After watching his team finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is hoping first-year coach Mike Dunlap and a handful of new players can help the franchise begin heading in the right direction.
While expectations remain low for this season, Jordan would like to see some improvement from the Bobcats, who open against the visiting Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
Charlotte looked like it might avoid its dubious NBA mark in March when it won twice in four games. The Bobcats, though, dropped their final 23 to finish 7-59 for a .106 winning percentage, four points below the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers club that went 9-73.
After that miserable season, the Bobcats tapped Mike Dunlap, a former Denver Nuggets assistant and longtime collegiate coach, to take over for Paul Silas. Dunlap has brought a no-nonsense, fundamental approach that’s included three- to four-hour practices.
“Last year we went through the process of stripping down the organization and trying to build that back up,” Jordan said. “And this is another step toward that. Getting a young coach who understands our vision about what type of team we want to be.”
Along with Dunlap, the Bobcats have brought in Brendan Haywood Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions to help bolster their lineup. They also took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who was part of an NCAA title-winning team at Kentucky, with the No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft.
“We don’t have a star that can carry the team, so you’ve got to learn to play together,” Jordan said. “I want to establish a culture within in this organization so that when you plug a guy in, the culture is sitting there and no one guy is bigger than that culture. You either fit in or you don’t fit in.”
The Bobcats will try to begin playing together against a Pacers team that advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in seven years last season.
Indiana edged Toronto 90-88 in its season opener Wednesday when George Hill hit the tiebreaking shot with two seconds left.
“They brought it harder, but we brought it longer,” Hill said. “That’s something that (coach Frank Vogel) has been talking about. We lost on that first stat of bringing it harder, but we won on the second one, playing longer and grinding it out.”
The Pacers, who are playing without perennial scoring leader Danny Granger got 25 points from David West and 14 points and 15 rebounds from Paul George Granger, who has averaged 21.6 points over the past five seasons, is out indefinitely with a sore left knee.
“The confidence this team has, knowing the success we had last year, we think we can win without anybody almost,” Hill said.
The Pacers might have a good chance to pick up another victory without Granger as they’ve won nine straight against the Bobcats and taken the past four meetings by an average of 23.5 points.
Tyler Hansbrough has averaged 18.5 points on 56.8 percent shooting in the last four matchups, and fellow Pacers big man Roy Hibbert has averaged 17.8 points and 10.8 boards while shooting 69.1 percent over his last five meetings.