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

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(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.

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The Incredible Disappearing Nic Batum

Recently there have been rumblings around Buzz City from Nic Batum not being happy with his role in the offense, blaming his struggles on the coaches and new teammates, and while some may be willing to brush this off, I’m not buying what Nic is selling. There are conflicting reports as to what the Hornets expected when the inked the French swingman to a massive deal in the offseason after the playoff run two seasons ago. Was he supposed to be the Robin to Kemba Walker as Batman, or was he there to facilitate for others and his scoring was a bonus. Lets look at the facts shall we, the starting line-up this year has one change. Dwight Howard replaced Cody Zeller, that was it, and while Dwight scores more than Cody he isn’t expected to drop 20 a night just like Cody wasn’t expected to tally big points. The reality is Nic Batum has to put up his share of points every night with the starting line-up this team has, MKG and Marvin are 10 to 12 point a night guys who fill roles on offense but are expected to extend themselves on defense each night.  MKG draws the more difficult wing match-up to allow Nic to do his damage on offense, and to keep him fresh for the 4th quarter.

You know the 4th quarter, Winning Time, Crunch Time, the time when stars in the NBA make their checks. They make the plays that decide the games, that get them the big contracts and the post game interviews. The problem is this is when Nic shows off his greatest trick, he disappears without a trace. I started to notice a trend recently and decided to look deeper into the numbers, and what i saw made me throw up in my mouth a little. In the last 11 games Nic has TOTALED 18 points in the 4th quarter, including 6 games where he didn’t score at all. I was shocked at these stats, and for a team that dating back to last season has lost 13 games in a row decided by 3 points are less, I began to wonder if this was a fluke or a real problem.

Now before you tell me about his injury and how its Dwight Howard’s fault for taking shots away looks from Batum, Relax…..we will cover it all.

Batums 4th quarter stats by year in Charlotte: (via NBA.COM)

Year            MIN       POINTS       FG%     3PT%     ASSISTS

17-18          7              2.5               38.5       20.7           1.1

16-17          7.8           2.7               31.8       30.0           1.2

15-16          7.9           3.0               36.4       25.6             .9

That is not pretty at all. Now we can argue about whether Nic was kept here to score or not. The simple fact is those numbers do not equate in anyway to a Max Contract player. No matter who is on the court with him, he struggles to help the team win in the fourth, add in the costly turnovers that can sometimes plague him in late game situations and we have to be honest as fans, part of the Hornets 4th quarter struggles have to be attributed to this. I could compare his numbers with anyone, but I went with Jeremy Lamb for a couple reasons. Lamb played with the starters during the time Batum was injured and he is the logical replacement, also this year they average nearly the same minutes in the fourth.

Jeremy Lamb in the 4th THIS SEASON: (for 1/3 of Nic’s salary)

17-18          7.3         4.8               47.1           29.3           .5

The numbers don’t lie folks, and I’ll give you the fact that Jeremy Lamb is not the passer that Nic is, and never will be. I am also not suggesting that Nic is solely responsible for the Hornets late game struggles, but we cannot ignore what these numbers tell us. Only once we identify the problem can we take steps to fix the situation. Hopefully the Hornets can find a way to solve this one soon, because we are running out of season as we speak, and for this team and staff, missing the playoffs could push the Hornets into another stretch of losing like we saw in the Bobcats era.

Losing Kemba Would be Catastrophic to the Hornets Fanbase

26232661_1620100248076425_3038207116099389908_oIt’s always good to remind yourself of where you’ve come from and why you started. In the case of Bring Back the Buzz it was started 7 years ago out of a place of necessity. Returning the Hornets name was never pitched from us as a way to save the franchise but more as a form of life support to buy this franchise some time to figure things out on the court. 7 years ago the branding was horrible, the team was horrible and the city was apathetic. Fast forward 7 years, the branding is really good,  the team is sinking below mediocrity and the city’s interest is waning.

