Dear Kemba Walker

Picture via Hornets.com

Dear Kemba Walker,

As a life long Hornets fan and someone who will be with this team until the day I die or (God forbid) they leave Charlotte again, I just wanted you to know that we appreciate you more than you could possibly Imagine.

The last 16 years have been rough for NBA fans in the Queen City. We lost our team, got one back and frankly haven’t done anything right besides bring the Hornets name back and draft you. You came to us at the lowest point in our franchise, witnessed a 7 win season and honestly we didn’t know that you would one day become the unquestionable “Greatest Hornet of All-Time”.

Now I would like to unpack the phrase “Greatest Hornet of All-Time” because I think people get lost in the talent/skill debate and ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to you and Charlotte.

I love this team and you on it BUT I find it hard to imagine that when you were in college and daydreaming about your NBA career that you were fantasizing about a small market southern town and being a Bobcat. I see the glimmer of excitement in your eyes when the Bronx Boy plays in Madison Square Garden… and seeing that gives me one of the most complicated emotions I have ever experienced as a sports fan.

I must admit to myself that there is a small part of me that says “Go on. Leave here and be great Kemba.” As much as it would hurt to lose you from my team I would feel like a proud father to see you in an organization that had a chance, fought hard and that helped, not hindered you from winning.

We saw you take contracts that were not in your favor and stay in Charlotte with the promise that we would put the pieces around you to succeed. I want you to know that we saw that. I want you to know that we saw you fight to bring players here in free agency. I want you to know that we saw you come in for D.J. Augustin and work your ass off to go from 12 to 23 points a game. We saw that. We saw you hit buzzer beater after buzzer beater and we screamed as if it were a championship. We saw you win us our first playoff game in 14 years. We saw you become an All-Star and we swelled with pride as you took the court. We saw you break franchise record after franchise record knowing you had earned every single one and when you cried… we cried too.

Kemba, we haven’t really deserved you. We didn’t know what you would become when we drafted you, but there is no question that you have sacrificed and fought harder than anyone before you for the Teal & Purple, Charlotte and the Hornets name. These sacrifices, your ability to give us fans hope and your skills are why YOU ARE THE GREATEST CHARLOTTE HORNET OF ALL-TIME.

We don’t know what our future holds but do know that this your team. This is your city and one day we will all stand with our families and look up as the number 15 is raised into the rafters, in it’s rightful place next to 13.

Thank You Kemba Walker.

Love,

A Charlotte Hornets Fan, A Kemba Walker Fan


Letter was inspired by the “Letter to Kemba Walker” that you can read here. via Hornets.com

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The Charlotte Hornets 2017-18 Awards

Written by Andrew Waters

As the NBA regular season is coming to an end, it is now time to look back on the 2017-2018 season. Through all the ups and downs, the Charlotte Hornets have had their fair share of nominees for regular season awards.

Defensive Player of the YearDwight Howard

It seems like ex-GM Rich Cho made one great transaction other than drafting Kemba Walker during his tenure. After being acquired in the 2017 offseason, there was speculation at the beginning of the season into whether or not Dwight Howard could bounce back from his down year in Atlanta. But, he has shown this year that he still deserves to be one of the best defenders in the league. This season, Howard has averaged 16.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game.He is sixth in blocks per game, and second in total blocks, behind superstar Anthony Davis..His numbers aren’t the only thing that makes him an elite defender. His mere presence in the paint forces opponents to question driving inside. This mental aspect of opponents has helped improved the Hornets’ defense from mediocre, to exceptional.

Honorable mentions- Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Treveon Graham

Coach of the YearStephen Silas

When Hornets head coach Steve Clifford went down with a health scare in December of 2017, fans of the team had called the season quits. But, the work of one Stephen Silas rejuvenated the team as well as the fanbase. Throughout his stint as interim head coach, Silas recorded a 9-13 record in the twenty-four games coached. The reason why Silas should be the teams’ coach of the year is because he did not let the Hornets fall off a cliff. Throughout NBA history, there are cases of which interim head coach completely turned a team from modest to the bottom of the league. This is most recently seen in J.B Bickerstaff and the Memphis Grizzlies. Essentially, Silas could have brought the Hornets down to that level of unsuccessful play. Despite this,he helped the Hornets remain float and had a modest thirty-eight percent as an interim coach. The reason why this award isn’t attributed the Steve Clifford is that he yet again placed the Hornets in a situation where they’re outside of the playoffs looking in, through the dire stretch of the regular season.

