Clippers at Bobcats, 7:30 p.m.

Michael Jordan goes one-on-one with his Bobcats

Head of the front office moves to low block for annual one-on-one tradition

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comDecember 12, 2012 

It’s a safe bet that no NBA players but Charlotte Bobcats were posted up by their team’s owner Tuesday.

It has become an unofficial annual event: Bobcats owner Michael Jordan shows up at a home practice in workout clothes. He watches, he instructs, he gets the old itch. Eventually he wanders out on the court and ends up playing one-on-one with the midsize guys.

This year it was Gerald Henderson and rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, with the injured Tyrus Thomas throwing Jordan entry passes. Everyone left smiling, and maybe a little more savvy about basketball too.

“He’s the best ever to play and he’s still got that competitive nature. He always feels he can help you,” said team captain Henderson. “We played one-one-one. That’s always fun. He wants to win.”

How much does the 49-year-old Jordan have left?

“He’s still got it. He can still shoot,” Henderson said. “I don’t know about his defense, but he can still score.”

Jordan’s participation started out with him showing Kidd-Gilchrist some post moves. It escalated into some one-on-one. Naturally, players started migrating over to form an audience.

Then Henderson, a former Duke Blue Devil, joined in against Jordan, a former North Carolina Tar Heel. Everyone knew what that meant. Henderson is coming back from a sprained foot. Jordan has said he likes how Henderson doesn’t just defer to him.

“He’s a basketball genius,” Henderson said. “But I don’t know if he wants to see me in a couple of months.”

This was Jordan’s first hands-on practice with the players since new coach Mike Dunlap came aboard. Dunlap said this might have served as a pick-me-up with the Bobcats on an eight-game losing streak.

“There’s a stew down there – a mixture of instruction, humor, competitive spirit and care,” Dunlap said. “Also, if a guy is feeling not good about himself or his game, it gets the cobwebs out.”

Minutes mix: Dunlap has fiddled with his lineup some the past few games. But he has stuck with rookie Jeff Taylor as the starting shooting guard, despite Taylor shooting 7 of 25 over the past three games.

When Dunlap got the job, management told him player development was his first priority. So on close calls, as the season progresses, its likely younger players will get extra minutes compared to older veterans.

“A (Byron) Mullens, a Kidd-Gilchrist, a Jeff Taylor, even a Kemba – who a lot of people assume has already arrived – needs some breathing room,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap did qualify that approach to this degree: He wants to reward effort, no matter who is offering it, and he isn’t going to wear out a young player for short-term gain. For instance, playing Walker so much that he’s a “dead man walking” isn’t to the team’s long-term benefit.

Adrien’s arrival: Jeff Adrien, a 6-foot-7 forward the Bobcats signed Sunday, had his first regular-season practice Tuesday. Adrien was with the Bobcats during training camp before being cut. He has also spent time with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Adrien, an undersized power forward, averaged 17.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game with Rio Grande in the development league this season. The Bobcats expressed interest in him about a week ago.

“I won’t ask for the ball much to score. I’ll put my hard hat on: rebound, defend and be a great teammate,” Adrien said. “A lot of young guys in this league are still trying to find themselves, and they get lost. I think I understand what I have to do to get on the court.”

Adrien compares himself to Reggie Evans, of the Brooklyn Nets, a rugged rebounder and screen-setter who has had a long NBA career.

“There are guys my size who are doing it,” Adrien said. “Given the opportunity, I believe I can do the same thing.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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