- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - All that talk about the Charlotte Bobcats avoiding another poor start was silenced briefly Tuesday when Stephen Jackson crashed to the floor in the final practice before the season opener.

Coach Larry Brown said he was “alarmed,” fearing his top scorer from last season had hurt his Achilles’ tendon. Jackson, who rarely sits out a drill, hobbled to the sideline and was later spotted with his ankle elevated and wrapped.

But soon trainer Steve Stricker had good news: Jackson had only a strained tendon in his left ankle.

“It’s getting better now, nothing serious,” Jackson insisted. “I’ll be ready to go” Wednesday.

For a team that’s started 3-9 in each of the last two seasons under Brown and scored 59 points in last year’s season opener at Boston, losing Jackson would be a blow for the goal of a fast start and easier road to a second straight postseason berth.

Up first, the only team the 7-year-old Bobcats have never beaten, the Mavericks, in Wednesday’s opener in Dallas.

“I like where we’re at,” owner Michael Jordan said last week. “I think this year we have a stronger chance, being that we have more games on the road early, where our continuity and our chemistry may be in place. The last couple of years we had to implement different people, different changes, over the course of the first part of the season.”

Continuity and chemistry are words rarely used before around a franchise that’s made nine trades involving 27 players since Brown took over as coach before the 2008-09 season.

The Bobcats 3-9 start in 2008 came before a December deal that sent Jason Richardson to Phoenix for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. The Bobcats recovered to win 35 games, but missed the playoffs.

Charlotte’s 3-9 start last year came as the Bobcats made a November trade for Jackson, sending Bell and Vladimir Radmanovic to Golden State.

“I came in when the team was already losing,” Jackson said. “Then I try be on the same page and learn the plays and it caused us to do more losing.”

The Bobcats eventually figured it out, riding Jackson, All-Star Gerald Wallace and late trade pickup Tyrus Thomas to a 41-29 finish last season and earning the seventh-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs before being swept in the first round by Orlando.

Now Jordan insists he’s happy with his core despite losing point guard Raymond Felton in free agency and trading Tyson Chandler to Dallas, where he’ll face his former team Wednesday.

“Hopefully, us being together in camp and being able to grow in camp and know the plays and get on the same page on offense and defense will help us get off to a good start,” Jackson said.

But the Bobcats will need D.J. Augustin to carry over his successful preseason as Felton’s replacement. Nazr Mohammed needs to fill the hole at center with Chandler and Theo Ratliff gone.

“We do have high expectations because we’ve been together for a while,” Mohammed said. “We’re still going to miss a guy like Ray, who’s been a staple on our team for so long. We’ll miss Tyson, but we still feel like we’ve got enough to go out there and compete.”

And despite an improved Eastern Conference, Jordan thinks his team should make the playoffs again with Jackson and Wallace leading the charge.

“Our two best players are the hardest-working guys on our team,” Jordan said. “In essence it’s going to allow us to get better as a team.”

A team that’s familiar with each other, a concept foreign to the Bobcats for much of the past two roster-churning years.

“I think Gerald Wallace knows me better than myself,” Jackson said, “and vice versa.”

Notes: Brown gushed about backup PG Shaun Livingston, who practiced Tuesday after missing all the preseason with knee pain. “God, he just brings so much,” said Brown, who is hopeful Livingston will play against the Mavericks. … Brown called last year’s overtime loss in Dallas “one of the most disappointing losses we’ve had.” … The Bobcats are 0-12 against the Mavericks.



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