Most Improved/ 6th Man of the YearJeremy Lamb

With more playing time,and improvement over the offseason, Jeremy Lamb looked ready to go as a quality bench player. However, during the preseason, Hornet’s guard Nic Batum suffered a torn ligament in his left elbow that sidelined him for six weeks.Clifford quickly called on Lamb to fill in at the starting two.As hoped for, Jeremy Lamb busted onto the scene for the start of the 2017-2018 season.He scored fifteen points in the first game against Detroit. He would follow that up with eight straight games of seventeen or more points per game. He also scored a career-high twenty-seven points against the San Antonio Spurs. When Batum came back six weeks later and Lamb was forced to go on the bench, he still balled out. This year Lamb was third on the team with 13.2 points, and fourth on the team in steals per game, 0.85. He is also third on the team in assists per game with 2.3 His steals per game and three-point percentage is all career highs for Lamb.

Lamb has come from a laughable bust draft pick to a skilled versatile scorer. From sitting on the bench the majority of the game to averaging more than 12 points per game. There is no doubt that he is the team’s’ most improved player.

Honorable mentions- Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller

Least Improved Player of the Year Nic Batum

If Nic Batum has proved one thing this season, it is that he isn’t the player he used to be. After having a solid two years in the Queen City, Batum took a major step back this season.This year Batum averaged lows in points, assists, and rebounds. Throughout the season it felt as if he was afraid to be aggressive, especially towards the clutch situations of the ball game. Sure, he has not had the healthiest of seasons with the UCL tear in the preseason. Even with his injury, Batum has shown the lack of efficiency in the major three areas of basketball. This is very concerning for the Hornets organization as Batum is the second highest paid player on the team with the salary of $23.4 million. Here’s to a new and improved 2018-2019 Batum.

Honorable mentions- Michael Carter-Williams, Marvin Williams

Most Valuable PlayerKemba Walker

There is no doubt that the Hornets’ MVP is Kemba Walker. He put up another all-star season by averaging 22.7 and 5.8 assists per game. He has single-handedly carried this Hornets team time and time again this year. Night in and night out Kemba seems to consistently play on an efficient and elite level. It sometimes feels like he is the only one that can provide scoring on the court in certain situations.On top of this, Walker has accomplished scoring forty points in multiple games. This season, Kemba scored his ninth three-pointer in a game, which is a franchise record. Walker also achieved the most threes in a Hornets career, passing the great Dell Curry. Kemba Walker is the only reason why the Hornets aren’t in contention for the top five pick in this years’ draft; and for that, he is the undisputed MVP of the team.

Honorable mention- Dwight Howard

Did You Know?: Why Magic Johnson Is Wearing a Hornets Shirt.

Magic Johnson (Left), Steve Martin (Right)

You look at this picture and the first question you ask yourself after “Where did Steve Martin get that kick-ass tie?” is “Why is Magic Johnson wearing a Charlotte Hornets shirt?”

Let’s take a time machine back to March 10, 1989. It’s a Friday night in a very young Charlotte when nothing in town is more exciting than going to the Hive. The home team may only have 15 wins and a whopping 45 losses but it’s our team and the red hot Los Angeles Lakers are coming to town for the first time. This is our first chance to see super stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and of course the incredible Magic Johnson. 

We proceed to get our butt’s kicked 123-90 (Box Score)

BUT this is exciting stuff. We are being introduced to the NBA and the Hornets organization still knew how to entertain their guests. One of the tricks they had up there sleeves was even when the Hornets lost they would sit down with the “star of the game” or the superstar of the opposing team on the court and do a post game interview. Who better to corral than Magic Johnson?!

