November 22, 2014

Hornets injuries: MKG likely out rest of month; Hairston still out with a sprained ankle

It sounds unlikely that Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will play the rest of November while recovering from a stress reaction in his right foot.

            Hornets coach Steve Clifford told the Observer Saturday he isn’t counting on Kidd-Gilchrist being back before the Dec. 3 home game against the Chicago Bulls. Kidd-Gilchrist has missed the past four games after a magnetic resonance imaging in Phoenix Nov. 13 showed evidence of a stress reaction.

            A stress reaction is a precursor to a stress fracture. The MRI showed weakening of the bone structure, but does not yet show evidence of a fracture.

            Kidd-Gilchrist said the day after his MRI that he wanted to be extremely careful to avoid this becoming a stress fracture. The Hornets are taking the same approach.

“We’re lucky that he said something (about feeling pain) because if he gets a stress fracture we’re in deep trouble,” Clifford said. “I think that is why they’re being very careful.”

            The Hornets will also be without shooting guard P.J. Hairston for Sunday’s road game against the Miami Heat and probably Monday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

            Hairston has a sprained ankle and Clifford said he’s probably two or three days away from playing. The Hornets play five games in seven nights starting Sunday in Miami.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 22, 2014 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 20, 2014

Three takeaways from the Hornets' loss to the Pacers

Three takeaways from the Hornets’ 88-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers:

            -- Have you ever bought an old house? By definition it’s leaky. Either some water pipe breaks or the energy is escaping in the summer or the winter

            That is the problem with the Hornets this season that didn’t exist last season. Some nights it’s turnovers (not tonight, they totaled six). Sometimes it’s opponent offensive rebounds (bingo – 13 in the second half). They leak things that were never an issue last season That’s why they are 4-8.

            -- Twice in the last two days Steve Clifford has talked about Lance Stephenson “managing competiveness.” Call me presumptuous, but that sounds like code for, “He’s preoccupied with officials when he should be getting back on defense.”

            -- All the stat geeks who claimed Josh McRoberts really wasn’t all that important to the Bobcats’ success? Um, no. He’s not a great NBA player, but he addressed their flaws

Posted by Observer Sports on November 20, 2014 at 01:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (94)

November 18, 2014

Three takeaways from another blowout loss by the Hornets

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 107-80 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks:

            -- The Hornets reached the playoffs last season because they performed like the perfectly-behaved child: They committed the fewest turnovers in the league and the fewest fouls in the league and they led the NBA in defensive-rebounding percentage.

            Look at the statistics from Monday: The Hornets committed 13 turnovers to the Mavericks’ eight. They were outrebounded 50-35. They committed only one fewer foul than the Mavs (18-17).

            From very early on last season the Bobcats understood they couldn’t afford to deviate from the script. This past off-season the now-Hornets got a little more talented offensively with Lance Stephenson and P.J. Hairston. But these Hornets don’t have nearly enough firepower to get off their cues.

            I’ve been writing since the start of training camp that last season’s team had special chemistry that might not carry over. Some of the guys who departed – Josh McRoberts, Anthony Tolliver and Chris Douglas-Roberts – were important to that chemistry. It’s not the same, not yet anyway.

            -- It was interesting when coach Steve Clifford interjected into his post-game comments that part of the problem is players “either not handling frustration or disappointment on the court.”

            It sounded to me like he was talking (though not exclusively) about Stephenson. They knew they were getting an emotional sort and that’s who he’s been. When he feels he’s been fouled and it’s not called, he’s sometimes more focused on staring down the referees than transition defense.

            Austin Rivers scored a couple of layups on Stephenson in New Orleans, and no one compares Rivers to the Flash. That was about not shaking off what happened at the offensive end.

            -- The moment when fans booed loudly and with every right: Cody Zeller came down with a defensive rebound in the fourth quarter. Dallas deep reserve Greg Smith reached out and grabbed the ball away from Zeller’s grasp like a school-bus bully. Smith scored on a four-foot hook shot.

            I’m not singling out Zeller for criticism. But that play symbolized the absurd difference between these two teams’ readiness Monday and I sure understand why a paying customer would react the way the crowd did.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 18, 2014 at 12:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (52)

November 16, 2014

When you need your friends most: Gerald Henderson was there for Wayne Ellington Saturday

OAKLAND,  Cal. -- Charlotte Hornets guard Gerald Henderson flew overnight Friday from Phoenix to Philadelphia for the funeral of Wayne Ellington’s father. He then flew to Oakland, Cal., in time to play against the Golden State Warriors Saturday night.

            Henderson played high school ball with Ellington in suburban Philadelphia. Henderson played college ball at Duke, while Ellington played for North Carolina.

The two remain close friends. Ellington’s father was shot to death Nov. 9 in a Philadelphia neighborhood and Ellington learned of his father’s death as he was leaving last Sunday’s Hornets-Lakers game.

