55.8 Team field goal percentage in the paint, the lowest in the league. One reason the Bobcats missed so often: Their opponents led the NBA in blocked shots (5.95 per game) for the second year in a row.
Record: 35-47 (fourth in Southeast) Points scored: 93.6 (30th in NBA) Points allowed: 94.9 (ninth in NBA)
This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
Gerald Wallace has been to the playoffs before -- three times with the Kings -- so when Charlotte's leading scorer called the 2008-09 season "a success story," he had some perspective. The Bobcats, who were 7-18 last December, battled back to join the playoff chase until a 1-7 finish prevented them from reaching the postseason for the first time in the franchise's five-year history.
"It was a bummer, of course," says Wallace, "but [first-year coach Larry Brown] immediately came into the locker room after the last game and spun it into a [positive]. To have started the way we did, fixed things, and almost turned it around -- we knew [Brown's] system was going to work for us."
Getting to that point required plenty of Brown's signature tinkering. Wallace missed seven games after suffering a collapsed left lung and a fractured rib during a game in late January. Then the team's slow start prompted the Bobcats' brass to fiddle with the roster; Charlotte made three in-season trades involving 11 players and used a league-high 24 players.
"Coach had to put everybody on the same page, teach us about sacrificing for the team," says Wallace. "And that meant clearing some people out." With the addition of swingman stopper Raja Bell last December, the selection of physical Duke guard Gerald Henderson with the No. 12 choice in the draft and the off-season pickup of 7' 1" shot blocker Tyson Chandler (acquired from the Hornets for Emeka Okafor), the pieces are now in place to execute Brown's defense-first approach.
That sounds good until you consider that the Bobcats put up a league-low 93.6 points per game last season and that they haven't added any scoring threats. "Our philosophy is [to focus on] defense," says Wallace. "If we're only scoring 80 points but our opponent is scoring 75, what's the difference? You win that game every time."
-- Adam Duerson
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.