March 01, 2015

On too many turnovers, Mo's impact and Biz knocking off the rust

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 98-83 road victory over the Orlando Magic.

             The team that so values the ball has recently stopped valuing the ball: The Hornets commit the fewest turnovers in the NBA. But not so much lately. They have committed 16 turnovers in each of the last two games. This can’t keep happening for them to stay in playoff contention. They don’t have the firepower to overcome throwing away possessions.

            Mo Williams is more than a “temp”: The objective of the trade that acquired Williams was obviously to get the Hornets through Kemba Walker’s recovery from knee surgery. Walker could be back as soon as the West Coast trip in two weeks. When Walker does return, I don’t see Williams becoming some guy with a towel around his neck on the bench. I asked coach Steve Clifford if he intends o play Walker and Williams some together down the road. Clifford’s emphatic reply: “Definitely.”

        Be patient with Biz: Bismack Biyombo came back from missing 11 consecutive games with a deep bone bruise along his right knee. He played 14 minutes tonight and his numbers – three points, three rebounds, two turnovers and 1-of-3 shooting – reflected the rust. But Clifford hasn’t forgotten how well Biyombo played before the injury. They’re now in another dense schedule (16 games in 29 days) so they need to manage their depth.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 1, 2015 at 10:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston inactive after missing weight-training

            Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston will be inactive for tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic after missing a weight-training session Sunday.

            Two sources confirmed Hairston missed his weights obligation. It’s the latest in a series of transgressions large and small in Hairston’s rookie season.

            The Hornets traded for Hairston’s draft rights on draft night in June in a pre-arranged deal with the Miami Heat. Just before the start of summer-league practices he got into an altercation with a high-school basketball player at a Durham YMCA. Charges related to that fight were later dropped at the request of the alleged victim.

            Hairston also retained a player-agent who hadn’t been certified by the National Basketball Players Association. Had the Hornets signed Hairston while he was still under non-certified representation, the team could have been subject to a fine from the NBA.

            Hairston was also made inactive for a December game against the Boston Celtics after an unexcused absence from practice.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 1, 2015 at 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

February 28, 2015

Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing address the passing of Anthony Mason

            The Charlotte Hornets issued statements Saturday from team chairman Michael Jordan and associate head coach on the passing of former Hornets forward Anthony Mason.

            Mason played for the Hornets from 1996 through 2000. Prior to that he was a teammate of Ewing’s on the New York Knicks.

Jordan: "I’m deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Anthony Mason. Mase was one of the toughest competitors of his era. While on the Hornets, he was beloved by fans throughout the Carolinas for his hard-nosed play and skill on the court. The Hornets organization extends its condolences to his entire family.”

Ewing: “My heart is heavy after learning we lost Anthony Mason last night. We were teammates on the Knicks for five great seasons. Mase came to play every night and was always ready to go to battle with me every time we stepped on the court together. I will remember him for his strength, determination and perseverance. My thoughts are with his family. May he rest in peace.”

Posted by Observer Sports on February 28, 2015 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

February 27, 2015

Hornets coach Steve Clifford: Hype associated with Lance Stephenson signing wasn't good for anyone

            Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is, by nature, candid. But Friday evening before the Boston Celtics game was the most direct I’ve heard him on the subject of Lance Stephenson.

            Circled by media from Boston and some national outlets, Clifford said the first problem was totally unrealistic expectations from fans and media when Stephenson signed with the Hornets.

            “A lot of this is totally off-base among basketball people,” Clifford said of the hype that Stephenson was on the verge of stardom. “He’s 23 years old. He’d played for one coach in one offense.”

            As Clifford noted, Stephenson averaged 8.8 points two seasons ago and 13.8 points last season. So it was a much more realistic expectation he’d play in the vicinity of this season’s numbers (8.9 per game) than that he’d suddenly emerge as a 20 ppg., guy with a new team.

            As Clifford described, Stephenson was the third or fourth option for the Indiana Pacers and it was much easier for him to get high-quality shots playing off the likes of Paul George and David West than it’s been with the offensively-challenged Hornets.

