Steve Clifford, never before an NBA head coach, is on the clock to fix the Charlotte Bobcats.
He’ll run his first training camp at UNC Asheville starting Oct. 1. There’s some uncertainty, with the players new to him and some of them new to each other. But the roster has been improved, particularly with the additions of center Al Jefferson and rookie forward Cody Zeller.
Clifford says Jefferson instantly becomes the Bobcats’ best offensive weapon, a scoring big man teams will have no choice but to double-team in the post. The Bobcats haven’t had that type and quality of scorer before, and it’s Clifford’s job to find efficient ways to get him the ball. It’s also the coach’s charge to teach the other Bobcats how best to play off Jefferson, to punish defenses for helping on Jefferson.
Clifford is excited both by Jefferson’s track record and Zeller’s potential. And he sees a breakthrough season for second-year pro Jeff Taylor.
But Clifford also sees challenges, specifically how to improve the team’s rebounding and 3-point shooting.
Clifford sat down to field questions on the upcoming season:
“The challenge for our team is the post-up (scorer) is a dependent position. He depends on others to get him the ball. Him getting the ball where he wants it and when he wants it will be critical. That means our spacing and our ability to play out of his double-teams become critical areas, too.”
“He’s been in (the practice facility) non-stop. There’s no reason why he can’t be – right now, today – an effective rotation player. When a guy is bright, hard-working and committed, it’s easy to believe in him.”
“He can be such a good individual defender. He has to be more disciplined, which he knows, and play more consistently, which he knows. But there aren’t many people with the defensive instincts, plus the strength and quickness, that he possesses.”