'Connector' Josh McRoberts a boost to a young Charlotte Bobcats rotation

Power forward’s decisions with the ball smooth out others’ inexperience

rbonnell@charlotteobserverOctober 18, 2013 

Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan calls power forward Josh McRoberts a “connector” – as in a player who doesn’t do anything flashy, but who moves the ball to the right players decisively all the time.

That kind of player is extra valuable on a team as young and inexperienced as this one.

McRoberts has started the last two exhibitions, ahead of rookie lottery pick Cody Zeller. Whether McRoberts starts or comes off the bench the majority of the season, he looks like an important part of the rotation after re-signing over the summer.

“Yeah, with a young team like this it probably does make a little more difference,” McRoberts said of the veteran passer element to his game. “I’ve probably been too unselfish at times in my career, but that’s the player I’ve become.”

Coach Steve Clifford thinks players tend to establish a persona early in their careers, as in if someone wasn’t much of a rebounder at 14 in AAU ball, he’s not likely to ever be a superior rebounder at the NBA level. Clifford applies that trait to McRoberts – once a passer, always a passer.

“I bet he was that guy in high school,” Clifford said. “It’s a valuable thing to have.”

The “it” Clifford referred to is the quick decisions McRoberts makes with the ball, rotating it from strong to weak side from the top of the key. Jordan said in an interview with the Observer this week that he’d like McRoberts’ style to rub off on Zeller because they have similar size and skill sets.

McRoberts’ value to the Bobcats is hard to quantify with statistics because often his passes lead to someone else’s assist. But Clifford’s description holds true – McRoberts is a particularly unselfish player on a generally unselfish team.

Clifford said he’s pleased by the unselfishness in the roster he inherited. McRoberts offered a theory as to why that’s true.

“Other than Al (Jefferson, an established low-post scorer), who has really put up big numbers in this league?” McRoberts said. “We all kind of need each other to get to where we need to be.”

Rebounding a work-in-progress: Rebounding was Clifford’s chief concern entering training camp. While the Bobcats have outrebounded five preseason opponents by an average of three per game, Clifford isn’t fooling himself that this is a problem solved.

“I think that will be a challenge all season,” Clifford said.

The way Clifford described it, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jefferson are the only Bobcats with histories of being above-average rebounders. Bismack Biyombo has rebounded particularly well while Jefferson mends from a sprained ankle (39 boards in the past three games), but Clifford still worries about how the rebounding numbers will hold up in the regular season.

“This will have to be done collectively,” Clifford said of the guards and forwards chipping in on the boards.

Greensboro-bound: The Bobcats play the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) at the Greensboro Coliseum. There is no local television for that exhibition, but the game will be broadcast on WFNZ-AM 610.

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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