Small ball might not be the main course for the Charlotte Bobcats this season, but its definitely on the buffet table.
That was apparent from the lineups for Thursdays 100-90 preseason loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Coach Mike Dunlap started a backcourt of point guards Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions, played shooting guards Gerald Henderson and Reggie Williams mostly at small forward and tried rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as an undersized power forward.
The good in that was a 20-point lead four minutes into the second half, off improved shooting and ball-movement. The bad was a late collapse on the boards; the Bobcats were outrebounded in the second half 30-18.
The Bobcats are now 1-6 in the preseason with one last exhibition Friday night in Dallas against the Mavericks. Their season-opener is a week later at home against the Indiana Pacers.
Dunlap happened on playing Walker and Sessions together in the fourth quarter of Tuesdays loss to the Miami Heat. He liked what he saw (Walker and Sessions scored 24 each) and felt Sessions could defend a shooting guard. So he tried them together as starters Thursday.
The results were more mixed this time. Combined they shot 10-of-32 from the field. However, they also combined for 12 assists, and in the first half the Bobcats were humming along offensively: A 55-43 lead built on 8-of-15 shooting from 3-point range and 12 Bucks turnovers.
I like it a lot, Walker said of the small-ball unit. But when he goes small weve got to help the bigs on the rebounds. And push the tempo; thats the point of it.
Walker had a strong all-around game with 20 points, seven assists and zero turnovers in 40 minutes. Its clear he took to what Dunlap told him in training camp about not leaving his feet in the lane without a plan. Walker made one particularly good pass when he drove baseline, saw big man Byron Mullens above the key, and found him for a wide-open 3-pointer.
Everything fell apart when the Bobcats stopped making shots; they were 13-of-45 from the field in the second half, generating just 19 points over the games last 16 minutes.
That didnt discourage Dunlap from this small-ball approach. It reinforced the idea that he has to find unconventional ways to keep his better scorers mostly guards and small forwards on the floor.
Our team is built such that weve got to play some small ball to get some power at the offensive end, Dunlap said. I like our smalls. I just have to figure it all out.