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January 30, 2015

Charlotte Hornets have an extra-long practice to adjust to Denver's altitude

            DENVER – The Charlotte Hornets had one of their longest practices in recent memory Friday, with abundant scrimmaging and high-energy drills.

            Two reasons for that: They didn’t practice Thursday because a mechanical problem delayed their charter flight from San Antonio to Denver by four hours. And more importantly, coach Steve Clifford wanted to make sure his players adjusted to the mile-high altitude in Denver.

            That altitude can leave a player short of breath (and cause this sportswriter with asthma to suffer). The two NBA cities with the highest altitude are Salt Lake City and Denver.

            Clifford noticed his team played poorly (and lost) in Utah last season after not getting in a practice to adjust to the altitude. By contrast the Hornets played well (and won) in Denver last season.

            So if possible Clifford always prefers to run a strenuous practice before a road game against the Jazz or Nuggets to adapt to the thin air.

            Hairston’s ankle: Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston sprained his left ankle in practice Friday, so there is some question whether he’ll play Saturday against the Nuggets.

            Pargo not close to returning: Veteran point guard Jannero Pargo has missed the past 17 games with a sore lower back. Pargo is cleared for shooting drills, but he’s not yet ready for any contact drills. So it appears unlikely he’ll play soon.

            The Hornets would like to get to the 10-day All-Star break (six games away) without signing another point guard. Adding a point guard would force the Hornets to cut another player unless the NBA would grant them a temporary 16th roster spot.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 30, 2015 at 06:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

January 29, 2015

A big night for Big Al, Zeller steps up and Stephenson really struggled

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 95-86 road loss to the San Antonio Spurs

            That’s more like it from Big Al: Jefferson had a strong night with 17 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) and a season-high 16 rebounds. Two things I noticed – he got much better post position Wednesday than he did against the New York Knicks Saturday and he moved better in pick-and-roll defense. By working his way down low before catching the ball, he was defaulting less to mid-range jump shots.

            Cody Zeller progressing: Zeller got some praise from the NBA Wednesday when he was named to play in the Rising Stars exhibition at All-Star Weekend. Wednesday night he played like a rising star with nine points, 13 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. I doubt Zeller will ever be great by NBA standards at any one thing, so that sort of versatility is how he builds a career.

            What a struggle for Stephenson: Lance Stephenson had had some bad nights offensively previously this season, but until Wednesday he never went scoreless as a Hornet. He shot 0-of-5 from the field, never got to the foul line in 20 minutes and committed four turnovers.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 29, 2015 at 12:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

January 28, 2015

Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has successful knee surgery

Kemba Walker had successful surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, the Charlotte Hornets announced Wednesday.

            The procedure was completed by Dr .David Altchek at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery.

            The team said Walker would miss a minimum of six weeks while recovering from this procedure.

            A six-week recovery period would mean Walker misses at least the Hornets’ next 15 games.  The Hornets play seven games before the All-Star break, and then will not play games for 10 days between February 10 and 21.

            Walker is the Hornets’ leader this season in points (18.8), assists (5.2) and steals (1.4). The Hornets start a three-game road trip tonight in San Antonio. Brian Roberts will fill in as the starter at point guard. With Jannero Pargo still out with a sore lower back, shooting guards Gary Neal and Lance Stephenson will fill in for now as backup point guards.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 28, 2015 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 26, 2015

Charlotte Hornets injury update: Bismack Biyombo out at least 10 days; Marvin Williams has a concussion and a broken nose

            Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo will miss at least the next 10 days with a bone bruise on his right knee, the Hornets announced Monday.

            Also, forward Marvin Williams has a broken nose along with the previously reported concussion. When Williams plays again will be governed by the NBA’s concussion protocol. That involves a series of tests to demonstrate when Williams can exert himself safely without concussion symptoms.

            Both injuries happened in Saturday’s home victory against the New York Knicks.

            The Hornets are still evaluating the status of point guard Kemba Walker, who has missed three of the team’s last five games with a sore left knee. Walker was scheduled for a magnetic resonance imagining on his injured knee.

