Hornets Attendance Is Tanking, Leaving Season Ticket Holders Feeling the Sting.

We all saw this coming, and it totally makes sense. The Hornet attendance numbers are dropping quicker than Devonte Graham three pointers, and it was most evident last night. I was watching on TV in rainy Seattle and it was very obvious that the stands were empty. No one blames the fans for not rushing to the arena on a Tuesday night to watch two bad teams battle it out for the crown of most mediocre. I am surprised at the rate the attendance numbers have dropped already, less than 1/3 of a season into the rebuild that the front office refuses to call a rebuild. When Jordan and Mitch made the call to not pay Kemba Walker market value, they knew they were going to take a loss at the gate, but I would love to talk to them after a few shots of Jordan’s new tequila and ask them if the realized how ugly it would get this fast.

THE NUMBERS

2018-2019  16,501  86.5% of capacity   23rd in NBA

2019-2020  15,054  78.9% of capacity   29th in NBA

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Now at first glance some might say, “That doesn’t seem so bad” but after hearing how the numbers got here you might see my point. I have been watching the numbers since the season started, and 5 home games in they were only down about 450 fans per night but in the next nine they have dropped another 1000. The team got a boost from Opening night and Kemba’s return game, but since then they are dropping quick. We all know the attendance numbers are tickets paid for, not butts in seats, and by my math we are going to see the numbers continue to trend downward. When teams like the Lakers and 76ers come in the arena, it will look better, but the reality is there will be far more midweek games vs. the Magic and Knicks that will continue to drag that number way down.

THE NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS

While the lack of interest is hurting the Hornets bottom line for sure, the innocent bystanders taking the brunt of the burden is the Season Ticket holders who were forced to make a decision on keeping their tickets before the team decided to re-set the roster. These folks are not only having to watch a team with no chance of the play-offs and them getting crushed by the better teams in the league but the re-sale market is absolutely non existent. Many season ticket holders lay out big bucks every year to keep supporting their team, and re-coup some of that investment on games that they can’t make it to. Many of these fans CAN’T EVEN GIVE THEM AWAY. I have talked to multiple fans on social media who have good Lower Bowl seats that can,t sell them for 25% of face value. For the Wizards game yesterday there were Lower Bowl seats that went unsold that were 15 bucks….are you kidding me….FIFTEEN DOLLARS! This makes me wonder how many of these fans will continue to shell out 5 to 8 grand for season tickets next season, which Jordan and Co. in the front office should be very worried about, because once those fans leave the overall numbers could get VERY ugly next year and beyond.

Are the Hornets really Better than We Thought, Or is Something Weird going On?

22 games into the Hornets season and many fans have expressed surprise about the team getting 8 early season wins thus far. I was one of many that expected this team to be bad, I mean real bad, like 20 wins bad. This got me thinking, was I this far off with my estimate as they are currently on a 31 win pace? Are they actually a more talented roster that we all thought? I decided to look at some numbers and really break down what we have been witnessing thus far this season. I think what I have found is quite interesting, and also troubling for those of us who hope to grab a high pick this year.

 

ARE THE HORNETS BAD?

Short answer, YES. The stats are horrendous folks. While we have seen Devonte Graham break out as one of the leaders for Most Improved Player, and P.J. Washington open many eyes with his break out start to his NBA career, the team as a whole is putting up terrible stats. Some of the Lowlights include.

  • 22nd in Offensive Rating   105.7
  • 29th in Defensive Rating  114.1
  • 27th in Net Rating  -8.4
  • 27th in Rebounding
  • 23rd in Turnovers
  • 25th in Pace
  • 30th in Opponents Field Goal %

In any other season those stats would make more sense if paired with a team struggling to win any games at all, not one currently in 9th in the East and 1.5 games out of the playoffs. The Hornets have more wins than 10 teams in the league and are tied with 5 other teams at 8! This team against current play-off teams has been horrible, thus far they are 1-10 and are losing by an average of 18 points. Their lone win was a tight home win against the Pacers, who were missing 3 starters. Clearly this team is what I thought they would be, a young team who would struggle to defend and go through droughts on the offensive end. So why are they looking like they will end up with the 11th pick again?

