Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the furrrr!! What an opening night to the season! The last time the Bobcats won an opening night game so thrillingly was last year, so this is clearly a sign of great things to come. What can you say about this effort? If you’re David West, you can say that the Bobcats “junked up” the game with their zone defense. If you’re coach Mike Dunlap, you can say that you just slaughtered an elephant. But if you’re just a simple fan, like me, you can say farewell to a losing streak that’s longer than Morgan Freeman’s IMDB profile.
Of course the big hero was Kemba Walker, who hit 10-of-21 from the field and 9-out-of-10 free throws. He style of play wasn’t much different than what he did last year, and in fact he almost submarined the whole thing by tossing up a horrid, Nate Robinsonian 20-footer with 16 seconds to play. But the big difference was that this time his attempts in the key were either on target or drew fouls—or, at the very least, didn’t lead to turnovers. Full credit goes to him and his mentor, coach Dunlap. I have to admit that I was not feeling encouraged about this relationship, especially when just last week, Dunlap called Walker “an unusual player who can do some things very special.” It honestly sounded like a parent awkwardly describing a child with severe autism. But perhaps there has been real improvement.
Likewise with Gerald Henderson, who had 5 steals, 2 blocks, and made 2-of-5 three-pointers?! The last time Gerald Henderson took 3-pointers it was his father. His newly discovered versatility is part of coach Dunlap’s contention that the Bobcats need to stop chucking so many long 2-pointers, a realization that epitomizes the phrase “better late than never.” In one of those articles that left me unsure whether to laugh or cry, last week in the Charlotte Observer, Rick Bonnell wrote that “Dunlap and his coaching staff broke down video from last season and discovered the Bobcats might have defaulted to guarded, 2-point jump shots more than any team in the NBA.” For any long-suffering Bobcats fans reading this piece, it was our “Bin Laden determined to strike in US” moment. On the one hand, it’s great that they made this discovery, but on the other hand, I hope Dunlap & Co. aren’t also breaking down tape to realize that they should wash their hands after they wipe themselves, because there was no need to go to the tape for this. It’s been widely reported how the Bobcats conducted their offense last year, and several web sites can give you this information immediately. I myself mentioned it here, here, here, here, here, and here. Anyway, glad to see something’s being done about this, and just in the nick of time.
Finally, props are in order for the entire defensive effort, especially Byron Mullens, who had 2 blocks and 2 steals, and along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he limited David West to 7-of-17 shooting. (Man, first Gerald Henderson makes 3’s and then Mullens plays defense. Next you’re going to tell me that Gana Diop weighs less than 350 lbs.) The Bobcats kept their opponents’ points in the paint total under 50 for the first time since the Tyson Chandler Administration and forced 17 turnovers to boot. More credit goes to coach Dunlap for this, who talks about traps more than T.I. and undoubtedly had some serious tape-reviewing sessions before concluding that the defense needed to be fixed.
It was just one game, and by the time you read this, the Bobcats could easily be trailing the Dallas Mavericks by 20, with Walker’s ACL torn up by one of Chris Kaman’s nose hairs. But for one night at least, shawty got low low low.