In 2004 the Bobcats were preparing to bring basketball back to Charlotte after a two year absence when the Hornets moved to New Orleans. The Orlando Magic had the first pick in the draft that year and they selected high school phenom Dwight Howard from Atlanta, Georgia. With the second pick in the draft, the Bobcats selected Omeka Okafor from the University of Connecticut.
The first non-lottery pick in 2004 (15th overall) was high school senior Al Jefferson from Prentiss, MS, selected by the Boston Celtics.
Since that historic night in June, Howard (18 ppg -11 rpg) and Jefferson (17 ppg - 9 rpg) have been the best two players to come out of that draft amassing some very impressive numbers over the course of their careers. The Bobcats however have struggled to find an identity compiling a 250-472 record over the past nine years while becoming lottery draft regulars like Norm when he walks into Cheers.
Since becoming majority owner of the Bobcats three years ago, Michael Jordan has vowed to change the image and losing culture in Charlotte and by bringing Jefferson on board it looks like he made his first down payment on that promise. Players and coaches alike are raving about what it's like to have the big man in the locker room.
Coach Steve Clifford said pointedly when asked what Jefferson provides, “that he scores the ball in the post, and is a good defensive rebounder.” Someone who should benefit being on the floor with him, is point guard Kemba Walker, who’s delighted to have him. “He can score the ball in the post; he changes the whole dynamic of the team. I’m excited. I can just throw the ball in to him and get my spacing together, and he can throw it out and I just need to hit my shot. It (his presence) takes a little bit of pressure off me, and just another guy that I can say go get a basket.”
Jefferson embraces the role of being one of the main contributors, and he’s no stranger to it, remarking “that’s kind of been the role that I have been playing my whole career, so I’m used to that, and I’m ready to have success for them.” He wants his presence and his work ethic to have a positive impact on his teammates as well, “I’m going to try to be a leader for the young guys, and to set an example. I’m going to go out there and play hard and just try to teach the young guys to get better.”
Jefferson and the Bobcats will play their first preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, October 8 in Asheville, North Carolina.