Gerald Henderson didn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Unlike his former Episcopal Academy teammate, Wayne Ellington, who is on his third different team since being drafted in 2009, Henderson has remained steady for the Bobcats. But the pressure for consistent production is starting to arrive for Henderson.
The Duke product was back in his hometown area on Saturday night, as the Charlotte Bobcats fell to the Sixers, 87-76.
Henderson, who one night before arguably had his best game of the season (20 points, 10 rebounds and three steals in a 100-93 loss to the Lakers), finished the game with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and a rebound.
“Obviously you want to shoot well,” Henderson said afterwards, adding he felt his play in the loss to the Sixers was just OK.
Henderson is a team captain, is fourth on the Bobcats in scoring (12.7 ppg), and is being relied on by head coach Mike Dunlap. But the biggest thing now for Henderson is that he has the eye of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.
Before the start of the season, Jordan said he wanted to see growth from Henderson. He wanted him to be a leader, to do the extra things like rebounding and play defense if other phases of Henderson’s game were off.
“These are the things I’m expecting to see from Gerald,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer months ago. “He’s shown the signs. Now can he take the next step. I’m pretty sure this is the year he’s going to sit in my office and ask for a raise. These are the things I need to see. I don’t like to overpay for things I don’t see. I come from a whole different background."
Reminded of Jordan’s words on Saturday and asked if he felt he’s living up to Jordan’s expectations, Henderson said: “I don’t go in trying to live up to anybody else’s expectations. I set a high bar for myself. I don’t feel like I’ve played like I’ve wanted to this season. I feel like I can help my team much more if I play better.
“I have the utmost respect for Michael. He’s stuck with me thus far in my career. But I need to play better overall regardless of anybody else’s expectations but myself.”
It’s not like he hasn’t shown flashes. In fact, February looks like it could be his best month this season. Coming into the Wells Fargo Center, Henderson was averaging 14.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and shooting 50 percent after four games this month.
Dunlap echoed Jordan’s sentiments. He said he knows Henderson is capable of getting “seven or eight rebounds a game.” He added he wanted to see Henderson finish in transition and then that leadership role came up.
“When we have huddles,” Dunlap said, “use his voice and be a quarterback. He’s got enough experience now and commands enough respect both athletically, as a human being and where he comes from that guys listen to him. That guy has to be that same guy everyday, consistency of that. We all know that he’s a guy that can get you probably 15 to 18 points night in and night out, and he also has to carry that [leadership] burden.”
Henderson admitted he’s still learning the role.
"That’s an ongoing thing," he said. "No matter what level you are. Kobe [Bryant] is still figuring his team out, figuring out how to lead his team. They’re going through a tough time and he’s trying to figure out his best way to lead on that team. I’m definitely still figuring out this team.”
Henderson was eligible for a contract extension last year, but the Bobcats elected not to sign him to one. Now he will head into the summer as a restricted free agent, which means the Bobcats can match any offer he receives, but only if they make him a qualifying offer worth $4.26 million.
Henderson said he’s comfortable with the Bobcats. “I’m not comfortable with the losing, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.
The Bobcats departed the Wells Fargo Center with a seven-game losing streak and the worst record in the NBA at 11-39. Hence, making the playoffs is a pipe dream. That leaves Jordan and company with plenty of work to do.
Whether or not Henderson is in the Bobcats’ plan is partly up to him, and he knows it.
“I always feel like I can do more to help [the Bobcats] win,” he said. “Wherever it’s at -- scoring, rebounding, defense ... I feel like I can improve. It’s right there for me to improve.”