Someone asked Charlotte Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson Wednesday night if it’s true players play harder the season before they become free agents.
Henderson gave it some serious thought before answering. Then he realized he’s a poor resource to answer that, because he plays the same way all the time.
“Interesting,” Henderson responded. “There is so much pressure you can put on yourself (as an impending free agent). But you’ve got to play hard either way.
“Last year I did the same thing I’m doing this year.”
That’s true. When the Bobcats were going through that 7-59 season – worst winning percentage in NBA history – it seemed to bother Henderson more than other players. He took it personally to have to be associated with that record.
Now he approaches restricted free-agency in July. Only once in his four seasons as a Bobcat has this franchise reached the playoffs. That’s a departure from the winning Henderson’s teams did in high school and at Duke.
But, all things being equal, he says he’d like to remain a Bobcat and be part of the long-term solution.
“I know one thing – the Bobcats have stuck with me,” Henderson said of free-agency. “So if we can work it out, (re-signing in Charlotte) would be a good thing.”
The Bobcats have made nine lottery selections (top-14 picks) in their nine-year history. Five of those players – the ones who are no longer on the rookie pay scale – have departed. So it’s no given Henderson will be here long-term.
But the Bobcats certainly have the resources to retain him if they choose, with as much as $21 million available under the salary cap this coming summer. And he’s playing the best basketball of his NBA career.
Eight games ago, in an unexpected home victory over the Boston Celtics, Henderson scored a career-high 35 points. Wednesday against the Magic, he scored 34 in a 19-point comeback.
In that eight-game span, Henderson is averaging 22.3 points on 52 percent shooting from the field. So if Henderson isn’t playing any harder headed into free-agency, he’s certainly playing better.
Acquiring McRoberts at the trade deadline from Orlando appeared to be a minor deal, but he’s become a starter. Dunlap believes McRoberts’ passing has improved the Bobcats’ ball-movement. The Bobcats have totaled 20 or more assists in four of their last six games and Dunlap gives McRoberts credit for that.
“When he walked in the door you could see his high (basketball) IQ,” Dunlap said. “His ability to pass has been contagious.”
McRoberts isn’t personally getting a lot of assists, but his ability to swing the ball from side-to-side in the high post has made the Bobcats a better passing team in general. Henderson, who played with McRoberts at Duke, anticipated as much.
“His decision-making is a big thing for our team,” Henderson said.