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

 

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The Charlotte Hornets Season Has Officially Become One Huge Mess

 

cliff and ref.jpg(Image from Boston Herald)

Where should I begin? There is no easy way to describe this season for the Hornets, it has been riddled with injuries, chemistry issues, and rotation problems, but don’t all teams battle some of this? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but that should not have rolled over into this mess of a season you would not assume. As of right now the Hornets sit at five and a half games out of the playoffs with 22 games to go in the season. Nobody wants to be in the situation we have found ourselves in, but here we are. We have a lot of issues to address this off-season, and maybe the next several off-seasons, but let’s take a look at everything that has gone wrong and needs to be addressed.

The first and most immediate mistake is the cap situation. We have dug ourselves a hole by offering Nic Batum, MKG, and Marvin Williams long term, high salary contracts. This is easily the hardest to work with, it makes trades difficult to make because you have to fit it into your salary, and during free agency you can’t really sign anyone who will make a significant difference. What you do with these bad contracts though is the real problem. Nobody wants to touch our contracts, and I do not blame them. Who knows what the front office was thinking giving these players as much as they did, but they better figure a way to get out of it. At this point if you can get any one of MKG, Nic, or Marvin off the team without losing Kemba you do it. They are all good supporting pieces, but none of them are worth the money, nor good enough to play in the role we have them in.

The next issue is one I think has caused the majority of our problems, and that is Rich Cho. When we first got Cho, I was excited I felt hope for the organization. He has been nothing less than exceptional in trading, but I think it needs to be accepted by everyone he has sucked at drafting and signing. Cho’s contract is up after this season and he has to be out the door, hopefully for someone that if nothing else will hopefully be a competent drafter. We could also take the route the Panthers did several years ago, signing Dave Gettleman as GM to manage the cap. He was ultimately too conservative, but he was able to make tough decisions that many people would hesitate to do.

The third problem that this team has is bench production. We have overpaid the starters and now have no cap to improve the bench through free-agency, so the only to ways left to strengthen it for cheap is internal improvement (Monk, Bacon, Hernangomez), or by drafting quality pieces. A backup point guard has to be priority one, but I think a replacement for Frank is easily second. I have had my limit with Frank, and I want him traded more than anyone. Watching Frank back down a point guard when he gets the switch, only to turn and do a dirk fade away is enough to make me break my TV, not to mention his incompetent shot selection. Just because of his annoyance alone I could easily move his replacement to the top priority, but I’m being realistic.

 

At the end of the day, the blame does not lie on Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, or coach Cliff. Following the trade deadline Howard seems to have taken a step back, but looking at the season as a whole he has played fantastic. Calling for a new coach also just is not reasonable. Cliff is a very strict all business coach who many teams would love to have, we have just offered him nothing to work with outside of Kemba which obviously isn’t enough. And finally, the case for Kemba, if you wanted him traded before the deadline you have lost your mind. If you live Outside of Charlotte like me, I can promise there are very little Hornets fans, and when I happen to see a Hornets fan I always go out of my way to speak to them. More times than not they want to talk about Kemba, or only know Kemba. Without Kemba all these fans would be gone, I promise. This season has been a catastrophe, but lets be cautious where we place the blame, and what we want the team to do.

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.

Charlotte Hornets Early Season Observations

Dwight-Howard

We are five games into the NBA season and we finally have a good enough sample size of the team to formulate our opinions on the 2017-18 Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are currently 2-3 and have shown tremendous upside, while falling just short to a very good team in the Milwaukee Bucks with potential future league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Through these first five games though, one thing has stood out: We are going to be one of the few teams to rely heavily on our big men. In a basketball era where every team wants to chuck threes we have accepted the fact that isn’t our identity. We haven’t been able to see Cody Zeller suit up but for one game this season so it is difficult to measure how he will mesh with Dwight Howard, but we do know he is not going to be a stretch center who launches threes. The big surprise though has been how well Frank Kaminsky has played during the absence of Cody, and how surprisingly well he has been able to fit alongside Howard this quickly. Howard himself has also been stellar early on, averaging 14 points a game to go along with 17 rebounds. Let’s dive into what kind of an impact these two have made thus far.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard has been dominant, to say the least. Howard has averaged 14 points and 17 rebounds, and not on bad competition either. Howard has been able to do this going up against Andre Drummond, Nikola Jokic, and Clint Capela who tailed 20 rebounds and 16 points against Joel Embid’s 76’ers. This is very promising and could be a sign Howard has finally found a place he is wanted and can be productive.  While I do not expect him to sustain this level of play I do think it is reasonable to think he will be able to put up these numbers every few games. The most important factor Howard brings us though, is his presence down low. I remember during the “revenge game” against the Hawks, Dennis Schroder took several drives past Kemba only to meet Howard and throw up a floater before getting close enough to attempt a layup. While this may seem small it plays a huge factor into each possession, it now becomes how to I get to the basket, and when I do how am I going to put it in? This leads to many mistakes, bad shots, and the occasional D12 swat whenever they forget about his presence.

