NBA@2: Charlotte Bobcats Ready To Turn The Page
The Charlotte Bobcats may have been the worst team in basketball last season, but after a busy offseason, they may not be down for much longer. General manager Rich Cho has made a number of moves this summer and saw some progress last week, when his team competed in the Las Vegas Summer League. New draftee Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played in just one game, but fellow rookie Jeffrey Taylor and veteran Bobcats like Byron Mullens, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo all took part in the proceedings.
“I think the guys have been doing a great job,” Cho told HOOPSWORLD after Charlotte’s last game. “Coach (Mike) Dunlap has really got them playing hard and playing both ends of the floor. Kemba, Byron, Jeff Taylor, they’re all doing a great job. Biz had a nice game tonight, too.”
Kidd-Gilchrist scored 18 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and four rebounds in his lone game. Walker struggled to find his shot, but still averaged 15.8 points and 5.8 assists per game, while Mullens averaged 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds, Taylor added 11.8 points and 4.5 rebounds, and Biyombo had 8.6 points per game to go with 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 56 percent shooting. It’s a start for Cho, who knew this was going to be a process when he took the job last offseason.
“We knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight and it’s a process and just trying to build it from the ground up,” Cho said. “Trying to get good-character guys that play both ends of the floor, it’s going to be a process, but we’re excited about the future.”
After last year’s struggles, Cho entered this summer looking to shake up the roster. He acquired guard Ben Gordon from Detroit and signed guard Ramon Sessions to share point guard responsibilities with Walker. He got inexpensive front court help by adding center Brendan Haywood, meaning he has shored up both the backcourt and the frontcourt this offseason.
“We made some moves bringing in Ben Gordon and we also got a first round pick from Detroit in that trade,” Cho said. “Also, brought in Ramon Sessions and we’re excited about those two guys. Drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who’s going to give us a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. And we’re also really excited about Jeff Taylor and we like what we see from him too. We claimed Brendan Haywood off of amnesty and he’s going to give us some help too.”
The real x-factor could be Haywood, who plays very well when properly motivated. He averaged 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in his last run with the Washington Wizards before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He won a championship with the Mavs, but had long since been relegated to the bench as he struggled to find consistency under head coach Rick Carlisle. The Bobcats are hopeful that being back home in North Carolina will help Haywood find his game.
“I think he’s excited about it,” Cho said. “I talked to him and he makes his home in Charlotte, he works out at our gym in the summers and he’s excited for the opportunity and for a different change of scenery.”
On paper, at least, the Bobcats are already significantly better than the squad that finished last season with just seven wins and riding a 23-game losing streak. Cho admits he’s not finished making changes in preparation for the 2012-13 season.
“Well, we’re always looking to make the team better,” Cho said. “Right now we’ve got thirteen guys, we might make a move here or there but we’re looking forward to next year.”
Among the names on Cho’s short list is said to be free agent power forward Carl Landry, who is looking for a significant contract after riding out a year in New Orleans. Landry is easily the best free agent still available, and would be a tremendous asset to Cho’s rebuilding project.
Whoever the Bobcats add between now and training camp, they are already guaranteed to be a couple of significant steps better than last season. With Cho’s recent moves, you can expect the team’s progress to be in an accelerated upward direction, and they need nothing less.
Jeremy Lamb Taking It All In
Of all the moves the Houston Rockets have made this summer – and there have been many – one of the more interesting transactions was drafting Jeremy Lamb with the 12th overall selection in the NBA draft. Lamb is, essentially, a younger Kevin Martin, stellar on the offensive end, leaving something to be desired on the defensive end. He comes with championship experience, having been UCONN’s second-leading scorer during their national championship year when Lamb was a freshman. He admits that being in the NBA doesn’t yet seem real.
“No, it hasn’t sunk in at all,” Lamb tells HOOPSWORLD. “Nope, not yet.”
Lamb was the eighth-leading scorer in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 20 points on 47 percent shooting and leading Houston to a 4-1 record.
“I feel good, I think it went good,” Lamb said of his team’s performance. “We got rusty at points but as time went on we played together as a team and had some fun.”
As for his championship experience preparing him for the NBA, Lamb understands that the challenge ahead of him is greater than anything he faced in his two-year college run.
“It gave me experience but this is a whole other level,” Lamb said. “What happened in college really doesn’t matter at this point. I’ve got to keep working hard.”
Lamb isn’t sure how well his game will translate to the NBA, but he knows it’s going to be tough.
“Not really sure yet,” Lamb said. “I just know it’s going to be tough. Every night we’re going to play against good competition, have to bring your game every night, so not really sure.”
Lamb grew up watching Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, but really patterned his game more after Miami’s Dwyane Wade.
“I didn’t really pattern my game after him, but I watched Kobe a lot, but I didn’t really pattern my game after him,” Lamb said. “Dwyane Wade is my favorite player. I’m just looking forward to playing but I’m just looking forward to playing against the great players.”
As for training camp, which is the next big challenge for Lamb and his summer league teammates, the roster lends itself to creating a winner-take-all mentality. There are lots of redundant pieces and far more players than roster spots. Lamb doesn’t have a feel for which guys might be standing when all is said and done, but he does like the group he played with in Vegas.
“There are a lot of good guys out here,” Lamb said. “If a lot of them are there, it should be interesting. We all work hard. We all have to do the things we have to do to succeed so whoever’s there is going to be good competition.”
At this point, that’s all the Rockets can ask for.
Dwight Howard To Dallas?
At this point, there is little use in debating the finer points of the latest Dwight Howard rumor, but it is worth noting that this latest twist in the ongoing drama revolving around Dwight is not a new storyline at all.
When the Mavericks constructed their team for the 2011-12 season in such a way as to open up as much cap space as possible this summer, the idea was that they would be able to land at least free agent point guard Deron Williams and hopefully Howard as well. There were certainly flaws in the plan, and one of those flaws was not taking into account the reality that the Brooklyn Nets could field a better team with which to woo Williams. Williams, of course, opted to return to Brooklyn, but Howard remains a very real possibility for Dallas.
There can still be a Big D in Big D.
Setting aside for a moment that Howard’s agent – Dan Fegan – is very good friends with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the Mavericks can offer something that few teams in the running for Howard can offer, should Howard actually be a free agent next summer. Dallas still has a championship-caliber MVP in Dirk Nowitzki, and while Nowitzki will be one year further removed from his prime in 2013, he will still be one of the most clutch players in the league, more than capable of drawing defenders and creating space for Howard.
Additionally, the Mavericks have a track record of making aggressive moves to surround their players with great complementary talent, meaning Howard would have every reason to believe the Mavericks would provide him with a huge stage on which to win multiple championships.
This is all assuming, of course, that Howard doesn’t ultimately land in Los Angeles with the Lakers. The Lakers are working to extend Andrew Bynum’s contract, and Bynum continues to be the most likely piece to be moved in exchange for Howard. The rumor mill would have us believe that Howard could still land in Brooklyn once Brook Lopez is eligible to be traded, and while that is a possibility, if the Nets are playing great basketball and rolling through the weak Eastern Conference, it seems highly unlikely that the Nets would look to blow it up mid-season.
If, on the other hand, the Nets stumble out of the gates, all bets are off.
But if Howard is a free agent come next July, don’t be surprised if the Mavericks quickly become the frontrunner to land him long-term.
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