The reason the Hornets look a bit better in the standings then they do statistically is simple, the league is littered with REALLY, REALLY BAD TEAMS. We all knew the Knicks were gonna be a train wreck and that the young Grizzlies would struggle. There is always a small group of bottom dwellers that are in the 18-22 win range. I went back over the last 6 seasons to illustrate my point. And I understand we are only 22 games in, but the trend is alarming, especially for a team hunting for a top 5 pick. I broke teams into 3 levels.

  • Play-off teams .500 and above
  • play-off hopefuls  (37 wins)
  • Bad teams below (29 wins and below)

The averages for the last 6 years give us a good idea how the league usually breaks down.

  • 17 playoff teams
  • 21 playoff hopefuls
  • 6 bad teams

Currently in the NBA it breaks down like this

  • 14 playoff teams
  • 15 playoff hopefuls
  • 10 bad teams

So many teams are bad this year that only half the league is on pace for more than 37 wins, the previous low in the last six seasons is 19. Those extra 4 teams create the massive group of mediocre to bad teams that the Hornets are a part of right now. No one saw the Warriors only having 4 wins so far this season, but it is teams like the Blazers and Spurs that have really struggled early, and young teams like the Hawks and Kings  that have not taken that next step that we thought they would, that have thrown the balance out of whack. As a Hornets fan the idea of this weird season leading to this really bad team getting a pick outside of the top 5 is not ideal, but unless some of these teams start stacking up some wins its a very real possibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hornets must Focus on Future

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you are well aware of the twists and turns the Hornets fan base has dealt with during the Free Agency Frenzy in the NBA. The team lost it’s leader on and off the court to that team and fan base that wears green and says thinks like “Wicked Awesome” and “Chowdah” much to the dismay of this writer and a large portion of Hornets fans, but Dammit I’m all cried out (wonder what the dudes in 112 are up to?) and like we have become used to around these parts since the team returned its time to open the curtains, draw in a deep breath and get ready for what fresh hell this team is going to put us through next.

OH GOODY, ANOTHER REBUILD

  The Hornets found their replacement for Kemba in the form of Terry Rozier as part of the Sign-and-trade and agreed to a robust 3 year 58 million dollar contract. This is an absolute overpay for the youngish point guard who had a solid run in the playoffs 2 years ago in Kyrie Irving’s absence. A scoring points guard who has shown some flashes as a player in his 4 years in Boston, his game has some holes that hopefully he can improve on as the every night starter in Buzz City. The Hornets front office likely felt like they had to strike on Rozier due to lack of cap space even with Kemba leaving. This gives the Hornets someone to team-up with the current crop of young player to begin the process of rebuilding around a young core while the overpaid veterans slowly leave this team by trade or contracts expiring. Its a Re-birth if you will, the beginning of a new era in Hornets basketball history. The problem is there are some guidelines the Hornets front office needs to follow as we move forward, and that scares the crap out of many of us.

 

PLAY THE DAMN KIDS 

  This should be the easy part, but we will see. We all know what the veterans on this team brings, that is why we are in this mess to begin with. So they need to find out what Bacon, Bridges, Monk, Graham, Willy and Washington can do now and what they can become over an 82 game season. There is no reason for these guys not to be playing lots of minutes this season, and as a fan no one wants to watch Batum play 28 minutes and take 2 shots or watch Biz fumble the ball out of bounds twice a game. Give us something to look forward to. It cannot be about wins this season, (That hurts my heart to say that) it has to be about development and knowing exactly what we have going forward. Can Monk be a consistent scorer in the NBA? Can Bacon be an effective starting shooting guard on a nightly basis? Is Bridges a small forward or a power forward and is his 3-point shot going to be reliable. These are the kinds of things we need to know as the 19-20 season comes to a close.

