The sign hangs above Steve Clifford’s desk in an office he’s called home for less than five months. He first heard the slogan last year while working with Eddie Jordan for the Lakers. It stuck with him and seemed especially pertinent once he was appointed to his first NBA head coaching gig. The placard quotes former Princeton coach Pete Carril: “Go slow, so they can learn fast.” Clifford’s staff had to remind him of that throughout the preseason. So far, so good. He’s been pleased with not only his own personal patience, but also the successful installation of the bigger-action items. “If you look back at what I had planned a month ago and what I thought we would have in by now offensively and defensively, I was way, way off,” Clifford said. “But again, I like what we’ve done. We have a long way to go but I believe we’ve made good progress in the time we’ve been together.” There are things like two-for-one situations and additional sets that Clifford has yet to install, but he’s been able to call timeouts at times during preseason games to alert his teams of what they like to do in certain situations so they’ll already be aware when it’s time for installation. There's time left, too. The Bobcats will have three more practices for installation after Friday night’s game at the Knicks before Wednesday’s season opener against the Rockets, but by and large the foundations have already been laid. “I think we’re practicing well. I like the way they come in for shoot around; I like the way they pay attention in film session. I like their attitude towards work when we’re practicing,” Clifford said. “And I like our intensity — they have a natural intensity throughout the group. We’re going to try hard I believe to defend, which will hopefully lead to consistent play. And we’re naturally unselfish.” It’s hard to argue with Clifford’s work on the defensive end at this point. Sure, it’s preseason — the effort is spotty, the games meaningless and the starters don’t play starters minutes. But when the league’s second-worst defense a season ago is holding opponents to 84 points per game (NBA's best preseason mark) and 40 percent from the field, you have to take note.
Bobcats locking down defensively under Clifford
Fox Sports Carolinas | Oct 25