Bobcats look to use Cody Zeller to stretch defenses

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comJuly 8, 2013 

Based on the drills the Charlotte Bobcats are running in these summer-league practices, it’s apparent the coaches hope to fast-track first-rounder Cody Zeller into a high-post shooter and facilitator.

That doesn’t mean Zeller, a 7-footer out of Indiana, won’t get touches close to the basket. But with free-agent center Al Jefferson coming aboard, it makes sense to exploit Zeller’s range around the “elbow’’ – where the lane meets the foul line – as a means to spread opposing defenses.

Zeller welcomes the idea.

“I love being able to make plays, whether it’s finding guys on backdoors or finding my own shot. They’re going to give me a lot of freedom to make plays,’’ said Zeller.

Coach Steve Clifford knows the Bobcats have to improve on last season, when they averaged just 93.4 points off 42.5 percent shooting.

“We’ve got to find ways to score more efficiently in the half court,’’ Clifford said.

“The best teams have great go-to offensive players where they can maybe run a few things well and put shooting around them. Or they have very balanced half-court games where they have a pick-and-roll game, they have a catch-and-shoot game, they have a post game and maybe a cutting game.’’

Coach churn: Center Bismack Biyombo will play for his third head coach in as many seasons as a Bobcat, after the team chose to replace Mike Dunlap with Clifford.

“It’s tough every year to adjust to a new coach because you’ve got to adjust to a new system,’’ Biyombo said. “But if the team made those decision for a better result, then let’s move to a better way. Obviously we’re better than we were last year.’’

True tournament: The Las Vegas Summer League is going to finish the event with a single-elimination tournament to determine a champion, so the Bobcats only know the time and date on their first three games.

They’ll open Friday night (10 p.m. EDT) against the San Antonio Spurs. Then they play the Dallas Mavericks at 6 p.m. EDT Sunday and the Knicks Monday at 4 p.m. EDT. All games are on NBATV, either live or tape-delayed.

The Bobcats will play a minimum of two more games in Las Vegas, with time and date decided by their record in the first three games.

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