December 19, 2014

Three takeaways from the Hornets' rare dominant victory

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 109-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

             Veteran eyes: It’s dangerous to draw a lot of sweeping conclusions from this game since the 76ers are so self-destructive. But I did like how well the Hornets recognized and responded to Sixers coach Brett Brown’s extreme efforts to take away center Al Jefferson.

            The other Hornets presented themselves as targets, Jefferson often threw the pass that led to the pass, and that made for a 42 percent shooting night from 3-point range.

            Show you something? I liked how aggressive Gerald Henderson was tonight from tip-off. I’m guessing here, but I suspect he feels a little forgotten, starting only when Lance Stephenson is hurt.

            We all know Henderson’s limitations. But he gave what he had tonight and was efficient and productive.

            The “Free P.J.” chatter amuses me: Because Stephenson was out, rookie P.J. Hairston was back in the rotation. He shot 1-of-7 from the field and 0-of-5 from 3-point range.

            That stuff happens to rookies. They have to figure it out. But if, say, Gary Neal had those numbers, my Twitter responses would blow up with how useless he is.

            Not a single negative reaction to Hairston’s night. I’m not sure I get why he’s so Teflon. The Tar Heel connection? The anti-hero rep? The seductive quality of new?

            Like I said, it’s amusing.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 11:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

December 18, 2014

Three takeaways from the Hornets' loss to the Phoenix Suns:

Three takeaways from the Hornets’ 111-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns:

            Important stuff you might have missed: The most newsworthy thing that came out of Time Warner Cable Arena had nothing to do with the game. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said its inevitable Charlotte gets an All-Star Weekend, after city council agreed to pay $33.5 million in renovations/improvements to the building.

            Quoting Silver: “I don’t think there’s any question it’s going to happen,”

I always saw this as a “Quid pro quo”: If you look at the contract the city signed with the NBA during expansion, it’s incumbent on them to keep the arena competitive. Doing these things now, rather than dragging their feet, awards an All-Star Game, which is a ton of filled hotel rooms and restaurants in mid-February, when Charlotte is otherwise dead.

When was the last time the NASCAR Hall of Fame did anything like that?

How badly is Stephenson hurt? I left the Hornets locker room tonight shortly after Lance Stephenson. Lance was 20 paces ahead of me and by the time I reached the media room, I had to slow up not to pass him.

He was moving like the Tin Woodsman in the Wizard of Oz, like you wanted to put oil in each of his joints. Whatever a “groin contusion” is, he sure looked debilitated.

The absurd danger of the plus-minus stat: The only two Hornets with pluses on the box score tonight were Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo. With all due respect to their contributions, I don’t think that had either Hendo or Biz played more tonight, the Hornets’ chances of winning would have grown much, if at all.

That is an absurdly random stat, in that it often reflects more when you played, rather than how you played.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 18, 2014 at 01:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

December 17, 2014

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says All-Star Game in Charlotte is inevitable

Now that the Charlotte Hornets and the city of Charlotte have agreed to an arena renovation, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said its inevitable Charlotte will get an All-Star Game

“Personally I’m very excited about coming back here. I don’t think there’s any question it’s going to happen,” Silver said during a visit to Charlotte Wednesday. “Just a matter of what year.”

            The first available All-Star Game up for bid is in 2017. In all likelihood the 2017 and 2018 events will be awarded to cities simultaneously. Silver said there’s no set date for when those games will be awarded, but he’d like it to be as soon as possible.

“We want to award them as early as possible so there would be maximum opportunity to plan,” Silver said.

“I met here with (Hornets president) Fred Whitfield and (team owner) Michael Jordan earlier this afternoon to discuss precisely this among other issues. It’s a matter of what’s precisely the timetable now for the renovations to the building.”

The city agreed to pay for $33.5 million of what would be more than $40 million in renovations and upgrades to Time Warner Cable Arena. The league would want most, if not all, of those renovations completed before an All-Star Weekend is staged here.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 17, 2014 at 06:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

December 16, 2014

Suspension over, but unlikely Charlotte Hornets' Jeff Taylor will immediately be on active roster

            The 24-game NBA suspension Charlotte Hornets small forward Jeff Taylor received, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor domestic-violence charge in Michigan, expired with Monday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

            That doesn’t mean Taylor will necessarily be on the court with the Hornets anytime soon.

