By Scott Lauer
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Bobcats. His column will appear on bobcats.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bobcats organization.
Charlotte, NC October 1, 2013 – Bobcats Training Camp opened today in Asheville, NC, and the atmosphere was fraught with optimism. It was the beginning of camp for first-time NBA Head Coach Steve Clifford, and veteran assistant coach Bob Weiss said that he went over plenty of things with his group on day one (which continues with an evening session). Coach Clifford served under the Van Gundy’s for nearly a decade combined, and Stan Van Gundy, who he assisted in Orlando as recently as two years ago, was watching his camp today.
One of the main reasons that the team has quickly grown into a competitive one is the acquisition of Al Jefferson, the 28 year-old power in the low post who has averaged at least 16 points and nine rebounds in each of his last six seasons. Just four years ago with Minnesota, he put up a 23 and 11 season (points and rebounds, respectively). He hauled in 11 rebounds in three-straight years in fact during that time. You may remember that he pumped in 40 points in a game at Time Warner Cable Arena four years ago. As staff member Chris Whitney said today, “he’s a 20 and 10 guy,” and few would question that he’s instantly the best player in our soon-to-be 10 year history.
Jefferson embraces the role of being one of the main contributors, and he’s no stranger to it, remarking “that’s kind of been the role that I’ve been playing my whole career, so I’m used to that, and I’m ready to have success for them.” Is he ready to be a team leader? “I’m going to try to be a leader for the young guys, and to set an example. I’m going to go out there and play hard and just try to teach the young guys to get better.” His experience should rub off well on Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo in particular.
Coach Clifford said pointedly when asked what Jefferson provides, “that he scores the ball in the post, and is a good defensive rebounder.” Someone who should benefit being on the floor with him, is point guard Kemba Walker, who’s delighted to have him. “He can score the ball in the post; he changes the whole dynamic of the team. I’m excited. I can just throw the ball in to him and get my spacing together, and he can throw it out and I just need to hit my shot. It (his presence) takes a little bit of pressure off me, and just another guy that I can say go get a basket.” Walker, Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions, and Ben Gordon are guards that all have plenty of scoring ability. Jefferson will balance the offensive power, and make it easier for those aforementioned guards, if teams double the big man.
Jefferson’s entering his 10th season in the league, having gone straight from high school in Prentiss, MS, into the NBA as Boston’s first round pick (15th overall in 2004). As a Senior in high school, he averaged 43 points, 18 rebounds, and seven blocks! Coincidentally, he’s spent three years with each of his first three NBA teams, Boston, Minnesota, and Utah, before signing a three-year contract with Charlotte.
It can only help that Associate Head Coach Patrick Ewing, who was one of the greatest bigs of all-time playing for New York, will now spend ample time focusing on Jefferson. Ewing had a similar role in Orlando where he mentored Dwight Howard. Jefferson headlines this maturing Bobcats team, but they have ammunition around him as well. We’ll feature the wonderful depth on this team in tomorrow’s blog from Asheville.