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Charlotte Wraps Up Camp in Impressive Fashion

-- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 10:13 p.m. 10/5/08

Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
Fans packed into Trask Coliseum at UNC-Wilmington
to watch the Bobcats open practice and scrimmage.

The Bobcats wrapped up training camp on Sunday night in Wilmington with an open practice and scrimmage at Trask Coliseum. The following are some notes from the last day of camp:

  • Thanks a lot to the city of Wilmington. For the third-straight year, the city has welcomed the Bobcats to camp with open arms and continued to show its support for Bobcats basketball. Despite the fact that UNC-Wilmington went on Fall Break on Friday, Bobcats fans still packed the gym to get a glimpse of some of their favorite athletes – with many decked out in their favorite Bobcats gear.
  • So who were the loudest cheers for? To no one’s surprise, the two University of North Carolina players – Raymond Felton and Sean May – drew the loudest ovations during introductions, but Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace were a close second. These fans obviously love their Bobcats – not just former Tar Heels. That being said though, the cheers that went up for new Head Coach Larry Brown arguably might have drowned out those of the players.
  • Speaking of the fans, the fan quote of the night came from a gentleman sitting behind me who called out, “Matt, you’re French Toast,” after rookie Alexis Ajinca swatted away one of Matt Carroll’s shots during the open practice. That might stick – it’s kind of catchy.
  • Emeka Okafor went though some stretching but did not participate in the open practice or scrimmage. He sat this one out with some soreness in his lower back but did stay on the bench to cheer on his teammates.
  • If the regular season started today, I’m firmly convinced that Jason Richardson would be ready to go without having to shake off any rust in the preseason. He’s been working out in Charlotte for months, and the extra work appears to be paying off as he looks to be in regular-season form. He finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-14 shooting from the field and threw down two monster dunks that got the crowd on its feet. You can check both dunks out in our video from the open practice and scrimmage.
  • Every day I’ve watched these guys practice, I’ve been more and more impressed with rookies D.J. Augustin and Alexis Ajinca.
    Augustin is one of the most level-headed rookies I’ve seen take the court – he’s seeing the court well, making most of the right decisions and doesn’t appear to get shaken up when things break down around him. He finished with nine points and seven assists but still made his share of rookie mistakes, finishing with five turnovers, but he’s still going to be a great weapon off the bench.
    Ajinca told me about two weeks ago that one of his goals in his rookie season was to “block every shot” when he’s on the court. I laughed and told him he might be setting his expectations a little too high, but he should still turn away a good amount this season. But that’s not what has been the most impressive to me. What has been is how good he’s been in traffic in the paint. Any time there’s a scramble underneath the basket, it’s not surprising to see Ajinca’s long arms emerge and snatch the rebound. I’ve also been pleasantly shocked at how aggressive he’s been underneath. Although it often looks like he’s running down the court on stilts, he has not been getting pushed around inside much. This kid is tougher than I thought.
    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    Over 50 members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of
    Wilmington attended the Gatorade Fitness Rally.
  • The Black Team – Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Sean May, Nazr Mohammed, Matt Carroll, Ryan Hollins and Donell Taylor – ended up winning the scrimmage portion of the session, defeating the White Team – D.J. Augustin, Adam Morrison, Jared Dudley, Jermareo Davidson, Alexis Ajinca, Shannon Brown, Marcus Williams and Andre Brown – 56-47.
    “We weren’t going to let them beat us,” laughed Richardson. “Any time we play, it doesn't matter if it’s in practice, in pickup games over the summer or in scrimmages like this, we’re going to try to win.
  • Sean May and Adam Morrison took another step forward in the scrimmage. As May pointed out, it was the first time they had been on the court in a five-on-five situation with referees calling things like a regular game since their respective knee injuries last season. May finished with nine points and five rebounds in 34 minutes of play, while Morrison scored nine points and turned it over only once in 25 minutes.
  • Alexis Ajinca played 39 of 40 minutes, and D.J. Augustin played 37 minutes, but this wasn’t all they did on this day. They teamed with teammate Marcus Williams, Bobcats scout Dennis Nutt and Director of Player Development Dell Curry to put on the Gatorade Fitness Rally for more than 50 members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wilmington. Check out this video to see more on a great afternoon of layups, passing, jumping rope and agility drills.
  • The Bobcats weren’t the only ones who made the trip from Charlotte. Rufus and seven of the Lady Cats also made the trip out and spent time taking pictures with and talking (well, the Lady Cats talked) to fans.