An almost 10,000 estimated people stuck around to hear the interview between Steve Martin and Magic Johnson. Magic knew we were fresh on the NBA scene and decided to humor the crowd by throwing on the Charlotte Hornets shirt which was greeted by roaring applause and cheers… You couldn’t do that today.     

State Of The Hornets Address

The All-Star break is officially here, and as the Boys from Buzz City take a break, now seems like a great time to look back on this season so far. Lets be honest here folks, it hasn’t been pretty, but let’s breakdown the players and performances as we figure out where the Hornets train went off the tracks. I will touch on my biggest positives and negatives from this season, highlight some big wins and complain about a few season altering losses. Just be prepared…..this might get UGLY.

Disappointments

My biggest disappointment this season has been the play of Nic Batum. What the hell happened to him after signing the big contract? I understand he had the injury and knew he would be behind to start the year, but this season looks more like a continuation of last years struggles than his first successful season in Charlotte.  It seems to me that the pressure that big money contract came with has been very difficult for Nic to deal with. When he was quoted in an article in the Charlotte Observer as saying “I don’t really care about it”….in response to the criticism by fans in mid January, I knew something was up. As a part of “Hornets Twitter” I saw him engage Jeremy Lin fans when the were critical of his play. Usually when a player starts saying things like that, it means they do care. When he decided to not play for France he took a lot of criticism from fans in his native country, even to the point where some were happy when he sustained the elbow injury that caused him to miss time. He was quoted in a Associated Press article from Oct 7th as saying, “Really, for real. I got on stuff (Social Media) and people are happy, like I deserve it” No one deserve to have that stuff said about him, and I have been critical of Nic’s play since he got here, but I can’t imagine cheering him getting hurt.

The reason I have been so critical is because the talent and skill are there. He has all the tools to be a 18/6/6 guy every time he puts on the jersey. If there is any hope for the Hornets these last 25 games to sneak into the playoffs, we are gonna need to see Nic play to his full potential. We need him to make plays and hit shots in order to win, if that happens he won’t have to pretend he doesn’t care about the critics, because they (myself included) will be hard pressed to find something to talk about.

Disappointment number two is Frank Kaminsky. I have seen enough folks, he hasn’t improved on either side of the court and its time to move on from him. After hearing of the health issues he had last off-season I gave him a clean slate coming into this year, and all I am seeing is the same guy I saw in the first two years of his NBA career. He is never going to be a plus defender in this league, his physical limitations are just too much to over come. His only hope to win me over was to become a real plus on the offensive end, and that just isn’t happening. His shooting percentages are nearly identical to his rookie year, and he just cannot find a way to be consistent. The Hornets were relying on him to be a big part of the bench, and that killed them early in the season. Its not only the fact that he is a career 40% shooter from the floor, its that he has no middle ground in what he brings every night. He can have a great game like he did on Dec 12th against the Knicks where he goes 10-13 for 24 points, or he can have a game like on Jan 29th versus the Pacers in a game the Hornets really needed to win when he shot 1 of 7 for 2 points and  1 rebound in 23 minutes. That is the problem with Frank, on those nights where he struggles offensively, his defense makes him unplayable, and the bad night far outnumber the good ones. Hopefully in these last 25 games he plays well in order to make a trade possible, because with them bringing in another young big in Hernangomez, I don’t see Frank being a part of this roster next year.

Finally, I have to say MCW, good lord he is hard to watch at times. I understand what he brings on the defensive end and his ability to run the offense, but lets just say I think its gonna be a one year experiment with him. I seriously would like to find someone to back-up Kemba who can stick around for more than a year, because this is the second year in a row where our bench unit has struggled with below average point guard play, and I don’t think my blood pressure can take another year.

Positives

Despite the Hornets record there have been some players who have had really good seasons this year. Quickly on a few first then more in-depth on others.

Kemba Walker has been great again this season, dragging this team with him at time trying to keep them in the playoff race. Without him this team may be the worst in the NBA, and that is both very sad and impressive.

Dwight Howard turned back the clock and has quieted some of his haters this season with solid play and a positive attitude. He also is the only Hornet to play in every game so far.

