Former Maverick Brendan Haywood is helping turn the Charlotte Bobcats into a winning team.
By STEVE HUNTFS Southwest
DALLAS-- Brendan Haywood's stat line from the Bobcats' 90-89 win on Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte to open the 2012-13 regular season wasn't exactly eye-popping: four points, nine boards and no blocked shots in just over 31 minutes of action.
But Bobcats first-year head coach Mike Dunlap wasn't too concerned about his starting center's stat line. He saw plenty that the former Maverick big man did to help his team snap a 23-game losing streak against the Pacers on Friday night and talked about that before the start of Saturday's game at American Airlines Center.
"Well, the thing he got from Dallas is Rick [Carlisle]'s such a great defensive coach. He solidified his voice so he can anchor these games," Dunlap said. "He's able to voice what he wants in the back of the defense and see everything. So that's No. 1, use your voice. No. 2 is be strong at the rim. He's very long as we know and he can defend the rim for us when we make our mistakes and guys are penetrating on us. And three is offensively, just get some cheap buckets in there."
This isn't Haywood's first trip back to Dallas as a Bobcat as Charlotte also played at the American Airlines Center in the preseason finale for both teams. So he admits any weirdness associated with facing a team he played for over the past few seasons and was part of an NBA title with in 2011 have pretty much subsided.
"Yeah, I was here in the preseason. It's one of those things. NBA's a business. No one's ever anywhere for forever," he said. "In this business, you can be traded and coaches can be fired. So it is what it is."
The former Tar Heel joined the Bobcats this off-season after the Mavs decided to cut him loose using the amnesty clause. Being a native of North Carolina, playing so close to home was a perfect fit for the former UNC standout.
"I love playing at home. The fact that I'm from North Carolina, played my college ball at North Carolina, it's great to be back," Haywood said.
And since he's from the area, he'd definitely like to be part of a basketball renaissance of sorts, especially considering Charlotte was a playoff team just a few short years ago when Larry Brown was the Bobcats' head coach. Ironically, Brown is now about to begin his first season as the head coach of SMU, which happens to be located in Dallas.
"It's a little bit different but it's good being part of something you know it's going to mean a lot. Playoffs haven't been there that much in Charlotte," Haywood said. "Team hasn't experienced a lot of winning. So if we can get this thing turned around, it would mean a lot to the fans."
But back to the contributions the former Maverick made for the Bobcats against the Pacers, the ones that didn't show up on the stat sheet, the UNC product has been playing the game long enough to know that those little things can often lead to much bigger things, namely like wins. So he's going to keep maintaining such attention to detail and hopefully it will deliver similar dividends for a man who is heading into his 11th season in the Association.
"When you're a five, you're the last line of communications. That's something that we stress, that we let our guards know what's going on behind them. Are they by themselves? Is there a screen coming left or right? It doesn't seem like much but it means a lot when a guy has a little bit more time to anticipate a screen or if he knows he's by himself so he has to play straight up. Those little things become big things," Haywood said.
And even though Brendan has already been back at the American Airlines Center once as a visitor, he admits he doesn't know what sort of reception to expect from Mav fans. But then again, he isn't terribly concerned about whether he's cheered or booed once he's introduced to a capacity crowd for Dallas' 2012-13 home opener.
"I'm so focused on trying to get the win," Haywood said. "If they cheer, they cheer, great. I was part of a championship team here. If not, I've still got to go out and play. So it's one of those things. It is what it is. The biggest thing we have to focus on is on trying to beat the Mavericks."