After winning just 28 games combined over the past two NBA seasons, the Charlotte Bobcats are just looking for some kind of improvement, some kind of hope. With the personnel that they have brought in this off-season, they may have instilled some hope and may have a team that can match their win total from the two previous years in this season alone.
Obviously their improved roster is a big part of any improvement that they’re going to show this season, but it’s not the whole of it. Many people are downplaying the impact that new head coach Steve Clifford, a long-time assistant that has been around the league under great head coaches, could have on this Bobcats team.
Though we have yet to see Clifford run the show in real NBA competition, he seems to have a good grasp on this team based on his actions and what he has said. One instance is his comments in an interview from Saturday with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
In the interview, Clifford mentioned several honest truths about this team that you have to enjoy the head coach saying. The first thing, as well as the most obvious, is his acknowledgement of how important Charlotte’s new center Al Jefferson is going to be to this team. Clifford said in the interview that Jefferson immediately becomes their best offensive player, not only for his scoring ability, but because of the opportunities he will create for his teammates because of the defensive attention that he demands.
Another thing Clifford said in the interview was that he wasn’t going to put “undue demands” rookie Cody Zeller. Though you obviously want a coach demanding a lot of their players, hearing Clifford talk about not putting much pressure on a rookie is a promising sign. Zeller has the tools, both physically and mentally, to succeed in this league. However, demanding too much of him will only stunt his development and won’t help the team in the long run. The fact that Clifford grasps that is a big positive for the Bobcats.
Clifford also addressed two chief concerns for this Charlotte team in the interview when he talked about the team’s rebounding and outside-shooting. The Bobcats were one of the worst units in the league last season in both categories, both of which were big factors in their lack of success. As Clifford continues to emphasize working on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot and with spacing the floor to create open shots on the perimeter, that should help their outside shooting. Also, having effective rebounders like Jefferson, MKG and Zeller will aid them in that area, as will working with Clifford in a revised system. Not having Byron Mullens on the roster anymore won’t hurt, either.
Possibly the most promising thing Clifford said in the interview, though, was in his comments about second-year wing Jeffery Taylor. At the Las Vegas Summer League and while playing for Sweden at Eurobasket 2013, Taylor has drawn a lot of praise. Though Clifford is singing praises as well, his expectations aren’t overblown. He still sees Taylor as a role player and how he can positively affect games in that niche. Though that seems small, Clifford keeping his expectations realistic for young players is enormous for this Bobcats team.
Head coaches in Charlotte have been like the pretty girl that wanders into the basement alone in a horror movie; they haven’t lasted long. However, Clifford seems to be the most realistic and qualified man that they have had in the position in quite a while. This team is still a work-in-progress, but Clifford appears to be the right man to help bring them along, as of now at least.
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