CHARLOTTE — Gerald Henderson is betting he’ll be a measurably better basketball player two years hence than he is right now.
Henderson signed a three-year, $18 million contract to continue playing for the Charlotte Bobcats. He has the option to void the last season on that deal to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015. He gave up about $1 million a season to get that option.
“I’ve improved every year and I believe I’ll continue to improve,” Henderson said. “I have that much confidence in myself.”
Strange as this sounds for someone entering his fifth NBA season, Henderson is the longest-tenured Bobcat. That speaks to how much change this roster has experienced. Two new acquisitions – free-agent center Al Jefferson and rookie power forward Cody Zeller – will likely start and a rookie head coach, Steve Clifford, has been hired.
Henderson is thrilled with the makeover.
“I always said getting a big man like Al Jefferson would be great. And then they got Al Jefferson,” Henderson said. “Cody Zeller is a guy who can instantly help us with his athleticism. He’s ready to play. Like any rookie, he’s going to have tons of room to grow, but he is ready to play.”
Henderson has met with Clifford four times already. Henderson sees some parallels between Clifford and his college coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, in that Clifford seems to be a creative problem-solver.
“One of the first things he said to me is, ‘I can make you a great scorer by putting you in better positions all of the time. If there’s something you’re not particularly good at, I’m not going to put you in that in volume,’” Henderson said.
Henderson thinks Clifford will be particularly good for a player like second-year small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who needs to become more skilled.
“All he knows right now is to play hard. Having someone thinking for him is what he needs,’’ Henderson said. “It’s watching tape with him and showing him how to use his fake. In the whole realm of things it might be small, but these are the things you can’t come up with by yourself.”
Henderson was a co-captain last season and he seems comfortable with leading. He said he was part of the “problem’’ going 28-120 the past two seasons.
“I was part of it. You want to be part of the solution as well. That definitely weighed in,’’ Henderson said.
“The No. 1 think I learned from Coach K is to be responsible for yourself. You can worry about how the team is doing. But if you’re not concerned about how your play is affecting the team, then you’re being selfish. How are you performing? In a nonselfish way you should always evaluate yourself.
“That’s his biggest thing. That’s about being a man. Get your work in. Do your part.”