Jeff Van Gundy brought Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford to the NBA, hiring him as a scout with the New York Knicks in 2000.
Now an ESPN analyst, Van Gundy watches nearly every Bobcats game. Thursday he drew two conclusions on a media conference call:
There’s every reason the Bobcats should make the playoffs and every reason they will make the playoffs.
“I think that’s why they’re going to make the playoffs – because they want to,” Van Gundy said. “Where a lot of other teams in the Eastern Conference are just as content on the days they lose as the days they win.”
The Bobcats made the playoffs once in their 10-year history. They were swept 4-0 by the Orlando Magic in 2010. The only current Bobcat on that team was shooting guard Gerald Henderson. He was a rookie then and never played in the series.
There’s a widely held perception that NBA teams are better off losing this season to position themselves in what might be a rich 2014 draft lottery. Van Gundy doesn’t buy that, particularly considering the Bobcats’ history.
“Just because you get a lottery pick doesn’t mean you’ll get a star. They’ve had high picks,” he said. “There are no guarantees when you get those picks that they’re going to be stars. So it’s important that they win.”
The Bobcats went 28-120 the past two seasons. That resulted in three coaches in three seasons, Clifford being the most recent. He seems to be turning this around, particularly at the defensive end. Van Gundy said the only real flaw on this team is a distinct lack of outside shooting.
Van Gundy said there’s much to be gained from getting into playoff mode, both for the players and the fans.
“I think there is a great, great value in winning and building a winning culture, particularly when you’ve been beaten down by so many years of losing,” Van Gundy said. “Also to try to get the fan base back. … Many nights you look out and there’s no one there. It’s a very empty place.”
Van Gundy said there’s an additional value to reaching the playoffs that is subtle: The post-season is the truest test of strengths and weakness: “You see first-hand what you need to get to where you want to go.”