ASSETS, ASSETS, ASSETS 

  This is where my heart starts pounding and my hands get sweaty. The Hornets front office must use the Expiring contracts of Marvin, MKG and Biz to their advantage to accumulate as many picks or young players as they can to help rebuild the roster. Guys like Marvin and MKG will likely have value to teams who are contending or hope to contend. Turning them into late first rounders or multiple seconds while also being able to take on longer contracts is key for the team. General Managers feel pressure leading up to and at the deadline to make moves to help push their team over the top. The Hornets need to take full advantage of those opportunities. I don’t think any playoff teams will feverishly chasing Biz and his 17 million dollar contract for help on the court, however, teams that are either over the tax line next year or who need to free up space to sign their own free agents or bolster their roster will be looking for guys on expiring deals. The Hornets are in a great position there as well because they can take on someone on a 2 year deal or longer due to having cap space open in the future as well. How the front office handles these deals will go along way to jump starting this rebuild and giving the team the ability to return to respectability in a Brooklyn Nets time frame, not a Phoenix Suns time frame.

 

Hey Hornets, Get Yourselves Together Before Its too Late!

The season is slipping away from the Hornets as we move thru December, and unless they start playing with intensity for 48 minutes a night, a season that started with so much promise will join the stack of disappointing seasons in the Hornets history.  We are always told to be patient as fans, we are only 24 games into the season and we have a new coach….BLAH, BLAH, BLAH……  The honest truth is very simple, this team has zero margin of error in the second half of the season due to a very difficult schedule heavy with road games. The Hornets have 9 of the next 13 games at home and 2 of the road games are against struggling teams in the Nets and Knicks.  This stretch will end right after we toast to the New Year, the question is will we as fans be fired up about the future of this season….or will we be hung-over from drowning our sorrows as we watch the Hornets waste another season by underachieving? We have reached the part of the season where teams who were struggling early are starting to figure things out and we have slowly begun to slide down the standings. I have some thoughts on what we need to see (Besides 8 or 9 wins) before we reach January 3rd.

STOP THE MADNESS MR. BORREGO

While I have seen some positives from the new coach early this year, I do have a couple concerns.  While Frank has played fairly well of late, I don’t like the fact that Willy Hernangomez lost his spot in the rotation due to injury, and now has been stuck behind Biz in recent games. This can’t continue. Biz isn’t a part of the future of this team, and honestly shouldn’t be part of the present. In the Hornets loss to the T-wolves Biz played 4 minutes while the game was in question and was a -9. So please Mr. Borrego let Willy play, and let Biz go back to waving a towel.  Another issue is a closing line-up, WE HAVE TO DECIDE ON ONE! I saw a Tweet from noted Buzz Beat numbers guy Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) in reference to the Hornets 4th quarter lineups.

Hornets haven’t played a single 4th quarter lineup more than 12 minutes. Charlotte played 18 different Q4 lineups between 5-12 minutes.  Dec 4th 2018

Now don’t get me wrong, I get the need for experimentation, but this seems a little extreme. The coach needs to try and let players get used to performing in closing roles along side the same teammates in order to get more comfortable in the quarter that they seem to struggle so much in. We all know the Hornets have been insanely bad late in games, but this is something that will only be solved when players know what is expected of them when tight games happen.

PLAYERS MUST BRING IT, EVERY NIGHT

Guys are gonna miss shots, we know that and understand that, what I can’t deal with is not coning on the court with intensity on defense. This team flat out doesn’t have enough talent to get lazy on the defensive end. (See loses to 3 terrible teams so far this season) While the offense is still very dependent on the 3 point shot, the defense relies on energy and communication, which are things that players can control every time they step on the court. The defense has been sliding of late, and if it doesn’t turn around upcoming games vs. teams like the Lakers, Nuggets (twice) and Celtics could get really ugly early.

FANS MUST DO THEIR PART

These next 9 home games will be crucial to the Hornets success or failure this season. The only thing fans can truly control in this game is the home court advantage.  Get out and get loud, if you haven’t seen the team live in awhile make a trip uptown to be a part of helping the team. If you have season tickets, get a little louder than usual. Follow Bring Back The Buzz on twitter to get updates on cheap tickets for the games as well. The louder the stadium is the better chance the team has of making noise in the eastern conference.

This stretch starting tonight could possibly not only be the determining stretch of this season, but could ultimately lead to shaping the future of this franchise for years to come. If the Hornets can get hot and put themselves solidly in playoff contention as we hit the new year, it could force the franchise to go out and get another impact player via trade, However, if the Hornets fall flat on their faces and find themselves deep on the wrong side of .500 as the ball drops on New Years Eve, it could lead to one of the scariest words in sports…..”Rebuild”.

