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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)

February 10, 2015

Charlotte Hornets trade for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Mo Williams

            The Charlotte Hornets have addressed their point guard depth in Kemba Walker’s absence by acquiring Mo Williams from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

            The Hornets acquired guards Williams and Troy Daniels, along with cash considerations, from Minnesota in return for Gary Neal and a future second-round pick.

            That pick, originally from the Miami Heat, is for the 2019 draft. In order to facilitate the trade, the Hornets have waived Elliot Williams, who was playing on a 10-day contract.

            Williams is in his 12th NBA season, having played for six franchises. For his career he has averaged 13.3 points, five assists and 2.8 rebounds.

            Walker is out at least another five weeks following knee surgery. Brian Roberts has been filling in as the starting point guard.

          This trade was first reported by Yahoo Sports

Posted by Observer Sports on February 10, 2015 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 08, 2015

3 Hornets takeaways: A wasted Big Al game, MKG's value and Zeller's inconsistency

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets' 103-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers:

            Such a waste of a vintage Big Al game: This was the best Al Jefferson has played in a long time – 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 13 rebounds. It was a reminder of something that you wouldn’t expect, but there is a history:

            Pacers center Roy Hibbert, one of the primo rim-protectors in the NBA, has a brutal time containing Big Al. Indiana coach Frank Vogel explained why last season, saying Hibbert’s aggressiveness gets him off his feet in reaction to all of Jefferson’s ball fakes.

            Jefferson’s game is all earth-bound, but it’s highly skilled with ball fakes of every sort. Like the insect in the movie “A Bug’s Life,” Hibbert has a compulsion to fly toward that Bug-Zapper.

            Get well, soon, MKG: The Hornets are 11-24 this season and last when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hamstring strain) doesn’t play. Over time, it’s hard to argue with that cause-and-effect.

            When Derrick Coleman was with the original Hornets, the team’s success when he sat out started as something that amused the beat writers. Over time it became a scathing indictment.

            This is the same principle only in reverse: It’s clear the intensity, energy, toughness and intelligence MKG brings to this team isn’t easily quantified on a stat sheet. He impacts the bottom line.

            Zeller has improved; don’t confuse that with having arrived: Cody Zeller joins MKG as the Hornet who improved the most over the summer. But he’s still very much up-and-down.  He has totaled nine points in the last four games on 3-of-15 shooting.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 8, 2015 at 11:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)