    Bobcats Enjoy Team Outing

    -- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 11:15 p.m. 10/4/08

    With the Bobcats scrimmage upcoming on Sunday, Head Coach Larry Brown put his team through an intense workout on Saturday morning before opting to cancel Saturday night's practice and let the players have a team outing at Ten Pin Alley in Wilmington.
    While there, the players enjoyed games of bowling, pool and even performed on the karaoke machine. Check out this highlight video I put together of the team outing to see just what the players were up to. In this blog I figured I would let the players speak for themselves.


    Charlotte's Shooters Impressing Brown

    -- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 9:07 p.m. 10/3/08

    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    Adam Morrison hasn't missed a practice in four days.

    After getting the night off on Thursday, the Bobcats were back at it full bore on Friday, taking the court for two practice sessions. Here’s what I noticed:

  • Bobcats Head Coach Larry Brown is visibly impressed after four days of camp with just how well his team can shoot the ball and with how many shooters he’s got up and down the roster.
    “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that shot it any better,” said Brown after the morning practice. “Detroit shot it great, but we didn’t score a lot – we shut people down but still shot it great. In Indiana, when you have Reggie (Miller), no matter what they say your team can shoot the ball because it’s Reggie. In Philadelphia, we shot a high percentage – Allen (Iverson) didn’t necessarily, but when he missed, we had a great percentage. Because he commanded so much attention, he got other guys layups. Nobody took bad shots (on that team) and nobody took a lot of shots. On this team, I have to find that balance, where I don’t prohibit Adam (Morrison), Matt (Carroll) and Jason (Richardson) from taking shots.”
    Brown also admitted that he was not really aware of how many shooters he had here in Charlotte when he took the job.
    “I had no idea,” he said. “I watched D.J. (Augustin) in college, and I never thought that he was a shooter, but I’m watching him (make shots now). Raymond (Felton) – I think has just improved his shooting over the course of his three years in the league. I always thought Jason could shoot the ball, but he even shoots it better that I thought. Matt, I thought could shoot it, but he shoots it better than I thought. And Sean (May) is a surprise to me. He can shoot it, too.”
  • Through four days of camp and seven practices, Adam Morrison has yet to miss a minute of action as he continues on his comeback trail after missing all of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
    “The fact that he’s been able to go every practice, for two-a-days especially, is encouraging,” said Brown. “Where he was, coming off that injury, I didn’t know what to expect in practice – if he’d be ready. But I think he’s ready. He’s just got to get some confidence back in terms of his knee. He’s just got to play… I think he gets better daily.”
  • The Bobcats might be tired after taking the court so often over the past four days, but as soon as practice begins, it’s hard to notice. Friday night’s practice was arguably the best practice of training camp so far. The rise in energy and intensity was obvious as the team worked solidly through every drill. Another positive sign – Head Coach Brown, who has been known to talk from start to finish in practice, could often be seen observing from center court with a smile on his fact that seemed to say, “These guys are starting to get it.” It’s still going to be a long way to go from here, but there’s definitely progress being made.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen professional athletes fight so hard to get out of doing 10 pushups like I did on Friday night. The Bobcats run drill where they break up into three teams and are awarded points for defensive stop. The first one to five wins, and after D.J. Augustin, Shannon Brown, Jason Richardson, Jermareo Davidson and Emeka Okafor swept through the first set, 5-0-0, to avoid having to do the 10 pushups the defensive intensity was ratcheted up for round two. Raymond Felton, Jared Dudley, Gerald Wallace, Sean May and Ryan Hollins simply refused to fold, despite falling behind 4-2-1 and rattled off three-straight stops to win the contest. Without question, the Bobcats are looking to be a defensive force this season, and it’s something the guys are going to take pride in.
  • The guys also seem loose in training camp this season, despite being flooded with new information and running themselves into the ground. However, there have also been some memorable moments of levity – like on Friday night when D.J. Augustin connected on an alley-oop to Matt Carroll that he almost was able to slam down. “Air Carroll’s” ups drew multiple oohs and aahs from his teammates and big smiles from Brown and Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan.
  • As for the injury update – Andre Brown (strained groin) was held out of both sessions, while Sean May (rest) and Ryan Hollins (strained groin) missed the morning session. Veteran Nazr Mohammed also missed his first session of camp, sitting out the evening practice with some stiffness and soreness.
  • Just a quick plug here – if you’re ever in Wilmington and have a hankering to find a good seafood place, head down to The Oceanic on Wrightsville Beach. A group of us went there tonight, and their seafood platter of fresh shrimp, scallops, grouper and a lump crab cake was unreal. Every one of us left completely satisfied, including Bobcats Television Sideline Reporter Stephanie Ready, who got the biggest crab legs I’ve ever seen and was nice enough to share “George” with the rest of the group.


