BUZZ WEEKLY:HORNETS OFF TO STRONG START

So far, so good in Buzz City.

The Hornets sit at 4-1 five games into the season, with their only stumbling block being a loss to the Boston Celtics in their home opener. They have managed to compile this record despite suffering a few injuries along the way to some key pieces to the team.

After a strong debut in the Hornets first game, Roy Hibbert has remained sidelined with what has been described as “knee soreness,” which can certainly be cause for concern for a big man, particularly in the early stages of the season. The Hornets have managed to play well on defense despite his absence; they rank fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing a stingy 95.4 points per outing while also ranking near the top in blocked shots as a team.

As well as Charlotte has played thus far, it would probably be in their best interest to take their time with the veteran big man in order to preserve him for the latter part of the season as he was ultimately brought in to be the veteran defensive stopper the Hornets lacked in the playoffs last season.

Guard Jeremy Lamb is also out nursing an injured hamstring. He is initially listed as being out for 1-2 weeks but, hamstring injuries can be nagging, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team be cautious with this one also.

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Moving on to the early successes of the team, the Hornets have notched victories against Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. While that isn’t necessarily murderers row, it IS four W’s in the win column, and I think Hornets fans will take a start like this any day of the week.

This team underwent an offensive renaissance last season, after years of setting the tone with their defensive identity, by spreading the floor and adopting a four-out, one-in approach that helped them to a good playoff showing last year. While the offensive principles remain basically the same this year, the team seems to have balanced the focus out better this season, with an emphasis on both sides of the ball and their record boasts the results of that renewed focus.

The team has four games coming up in the coming week after a leisurely start to the season. The Hornets start a three game homestand Monday against the Indiana Pacers who, after a slow start to the season, are coming off a strong showing against the Bulls. It will be a homecoming of sorts for former Hornets big man Al Jefferson, but most of the focus will be on superstar Paul George, point guard Jeff Teague and emerging young center Myles Turner.

Next up will be a second home game against the Utah Jazz. They are another young, up-and-coming team that plays a style similar to the Hornets. They also feature an emerging star big man in Rudy Gobert and forward Gordon Hayward, who is a cognitive piece to their offense, has just returned from injury and looks to be picking up where he left of last season. Newly acquired point guard George Hill is having an offensive resurgence in Utah, leading the team in points and assists.

To finish off the homestand on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors come to town. They are a top five defensive team, they are battle tested and they will be a legit test from a strong playoff contender for the Hornets. Guard DeMar DeRozan has been on an absolute tear this season so far, leading the league in scoring at the moment with 33.7 points per game.

That game should serve as a good springboard for a Sunday afternoon tilt with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. I obviously don’t have to build this one up much, this will serve as the teams biggest test of the season as the Hornets match up with the likes of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. As of now, the Cavs sport the leagues only undefeated record at 6-0, and their offense is clicking as they are leading the league in scoring at 112.3 points per contest.

Those are four tough games on the schedule in the next seven days and they should serve to show us what kind of team we really have this season in Charlotte. Realistically, I can see them coming out of this four game stretch with another three victories, but that will take disciplined play.

The Hornets can ill afford to have slow starts to these games as they did against Brooklyn on Friday. These are all strong defensive teams and if we allow them to set their defensive tone early, it will be tough to get things going afterwards.

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets

Photo Credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Now that all that is out of the way, let’s boast about this team a little bit.

Nic Batum has recently appointed himself as the head of the “Get Kemba to the All-Star Game” committee. (*while having the all-star game here would certainly help his cause…cough, cough*) Walker has had an efficient start to his season so far, averaging 24.4 points per game to go with 4.6 assists and three boards per game. He is shooting more efficiently this season and it’s obvious how much the team trusts Kemba down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Batum is filling the stat sheet across the board and MKG has injected a spark into this team on a nightly basis while leading all small forwards in rebounding with 9.2 boards per game.

Cody Zeller has played efficiently and Frank the Tank is getting the opportunity to show off the versatility that led the Hornets to draft him. Marvin Williams hasn’t had the best start to the season, struggling with his shooting in a few games, but he has so far shown a penchant for making the right shots when we need them the most.

Belinelli has seen his minutes increase with the absence of Lamb and he has answered the call with his court vision and basketball IQ that made him a player that Cho has coveted.

Even Spencer Hawes, the player most often brought up in Hornets trade scenarios, has shown where he fits in on this team. Hawes isn’t going to wow anybody with his athleticism or his man bun, but he does have an accurate shot with range and an incredible basketball IQ as well. He has filled in well during Hibbert’s absence and he has provided a steady hand in the Hornets strong start to the season.

