CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Rod Higgins believes the Charlotte Bobcats are a team on the rise.
The team president of basketball operations wasn't about to predict how many wins the Bobcats will have in their final season before changing their name to the Hornets, but he expects they'll be "much improved" over last season.
That won't take much.
The Bobcats finished 21-61 last season - the second-worst record in the NBA.
But that was last year. Higgins and general manager Rich Cho were bubbling with optimism Tuesday talking about the addition of free agent center Al Jefferson and the development of rookie draft pick Cody Zeller during the summer.
They also feel they finally have the right coaching staff in place led by Steve Clifford, a longtime NBA assistant who is getting his first crack as a head coach.
Higgins said it would be unfair to make any predictions given the new pieces the team has added and the fact they haven't played a game together yet.
"Who knows what can happen with this team?" Higgins said with a hint of optimism. "I'm sure the coach and his staff and the players, by the way we're working right now, they are going to have a high optimism with our team. So we'll see how it plays out."
Much of the excitement surrounds the addition of Jefferson, who gives the Bobcats a legitimate low post threat and a player Higgins calls a "difference maker."
"He's a guy who can post up - something we couldn't do very well last season - and draw a double team and pass out of that double team," Higgins said.
That should free up more outside shots for the Bobcats, who struggled from 3-point range last season.