            Hornets coach Steve Clifford was asked Tuesday about Taylor’s situation. He said he didn’t anticipate Taylor being on the active roster immediately for a number of factors.

             Clifford noted it’s been nearly a year since Taylor last played in an NBA game after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in late December. Taylor’s only activity with the team since then has been a couple of workouts with the summer-league team in July and some practices after the NBA announced his suspension.

            Taylor was allowed to practice at home, but not to travel with the team.

            The wing positions – small forward and shooting guard – are the deepest spots for the Hornets this season. Clifford said it would make no sense to use one of the 13 active roster spots on Taylor until it was clear he’d play ahead of one of the other wings in the rotation.

            Right now, Clifford said, that wouldn’t be the case.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 16, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

December 15, 2014

Hornets' Cody Zeller took one serious shot to the nose

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 97-88 road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers:

            Wow, did Cody Zeller get thumped: Zeller looked like a mugging victim after this one. His nose was mangled, with a ping-pong ball-sized bump protruding midway up the bridge.

            The initial diagnosis was a “nasal contusion.” Hopefully that’s the extent of it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that nose is fractured. Hopefully no concussion. Zeller has played well of late and I hope this doesn’t set him back.

            According to Zeller Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao fell on his head with Zeller already on the floor. Big a guy as Varejao is, you can see how that could cause a lot of damage.

            At least Zeller didn’t lose his sense of humor, surmising, “I can’t get any uglier” as the media surveyed the damage.

            What’s with Big Al? Center Al Jefferson was so dominant late last season you just penciled him in for 20 points and 10 rebounds every game.

            Not so much anymore. Jefferson has reached 20 points once in his last six games. He’s had 13, 16, 23, 16, eight and most recently 14 versus the Cavaliers.

            Jefferson was 7-of-13 from the field Monday, just the second time in those six games when he shot 50 percent or better.

            Who Clifford trusts to perform: I think the group that finished Monday’s game – Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gichrist, Gary Neal and Marvin Williams – represents the group coach Steve Clifford most trusts to win a close game.

            Clifford wants Kidd-Gilchrist there because he’s clearly this team’s best defender. Jefferson and Walker are givens. Williams and Neal are the shooters with the best chance (and that’s relative) of creating some spacing to allow Jefferson to work in the post. Also, Clifford trusts Neal’s offensive decision-making with the ball.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 15, 2014 at 11:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

December 13, 2014

Charlotte Hornets join the "I Can't Breathe" movement, wearing T-shirts in warm-ups vs. Brooklyn Nets

The Charlotte Hornets joined the “I Can’t Breathe” movement among professional athletes, focused on the choking death of a New York man last summer.

All 13 Hornets on the active roster warmed up for Saturday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets wearing black T-shirts with white lettering reading, “I Can’t Breathe.”

That sentence is related to the death of Staten Island’s Eric Garner, a black man who died as the result of a chokehold by a New York City police officer.

A New York grand jury chose not to indict the police officer, which has sparked various protests around the country.

“I can’t breathe” were reportedly Garner’s last words before he died. He was the father of six and suffered from asthma.

Chicago Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose was the first NBA player to wear the “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt while warming up for a game against the Golden State Warriors Dec. 7. Since then the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers have warmed up in the shirts.

As more teams have chosen to wear the T-shirts, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently told Yahoo Sports that while he respects players expressing personal views, he’d prefer they’d abide by the league’s on-court attire rules.

However the league has levied no fines for uniform violations in these instances.



Posted by Observer Sports on December 13, 2014 at 07:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

Three takeaways from the night the Hornets had their chances against the Grizzlies

Three takeaways from the night the Charlotte Hornets coulda/shoulda beaten a tremendously talented team….

Gerald Henderson screwed up. Don’t over-react: Henderson made the single biggest mistake in the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and he admitted as much.

He ran out on Marc Gasol and that allowed Vince Carter to end up with an open 3 that went in. He acknowledged that was a significant screw-up. And if the Hornets ultimately trade him, in an over-filled group of wings, it wouldn’t surprise me.

But you know what that disregards? The only reason they didn’t lose in regulation was Henderson’s put-back at the buzzer.

Who is producing? Someone asked me tonight why the big free-agent signing played less than Gary Neal.

