On March 16, in Greensboro the Blue Devils were upset by 15-seed Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA tournament, bringing the season to a disappointing end.
A short drive to the south, in Charlotte, the disappointing end to the season had yet to begin.
The Charlotte Bobcats beat the Toronto Raptors the next night. Perhaps smarting from his alma mater’s tournament loss, Gerald Henderson shot 11 of 14 against the Raptors, putting up 24 points.
It was his second highest scoring game of the season up until that point, although he’d top it three more times as he tried in vain to stand up to a landslide.
The Bobcats wouldn’t win again for the rest of the season, finishing the string on a 23-game losing streak, the third longest in NBA history. The skid broke the franchise record of 16 that the Bobcats set earlier in the season. Only nine other teams in the league lost as many games—39—in the entire season as Charlotte lost over those two streaks.
The team lost by 20 or more points 11 times during the season-ending spiral, including four times in their final six games. The tailspin was even more frustrating for the team, because all they needed was one win over that nearly two-dozen game span to avoid setting a record nobody wants.
The Bobcats finished with a 7 and 59 record, a winning percentage of .106, the worst in league history.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Henderson said of the long season. “Nobody wants to lose, and with the rate we were losing, and obviously, the record we got at the end, it wasn’t a good thing.”
Henderson endured a pair of four-game losing streaks at Duke as a freshman, in 2006-07, and nothing longer than a two-game skid after that. The Blue Devils only lost 24 times in his three years on the team.
Coming from a college program where wins are expected, an environment of constant losing would seem likely to wear a player down. But Henderson said that wasn’t the case.
“No. You just have to think positively,” he said. “I think all the guys on the team were really positive, especially that last month of the season. We played pretty hard—we just couldn’t come out with the results we wanted.”
“It’s tough getting the record like we did,” he continued. “But you’ve just got to stay positive. I think we’ve got a good group of guys. We’re just looking to add to that this summer.”
The summer got off to a rough start, as the Bobcats lost again in the NBA lottery. Instead of getting the top pick, which would have been Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, the Bobcats drew the second spot in the draft.
“It would have been nice to start up for next year with something good,” Henderson said. “The number one pick would have been a positive thing for us.”
With the number two pick in hand and the trade and free agent markets set to open soon, Henderson shied away from playing GM for the Bobcats braintrust.
“We’ve got to figure out who our coach is going to be, first of all,” he said, “and then obviously, our draft pick. We’ll just go from there. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve just got to see how it plays out.”
Instead, Henderson will focus on his own development. He made strides in the long 2012 season, increasing his playing time by 9 minutes a game, improving his field goal and 3-point shooting, and scoring 15.1 points per game, 5.5 better than his previous season-best. He also became the team’s focus on offense as the season went on and should start next season as Charlotte’s top option.
“I felt I improved as a player this year,” he said. “It’s tough to talk as much about what you did when the team’s struggling like it did. I think this summer, and moving on to next season, the biggest thing will be trying to figure out ways to improve myself and figure out how that’s going to affect the team.”
“Obviously, we can only get better,” he added. “Everone on the team is just looking forward to this summer and next season.”