And then there are the intangibles; the chemistry and culture that this team has built in the locker room is conducive to winning. On Friday, former Hornet Jeremy Lin echoed the sentiment from last season that the Hornets locker room is how all NBA locker rooms should be. He’s not the first player, current or former, to comment on the chemistry this team exhibits. Coach Clifford has helped build a culture in Charlotte that the players can buy into, and that’s something that takes time and enough belief in each other to handle the responsibility they’re given.

While the teams 4-1 jump out of the gates is very encouraging, this week’s slate of games can help us get a better scope of what we have in this team. We’ve got a good thing going here at the Hive this season, so sit back and enjoy the view from up here Hornets fans. Until next time, KEEP BUZZIN’!!!

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade. 

BUZZ WEEKLY: RETURN OF THE BUZZ

Well that was certainly fun to watch.

 

The Charlotte Hornets opened their 2016-2017 season with a convincing 107-96 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hornets got a strong jump out of the gate and never looked back, going up by as much as 24 points as their defense led the way.

Charlotte Hornets v Milwaukee Bucks

(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of last season to make a huge impact. He was all over the floor, providing the Hornets with hustle and energy throughout the game. He was successful in driving to the basket and creating contact. He scooped up loose balls and crashed the boards. And with 23 points and 14 rebounds, both team highs, he set the tone for a Hornets team that coach Clifford says will have to bring it on defense from day one.

 

Roy Hibbert signed a one-year deal with the Hornets in an effort to revive his career. Hibbert was a defensive force just a couple of years ago in Indiana, and he has one attribute that can’t be taught; size. The 7’2” center made his statement early and often, with a series of blocks and altered shots that made the Bucks think twice before going into the paint. You could see Milwaukee’s players second guess themselves on baseline drives after Hibbert accrued four blocks in the first half, ultimately finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds three assists and FIVE blocks. Heck of a debut for the Georgetown product, who looks to be playing with a tremendous chip on his shoulder this season.

 

Kemba Walker had a good game with 17 points and eight assists while Marvin Williams chipped in 13 points, 10 rebounds and one emphatic blocked shot. Nic Batum finished with nine points, six boards, seven dimes and two steals. The trio shot a combined 12-36, good for a 33% clip. The positive spin on that discouraging shooting percentage is the fact that the Hornets still dominated the game despite three of their starters struggling from the field.

 

Cody Zeller, who at one point was in doubt to even suit up for the opener, came off the bench and chipped in 15 points and two blocks in just 14 minutes of action.

 

It’s only a one game sample of this years Charlotte Hornets, so it’s still premature to make any assumptions of things to come but, why not make a few early observations anyway?

 

The Hornets lost some key offensive pieces from last season’s playoff run when they let center Al Jefferson and guards Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee sign elsewhere in free agency. They did, however, retain two key pieces to the team by resigning Batum and Williams. Their versatility and defensives presence made them the top priorities entering the summer and the Hornets were smart to keep them on the roster.

 

The ball moves so much better with a healthy Batum; his skill set is a rarity in the NBA and he is the motor that keeps the Hornets offense going.

 

In contrast, Kidd-Gilchrist is the middle linebacker of the Hornets defense. His return boosts the energy on both ends of the court but, with both MKG and Batum locking down the wings and Hibbert patrolling the paint, the Hornets once again can flex their muscles on defense.

 

The team experienced a renaissance on offense last year, spreading the offense out more while attacking from long range at a pace just shy of the three happy Warriors. The defense remained one of the better units in the league, but this year’s defense could be exceptionally better if we can stay healthy.

 

That’s always a mighty big “IF.” For the most part, the Hornets came out of the preseason healthy. Frank Kaminsky missed last night’s game, but after playing in 81 games last season don’t expect that to be an issue going forward. Starting the season healthy is paramount, allowing a team to build chemistry early on to set the tone for a long, grueling schedule so the team’s early health is certainly something to be thankful for.

 

Sadly, injuries during the season are inevitability, so the team’s depth will be tested whenever it comes time for our bench to step up. Both backup wings struggled early last night; Marco Belinelli finally settled down after a slow start, but he played a good bit in the preseason and seemed to find his groove in a few of the games, so I expected him to play well.

 

Jeremy Lamb had a handful of strong games after signing an extension early last season but then he faded and never regained the confidence he had showed early on. Last night he went 0-4 in just nine minutes and the Hornets are going to need a better effort out of him as the season progresses.

 

The three players at the end of the bench are relatively unproven, with undrafted second year guard Aaron Harrison, Treveon Graham and athletic forward Christian Wood rounding out the roster.

