When you’re a 7-footer and reasonably athletic, jumping becomes a given.
Not so much Monday for Charlotte Bobcats power forward Byron Mullens. It was the first time he played in six weeks, following a severe ankle sprain. So things he took for granted now test him.
“I went up (on a put-back) and barely got it over the rim. But it will get there.’’ Mullens said after a 99-94 loss to the Miami Heat Monday.
The Heat game amounted to Mullens’ shakedown cruise. He tested what he can and can’t do now that he is well enough to play again. He’s the Bobcats’ leading rebounder this season, and that still showed – he had nine boards against the Heat. He can also stretch defenses with his shooting. He made his first two jumpers, but finished only 5-of-14 from the field.
“I made those first two and said, ‘OK!’ And then I kind of faded,’’ Mullens said.
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap planned to play Mullens roughly 10 to 15 minutes in his first game back. But Mullens ended up playing 28 minutes against the Heat, third-most on his team. Mullens’ shooting range created better spacing offensively than the Bobcats have had in his absence.
That opened the floor for point guards Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker. Sessions got to the foul line 10 times, partially off the seams Mullens’ shooting created.
“You have to respect his 3-point shot. Those other guys at his position are more bangers,’’ Sessions said of Mullens’ range. “Anytime we get a little opening, we don’t need much to score.’’
Mullens still has some scar tissue in that injured ankle that requires daily treatment. He says his ability to run and cut is fine, but jumping assertively is still an issue.
“I’m still kind of iffy on it. There was a shot where I should have dunked on Ray Allen and a couple of rebounds I should have had,’’ Mullens said. “I’m still kind of scared to jump off of it. But if you play scared, you ended up hurt again. I need to play with full confidence. I’m good enough to play on it.’’
CAVS INCONSISTENT: Wednesday’s opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have been wildly inconsistent this season. They were good enough to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder recently, but are 1-5 at home this season against sub-.500 teams.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott got on the players recently in a closed-door meeting. That registered on guard-forward C.J. Miles, who brought up the Bobcats in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“Now we come to Charlotte. No knock against that team, but (they and the Thunder are) two different types of teams as far as talent and winning,’’ Miles said.