10. They had another stretch where they went 3-5 in order to reach that seven-win mark.

For the entire rest of the season they were 1-44. Between the stretches prior mentioned, they went 1-21, and of course there was that 23-game swoon at the end.

And oh by the way, there’s that minus-15.3 Net Rating to consider. Even if they stopped at halftime and got to pretend the second half came out dead even, a minus-7.7 Net Rating would still have been second-worst in the league, topped only by the Cleveland Cavaliers at minus-7.8 in their second post-”Decision” meltdown season after LeBron James left.

And again, that’s with the Bobcats just walking off the court at halftime and the official scorer pretending the next 24 minutes were actually played and ended tied on the same number of possessions.

The one team unfortunate enough to preface the “and 44”? The Toronto Raptors, the only team to lose to a seven-win team twice. Congratulations, Toronto, at least you got to win a title seven years later. The Bobcats just got to be the Hornets.

The Featured Players

The teams we’ve examined so far at least had the saving grace of having a decent guy somewhere on the roster. The awful ’05 Hawks at least had Tyronn Lue crack .100 WS/48 and Josh Childress put up a respectable rookie year at .093. The woeful ’97 Celtics had David Wesley and Rick Fox, who would find success elsewhere, and they even had 50 games’ worth of rookie third-overall-pick Chauncey Billups before idiot-in-chief Rick Pitino shipped him out of town.

The Bobcats had nothing. Their top guy for WS/48, Derrick Brown, posted .076 in that category; nobody else even topped .038 (Corey Maggette, in just 881 minutes.) Brown had just 2.3 Win Shares total, an astoundingly low showing, thanks in part to only playing 1,443 minutes and starting just 17 of the 65 games in which he appeared.

If VORP is more your speed, Kemba Walker, in his rookie campaign, posted 0.6; Brown had 0.2. The rest of the team were all in the negative on that metric.

And let’s not call Walker a saving grace here. His .009 WS/48 as a rookie suggested less “guy who would become a four-time All-Star” and more “guy who if he doesn’t get his act together will wash out of the league.” Not how you want the ninth pick in the draft to play for you in his debut campaign.

The other teams we’ve examined so far were bad. Charlotte was a notch below even that low bar, a bar so low that even a potato could clear it.

The Coach

This was the team that ended Paul Silas‘ coaching career. The longtime veteran, who had coached Charlotte to three straight playoff appearances before the team skipped town and managed a fourth in New Orleans in that iteration of the franchise’s first attempt, had never been a particularly good coach. His career record was already 49 games under .500 coming into 2012; he would end his career with over double that deficit in the ledger, ending his career 387-488 in the regular season. He was, for what it’s worth, 13-16 in the playoffs thanks to a pair of playoff series wins in 2000 and 2001.

Silas wasn’t an awful coach. But he wasn’t a good one, and given a garbage fire of a roster, Silas simply wasn’t up to the task. Plus, losing 23 games in a row to end the season is the ultimate “your players just gave up” statement.

The Aftermath

Charlotte stunk in 2012. But like so many of these tankfest teams, things quickly turned around.

The team made the playoffs in 2014. They did it again in 2016. And while those are the only two playoff appearances in the last ten years for this sad sack franchise, the mere fact that they could go from seven wins to 43 in two years without landing a super-duper free agent (a look at that ’14 roster makes one wonder how they even won 30 games, never mind 43) is pretty impressive in its own right.

Still, though, one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe the entire Charlotte Bobcats experiment was a bad idea if they watched that 2012 squad, especially during those two combined stretches where they won once in 45 tries.

NEXT: Chicago Bulls, or “How to Burn a Dynasty to the Ground.” Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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