MKG has quietly had a solid season both offensively and defensively. Not flashy but his energy had been needed on the floor this season and he has stayed healthy.

 

Jeremy Lamb has finally put together the season many thought he was capable of this year. He has found ways to impact the game with his length and shooting while shoring up some of his mental lapses on defense that often caused him to spend time in Clifford’s Doghouse. His finishing at the rim has been great, and his mid-range game has been consistent and effective all year. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 9th among qualified shooting guards and his 13.5 ppg off the bench is among the best in the East. If he can find way to improve his passing skills he will be well on his way to being a highly coveted free agent after next season.

Treveon Graham is the guy that you can’t help but cheer for, he is the underdog story who knows he has to play nearly perfect to get time on the court over guys making more money who were drafted high. This season has been a break-out year for the undrafted second year player from VCU. He has gone from a bench-warmer on an un-guaranteed contract to a consistent role player who will likely get a long-term deal after this year. He is a true Swiss-Army knife on defense, defending guards and forwards, by using his combination of strength and quickness. His offense is still a bit limited, but as his role grows so will his confidence. He is perfect for the Hornets system as he rarely turns the ball over and seems to always make the smart play. He also is deadly from 3, shooting a smooth 45% from behind the arc. These last 25 games for him will be huge, because if he continues to play well, it will not only pay off in more playing time next year, but a nice little payday as well. Hopefully the Hornets can scrape together enough cap space to resign him, because as rare as it is to find a guy like Treveon, you have to keep him in Charlotte.

Best Win So Far

This is an easy one, the Hornets kicked off a 4 game west coast road trip on December 29th with a huge win over the defending champion Warriors 111-100 for only their third road victory of the season. Dwight Howard had a huge night with 29 points, 13 rebounds and a career high 7 assists. The Hornets out hustled the Warriors all night and really gave us fans some hope. They managed to win 3 of 4 on that trip.

Worst Loss So Far

This choice isn’t nearly as easy, because let’s be honest here folks, this team has lost some games late that should never have happened. I keep coming back to the game in Chicago where Kemba Walker dropped 47 but the entire Hornets defense looked like they could not have defended a Rec League team. They gave up 123 points and let the Bulls shoot 52% led by guys like Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine. It was ugly, and it came at a time when the Hornets really, really needed a win.

What to watch for in the last 25 games.

Who knows with this group, am I right? This team could come out rested and refreshed and win 8 of 10, or they could throw in the towel and lose 8 of 10. They do have a favorable schedule on the way out, 13 of the 25 games are against lottery teams, some of which will be collecting wins like they are kids collecting candy on Halloween. However with the news of Rich Cho being fired, the whole organization could be in a weird position of an unknown future with front office and coaching staff. This last sprint to the finish will have so intrigue for individual players though, can Kemba break the all-time Hornets scoring record, can Dwight Howard reach 13,000 career rebounds (becoming only the 16th player in NBA history to achieve that).

Buzz Kill

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets

(image from NBA.com)

For my first BBTB blog post, I was hoping to have a more positive message to bring you. Before the season started, most pre-season prognosticators put the Hornets in the playoff picture somewhere between the 4 and 7 seed. That was in spite of Nic Batum being injured. The Dwight Howard trade along with what looked like a solid draft class of Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon had me feeling pretty good!

That was then, and this is now. The Hornets are clearly not on the path to the promised land. The team sits at 24-33, 5 ½ games out of the 8 seed. We just saw one of the more active trade deadlines in recent memory come and go with very little activity on the Hornets part. The biggest deal for us was the one that didn’t happen (#keepkemba).

It is abundantly clear that this current cast of characters on our roster is not the right recipe. Even flirting with the possibility of trading Kemba Walker – the closest thing we have to a star and a guy who truly loves being here – proves that the vision for this team moving forward has been lost. It feels like we are heading for a major shakeup this offseason. We need it.

