Gerald Henderson; Patrick Patterson

Charlotte Bobcats, surprisingly good defenders, want to buckle down on defense


There was a decent amount of debate about the Charlotte Bobcats before the season.

Would they compete for the NBA’s best lottery odds, or would they slip lower in the lottery?

Instead, Charlotte has shocked the Eastern Conference by starting the season 14-15, not a great mark but still fourth-best in the conference.

And it’s totally because of defense.

The Bobcats’ offense ranks 29th in the NBA, ahead of only the Bucks. Their defense ranks third, behind only the the Pacers and Thunder.

But Charlotte has slipped a little, allowing its last three opponents – Bucks, Jazz and Pistons – to score more points per possession than they’re each averaging for the season.

So, with a few days off between games, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford is preaching defense. Clifford, via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

“We worked on it today – just getting our defense organized,” Clifford said Thursday. “When we’ve gotten back, for the most part, our defense has been good. The other night we did a poor job of that. So today we watched film, worked on it, and hopefully it will get better.”

“We are making mistakes on cuts and coverages that we haven’t had,” Clifford said after the game. “I told them you can’t get away from that.”

Clifford, a first-year coach, has done an incredible job implementing his defensive system – and this shows exactly why.

The Bobcats have plenty of room to improve offensively, but that’s not where they’re focusing. They’re all about defense, something they already do well.

It really seems the entire team has bought into a defense-first approach, and that was the first step to reaching this level. The next step is ironing out the kinks.

And then maybe the Bobcats will get around to repairing that ugly offense. Or maybe they’ll work more on their defense.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.