Since 2002 (16 years) this city has seen their beloved franchise leave, a new one come in 2 years later and in 14 years have 3 playoff appearances, no series wins, and never finish above 6th place in the East. This same franchise has also managed to have 6 coaches in 14 years, 3 branding changes and one complete rebrand. This city has also seen this same team try to tank (like really tank, like the worst team in NBA history level tank) only to be robbed of the number one pick, and has seen them attempt to build in free agency only to go from terrible to mediocre. Oh, and in that time frame, Charlotte also managed to have an All-Star game taken away from us and given to the very city that took our number 1 pick. All this translates to no identity, no consistency and nothing for this fanbase to attach to. This city desperately wants an NBA team to support and has in all honesty been extremely supportive given how crappy the team has been for over a decade and a half.

With all this being said, the only bright spot has been Kemba Walker. Kemba Walker is on pace to go down as the greatest Hornet of all-time and now rumors have been circulating for weeks that the only way to fix this current situation is to trade Kemba. The idea of trading Kemba genuinely scares me, not because I’m that attached to the idea of him as a Hornet, but removing him from this team literally gives this fanbase absolutely NOTHING to hold on to and no reason to come watch them play. The “be happy you have an NBA team” has been used as a reason to support them for far too long and no longer works in a city that has increasingly more and more to do in it every day (not to mention since the Panthers showed up in 95, the Hornets have been playing second fiddle).

Kemba is not just the most talented person on the Hornets but he has also been the heart and soul of this team for a long time. That would be like if Cam Newton(talent) would’ve left the same year Steve Smith (heart and soul) did. Also, let’s say we trade Kemba, and receive draft picks and young players to develop… what evidence has this current front office given that they have any idea on how to pick talent or develop it?

I don’t envy the Charlotte Hornets, something needs to change but they’ve tried free agency and tanking and showed they are capable of neither. So now they find themselves in a situation where they are on the brink of missing the playoffs again in a city that can’t withstand much more bad basketball let alone the removal of the greatest player the city has ever had.

Oh, sidenote…stop complaining about marketing changes (new uniforms, 30th Anniversary patches, new courts…whatever) and using the excuse, “this team needs to focus on basketball”. Do you realize how dumb that sounds? Those 2 things are not mutually exclusive! The marketing department has absolutely NO input on the day to day basketball operations and visa versa. The marketing department is tasked with the responsibility of maintaining interest surrounding the team regardless of what is happening on the court and with the exceptions of a few things they are doing a great job.

Hornets Turn 30 with Big Plans for Next Year

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that the organization will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the inaugural 1988-89 season during the 2018-2019 NBA campaign.

The Hornets will be unveiling new Classic Edition uniforms during “Classic Nights”. The team will also be providing fans with the opportunity to vote on the “30th Anniversary” team (basically the All-Hornets team). So start thinking about who you think are the greatest Hornets of all-time.

The Hornets also unveiled a beautiful 30th Anniversary logo. The logo looks exactly like something the first stint of Hornets would’ve used.

There will be plenty of merchandise in the team store with the new 30th Anniversary logo on it available for purchase as early as today.

Hornets Fans, Don’t Give Up Hope Yet!

I get it Hornets Fans, you are down in the dumps. It is not easy being a fan of this team lately, with the losses outnumbering the wins, national writers suggesting we trade our Captain for old vets and young projects all in the hopes of a bright future with a draft pick we will likely just screw up anyway.  Its been a struggle and I understand, I watched as we lost games to teams we should beat with ease, or gave up leads late in games we had won. The “Blow it up and Start Over” group has been slowly growing along with the “I’m Done” and “We suck again” groups. I recently posted a poll on Twitter asking about how the Hornets would finish the season, and the vast majority figured we would be in the late lottery….again. Well dry your tears and get down from that ledge folks, because this SH%T AIN’T OVER YET!

I’m sure most of you are saying “Yeah right Homer, stop blowing smoke up my _____!” and first off i would never do that and i am a little offended at that insinuation and also I have got some legit reasons for my optimism so sit down and relax while I expand on this.

Now we all saw a better team on that 3-1 west coast road trip than we have seen all season. They played as a team more effectively on both sides of the ball. Now that should give us a little hope alone, but I took a real close look at the Hornets remaining 44 games on their schedule and think that is going to be bigger than we realize. We all have heard the Experts saying that our season started harder than it finishes, but with the season half over we can really grasp how much different it will be.