How did we get here? It’s hard to point to one player or even one roster move to say “this is where it all went wrong”. Rather, it’s a series of bad decisions. We can talk about bad trades and bad contracts as part of the problem, but if the front office is drafting the right players then they don’t have to take big risks on trades and free agent signings to build the core of the team. There have been some major draft misses from 2012 to 2015 when they had the chance to build the foundation around Kemba. Let me show you what I mean:

  • 2012 Pick (#2): After the worst season EVER, and facing the possibility of drafting the most obvious franchise cornerstone the league had seen in a long time in Anthony Davis, the ping-pong balls didn’t fall our way and we ended up with the #2 pick. That’s okay, we still had a chance to make a splash. Instead, we picked MKG. We passed on guys like Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Drummond. I love the energy MKG brings, but he is clearly not on the level of the guys we missed.
  • 2013 Pick (#4): Cody Zeller. We passed on guys like C.J. McCollum, Steven Adams, and some dude named Giannis. Cody has been solid and a good team player so it’s hard to knock the pick too much in and of itself. And frankly, a lot of teams missed on Giannis. But we had the chance to be visionary and grab him… and we didn’t.
  • 2014 Pick (#9): Noah Vonleh. Remember him? Yeah we shipped him out to Portland as part of the deal to get Nic Batum. We passed on guys like Dario Saric, T.J. Warren, and Zach LaVine. For the record, the pick itself was a bad one. He never developed and is averaging 3.6 points per game this season in limited minutes.
  • 2015 Pick (#9): Frank Kaminsky. At the time, I liked the pick. I also really liked guys like Devin Booker and Myles Turner who have turned into better pros and would have been better fits on this team. Since he’s only in his third season, you could say the jury it still out on Frank. But after two plus years, I see the same player I saw in his rookie season. Booker should have been the pick here.

The draft picks in this four-year period (combined with Kemba who was drafted in 2011) should make up the nucleus of the team. No team strikes gold every year, but the Hornets didn’t nail a single one of those top 10 draft picks in that four-year span. If the team is drafting effectively and building from within, there is less need to take huge risks on trades and free agent signings.

As a small market team, we live and die by the draft. And right now, it’s killing us.

The Charlotte Hornets Season Has Officially Become One Huge Mess

 

cliff and ref.jpg(Image from Boston Herald)

Where should I begin? There is no easy way to describe this season for the Hornets, it has been riddled with injuries, chemistry issues, and rotation problems, but don’t all teams battle some of this? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but that should not have rolled over into this mess of a season you would not assume. As of right now the Hornets sit at five and a half games out of the playoffs with 22 games to go in the season. Nobody wants to be in the situation we have found ourselves in, but here we are. We have a lot of issues to address this off-season, and maybe the next several off-seasons, but let’s take a look at everything that has gone wrong and needs to be addressed.

The first and most immediate mistake is the cap situation. We have dug ourselves a hole by offering Nic Batum, MKG, and Marvin Williams long term, high salary contracts. This is easily the hardest to work with, it makes trades difficult to make because you have to fit it into your salary, and during free agency you can’t really sign anyone who will make a significant difference. What you do with these bad contracts though is the real problem. Nobody wants to touch our contracts, and I do not blame them. Who knows what the front office was thinking giving these players as much as they did, but they better figure a way to get out of it. At this point if you can get any one of MKG, Nic, or Marvin off the team without losing Kemba you do it. They are all good supporting pieces, but none of them are worth the money, nor good enough to play in the role we have them in.

The next issue is one I think has caused the majority of our problems, and that is Rich Cho. When we first got Cho, I was excited I felt hope for the organization. He has been nothing less than exceptional in trading, but I think it needs to be accepted by everyone he has sucked at drafting and signing. Cho’s contract is up after this season and he has to be out the door, hopefully for someone that if nothing else will hopefully be a competent drafter. We could also take the route the Panthers did several years ago, signing Dave Gettleman as GM to manage the cap. He was ultimately too conservative, but he was able to make tough decisions that many people would hesitate to do.