The problem with working a guy like Howard into your lineup is the same as every player, turnovers. This is not because he can’t hold onto the ball or makes bad passes, as the majority of turnovers come from the team being unable to make the entry pass often forcing the ball into a space that isn’t there. Another issue that has hurt us to begin the season is the change of our team when he comes off the court. We have yet to find an identity for our bench unit as it still looks just as pitiful as last year. Hopefully this will change with the addition of Cody Zeller back into the lineup Sunday night against the Magic

Frank Kaminsky

           frank kaminsky

Frank Kaminsky has been a totally different player at the start of this season, compared to last season. For the majority of last year, I did not want him to touch the ball or even be on the court. This season has been totally different, Frank has been very impressive and has sustained this level of play for more than just a few possessions. I am still very nervous to see him attempting to handle the ball, but he hasn’t given me a reason to yell at the TV incessantly…yet. If Frank is able to continue this level of play I will definitely consider erasing how he performed last year from my memory. As long as he doesn’t fall back into his poor habits of taking bad shots and playing bad defense he should be able to find success the rest of the season.

 

What’s The Buzz? : The Home Stretch

By Trace Walker (  )

“We just grind”

That’s what Kemba Walker had to say following the Hornet’s win over Philadelphia on April Fools’ Day.

That quote summarizes more than just the 76ers game, but the entire season. There have  been times this season where it has seemed as if the Hornets were completely out of a game, only to make a late push and come back. The team seems to always be in that mindset of “we can win this game,” which has led to the best season Charlotte has seen since rejoining the league.

Although the Hornets have had a great regular season, the team is still looking for one thing; a playoff win. In their eleven seasons, Charlotte has only made it into the playoffs twice. In the franchises’ playoff debut in the 2010 playoffs, the Bobcats were swept by Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic. In their second playoff appearance in 2014, the team was swept yet again, this time by Miami’s big three of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.lebron-james-kemba-walker-nba-playoffs-charlotte-bobcats-miami-heat.jpg

(http://goo.gl/fO7S9Z)

So what makes this year different and how will the Hornets be able to celebrate their first playoff victory?

The first thing you need to know is that the Hornets are hot. In March, the team recorded an impressive record of 13-3. Thirteen wins, a team record for W’s in a month, led to Steve Clifford winning Eastern Conference coach of the month. The highlight of the winning streak was March 21’s win over the Spurs. The Hornets came back from 23 to beat San Antonio 91-88. The comeback was the worst largest lead surrendered by the Spurs in the Tim Duncan era.

Next, Charlotte has completely revamped their offense, which led them to 109.2 PPG in March, second in the East. This graphic which was featured in a fantastic SB Nation article, shows the substantial improvements Charlotte’s offense has made this year. The full article can be found here: http://www.sbnation.com/2016/3/29/11320144/charlotte-hornets-breakdown-analysis-offense-three-pointers-steve-clifford.charlotte_hornets_has_changed-1.0.0

Charlotte has clearly made great strides in their ability to shoot from last year. Marvin Williams has been one of the biggest contributors to the increase in 3’s as he is having a career year shooting the ball. William’s fantastic year puts him in elite company in Hornets history as him and Jamal Washburn are the only to record 100 threes and 500 rebounds in a season. Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 11.58.21 PM.png

Another reason for the Hornet’s success is that the team doesn’t have to rely on one player for production. Kemba Walker is the highest scorer for Charlotte at 21 PPG, but there are multiple players on the roster that can step up at any time to lead the team to a win. This was shown in the Spurs game where Kemba struggled shooting a mere 2-11. Jeremy Lin stepped up in his place dropping 29 points on the second best team in the NBA.
One of the biggest downfalls of the 2013-2014 Bobcats whom fell to the Heat was that they mainly depended on Al Jefferson for offensive production. When Big Al was hurt with a foot injury during the playoff series, the team struggled to find ways to put up points. During the 13′ season, only five Bobcats averaged over 9 points a game; Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Gary Neal, and Ramon Sessions.
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This year though, the scoring is more evenly spread amongst the team. Five players are averaging over 10 PPG; those of which are Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, Jeremy Lin, Al Jefferson, and Marvin Williams. It’s also important to note the production of Courtney Lee, Cody Zeller, and Jeremy Lamb whom all average nine points a game.
The Hornets also have for the first time ever, a true home court advantage. When Charlotte scores over 100 points at home, chances are they’re taking home the W, as their record in these games is 22-1. The Buzz is growing around the team, during the year of their last playoff appearance, the average attendance at games was 15,234. That number has greatly grown compared to this years average of 17,466 attendees, a difference of 2,000 more fans at each home game.