 

No doubt the Hornets depth will be tested at some point this season but for now it appears they have a solid nine or ten man rotation that Clifford can rely on.

 

All things said, last night’s victory over a talented, young Bucks squad was a good way to kick off the season. The Hornets travel to Miami next to face the Heat in an early divisional matchup. The Heat are playing their first season post-Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is unlikely to play this season due to blood clot issues. The matchup between giants Roy Hibbert and Hassan Whiteside will be a fun one to watch, as the Hornets struggled to find an answer for the Heat big man in last season’s playoff series.

 

The season is upon us everyone, let’s settle in and enjoy some Charlotte Hornets basketball. Till next time guys, KEEP BUZZING!!!

BUZZ WEEKLY: HORNETS GET HOT AT HOME, UNBEATEN WARRIORS ON DECK

i-9

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

There’s no place like home. That certainly seems to be the case for the Charlotte Hornets as they have taken full advantage of a recent homestand, going 5-1 during that span, with the one loss being a tightly contested game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

The team is playing well, their defense isn’t quite what it has been in years past but it is still stout enough to be ranked tenth in the league in defensive efficiency. And part of the increase in points allowed could be attributed to the increase in pace on offense, as the Hornets are fifth in the league in offensive efficiency.

 

They are tops in the league in protecting the ball, always a point that has been stressed by Clifford coached teams. They also rebound defensively at a high rate but they leave much to be desired on the offensive glass, where they rank dead last. Still, the early returns on a team that has only played together for a few months are encouraging, and it’s hard to think that the chemistry won’t improve with time.

 

Nic Batum is becoming the player that he was brought in to be; a heady player that can help facilitate the offense while also having the versatility to create for himself as a scorer. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well the past few games and he has the tendency to turn the ball over, but he is becoming more aggressive in his role as a leader and he always helps the team in other areas with his all around skill set.

i-8

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Batum’s numbers for the season are on par with some of the best to ever put on the purple and teal. If he keeps up this pace he will join Jamal Mashburn and the late Anthony Mason as the only Hornets to average 16+ points, 6+ rebounds, 4+ assists and 1+ steals per game. That’s certainly good company and it points to yet another reason that the Hornets should retain Batum’s services for the future.

 

i-11

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Kemba Walker has started to hit his stride as well, particularly in a 39-point outburst in an overtime win against the Kings. He has been shooting more efficiently from the field and has looked more comfortable as a facilitator on the floor.

 

Off the bench, the Hornets have continued to ride Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb, currently the NBA’s highest scoring reserve backcourt duo. Lamb has played great all season and continues to look like a steal for Charlotte. He has notched 13 games with 10-or-more points this season, only scoring in double figures 11 times in all of 2014-15. Lin has already logged four 15-or-more point performances in his first year in Charlotte. Lamb is averaging a career- best 12.8 points per game in 2015-16 and Lin is averaging 10.8 points per game.

 

i-10

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO DECEMBER…

 

After Wednesday, the Hornets will enter a December slate that features quite a few challenges along the way. As the standing sit now, every team on the schedule has a winning record except for the underperforming Wizards, the .500 Pistons and the hapless Los Angeles Lakers; and by no means should the Hornets look past those three opponents.

 

The Hornets are 10-7 overall, and 8-2 at home going into Wednesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. The game will be the last of seven straight home games and Charlotte will need to be hitting on all cylinders to beat the Warriors, who are on a historic 19-0 start to their season. But all good things must come to an end, so why can’t the Hornets be the ones to break the Warriors win streak?

 

stephen-curry-kemba-walker-nba-charlotte-hornets-golden-state-warriors-850x560

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

 

To say this is a big game is an understatement. While Charlotte certainly doesn’t want to get caught up in a track meet style scoring battle with the defending NBA champs they do have the offensive firepower to keep up as long as they can play solid defense against a team that has been moving the ball as crisp as anyone so far this year.

 

The Hornets pushed the Cavs to the brink in a hard fought game a few days ago, so who’s to say that they can’t pull off the upset on Wednesday? A victory could serve as a HUGE punctuation mark for a Charlotte team that is on the rise.

 

The Hornets played the Warriors twice last season; they lost the first game out west by 25, but in Charlotte they carried a lead into the fourth quarter before eventually falling by five…and that was with last season’s slow paced offense. So hypothetically, we can compete with the Warriors if we bring our A game.

 

Of course there’s always a buzz when Charlotte native and defending NBA MVP Stephen Curry comes to town. The Warriors also boast sharpshooter Klay Thompson and versatile forward Draymond Green, the teams leader in rebounding and assists.

