ASHEVILLE Charlotte Bobcats point guard Ramon Sessions has had seven coaches in as many NBA seasons, so he thought hed seen and heard everything.
But one September meeting with new Bobcats coach Steve Clifford shocked him.
Clifford was describing a game the Bobcats played against the Indiana Pacers in incredible detail the score, how the game turned, minute details of the way the Bobcats and Pacers matched up that night.
It was like he was on that staff, Sessions recalled.
Sessions isnt alone in the impression Clifford spent a massive amount of time studying his new players strengths and weaknesses. Any new coach would do that to some degree, but players at training camp are impressed just how locked Clifford is on highlighting each players best attributes.
Clifford told shooting guard Gerald Henderson, just after Henderson re-signed, that he was confident Henderson could hit another level offensively. Clifford said the key was emphasizing what Henderson does best and not sweating what he didnt do so well.
In order for them to play as well as they can play, its about a confidence level, Clifford said at training camp Friday evening. Theyre going to feel most confident doing what they do best.
So our communication has to be that: If I see things I think theyd do well with, Ill throw it out. But the one thing I dont want to do is put them in things they arent comfortable with.
Henderson and Sessions find Clifford a particularly good listener; he doesnt think he has all the answers and he solicits input constantly to fine-tune what theyre doing.
Each player has a play just for their optimum performance, Sessions said. Not just a play that gets them the ball, but puts them in the spots they most want to be to score.
Is this really all that different?
Way more, Sessions said. This is my seventh coach in seven years and hes way at the top in communication. Ive been in his office more than any coach Ive played for and thats after one month. Hes a guy who wont dog you out, a coach who listens. So you feel free to express.
Henderson has played for two of the games smartest coaches in Mike Krzyzewski and Larry Brown. He sees an efficiency in Cliffords approach that is crucial in a league in which a team can play four games in five nights.
Its smart. Thats what the NBA is all about efficiency, Henderson said. Were going to run plays for guys that make the most sense. Set it up for Al (Jefferson) in the particular block he wants. Let Kemba (Walker) have a heavy load of pick-and-roll. Me mid-post and Ben (Gordon) running through all kinds of screens.
Youve got to have a plan for your players to get the most out of them. If youre just out there running plays that dont make sense for your personnel, youre not going to be a very good offensive team.
Notes: The Bobcats put individual-game tickets on sale to the general public Monday at 10 a.m., through the arena ticket office, bobcats.com and ticketmaster.com.
• The Bobcats went a single practice session Friday. Clifford said he can see the fatigue after seven practices in four days. Saturday will be the last double session of camp, then the players get Sunday off.
Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129. Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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