CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As Gerald Henderson was reintroduced as a Charlotte Bobcat 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 Id 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.
Its 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.
32-year-old Kyle Korver 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 from three 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 three-point shot is kind of where the game is gone. The three 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 three-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 -- Ive 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 doesnt look like a recipe for consistency, and Mike 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 teams 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 its me, Kemba, or Mike -- well 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 couldnt 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.