April 04, 2015

Charlotte Hornets update on injuries to Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

            The Charlotte Hornets aren’t ready to rule center Al Jefferson out for the season just yet.

            Coach Steve Clifford raised the possibility Friday in Indianapolis that Jefferson’s on-going right knee soreness could scratch him from the team’s remaining seven games. While Jefferson will be out against the Philadelphia 76ers, Clifford said pre-game Saturday that the franchise will keep an open mind to playing Jefferson at least until the Hornets are eliminated from the playoff race.

            In Jefferson’s absence tonight Clifford will start Bismack Biyombo at center and use Jason Maxiell as Biyombo’s backup. With Cody Zeller still out at power forward, Marvin Williams will again start with rookie Noah Vonleh as his backup.

            As to the Hornets’ other significant injury, Clifford said small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s left ankle is still quite swollen. Clifford had previously said the earliest Kidd-Gilchrist might play would be Tuesday in Miami. But based on the ongoing swelling, it’s hard to picture Kidd-Gilchrist playing against the Heat or at home Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors.

            The Hornets started Saturday in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and are running out of games to make up ground on eighth place. Sixers coach Brett Brown, a good friend of Clifford’s, put the Hornets’ situation this way: “I think they’re desperate. Their hour glass is running out.”

Posted by Observer Sports on April 4, 2015 at 05:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (112)

Big Al's knee means Charlotte Hornets' season is over

Three takeaways from the Hornets’ soul-sucking loss to the Indiana Pacers:

            It’s over: Sadly that has slightly less to do with the record than the fact that Al Jefferson might be done for the season. No way they recover from that:

            Free Vonleh: Go at it. Play him 40 minutes a night. It doesn’t much matter now in a lost season.

            Opprtunity: I keep hearing what a special talent P.J. Hairston is: He shot 0-of-5 on a night when it was perfect for him to get them in the game.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 4, 2015 at 02:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

April 01, 2015

Hornets coach Steve Clifford owns decision to sign Lance Stephenson

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 102-78 victory over the Detroit Pistons:

            Clifford owns decision to sign Stephenson: Coach Steve Clifford had said before he was as strong an advocate as any Hornets decision-maker for signing Lance Stephenson last July.

            Wednesday he made sure there was no misconception.

            “Lance is here because of me. I’m the one that wanted Lance,” Clifford said after not playing him for the second consecutive game. “It’s simply that I can’t find a group that plays well when he’s out there.”

            Jefferson’s knee: For the third time in about nine days Hornets center Al Jefferson had fluid drained from his right knee in order to play. Jefferson was moving poorly enough at morning shootaround that Clifford considered not playing him Wednesday. Clifford said it would take weeks of rest for Jefferson to get any real relief from his knee injury.

            A strong first quarter: The Hornets have been plagued of late by slow starts to games. They led by eight entering the second quarter and never trailed Wednesday. Point guard Kemba Walker set the agenda with 17 first-half points. Strangely enough he never scored in the second half.


Charlotte Hornets' Lance Stephenson celebrates a teammate's 3-point basket against the Detroit Pistons, Wednesday, April 1, 2015. The Hornets won 102-78. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Posted by Observer Sports on April 1, 2015 at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

March 30, 2015

On Big Al's body, Lance sitting and Cody a late scratch

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 116-104 home loss to the Boston Celtics:

            Big Al is hurting: In order to continue playing, center Al Jefferson has twice had fluid drained from his sore right knee over the past week.

            Jefferson’s game is based in skill, not athleticism, but his movement is obviously impeded right now. His body is betraying him and I don’t know if that can improve over the final nine games.

            Lance Stephenson sits: For the first time this season Clifford chose not to play Stephenson at all. Clifford said all the right things post-game about how Stephenson shouldn’t be blamed for the team’s struggles. Stephenson chose his words carefully, saying this is out of his hands and that he believes he can help the Hornets win.

            At this point I don’t know what you could get for Stephenson in trade. The Hornets might be better off at the trade deadline next February, when the guaranteed portion of his contract be close to expiring.

            Zeller a scratch Monday: I was surprised to hear Monday morning that Cody Zeller planned to play against the Celtics. I watched him work out Saturday and he took almost all his shots with his left arm. The pain in his sprained right shoulder flared up after morning shootaround, so Zeller missed his sixth consecutive game.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 30, 2015 at 11:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

Charlotte Hornet Cody Zeller planning to play tonight versus Celtics

            Three Charlotte Hornets updates from Monday morning shootaround before tonight’s home game against the Boston Celtics.

            Zeller looks like a go: Power forward Cody Zeller went through shootaround and is planning to play against the Celtics. He’s missed the last five games with a right shoulder sprain.

            “We’ll wait and see how he is, but he’s going to try and play,” coach Steve Clifford said. “He wasn’t grimacing or anything (when he shoots) the way he had been. He looked to me a lot better.”

            Fluid drained from Al Jefferson’s knee: For the second time in a week center Al Jefferson had fluid drained from his right knee. Jefferson struggled physically in the second half Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. Bismack Biyombo picked up most of Jefferson’s minutes after halftime.

            ESPN drops telecast: ESPN has decided not to televise the Hornets’ home game against the Toronto Raptors on April 8. The network will instead televise a game between the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics.

