Staying ‘home’ is good deal for Henderson and the Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As
Gerald Henderson was reintroduced as a Charlotte Bobcat on Monday, it
was obvious he and the Bobcats’ front office wanted this conclusion all
along. It always seemed the inevitable result that Henderson would end
up back in Charlotte, but any negotiation that requires assessing
someone’s value usually ends in an awkward tap dance to the finish line.

This one required a month of posturing and negotiating with ludicrous deals popping up around the league in the meantime.

“I think it’s one of those
things where it took us a little time to get this done but I want
everyone to know that all of our intentions from the owner on down were
to get Gerald back into a Bobcat uniform,” president Rod Higgins said.
“So I’d like to reintroduce Gerald Henderson to you once again.” 

Henderson was always going to
remain in Charlotte. It’s home for him, and the front office never
wanted to let a talent they’d grown and developed depart at a position
of need for nothing. The selection of Cody Zeller in late June ensured
that the Bobcats would have to address shooting guard this summer,
whether that was Henderson or a free agent. 

But outside of a late report of
feigned interest in Monta Ellis, there weren’t any reports linking
Charlotte up to the chase for free agents like Kevin Martin, O.J. Mayo,
J.J. Redick or J.R. Smith. The reports linking Henderson to outside
organizations were minimal, too, possibly fueled by a realization that
the Bobcats would match any reasonable deal.

It’s hard to blame Henderson
for waiting it out and balking at an agreement. When free agency opens
with Tyreke Evans getting $44 million for four years, Henderson’s agent
had to wonder how out of line a general manager with a playoff ultimatum
might go for a player who averaged 23.9 points over his last 21 games
on 48-percent shooting. Especially when it appears Flip Saunders picked
up right where David Kahn left off in Minnesota by offering Chase
Budinger a three-year, $15 million deal after averaging 9.2 points per
game and shooting 41 percent from the field.

In the end, though, a desire to
be in Charlotte and a 33-percent effort from behind the arc last season
brought Henderson back to the Queen City.

“Charlotte’s really become like
a home to me. I said at the end of the season that I was looking
forward to working out a deal here again and I stuck to that,” Henderson
said. “So it was important to me to work with Rich and Rod and try to figure something out and ultimately we did.”

The Bobcats got one of the best
deals of the summer at three years, $18 million. There’s no question
that the Bobcats ultimately benefitted from the fact that the major free
agency players put their wing dollars towards shooters. Ellis saw that
and Henderson got to as well. 

Kyle Korver, 32, got a
four-year, $24 million deal. Think about that: Korver, fresh off a year
where he had a 13.93 PER, is going to be trying to guard NBA wings at
age 36 for $6 million a year because he shot 45 percent on
3-pointers last season.

Martin, 30, got four years and
$28 million. Mayo got three years, $24 million. Henderson had a far
higher PER than any of the three at 16.39, but the only difference
between those three guys and Henderson is all shot above 40 percent from
deep.

Henderson’s always had a solid
mid-range game off the bounce, but he knows the next step in his
evolution is to become the Bobcats’ perimeter threat. It’s easy to
forget that Henderson shot 10 percent higher than a season prior. A
potential jump this year to 38-40 percent shouldn’t be dismissed.

“The [3-point shot] is kind of
where the game is gone. The 3-point line is where a lot of teams try to
take advantage of and that’s something in my game that I’m continuously
working at and I’ll be doing that until the end of my career,” Henderson
said. 

“You can never be a 100-percent
3-point shooter, so you can always improve. I know that’s the direction
our team is going to, so obviously I have to roll with that. It’s
always been my nature to get closer to the basket — I’ve always kind of
played like that — but as the game evolves, my game has to evolve,
too. I’ll be working hard to improve that.”

With his new coach Steve
Clifford coming from years with Jeff Van Gundy and his four-out, one-in
system, the need for perimeter shooting is clear. Kemba Walker’s stroke
doesn’t look like a recipe for consistency, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
shoots it across his body on the way down.

Right or wrong Higgins and
general manager Rich Cho have hung their hats on Henderson and his
ability at 25 to improve that stroke. Cho said all offseason that
interior scoring, rebounding and shooting were his team’s biggest needs.
They addressed the first two with Zeller and Al Jefferson, but
committing to the long-term return of the same perimeter trio that was
near the bottom in the league a season ago shows where they saw the
biggest needs were. Small market teams that can’t go above the luxury
tax can only rely so much on offseason signings in addressing their
needs.

Cho and Higgins are largely
betting that the lack of interior scoring was so bad last season that
teams were able to divert abnormal defensive attention to the perimeter.
The spacing should be greatly improved and so should the driving lanes.
The thought of a team doubling the post a season ago was beyond
laughable. It’s not this year.

“I think with more attention on
guys down low, it frees up the perimeter a whole bunch. I think any
good team with a good big man, you’ll see a lot of the guards get a lot
more freedom and have more open shots because there’s so much
attention,” Henderson said. “I think with Al teams are going to have to
double team him, so — whether it’s me, Kemba, or Mike — we’ll have a
lot more chances for open shots on the perimeter.”

More than anything, though, the
Bobcats got a great deal because Henderson really wants to be in
Charlotte. He’s the unquestioned leader of this team and has a desire
and feeling of accountability to right the ship in Charlotte that
couldn’t have been paid for in free agency.

“You go through anything tough
and it’s easy to kind of give up on him and say you want to move on but
as bad as it got, I was part of the problem,” Henderson said. “So, for
me, it is kind of one of those things where you look at it as it can
only get better. I feel like with me coming back and the pieces that
we’ve added, we can find our way out of it.”

If the Bobcats can strike more deals like Henderson’s in the coming years, he’ll have a great chance of doing just that.