The Incredible Disappearing Nic Batum

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

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

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

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

Year            MIN       POINTS       FG%     3PT%     ASSISTS

17-18          7              2.5               38.5       20.7           1.1

16-17          7.8           2.7               31.8       30.0           1.2

15-16          7.9           3.0               36.4       25.6             .9

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

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

17-18          7.3         4.8               47.1           29.3           .5

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

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Hornets Fans, Don’t Give Up Hope Yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 6 games against the Contenders Level

  • 18 games against the Wanna-Be Level

  • 20 games against the Crappy Level

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

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

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

Player Only Fans are Back in Buzz City

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

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

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

Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum

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

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

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

Consistently Inconsistent

By Mark Buonocore

I woke up the morning thinking, “How in the world did we get here Hornets!” This season started with such promise, we added an All-time NBA center, got lucky with a can’t miss prospect falling to us in the draft and were supposed to be in a weak Eastern Conference! I mean we couldn’t miss right….RIGHT!?!?!

Fast forward to 28 games in and this team is 10-18 and fading fast in what turned out to be a strong Eastern Conference after all. All we as fans can do is laugh, cry or throw things at our TV as we watch this squad lose another lead or allow some NBA bench warmer to drop their career high on us. It went from this being the season where we finally got to the second round, to it being time to blow this team up and start over in 2 months. So this morning I am pacing in my living room 2,808.9 miles from Spectrum Center trying to understand what I am witnessing.

frank kaminsky

We all know injuries have played their part, but personally I’m tired of that excuse, so let us just acknowledge them and move on.

The biggest issue derailing this team is a overall lack of consistency from top to bottom.  This team is a collection of guys who despite talent, lack the ability to perform with the level of consistency needed to win the tough road game or take advantage of a good team on a back to back.  All you have to do is look at the Hornets bench, Frank Kaminsky has had 5 games scoring 5 or less points, and 5 games of scoring 18 or more! How is that even possible! We all understand that guys have an off night here and there, that is just basketball, but when 20% of the time you pull of your warm-up you end up being either a non-factor or a leading scorer that makes it difficult for coaches and team mates. We can not blame this all on Frank (even though on twitter I may sound like I do).

The Hornets bench is littered with guys who you never know what you will get from them, including Michael Carter-Williams who shows flashes of great defense at times, but has missed more lay-ups than a 7 year old at recess this season.

Of course we can’t forget our first round pick in Malik Monk, now don’t get me wrong I think the kid has a bright future, he teased us early with some amazing quarters of play. However his lack of defense and sometimes puzzling shot selection has caused him to be in and out of the line-up of late, causing a small subset of fans to become really annoying on Social Media recently.

We can’t just shine the light of truth on the bench unit though, the starters have been less than level this season as well. Nic Batum continues to fight with the elbow injury, causing him to be harder to rely on than usual. We all know Nic has talent, but i don’t think even when healthy anyone who covers the NBA would call him consistent. Marvin Williams brings his intensity and defense every night, however sometimes he clearly forgets his jump shot. He has been a solid shooter in his time here, but he has too many games this season where he just doesn’t shoot. This team needs balance to compete, and when arguably your best 3 point shooter this season takes 3 shots in 30 minutes, you are gonna struggle. Even the fearless leader of the team Kemba has been on a roller-coaster this season, struggling to find his shot at times and missing far to many open threes. How can we as fans be surprised this team is struggling when from one night to the next the coaching staff and players have no clue what the guy next to him is going to bring.

So that is how we got here, 10-18 and 13th in the not so weak Eastern Conference. Is it time to throw up our hands in defeat?

Not yet, but unless this team starts to understand its weakness and attempts to correct it, this could be a long and frustrating season in Buzz City. If that happens, inconsistency will be the #1 reason for this team’s demise, and could in fact lead us to coaching changes, front office changes and a full rebuild. At that point the only thing that will be consistent is losing, and I don’t think anyone is too excited about that.

Meet The “Bring Back the Buzz”Blog Team

The 2017-18 Season for the Charlotte Hornets is under way and it is time to introduce the starting lineup so far for the Bring Back The Buzz Blog!

Landon White (Bee-lieve This!)

