The 2012-13 season couldn't get here any faster for the Charlotte Bobcats.
A season after finishing with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, the Bobcats get back to work tonight versus the Indiana Pacers at Time Warner Cable Arena. A new head coach in Mike Dunlap and some fresh faces on the roster could bring the Bobcats back to respectability.
"I hope we pressure the heck out of the ball," Dunlap said during training camp. "Secondly, offensively, I hope that off that pressure, when we do get deflections or steals, we run."
The Bobcats were run out of the building by opponents in almost every game last season, finishing with a 7-59 record in a lockout-shortened campaign. They hope Michael Kidd-Gilchrest, the Kentucky product and No. 2 pick in this past draft, will provide long-tern stability.
Kidd-Gilchrest is expected to be the new face of the franchise as soon as he gets acclimated to the pace of the league. Gerald Henderson is back and led Charlotte with 15.1 PPG last season. Second-year guard Kemba Walker had 12.1 points and 4.4 assists in all 66 games.
Forward Byron Mullens averaged a team-best 15.0 points and 7.8 rebounds in the preseason. Ben Gordon was added in the offseason and will provide stability and veteran leadership to the young Bobcats, who won last year's season opener, before losing four in a row.
Meanwhile, the Pacers are preseason favorites to finish in the top of the Eastern Conference and backed their supporters with a season-opening 90-88 win at Toronto on Wednesday.
George Hill sank the game-winning shot with 2.1 seconds remaining and finished with eight points. David West carried the offensive load with a game-high 25 points for the Pacers, who overcame a 10-point hole in the fourth quarter.
"West put us on his shoulders and led us to victory," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They had 10 steals on us in the first half. We just needed to stop turning the ball over."
Paul George contributed a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Roy Hibbert added 14 points and nine boards in the victory.
The Pacers played without forward Danny Granger, who is out indefinitely with knee soreness. They won three in a row to start last season. Gerald Green is starting in place of Granger and registered just six points. Green, though, played a team-high 37 minutes.
Indiana has won six straight regular-season road games.
The Pacers swept Charlotte, 3-0, last season and are riding a nine-game winning streak in the series. Indiana has won three in a row as the visitor in this matchup.