 

The Warriors are deep so the Hornets depth will most likely be tested in this matchup. Golden State can take advantage of turnovers with their transition game so protecting the ball will be more key than ever in this game.

 

The Hornets need to come out focused in this game as well. They are 5-0 at home where leading after the first quarter and they are 8-0 whenever they score 100+ points. Just for fun, they’re also 4-0 at home on a Wednesday. They play their best when Batum is scoring the ball well, so getting him into a rhythm will be important for Charlotte.

 

The Hornets have been as stout as any team at home this season. They are averaging the most points per game at home in the Eastern Conference, with 107.8, the second most three-point field goals in the conference per game, with 10.0 per game at home, and they have logged the second most wins at home in the East (8-2).

 

Unfortunately, the Hornets will be playing most of December without veteran big man Al Jefferson though; he went down in the first quarter of Sunday’s win against the Bucks and is likely out for the next 2-3 weeks with a strained left calf.

 

The Hornets built depth in the frontcourt this offseason and it will be on display during the next few weeks as the team tries to make up for the absence of Jefferson. Cody Zeller will likely step into the starting role at center but the minutes will also be spread around to Spencer Hawes, rookie Frank Kaminsky and seldom used, fan favorite Tyler Hansbrough.

 

i-12

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

The Hornets haven’t looked this good in a very long time, it’s a great time to be a fan of our local professional sports teams! The games only get tougher and more meaningful from here on out. Until next time Hornets fans, KEEP BUZZING!!!

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

 

 

BUZZ WEEKLY: A TALE OF TWO TEAMS

i-7

                           Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

They are what we thought they were? Five games in to the NBA regular season and we have seen two different versions of the Hornets team that flashed so much promise through a seven game win streak during the exhibition season. After starting off the season with three straight losses against southeast division foes, the Hornets have regained the team chemistry that had fans buzzing in the preseason by winning convincingly against both Chicago and Dallas.

The first three games weren’t completely terrible. They showed flashes of promise in between bad midrange shots and careless turnovers, but they certainly didn’t resemble the mess that was last season’s version of the Hornets. With nearly half of the roster turned over from last season, there was no doubt that it might take a while for these guys to come together; maybe they just needed a few games to get into a rhythm.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

           Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

That began on Tuesday night when the Bulls came to town. The Hornets came out and immediately punched them in the mouth, going up by 17 in the first quarter and they never looked back. Charlotte absolutely dominated Chicago in every facet of the game en-route to a resounding 130-105 victory. That’s right, 130 from the Charlotte Hornets. If anything, this showed us what could be this season with a newly revamped roster and offensive philosophy.

Earlier that day, the Hornets signed wingman Jeremy Lamb to a three-year extension two games into his career in Charlotte. Before anybody could question the move, Lamb responded with 20 points off the bench on an efficient 9-10 shooting from the field. Lamb continued his strong play two nights later, dropping 16 points on 7-11 shooting so, for the time being, it seems that signing Lamb to an extension was the right move and hopefully we’ve just begun to tap his potential.

After the offensive outburst against Chicago, the Hornets showed more versatility in Dallas. They took control of the Mavericks in the second half of the game with Al Jefferson putting on an absolute clinic in the post to the tune of 31 points and nine rebounds on 15-18 shooting. While the Hornets hit only 6-27 attempts from long range, the constant threat combined with crisp ball movement and floor spacing gave Big Al the room needed to effectively operate with his arsenal of old school post moves.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

             Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

The front office folks have done a pretty good job of putting together a talented team with the additions (and subtractions) they’ve made during the offseason. Jeremy Lin looks great as the teams backup point guard, the aforementioned Lamb is blossoming into a valuable asset, Spencer Hawes (despite some bad play the first few games) is a good veteran presence on the floor with the second unit, rookie Frank Kaminsky has shown promise in limited action and Nicolas Batum has proven his worth with his versatility across the board. In fact, every player has gotten into the game in the past two wins, showing that this year’s team is deep and diverse. We have a mix of players with different skill sets and it appears that they compliment each other well.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

  Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

One of the most pleasant surprises to me so far though, has been the play of starting power forward Marvin Williams, who is averaging nearly a double-double five games into the season. Williams struggled to find his footing last season but has been an important piece to the puzzle so far, coming through for the Hornets when they need a clutch play. He has been hot from long range and has played heavy minutes with both the starters and reserves due to his ability to slide between both forward spots.