I’m a native North Carolinian – Chapel Hill born and raised – who has been down with the Hornets from day one. After high school, I headed up to VA and attended Virginia Tech. I graduated and spent a few years in Virginia, and then packed up and moved down to Charlotte where I lived for ten years. Now I’m back in the Triangle still pulling hard for my Hornets (along with the Panthers, Hurricanes, and Hokies). Twitter (haven’t used it much in a while): @landonvt


Dallas Peyton (Bee Prepared)

Hey Hornets fans! My name is Dallas Peyton and I am a senior Sport Management and Business Student at Liberty University in Virginia. Born and raised in NC, I grew up going to Panthers and Bobcats games from an early age, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard that Hornets were coming home where they belong, and I can’t wait to spend this season talking Buzz City Basketball with you guys! Hit me up on Twitter at @Dallaswpeyton18

And as always….Let’s go Hornets!!


KYLE FLOYD (Hive Above)

Hey everyone, my name is Kyle Floyd. I am a proud lifelong fan of the Charlotte Hornets, along with other North Carolina based teams. While I am only a Junior in high school I always make time to watch every Hornets game, and enjoy having conversations about the team. You can find me on Instagram @Jonathan9Kyle or on Twitter @TarHeelBlood9 

RICH DEVITA (Rich’s Reaction)

I am a Charlotte native with a passion for this city and our teams. As an 80’s baby, I grew up with the Hornets. I am excited to share my thoughts on our Bugs. An alumni of East Carolina and married to Haley since 2012.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @QCsportsreport


BUZZ BROTHERS

(Left to Right: Scotty & Evan Kent)

(Left to Right: Scotty & Evan Kent)

Scotty and Evan started Bring Back The Buzz back in 2010. Scotty is the Director of Marketing at The Unknown Brewing Company here in Charlotte that is based in South End and Evan is the Director of Social Media for Brixx Wood Fired Pizza.

Follow us on twitter @BringBacktheBuz

Slowing down the Warriors Small Ball Lineup

PI-NBA-Charlotte-Hornets-Kemba-Walker-112814.vadapt.955.high.87

Look, there is no way of stopping the Warriors Small Ball lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Igoudala, and Draymond Green. All you can hope to do is slow it down. As of Saturday, they had an offensive efficiency rating of 154.7 and defensive efficiency rating of 84.8, for a total rating of 69.9 points per 100 possessions. They also shoot 64% from the field. No other five man lineup even comes close. Fortunately, they can’t play it all the time. In fact, they’ve only used it roughly 5 min per game and only in 14 games (when you blow out other teams, you don’t have too).  But when the Warriors break that lineup out, you know it’s crunch time.

There are many different reasons why this lineup is so lethal. Everybody on the floor can shoot. Everybody on the floor can defend and switch on pick and rolls. Draymond is an excellent rebounder and defender against bigger power forwards and centers. Iggy, Klay, and Barnes are all elite perimeter defenders. Oh, and that guy Stephen Curry, the MVP? He can shoot from anywhere within 28 feet and embarrass you. No team in the NBA has a small lineup that can beat them, your best bet is to not let them kill you.

So what if it is a tight game and the Hornets need to counter, what lineup should go with?

Point Guard: Kemba Walker

This one is easy, he is quick, he is an improved defender, and clearly he can score.

Shooting Guard: PJ Hairston

This one may be a bit of a head scratcher, but with PJ’s improved defense he is able to stay out on the floor and hang with this lineup. I considered going with Jeremy Lin here, but with the size difference between Lin (6’3) and Thompson (6’7), I think Lin would have a lot of trouble defending Thompson.

Small Forward: Jeremy Lamb

Lamb has the size to stay with Harrison defensively, and he has the playmaking and scoring to help put the ball in the basket on the offensive end.

Power Forward: Nic Batum

He doesn’t play a lot of 4, but he would be the ideal matchup for Iggy. Both good defenders, and Nic can score and make plays for his teammates.

Center: Marvin Williams

He is the same size as Draymond, and is a good rebounder for his size which is required when playing against Draymond. He can defend on the perimeter as well, and offers spacing to the offense with his shooting and passing.

I could also see Coach Clifford putting Marvin at the 4 and Cody Zeller at the 5 with Walker, Lamb, and Batum. Marvin is a good enough defender to stay with Igoudala and Cody is a very good athlete for his size. I think there is a good chance Clifford goes with this lineup because he feels more comfortable with players at their natural positions.

 

The biggest thing about the small ball lineup isn’t stopping it, it’s just not getting burned by it. Not only do they score, they swarm defensively, so even with a healthy Big Al, entering the ball into the post for him is nearly impossible. As Hornets fans, we need to hope we see the Warriors small ball lineup, because that likely means it’s crunch time and the game is close.