By STEVE REED, Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats figured they'd set one dubious NBA record last season. They didn't need want start this season off by setting another.
After finishing 7-59 and etching their name in the NBA annals with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history last season, diminutive point guard Kemba Walker and the Bobcats made certain they wouldn't break the league record for consecutive losses.
Charlotte ended last season with 23 straight losses, but Walker scored a career-high 30 points to lift the Bobcats over the Indiana Pacers 90-89 in Friday night's season opener. It was an impressive win against a team that has had plenty of success on the road. Indiana was 19-14 last season away from home and won its opener at Toronto on Wednesday night.
The NBA record for consecutive losses was set two years ago by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost 26 games following the departure of star LeBron James.
"It was something that was in the back of all of our heads," Walker said of the losing streak. "We didn't want that streak to keep on with us, so to get it over with now was extremely important."
It also gave coach Mike Dunlap a big victory in his first game as NBA head coach.
"The most important thing was to kill the elephant and that elephant was that losing streak," Dunlap said. "We had to get that off of everybody's back. It's just one of those marks you want to clean off the board."
The victory was a bit of early validation for Dunlap, who stressed to his young players this summer that the only way they can compete with the more talented teams in the league this year is to step up their defensive pressure and play like the team's new motto — tougher, faster and stronger.
In Dunlap's eyes that only comes about through conditioning, which meant running players continually through 3- and 4-hour practice sessions. He figured there was no way he could run full court traps at opponents if his players weren't in shape.
So he ran them. And ran them. And ran them some more.
Sure, there was some grumbling along the way.
But when owner Michael Jordan sensed Dunlap was getting some resistance from players, he pulled them aside and reminded them that he backs Dunlap's no-nonsense philosophy all of the way.
Jordan talked about building a "winning culture" in Charlotte and believes Dunlap is the right man to carry out that mission.
"His energy level and his passion are as strong as mine," Jordan said Thursday. "I think he presents an attitude that you buy in or you're not a part of it. If you want to be here, be here. If you don't want to be here, then we don't want to put you here. That's just the way we are right now."
Walker said players have gotten the message and they believe in what Dunlap is preaching.
"Guys are really, really buying in and that's all it takes," Walker said. "It's about sacrifice. It's about buying into what your leader is preaching. It showed tonight. We made some huge stops at the end of the game."
Along the way they also stopped a losing streak before it became a distraction.
"Now that it's over we don't ever want to get to that point again," Walker said.