LAS VEGAS This looked and sounded military:
A single water break in two hours of strenuous exercise. Speak only when spoken to. Eye contact with the instructor isnt optional. Expect to be critiqued, and always be ready with an answer for why you did what you did.
This wasnt Marine boot camp. It was the first day of summer league practice in Mike Dunlaps tenure as Charlotte Bobcats coach. You knew something was different from former Bobcats coach Paul Silas laid-back approach when Dunlap called a dozen players into a circle, yelling eyes up! to demand rapt attention.
Its easy to intimidate the eight or so free agents just hoping for an invitation to training camp in October. But Dunlap had the same attention from the four Bobcats under contract. They see a guy intent on helping them get better. The criticism is balanced with encouragement.
I think right now hes tearing us down and then building us back up to what he wants us to be, said forward-center Byron Mullens, entering his fourth NBA season.
What I love about him is he stays on me. If he sees me slacking even if I dont know Im slacking hell stop play and let you know in front of everybody. But before he gets done talking, hell say, Good job.
Dunlap is similar to former Bobcats coach Larry Brown but without so much edge. Like Brown, Dunlap is intricate about every facet of basketball: Hell tell a player to lift his chin 4 inches while shooting, to be more focused on the rim. Hell correct a player for standing just inside the 3-point line while shooting, rather than step back for maximum effect. Hell question whats the point of setting a screen for a shooter if that shooter is reluctant to shoot.
But heres where the similarities end: Browns perfectionism bled into exasperation and then negativity. Dunlap is demanding without being so abrasive.
I just like his attitude, the way he talks to us, said point guard Kemba Walker. Hes a fun guy to be around, even when hes getting on us.
Dunlap is assembling an offense tailor-made for Walker. During his job interview, Dunlap described a series of drag screens plays that freed Steve Nash in Phoenix and Chris Paul in New Orleans as a means to help Walker get to the rim during the first eight seconds of a possession.
Hes letting me play how I used to play at Connecticut, Walker said. Attack, score, be aggressive, get fouled and find guys. Have fun.
Silas wanted to run more last season, but he had limited results. For now, at least, Dunlap wont allow an alternative to running.
Were going to get the ball down, instead of like last year when we got into our offense with 10 to 12 seconds left on the (shot) clock, Mullens said. Now were into our offense with 20 to 18 seconds left. Its going to be fast-paced, so you better be in shape.
Dunlap hasnt been a head coach since 2006, when he left Division II Metro State in Denver to be a Nuggets assistant. But he doesnt lack conviction about who he is or how hell function overseeing the Bobcats.
Detail is all I know. I like simplicity with detail, Dunlap concluded.
We wont have a thick playbook. Offensively, first-and-foremost, is the pass. I believe in the pass. Thats a trademark to be developed over time.
Defensively, I love ball pressure. Weve got to do it the right way, so were not fouling all the time, but people should say, They really get after it.
It sure looked that way Tuesday.
• Rick Brunson has started as a Bobcats assistant, after coming over from the Chicago Bulls. Also, Stephen Silas will be retained from the previous coaching staff, according to an informed source. Another possible assistant coach, Stacey Augmon, visited practice Tuesday on Nevada-Las Vegas campus.
• Dunlap said hell coach the Bobcats in their five games at the Las Vegas Summer League. Typically an assistant coach runs the team in summer-league games, but this is an exception.
• The Bobcats will practice twice a day on UNLVs campus until their Friday game against the Sacramento Kings (10 p.m. EDT). Then theyll average a game every other day, practicing on off days.