New Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap planned to travel the country, if not the world, to meet his players.
Then word spread how productive off-season workouts were here in Charlotte. So instead many of the players sought out Dunlap and his assistants.
We were ready to go find Ben Gordon in Chicago, Michigan, wherever he was, Dunlap recalled. Then he came to Charlotte for four (days) and stayed for 21.
We didnt have to do as much traveling because the word got out amongst them that they could get good work done in this building.
In order to change the product the Bobcats will open this season on a 23-game losing streak, four short of the NBA record Dunlap is intent on changing the culture. He wants players in Charlotte more each off-season. He cant compel them to do that, so hes enticing them with a coaching staff on-call all the time for workouts.
These guys are on the clock 24-7, said point guard Kemba Walker. If we want to shoot, they go all-out to get us some shots. Theyve been going all-out for us all summer and hopefully it helps.
The Bobcats open training camp Tuesday at UNC Asheville. They are coming off the worst season in NBA history, a 7-59 record. They have a new coaching staff and five new players projected to be in the rotation.
So getting a running start over the summer wasnt just preferable, it was crucial.
Its a change in how we do things. So far its gone along very well, said shooting guard Gerald Henderson.
In our workouts the coaches do a lot of coaching, run a lot of drills. Theyre going to different cities to work guys out. Just trying to make sure everybody is on the same page and their minds are right going into the season.
That wasnt the case in April. A young team, ravaged by injury, looked shell-shocked. Four of the last six losses were by 20 points or more. The experience was so deflating that Henderson questions if young teammates even benefitted from unexpected playing time.
Then Dunlap was hired, replacing Paul Silas. His first workday in Charlotte, Dunlap was running impromptu 3-on-3 drills last June. He hopes the drive he radiates becomes contagious.
Coach is high-energy. Hes hands-on, Henderson said. He wants his players to be like that and his coaching staff as well.
With so much to fix, Dunlap felt he couldnt wait until October to build relationships with the players. So he was prepared to fly anywhere Africa, if thats what it took to meet Bismack Biyombo or Gana Diop to spread word of who he was and what he planned.
Three reasons, Dunlap said. One was to establish lines of communication ask questions and listen, so I could accumulate some information from whomever I was working with. Two was stating expectations of what its going to be like. Three is follow-up. And the staff has been really good at that.
At each meeting Dunlap urged players to be in Charlotte more in the summer. The NFL has numerous organized off-season activities. The NBA doesnt have a comparable structure.
A lot of this is campaigning to get them here to our facility, Dunlap said. We want to create some sort of tradition that here is where our workdays are during the summer.
Some players Walker, Henderson, Matt Carroll and Cory Higgins were in Charlotte constantly. Others were in and out. But by last Wednesday 15 or more players showed up daily at Time Warner Cable Arena to scrimmage.
Its always easier if the pack is moving as one, Dunlap said.
About half the rotation wasnt on the roster last season. Draft picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor will both likely play, and veterans Gordon, Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood should all have major roles.
Any time you have new faces players, coaches youve got to make great use of your time before the season starts, said Gordon, an eight-year veteran who was traded from Detroit to Charlotte in June.
Once training camp starts its a really quick turnaround. Next thing you know Nov. 2 is here and you have opening night. They understood that and did a good job of communicating and being there whenever we needed them.