The third problem that this team has is bench production. We have overpaid the starters and now have no cap to improve the bench through free-agency, so the only to ways left to strengthen it for cheap is internal improvement (Monk, Bacon, Hernangomez), or by drafting quality pieces. A backup point guard has to be priority one, but I think a replacement for Frank is easily second. I have had my limit with Frank, and I want him traded more than anyone. Watching Frank back down a point guard when he gets the switch, only to turn and do a dirk fade away is enough to make me break my TV, not to mention his incompetent shot selection. Just because of his annoyance alone I could easily move his replacement to the top priority, but I’m being realistic.

 

At the end of the day, the blame does not lie on Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, or coach Cliff. Following the trade deadline Howard seems to have taken a step back, but looking at the season as a whole he has played fantastic. Calling for a new coach also just is not reasonable. Cliff is a very strict all business coach who many teams would love to have, we have just offered him nothing to work with outside of Kemba which obviously isn’t enough. And finally, the case for Kemba, if you wanted him traded before the deadline you have lost your mind. If you live Outside of Charlotte like me, I can promise there are very little Hornets fans, and when I happen to see a Hornets fan I always go out of my way to speak to them. More times than not they want to talk about Kemba, or only know Kemba. Without Kemba all these fans would be gone, I promise. This season has been a catastrophe, but lets be cautious where we place the blame, and what we want the team to do.

Nic Batum Needs to “Shoot His Shot,” or Else…

092915-NBA-Hornets--Nicolas-Batum-pi-ssm.vresize.1200.675.high.42.jpg

(image from Scout.com)

Nic Batum has been the basis of my frustrations through the first half of the Hornets season. My anger with Batum isn’t his play style, I understand the type of player he is and I realize he is not going to change, but my problem lies in the difference in his production from the 2015-16 season to now. It isn’t that I feel he needs to change his play style to be effective like some couch coaches, it is that I have seen him be much more effective before by playing the exact same way. In the 2015-16 Batum was very talented, talented enough to land him a 120-million-dollar contract over the course of 5 years. Looking back to when we gave Nic this handsome contract, we had just come off of a playoff series which saw us lose to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. This team looked to have a lot of potential, and one of the key players who had an expiring contact was Batum. Entering the off-season, we let Jeremy Lin walk, and signed Batum with the expectation being he would continue to improve adjusting to being a leader of this team, and hopefully help Kemba change the narrative of this franchise by leading us to more playoff consistency. Fast forward to today and none of that has come to fruition, we failed to make the playoffs last season and we are currently sitting 5 games out of the 8th seed half way through this season, and something needs to give.

So far, the team has yet to remove Batum from the starting lineup following disappointing outings and fourth quarter struggles, as if they are still trying to justify the contract given to him. If the coaches are not yet willing to move him into a 6th man role, he is going to have to shoot the ball. As it stands Nic is averaging 10 points per game and that just isn’t going to cut it for 30 minutes per game and 20 million dollars a year. He has all of the scoring ability he needs to average a solid 15 to 18 points per game and the idea that he is a facilitator should not be an excuse. Last season Batum averaged 15 points per game to go with 6 assists, while this year his assist total has dipped to 4.7 per game along with his scoring dropping back to 10 points. This proves he can score and pass effectively at the same time, it all just depends on his aggressiveness.

When Batum is making it a priority to score and pass equally it forces defenses to focus more on him, and opens up passing lanes for everyone around him. His best version is when the defense never knows if they should expect the pass or the shot and that is the Batum we need. If Batum can’t find a balance, and the coaching staff refuses to bench him, then Batum, and the team is in hot water. Our hopes to salvage this season rely on this dilemma and it definitely should not be overlooked. Nic might be on the trading block soon if this continues, and we could be looking at more lottery picks for the next couple of years if his contact is not unloaded. We will have no cap flexibility in the FA market, and Batum will continue to soak minutes from developing players on the roaster if this turns out to be the case.

            With all of this being said, I still have a glimmer of hope for Batum and our season. Batum is a very intelligent player and I know he has produced at higher levels before. Clifford is also returning Wednesday, which could produce different results from what Stephen Silas has been receiving. Also, five games out of the 8th seed is not insurmountable, so if things begin to click at the right moment we could manage to recover from this disappointing season so far. I have not given up hope on our season yet, but we are beginning to run out of time to recover.