Here’s one nobody had said in several years: Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour are excited about being Charlotte Bobcats because it gets them into a playoff hunt.
Yes, both are aware of the 28-120 record the previous two seasons. But they believe they’re joining a group on the upswing and happy to move on from a Milwaukee Bucks team with the NBA’s worst record (10-44).
“It’s fun to be in a playoff hunt,” said Ridnour, who will serve as a backup to Kemba Walker at point guard.
The NBA formally signed off on the trade Saturday morning. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford told them they wouldn’t play in Saturday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies, since they haven’t had a practice with their new team.
Neal, who is a career 39-percent shooter from 3-point range, was particularly happy to move on. He signed with the Bucks over the summer after three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. For whatever reason, Neal played little in Milwaukee on a team badly in need of help.
Neal said he was hoping for a move for the last 1 1/2 months. While he wasn’t surprised to be traded, he said he didn’t know much about the Bobcats’ interest.
Ridnour, a 10-year veteran, also wasn’t surprised to change uniforms.
“I had a good idea,” he said in a Saturday news conference. “A rebuilding team, an older guy.”
Clifford has long considered long-range shooting to be a need area on this team. Based on how Neal played for the Spurs, off of Tim Duncan in the post, he should be a good fit to help open the lane for center Al Jefferson’s post-ups.
If teams double Jefferson, Neal can punish them with open jump shots.
“You want your best player to be able to go one-on-one,” Neal said. “If you surround that guy with shooters, it simplifies the game plan” of the opposing defense.
“That was always key in San Antonio. When your best player has a one-on-one matchup, you give yourself a great chance.”
Ridnour said he quickly noticed anticipation that the Bobcats can hold on to one of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference:
“You definitely sense a hunger on this team and in the town that we can make the playoffs.”
Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell