Gerald Henderson figured something big was up as he awoke from a late-afternoon nap June 24. His phone was suddenly packed with new text messages and emails.
He figured the first one to read was from his agent. The message was brief and pointed: “You’re being moved. Call me.”
This was no shock. In his six seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, Henderson came to recognize trades are this franchise’s most common move. Since the expansion franchise’s inception the summer of 2004, this front office has made 38 deals.
So when Henderson was informed he and forward Noah Vonleh would be sent to the Portland Trail Blazers in return for Nic Batum, he took it in stride.
“I’d say not much of a surprise,” said Henderson, who was the Hornets’ longest-tenured player before the trade. “I’d seen a whole lot of teammates traded. I guess the only surprise was me opting in (to a final $6 million season on his contract) and then it happened so soon.
“It was not so much about being traded as where I was going. This is a contract year. I wanted to be at a place with opportunity, a good organization and potentially a chance to win. I got all those things in Portland.”
Reminiscent of Wallace departure
Four seasons earlier Henderson’s then-mentor, Gerald Wallace, was also traded to the Trail Blazers. The last thing Wallace did before departing was tell Stephen Jackson to watch out for Henderson.
Now Henderson is similarly leaving behind deep ties. Point guard Kemba Walker is one of his best friends, and he’s also close with small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Team owner Michael Jordan has acted as another mentor. He became tight with strength-and-conditioning coach Matt Friia and head athletic trainer Steve Stricker, who kept him strong and fit over 82-game seasons.
Also he’d developed a respect for Hornets coach Steve Clifford that transcended whether he was a starter or a reserve in the previous two seasons.
“Cliff is my kind of coach,” Henderson said. “He’s all about the work. He puts so much into the job. You could tell during the season when he hadn’t slept.
“Cliff is an intense cat. He’d tell you when you were playing well and he’d tell you when you weren’t. But you always knew where you stood. He’s transparent.”
Serving homeless children
Henderson might no longer be a Hornet, but he intends to remain a Charlottean. Six years in, it feels like home, just down the road from where he played college ball at Duke. To that end, he’ll have his second annual charity golf tournament Monday at Trump National in Mooresville.
The tournament will again benefit “A Child’s Place,” which serves homeless children in the Charlotte area. Henderson grew up in the Philadelphia area in a wealthy family after his father played 13 NBA seasons. He says the options he had make him conscious of the struggle other kids have financially reaching their potential.
“All kids have talent, whether it’s academic or the arts or sports,” Henderson said. “It’s just unfair not to be able to maximize that talent.”
Now it’s Henderson’s challenge to maximize his talent in Portland. The advantage he’s always had in Charlotte is familiarity; he might have played for four head coaches, but he was always headed to the same facility, a 10-to-15 minute drive away.
He’s curious and invigorated regarding the unknown. The Trail Blazers tore up their roster once it became apparent star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t re-signing there. Portland gave point guard Damian Lillard a five-year, $120 million contract extension and the other four starters from last season have scattered around the NBA.
Henderson appears penciled in as the new starting shooting guard.
“Trades are part of this business,” Henderson concluded. “You can’t think about the what-ifs, what this team could have been. You just start over.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell
The second-annual Gerald Henderson charity golf tournament starts Monday at 10 a.m. at Trump National with a shotgun start. Twenty-three celebrities and 130 participants played in the initial event. Last summer the tournament raised over $70,000 for “A Child’s Place,” which aids homeless youths in the Charlotte area. Donations will be accepted at www.childrenfamily.org/donate