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.