CHARLOTTE — “Moth balls.’’
That’s one of the expressions Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap used to describe power forward Hakim Warrick’s recent inactivity, and it was pretty accurate.
Warrick came to the Bobcats Nov. 13 in a widely applauded trade for Matt Carroll. The Bobcats spent the summer looking to add depth at power forward. Shooting guard Carroll wasn’t going to play here, so adding Warrick seemed a no-brainer.
And then he sat … and sat. Warrick did not play, by coach’s decision, in nine of the 14 games leading up to his start Wednesday against the Miami Heat. The problem was Warrick was slow to adapt to the defensive rotations Dunlap expects.
The Bobcats exert so much ball-pressure on the strong side of their defense that the backside players have to cover a lot of ground and not be reluctant to leave their man to guard elsewhere. This was a little foreign to Warrick.
“They’re doing a lot of things a lot of NBA teams don’t play: A lot of rotation, a lot of pressure. That’s a lot of getting used-to from the (New Orleans) system I came from where we really packed it in,’’ Warrick described.
“If you’re not moving on a string, if that (next) guy isn’t there, the players in this league are just too fast and athletic (not to get burned). You won’t be able to recover. That takes a lot of trust, a lot of chemistry.’’
The combination of necessity (Byron Mullens’ ankle sprain) and Warrick catching up to speed worked out well Wednesday. Warrick was an efficient scorer (18 points on 8-of-12 shooting) and his nine rebounds surpassed what Mullens had been averaging (a team-high 7.8). This was just one game, but the signs are encouraging.
“He just knows how to play basketball,’’ point guard Kemba Walker said of seven-season veteran Warrick. “We can throw it to him down low and expect a basket.’’
With both Mullens and Tyrus Thomas (calf strain) out, the Bobcats were hurting for options at power forward. Warrick said this would have been an easier transition had the Bobcats acquired him before the start of training camp. Dunlap is a first-time NBA coach with somewhat unconventional defensive principals.
Dunlap thoroughly agrees.
“It makes a heck of a difference,’’ when a player must catch up without the preseason, Dunlap said. “Like trying to do Calculus without arithmetic.’’
Dunlap wasn’t ignoring Warrick; he just wasn’t using him yet. He checked into Warrick’s history and found he was most successful with the Memphis Grizzlies, as a mid-post scorer. His offensive skills – some post-up, some driving and a jump shot out to about 20 feet – are similar to that of Thomas.
Warrick and Dunlap met recently to discuss Warrick’s role. Warrick appreciated the collaborative way Dunlap dealt with him.
“Knowing he did his research’’ meant a lot, Warrick said.
“A lot of coaches won’t tailor the game (to what a player does well). They say, ‘This is the offense; you better get with the program.’ He does a really good job of seeing what guys are good at and getting them into those spots.’’