If anything, this seasons Hornets are going to be fun to watch. Even in their losses, they managed to at least keep the games close with their new collection of players. While last seasons team was seemingly doomed from the start, this bunch has developed a chemistry with each other that will hopefully vault them into the playoff picture. It won’t be easy in a southeast division that has so many really good teams though, as Miami has a strong roster and both Washington and Atlanta are off to hot starts with largely unchanged personnel that led them both to playoff berths last spring. Charlotte can ill afford to start slowly as they have in past seasons because the margin of error will be smaller, meaning the Hornets shouldn’t put themselves in a position to play catch up all season.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

             Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Funny thing is, after the 0-3 start I had a column written up and ready to go but something told me to hold off until after the Bulls game, and I’ve never been happier to scrap an article. Hopefully the Hornets can keep this hot streak going; they hit the road to face the Spurs on Saturday, but then their schedule opens up to where the Hornets could really improve their record as seven of their next eight opponents are teams that will most likely end up in the bottom half of the league. I’m not saying we’re world beaters or championship contenders just yet, but we certainly are an improvement over what we’ve seen in years past. Enjoy the ride Hornets fans and, until next time, KEEP BUZZING!!!

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

BUZZ WEEKLY: 2015-2016 SEASON TIPOFF EDITION

 

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

It’s that time of year again Hornets fans! The NBA season kicks off tonight with a primetime triple-header and a revamped Hornets team opens their season tomorrow night in Miami.

 

If the preseason is any indication of how this upcoming season will go, then the Charlotte Hornets are poised to contend for a championship. Maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, but after going 7-1 during the preseason, the fans are rightfully buzzing about an exciting brand of basketball taking shape for the 2015-2016 season.

 

The Hornets took a hard hit early on in the teams first game of the preseason, losing MKG for the season just after we had signed him to a contract extension and that tampered expectations for the season a bit. Instead of licking their wounds, the Hornets went on a tear by winning their first seven games of the preseason. And while its difficult to take too much from the outcomes of preseason exhibitions, it did show the progress resulting from an offseason of change in Charlotte.

 

The Hornets have added playmakers and shooters to improve on last season’s floor spacing disaster. The offense is more freewheeling and the ball movement is much improved from what we’ve seen so far. The additions of Nic Batum and Jeremy Lin have taken pressure off Kemba as the teams’ primary creator on offense, allowing him to play off the ball more on offense, and the early results are promising.

 

The Hornets played two exhibitions in China against the Clippers, winning both games as they blew out a team that is picked to be among the best in the Western Conference. They also pulled out an impressive win against the Pistons in a game where they had to put together a strong rally to come back in the closing minutes. It would be short sighted to look too far ahead based on the eight game sample we’ve seen, but it appears at first glimpse that Charlotte has made some strides after an offseason rebuild that saw roughly half of the roster turned over from last season.

 

Clifford tried a few different combinations in the starting lineup but appears to have settled on P.J. Hairston to start at small forward for the Hornets to start the season. This will be a huge opportunity for the second year forward as he struggled with his shot and consistency last season, at times finding himself in Clifford’s doghouse. Clearly, his ability to stretch the floor helps him out in this respect since the team is looking to spread the floor on offense this season, but Hairston is also being relied on to be a defensive stopper with the teams starting unit.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

The answer of who will start at power forward, however, is not so clear-cut. Marvin Williams and  Cody Zeller are the candidates for the position and my guess is that Williams will be with the starting unit on opening night. Zeller has looked much improved in the preseason despite just coming off of shoulder surgery over the summer. He is going to the basket more aggressively and he has clearly worked on his shooting range, knowing that the teams’ goal this season would be stretching the floor. That being said, Williams offers the shooting range that Clifford wants out of his starting unit and, while he offers little else in terms of on court strengths, that may be enough for him to begin the season as the starter. Frank Kaminsky also figures to be in the mix at the position, but the rookie will have to earn his time on the court as Clifford is notoriously stingy with his rookie’s playing time.

 

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

My favorite addition of the offseason was Jeremy Lin, and he certainly did not disappoint in the preseason, as he was easily one of the teams best all-around players on the floor. It appears that Lin may have found somewhere that really fits his game. In his previous stops in New York, Los Angeles and Houston, Lin was stuck on the floor with players that dominated the ball on offense, leaving Lin playing as a spot up or catch and shoot perimeter player.

 

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

In Charlotte, there is no such player, which gives Lin more freedom to create plays with the ball in his hands. Clifford experimented with Lin in the starting lineup; and while he played well on the floor with Kemba, Clifford is rightly starting him as an option of the bench because of his playmaking skills and versatility to play both guard spots. Judging by his performance in the preseason, Lin might end up being a complete steal for the Hornets this year.

 

The Hornets will need to carry some momentum into the season as they open up with five of their first seven games on the road, mostly against playoff teams from last season. Charlotte has struggled out of the gates for the last two years so a strong start could go a long way towards building confidence and by setting a sustainable pace for the Hornets this year.

