The Charlotte Bobcats have made the postseason just once in the franchise's existence. They're counting on a few new additions to change the losing atmosphere and will kick off a condensed season tonight versus the Milwaukee Bucks at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Bobcats entered the league back in 2004-05 and punched their first ticket to the playoffs in 2009-10 with a team-best 44-38 mark. They went 34-48 a season ago and will play three straight games as the host to open the new campaign, followed by three in a row on the road.
Charlotte and Milwaukee pulled off a big trade over the summer, as the Bobcats acquired the seventh overall selection from Sacramento, which was Bismack Biyombo, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Congo. The Bobcats also got forward Corey Maggette from the Bucks. Milwaukee got Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston in return. Jackson, who has two years remaining in his contract and is due $9.26 million this upcoming season, averaged 18.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 67 games for the Bobcats last season.
Rookie Kemba Walker was drafted ninth over by the Bobcats and helped lead Connecticut to a national title a year ago. Head coach Paul Silas put Walker in some pretty good company when explaining owner Michael Jordan's interest in the former UConn star.
"Mike looked at Kemba and saw himself," Silas said. "Mike said, 'This guy has it.' He said if he can lead (Connecticut) to the championship then he has what I have ... and that's the determination to do it."
The team finished the season by winning 25 of the final 54 games after Silas took over for Larry Brown following a 9-19 start.
Not to add any more pressure on the young shoulders of Walker, but he will have to pick up the scoring now that Jackson is with the Bucks. Boris Diaw, D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson will help the rookie along the way. The Bobcats added center Byron Mullens from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2013. Mullens appeared in just 13 games for Oklahoma City in 2010-11, averaging a pedestrian 1.9 ppg.
Augustin (elbow) and center DeSagana Diop (Achilles surgery) are questionable tonight. Thomas (ankle) is listed as probable.
Milwaukee has to like what it sees from its roster, which has a new look with Jackson, Livingston and Mike Dunleavy playing alongside Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings. The Bucks missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years in 2010-11 and finished with a 35-47 record last season. They also signed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to a multi-year contract.
Mbah a Moute had been a restricted free agent and would have become a member of the Nuggets if the Bucks did not match the offer. In 79 games -- 52 starts -- for Milwaukee last season, Mbah a Moute averaged 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field.
The health of Bogut is always a big issue for Milwaukee and the center underwent successful surgery on his right elbow back in April. Bogut underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loss particles and scar tissue from the elbow, and played in 65 games this season, averaging 12.8 points, a career- high 11.1 rebounds and league-leading and career-best 2.6 blocks per game.
"The trauma of the injury, the nerves and the ligaments and the muscles sustained, it was a tricky process trying to mentally get back on track," said Bogut, a former No. 1 overall pick. "The blessing in disguise was the lockout."
Milwaukee will return home for two games after tonight's season opener, then will hit the road again for a five-game swing. It is 24-18 in season-opening games and took of three matchups with Charlotte a year ago. The Bucks have won nine of the last 13 games in this series, but are winless in four straight at the Bobcats.