LAS VEGAS Mullie got the message.
Mullie the nickname everyone calls Charlotte Bobcats big man Byron Mullens heard coach Mike Dunlaps refrain that youll play as much as you defend. Mullens hasnt been known for defense, but during his first two games at the Las Vegas summer league, he averaged 7.5 rebounds and a blocked shot per game.
Those are quantifiable, but Mullens did something subtler moving into position, attempting to take several charges that caught Dunlaps attention.
You know what the best shot-block is? Taking a charge, Dunlap said at Tuesdays morning shootaround. When you take a charge it stops the entire team and sends (possession) the other way.
When you cover a gap (by setting up for a charge) thats the epitome of unselfishness for the entire organization.
Dunlap has said repeatedly that Mullens has the physical tools to be a better defender than he has been. Thats because he has uncommonly quick feet for a 7-footer. Lateral quickness is key to defense because moving your feet is almost always preferable to stretching your arms.
Mullens likes that Dunlap has played him primarily at power forward, rather than center. The power forward spot puts more premium on quickness, where the center is more brute strength.
Its better when Im put at (power forward), but then its also up to me to communicate well away from the basket, Mullens described. Ive got to talk and move my feet (against) the pick-and-roll game.
Communication also is important offensively, where Dunlap is coaxing Mullens to be more of a post-up player and not default so much to his jump shot. Mullens hasnt shot well in Las Vegas (33 percent during his first two games and a gruesome 2-of-14 from 3-point range), but he is developing some synergy in the post area with point guard Kemba Walker.
The post-up game is really a trust game, Dunlap described. When he gets the catch (close to the basket) and the best play is to throw it back out, hes got to feel hell get it back.
We ran an inside-out play with Kemba where (Mullens) got to score and that was good because it reinforced throwing it back to gain better position in a re-post.