By Matt Rochinski
Entering his third NBA season in 2011-12, Gerald Henderson knew he’d be asked to step up and take on the role of one of the Bobcats leaders and welcomed the challenge. After averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.4 minutes in 2010-11, Hendo led the Bobcats in scoring (15.1 points) and was third in rebounding (4.1) and assists (2.3) in 55 starts. Look for those numbers to go up across the board and his leadership role to continue to evolve in 2012-13.
“I just try to lead by example,” said Henderson. “If I can go out there and set a tone for our team, then the guys will follow. We have a lot of other guys with leadership qualities on the team, so I’m going to go out there and try to do my part.”
Everyone knows the Bobcats managed just seven wins in 2011-12, but if one thing is evident, it is that Henderson needs to be playing at a high level in order for Charlotte to get more numbers into the win column in 2012-13. Looking back at last season, Henderson averaged 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and shot it at a 58.1 percent clip in six of the Cats wins, while putting up 14.4 points on 44.3 percent shooting and bringing down 3.9 rebounds in the 49 losses he suited up for.
A great sign for the Bobcats and their fans had to be the April stats Hendo put up in 2012. It was his best month, as he averaged 16.3 points and worked to be more aggressive, getting to the free-throw line 79 times in 16 games while connecting on 83.5 percent of those attempts – almost 10 percent better than his second-best month of March when he hit on 74.5 percent of his freebies. Henderson is at his best when he’s attacking the rim and he was more comfortable doing that at the end of last season.
MORE CAREER NIGHTS TO COME?
Despite the Bobcats struggles in 2011-12, Henderson never slowed down. In fact, he scored a career-tying-best 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting (50.0 percent) from the field, 2-of-3 shooting (66.7 percent) from long range and 6-of-6 shooting (100 percent) from the line in an 85-80 loss to Memphis on April 20, 2012 at Time Warner Cable Arena®. He also dished out four assists and swiped two steals in 40 minutes, giving him a great game to build on heading into 2012-13.
GETTING STRONGER – GOING GLUTEN FREE
Henderson missed nine-straight games in February of 2012 after hitting the court hard on a drive to the basket in the third quarter of a loss in Portland on February 1. The hamstring injury he suffered on that play kept him out of Charlotte’s lineup until February 29 when he returned with 13 points and three rebounds in a 109-94 loss in Detroit.
“I’ve been working on staying healthy and keeping my body in shape,” Henderson said earlier this summer. “I started a gluten-free diet to trim down and get my body fat down. With (new Head) Coach (Mike) Dunlap, we’re going to have to be in better shape, so this is a good start.”
Henderson has also spent significant time working on his 3-point shot because he knows he needs to extend his range with Coach Dunlap’s liking of the long ball.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Former Bobcats Head Coach Paul Silas tried to get the most he could out of Walker in his rookie season, utilizing him primarily as offense off the bench to spell starter D.J. Augustin, and even running with the two guards together late in contests. Augustin signed with Indiana this offseason and new Head Coach Mike Dunlap appears to be giving Kemba the keys to the Cats car, while Ramon Sessions was also brought in to run the point. In 25 games as starter last season, Walker averaged 14.7 points, 4.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds compared to 10.5 points, 4.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 41 games off the bench. Look for those numbers to go up even more, as Dunlap has stated he wants to utilize Walker more like they did at UConn, getting him to attack opposing defenses in the lane earlier in possessions.
“I think Coach (Dunlap) is doing a great job with us so far, teaching us so many different things and so many different concepts to get us ready for what we’re getting into,” Walker said. “It’s really exciting. I think he’s playing to my abilities. He wants me to be in attack mode all game.”
While Henderson did not play for the Bobcats in the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League, he showed up in Vegas on his own dime to get some work in with his teammates during Summer Camp. “I just wanted to come out and get some work in… it’s a great atmosphere,” Henderson said out in Vegas. “Coach Dunlap has really come in and picked things up. He’s a high-intensity guy and that’s what we need. We’re trying to change our culture around here, and we’re off to a good start.”