            “The biggest problem for him is having to make more pull-ups this year than layups last year,” Clifford said, describing how Stephenson could get the ball to West, cut to the rim and get two or three cheap baskets a game.

            Instead, Stephenson is shooting 37 percent from the field this season and 15 percent from 3-point range.

Clifford contrasted point guard Mo Williams’ quick transition to the Hornets with Stephenson’s more rocky experience. He said that’s not Stephenson’s fault; rather it illustrates the difference in their experiences.

Williams has played for seven other NBA franchises. He has seen everything the league can throw at him.

            “Mo Williams in two days knew everything,” Clifford said.

            Stephenson had no similar experiences on which he could rely when he signed with the Hornets in July.

            “This is Lance’s first time playing with new guys,” Clifford said, adding it’s a fallacy Stephenson isn’t doing his part to make this work,

            “His attitude has been fine,” Clifford said. “He hasn’t been kicked out of practice, or any of that.”

Posted by Observer Sports on February 27, 2015 at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

February 26, 2015

On MKG, Mo Williams and fast-break basketball

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 98-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

            The perception in July: Lance Stephenson’s versatility will lift this team and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is some dude who can’t shoot. The reality in February: Kidd-Gilchrist’s versatility lifts this team and Stephenson looks like a dude who can’t shoot.

            Mo Williams had a horrible start to this game, committing two shooting fouls outside the 3-point line in the first seven minutes. But his third quarter – 13 points and three assists – might have been the biggest factor in the Hornets breaking that five-game losing streak.

            You won’t see the Hornets score 17 fast-break points on a regular basis. It’s not because they don’t choose to run, they’re just not particularly built to be that team.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2015 at 01:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

February 23, 2015

Extreme doubles on Big Al, good trade for Mo, Zeller react

            Three takeaways on a crazy-bad weather night in Dallas:

This extreme double-teaming of Al Jefferson is telling: Opponents sell out completely double-teaming Jefferson because they’re not afraid of anyone else in Kemba Walker’s absence.  So the Lance Stephenson experiment isn’t going so well, huh?

 Mo Williams is a pro: He might be the most plug-and-play guy in Bobcats (yeah, I said it) history. Derek Anderson jumped in and did a good job. So did Steve Smith. But Williams is giving whatever he’s got left.

I like Cody Zeller, but... I get outraged emails and tweets telling me I’m a fool for suggesting Zeller has been a tease. Walker and MKG also looked like teases early in their careers. Zeller was 0-of-4 tonight. Funny, I never got an outraged “tease” response tonight.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2015 at 02:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

February 22, 2015

On MKG, Al Jefferson and rushing Noah Vonleh into the mix

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ fourth consecutive loss:

MKG is a Swiss Army Knife:. Michael Kidd-Gilchrest was the Hornets’ best overall player Saturday, He guarded Russell Westbrook because he can and there was no Hornets point guard available who would not have given up 50.

I always laugh when people tell me “Al must go!”  Now that the trade deadline is over, a caution:There wasn’t a second when anyone in this organization thought trading Al Jefferson made any sense.

If you had Vonleh in the pool...: The Hornets probably did the right thing taking Noah Vonleh ninth. But the idea they should be playing a 19-year-old kid over Jason Maxiell now would make the vast majority of NBA coaches laugh.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 22, 2015 at 02:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

February 19, 2015

Charlotte Hornets rivals Heat and Pistons make significant trades

            While the Charlotte Hornets didn’t make a deal at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, two teams pursing them in the Eastern Conference standings made significant moves.

            With the All-Star break ending the Hornets are 22-30, tied for seventh place in the East with the Miami Heat.  The Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons are all within two games of the Hornets’ and Heat’s record.

            The Heat sent Danny Granger, two first-round picks and several other lesser players to the Phoenix Suns for point guard Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran. Goran Dragic was third-team All-NBA last season.

            Then the Pistons acquired combo guard Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal that also involved the Utah Jazz. The Pistons sent Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin to OKC.

