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Bernie Bickerstaff Interview




/ Oct. 20, 2004

Charlotte Bobcats coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff spoke with and other major media outlets in a teleconference. Here are the questions and answers:

Opening Statement: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Weíre on our way to practice. We had two exhibition games. We played 2 1/2 good quarters against Portland and played one half against the Wizards so weíre trying to put the package together. Ladies and gentlemen you have all been validated that everyone has gone on record saying that we wonít be very good this year so youíve all been validated so maybe we can move on from that so that our players wonít start believing that.

Q: What prepared you best to deal with an expansion team at this point in your career?

Bickerstaff: Well I think the idea of that, and you remember that was the inception when we first went down to St. Louis, but certainly not to this magnitude. But I would think in terms of preparation and you know, itís about trying to build and trying to put the team together, trying to fit the pieces. And the most difficult part is weíve got a collective group who until the other night had never played a game with each other.

Q: What are you going to have to do to prevent the team from getting down?

Bickerstaff: What we have to do is first of all, we have to stop reading about it every time there is an article saying that we arenít going to be very good, and I think as a coaching staff we have to think positive. The reality, the one thing we understand is the things that are being said, they arenít malicious, they arenít intentional. Itís the norm because of the expansion teams and thatís what expected. But weíre not preparing ourselves to lose and I think we have to be positive and we have to continue to make progress and we have to keep things in perspective. And sometimes, you know, youíre just not good enough and I think at that point when we make that decision, then we live with it, but we keep playing hard and we keep trying to get better as a basketball team.

Q: Can you give us a little scouting report on Emeka Okafor and what are your expectations for his first year

Bickerstaff: Well, I think its been pretty good, heís played well and thereís a thing that weíve talked about with him is that the things that we would like to build around are innate with him, defense, rebounding, blocked shots. And I think thatís the positive thing, its not something we have to instill in him and thatís where we want to go as an organization, so his work ethic has been good. Obviously, heís a rookie so heís learning the game. I think the thing with coming out of college, coming out of high school, youíre a couple seconds behind when you talk about NBA players and reactionary time. But weíre very pleased with is approach. Heís here, heís working hard, heís learning the ropes. The other night he played against Zack Randolph so heís learning the little nuances of being in the NBA.

Q: When building your team, do you at all analyze what the Pistonsí front office did to build a championship team and then try to copy their blueprint?

Bickerstaff: No. I couldnít do that because they had a core group of players. Weíre building from the ground floor. The one thing I know about the NBA, itís a copycat situation. Whatever wins, people go for it. The only thing we talked about was defensively, itís something weíd like to emulate. But not because of what Detroit did. What we looked at was what Milwaukee did and what Memphis did. They had success because they played hard, and I think thatís what basketball is all about and it had nothing to do with the superstars but they had a collective group that competed every night.

Q: After playing three seasons with the Kings, this could be a great opportunity for Gerald Wallace and what do you see in his game?

Bickerstaff: I have no reservations about that. The one thing that we tried to do was we tried to acquire young players who had been in winning situations and they didnít play not through any fault of their own, they were just playing behind good solid NBA players and they know what it takes to win just being in that environment. Heís been terrific. His work ethicís good, heís athletic, he really could be a sound defensive player. Iíve just really been pleased with his progress and his approach to practices and to the NBA this season.

Q: Do you think that Melvin Ely could also benefit from the playing time heís going to get this season?

Bickerstaff: Well thereís no doubt about it because the one thing that he can do is that he can get it done on the low post so itís a gift to guys who need opportunity and thatís what theyíve asked about and weíre going to give them the opportunities. But Melvin can really get it done on the block.

Q: Is Omar Cook an NBA caliber point guard?

Bickerstaff: Well, he has those kinds of skills. I think he has the point guard mentality. I donít know how it will turn out. Weíre trying to be objective and see how this thing transpires as we move toward opening night. He has point guard mentality.

Q: What is it about Bernard Robinson that landed him a job with you guys?

Bickerstaff: We thought that he was going to be a late first rounder. Thatís what we had on our board. And what we liked about him was his versatility. We talked to Tommy Amaker and he told us the guy could really defend. He always defended one, two, three positions. He always defended the toughest player in the Big 10 and their opposition. He was just a solid hard working basketball player that created opportunities for his teammates.

Q: Do you think Miami now has a leg up in the Conference now that they have Shaq or do you think Detroit will repeat?

Bickerstaff: You know actually, Detroit beat the team that Shaq was on in Los Angeles. Ben Wallace is the kind of guy who could give Shaq trouble for the simple reason his game is that he does all the dirty things when Shaq goes for help. You have to really be cautious of Ben Wallace and I think with Rasheed [Wallace] having a full year with that basketball team, what he did was he elevated Detroit in every aspect of the game, defensively, rebounding and scoring.

Q: So youíre thinking Detroit is a repeat?

Bickerstaff: Well I donít think we can just hand it to Miami because Shaq is there.

Q: What do you like best about your team?

Bickerstaff: I like their ability to share the basketball. You just put a team together, we put a team together and its unbelievable when you see these kids play together. Itís almost like theyíve been playing together for a while. They share the basketball, they work hard and they are a quality group of young men on and off the court.

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