Ratliff pumped about first round

Published 11:23 pm Friday, April 16, 2010

Theo Ratliff, one of Demopolis’ favorite sons, begins the difficult task of trying to check Dwight Howard Sunday when the Charlotte Bobcats make their first playoff appearance in franchise history on the road against the Orlando Magic.

“Along with help,” Ratliff said with a chuckle, referring to the heavy charge of trying to guard the NBA’s most prolific big man. “He’s difficult to guard because he’s just so athletic and so big and strong.”

Ratliff, who signed as a free agent with San Antonio this past offseason, made his way to Charlotte at the trade deadline.

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“They needed help so bad. They had four seven-footers hurt at one time,” Ratliff said of the Bobcats’ need for post presence. “I knew I was going to come in and get a chance to play and I welcomed the challenge.”

In San Antonio, Ratliff found himself struggling to find minutes behind a big man rotation that included names like Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess and up-and-coming rookie Dejuan Blair.

“When I went to San Antonio, I had the hopes of trying to get to the playoffs again and trying to compete for a championship,” Ratliff said. What he did not envision at the time of his signing was that the opportunity he desired would come in Charlotte.

The trade reunited Ratliff with one of his favorite coaches, Larry Brown.

“It’s a great relationship,” Ratliff said of the man who coached him when he spent his first tenure in Philadelphia. “He is the guy that took my game to the next level when I was with Philadelphia the first time.”

Under Brown, a coach who emphasizes defense, Ratliff’s game flourished. This go-round with the coach, Ratliff is seeing that same emphasis.

“I think we’re a top team in defense as far as points allowed,” Ratliff said. “Our defense is the reason we’re in the playoffs.”

Since his arrival in Charlotte, Ratliff has been able to enjoy the most exciting time in the brief history of the young franchise. Earlier this spring, the league approved the sale of the team that made NBA legend Michael Jordan majority owner. Weeks later, the Bobcats clinched their first ever playoff spot.

“It’s great to be a part of it,” Ratliff said. “I’m happy for the franchise and for MJ to be one of the first players to be majority owner of a team.”

As for Ratliff, his tone is upbeat as his focus is placed squarely on the coming best-of-seven series against Howard and the reigning Eastern Conference champion Magic.

“I feel great,” Ratliff, whose career has been interrupted with injuries, said. “No ailments, no problems. Just ready to go. Just 100 percent ready to go.”

The Bobcats and Magic tip off game one of the series Sunday at 4:30 central time on TNT.