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

 

Is it Safe to Come out of Hiding Hornets Fans?

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the NBA off-season and I just now feel like my Hornets hangover from last season is gone. Last year was a rough one for me, the talk of trading Kemba mixed with disappointing play from guys who were relied upon on big money deals made the season difficult to enjoy. The team fired just about everyone and I thought we were witnessing the beginning of  yet another rebuild. All the ingredients were there, overpaid role players who were underachieving, A new General Manager and a Rookie head coach made me think this was it. However, this new group has chosen ( To the disappointment of many) to go all in one more time with this current core group with some slight changes to roster and play style.

Gone is Dwight Howard and whatever issues he brought on and off the court. Gone is Nic Batum the Shooting Guard, according to him via twitter. It appears that he will be returning back to the small forward position this year. Which brings up the question of what this means for MKG, it appears his starting days are likely over. The Batum position switch also explains them not extending a qualifying offer to Treveon Graham, who showed flashes last year as a 3 and D guy off the bench, but with the abundance of guys at the small forward spot, the team decided to move on. The Hornets also moved on from MCW in probably the most obvious decision in sports in the last 100 years. Wish nothing but the best for Carter-Williams, but that dude needed to go. The Hornets also briefly added Timofey Mozgov, who they got in the D12 trade, but quickly sent him packing when they came to their senses.

The Hornets have added some quality young pieces this off-season via the Draft in Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham. Adding these guys to the Hornets developing young core of Dwayne Bacon, Malik Monk and Willy Hernangomez give the team a boost of youth and young talent fans have not seen in some time. Monk showed some flashes in the first summer league game, but suffered a broken thumb which will sideline him for about 2 months. I think the sleeper among this group is Devonte, the local kid from nearby Raleigh has shown early his ability to make good decisions with the ball and make shots from inside and out while showing himself to be a scrappy defender. Its early yet, but he looks like he could be a second round steal for the Hornets.

The Hornets added a familiar face in the Mozgov deal. Biz is back in Charlotte and the energetic yet stone handed big man will likely be the third center in the rotation, but considering how hard it has been for Cody Zeller to stay healthy, he fills an important depth role and can be used as a rim defender against match-ups where Hernangomez gives up too many pounds down low.  His contract is ugly as they get, 17 million guaranteed per year for 2 seasons, but Mozgov is older, slower and was likely not going to be able to play in new coach James Borrego’s up tempo system. Plus, the scouting report says his bench celebrations showed a lack of heart and creativity, and I just cant tolerate that.

The final addition (so far) is the signing of Tony Parker……..Ummmmmm, I am still not really sure how I feel about this one. I see the idea of bringing in the veteran point guard who is familiar with the new coach and is friends with your highest paid player in Nic Batum but I have some concerns. First off, old Tony is just that….OLD. At 36 I have to wonder how much is left in the tank coming off two injury riddled seasons. I also question the fit along side Malik Monk off the bench. At 6 foot 2 and under 200 pounds, which of those guys defends the bigger guard on the opposing team? Finally I question the contract, which at 2 years/ 10 million which appears to be fully guaranteed is one of the more lucrative contracts signed this off season for point guards.

I really don’t know how I feel about this squad at this very moment. I see things that give me hope like the young core and Kemba still being here. However I still see so many questions with fit and lack of overall talent. I also don’t think Mitch is ready to call it quits on shaping this roster for next season, and have a feeling we will see either MKG or Barstool Frank shipped out to loosen up minutes for some of the younger guys. Bottom line is this, I’m getting excited for next year, even though we could be 11th in the East or 3rd.

State Of The Hornets Address

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

Disappointments

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

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

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

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

Positives

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Best Win So Far

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

Worst Loss So Far

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

What to watch for in the last 25 games.

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

Buzz Kill

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets

(image from NBA.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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