            These moves have potential to improve the Heat and Pistons greatly. Goran Dragic is a strong pick-and-roll point guard and an excellent perimeter shooter. He’s averaging 16.2 points and 4.1 assists this season and shooting 50 percent from the field.

            Jackson has been one of the better sixth men in the NBA this season. He averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 assists and four rebounds for the Thunder this season. Jackson figures to have a bigger role in Detroit than he did with the Thunder, which is built around All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

            While the Hornets didn’t make a trade Thursday, they made one last week to acquire Mo Williams and Troy Daniels from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Adding veteran point guard Williams was important to get the Hornet through another month while Kemba Walker recovers from knee surgery.

            The day of the Williams-Daniels trade, Hornets general manager Rich Cho said he didn’t see any glaring needs on the roster after that deal.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 19, 2015 at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

February 11, 2015

Charlotte Hornets' signature move: These small trade-deadline deals

            For what it’s worth…

            The Bobcats/Hornets have obviously made some dubious player-personnel choices. They drafted Adam Morrison way too high, they traded for Gana Diop, they gave Tyrus Thomas a massive contract extension. I could keep going but…

            They tend to be good traders of late, right at the deadline.

            Each of the past three seasons they made a deal in February that looked sound and safe. First it was acquiring Josh McRoberts from the Orlando Magic (a deal that proved to be essential to making the playoffs in the spring of 2014). Then, last season, they acquired Gary Neal from the Milwaukee Bucks. He was a major boost to an offense that needed a lot of help in March and April.

            This time it’s essentially moving Neal and a second-round pick the Miami Heat owes the Hornets for point guard Mo Williams. There are other parts in this deal, but that’s the crux of what happened.

            The Hornets needed immediate help at point guard, and Williams can deliver that. The Hornets can live without Neal because they’re overloaded at the wing positions. The second-round pick is what I call “tip money” in NBA currency.

            This will probably work out. And if it doesn’t, it will have minimal long-term consequence. The Hornets didn’t give up a future first-round pick or significant salary-cap flexibility to make this happen.

            They likely bettered themselves today. For whatever reason, this has become their signature move.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 11, 2015 at 12:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (96)

Charlotte Hornets takeaways: Taylor's defense, Stephenson no point guard, need a refresher course on double-teams

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ blowout home loss to the Detroit Pistons’

            Maybe the only positive from a 28-point loss: Jeff Taylor, the fill-in starter for injured small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is steadily improving, coach Steve Clifford says.

            Taylor was one of the few Hornets to shoot well Tuesday, making 5-of-8 from the field. In the third quarter, after it was obvious Brian Roberts couldn’t guard point guard D.J. Augustin, Taylor took a turn with him.

            Augustin’s second half: Three points, 0-of-2 from the field and zero assists. Before Taylor ruptured his Achilles tendon 14 months ago, Clifford had started using him defensively on players other than small forwards. Taylor’s role figures to reduce when Kidd-Gilchrist returns, but he’s earning a spot in the rotation.

            Lance Stephenson isn’t a point guard: He gave it his best try and for that he deserves credit, but Tuesday night demonstrated Stephenson is a shooting guard with some play-making skills, not a point guard.

            He had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (four assists, five turnovers) and committed four fouls in 20 minutes.

            Stephenson and the now-gone Gary Neal did their best the past two weeks to play out of position in Kemba Walker’s absence. The trade for Mo Williams will help get them more organized the rest of this month while Walker recovers from knee surgery.

            Figure out this double-team business: I thought Gerald Henderson said something really insightful last season – that it’s fun playing with a low-post scorer like Al Jefferson, but it’s also challenging. Henderson was talking about learning how best to get Jefferson the ball and what to do when teams start doubling him constantly.

            The Hornets were bad in the second half at figuring out how to exploit the opportunities presented by Detroit paying so much attention to Jefferson. Maybe that should be a focus in those three consecutive practices they’ll have next week before playing another game.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 11, 2015 at 12:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)