Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

November 22, 2012

Surprising Bobcats one win from last year's total

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael Jordan's Bobcats are the NBA's most surprising team so far this season.

Charlotte (6-4) has won five of its past six games and is one win away from matching last year's win total.

The turnaround is impressive considering the Bobcats finished last season 7-59 and with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history. They lost their final 23 games of the season.

But under the direction of defensive-oriented coach Mike Dunlap, they've been competitive and have developed a knack for closing games. Charlotte is 5-0 in contests decided by four points or less — and without much NBA experience on the roster.

That's doesn't bother Dunlap.

"The most important part is to sell your system and what you're doing with a purpose," Dunlap said. "There's nothing like wins to help that out."

If players had any doubt about Dunlap's style, the six wins have helped eliminated that.

What Dunlap has been preaching is defense, which meant a summer full of intense workouts, some of those lasting as long as four hours.

He knew the Bobcats wouldn't be the most talented and or the most experienced team in the NBA — not even close, in fact — so he wanted to be better conditioned than anyone out there and use his team's young, fresh legs to his advantage.

"I think our defense is getting better and I'm selling that first and foremost," Dunlap said. "We have a ways to go with it. It's far from where it needs to be but it's getting there and we have the numbers to prove that."

Charlotte is allowing 98.8 points per game, but they rank in the top ten in the league in steals (86) and blocked shots (76). They're forced 14.6 turnovers per game.

"Coach Dunlap, it all starts with him," said second-year point guard Kemba Walker. "He's a real tough guy, really intense. We all feed off him."

On Wednesday night the Bobcats led Toronto 98-97 with 28 seconds left.

The Raptors had four shots on their final possession, but the Bobcats blocked two of those and withstood a furious final few seconds to win the game.

If Dunlap needed to emphasize a point about defense winning games this was it.

"I think it just shows what kind of toughness we have from the point guard all the way up to the center," said rookie guard Jeffery Taylor. "We have a lot of tough guys who know how to win games."

The Bobcats are still extremely young, particularly with guard Gerald Henderson out with a foot injury.

Right now their starting five consists of two rookies in Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick who has had an immediate impact averaging 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Forward Byron Mullens, who sat for two years in Oklahoma City before being acquired last year in a trade, is essentially in his second season like Walker.

The only starter with significant experience is center Brendan Haywood, who was claimed off waivers from Dallas.

But the Bobcats are getting quality play off the bench from offseason acquisitions Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon, two scorers brought in to give the team some needed experience down the stretch in tight games.

Both have provided a huge boost with Sessions averaging 16.3 points per game and Gordon 13 points per game, second and third best on the team.

"It's an interesting group because we are young and I think there's an exuberance and a little bit of being excited about the game of basketball, and I think the veterans have picked up on that," Dunlap said. "It's been a joy to coach them and I think we're learning as we play each game. That exuberance is an intangible."

That exuberance is evident in Walker, who has developed into the team's leader and flourished working alongside Sessions in practice and down the stretch in tight games.

Walker is averaging 18.8 points and 5.5 assists per game.

Despite being 6-foot, Walker is fearless driving to the basket and has improved in his ability to finish.

"He's our quarterback," Dunlap said. "We're developing him. He's setting the culture for us. There's a lot on his plate, but he can handle it. When he was coming out of college a year ago I thought he was the best player in America."

Just how long the Bobcats are able to keep things up remains to be seen.

The Bobcats have some quality wins against Dallas, Milwaukee and Minnesota, but have yet to play the league's elite teams like Miami, Oklahoma City and the New York Knicks.

That may be when the true test comes.

When it does, Dunlap hopes the foundation for success has been established and the Bobcats will be confident enough to compete with the best.

"We're trying to build a winning culture here, and every win helps," Dunlap said.

 

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • Allegany wins two as pitchers take control

    Allegany pitchers held two teams to eight base hits while defeating Smithsburg and Preston as part of the Mountain Ridge Easter Classic Friday afternoon at the Hot Stove Complex.

    April 18, 2014

  • Salisbury overpowers FSU

    Paige Knussman hit a grand slam during a seven-run third inning to lead Salisbury University to an 11-6 victory over Frostburg State, eliminating the Bobcats from the Capital Athletic Conference tournament Friday at Christopher Newport.

    April 18, 2014

  • Frostburg bounced from CAC

    Elliott Mortimer fired a four-hitter and Brad Wenzel and Colbe Herr had three hits as top-seeded York eliminated fourth-seeded Frostburg State from the Capital Athletic Conference tournament with a 5-1 victory Friday afternoon.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sellers’ five RBIs powers Alco’s rout

    Kyleigh Sellers tripled, singled twice and drove in five runs to lead a 17-hit attack that carried Allegany to an 18-6 win over Hope for Hyndman Charter on Thursday.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sports Calendar - 04/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Miners win 57 in a row

    Mountain Ridge made it 57 wins in a row, scoring multiple runs in four of the five innings Thursday afternoon in defeating Keyser, 14-4, in an Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference game at Mountain Ridge.

    April 17, 2014

  • Allegany hammers Hawks

    The bats have begun to click for the Allegany College of Maryland Trojans as a two-run first-inning home run by Tanner Klein got the ball, and the runs, rolling as the Trojans pounded out 14 hits in defeating Hagerstown Community College, 10-7, in a Maryland JUCO game Thursday at The Rock.

    April 17, 2014

  • Duncan helps ACM split two with Cecil

    Parris Duncan doubled home two runs in the top of the fourth to help Allegany College to a 2-1 victory over Cecil College in the first game of a doubleheader split Thursday afternoon.

    April 17, 2014

  • Unbeaten Alco beats Hyndman

    Undefeated Allegany took a five-inning 14-4 win at Hope for Hyndman Charter School Thursday, scoring five runs in the second inning and eight in the third.

    April 17, 2014

  • Ken Ayers hits ace

    Ken Ayers hit a hole-in-one Thursday on the No. 3 hole at Mill Creek Country Club during an MGA scramble.

    April 17, 2014