The Answer to Hornets needs is in the Desert, not D.C.

Image designed by Atay (click image for more details)

After witnessing Kemba Walker force the NBA to take notice last week, and also force the front office to get very serious about finding him legit help via the trade market, Im not gonna lie and say I didn’t get excited about the idea of Bradley Beal in the Teal and Purple.  Buuuuuuut, come on folks, we all know another team is gonna come in with a better offer than we can. I mean no one wants Batum even if you attach a couple 1st rounders and one of our three young assets looks like he has been shooting with his eyes closed for 2 weeks. And I’m constantly annoyed by the “Trade Machine” crown on twitter, trying to talk people into how the Hornets can get Kevin Durant for Nic Batum because it works on that dumb ass site. However, I do believe there is an answer to the Hornets prayers for a second scorer who won’t kill you on defense, and he resides currently in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.

T.J. Warren is a 25 year old 6 foot 8 inch combo forward who has spent his entire career  with the Suns playing under multiple coaches in several different roles. He signed a 4 year 50 million dollar contract this past off-season. He is a decent defender, and an okay rebounder but his true strength is very simple, the dude puts the ball in the basket. Last year as a starter he scored 19.6 points a game in 33 minutes on 50% from the floor. His only offensive weakness was shooting the three, and well he seems to have put some work in on that this year as he is hitting 47% on 4 threes a game off the bench for the hapless Suns.  Put this young man in Coach Borrego’s system with ball movement and fast breaks and he could really flourish. He projects to a small ball 4 in the Hornets system but could play minutes at both the 3 or the 5 depending on match-up and would be a great compliment to Bridges as he matures.

His contract is quite affordable compared to Hornets players and there would be several possible packages Mitch can put together to get him here. The Suns aren’t ready to win anything at this point, but could be players in free agency next year with solid cap space available. So maybe you could offer a package including Frank and Lamb who both expire this season and a protected first for him. Or maybe the Suns and their new coach are looking for a solid defensive first player to pair with young guys who struggle to defend. Maybe MKG and a second round pick gets the deal done. We just don’t have a good enough package to bring in a proven young All-Star like Beal, however Warren would be the next best thing, a proven NBA scorer who with a little coaching and some veteran leadership, could be a 20 point a night guy who can both start or come off the bench and is on a team friendly deal for the run the Hornets appear to be gearing up for in the next few years.

Seriously, Kemba Walker has gotten better…..Again.

Its only 10 games, its early yet, lets not jump to conclusions…..These are all things we hear on podcasts and read on twitter as the NBA calendar hits November. Well, folks I have never been real good at listening to direction, and I am here to tell you right here right now, Kemba Walker is having a career year and its not going to stop. While Hornets fans are likely less surprised than the national NBA fans, the idea that Kemba has found another level is quite amazing, but anyone who has followed Kemba thus far should have seen this coming a mile away.

While we always see guys have a hot start every season that we know is not going to last, for example Blake Griffin is not going to shoot 46% from 3 all season, the boost we have seen in Kemba’s numbers are coming in less minutes per game than his previous 3 years. Walker has found a way to become more aggressive off the ball than we have seen before, his movement without the ball is becoming shooting guard like and his quick trigger coming off screens is leading to more open shots. While Kemba should get most of the credit for his improvement we have to give credit to James Borrego for helping Kemba reach his potential as well.

When JB took over the coaching duties this off-season it was clear he wanted to the Hornets to push the ball and make quick decisions. His philosophy based on space and pace plays right into Walker’s strengths and both a ball handler and scorer.  As fans we watched Kemba become underutilized last year due to the arrival of Dwight Howard. The focus of the offense became a guy who rarely passed, so once he received the ball in the paint, guys just stopped and watched. So the idea of a faster paced offense with more ball movement seemed like a perfect fit. So far the Hornets offense is buzzing and Kemba is posting career highs in points per game, true shooting percent, Player Efficiency Rating and shots per game. He is also taking 51 percent of his shots from three, while lowering his long range 2 point shots to only 9%.