My reaction was the big free-agent signing – Lance Stephenson – scored eight points in 28 minutes and the guy coming off the bench scored 25 points in 33 minutes. On a team that is offense-deficient, that’s a pretty telling stat.

Here’s a more telling stat: Stephenson didn’t take a free throw tonight. Neal took 11 in roughly the same span.

Who didn’t play: Jason Maxiell and Jannerro Pargo didn’t play for the Hornets tonight. The only other active Hornet not to play was P.J. Hairston.

Hmmm. Wonder why? Could be a while until he’s no longer in timeout.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 13, 2014 at 06:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

December 11, 2014

Three takeaways from the Hornets winning two in a row:

            Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets victory over the Boston Celtics:

-- I’ve heard again and again that Brad Stevens is a coaching savant. I’m not disputing that. But never in two years of covering Al Jefferson have I seen a coach do less to double-team one of the best low-post scorers in the NBA.

            Tyler Zeller guarding Jefferson late was a joke and there was no real response defensively. Limited as the Celtics are, that is no excuse.

-- The Hornets took 29 free throws. The Celtics took 10.

That, in a perfect world, is how they would play. It’s kind of how they played last season, but I’m not at all sure that is how they can play this season.

-- P.J. Hairston was P.J. Hairston tonight. Sad.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2014 at 01:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

December 10, 2014

Hairston will sit out Celtics game after missing practice with an unexcused absence

Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston will not play versus the Boston Celtics tonight as discipline for missing Tuesday’s practice without an excused absence.

            Hornets coach Steve Clifford made that announcement at the end of his pre-game media availability. Clifford didn’t provide detail of why Hairston was absent from practice Tuesday.

            This is the fourth odd incident involving Hairston since he became a Hornet in a draft-night trade with the Miami Heat. In July, the day before the start of summer-league practice, former North Carolina star Hairston got into an altercation with a high school player at a Durham YMCA.

            A charge against Hairston was eventually dropped at the request of the high school player, Northern Durham High School’s Kentrell Barkley. At the time of the incident Clifford said it’s time for Hairston to take stock of his professionalism coming into the NBA.

            “What I told him the other day is, we need to start having more meetings about his defense and shot selection and less about what he’s got to do to be a dependable player,” Clifford said in July.

            “The guys who do the right things off the floor give themselves the chance to do the right things on the floor. That just makes sense. It all fits together.”

            Hairston also chose over the summer to swap cars in Chapel Hill with Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was later arrested in Hairston’s Cadillac on a DWI charge in Raleigh.

            Hairston said that was the result of a chance meeting with Gordon at a grocery store.

            Also in July The Sporting News reported Hairston initially signed with an agent, Juan Morrow, who was not certified by the National Basketball Players Association. Had the Hornets signed Hairston while he was still represented by Morrow, the team could have faced a fine from the NBA.

            Morrow later brought in an attorney with NBPA certification to act as Hairston’s agent of record.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 10, 2014 at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 06, 2014

Three takeaways from the game that freed the Hornets from a 10-game losing streak

Three takeaways from the “They finally won” Charlotte Hornets game:

            Talent seduces. It also deceives: I’m often told the Hornets are under-achieving relative to talent, and I certainly don’t disagree that their record is poor.

            But here’s the rub: Would last season’s team beat this season’s team? I’d say yes. In fact, I think the Bobcats circa April 2014 would beat the Hornets circa December 2014 in a best-of-seven series in five games.

            That team had a mutual purpose and a defensive toughness this one doesn’t. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is hurt, which is no one’s fault. But they miss Josh McRoberts big-time at both ends and that was a factor in them nearly blowing their third 20-point lead this season.

            Rebounding isn’t sexy, but it matters: The Hornets had 10 offensive rebounds Friday to the Knicks’ four, resulting in 13 second-chance points to New York’s seven.

            The Hornets have lost games they should have won because they let the other team extend possessions. Tonight they won in part because they extended possessions at the Knicks’ expense.

            Gary Neal is a welcome return: Neal missed the past three games with a shoulder contusion. He made five of nine shots for 13 points and added three assists.

            He is arguably the second-most efficient offensive player on this team behind Al Jefferson.


Posted by Observer Sports on December 6, 2014 at 04:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)