The acquisition of Gary Neal from the Milwaukee Bucks may pay dividends for the Charlotte Bobcats if he is able to do what it takes to get on the court.
Neal and Luke Ridnour will return to Milwaukee on Sunday to face the team that traded them last month as the Bobcats seek a fourth straight win.
Milwaukee (13-53) sent Neal and Ridnour to Charlotte (32-34) on Feb. 20 for Jeff Adrien and Ramon Sessions. Neal complained about his role with the Bucks and clashed with coach Larry Drew and center Larry Sanders, who is out indefinitely with a fractured orbital bone.
Neal was benched by Bobcats coach Steve Clifford in Wednesday’s 98-85 win at Washington for an ”internal team matter.” He sandwiched 19-point efforts around that benching, making 6 of 10 shots in Friday’s 105-93 victory over Minnesota.
”I’ve never been traded in the middle of the season before, so that has been tough,” Neal said. ”That is what I can bring to the team is scoring, but you also want to fit in. You don’t want to come in with the second team and think that you can shoot all of the shots. It was a feeling-out process and so far I have done a good job.”
Neal is averaging 12.8 points on 45.5 percent shooting for Charlotte after averaging 10.0 on 39.0 percent for Milwaukee. Ridnour has seen his minutes drop from an average of 21.2 with the Bucks to 12.6 for the Bobcats.
Sessions has seen his scoring average rise from 10.5 with Charlotte to 12.8 with Milwaukee while Adrien’s scoring average is 8.8 with his new team after 2.3 with his old one.
The best player on the court for either team is Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, who is averaging 25.7 points and 13.0 rebounds during this win streak.
”They brought me here to be a double-double guy, a 20-10 guy, and I’m just living up to my contract,” said Jefferson, who inked a three-year, $40.5 million deal this past offseason.
The Bobcats hold the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference as they try to sweep the season series from the Bucks for the first time. Jefferson has averaged 22.7 points on 55.4 percent shooting in the season’s three meetings.
Charlotte ended a 10-game losing streak at Milwaukee with a 96-72 victory Nov. 23. The Bucks’ starters combined for 18 points in that contest, although two of them are no longer with the club and a third, O.J. Mayo, has not seen action in the Bucks’ last three games despite not appearing to be injured.
Milwaukee completed a winless three-game trip with Saturday’s 115-94 loss to New York, which shot 55.3 percent – the fourth-highest percentage allowed by the Bucks this season.
”I thought we had no real defensive presence,” Drew said.
Brandon Knight was held to 14 points after averaging 22.5 over his previous four games.
Milwaukee is 15-2 all-time at home against Charlotte, but 2-15 in the second half of back-to-back games.