            The Hornets next play the Spurs in San Antonio Wednesday. The team has a relatively light schedule coming up, with four games over the span of 13 days.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 26, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

January 25, 2015

Concussion confirmed for Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams; Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo injuries still being evaluated

Injury update following the Hornets’ 76-71 victory against the New York Knicks Saturday:

The Hornets confirmed overnight that power forward Marvin Williams has suffered a concussion.

Williams took an inadvertent elbow from Knicks center Jason Smith resulting in the injury. There is no timetable for Williams’ return. He will go through the NBA’s concussion protocol.

The Hornets do not play again until Wednesday, when they start a three-game road trip in San Antonio. They play four games in the next 13 days.

            The Hornets are still looking into the status of point guard Kemba Walker, who sat out Saturday’s game with ongoing left-knee soreness, and center Bismack Biyombo, who left the game after suffering a knee contusion and did not return.

            Hornets general manager Rich Cho said the team will continue to evaluate Walker, who has now missed three of the last five games.

            Walker will have a magnetic resonance imaging and it’s possible he could need surgery. However, he has played with this injury, resulting from a cyst in his joint, since high school in New York City.

            The Hornets are off Sunday before resuming practice Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 25, 2015 at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

January 24, 2015

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker, New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony both out tonight

            Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, who almost never sits due to injury, will miss his third game in the last five tonight against the New York Knicks.

            Walker is having ongoing soreness in his left knee, the condition that caused him to also sit against the Indiana Pacers Jan. 17 and the Minnesota Timberwolves Jan. 18.

            Walker has had a cyst on his left knee since high-school days and it occasionally causes some pain. Never before this season had Walker missed NBA games with this particular ailment.

            Walker played in every Charlotte game his first two NBA seasons. Last season he played in 73 of the then-Bobcats’ 82 regular season games. He had an ankle sprain at midseason and a groin strain shortly before the start of the playoffs.

            Walker sitting out tonight buys him four days between games, as the Hornets don’t play again until the start of a three-game road trip in San Antonio Wednesday. The schedule is light going forward with four games over the next 13 days.

            Getting Walker well is obviously important to the Hornets staying in playoff contention. He leads the Hornets in scoring (18.8 points per game), assists (5.2) and steals (1.38).

            In Walker’s absence coach Steve Clifford will go back to the rotation he played against the Pacers and Timberwolves: Brian Roberts will start at point guard and shooting guards Gary Neal and Lance Stephenson will fill in as the backups. Third-string point guard Jannero Pargo is still out with a sore lower back.

            Clifford said Bismack Biyombo would again start tonight at center, as Al Jefferson gets back game conditioning. But look for Jefferson to play plenty against the Knicks, in part because of Walker’s injury. Clifford said he needs to find a way to make up the scoring he loses with Walker out.

            The Knicks are also banged up. Small forward Carmelo Anthony won’t play tonight, one week removed from sitting out considerable time with a knee injury. The Knicks were reluctant to ask Anthony to play right now in the second game on back-to-back nights.

            The Knicks are also without point guard Jose Calderon, who suffered a bruised knee in Friday’s home victory against the Orlando Magic.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 24, 2015 at 06:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 23, 2015

Charlotte Hornets could do nothing right Friday versus the Cleveland Cavaliers

Three takeaways from a gruesome night for the Charlotte Hornets in Cleveland

            Quick turnaround:  For once the Hornets are glad they’re playing games on back-to-back nights. Center Al Jefferson and small forward Michael Kidd-Glichrist both said the immediacy of playing the New York Knicks Saturday should help refocus this team.

            The worst type of turnovers: The Hornets committed 12 turnovers, which is right around their average for the season. But the Cavaliers converted those turnovers into 16 points. So these were the sort of open-court, live-ball giveaways that result in dunks at the other end.