 

The Hornets home opener is this Sunday; a matinee against the Atlanta Hawks with a 2:00 tipoff time. The team will once again give away tuxedo shirts as another nod towards opening night for the inaugural Charlotte Hornets team of 1988.

 

In other Hornets news, the team has decided to place their D-League affiliate in Greensboro. This will give the teams younger players an opportunity to get more playing time and it will serve as the Hornets minor league affiliate, giving the team a legitimate system to evaluate players within a two hour drive from Charlotte. Greensboro was chosen from seven cities that were hoping to court the team and bested the other 2 finalist cities of Asheville and Fayetteville in a close battle executives said.

 

After an offseason of change in the Queen City, it’s time for the second coming of the new-era Charlotte Hornets! Waiting on Wednesday Hornets fans, until then, KEEP BUZZING!!!

 

CIY8fJjVAAA-60Y.jpg-large

The Hornets will debut their alternate “Buzz City” themed uniforms this season.

 

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

$15 Crown Town Basketball Shirt

$15 Crown Town Basketball Shirt FOR ONLY ONE MORE DAY!

 

BUZZ WEEKLY: Training Camp Edition

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

(Written by David Walters)

There was a considerable buzz leading up to last season in Charlotte; the team was fresh off a playoff appearance and they were entering their first season as the rebranded Hornets. It appeared that the team was poised for an even stronger campaign in the 2014-2015 season but things were not as they seemed. The team was plagued with injuries throughout the preseason and, despite a fantastic home opener where Kemba Walker knocked down the game winner, things never really seemed to come together for Charlotte as they limped their way to a 33-49 record.

The Charlotte Hornets are now set to start training camp in their second season of a franchise renaissance. There are quite a few question marks going into this season after an extensive overhaul of the roster. With seven new players on the team, the Hornets have retooled the roster for this upcoming season by acquiring players that can help space the floor, opening up more space inside so that the existing core can play to their strengths.

Al Jefferson’s game is less effective when defenses can simply pack it in on defense because of a lack of floor spacing. Both Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist excel when they are able to get to the basket, an aspect of their game that was hampered when teams clogged up the lane on defense because of the lack of any reliable threat from long-range. I liken it to the philosophy that Orlando used a few seasons ago with Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard, where the Magic stretched the floor with four players whose range had to be accounted for, keeping defenses honest while giving Howard the room to operate.

The Hornets thought they had a steal last offseason after signing mercurial guard Lance Stephenson to pair with Kemba in the backcourt. It appears that the Pacers knew something we didn’t though, as Lance had chemistry issues and struggled to fit in. He was hampered by an early hamstring injury, and despite one memorable game winner, his time in Charlotte was painfully forgettable. The team flipped him to the Clippers in exchange for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes, who was immediately bought out. Hawes is a rangy big man, who had signed with the Clippers but never seemed to fit in…sound familiar? Nonetheless, he adds depth and range to the Hornets, keeping with the team’s offseason goals.

Gone is the team’s longest tenured player in Gerald Henderson; he was moved in exchange for Frenchman Nicolas Batum, a lanky wingman that will bring a versatile set of skills to Charlotte, albeit on a one-year deal. He will likely step in as the Hornets starting shooting guard, and the team will be able to use him as a playmaker at the position with his well rounded skill set. Batum offers size, court vision, and shooting range, albeit on a one year deal. Also moved in that deal was little used 2014 draft pick Noah Vonleh, who was injured in the preseason and rarely found his way off the bench in Clifford’s rotation.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

In the draft, the Hornets continued their love affair with Big Ten frontcourt prospects by taking Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, college basketball’s 2014 Naismith Player of the Year. In doing so, they added a player that fills a positional need for them; what Frank lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with versatility and basketball I.Q. He can get buckets down low and he can stretch the floor with his shooting. He showed glimpses of what he can do in the summer league but there were also stretches where he would seemingly disappear for minutes at a time. However, when he was involved on offense, you could see how he could help an offense flow and, in a best-case scenario, he could be a great compliment to Big Al in the frontcourt. It will be interesting to see how the battle for the teams starting power forward position will play out between Frank, Marvin Williams and third year forward Cody Zeller.

Last seasons back up point guard Mo Williams is gone, having left to reunite with LeBron in Cleveland. In his place, is Jeremy Lin. I like this signing, I’ve always felt that Lin was a victim of his own success, and its overshadowed what has since been a very solid career. Lin will fit in perfectly in Charlotte and I think this was a great under the radar signing for the Hornets. Clifford has said he will experiment with lineups that have Walker and Lin on the floor at the same time, which could work well, allowing Kemba to play off the ball more as a scorer.

