In a postseason interview with the Charlotte Observer on Thursday, coach Mike Dunlap talked to Bobcats reporter Rick Bonnell about his debut year with the team and plans going into the offseason. Despite the 21-61 record, the coach is satisfied with the progress of not only the team but of himself as a coach. According to the article, Dunlap talked about how he was too aggressive with the players both in games and during practice.
NBA teams seldom get an opportunity to practice during the season because of the dense schedule, yet Dunlap would still run four-hour practices or bring in the players on back-to-back nights. Though the four-hour practices weren't just about physical activity, they were still challenging for the players involved and perhaps became counter-productive. "I was too concerned with the impression - among the players, management or fans - that we weren't going to have practice just because we'd lost and played two nights in a row," Dunlap said
Since Dunlap trimmed down the practice schedule last month, the Bobcats played a respectable 8-10 in that span. The team looked more relaxed and rested in that 18-game span. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but I thought Charlotte's three top young players (Bismack, MKG and Kemba) all played at their highest level since that quick start in November.
Speaking of those players, Coach Dunlap not only talked about his improvement as a coach, but also the progression of Biyombo, Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker. The progression with the 20-year-old Biyombo and 19-year-old Kidd-Gilchrist was a bit sluggish but still noticeable. Bismack has been an extremely raw player in his two year career but Dunlap said "There isn't another 20-year-old in the league who presents the problems he does to an opponent." Biyombo is one of the top young defensive prospects in this league but is still flawed offensively, even though he did show flashes of improvement in March and April.
Meanwhile, Dunlap briefly talked about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's improvements on the offensive side of the ball saying "His middle jumper improved. He made all three last night (against Cleveland). A month ago it would have been two of three at best."
The biggest topic of discussion during Bonnell's discussion with Mike Dunlap was about the overall progression of point guard Kemba Walker. Charlotte's management appears to trying to turn him into the team's go-to player as they continue the rebuilding process. Dunlap was quoted as saying "We got him to understand freedom is responsibility and responsibility is freedom." Kemba needs to take that message with him as he progresses as a player and a team leader with Charlotte.
Mike Dunlap's future status with the team is still up in the air because owner Michael Jordan and the rest of the front office will be examining each key member of the organization. Yes, his first year with the team had some hiccups (e.g. the incident with Gordon in February) but he's still optimistic about the future. Like most Bobcats fans, Dunlap liked the way the McRoberts trade turned out and he'll be looking forward to adding a few more similar veterans to help build a squad that's worthy of the playoffs.
Optimisim is hard to come by when you look at a team like Charlotte but Mike Dunlap is one of the biggest believers that this team can make some noise in the near future.