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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)

March 18, 2015

Format tinkering points Hornets from Vegas to Orlando next summer

            I hear the Charlotte Hornets are likely to change their summer-league destination from Las Vegas to Orlando, Fla. The decision might already have been made.

            I can’t say I’m surprised. Las Vegas has become the dominant NBA summer-league option, with thousands of fans showing up at the two major venues at UNLV’s basketball complex. It’s a great place to network during free-agency in July and even in the summer heat the restaurants and casinos make it a fun 10 days. Also NBATV loves the off-season programming.

            But it’s gotten too big for its own good. The shift happened when the summer league reinvented itself as a “tournament.” Every team is guaranteed five games, which is pretty much ideal. But teams now go into an elimination tournament that is about as welcome as the old “consolation” game at the Final Four.

            After about three games teams stop playing their core assets (first-round picks and young veterans) and are ready to head home. You start playing the spares and they have every incentive to win games that are meaningless to anyone but them.

            Pretty soon the coaches and support staff are wondering what purpose there is hanging out in Las Vegas five days longer than planned.

            I saw this coming a couple of seasons ago. The Vegas organizers were looking to add tangible stakes to an event that really isn’t about stakes. They over-tinkered and now teams are wondering if this is the best format for glorified scrimmages.

            Orlando is the other extreme – a small venue, no fans, a tight schedule: Pretty boring but also pretty efficient.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 18, 2015 at 11:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

On Lance's 2nd half, hiding Mo's D and Redick's growth

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ 99-92 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

            Someone must sit. Tuesday it was Lance: The Hornets came back from a 22-point deficit in the second half to trail by one. You know who never set foot on the court in that span? Shooting guard Lance Stephenson.

            After shooting 0-of-3 in 10 minutes of the first half, Stephenson never played after halftime. That opened up minutes for point guards Mo Williams and Kemba Walker to play together, something coach Steve Clifford has long advocated.

            Is this a one-game thing or the start of a trend? Hard to say for now, but for Williams and Walker to play more, Stephenson and/or Gerald Henderson has to play less.

            Hiding Williams’ defense: Mo Williams had a fantastic nine-game debut as a Hornet, perhaps the best such span of his NBA career.  We learned he’s a terrific scorer, a solid passer and…and very limited defender.

            There was no way Williams would have guarded Clippers point guard Chris Paul effectively, so from tip-off small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist switched over to guarding Paul, with Williams assigned to 6-foot-10 small forward Hedo Turkoglu.

            MKG made Paul work hard for his 21 points and eight assists. Turkoglu, long past his prime in the NBA, was a fill-in starter for the injured Matt Barnes. He had six points in 21 minutes so the cross-match looked like the right call.

            Redick would look great in teal…or most any other color uniform: Clifford was asked pre-game about Clippers shooting guard (and former Duke star) J.J. Redick, who he coached as an Orlando Magic assistant.

            Clifford said the thing he admires about Redick is that he’s never stopped improving as an NBA player. Clifford said the typical course in the NBA is for a player to reach a level after about five seasons, then hover there the rest of his career.

            As if to make Clifford’s point, Redick was terrific Tuesday with 23 points off 10-of-17 shooting. The thing that was illustrative about Tuesday was Redick missing all four of his 3-point shots. So he obviously does more than what teams most fear him doing – beating them from long range.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 18, 2015 at 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

March 12, 2015

On Hornets' self-perception, a "huge" loss and Marvin Williams' professionalism

Three takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets’ home loss to the Sacramento Kings:

            Know thyself: As a group the 2013-14 Charlotte Bobcats understood who they were and weren’t. They grasped all the way from training camp that they would have to be extremely disciplined in their play to reach the post-season.

            The 2014-15 Hornets aren’t much, if any, more talented than their predecessor. They might grasp intellectually that defense, rebounding and minimal turnovers are necessities, but I don’t think they’ve internalized those things as imperative. That’s why they lose games like Wednesday to a lottery team.

            Stakes: This loss felt costly and point guard Mo Williams articulated that in the post-game locker room.

            “It was huge,” Williams concluded. “A big blow.”

            The kind you might look back on in late April as the slip-up that cost them a playoff spot.

            A veteran and a pro: Power forward Marvin Williams’ numbers Wednesday might not blow you away: He finished with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting and had seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

            But on a night when they absolutely needed him, Marvin Williams played really hard. He was a fill-in starter while Cody Zeller sat with a sprained shoulder. I thought he was tough and smart and versatile in just the way you need your veterans to be.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 12, 2015 at 12:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (106)