    Bobcats Getting a Well-Deserved Break

    -- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 5:14 p.m. 10/2/08

    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    After five practices in three days, the Bobcats are getting
    Thursday night off.

    After five practices through two-and-a-half days, it was evident that the Bobcats were in need of some rest following the morning session, and Head Coach Larry Brown obliged by giving the guys Thursday night off because as he said, “They’ve earned it.” But that doesn’t mean the Bobcats will be hitting the town in Wilmington tonight. Most of the talk was about going back to the hotel, sleeping, eating and going back to sleep. That would probably be the best idea, because as one player told me, when you get a practice off, you can expect the next one to probably be the hardest one of camp – so Friday could be tough if you don’t use this time to recover.
    Here are some more of my observations from Thursday:

  • Someone asked me last night who I though has looked the best in camp so far. That’s kind of a tough question, because guys like Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton have looked impressive as they have accepted Coach Brown’s challenge to set a good example and push their teammates in camp.
    “Jason, Gerald and Raymond have set the tone,” said Brown after Thursday’s morning practice. “They came to see me before camp started and asked me what I wanted. I just told them I wanted them to take control of the team, allow us to coach and they could handle all of the other things. They’ve done that. That’s why I think our efforts have been so great and you’ve seen that enthusiasm.”
    That being said, it’s been hard not to notice what Matt Carroll has been doing. Good things could be in store for Carroll coming off the bench this year with D.J. Augustin and the second unit. Augustin has showed in camp he’s going to find Carroll, and if Carroll continues to drain shots the way he has been these past few days, it’s going to be tough to slow either of them down.
  • Special thanks to rookie Alexis Ajinca who continues to mess with me in camp. I think it’s because he didn’t want me to let anyone know he’s carrying around a My Little Pony bag in camp, but Ajinca continues to show the youthful energy of a 20-year-old kid. You might notice the camera shaking a bit early on in D.J. Augustin’s third rookie diary, thanks to the fact that Alexis had a grand old time sticking his fingers in my ear, taking off my cap and covering my eyes with it and messing up my hair while I was conducting the interview. I’m going to have to find a way to get him back for this one.
  • Speaking of pranksters, Jared Dudley has been surprisingly quiet thus far throughout training camp. After having to order 20+ pizzas and make a trip to pick up over 20 copies of the newest DVD releases in last year’s camp, I kind of expected him to be making this year’s crop of rookies earn their keep. But that hasn’t been the case. Why?
    “I’ve been told that technically I’m still a rookie – at least until the first game of the regular season, so I’m gonna watch myself,” said Dudley. “They’ve even got a term for it – they’re calling me a ‘Vookie’ because I’m a veteran rookie.”
    I had to fight the urge to ask Dudley if that makes fellow second-year man Jermareo Davidson Han Solo or not.
  • Just a quick injury report - the only player to miss Thursday's morning session was forward Andre Brown, who has a strained groin.
  • The North Carolina contingent keeps growing at Bobcats practices. Yesterday I told you that Dean Smith was in attendance, and he was back today with current Tar Heels Head Coach Roy Williams checking things out.
    “I love it,” laughed Raymond Felton. “It’s like a Carolina reunion, but I’ll tell you what, after practice they sure like pointing out all the little things I might be doing wrong, so there’s definitely some pressure there.”
  • How's this for a great deal? Individual tickets for the 2008-09 Charlotte Bobcats home schedule will go on sale to the general public Tuesday, October 7 at 10 a.m. Tickets for all 43 home games can be purchased at the Time Warner Cable Arena box office, online at bobcats.com, or by phone at 1-800-4NBA-TIX.
    An exclusive pre-sale event will take place for subscribers of the team’s free weekly email, “Beyond the Baseline”, on Friday, October 3. Subscribers will receive an email with a log-in code and password for Friday’s pre-sale. Non-subscribers can still sign up to receive “Beyond the Baseline” now to become eligible for the pre-sale.