I broke down the Hornets opponents into 3 different levels of quality. The first group is the top 4 seeds in each conference. These are the contenders, the cream of the crop. They are as follows.

  • Celtics
  • Raptors
  • Cavs
  • Wizards
  • Warriors
  • Rockets
  • Spurs
  • Timberwolves

Then we have the Wanna-Be Contenders made up of the teams that are seeds 5-9 in each conference.

  • 76ers
  • Pacers
  • Pistons
  • Bucks
  • Heat
  • Clippers
  • Pelicans
  • Nuggets
  • Trailblazeers
  • Thunder

Finally that leaves us with the Crappy level, Teams that either can’t or don’t want to win.

  • Knicks
  • Nets
  • Bulls
  • Magic
  • Hawks
  • Lakers
  • Grizzlies
  • Mavs
  • Jazz
  • Suns
  • Kings

So those levels with be important as we move forward, go ahead and take a few minutes to look them over again before we continue, take your time, I will wait…

ALRIGHT, now lets look at the 38 games the Hornets have already played this season to a less than spectacular 15-23 record. We knew they had a tough schedule to start, but looking back now it almost seems like the NBA had it out for this team from the start of the season. They have played

  • 15 games against the Contenders Level going: 3-12

  • 13 games against the Wanna-Be Level going: 5-8

  • 10 games against the Crappy Level going: 7-3

All we have to do is look back at the month of November where out of 13 total games 9 were against the powers of the NBA, add to that guys being injured and having a shortened pre-season to integrate Dwight Howard into the team and is it any surprise this team got off to a rocky start? Now though we get to look forward to the final 44 games of the season, where things take a dramatic change in the favor of our Boys in Teal and Purple (and sometimes White and Black) The final 44 break down like this.

  • 6 games against the Contenders Level

  • 18 games against the Wanna-Be Level

  • 20 games against the Crappy Level

Talk about your all-time tale of two halves of a season! The Hornets are already done with the top 4 seeds in the Western Conference completely and half the remaining 6 are at home. So just to be on the cautious side lets say they go 2-4 in those 6 games. The 18 games vs. the Wanna Be level should be close to a 50% win rate for the Hornets, considering that is the level most experts and Las Vegas odds makers put a full strength Hornets team at to begin the season. They still have yet to play the 76ers and will play all 4 matchups with them in a 31 day stretch where they play 17 games in March, including tail ends of back to backs twice which could mean no Joel Embiid. So I’m going to give the Hornets the benefit of the doubt against this group and say they go 11-9. That brings us to those glorious 20 games against the Crappy level, who will likely begin full on tank modes in the next few weeks, pulling vets and playing the youth. That means lots of wins for more talented teams like the Hornets. For everyone who just mumbled something about those bulls games while reading this, I get it, but the simple fact is the Hornets won 70% of their games against this tier…and I see that continuing at minimum. I think expecting 14 wins out of 20 is on the low side, but lets just use that number so I don’t get accused of being a homer.

All that leaves is simple math now, we just have to add 15 (current wins) to the projected wins vs. each level: 15+2+11+14 = 42 wins and likely a 6-8 seed in the playoffs.  Frankly I could easily see 2 or 3 more wins combined versus all three groups which could push us as high as a 4 seed.

So I beg of my fellow Hornets fans, before we start deciding where to trade Kemba Walker and figuring out how to move up 2 more spots on the draft board, ask yourself if our schedule had been a bit more balanced and this team was sitting at 20-18 and 2 games back of the 4 seed, would you be thinking those same thoughts?

Player Only Fans are Back in Buzz City

This has been a rough start to the Hornets season, and the fans are struggling to deal with it as expected. All over Hornets Twitter and in Facebook groups there is discussions of trades, arguments on who should shoulder the blame, and questions of what to do next. Yet there is a new type of fan involved in many of these discussions, and to be honest I have no clue of how to understand them. Before we dive into them though, I want to take you back to my childhood so you get a better picture of me as a fan.

