Getting traded from the NBA’s second-worst team to its worst late in the season doesn’t seem like such a great deal on the surface.
But for power forward Josh McRoberts, moving from Orlando to Charlotte during February meant an opportunity to become a starter again and a chance to reconnect with Gerald Henderson, his friend, former Duke teammate and – for the past six weeks – McRoberts’ chauffeur.
“He didn’t get his car shipped from Orlando, so I’ve had to take him everywhere he’s wanted to go. If we’ve got a road trip, I’ve got to pick him up from the hotel, take him to the airport. And then do the same coming back,” Henderson said. “But he’s my friend, my teammate, so I’ll do it for him.”
“He’s driven me to the airport mainly. That’s about the biggest thing,” McRoberts said Monday after the Bobcats’ practice. “Don’t let him tell you differently.”
McRoberts’ play since the Feb. 21 trade that sent backup forward Hakim Warrick to Orlando has been one of the bright spots in a mostly dismal Bobcats’ season. McRoberts, a full-time starter for the second time in his six seasons, is averaging nearly a double-double since replacing Byron Mullens in the lineup in March.
McRoberts, who is 6-foot-10, averages 9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 14 games as a starter. The Bobcats have gone 5-9 during that stretch while increasing their scoring average by nearly three points to 96 points a game.
“Josh knows how to play the game,” said Henderson, who played one season with McRoberts at Duke in 2006-07. “He’s very skilled with the ball. Can handle it, pass it, a really good decision-maker. So he’s helped me in the sense of just playing off him because he’s always looking to make the right play.”
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap praised McRoberts’ ability to find open teammates from the post, as well as his toughness in going after offensive rebounds.
McRoberts’ 8.0 points-per-game average is the highest of his career, a tick above his 7.4 mark with Indiana two seasons ago – the only other time he has been a starter.
McRoberts said he was glad Orlando, which acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the Dwight Howard trade last offseason, was willing to deal him.
“They really had no plans for me. So I’m grateful for them moving me and letting me have an opportunity,” he said. “Once I got here, the Bobcats just giving me a chance to play, it’s been great. I’m trying to make the most of it and trying to help the team improve and hopefully win some more games.”
McRoberts, 26, who will be a free agent after the season, sounded open to returning to Charlotte despite the team’s struggles.
Dunlap views McRoberts as a piece of the rebuilding efforts and hopes he’ll be re-signed.
“A lot of that depends on Josh’s appetite to want to be here and how they do that upstairs. That’s not my area,” Dunlap said. “But certainly from my view, he fits.”
McRoberts, a part of playoff teams the past two seasons with the Pacers and Lakers, said it has been tough playing for a pair of non-contending teams this season.
“You never know what’s going to happen. You hope your play earns some looks, in terms of respect from other teams. I think I have that a little bit,” McRoberts said. “I’ve been in a couple tough situations lately. But I signed for a couple years in L.A. last year, (and) it wasn’t too long ago I was starting on a playoff team. To be able to show I can still do that and still contribute and be a (big) part of the franchise is something that can only help.”
The Bobcats, a season after finishing with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, enter Tuesday’s game at Memphis trailing Orlando (19-59) by a half-game for the league’s worst record. With five games left, McRoberts said it would be nice for the Bobcats to pass his former team and avoid another dubious distinction.
“I’d like to do that and be able to go back and tell some of those guys about it. Not seriously, (but) give Jameer (Nelson) a hard time or something like that,” McRoberts said. “You never want to be the worst team. That’s something to shoot for that’s out there. I’d love to be able to do that.”