    Memorable Moments at Camp on Wednesday

    -- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 8:23 p.m. 10/1/08

    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    Gerald Wallace has looked impressive in the first two days of camp.

    After an intense first day of practice at the Bobcats 2008 Training Camp presented by Gatorade on Monday, it was realistic to expect the bodies to be sore and perhaps a little slower moving as Day 2 tipped off on Wednesday. But for a team that mostly has been working out together for more than a month, that wasn’t the case. There was no letup on Tuesday as Head Coach Larry Brown had the Bobcats off and running early, and by Wednesday night’s practice, all 17 guys in camp were on the court. Here are some observations from Day 2:

  • After spending time the last two season’s fluctuating between the three and four spots, Gerald Wallace is looking very comfortable getting up and down the floor and seemingly entrenched in the three spot.
    “Gerald can play some four,” Brown smiled. “I was teasing him at the end of practice when we were running some scripted plays. Sean (May) sat out a little and Ryan (Hollins) was not practicing, so I said, ‘You do the four.’ He said, ‘No, no, no. I’m trying to learn the three.’”
    Brown also doesn’t seem to want to take away what Wallace does best on the court, but continues to stress the importance of team defense.
    “I’m really impressed with him,” said Brown. “He has the athletic ability, quickness and grit to be a phenomenal defender. He should be as good of a rebounding small forward as there is in the league. I think by accident he’ll just score running around the break and going to the boards… I’ve heard that he gambles a lot, but I’ve coached a lot of those guys. As long as he does it within the concept of the team, I’m alright.”
    Wallace understands the message his new coach is sending.
    “He’s trying to break me out of the one-man defense thing,” smiled Wallace. “He wants all five guys to play defense and wants me to crash the boards.”

    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    Former North Carolina Head Coach Dean Smith
    (third from left) was at Bobcats practice Wednesday.