There is also plenty of competition for minutes as the first wing off the bench. Lin may get some minutes at the position but P.J. Hairston, Troy Daniels and newly acquired Jeremy Lamb will all be fighting for time on the court this season. Hairston is down 13 pounds from last year, having spent part of his summer training with John Lucas; a former player and coach that is known for being able to reach troubled players. Troy Daniels offers three point shooting, but says he has worked on the other aspects of his game this offseason in an effort to improve his value on the court. And , a former teammate of Kemba’s from their UCONN days, is here after spending most of the last three seasons languishing on the bench in OKC. All three can shoot well, and all three are hoping to find their way into a significant part of Clifford’s rotation this season. Ultimately, it’ll come down to who wants it the most, and competition usually does nothing but push players to get better, which should work out either way for the Hornets.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

And of course, we still have our remaining core of players between Kemba, MKG and Big Al. Kemba was on fire last season, going on a tear of games with 30+ points before going down with an injury. He never quite regained that form after returning but this season he will have more help around him and he won’t be so pressed to take the scoring load all on himself. MKG, fresh off signing a new contract extension, is the lynchpin of the Hornets defense. When he missed games last season, the team suffered. He brings much needed energy to the Hornets and often draws the opposing teams top defensive assignment. Big Al has also cut weight this offseason, his reason being that he is trying to save his knees in an effort to extend his career. Clifford has said that he won’t be the main focal point of the offense this season, but you can bet he will continue to be a major part of what the Hornets do on offense, particularly now that the team has improved their floor spacing.

It’s an exciting time of year, training camp has started and preseason games will get going this weekend. Despite the question marks entering this season, there is an heir of cautious optimism after last season’s disappointment. Stay tuned as the Hornets get cranked up for the year, it will surely be interesting to see how things play out this season as Clifford has as dynamic and versatile a roster as he’s ever had. Speaking of Clifford, this could be a make or break season for the teams head coach. He coaxed this team to a playoff berth just two seasons ago and it will be paramount that he gets this team off to a good start out of the gates for the Hornets to jump into the mix as one of the easts top teams.

 

It’s getting to be that time of year again folks, soon enough we’ll be watching our Hornets take the court to sting the competition! Until next time, KEEP BUZZING!!!

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

 

BUZZ WEEKLY: MONEY MO WILLIAMS, THE PLAYOFF PICTURE AND THE RETURN OF KEMBA WALKER

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Written by David W. Walters

WHAT TO MAKE OF THE PAST FEW WEEKS…

Your Charlotte Hornets (28-34) have certainly had a dramatic season full of ups and downs but, over the last few weeks, this team has begun to develop an identity as the position themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The Hornets have gone 7-4 since the All-Star break, including a five-game win streak as Charlotte played six games in the span of nine days.

While the entire team has stepped up their play recently, It’s not a stretch to say that the trade for Mo Williams may have saved the Hornets season.  Charlotte was desperate for a scoring punch, and while Brian Roberts filled in admirably for the injured Walker, he wasn’t the floor general that this team was sorely lacking.

Shot happy Gary Neal was traded in exchange for Williams and D-league sharp-shooter Troy Daniels and the pair had to wait until after the week long All-Star break to make their debut in Charlotte.  Mo came out firing on all cylinders in his first outing with the Hornets and he hasn’t looked back since, is averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 assists in his 10 games played since joining the Hornets.

His numbers since coming to Charlotte have been on par with some of the best guards in the league, and it’s shown as he was recently named the Eastern Conference player of the week while averaging 19.5 points and 10.8 assists in 35.5 minutes played for the week, while shooting .429 from the field (24-56), .375 from beyond the three-point line (9-24) and .913 from the free-throw line (21-23), as the Hornets posted the NBA’s only 4-0 record on the week.  The Hornets as a team are benefitting from Williams’ touch on offense as well, boosting their offensive output to 102.9 points per outing since the trade, resulting in a lot of free pizzas for all the fans.

molayup

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Williams is essentially the antithesis to Lance Stephenson, rarely showing any emotion with his no-nonsense approach to the game.  Williams has been all over the league during his career so getting acquainted with a new team is nothing new to him; it also doesn’t hurt that he was reunited with a fellow Mississippi native Al Jefferson, with whom he played with in a stint in Utah.

Williams also has a high basketball I.Q. and the ability to make the players around him better as evidenced by having all five starters score in double figures in five of the last seven games.

