Nothin' but Net: Respect is key for Bobcats

The Charlotte Bobcats won their seventh game of the 2011-12 season on March 17 at home against the Toronto Raptors. It was the 43rd game of the season.

The Bobcats won their seventh game of the 2012-13 campaign on Nov. 11 in Washington. It was the 12th game of the season.

After a putrid 7-59 season in which the Bobcats had the worst winning percentage ever in NBA history, the turnaround in Charlotte has been one of the most amazing stories in this young season.

Most were confident the Bobcats wouldn't be as awful as last season. Those same people couldn't imagine they'd be playoff contenders either. (Personally, I suggested they should print: "The 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats: We won't be historically bad!" on their tickets.)

Michael Jordan and company sent Corey Maggette and his poor attitude packing. They brought in Ben Gordon, who is still a capable scorer and not a problem child like Maggette. Brandan Haywood was also added for some veteran leadership.

The offseason truly began with the hiring of Mike Dunlap as head coach. After an obligatory Google search to find out who Mike Dunlap was, the move was derided as bizarre.

But Dunlap had a decent reputation in league circles. Look past the jobs as an assistant at St. Johns and with the Denver Nuggets or as head coach at Metro State, which sounds like a school Hayden Fox met in "Coach," and there was a guy that the Bobcats thought could nurture a young team through hard work.

Dunlap came in and announced a completely open competition for starting jobs and playing time. He needed to instill a different attitude immediately and he did just that, starting with some positivity and accountability.

"That great unknown has created a hub-bub amongst our players," Dunlap said during training camp. "That enthusiasm is exactly what we need. We don't need cynicism. We need guys that are coming with an open mind and are ready to roll."

Philosophically, Dunlap wanted chaos.

"I hope we pressure the heck out of the ball," said Dunlap. "Secondly, offensively, I hope that off that pressure, when we do get deflections or steals, we run."

Players bought in, but how exactly has this turnaround occurred?

It's hard to pinpoint.

Having eight of their first 12 games at home has helped. They are 5-3 in those games, and have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks in Charlotte.

But the Bobcats are 2-2 on the road and are taking a two-game away winning streak into Oklahoma City on Monday night.

Offensively, the Bobcats are 17th in scoring and 28th in field-goal percentage. They are second-to-last in the league in assists with just 18.67 per game. Rajon Rondo averages five less assists than the Bobcats do.

But those numbers are easy to skew. The Bobcats don't employ a traditional point guard. Kemba Walker starts at the lead guard spot, but he is a combo, who leads the team in scoring (18.0 ppg) and the backup point guard, Ramon Sessions (17.2 ppg), is the teams' shooting guard down the stretch.

Defensively, Charlotte isn't exactly the mid-90s Knicks. They rank 20th in opponents' scoring and are 16th in field-goal percentage against, which puts them in the middle of the pack.

The Bobcats do lead the league in blocked shots, are second in steals and seventh at creating turnovers.

That goes back to Dunlap's chaos theory.

The most important thing Dunlap has brought is change. The mindset of a loser is tough to eliminate. It becomes embedded in the fiber of the organization, no matter how much the Bobcats didn't want to be treated as punchlines.

The Bobcats lost 23 games in a row to finish last season and 15 of those were by double-figures. You don't implement a new offensive system to get rid of that taste in your mouth.

That's why wins aren't what's driving Dunlap.

"We are trying to go from the losing-est organization in NBA history to an establishment where people have to respect us," said Dunlap. "I don't know anything about wins, but I do know about respect."

Now, the Charlotte Bobcats know about respect and the NBA knows to respect the Charlotte Bobcats.