  • Without question, the connection between North Carolina Head Coach Dean Smith and Larry Brown, who played under Smith and was on his staff as an assistant coach, runs deep. Smith came to town on Tuesday night and had dinner with the Bobcats coaching staff and was in attendance at both of Wednesday’s practices. After the morning practice Brown acknowledged that he continues to use Smith as a sounding board.
    “All the time,” said Brown. “He’s always real careful and doesn’t ever want to feel like he’s over-stepping his bounds, but everything that I know and believe in came right out of his mouth.”
  • Sean May was limited for the first time in training camp, going sparingly in the morning session just to give his body some time to recover. However, he was back at it in the evening session, showing he’s not afraid of the contact.
    “Definitely not,” acknowledged May. “The contact is what I need, especially for the mental part of it – just being around guys and getting hit.”
  • Ryan Hollins was unable to go in the morning practice but was back on the court in the evening on a limited basis with his strained groin.
  • Chances are Shannon Brown won’t have a better 48-hour period than he’s had over the past two days. On Monday, Brown’s girlfriend gave birth to a healthy baby boy and he was back in camp for Tuesday morning’s session beaming from ear to ear while accepting congratulations from his teammates. His day got even better after the night practice as he took on Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan in a brief one-on-one session that most players could only dream about.
    How did Brown fare?
    He lost to Jordan after arguing to no avail that the basketball icon fouled him on game point. “That’s a foul,” pleaded Brown.
    “I’m old, so I get that,” Jordan laughed. That gave the ball back to Jordan, who drained the game-winning shot over Brown from near the top of the arc.
    “He cheated,” Brown said to his teammates, coaching staff and others still gathered around to watch the game.
    “You know what,” Jordan told Brown, “Bryon Russell said the same thing.”
    As if you didn’t know, it was Russell whom Jordan hit the game-winner over with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Final against the Utah Jazz, giving Jordan his sixth title wit the Chicago Bulls in his last NBA game.
    There’s no doubt that Shannon Brown will always have this story to tell his son about.


    Coach Brown Has Guys Off and Running

    -- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 7:46 p.m. 9/30/08

    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    The Bobcats have shown they are ready to work in the first day
    of Training Camp.

    So this is what Head Coach Larry Brown's training camp workouts look like?

    The Bobcats opened 2008 Training Camp on Tuesday morning with a non-contact morning workout - one after which Brown admitted, "I hate non-contact workouts." Following Monday’s evening workout, it was easy to see why Brown felt that way – he wanted to his guys to get after it and “Play Hard,” not just go through the motions of running through non-contact drills. Charlotte got its work in Tuesday night, and it’s going to be interesting to see if any of the guys are dragging come Wednesday morning. That being said, here were a few things I noticed on Day 1:

  • For all those Bobcats fans out there wondering about Sean May’s and Adam Morrison’s progress coming back from season-ending injuries in 2007-08, Monday was a good sign. Neither May or Morrison was limited at all in either session and both kept up the pace with their teammates in both non-contact drills and full-court action.
  • Only two Bobcats were absent from Monday’s workouts. Shannon Brown was not in Wilmington, as his girlfriend gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and he is expected to join the team soon. Ryan Hollins sat out Monday’s action with a groin strain, but he wasn’t just an observer. He got plenty of work in with Strength and Conditioning Coach Michael Irr on the sidelines tossing the medicine ball around and using the elliptical machine.
  • It’s obvious that Head Coach Larry Brown has completely put his trust in his assistant coaches and veteran leaders. Through most of both practices, the players were broken up into two groups. Coaches Dave Hanners, LaSalle Thompson and Herb Brown spent their time working with Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Raymond Felton, Nazr Mohammed, Sean May, Matt Carroll and Adam Morrison, while coaches Jeff Capel and Phil Ford worked on the other end of the court with D.J. Augustin, Jared Dudley, Alexis Ajinca, Jermareo Davidson, Andre Brown, Donell Taylor and Marcus Williams. This freed up Head Coach Larry Brown to move between groups frequently, knowing that his assistants had things under control as well.
    Head Coach Larry Brown also made it clear in his post-practice media session, that he’s relying heavily on his captains – Richardson, Wallace and Felton – to help police the team and serve as a conduit to the coaching staff. On Monday night, Brown even had open talks with the captains about what team rules would be throughout camp and the preseason.
  • Alexis Ajinca can get up and down the court better than your average seven-footer, but don’t expect him to be running a point-center position any time soon. He’s going to need work on his lob passes, just ask Andre Brown, who Ajinca missed by about five feet in the evening session, drawing a good laugh from Head Coach Larry Brown.
  • Sometimes I forget how hard Raymond Felton can attack the basket. This guy gets to the rim like most 6-1 guards can’t. In the evening session, he stole the ball from D.J. Augustin, raced down the court and threw down a one-handed jam that left the few of us in attendance stunned. The thing about Felton is that this has always been a part of his game, it just doesn't come to mind at first when you think of the things he can do.
  • If there was a word of the day on Day 1,it was “run.” Rest assured, there will be no standing around or just going through the motions at one of these practices. It’s going to be interesting to see how things progress this week.


