Scouting the Opposition: Charlotte Bobcats

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By Micah Hart

For every home game this season, we’ll be gathering some intel on the opposing team from someone who knows them best — a team employee, a rival blogger, beat writer or broadcaster.

For the Hawks’ home game Wednesday night against the Bobcats, we reached out to Matt Rochinski, Charlotte’s Director of Interactive Media, for his take on their team.

His answers are below:

Hawks.com: Last year was rough on the Bobcats, to say the least. This season though, the team has already matched the win total from a year ago. What is the biggest key to the team’s turnaround?

Matt Rochinski: To sum up the turnaround in two words, I’d have to say Mike Dunlap. The first-year NBA Head Coach came into Charlotte and changed the culture. Following a difficult season in 2011-12, Dunlap made it known everyone would be held accountable for their own actions, including himself. He also laid out the expectations that the Cats would be tougher, faster and stronger in 2012-13 and play that way through hard-nosed defense and an uptempo offense that attacked the rim. The Cats might not be the best team on the court every night, but Dunlap never wanted their effort to be questioned. Charlotte has bought in to Dunlap’s philosophies and they are producing results.

Hawks.com: Kemba Walker is off to a very fast start, leading the team in scoring. Is that something you thought you might see from the second-year guard coming into the season?

MR: Kemba has made a tremendous leap in his second season, and ironically he’s been able to do that by looking backwards instead of forwards. When Dunlap took over the team, he stated he wanted to utilize Kemba the way he played while leading UConn to the National Title in 2011. Dunlap wanted Walker to have the ball in his hands and force action early in every possession by getting to the rack and scoring, drawing a foul or finding an open teammate. Walker has been comfortable in this pace offensively and showing how much of an impact he can make defensively, as well. He’s currently third in the NBA in steals (2.23) and the Cats pressure D often leads to easier baskets on the break, where Walker is completely comfortable.

Hawks.com: The Bobcats added two rookies through the draft, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor. Both have been starters from the get go. What have they shown so far about their future with the team?

MR: Both Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor are going to be key pieces to this Bobcats team for years to come. MKG and Taylor hang their hats on defense first, something Dunlap saw in them that made them perfect fits in his system, and have both taken on the task of guarding opposing teams’ best players this season. That’s not to say  they can’t make an offensive impact either. Things have been coming together nicely for MKG in his rookie campaign, and it’s evident he’s at his best attacking the basket. He’s also an impressive rebounder from the wing and is currently third on the team in rebounding. With averages of 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.46 steals and 1.23 steals, MKG has shown he’s the all-around player the Cats thought he could be when they drafted him No. 2 in the 2012 NBA Draft. Taylor’s development might have been sped up a bit when Gerald Henderson suffered an early foot injury, thrusting Taylor into the starting lineup in just his third NBA game after playing a total of 16 minutes in his first two games. You could see the wheels working in his first five starts, but things really began to click for Taylor on November 19 against Milwaukee when he recorded his first double-digit scoring game (10 points). Since that point, Taylor is the only Bobcats to score in double digits the last five games and is averaging 11.8 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent shooting from 3-point range. Taylor is also getting it done defensively, averaging 2.20 steals.

Hawks.com: The team surprised most people in the offseason when they hired Mike Dunlap from St. John’s as the team’s new head coach. What is your take on his style so far?

MR: I think his style fits this Cats team perfectly. He’s found a way to get the most out of a team comprised primarily of young players – Kemba, MKG, Taylor, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo – and found a way to make them mesh with three key vets the Cats brought in over the offseason – Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood. The young guys seem to have energized the vets and the veteran presence has settled down the Cats when needed.

Hawks.com: Charlotte is playing some good basketball so far. Are the playoffs a realistic goal for this young roster?

MR: Come on man, that’s not fair. After winning just seven games last season, the Bobcats are off to a great start, having already matched their previous season’s win total. Needless to say, we’re not even mentioning the “p-word” around here right now. The Cats just want to continue to improve from game-to-game, and if things lead that way, I don’t think there’s anyone on that court who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to move on to the next level.

1.       Last year was rough on the Bobcats, to say the least. This season though, the team has already matched the win total from a year ago. What is the biggest key to the team’s turnaround?

To sum up the turnaround in two words, I’d have to say Mike Dunlap. The first-year NBA Head Coach came into Charlotte and changed the culture. Following a difficult season in 2011-12, Dunlap made it known everyone would be held accountable for their own actions, including himself. He also laid out the expectations that the Cats would be tougher, faster and stronger in 2012-13 and play that way through hard-nosed defense and an uptempo offense that attacked the rim. The Cats might not be the best team on the court every night, but Dunlap never wanted their effort to be questioned. Charlotte has bought in to Dunlap’s philosophies and they are producing results.

2.       Kemba Walker is off to a very fast start, leading the team in scoring. Is that something you thought you might see from the second-year guard coming into the season?

Kemba has made a tremendous leap in his second season, and ironically he’s been able to do that by looking backwards instead of forwards. When Head Coach Mike Dunlap took over the team, he stated he wanted to utilize Kemba the way he played while leading UConn to the National Title in 2011. Dunlap wanted Walker to have the ball in his hands and force action early in every possession by getting to the rack and scoring, drawing a foul or finding an open teammate. Walker has been comfortable in this pace offensively and showing how much of an impact he can make defensively, as well. He’s currently third in the NBA in steals (2.23) and the Cats pressure D often leads to easier baskets on the break, where Walker is completely comfortable.

3.       The Bobcats added two rookies through the draft, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor. Both have been starters from the get go. What have they shown so far about their future with the team?

Both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor are going to be key pieces to this Bobcats team for years to come. MKG and Taylor hang their hats on defense first, something Head Coach Mike Dunlap saw in them that made them perfect fits in his system, and have both taken on the task of guarding opposing teams’ best players this season. That’s not to say  they can’t make an offensive impact either. Things have been coming together nicely for MKG in his rookie campaign, and it’s evident he’s at his best attacking the basket. He’s also an impressive rebounder from the wing and is currently third on the team in rebounding. With averages of 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.46 steals and 1.23 steals, MKG has shown he’s the all-around player the Cats thought he could be when they drafted him No. 2 in the 2012 NBA Draft. Jeffery Taylor’s development might have been sped up a bit when Gerald Henderson suffered an early foot injury, thrusting Taylor into the starting lineup in just his third NBA game after playing a total of 16 minutes in his first two games. You could see the wheels working in his first five starts, but things really began to click for Taylor on November 19 against Milwaukee when he recorded his first double-digit scoring game (10 points). Since that point, Taylor is the only Bobcats to score in double digits the last five games and is averaging 11.8 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent shooting from 3-point range. Taylor is also getting it done defensively, averaging 2.20 steals.

4.       The team surprised most people in the offseason when they hired Mike Dunlap from St. John’s as the team’s new head coach. What is your take on his style so far?

I think his style fits this Cats team perfectly. He’s found a way to get the most out of a team comprised primarily of young players – Kemba, MKG, Taylor, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo – and found a way to make them mesh with three key vets the Cats brought in over the offseason – Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood. The young guys seem to have energized the vets and the veteran presence has settled down the Cats when needed.

5.       Charlotte is playing some good basketball so far. Are the playoffs a realistic goal for this young roster?

Come on man, that’s not fair. After winning just seven games last season, the Bobcats are off to a great start, having already matched their previous season’s win total. Needless to say, we’re not even mentioning the “p-word” around here right now. The Cats just want to continue to improve from game-to-game, and if things lead that way, I don’t think there’s anyone on that court who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to move on to the next level.

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