            No word yet on whether SportSouth will pick up that Raptors-Hornets telecast.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 30, 2015 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

March 29, 2015

3 takeaways on a night the Hornets got a gimme

Three takeaways from a night when the Atlanta Hawks didn’t care less whether the Charlotte Hornets beat them or not:

         It’s not their fault fate fell in their lap: Tonight the schedule happened to work in their favor. Frankly it’s much odder when they play five games in seven nights and someone is angry they didn’t beat the Warriors.

            Whoever thought they’d be looking up at the Celtics? Monday feels like a big game: Lots of stakes including a tiebreaker. Charlotte is a town that generally doesn’t show up much early-week. They should for this one.

            It’s gonna be hard to lean on Al Jefferson and Mo Williams: They both look really tired.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 29, 2015 at 02:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

March 28, 2015

Tonight might haunt the Hornets all season

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ huge road loss to the Washington Wizards:

            Haunting: Al Jefferson said the Hornets might be “haunted’ by this loss all summer. Big Al is a stand-up guy and I get what he means.

            Mo Williams came up big: A day removed from missing practice with a sore knee, Williams was a rebound short of a triple-double. Sure, it was a double-overtime game, but that is impressive.

            Gerald Henderson is balling:  Henderson had a career-high 14 rebounds Friday. Meanwhile Lance Stephenson played 12 minutes.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 28, 2015 at 02:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

March 26, 2015

Three takeaways from a deflating home loss to the Nets

Three takeaways from a Charlotte Hornets loss that dropped them to 11th in the East:

            Major consequences tonight: I’d say after losing to the Nets and forfeiting the tiebreaker, the Hornets are a 35 percent chance of making the playoffs.

            Clifford fired? No: I get a bunch of questions about whether Steve Clifford’s job is in danger. If management were to say the Hornets would be better off next season without Clifford than with Clifford, that should be a great reason for fans to wonder where this franchise is going. It would be a horrible decision.

            Slow starts: Tonight was the first time since March 6 that the Hornets had a lead entering the second quarter. It’s really hard to constantly play from behind.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 26, 2015 at 01:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (57)

March 25, 2015

Charlotte Hornets' Steve Clifford: Al Jefferson won't be 100% rest of season

            Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford believes center Al Jefferson’s right knee soreness will linger the rest of the season.

            “Al is not going to be 100 percent here the rest of the year. He is just not,” Clifford said at shootaround Wednesday morning.

            Clifford pulled Jefferson in the second half of Monday’s road loss to the Chicago Bulls. Jefferson wanted to keep playing in what was then a close game, but Clifford was more worried about the long haul.

“The other night he was limping. He feels better today but it is going to be game-to-game with him,” Clifford said. “He doesn’t want to sit, he wants to play through it, so we just have to read it.”

            Jefferson had a groin strain earlier this season that knocked him out for several games. His playoff series last season against the Miami Heat was short-circuited by a plantar-fascia injury.

“I told him in the third quarter I don’t want to have another thing like last season where you missed three week, so I’m not putting you back in,” Clifford recalled. “He argued a little bit because we were right there. But when I see him limping around, I go back to last time. We can’t afford to lose him for three weeks.”

Jefferson isn’t the only Hornets big man who is injured. Power forward Cody Zeller will miss his third consecutive game with a sprained right shoulder.

“No Cody,” Clifford said. “Jason Maxiel is pretty beaten up, too, but he doesn’t want to sit. It’s that time of year.”

China trip: Some additional details emerged Wednesday morning regarding the Hornets’ trip to China next preseason for two exhibitions against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Hornets will have training camp at Time Warner Cable Arena next season, rather than return to UNC-Asheville, to cut down on travel. Also the NBA grants teams playing overseas additional training-camp days to compensate for the time lost to international travel.

Clifford twice was an assistant coach on teams that played in China in the preseason – with the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic.

“It’s different. It will definitely play into September” preparations, Clifford said. “But the experience, as far as representing the NBA and the things you get to see, is a neat thing.”

Clifford said it’s easy to single out the best memory from those trips.

“Of anything I’ve ever seen, the Great Wall of China was wow,” Clifford said. “The players still talk about it.”

Posted by Observer Sports on March 25, 2015 at 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Source: Charlotte Hornets' Mark Price agrees to become Charlotte 49ers coach

Charlotte Hornets assistant coach Mark Price agreed to terms overnight Tuesday to become head coach of the Charlotte 49ers’ men’s basketball program, an informed source told the Observer.

            Price, 51, will replace Alan Major, who left the position about two weeks ago. Price has been an assistant with the Hornets the past two seasons. His most high-profile accomplishment in that span was improving the highly flawed jump shot of small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

            Price’s college experience is limited to a brief stint as an assistant coach with Georgia Tech. He has been an NBA assistant with the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors.

    Price was one of the NBA's top point guards in his era, with multiple All-Star appearances as a Cleveland Cavalier. The Cavs interviewed Price for their head-coaching opening last summer.

            ESPN.com reported Tuesday that the 49ers had offered Price a five-year contract. An informed source told the Observer early Wednesday that the two sides have agreed to terms.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 25, 2015 at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)