NBA AM: Bobcats’ Frustrations Running High
After reaching the postseason for the first time in franchise history during the 2010 campaign, the Charlotte Bobcats found themselves in one of the NBA’s proverbial dead zones – the middle of the pack.
Armed with enough talent to perennially compete for the Eastern Conference’s last two playoff seeds, but nowhere close to the level of seriously contending for league (or conference) supremacy, the Bobcats had a decision to make: be content with first round postseason ousters or usher in a lengthy rebuilding process in an attempt to construct a true contender.
The Bobcats chose the the latter, and not surprisingly to most observers the losses have quickly started to pile up. The team currently sports the second-worst record in the league at the quarter mark of the season.
While most predicted this type of start for the rebuilding Bobcats their players, namely guard Gerald Henderson, didn’t get the memo and his frustrations with the losses have taken its toll early on and he believes the team needs to play harder.
“There are a number of things we need to get better at,” Henderson told HOOPSWORLD. “But I think we need to play a bit harder, be a little more precise on both ends of the floor and stay together. We’re going through a tough stretch, so we need to be improving every game. When you’re losing you can’t continue to lose by thirty.”
Seven of the Bobcats’ twelve losses to start the season have been by 10 points or more, with four of those contests by margins of more than twenty points.
A miraculous turnaround this season isn’t likely.
Gone are former Bobcats veterans who possessed All-Star caliber talent such as Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Raymond Felton, who might have bailed out this young team.
Now the onus falls on guys like Henderson, a third-year player, to provide leadership and be a source of consistency for a core of younger players.
Despite where most predicted the team to finish this season part of Henderson’s frustrations with the squad’s early performance has been the lack of consistency and effort.
Henderson firmly believes the team is much better than their win-loss record indicates.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Henderson said about adjusting to his role as a team leader. “I feel like we have a good group of guys that when we do what we’re supposed to be doing we’re really good. It’s just all about consistency, discipline and really caring about winning. Myself, I just try to lead by example and play as hard as I can every night. Hopefully the rest of the team does the same thing.”
The league’s condensed schedule, due to the lockout, severely limits practice time which ultimately impacts younger squads who are looking to establish their identities the hardest.
While Henderson didn’t want to use the compact schedule as an excuse, he did concede it is indeed playing a major role in the team’s struggles.
“I like to say that it’s not but practice is important,” Henderson told HOOPSWORLD. “You play so many games you just have to pick up things on the fly. You need to watch a lot of tape. It’s more mental improvement, picking up on things fast. We have some young guys so it may take some time for specific things to change around here but you know if we want to win that’s what we have to do. Everybody else has the same schedule so we have to do it.”
Byron Mullens Seeking A Little Payback On OKC: For the past two seasons center Byron Mullens was a seldom used player buried deep on the bench of the surging Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder’s acquisition of center Kendrick Perkins at last season’s trade deadline and the continued emergence of forward Serge Ibaka further solidified Mullens’ position on the pine.
But Mullens received a career lifeline.
Back in December Oklahoma City dealt Mullens to the Charlotte Bobcats for a 2013 second round pick.
The change in scenery was a welcome breath of fresh air for Mullens who long came to terms he wasn’t part of the Thunder’s plans. He also has March 10, when the Bobcats travel to Oklahoma City, circled on his calendar.
“I’m excited I’m here [in Charlotte],” Mullens told HOOPSWORLD. “I left a good team but I wasn’t part of the organization plan. Nothing against them, but yeah, I can’t wait to go back there on March 10. Those guys are cool with me so it’s all good. I’m ready to build with this organization any way I can.”
During his first two seasons in the league Mullens played a combined total of 139 minutes.
Through fifteen contests with the Bobcats Mullens has already recorded 346 minutes with five appearances in the starting lineup.
“Man it feels great,” Mullens said referring to receiving consistent playing time. “Getting this great opportunity coach [Paul Silas] is giving me. I’m just running on excitement. My legs are tired, but I’m going to toughen it up. To be playing is a great opportunity and I’m not going to give it up for anything.”
Mullens is averaging 12.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season, but an impressive 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds since being inserted into the starting lineup.
The third year center gave a tremendous amount of credit to head coach Paul Silas for giving him the confidence to play worry free and consistently putting him in places on the floor to excel.
“Giving me the green light,” Mullens said when asked how Silas has helped his confidence on the floor. “He gives everyone on the team a green light to go out and do what they want to do on offense as long as we make the right decisions. But you have to play defense as well. I think that’s why I’m starting, because he told me I’d get more minutes if I started rebounding more. Over the last few games I’ve been picking that up so he’s giving me an opportunity.”
Andrew Bynum Gives Respect To Dwight Howard: Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard names have routinely been linked with each other in trade rumors over the past two years.
In anticipation of Friday’s clash between the two teams Bynum, arguably the second best center in the league when healthy, admitted on Tuesday that he looks up to Howard and studies his game.
“I don’t make any comparisons,” Bynum told Andy Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles. “The guy is definitely more proven … so for myself, I always look up to him and want to be able to get the ball and do the thing
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