            Abundant fouling: The Cavaliers were so effective offensively that the Hornets couldn’t guard without fouling. Bismack Biyombo and Lance Stephenson finished with four fouls each and Cody Zeller committed three.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2015 at 11:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

January 21, 2015

On Zeller's defense, Hairston sitting and Biz's minutes

            Three takeaways from the Hornets’ 78-76 victory over the Miami Heat:

            Zeller does just fine guarding Chris Bosh:  The Hornets coaching staff played a hunch late last season, trying Cody Zeller defensively on Heat big man Bosh. It works and is now a mainstay in this matchup. Bosh is more of a finesse player than a bruiser, so Zeller doesn’t get overpowered. And Zeller’s length seems to give Bosh some difficulty.

             Can’t play everyone:  Some fans were curious why rookie P.J. Hairston didn’t play against the Heat after a good game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves (11 points, 3of-5 from 3-point range).

            Clifford said that’s no negative reflection on Hairston, he just ran out of minutes Wednesday. He played 10 players and he’d prefer the rotation be no deeper than nine. Certainly he doesn’t see 11 as workable.

            Clifford is trying not to marginalize Biyombo:  Bismack Biyombo has played well enough through Al Jefferson’s injury that Clifford has to figure out how to still tap into his defense when Jefferson is ready for 35 minutes a night.

            The solution isn’t playing them together; Clifford thinks that with the preponderance of power forwards with shooting range in the NBA, that wouldn’t work defensively and would set back an already weak offense.

            So this probably is about playing Jefferson a little less than he did the second half of last season and that wouldn’t be awful, as far as keeping him fresh should the Hornets qualify for the playoffs.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 21, 2015 at 11:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (54)

Forbes estimate suggests the then-Bobcats made a small profit last season

If Forbes’ annual estimate of NBA franchise values is accurate, the Charlotte Hornets made a slight profit last season.

            Every January Forbes does financial research to estimate each of the 30 franchises’ value, plus revenue and operating income for the previous season. That Forbes study concluded the franchise’s last season as the Bobcats resulted in a $1.2 million profit on $130 million in revenue.

            Forbes estimated the Hornets’ current value at $725 million, 26th among 30 franchises. Forbes ranks the Los Angles Lakers first in value at $2.6 billion and the New York Knicks second at $2.5 billion.


            The then-Bobcats benefitted greatly from increased NBA revenue sharing. A late-June article on the Grantland web site quoted a league document that the Bobcats received $22 million in revenue-sharing.

            Obviously Forbes estimates amount to educated guesswork, but if they are roughly accurate, then Michael Jordan has done very well since becoming majority owner in March of 2010. That purchase from Bob Johnson was reportedly based on a franchise value of $175 million.

            The franchise’s value only figures to rise this season with the increased marketing and home attendance partially attached to the name change to Hornets. This season the Hornets are averaging 17,393 in home attendance, compared to 15,518 for last season.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 21, 2015 at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

January 19, 2015

My 3 takeaways from an NBA matinee

Three takeaways from the Hornets’ 105-80 home victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves:

            They’re improving: That was a bad team they played, missing Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin. But if you’re a fan of this team, you’ve seen them lose games just like this.

            That was the best I’ve seen them play this season (I was not at the Knicks game in New York). This wasn’t just them randomly making 3s (they will not make 12-of-22 on a regular basis).

            They guarded with precision and intensity that reminded me of last season and they ran offense without the clunkiness that has haunted them this season.

            About that clunkiness: Coach Steve Clifford is asking them to play with a higher pace offensively. Do not confuse that with fast-break – the Hornets don’t have those Kenneth Faried kind of players.

            But they can get into their offense sooner. They attempted 89 shots Monday without looking rushed (27 assists to 11 turnovers). The shots you create 12 seconds into a possession tend to be better than the shots you create with five seconds left on the shot-clock. It’s comparable to how much harder it is to covert on third-and-long in the NFL.

            Who in the NBA has a 15-man rotation? Someone asked Clifford today if Jeff Taylor’s seven minutes of garbage time (nine points on 3-of-4 shooting) might earn him playing time. Clifford replied that he’s having a hard enough time finding minutes for rookie P.J. Hairston.

            Bottom line: The Hornets have at least one too many wing players and are occasionally short-handed at the power forward and center spots. If they do trade Lance Stephenson, the optimum deal would be someone who can play both power positions. Highly unlikely.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 19, 2015 at 10:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)