It’s happened. You don’t know why. Did you play one practical joke too many on the coach? Did you accidentally sleep with the GM’s daughter? You may never know. All you do know is that you’ve been punished. Hard. You’ve been sent to Charlotte. It could be worse. I mean you could be stuck up in the Canadian wilderness. But Charlotte? Isn’t that where the Gestapo threatened to send soldiers that really screwed up? Oh no wait, that was the Russian front. But still – Charlotte? You check the plane ticket for the 200th time just to be certain it doesn’t say, “Chicago.” Nope. Take the jump, if you dare. Yeah, I’m talking to YOU Josh McRoberts. You and the plane you rode in on.
Speaking of the plane you rode in on… just how much time did you spend in the bathroom practicing your best, “I’m just thrilled to be here” face? It looked really well-rehearsed when you were talking to Stephanie Ready. I barely caught a hint of “who the heck is this broad?” That’s a good thing Josh. Tread carefully. Here in the Queen City, she’s our NBA Princess. She’s been loved in this town longer than you’ve been playing ball.
Well, let me set you straight on a few things. You won’t be the first to hear this and you won’t be the last. Bobcats fans aren’t as common as Magic lovers, but we’re much more devoted and rabid. This may have sounded like a punishment, but it can be the best thing that ever happened to you if you play it smart. Exactly how do you play it smart you ask?
Well, you made the first step already. You’re checking the fansites. So what now?
Next you show up for practice. No, I don’t mean you walk into the locker room on time. I mean you show up. Apart from knocking your teammates to the floor with hard fouls, you treat practice like it’s the opening game of the playoffs. You listen to every word your coaches say as if it’s coming from the world expert on the game. Yeah, we know you’ve been in the pros longer than your head coach. That and five bucks will get you a footlong at Subway. The point is, on this team listening and applying what you hear will get you minutes. Minutes are what you’re in the league for, right? Remember all those times you complained to your agent, your friends, your teammates, and your mom? “If they’d just give me XX minutes more per game I’d post some eye-popping numbers.” Well, Josh, this is your chance. You’ve just become part of a team that has one of the most solid benches and backcourt players in the Eastern Conference. We also have, with one notable exception, one of the least offensively instinctive sets of bigs in the NBA. It’s our curse and your blessing.
Coach Dunlap isn’t a tightwad about minutes – as long as the minutes you put in are productive. If you play decent defense for a man your size you’ll already be living up to your reputation. Where you can truly make your mark is at the other end of the court. For the love of all that’s holy, shoot above 70% from the free throw line. They’re FREE points! They not only help your team and save you the embarrassment of trying to look cool after a miss; they pad your stats nicely too. It’s worth an extra half an hour a practice staying to shoot a couple of hundred extras from the stripe. Trust me.
When you’re on the court there are things of slightly lesser importance than free throws that will impress coaches. Among them are:
Avoid turnovers at all costs. Don’t pass the ball to the cameraman. Don’t stand in the paint for 4 seconds. When an opposing player is coming at you with the ball it’s not a good time to do your Gregory Hines impersonation. This is basic stuff, but this is a team that has struggled with turnovers longer than Charlie Sheen has struggled with sobriety.
Right now you have the advantage of having two of the absolute best “Charlie Hustle” guards in the NBA. Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker are explosive. Gerald Henderson is no slouch either. Do yourself a favor. If you’re on the court for more than a couple of minutes it’s very likely you will see one of these three men tear up the court like there were free Escalades at the other end. Two words; FOLLOW THEM. No, it isn’t because you want a better view, although that’s a decent reason. These guys are still somewhat prone to moving their bodies quicker than their hands are able to control and direct a shot. As a result their scoring percentage on the fast break, while decent, doesn’t set any records. If you follow them you have a good chance of getting an easy rebound, tip in, or redirected defensive block to Hoover up for an easy stick-back. Speaking of which…
For a Charlotte Bobcats player there is no such thing as a loose ball. It’s your ball; you just haven’t snagged it yet. The fans in this town love tip-ins, put-backs, offensive boards, and blocks almost as much as free beer night. Oh, and the extra 24 seconds of possession will not only get your teammates working the ball back to you. Also, if you get a second, check your bench. If you’re quick enough you might just catch a slight tic in the corner of Coach Dunlap’s mouth. That, in coaching circles, is an ear-to-ear grin.
Be smart in the paint. The most common mistake made by players in the post is putting the ball on the floor for an extra dribble when they don’t need to. Defenders live for that. It’s basic math really. It’s very difficult for a six-foot tall guard to grab the ball out of the upraised hands of a man approaching seven feet in height. If said seven-footer dribbles the ball, he places it right where ol’ li’l bit can snag it. Turn and shoot. Just say the words “sky hook” and retired NBA guards go pale. Imagine what you can accomplish if you learn how to actually execute one! What this will do is draw the defenders to you, leaving your guards standing on the perimeter all alone with nothing to do. They hate that. If you zip them a pass once in a while for a wide open shot, they’ll thank you for it.
Lastly, try and score a few points. I left this for last for a reason. If you focus on some of the things I already mentioned, the points will come all by themselves. If you spend all your energy forcing shots, you won’t be around long. The scoring will be there as a byproduct of your other efforts. I was watching last night. You managed to match the stats of a teammate and you didn’t even log minutes. You see, Tyrus Thomas spends a lot of time – I mean a LOT of time trying to create shots that simply weren’t there. Now he picks up this thing called a DNPCD. That means that while the player was suited up, when it came time to get in the game it was like he simply wasn’t there. Now this might get you a per diem, but it doesn’t bode well for a long career.
The only other thing I’ll tell you is this; sometimes it’s a good thing to be out of one of the “high profile” NBA towns. Expenses are smaller. So are the crowds. If you make yourself accessible to the fans in Charlotte they will respond in positive ways that the teeming masses of LA and New Yawk simply don’t. We become invested in our players. Gerald Wallace has been gone for a goodly while now and he still gets fan mail from Charlotte and most new players coming to the team will be compared to him for at least a while. Although he’s still in the league, a campaign is already in place to get his number retired and become the first one hung from the Time Warner Cable Arena rafters. There really is a lot of love in this town if you just meet the fans halfway.
Remember that. If you do read this, drop us a line, introduce yourself, and allow us an interview. Check in with some of your other teammates about us. Trade Street Post, along with the other fansites devoted to the Bobcats will always work to help you succeed in this town. We all expect to be competing for at least a Conference Championship within the next three seasons. It’s in our interests to make one another look good and grow.
Oh, and welcome to your new home. North Carolina, as you know from your time at Duke, is one of the nicest places in the country. Here’s to your opportunity to step up and shine in the NBA by proving just how much of an asset you can be down on Trade Street.