Speaking of Stephenson, he has seemingly settled into his role with the second unit and has begun to play some good basketball when called upon.  While he certainly has fallen short of the teams’ expectations this season, he is helping this team get into the thick of the playoff picture.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

Speaking of playoffs, the Hornets are currently sitting in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference standings as of now.  They are in a battle with Indiana, Miami, Boston and Brooklyn for the seventh and eighth seed in the playoffs making it paramount to play with purpose to stay in the thick of the playoff race.  They have a somewhat favorable schedule down the stretch that includes dates with each of the teams vying for position along side of them, so the Hornets playoff destiny is in their own hands.

And last but not least, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is making a strong case for becoming the leagues defensive player of the year, or at the very least, the leagues most improved player.  Much was made of the improvements on his jumper in the offseason, but it seems that those changes have spread to all other aspects of his game.  The Hornets struggled with energy, particularly on the defensive end, while MKG was sidelined with a stress injury in his foot earlier this year and also while he was out more recently with a hamstring strain.  Now that teams are forced to respect his jump shot, it has opened up lanes for him to get to the basket and draw contact; which was his calling card in the first place.  MKG has averaged 12.3 points on .515 shooting from the field (51-99) and 8.8 rebounds in his 10 games since he returned from injury.

But his biggest impact will always be on the defensive end of the court, where he regularly draws the opposing teams top assignment.  In a recent game against the Pistons, Coach Clifford put MKG on Detroit point guard Reggie Jackson after he had a monster first half.  MKG bothered him the rest of the game, making Jackson ineffective and giving the Hornets what they needed to come back and win the game.  The Hornets are a completely different team with him on the floor, and hopefully they can keep him healthy as they make their way into the playoffs.

MOVING FORWARD…

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

The big news coming out of Hornets nation this week will be the return of starting point guard Kemba Walker after a 20-game absence following knee surgery.  Walker intends to return tonight against the Sacramento Kings and, while Coach Clifford plans on limiting his minutes, the ultimate intention is to pair Kemba with Mo in the back court.  How this experiment will pan out remains to be seen, but the returns on such a pairing with two ball handlers capable of scoring could work out favorably as teams struggle to cover the two guards.  Hypothetically, the presence of Williams will open up the floor for Walker and vice versa.

Looking ahead to the next week or so of games, the Hornets have an excellent opportunity to keep things rolling starting off with tonight’s game against the Kings.  This will be the first of two games against Sacramento, a talented team that has undergone three different coaches this season.  Now, with veteran coach George Karl at the helm, the Kings are working their way towards respectability as they try to build some sort of consistency out of what has become a perennially unsettled situation.

Sacramento features one of the leagues most talented big men in the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins.  They also feature some serious athleticism on the wings in Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore.  While their record and their average numbers aren’t that impressive, they are a very talented team that is sure to give the Hornets a challenge.  It will be interesting to see how Kemba plays in his return to action as he was on a crazy scoring tear before his knee became so problematic.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Next up is a match up in Charlotte against the Chicago Bulls.  The Bulls are currently without the services of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler due to injuries; together they form one of the top back courts in the NBA.  Make no mistake about it though, the Bulls are still deep, talented, and they feature one of the leagues best defenses to go along with a stout front court featuring Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, who leads the league in double doubles.  This will no doubt be a good teat for the Hornets, albeit a tough defensive match up.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

After that, the Hornets are headed out on a five game road trip, beginning with a matchup on Monday in Utah.  The Jazz are a young team but they have also begun to find their way recently behind the play of Gordon Heyward and big man Derrick Favors.  Utah is currently second in points allowed as rapidly evolving big man Rudy Gobert has given the team an intimidating defensive presence down low.

Charlotte is back in action the next night as they travel to Los Angeles to face a strong Clippers team that has persevered despite the rash of injuries they have experienced lately.  Blake Griffin has been out with injury as has Jamal Crawford, and point guard Chris Paul has basically been playing on one leg as he deals with a knee injury.  Hopefully the Hornets will be able to pounce on LA while they’re down but that certainly hasn’t been an easy task of late, as the Clippers’ depth has shown with DeAndre Jordan picking up the slack down low while J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Austin Rivers have stepped up their play recently.

The Hornets get a few days off and then they travel to Sacramento for the second game in two nights against a talented young Kings squad.

This will be the last long road trip for the Hornets before they head down the final stretch of the season.  If ever there was a time for the team to hit a consistent stride for the season it would be now.  Charlotte not only needs a strong finish to hold on to make the playoffs but getting some momentum going as they roll into the postseason wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Pay attention Hornets fans, its just now starting to get interesting!  Until next time, KEEP BUZZING!!!

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.