    Media Day Observations Heading into Camp

    -- Matt Rochinski, bobcats.com | 10:25 a.m. 9/30/08

    Matt Rochinski / bobcats.com
    Notice the bags D.J. Augustin and Alexis Ajinca have with them?
    They'll be carrying them throughout camp.

    It’s been a crazy 24 hours or so with Bobcats Media Day now having come to a close in Charlotte and Training Camp officially underway here in Wilmington, NC. Between covering camp and hitting the road, I was able to get up Head Coach Larry Brown’s Q&A session with the press, so take a look at it here if you haven’t had the chance. I also put up a 19-picture photo gallery from Media Day late last night, so take a few minutes to click through those yet if you haven’t had the chance.

    That being said, with everything going on yesterday, I didn’t have the chance to point out a few things of interest from Media Day:

  • First off, there’s definitely a new attitude around the Bobcats. I guess the best way to describe it is an air of anticipation and confidence. Anticipation of what’s to come this season with the core intact and new Head Coach Larry Brown at the helm, and anticipation to get things going this morning at 9 a.m. as the first practice gets underway at Trask Coliseum. I think I might have been able to toss fear in here for a moment, because from what we’ve heard and seen from Brown already, the Bobcats may think they know what to expect when Camp Brown kicks off, but I’ve got a feeling they have no idea. However, watching the guys, you can see a newfound confidence in the way they’re walking, talking and have been working out. Once they get through this camp – if they get through this camp – this team will be stronger and more sure of itself than it has ever been.
  • We’re not going to really go into how guys are looking heading into camp or what they were saying about the game as much here right now. Over the course of the past few weeks, bobcats.com has been catching up with the guys during workouts, and much of what we brought you in advance was just reiterated yesterday. Go back and check out all of our offseason workout interviews if you get the chance.
  • Here’s something new – although they weren’t wearing them at Media Day, keep an eye on our pictures and video from camp to see if you notice some strange backpacks anywhere. Thanks to a generous purchase from Jason Richardson, rookies Alexis Ajinca and D.J. Augustin will be lugging around some extra gear the next few weeks. Ajinca will be sporting a My Little Pony backpack – and rumor has it he needs to keep its hair braided – while Augustin will be wearing the fashionable Little Miss Giggles pack. It’s nice of the veterans to help make sure the rookies have enough luggage to carry their stuff around, isn’t it? We’ll catch up with D.J. in his Rookie Diary today to get his take on it.
  • How important is satellite television to Jared Dudley? Let’s just say I might have overheard that he may or may not have chopped down a tree in his apartment complex because it was blocking his satellite dish.
  • Props to Nazr Mohammed for helping out the game ops department and coming through with a greeting for the Bobcats Noche Latina Night – and he did it in Spanish.

    As for me, after Media Day, Bobcats Director of Basketball Communications B.J. Evans, Manager of Basketball Communications Josh Rosen, Senior Manager of IT Ronnie Bryant and I hit the road bound for Wilmington. While it wasn’t anything like the trip I had heading out to Las Vegas for Summer League, I did learn a few things – such as:

  • What the red light means when it comes on at a Krispy Kreme. There are few things on this earth like a hot donut.
  • There might be no better meal you can get for under five bucks than the Cookout Tray. A hamburger, hush puppies, onion rings and a sweet tea – you can’t beat that. I was just disappointed they were out of corndogs – how is a corndog a side anyway?
  • No, this trip wasn’t just about food. It was also about getting lost. We made it to Wilmington okay, but getting to the hotel was a different story. B.J., Josh and Ronnie will tell you that it had to do with the navigator on the trip, but I’ve got a different story. You try and make sense of "Take ramp onto Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway (US-74 E) toward Airport/Wrightsville Beach/NC-133 N/Burgaw." Yup, that's what I thought.


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