            Coincidentally, Henderson was there to console his friend.

“It’s a pretty tragic time when somebody passes away,” Henderson said following the Warriors game. “I went to the funeral this morning. Wayne was strong. I just had to be there for my friend. I wish our schedule was better, but I had to be there for him.

“This was something that had to take precedent. Wayne was strong. He had a lot of people come for him – to show love for him and his dad and his family. It was obviously a sad day but also a good day.”

            Henderson said he thinks it was fated that the Hornets played the Lakers that night so he could be there for his friend.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about that, especially my mom,” Henderson told the Observer. “It’s no coincidence. He needs as much support as possible. When he found out, for me to be there, that was not random. Something like that is definitely upstairs.”

Posted by Observer Sports on November 16, 2014 at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Hornets' Gary Neal talks about his concussion

OAKLAND, Cal. -- I spoke briefly with Gary Neal as he was leaving Oracle Arena Saturday night. He was diagnosed with a concussion after a fall in the lane during the Charlotte Hornets’ 112-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

            Neal said he’d been cleared to fly home to Charlotte on the Hornets’ team charter after being examined by the Warriors' doctor.

            Neal sounded coherent. He remembered the second-quarter play where he was injured, saying no one hit him in the head. Neal went up for a six-foot jump shot in the lane with 3:23 left in the first half. Klay Thompson blocked his shot and Neal fell hard, hitting his head on the court.

            Warriors forward Harrison Barnes dunked at the other end off the rebound of Neal’s miss. Neal lay under the other basket and the Hornets called a timeout to tend to him. At halftime the Hornets announced Neal was diagnosed with a concussion.

            Under the NBA’s concussion protocol, Neal will go through a series of tests, with gradual additions to exertion, before he’d be cleared to play again: From stationary bike to jogging to agility work to non-contact drills.

            Neal must be symptom-free in each step before he’d be cleared to practice or play.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 16, 2014 at 03:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 15, 2014

Three takeaways from Hornets' road victory over the Suns

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 103-95 road victory over the Phoenix Suns:

            -- Before this game Hornets coach Steve Clifford said his No. 1 concern these days is turnovers. They entered this game committing 14.9 turnovers per game, 17th-fewest among the 30 NBA teams. Last season they committed the fewest turnovers in the NBA.

            So look what happened: They committed seven turnovers in this game. Between the opponent, the injuries and being on the road, they easily could have lost. Instead they got their first victory on the road.

            Turnovers – they’re bound to get you.

            -- Looks like Clifford made his point to reserve center Bismack Biyombo: Either play with the right intensity and focus or don’t expect to play.

            Biyombo played his first meaningful minutes of the season against the Suns. He finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 14 minutes.

            You can debate whether Biyombo should have played sooner than this. But Clifford felt Biyombo had a lousy preseason and he got Biyombo’s attention by playing Jason Maxiell ahead of him.

            Clifford made sure to praise Biyombo post-game: “He’s capable of doing that night-in and night-out. He was motivated to play and a talented guy. He can help us a lot.”

            -- Lance Stephenson told me post-game his groin strain flairs up intermittently in a way you really can’t predict. The only treatment would be rest, and Stephenson doesn’t care to miss any more games.

            There was a good chance he wouldn’t play Friday, and he still ended up with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 15, 2014 at 01:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

November 14, 2014

Hornets' Kidd-Gilchrist out vs. Suns; Williams, Neal and Stephenson also might miss game

PHOENIX – Facing three Western Conference playoff contenders in the next four nights, the Charlotte Hornets suddenly have a slew of injuries to rotation players.

            Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will miss at least the next two games with a stress reaction in his right foot. Additionally Lance Stephenson (groin strain), Marvin Williams (knee tendinitis) and Gary Neal (sore left foot) could all miss tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center.

            This comes at a time when the Hornets are playing a rough, crowded schedule. The Hornets complete their four-game West Coast road trip Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, then play a home game Monday against the Dallas Mavericks.

            Hornets coach Steve Clifford said before Friday-morning shootaround that rookie P.J. Hairston will make his first NBA start tonight, replacing Kidd-Gilchrist. Cody Zeller will start at power forward if Williams can’t play.

            If Stephenson and Neal are out, Clifford could either start Gerald Henderson or start two point guards, since the Suns do that with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.

            Williams was listed as doubtful Thursday after missing practice with tendinitis in his left knee. Neal slipped on a wet spot at practice Thursday, resulting in a left foot contusion. Stephenson aggravated the groin strain that caused him to miss part of the preseason.

“Mike can’t play. Gary wants to try, but I don’t see it. Marvin won’t play,” Clifford said before shootaround. “Lance is going to see how he feels in the shootaround.”