Possibly the largest single improvement thus far this year has been Kemba’s defense. He has always been a capable defender but due to his burden on offense it was hard to blame him for not always going 100% on the defensive end of the floor. This year however the intensity shown from Kemba has been obvious from game one. He has always been good at drawing charges, but this season he is on pace for over 55 charges drawn, a career high by a mile. He also has done a great job slowing down bigger players when he gets switched onto them. He uses his low center of gravity and quick hands to keep players from getting where they want long enough for help to arrive.

The NBA is starting to take notice of what Kemba is doing early in this season, he won Eastern Conference player of the Week honors once already this season, and he is showing up on some Las Vegas MVP lists. The reality is unless the Hornets keep collecting wins that attention will fade as they fade in the standings. However, if the Hornets can continue to stay relevant and force their way into the play-offs as one of the surprise teams who over-achieve pre-season expections, Kemba could be on his way to his first All-NBA Team selection and possible first round series win, which I think we all can agree would cement him as the Franchise GOAT, no matter what some voters have said recently.

Hornets Roster full of Questions as Season Approaches.

As we put the dog days of the NBA off-season behind us and begin to look forward to training camp getting started the Charlotte Hornets roster is full of guys who will be feeling pressure to prove themselves on many different levels. With a new coach and GM calling the shots, nothing is owed to guys who have been here for a few seasons. Aside from Kemba everyone in Purple and Teal has something to prove, but for this article I will highlight the 4 veterans who have their backs against the wall this season.

Frank Kaminsky

Frank will basically be playing for his NBA life this season as he enters the last year of his rookie scale contract. I would stop just short of calling him a bust as he has played a role the last three years coming off the bench, but I think it is fair at this point to say he has not lived up to his draft position or hype coming out of college. His lack of defensive improvement over his first three seasons makes me think he will never be a true starter at any point in his NBA career and while he increased his 3pt% last year, his lack of rebounding makes is difficult to slot him in off the bench as a center. Unless Frank can find a way to improve either his rebounding or defense, or he shoots 40% or better from three EARLY this year, look for his minutes to begin to be cut in favor of Miles Bridges.

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Nic Batum

This season is Nic’s final chance to prove signing him to that massive contract in 2016 wasn’t the worst contract in Hornets history. The first two years of the 5 year contract were a massive disappointment for Hornets fans, and to be fair he had trouble with an elbow injury early last year. This year however there are no excuses, he is healthy so far and the Hornets got rid of Dwight Howard who Nic didn’t seem to be able to figure out how to play with at all last year. The Hornets also went out and signed one of his best friends in Tony Parker and it also appears that he will be moving back to his natural position of Small Forward this year. All that said, if Nic can’t hit shots consistently and help facilitate the offense at a much better rate than the last two years, you have to wonder if James Borrego will remove Nic from the starting line-up despite that 24 million dollar salary.

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  Cody Zeller

Cody finds himself here for a much different reason than the previous two players. No one questions his heart, talent or positive impact on the Hornets when he is on the floor. His screen setting and work in the pick and roll with Kemba creates issues for defenses that truly make the offense more efficient. The problem with Cody is he tends to hit the floor, then end up watching 25 or so games in a suit with injury problems. If the Hornets want to sneak into the playoffs this season, Cody has to play in 72 games or more. If he misses significant time again this year, many NBA fans and more importantly General Managers will look at him as a very expensive injury prone player who can,t be counted on.

Jeremy Lamb

Jeremy Lamb should be the starting shooting guard on this team from the opening tip of game one this year. The info that Nic is moving back to the 3 spot means MKG will probably lose his starting spot and create the opening for the sleepy eyed swingman from UCONN to be a full-time starter for the first time in his career. This also happens to be the final year of Lamb’s contract so this season sets up to be a massive chance for him to prove himself as a quality NBA starter, then sit back and wait for the phone to ring in early July and cash in. He was solid as a starter last year when he filled in for Batum averaging 16 points 6 boards and 3 assists in 18 starts while shooting 39.2% from three points range. If he can do that or slightly better this year, teams will be lining up to pay him 12-15 million a year for the next 4 years.

 

This Hornets team truly has more questions than answers heading into this season, with a new coach and a new front office the teams future is truly anyones guess. However for some of these veteran players, this season could truly mean the difference between signing that big deal that sets you up for life, or figuring out what job you are qualified for in the real world with us regular folks.

 

 

 

 

All photos from Associated PRESS