NBA: Bobcats looking to turn the page on the past
By Steve Reed
CHARLOTTE — The Bobcats have a new coach, a new color scheme and three new players.
Charlotte is ushering in what it hopes is a new era in Bobcats basketball.
Michael Jordan’s Bobcats Friday introduced rookies Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out of Kentucky and Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor along with trade acquisition Ben Gordon during press conference at their arena, three players the team hopes will help turn things around on the court. They hired Mike Dunlap as head coach a week ago and changed their uniform colors and logo.
The Bobcats are coming off a 7-59 season, the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106), but are eager to put all of that behind them.
“There’s no question about it,” Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said. “It’s a special time in our franchise, our city and our community. It’s a different time for us and as a franchise we’re looking forward to the future and not what’s in the past.”
Kidd-Gilchrist, selected No. 2 overall in the draft, is expected to be a big part of that future.
“I just want to win basketball games,” Kidd-Gilchrist, who lost just four games last season while helping the Wildcats to a national championship. “The past is the past around here.”
Added Taylor: “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor both play small forward, although they have different strengths.
Taylor is a better shooter, while Kidd-Gilchrist is known as a very solid defender who can cover any position on the floor and also is effective in transition, which should bode well for playing in Dunlap’s up-tempo offense.
Kidd-Gilchrist comes into the NBA as the youngest player in the league at a ripe age of 18.
“He’s just a kid,” said his mother Cynthia Richardson. “In reality, he should be going into his senior year of high school.”
But Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t lack for focus and said he relishes the task ahead.
“This is my job now so I have to go do it,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who averaged 11.9 points per game in his only season at Kentucky before declaring himself eligible for the draft.
Kidd-Gilchrist comes to area of the country known largely for a lighter shade of blue than he wore in college — Tar Heel blue, which was worn by Jordan when he played at North Carolina.
Kidd-Gilchrist said he didn’t know much about the Tar Heels, but drew laughs from crowed when he said, “I won a national championship, that’s all I know.”
Gordon, who joined the team on Wednesday, immediately becomes one of the more experienced players on a young roster.
He averaged better than 20 points per game his final season with the Chicago Bulls, but failed to come close to replicating those numbers the past three seasons with the Detroit Pistons. He was acquired along with the future first-round draft pick in exchange for veteran small forward Corey Maggette.
“I have a lot of years of experience I can share with these guys,” Gordon said. “I’ve been on a winning team and teams that haven’t been winning. One thing I can show them is always maintaining a good work ethic and just around the locker room.”
The Bobcats are hoping he will also provide some perimeter shooting.
Charlotte shot just 29.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, worst in the league. Gordon comes to the Bobcats with the 12th best shooting percentage (40.6 percent) among active players.
“I think with my ability to shoot the ball from the outside, I think I’ll be able to make an immediate impact in a much-needed area,” Gordon said.
With the draft complete the Bobcats are turning their attention to free agency.
They have more than $20 million to spend under the salary cap and are expected to use some of that money to sign a big man. The Bobcats don’t have a true center on the roster outside of Gana Diop, who has struggled with weight problems and doesn’t seem like a great fit for a team that plans to run as much as the Bobcats.
Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens are primarily considered power forwards.
The Bobcats would also like to add some height in the backcourt.
It’s all part of a new beginning in Charlotte.
“Free agency is right around the corner,” Higgins said. “We have another avenue that we have to attack.”
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