I grew up in a small town 40 miles south of Seattle, and I bled Sonics Green and Yellow. Many of my favorite sports memories involve the now extinct NBA franchise that ruled Seattle sports in the late 1990’s. My Dad and I went to a few games a year, but i never missed them on TV. I had NBA fever and I had it bad, I grew up listening to Kevin Calabro on the call, and still get chills when I hear his voice doing the occasional national broadcast. I wrote my 7th grade paper on the history of the team ( I got an A by the way) and could recite every player on the roster, where they went to college and their height and weight. My favorite player was Shawn Kemp, the Reignman posters covered my walls and I pretended I was him on the playground. I used to tape the games on the VCR (Go ask your parents what that is) and breakdown the plays. I had his jersey and wore it all the time to the point the numbers began to unstitch. I can still feel the disappointment when we lost to the Bulls in the Finals in 96, I was 18 years old and a young man, and I cried.  Nothing prepared me for what happened the following year though, on September 25th 1997 my favorite player since I was 11, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers……for some bum named Vin Baker. (Vin was actually a decent player looking back now, but I did not care at the time)  I was crushed, but a month later when the 97 season tipped off, I was still a Seattle Sonics fan. I remained one until the 18th of April in 2008, 12 days after i took my wife to see Kevin Durant drop 37 points on Carmelo Anthony, when the NBA approved the team that i loved to move to Oklahoma City.

Fast forward to the 15/16 NBA season, I have now adopted the Charlotte Hornets as my team and have been following and writing about them for 3 years. I swore off the NBA for awhile because I was angry, but watching the best athletes play the best damn sport in the world drew me back in. I adopted the then Bobcats because well, they were terrible. They also were a new franchise that i didn’t have any grudges against from my Sonics days. (Like i could cheer for the Lakers or Trailblazers, ewwww GROSS) This season would be my first interaction with a new type of NBA fan. I call them Player Only Fans.

Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum

Charlotte Hornets’ Al Jefferson (25) gets a point across to teammates, Jeremy Lin (7), Kemba Walker (15) and Nicolas Batum (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. The Hornets won 113-88. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

We all remember when the Hornets signed Jeremy Lin to a cheap contract, I thought “Cool, a good veteran to back up Kemba on a cheap deal.” Within days of the signing I started seeing strange things show up on my twitter feed. Comments from a bunch of new followers telling me Lin should start over Kemba, and that Lin just had not ever gotten a fair chance to prove himself, but he was gonna be way better than Kemba that year. I wasn’t the only writer experiencing this, and as the season wore on it became clear that these fans were not like anything I had dealt with before. They were happy if the Hornets lost, but Lin had a good game. Lin only stayed one season, and when he signed in Brooklyn i was glad to say goodbye to the Linatics (I coined that phrase on twitter and it stuck) thinking that would be the last time I dealt with fans of a player who do not care about the team.

I hate to say it, but these type of fans are back in Charlotte and all over the NBA. The Malik Only Fans are growing in numbers by the day. These fans do not care that Monk is not ready for big NBA minutes physically or mentally. We see them on Facebook and Twitter, complaining that Monk needs to get 25 minutes a night, or should be starting. You can argue till you are Teal in the face with stats and logic, but they don’t care. They want to see “Their Guy” play, no matter how it affects the team. If the Hornets win and Monk get a few minutes and misses his shots, they are no where to be heard. Yet if the Hornets lose a game and Monk hits two shots in garbage time, they post until the next morning how this team sucks all except for Monk. The Fan Boi culture is here to stay, and its something fans of this team and others around the NBA are going to have to learn to co-exist with. Fans changing teams with players in free-agency is becoming the new normal. Stars that have fans that follow them instead of the home team, never understanding the joy or disappointment of your team that you love winning or losing in the Finals. Just a closet full of different jersey’s with the same name on the back, all while not caring in the least about the name on the front.

Bring Back The Buzz’s “City Edition” FAN CONCEPT Jersey

What do you think of our “City Edition” #BuzzCity  Uniform Concept for the Hornets?

By Big Dub! The same man who helped put Bring Back The Buzz on the map and helped validate our movement by visually expressing our hopes. His designs helped a lot of people see what was possible.

You can see his other works like a Seattle Supersonics concept here: https://bringbackthebuzz.net/category/big-dub/

Since the new “City Edition” Uniforms will reportedly be Black and day “Buzz City” he did twist on the theme while mixing it with the Classic Uniforms into this bee-autiful blend!

What do you think?….