Bobcats Rise to Relevance
Jackson and Wallace came to contend.
If someone would have told me that a star from the Warriors—one of the NBA’s loosest and most offense-oriented teams—would get traded to the Bobcats and flourish, I don’t know if I would have been convinced. After swingman Stephen Jackson put on a Bobcats jersey, he not only prospered in the tightly run, defense-first system, but he elevated the team to another level.
Jackson wasn’t fazed by the change of systems. “I approach it as a professional, and I know how to adjust. I made adjustments to come in and play with these guys and it’s starting to work out,” he says.
As for the stops over shots mentality, Jackson says, “It reminds me of back when I was with the Spurs…put defense first and good things happen.”
The Bobcats had a sweet start to the New Year as the NBA’s best team through the first 22 days of 2010. While the defense stayed consistent, the 9-2 record reflected a surging offense. The Bobcats have scored almost 10 more points in January than the 90 they averaged in November.
“We’re gelling together right now—on both ends, offensively and defensively,” says guard Raymond Felton, “We’re getting a lot of easy shots, getting in transition and that’s when we’re at our best…our defense is really charging our offense.”
And Jackson has been one of the main factors helping the Bobcats gel offensively. Felton calls Jackson a great competitor and says, “He does everything: he passes, he scores, he defends, he rebounds.”
Guard DJ Augustin adds, “He’s brought a lot. Offensively he’s doing great things. He’s passing the ball, getting everybody involved and he’s drawing a lot of attention which means everybody else can be open.”
Jackson says his role is “just to go out there and play aggressive, make plays on defense and try to make plays for everybody else.”
While Jackson is getting a lot of attention as the new face in town, another player has been the team’s anchor all along. Forward Gerald Wallace, in his sixth season with the team, is finally seeing his contributions translate into wins.
Asked what he brings, Wallace says, “Energy, athleticism, spark, leadership…just some of the things that a lot of people don’t see on paper as far as the hard work, the diving for the loose balls, the extra possessions, the ones that coaches like to call the 50/50 hustle plays.” That may have been the best articulation I’ve heard of Wallace’s game—a combination of stats and intangibles that drive plays and create opportunities on both ends of the court.
After being selected as a 2010 All-Star reserve, it looks like Wallace is finally being recognized. Wallace says that accolades often correspond to a team’s success. “You’re only as recognizable or as popular as your team is doing,” he says.
Between Wallace living up to his nickname “Crash” and Jackson’s Renaissance Man repertoire, the Bobcats have become one of the most exciting teams to watch.
Already a force at home—including a franchise-record 9-game home win streak that was snapped earlier this month—the Bobcats still have to prove they can win on the road. A statement overtime victory January 26 at Phoenix shows the potential the Bobcats have to come together as a team, especially after Gerald Wallace fouled out with three minutes left in the 4th quarter.
While specific players can be singled out, they can only achieve as much success as the teammates they play with. Asked what he can do to lead the Bobcats to a franchise first postseason appearance, Jackson responds, “We have to do it as a team. I just got to continue to be an unselfish player, continue to be aggressive…just keep a positive attitude and a confident attitude to get there.”
And of course, “Continue to keep winning,” says Felton.