What’s Next?

Now that the Hornet’s have secured a playoff spot,

The team will look to finish strong in their last few games. What playoff spot Charlotte will finish with is still a great mystery due to how close the East is. At one point they had worked their way up to third, but a loss to the first place Cavaliers dropped them all the way to sixth. Right now it looks like the Hornets will most likely have to play either the Heat, Pacers, Celtics, or Hawks.

Fortunately for Charlotte, there are some great opportunities to pick up some wins before the end of the season. After a tough game in Toronto on the fifth, the Hornets will face the Knicks, Nets, Wizards, and Magic. All teams that Charlotte has found success against this year. The toughest remaining game is April 11’s matchup against the Celtics in TD Gardens.

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(hornets.com)

Also, Happy Birthday to Frank Kaminsky, the Hornet’s big man turned 23 Monday.

Four Keys to Hornets Playoff Success

With the 2016 NBA Playoffs fast approaching, and the Hornets getting closer and closer to clinching a playoff spot (likely 3-6 seed), it is time that we dig a little deeper into the four keys to the Hornets being successful in the playoffs.

The Crunch Time Lineup

A crunch time lineup that Coach Clifford has run with last few games is very interesting. This lineup consists of Kemba, Lin, Batum, Marvin, and Al. Now this lineup isn’t a juggernaut defensively, but when it comes to scoring, ball movement, and creating shots, this lineup takes the cake for the Hornets. It fits Clifford’s “One in four out” philosophy (4 perimeter guys who can shoot, surrounding one big man down low). This lineup can also be interchanged for key defensive possessions, with Lee replacing Lin and Cody replacing Al.

Kemba, Lin, and Batum can handle the ball, score, and set up teammates. The three of them along with Marvin all shoot well from 3 (Kemba 38%, Lin 33%, Batum 35%, Mavin 40%), and Big Al can still do Big Al things in the post. I will be very interested to see how much Coach Clifford uses this lineup going forward, especially at the end of games, because I think it has the potential to score a lot of points.

The Bench

Lin, Lamb, Kaminsky, and Al have been a very up and down bench as of late. Some games they can either take the lead against weaker benches, but some games they give away a lead and don’t perform at their max potential. The inconsistency has been alarming however, and the individuals in the unit don’t always seem to perform well at the same time. Lin went through a rough patch before going on a recent hot streak. Lamb got benched for Troy Daniels because of his mistakes on both sides of the ball. Frank still has the rookie ups and downs. Al still seems to be getting his legs underneath him after missing a big chunk in the middle of the season. Luckily for the Hornets, the bench goes deeper besides these four. Spencer Hawes is finally healthy, and he can contribute if someone is hurt or not playing well. Also Troy Daniels always seems to play well when called upon and can light it up from downtown any game when inserted.

Clifford has tinkered with the fifth man in the rotation trying out Kemba, Batum, and Marvin, and getting mixed results game to game. The bench is going to be very key come playoff time, and if they aren’t playing at their peak, it seriously diminishes the Hornets chances of advancing in the playoffs.

Cody Zeller’s Confidence

Every fan who watches Hornets games consistently knows that Cody can be great or he can be shaky. When he is confident and is playing with confidence, he finishes strong at the rim, sprints from end to end like Usain Bolt, is a strong rebounder, and is a good rim defender (which is vital to the Hornets who lack one). When Cody is lacking confidence, he is picking up cheap fouls defensively, and he seems to get bodied offensively. A key for Cody is to get a bucket early in the game, which is something Clifford likes to do.

Cody is a huge beneficiary of Nic Batum coming to Charlotte. Many of his easy points come off great Batum passes, often off the pick and roll. Getting easy dunks, offensive rebounds, and putbacks are huge for Cody. The Hornets will need to make sure he is confident come playoff time, with likely first-round matchups of Sullinger/Olynyk, Stoudemire/Whiteside, or Horford.

Kemba and Batum

The biggest key to this team come playoff time is simple. Having the two best players on the team play like the two best players on the team. Scoring 20+ points, making plays for others, being efficient. If even one of these two has a bad couple games or a bad series, it could single-handedly sink the teams chances in the playoffs. When Kemba and Nic are firing on all cylinders, it makes life easier for the players around them to get easier shots and perform better as well.

If Charlotte can get these four things rolling come playoff time, there is no reason that the Hornets can’t advance to the second round, or even surprise some people and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

BUZZ WEEKLY: A TALE OF TWO TEAMS

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                           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.