Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 3/29/13
CHARLOTTE -- After four up-and-down NBA seasons, Gerald Henderson has picked the perfect time for his professional blow up -- mere months before he becomes a restricted free agent in the NBAs summer meat market. Itd be easy to say Hendersons riding the typical contract year wave, but this hasnt been a season long thing. This is an end-of-season surge thats likely made him millions and turned him into a guy the Bobcats are going to have a hard time letting go this offseason. Over the last nine games, hes averaging 24.7 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting and has two games of 35 points and one of 34 in that stretch. Is this the real Henderson or a contract-inspired anomaly? Are Kemba Walker and Henderson really the Bobcats backcourt of the future and a cornerstone around to the build their team around or is their recent success a case of being the only ones who can create their own shot? Obviously, one could twist the story the other direction, too, though: Does being on a team desperate for scoring prove their value even more with all of the defensive attention on them? And even more importantly in the decision-making process, whats the Bobcats draft direction? In a draft light on scoring big men, the biggest need on this squad, do you even bother at all resigning Henderson if you get the No. 1 pick and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore is on top on your draft board? The Bobcats arent playoff bound, so why not redirect that coin to a veteran four or five who can score with his back to the basket if youve got to dump development minutes in McLemores direction anyways? These are the questions general manager Rich Cho must ponder this offseason when the offers come in for Henderson and hes forced to decide whether the Bobcats will match. On a team with so many holes, the end-of-season surge by both Walker and Henderson leaves you wondering: Is the backcourt really the problem on a team whose starting bigs average 12 points per game combined? But theres so many variables to the equation of whether to resign Henderson and build around he and Walker, like owing your backup backcourt of Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon 18 million next year, collectively. Then theres the problem of owing Tyrus Thomas 9 million for the next two seasons. Therefore, is keeping Henderson really the prudent thing to do, even if theyd like to? Naturally, Hendersons not going to admit that the dangling monetary incentive has provided a special hankering that the wins and losses column cant provide, and that this play is here to stay. But the contract year is not a fact lost on him either. For now, hes just trying to avoid the noise. Well, you know, its pretty interesting. Ive never had to do this, Henderson said. Theres so much to think about, so much pressure should be on yourself, but when it comes down to it, you got to play this game hard either way. I feel like since Ive started basketball all the people that have coached me have taught me to play hard no matter what and last year I did the same thing until the end of the year. And this year Im going to do the same thing. Obviously theres a lot on the line in terms of that, but the only thing I want to be thinking about is playing my game, playing hard, and trying to win. But whats Henderson think is going to happen? Does the loyalty the Bobcats shown and the comforts of the state hes made his collegiate and professional home outweigh the desire to win immediately? Its tough to say at this point (where Ill end up), Henderson said. I know one thing is the Bobcats have stuck with me up to this point, so obviously if we can work something out thatd be a great thing. You know its just a lot of rules that come with being a restricted free agent. But you know its so many rules that come with it but its not something that I really try to worry about at this point. I have 11 games yet and Im just trying to play my hardest and push the team to do the same and also get some wins. No matter where Henderson ends up this offseason theres no denying it: he's been a different player recently. Its easy to forget in this rush-to-the-NBA day and age that hes only 25 and hasnt reached his ceiling. The Henderson weve seen recently has shown a confidence unseen previously -- aggressive off the bounce but also lethal with a mid-range game that previously resembled the ups and downs of his NBA career. I think at this point, yeah, Henderson said when asked if this is the best basketball of his career. A lot of the year I had an up and down year but Ive been playing more like how I want to play and I got great teammates though. They push me to bring it every night and coach does the same thing, so I just want to win too so if me playing like that is going to help us win, then Im going to try to keep it up. In a couple months, Henderson will add eight digits to his personal fortune. In the meantime, its to be determined whether playing like this in a meaningless stretch of the season will put him out of the reach for the Bobcats to keep him.
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