Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 11/2/12
CHARLOTTE, NC --- One of the brilliant decisions new Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap made in the offseason was to not let the franchise run from its record-setting season of futility from a year ago. Dunlap wanted them to own it. He personally embraced it, adopting all of its warts because he knew the only way to truly move on was for everyone to understand the steps required to cut that cord. Moments following the Bobcats thrilling 90-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers on opening night Friday here at Time Warner Arena, Dunlap laid it right out there: "The most important thing was to kill the elephant," he said. The elephant was the team's 23-game losing streak to end last season, which concluded with a 7-59 mark, good for the worst winning percentage in NBA history. Charlotte slayed the psychological beast Friday while taking a healthy step in the right direction. It's just one game, but this is a different team, and in many respects it's a different franchise with owner Michael Jordan taking a back seat, a new uniform look and an abundance of smiles at every turn. To be different, however, the team must change its characteristics from last season. With that, several improvements stood out, beginning with the play of second-year point guard Kemba Walker. Walker, who averaged 12.4 points per game as a rookie, shared the job with D.J. Augustin a year ago while also dabbling at the two-guard. But it's his now, and Dunlap's intimate understanding of Walker's strengths - which weren't always on display last season - he made sure Walker approached the game as he did in college. "Kemba, whatever he was last year, and I looked at a lot of film," said Dunlap, who was an assistant at St. John's when Walker played at Connecticut. "There was more to come of what I was used to when I was in the Big East and had to coach against him. So I knew that better days were ahead." Walker finished with 30 points and three assists, but his aggressiveness taking the ball inside the lane, often getting to the rim, was extremely uplifting to a team that easily could have spent the night looking for a spark. "I felt really good and really comfortable," said Walker, who smiled when asked about Dunlap trusting him. Fourth-year wing Gerald Henderson was just 6-for-14 from the field, but his jumper is more fluid and he carries himself like an experienced veteran. Charlotte will need his stroke, attitude and controlled disposition nightly as the season wears on. Equally impressive is what the three new veterans gave the Cats. Eleven-year vet Brendan Haywood and his 7-foot frame disrupted in the lane and gave the team 31 very professional minutes. In addition, wings Ben Gordon (10 points) and Ramon Sessions (11 points) did many of the little things that lead to victories. Sessions' 3-pointer with 4:56 left put the Cats up 88-84 and held off an Indiana spurt. Collectively, the trio gave the Bobcats 75 minutes of gravitas that simply didn't exist last season. Their presence and what they can do for this team simply can't be overlooked. "It's very important having those guys, they are really experienced," Walker said. "We all learn a lot from those guys It's extremely important to have those guys around." The other notable difference came on the defensive end. Indiana converted just 39.8 percent of its field goal attempts, and at crunch time the Bobcats really stepped it up. Charlotte scored its final points with 3:28 left to lead 90-85, and the Pacers closed to within a point with 2:01 remaining. After that, however, the Cats held Indiana to 0-3 from the floor, including a blocked shot, and three turnovers, including a shot-clock violation. A year ago, no way the Bobcats would have closed out a team after not scoring over the game's final 208 seconds. But, as their new coach said, this isn't that team. "I think the players themselves are responsible for that," Dunlap said. "We've had long practices, and I think when you invest that much in it there's just an emotional attachment to the fact that we want to get this done I think this is a different team, also." That's it right there: Investment. The Bobcats have made this personal, even if they had nothing to do with last season's disaster. That's part of the design of this team and franchise in addition to how the roster was composed and their on-court approach is prescribed. Regardless of what happens moving forward, that's a healthy step in the right direction.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jay Gruden gives out primo parking spots to hard-working players

Report: Colts' Jones suspended four games for PED use

Report: Royals have interest in Nick Markakis

Ezekiel Elliott domestic violence 911 call released

Manu Ginobili talks interest in 76ers before sticking with Spurs

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Lakers reportedly have ‘unnamed trade target in mind

Report: Rodman a 'person of interest' in hit-and-run

Draymond Green reaches plea deal in assault case

Evander Kane arrested after turning himself in

Former NFL coach Dennis Green passes away

Michael Vick says he would only sign with contender

Why the Clippers shouldn't break up their big three

White Sox pay homage to Bo Jackson’s bat-breaking skills with bobblehead

Orioles affiliate pay tribute to David Bowie on their jerseys

Report: Rangers pushing trade efforts for Sale

Russell Martin day-to-day after sauna-related mishap

Celtics reportedly unwilling to give up much for Jahlil Okafor

Report: Jay Bruce drawing trade interest

Vitale: Trump’s speech “filled with lies,” might write in Coach K

Report: Nationals ‘want in’ on Chapman sweepstakes

Hornets co-owner blasts NBA, city for taking away All-Star Game

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

Vikings installing massive horn in new stadium

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

WATCH: Pop & Timmy have a guys' night out

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker