Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker has a message to those fans who think losing games to improve draft position is this team’s best route:
“That’s ridiculous, as far as us tanking and getting a high draft pick,” Walker said following practice Thursday. “I don’t think we need any more (high) draft picks at this point.”
The idea has become a frequent debate on sports-talk radio and the Internet. The 2014 NBA draft is potentially quite strong. The Bobcats could have as many as three first-round picks – theirs and those of the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers.
They could also lose their pick to the Chicago Bulls (as part of the Tyrus Thomas trade) if it’s outside the top 10. They get the Pistons’ pick only if it’s outside the top eight. The Blazers’ pick figures to be late in the first round.
The Bobcats are coming off a surprising 3-1 West Coast trip and have the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, two games ahead of the Detroit Pistons.
So do the 22-28 Bobcats belong in the playoffs?
“I think so,” said Walker, just back from a two-week absence because of an ankle sprain. “I don’t see why we can’t make the playoffs. I think we have a great team and are playing great basketball. As long as we keep it up, I think we can.
“We go out each night with the mindset we can make the playoffs. We practice like we can make the playoffs.”
Walker, who drove Connecticut to the NCAA championship in 2011, said he could never abide the franchise not trying its best.
“I could never do that,” Walker said. “I play this game to win, not to lose. If we are going to lose, we’ll make sure it’s not easy.”
The Bobcats recruited free agent center Al Jefferson over the summer on the prospect they were trying to win now. He’s on the same page as Walker.
“I felt like that from Day 1, in training camp, that we could be a playoff team,” Jefferson said.
“But saying that is one thing; you’ve got to prove it. We’ve got to continue getting better and learn from our mistakes. But if we play like we did on that road trip – ball movement on offense, getting big stops, rebounding – it would be hard not to be a playoff team.”
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford has praised Jefferson of late for stepping up his defense. Jefferson said maintaining that is essential to staying in the playoff race.
“Kemba says I’m a beast at the offensive end, but I’ve got to be a beast at the defensive end, too,” Jefferson said. “That’s what will take this team to the next level.”
Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell