ASHEVILLE A few games into Byron Mullens Charlotte Bobcats career, then-coach Paul Silas delivered the bad news.
Its no secret anymore, Silas warned.
The secret was Mullens remarkable shooting range for a 7-footer. The proof that scouting reports caught up to Mullens came in a game against the Orlando Magic. Suddenly forward Ryan Anderson was guarding him, not center Dwight Howard, so Mullens couldnt just fade outside the lane and not have his opponent give chase.
Mullens range was particularly impressive Thursday in an intrasquad scrimmage at UNC Asheville. Mullens hit four 3-pointers, all of them swishes. He was the last player off the court at Friday morning practice, putting up an extra 20 3s before the bus left for the team hotel.
New Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap likes that Mullens is a 3-point shooter. He just wants to make sure Mullens isnt only a 3-point shooter.
We believe in that phase of his game its easy to evaluate. But we also know he can post up, Dunlap said. That allows him to get fouled and hes a fairly good passer from the post. We know he needs to improve that ability.
Mullen knows it, too. It was apparent during games in the Las Vegas summer league that he was committed to rolling to the basket after setting a screen, rather than defaulting to a jump shot. Just as importantly, he looked more engaged at the defensive end, which has never been his strength. He took to the half-court trap Dunlap experimented with, obscuring passing lanes with his length.
Though this is Mullens fourth NBA season, he never really played until the Bobcats acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder last December. Hes still learning nuances, and now hes on his second coach as a Bobcat.
So far Dunlap has him exclusively at power forward, rather than switching back and forth from center. Mullens likes concentrating on one position, but power forward is full of decisions in Dunlaps system.
Moving to 4, I need to be a lot quicker on my feet for those switches. I end up guarding point guards and shooting guards, Mullens described. Im working at it, but it takes time. I played so little before, Im still figuring it out.
What comes naturally is setting up along the perimeter as a target for point guard Kemba Walker. Walker continuously penetrated Thursday, took a jump stop, then flipped the ball back to Mullens.
All I had to do was stay shot ready, Mullens said.
Mullens gets Dunlaps point about posting up more. Playing power forward means Mullens will often be guarded by a smaller opponent, so hell have an advantage near the rim.
Dunlap believes Mullens can raise his scoring average well above last seasons 9.3 points, but that requires him to create more free-throw attempts.
He premeditates some things at times, Dunlap said of Mullens jump-shooting.
Guys who go from 8 or 10 (points per game) to 16, those guys get to the charity stripe. Melo (New York star Carmelo Anthony) is at the very tippy-top because he goes to the line 12 times a game. To do that, hes got to go down to the right block. Were campaigning with (Mullens) thats the place for him to be.