Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are the NBA’s most surprising team so far this season.
Charlotte (6-4) has won five of its past six games and is one win away from matching last year’s win total.
The turnaround is impressive considering the Bobcats finished last season 7-59 and with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history. They lost their final 23 games of the season.
But under the direction of defensive-oriented coach Mike Dunlap, they’ve been competitive and have developed a knack for closing games. Charlotte is 5-0 in contests decided by four points or less — and without much NBA experience on the roster.
That’s doesn’t bother Dunlap.
“The most important part is to sell your system and what you’re doing with a purpose,” Dunlap said. “There’s nothing like wins to help that out.”
If players had any doubt about Dunlap’s style, the six wins have helped eliminated that.
What Dunlap has been preaching is defense, which meant a summer full of intense workouts, some of those lasting as long as four hours.
He knew the Bobcats wouldn’t be the most talented and or the most experienced team in the NBA — not even close, in fact — so he wanted to be better conditioned than anyone out there and use his team’s young, fresh legs to his advantage.
“I think our defense is getting better and I’m selling that first and foremost,” Dunlap said. “We have a ways to go with it. It’s far from where it needs to be but it’s getting there and we have the numbers to prove that.”
Charlotte is allowing 98.8 points per game, but it ranks in the top ten in the league in steals (86) and blocked shots (76). The Bobcats have forced 14.6 turnovers per game.
“Coach Dunlap, it all starts with him,” said second-year point guard Kemba Walker. “He’s a real tough guy, really intense. We all feed off him.”
The Bobcats are still extremely young, particularly with guard Gerald Henderson out with a foot injury.
Right now their starting five consists of two rookies in Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick who has had an immediate impact averaging 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Forward Byron Mullens, who sat for two years in Oklahoma City before being acquired last year in a trade, is essentially in his second season like Walker.
The only starter with significant experience is center Brendan Haywood, who was claimed off waivers from Dallas.
But the Bobcats are getting quality play off the bench from offseason acquisitions Ramon Sessions, a former Cavalier, and Ben Gordon, two scorers brought in to give the team some needed experience down the stretch in tight games.
Both have provided a huge boost with Sessions averaging 16.3 points per game and Gordon 13 points per game, second and third best on the team.
NBA admits refs erred
The NBA said that officials Ed Malloy, John Goble and Violet Palmer missed a foul by Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist against Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani on a jump shot in the final seconds of the Bobcats’ 98-97 victory Wednesday night.
The NBA said Bargnani should have been given two free throws and the clock stopped with approximately 2.4 seconds remaining.