Struggles are all but guaranteed for the Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns as each squad battles through a rebuilding phase.
An injury to Gerald Henderson will almost certainly add to the Bobcats' anticipated hardships.
A day after learning it could be without its starting shooting guard for a couple of weeks, Charlotte and Phoenix both try to bounce back from blowout defeats in Wednesday night's matchup in North Carolina.
The Bobcats (1-1) set an NBA record for futility with a .106 winning percentage last season, but Kemba Walker's 30 points in a 90-89 victory over Indiana in Friday's season opener gave them reason for optimism under first-year coach Mike Dunlap.
Saturday's result was a bit more familiar, though, as Charlotte fell 126-99 at Dallas. Walker was held to 10 points, but Ramon Sessions netted a team-high 22 off the bench.
"I think the thing for Ramon is getting comfortable with what the staff is asking him to do," Dunlap said. "We always knew he was going to be good and getting comfortable and he's showing that already."
Henderson left in the third quarter with a left foot sprain, and the team announced Tuesday that he could miss 2-4 weeks. The team initially didn't think the injury was going to be a problem, but further medical tests revealed Henderson sprained the mid-foot area.
The injury could be a big blow for the Bobcats, as Henderson has totaled 25 points and six steals this year after averaging a team-high 15.1 points last season.
"We'll miss him dearly, but we've also got some young guys ready to get his playing time," Dunlap said.
Either Sessions or Ben Gordon will take Henderson's spot in the starting lineup.
Walker scored a game-high 22 points in the most recent meeting with the Suns on Feb. 4, but Phoenix's 95-89 victory ended Charlotte's four-game winning streak in the series.
Only one member of the Suns' starting lineup that night - Marcin Gortat - will be in a Phoenix uniform Wednesday, though. Grant Hill signed in the offseason with the Los Angeles Clippers, Michael Redd is gone and Channing Frye may miss all of this season due to an enlarged heart.
Perhaps the biggest hole to fill is that of two-time MVP Steve Nash, who was sent to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal.
The Suns (1-3) haven't gotten off to a great start with their host of newcomers including Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley and are coming off a 124-99 loss at Miami on Monday.
Coach Alvin Gentry knows there's plenty of time to recover, though.
"It's a long season. We have 78 games left and I don't see any reason to hit a panic button or anything," Gentry said. "We just have to continue to work, and to me the whole thing we need to concentrate on is coming together as a team as a common goal. If we continue to do that, then we'll compete and still be a team that will be in the game."
Former Bobcat Shannon Brown scored a team-high 18 points off the bench, while Scola added 15 and Dragic finished with 13 and nine assists. Beasley, though, scored only seven points and shot 3 of 13 from the field.
"It's too early to get down on ourselves," Brown said. "We definitely have to go out and compete every night. In practice we have to continue to get better. We have to stick together."
Despite Phoenix's early struggles, Dunlap believes the Suns are a solid team and simply needs some time to develop chemistry.
"I still think they're dangerous," Dunlap said. "I know they're very good and they're really well-coached."
The Associated Press News Service
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