Immediately following the draft-night trade for Corey Maggette, Bobcats coach Paul Silas called Maggette to deliver two messages: Maggette would be this team's starting small forward and go-to scorer. And Silas needed Maggette to immediately become this team's leader and a mentor to young teammates.
Entering his 13th NBA season and joining his fifth NBA franchise, Maggette didn't feel put-upon. Instead he was flattered that Silas, a coach he never before played for, had so much faith in him. Maggette entered last season following ankle surgery and never really caught on with the Milwaukee Bucks. So the trade to Charlotte has reignited his career.
Maggette instantly took to mentoring. He buys dinner for the young players as a means to build team chemistry. He frequently calls rookie Kemba Walker to be a resource and a sounding board. He recently stayed an hour after practice to teach backup Derrick Brown a spin move to free up Brown's mid-range jump shot.
"I'm on my way out of this league, so it's important I help these guys out," Maggette told the Charlotte Observer.
The Bobcats, who beat the Bucks 96-95 on opening night, have undergone a dramatic youth movement. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson were traded over a four-month period. Those deals allowed the team to draft Walker and fellow rookie Bismack Biyombo, both top-10 picks.
Those two, plus Tyrus Thomas, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson, form the Bobcats' future. Maggette has advised Thomas on controlling his temper and Augustin on feeling more confident. He's encouraged Henderson to seek out Bobcats owner Michael Jordan for pointers on basketball, as Maggette did when he was a young player.
While Silas didn't know Maggette well before the trade, his son, lead assistant Stephen Silas, had coached Maggette at Golden State. The younger Silas knew Maggette had the qualities to mentor.
"He's intuitive and thoughtful," Stephen Silas told the Observer. "You wouldn't think from afar he has that soft side, that nurturing side, with his teammates."
The Bobcats next play the Miami Heat Wednesday.
Ex-Bobcat Stephen Jackson, now with the Bucks, said he checked out emotionally toward the team after it traded close friend Gerald Wallace last February: "When Gerald left, I really left," Jackson said. "When they got rid of Gerald, that let me know they didn't want to win. I didn't want to be a part of a place like that."
The Bobcats pursued swingman Mike Dunleavy as a free agent, but he ultimately signed with the Bucks instead. Dunleavy said the Bucks were "a better fit," which seems to mean a far more likely playoff team.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I tell him, 'Some people can't handle the aggressive way you talk and some can. Think about the proper way to talk to people.'" -- Corey Maggette, to the Charlotte Observer, on his advice to power forward Tyrus Thomas.
C Byron Mullens was acquired from the Thunder in the preseason, and he had an immediate impact with a career-high 10 points against the Bucks. He's a pick-and-pop big man with shooting range out to the three-point line.
C Boris Diaw isn't a natural matchup with Bucks center Andrew Bogut, but Diaw had a great all-around game with 11 rebounds, nine assists and nine points. The Bobcats effectively fronted Bogut defensively most of the game.
G Kemba Walker didn't shoot particularly well (3-of-10) in his first game, but he had seven rebounds and made the two free throws that iced the victory over the Bucks with nine seconds left. Walker made a spectacular stop-and-start move on Larry Sanders for a three-point play.
G Cory Higgins, the son of president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, is now a Bobcat. They wanted a fifth guard with the size and skill set to play either guard spot. Higgins is a 6-5, played point guard, and is tied with Richard Roby as Colorado's all-time leading scorer.
G-F Reggie Williams (surgery to repair torn knee cartilage) is out at least through late January. The Bobcats knew Williams would need surgery when they signed him as a free agent last week.
F-C Eduardo Najera (surgery to repair torn knee cartilage) is likely out through January. The damage was discovered during training camp and further limits coach Paul Silas' options at center.
F Tyrus Thomas (sprained left ankle) missed the season-opener against the Bucks. He's listed as day-to-day.
G D.J. Augustin aggravated a left ankle sprain against the Bucks.