This was not your typical first day on the job.
New Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap jumped into a pre-draft workout Thursday, speeding the pace to the extent former North Carolina star Harrison Barnes called it a “track meet.’’
After the draft candidates left, several current Bobcats worked out. Within minutes of introducing himself, Dunlap jumped in the action, setting screens on big men, fine-tuning driving angles and reminding players to raise their chins to better focus on the rim when shooting.
This guy has a lot to fix, with the Bobcats coming off a 7-59 season. Apparently wading into the pool is not his idea of a good swim.
“We’ve got to roll our sleeves up and get going now,’’ Dunlap said as he departed the practice court. “We can’t figure this thing is going to come to us. We’ve got to go to it.’’
At Wednesday’s introductory news conference, Dunlap promised to speed the Bobcats’ tempo and to set a high standard for work-capacity and fitness. Thursday morning he acted on both those agendas. Four Bobcats from last season – Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, Matt Carroll and Cory Higgins – worked out. Dunlap interacted with each one and set a training-camp pace.
“The word will get out that there’s work being done here,’’ Dunlap said. “It’s voluntary (this summer), but come to work in pairs and threes, not ones. We don’t want our guys coming to this facility by themselves a lot.’’
Translation: Dunlap wants it going viral that, for whatever is wrong with this roster, the Bobcats shouldn’t be outworked. That’s an imperative he expressed in his job interview, and it stuck with those who hired him.
Bobcats vice chairman Curtis Polk said this of Dunlap’s job interview:
“In the NBA there are probably 20 games a season when the other team just doesn’t want to win. You have to be mentally and physically in the condition to steal those games. He’s going to prepare them for that.
“You might not have the best shooter, you might not have the best ballhandler or the best defensive scheme. But there’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the best physical shape possible. This guy will get them into the best physical shape and then into the best mental shape. There are nights where we won’t have the most talent, but we will win games.’’
Nobody wins without talent, and the quickest way to address that is wisely using the No. 2 pick in the June 28 draft. So when Dunlap turned a low-key half-court game into full-court 3-on-3, he was searching for draft candidates ready for his pace and his expectations.
Barnes said no other NBA team asked him to go full-speed baseline-to-baseline.
“You can tell he definitely likes to play fast,’’ Barnes said, “that he likes intensity, likes guys who lay it on the line down on the floor – hustle plays.’’
Said Dunlap: “It affords us (the chance) to see things game-like. … I tried to turn the screw a little bit; not in a manipulative way, but that’s the game. You get bad calls and things change quickly – it’s a transition game.
“You can’t come in here and be unfit. And fitness for a pro basketball player is all year long.’’
Dunlap said he’s “inclined’’ to coach the Bobcats in July at the Las Vegas summer league if his bosses concur. Typically assistants coach summer league games, with the head coach observing. But sometimes head coaches stay on the bench their first summer with a new team.
• Two more candidates for the No. 2 pick – Kansas forward Thomas Robinson and Connecticut center Andre Drummond – are expected to work out for the Bobcats Friday.
Mullens is no longer a candidate to play for host country Britain in the London Olympics, according to a news release from Britain’s basketball federation.