Haywood returning home, hopes to ignite Bobcats
By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Brendan Haywood is returning home with a purpose.
Haywood, who grew up in Greensboro, made it clear he's coming back to the Carolinas with the goal of helping the Charlotte Bobcats turn things around after they finished with the worst record (7-59) in the NBA last season.
Claimed off waivers last week from the Dallas Mavericks, the 7-foot Haywood was introduced Thursday at a news conference along with free-agent acquisition Ramon Sessions, a point guard who opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers to sign with the Bobcats.
"Myself and Ramon will be great additions to this team," Haywood said. "We're looking forward to getting this thing started and help this team be better than it was last season."
Haywood still owns a home in Charlotte and has frequently worked out at the Bobcats facility in the past during the offseason.
He called returning to Charlotte "a blessing."
"My family and friends will have a chance to come to the games, and then playing with this organization is great for me, so it's the best of both worlds," Haywood said.
Sessions is also enjoying a homecoming of sorts.
He grew up in Myrtle Beach, S.C., about a five-hour drive from Charlotte.
Both players realize that the challenge ahead of them is steep given the Bobcats are coming off a rough season and the roster is still very young.
And they're realistic when it comes to the future.
"We aren't expecting to win 50 games and go to the third round of the playoffs," Sessions said. "We're just trying to do better than last year night in and night out."
Added Haywood: "The past is the past. There is a new coaching staff in place and new young players in place. You can't change the past; you can only build for the future."
Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins felt like the team needed to add depth and experience at both positions.
"Both have been starters in this league, which is a huge benefit for us," Higgins said.
Haywood, an 11-year NBA veteran, has played in 733 career games for the Washington Wizards and Mavericks with 531 starts. He has career averages of 7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 23.7 minutes. His career field-goal percentage of .534 ranks seventh among active players and 28th in NBA history. And he was a member of Dallas' 2011 NBA championship team.
He has a chance to start at center this season, depending on where the Bobcats play Bismack Biyombo.
The 6-foot-3 Sessions has played in 323 career games during his career and will compete for playing time with last year's other lottery pick, Kemba Walker.
"With losing D.J. Augustin in free agency we felt the need to get a quality point guard and Ramon filled that need," Higgins said. "He's a young veteran who still has the ability to improve. He can create off the dribble and is fast and explosive. And Brendan is a guy who can come in and play minutes right away for us."
It's still unclear if either will start in Charlotte.
Higgins said their playing time will largely be determined once the team begins practicing with new coach Mike Dunlap.
Updated July 26, 2012