            The Hornets’ schedule is heavily front-loaded with 18 games in the first 32 days.

“This is why at this point in time we don’t practice that much. We do more in shootaround,” Clifford said. “(The injuries give) other guys an opportunity to come in and play. Still no reason we can’t play well and win.

            Kidd-Gilchrist said his foot started bothering him Wednesday. He got a magnetic resonance imaging Thursday that showed a stress reaction.

“I’m going to take my time coming back and make sure everything is right again,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 14, 2014 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

November 13, 2014

Marvin Williams doubtful for Suns; Cody Zeller would likely start, but Noah Vonleh might still sit

PHOENIX -- Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford anticipates starting Cody Zeller at power forward Friday if Marvin Williams can’t play due to tendinitis in his left knee.

            Who Zeller’s backup would be is more up in the air. Clifford doubts rookie Noah Vonleh is ready to play, since he missed so much of the preseason recovering from sports hernia surgery.

            So Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might be a fill-in power forward.

“We could play smaller. We’ve worked some with Mike at the four, which is something I eventually want to do” occasionally, Clifford said following practice Thursday at U.S. Airways Center.

Williams sat out practice and is listed as doubtul for the Suns game.

            Getting Vonleh up to speed has been further hampered by the Hornets' busy game schedule.

“We haven’t been able to practice. He's great, he pays attention, but the poor guy -- it’s like his second week of training camp he’s so far behind,” Clifford said of Vonleh, the ninth overall pick in June.

“He may play a little bit but he’s not close to being ready to play for any number of minutes.”

Posted by Observer Sports on November 13, 2014 at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

November 12, 2014

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets' road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday

Three takeaways from the Hornets’ 102-100 road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers:

            -- The Hornets are best in the NBA at defensive rebound percentage. By definition that means they are elite at preventing opponent second-chance points. So Tuesday’s result – the Trail Blazers scored nine second-chance points in the fourth quarter to win this game –  really should not have happened.

            The Trail Blazers had six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter to one by the Hornets. That’s what gets a team beaten even after leading by 23 points in the first half.

            -- Gary Neal made the right decision, it just didn’t work out. Damian Lillard ran out on him and had he taken a 3-pointer on that last possession it would not have been a quality shot. Instead he drove and was a tenth of a second late on a dunk that would have sent this game to overtime.

            -- Thirteen total turnovers by the Hornets don’t sound bad, but consider that six of those came in the fourth quarter when it all came apart. They don’t value the ball the way they did last season and that will cost a team without the firepower to overcome sloppy play.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 12, 2014 at 03:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

November 11, 2014

How various Charlotte Hornets stand among NBA league leaders

Some here and there on the Charlotte Hornets based on an early look at the NBA stats leaders.

-- If Hornets shooting guard Lance Stephenson can maintain what he’s doing as a rebounder over this entire season, it would be quite extraordinary.

Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Stephenson averaged 10.4 rebounds per game, tied for 12th in the league with New Orleans center Omer Asik.

Everyone ahead of him on the rebounding list is a center or power forward. In fact you have to drop to 27th (San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard) and 29th (Boston’s Rajon Rondo) to find other top rebounders who aren’t centers or power forwards. I’ll write more about Stephenson’s rebounding later this week in the Observer.

By the way, Stephenson hasn’t assembled a triple-double yet this season, but you know one is coming: He and Rondo are the only two players among NBA leaders in both rebounding and assists. Stephenson averages 5.3 assists, most among Hornets.

-- It’s really odd that Marvin Williams has played nearly 200 minutes this season without a single trip to the foul line.

He’s the only player in the NBA to have made at least five starts this season without taking a free throw. He’s one of just three players (along with Houston’s Kostas Papanikolaou and Detroit’s Kyle Singler) who have played at least 100 minutes this season without attempting a free throw.

-- The best indicator of Cody Zeller’s improvement in Season Two has to be his field-goal percentage.

Last season he shot 42.6 percent, really poor for a big man. That was in part due to the role change from a college center to an NBA power forward. They needed him to make 18-foot jump shots to open up the floor for Al Jefferson and he wasn’t always good at that.

Big difference this season. He’s shooting 55.8 percent from the floor, which would rank him 19th in the league, except Zeller’s 43 attempts in seven games falls slightly short of the NBA minimum for league leaders.

-- I understand that center Al Jefferson will never be an elite defender, but the effort is there. He’s currently eighth in the NBA in blocked shots (1.9 per game) and 39th in rebounding (7.4 per game).

-- Backup point guard Brian Roberts is struggling with his shot (6-of-26 from the field and 1-of-11 from 3-point range), but he makes good decisions with the ball. He’s third in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 6.3:1. Kemba Walker isn’t far behind, tied for 5th at 4.3:1.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 11, 2014 at 05:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)