CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats are counting on big things from Corey Maggette.
Coach Paul Silas says he’s expecting Maggette to spearhead the team’s offense this season following the offseason departure of Stephen Jackson. Silas believes Maggette, entering his 13th season, can return to being a “20-point (per game) scorer” and can become the veteran leader for a young Bobcats team.
Maggette hasn’t averaged 20 points per game since the 2007-’08 season when he played for the Los Angeles Clippers. He was close the following two seasons — averaging 18.6 and 19.8 points per game, respectively — but his production dropped off dramatically last season with Milwaukee.
Maggette started just 19 games and averaged 12 points.
“He’s going to be the focal point of our offense,” Silas said of Maggette. “We’re going to rely on him to get it done and he can. That’s going to be the starting point and then everybody else has to do their part.”
Silas said he spoke with Maggette after he was acquired from Milwaukee in a three-team draft day deal that also helped the Bobcats land a lottery pick.
“He’s not coming off a very good year and he has to understand that he’s the elder statesman of our ballclub and he can do it physically and mentally,” Silas said of Maggette, who’ll start at small forward. “We’re a young club and we have to have somebody that has been there and understands what it takes to get it done. And he does. So we’re going to rely on him not only on the court but off the court to keep these guys together and help them understand what pro ball is all about.”
The Bobcats hope to surround Maggette with more talent.
Silas said the team plans to be active when free agency.
The most pressing need is at center, a situation that can be resolved if the Bobcats re-sign Kwame Brown.
The problem is Brown played so well last year under Silas that he might command more money in a bigger market like Boston. While the Bobcats have already spoken to Brown’s agent and have given every indication they want him back, it’s clear they aren’t going to overpay as they’re in the midst of a rebuilding project.
“I think he’d do a good job for us, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Silas said.
The only center under contract is Gana Diop and he’s coming off a torn Achilles tendon.
If Brown re-signs, the team’s primary focus becomes finding a long-range shooter and adding depth at point guard.
Adding a player who can hit the 3-pointer is vital, Silas said.
“When you get down and you’re trying to come back you need 3-point shooting,” Silas said. “You need guys that can make that shot and get you back into games. That was a problem with us last year. When we’d get behind very seldom could we catch up because we didn’t have enough 3-point shooters. We’re not going to rely on that totally but it gives you a different look and people have to play you differently.”
Silas believes point guard D.J. Augustin and rookie lottery pick Kemba Walker from Connecticut can provide some help from long range, but he’s still looking to add another piece to the puzzle.
Exactly who that is remains unclear.
Adding depth at point guard — particularly someone with size — is another issue after struggling with injuries there last season.
“We didn’t have enough (players), so we could add another guy there and maybe another No. 2,” Silas said. “We have enough forwards.”
Though the NBA lockout is not over, teams were allowed Thursday to open their facilities for voluntary workouts. No Bobcats were at the Charlotte arena but did work out at a private facility.
In fact, the only action on the practice court was Silas and his coaching staff walking through plays.
Silas said he plans to alter things on offense and defense.
Silas took over during the middle of the last season after Larry Brown was fired but kept many of Brown’s plays for the sake of simplicity and continuity. That’ll change this year as the Bobcats are installing a new half-court set while also placing an emphasis on pushing the ball up the court a little more.
Defensively, the Bobcats plan to change their pick-and-roll defense, forcing down on the pick instead of rolling over the top.
“We did that at the end of last year and it really helped us because our guards couldn’t fight over it,” Silas said. “They were at a big disadvantage, but when we started forcing down it really helped us.”
The strategy is set.
Now all Silas needs is some players.
Assuming everything goes well and the deal between the owners and players is ratified, he’ll get his wish on Dec. 9 when training camp opens in Charlotte. In the past the Bobcats have traveled to Wilmington, but the plan this year is to have training camp in Charlotte with players staying at a nearby hotel.
“We’re excited about who we have as players,” Silas said. “… Just about everybody that we had last year improved and we want them to continue to improve this year even more so. And I think that will give us a solid chance to do well.”
NOTES: Charlotte Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins announced that Charles Oakley will not return as an assistant coach on Paul Silas’ staff. “I’ve known Charles Oakley for a long time and his work ethic as a coach mirrored the intensity he displayed during his playing career,” Higgins said in a release. “While we are disappointed that things did not work out the way we had hoped, we want to thank Charles for his efforts last season and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
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