By Daniel Herlihy
Gerald Henderson finally showed what he is capable of in an all-around dominant performance against the Wizards last night as he put up a career-highs in points (19), rebounds (nine) and blocks (three).
Henderson has had a mostly disappointing NBA career since being drafted 12th overall in the 2009 draft by the Bobcats as he saw little playing time during Larry Brown’s tenure as coach and failed to capitalize on the few minutes he was given. During the past six games under new head coach Paul Silas, however, Henderson has seen increasing playing time due to the significant number of injuries to key players and he is starting to show his potential.
New head coach Paul Silas boasted to the media that Henderson “has just been terrific, which is surprising because he didn’t play much last year and this year.”
Silas finished his praise of Henderson admitting, “without him tonight there is no way we would have won.”
Under Silas the Bobcats offense has flowed despite the loss of team leader Gerald Wallace. During the six games under Silas this year the Bobcats have averaged 101.7 points per game, which is up from the meager 91.8 points per game they were averaging under Larry Brown. A large part of this scoring increase is because players like Gerald Henderson and Tyrus Thomas are being given greater minutes and freedom to take shots.
In the game against Washington, Henderson’s higher confidence level was observable from the start as he quickly put up eight points through difficult contested jumpers along with impressive blow-by dunks. This shows the conviction Silas and his teammates have in him as they continued getting him the ball and allowing him to create his own shot.
“Offensively I feel like I can score the basketball,” Henderson told the media after the game. “I’ve done it in the past in college and I haven’t done it as much in the pros but I feel like it is something I can do. So when I go out there I am going to play my defense but I am going to look to score as well.”
Coach Silas said Henderson “could always play defense and rebound but he couldn’t score. But now he is developing his shot, and once he gets that down he is going to be a great player because he already has the athleticism.”
On top of his needed offensive performance, Henderson possibly had an even greater impact through his defensive play as he was able to shut down Nick Young, one of the Wizards leading scorers, and held him to only seven points on 3-8 shooting.
He also had several specific moments where his defensive play really energized the team. When the game was tied 10-10 in the first quarter, Henderson had a big block on Young and then fed the ball to D.J. Augustine for a transition 3-pointer which sparked a Bobcats run.
Possibly his most critical play of the night was when the Wizards were on a 17-5 run in the third quarter with the game tied at 71 when he drew a charge on Kirk Hinrich. His hustle play led to the crowd getting back into the game and pushed the Bobcats to finish the quarter on an 8-2 run giving them a six point lead, and from that point the Bobcats never looked back.
After the game Henderson credited Coach Krzyzewski at Duke for teaching him to not get discouraged when he wasn’t getting the playing time he had hoped for and for teaching him to make the most out of the opportunities he gets. Maybe all Henderson needed was to be given another opportunity.
If Henderson continues to utilize his potential that led him to produce a multitude of highlight reel dunks during his days at Duke, the Bobcats may have found their answer to turning around their season.