By Matt Rochinski
October 7, 2013
KEY MATCHUP vs. HAWKS
Al Jefferson vs. Paul Millsap
One-on-One with Al Jefferson
After spending three years together with the Utah Jazz, the Bobcats Al Jefferson and Hawks Paul Millsap will square off on opposite ends of the court when Atlanta travels to Asheville, NC to take on the Cats as they wrap up phase one of Training Camp presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina… Jefferson led the Jazz in scoring (17.8 points) and rebounding (9.2), while also adding 2.1 assists, 1.14 blocks and 1.03 steals last season in 78 games (all starts). He is one of only two players in the NBA to have averaged at least 17.0 points and at least 9.0 rebounds in each of the last six seasons, joining Dwight Howard in doing so. Jefferson signed with Charlotte as a free agent on July 10, 2013, instantly becoming the highest-profile free agent the Cats have landed in team history. With expectations high for Jefferson heading into 2013-14, look for a large portion of new Head Coach Steve Clifford’s offense to run through Jefferson in the paint as he looks to score inside or draw double teams and kick the ball back out to Charlotte’s shooters for some long-range buckets. After working out with his new teammates through the early stages of camp, Jefferson is ready to take the court for the first time in a Cats uniform on Tuesday. “I’m really looking forward to that – to see that No. 25 on a Bobcats jersey,” said Jefferson. “I’m ready to get started. This is what it’s all about.”… Millsap won’t be a stranger to Jefferson – he was second on the Jazz in scoring (14.6 points) and rebounding (7.1) before signing with the Hawks as a free agent on July 10. Now the two will see what they can do in a head-to-head matchup in opposing team’s gear. “Me and Paul always had one of those inside battles where he thought he could guard me, and I thought I could guard him,” laughed Jefferson. “But truth be told, I can’t guard him and he can’t guard me because he’s a four and I’m a five. But it’s always fun. I have a lot of respect for Paul.”
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS
After tripling their win total in 2012-13 to 21, the Cats were aggressive in the offseason, beginning with the hiring of new Head Coach Steve Clifford. On May 29, the Bobcats named Clifford the sixth head coach in franchise history. Clifford served as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13, spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic (2007-12) and spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets (2003-07) and spent three seasons with the New York Knicks (2000-03). Clifford’s coaching staff includes Associate Head Coach Patrick Ewing and Assistant Coaches Bob Beyer, Stephen Silas, Bob Weiss and Mark Price… The head coach and his staff aren’t the only things new around Charlotte. The Bobcats made several key additions to the roster during the offseason, selecting Cody Zeller with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and signing free agents Al Jefferson and Anthony Tolliver. In addition, the team re-signed three of its own free agents, Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts and Jannero Pargo, giving the team tremendous depth heading into 2013-14.
SCOUTING THE HAWKS
The Hawks were in the NBA Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season in 2012-13, tied for the longest active playoff streak in the Eastern Conference with Boston, but Atlanta has made some key personnel changes as well, starting with new Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. He spent the last 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and played a significant role in one of the most successful dynasties in league history and with four NBA championship rings under his belt… The Hawks also got bigger up front in the offseason, signing Paul Millsap and Elton Brand as free agents, and hung on to some of their firepower from the outside by re-signing Kyle Korver. Atlanta’s marksman has made at least one three-pointer in each of his last 73 games played, the longest streak of his career and the longest active streak in the NBA (fourth-longest in NBA history)… Still, if the Hawks are going to have continue success it will be in the paint with Millsap and Atlanta veteran center Al Horford. In 391 career games, he has averaged 13.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on .539 FG%, placing him alongside only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Artis Gilmore with at least those averages (according to the Elias Sports Bureau).
The Bobcats tip off against the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, NC on October 8. Catch the game live on Fox SportsSouth or listen on WFNZ. You can also follow the live in-game chat on bobcats.com.