The Charlotte Bobcats will begin the first of their eight-game preseason schedule Tuesday, as they host the Atlanta Hawks in Asheville, NC.
First-year head coach Steve Clifford will make his debut for Charlotte. After being an assistant for the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, Clifford agreed to become the sixth head coach in Charlotte’s ten-year history.
The Bobcats were 21-61 last season and terminated head coach Mike Dunlap in the offseason.
Charlotte will return 11 players from last season, but will have a key addition in Al Jefferson. After spending the past three seasons with the Utah Jazz, Jefferson signed a three-year, $40 million contract with the Bobcats in the offseason. He is expected to start for the team at center.
Rookie forward Cody Zeller will get the start alongside Jefferson, according to the Charlotte Observer. The Bobcats selected Zeller with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft after two seasons as Indiana. Zeller and Jefferson will join returning starters in Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Hawks finished 44-38 last season and were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the Indiana Pacers. Atlanta parted ways with head coach Larry Drew after three seasons and hired longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer for the same position. Budenholzer spent 18 seasons with San Antonio and was Gregg Popovich’s lead assistant for six seasons.
Atlanta will have a different look than past years after losing hometown star Josh Smith in free agency to the Detroit Pistons. Smith signed a four-year, $54 million contract with Detroit after eight seasons with Atlanta. To replace Smith, the Hawks signed Paul Millsap to a two-year, $19 million contract. Millsap averaged 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in seven seasons with Utah.
The Hawks will return three starters from last season in Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and all-star center Al Horford. Teague and Korver signed four year contracts to remain with the team in the offseason. They also signed forward Elton Brand following his lone season with the Dallas Mavericks. The 14-year veteran averaged 7.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 72 games with Dallas.
The Hawks lost their preseason opener to the Miami Heat 92-87 Monday. Second year forward Mike Scott led the Hawks with 13 points, while Horford and Millsap combined for 22 points.
- Jefferson didn’t finish Monday’s practice due to a sore hamstring, according to the Charlotte Observer.
- Brendan Haywood will be sidelined with a sprained foot.
- Josh McRoberts (toe injury) is expected to be play. “Josh has had so little time on the court he’s not nearly ready to play from a conditioning standpoint, nor a rhythm standpoint,” Clifford said to the Charlotte Observer. “He’s a ways away.”
- Hawks second-year guard John Jenkins will sit with lower back spasms, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Jenkins missed the team’s preseason opener against Miami.
- There is currently no timetable for the return of Louis Williams, reports Sekou Smith of NBA.com. Williams tore his right ACL on Jan. 18.
- Atlanta swept the last regular season series with Charlotte.