The addition of Gary Neal to the Charlotte Bobcats is a needed one for their run down the stretch of the 2013-14 NBA regular season and for their likely appearance in the 2014 Playoffs. Neal brings an offensive spark when he comes off of the bench, as well as often deadly outside-shooting, which are two things that Charlotte was in desperate need of before adding Neal at the Trade Deadline.
However, for the Bobcats’ matchup with the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, Neal remained on the sideline for the entirety of the Bobcats’ eventual 98-85 victory. The decision was made by the team to bench Neal for the contest, per a report from Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
Bonnell speculated that the decision to bench Neal could have come relatively close to game-time as Neal did participate in pre-game activities and was in uniform on the bench. Bonnell couldn’t offer a reason for the benching, but the fact that it did happen is at least mildly concerning considering the player we are talking about.
Neal was dealt from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Bobcats largely because of his issues with the team and a locker-room confrontation with center Larry Sanders. The fact that a player who has had issues in locker rooms recently is getting benched for an “internal matter” is a bit troubling to say the least.
On the positive side of things, though, Neal did take responsibility for whatever it was that he did to deserve his benching against the Wizards, saying that he “made a mistake” and that he and the coaches had smoothed things over. Neal added he doesn’t expect to be on the bench for the all of Charlotte’s next game.
Neal is arguably the biggest key for this Bobcats team having success in the last five weeks of the regular season and the postseason. Hopefully we can take his word that everything is good now and it was just a minor mistake, but his recent history does make it necessary to wait and see before asserting that there’s nothing larger going on here.