What’s The Buzz?: Hornets look to slow down hot Warriors

Steph & Dell via NBA.com

Steph & Dell via NBA.com

 

by Trace Walker

On Wednesday night, Stephen Curry, alongside his Golden State Warriors, will come home to Charlotte. The roots run deep for Steph in Charlotte, as he attended Charlotte Christian HS and nearby Davidson College. Basketball runs in the family as Steph’s father, Dell Curry, played ten seasons for the Hornets from 1988-1998 and is the current broadcast announcer for the Hornets. Dell is also the leading scorer (9,839) and has the most made three pointers (929) for the franchise.

The Warriors come into the matchup smoking hot and have showed no signs of slowing down in the early stages of the season. A youthful Hornets team look to slow down the oncoming train that is Golden State. After losing defensive anchor Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornet hopefuls believed the 2015 season would be yet another year of disappointment, but the young team has overcome adversity to start the year off 10-7. Led in scoring by guards Kemba Walker (18.4) and Nicolas Batum (16.8), the Hornets have seen a spike (and no I’m not talking about Jeremy Lin’s hair) in offense.

 

Many believed that the Hornets would lack offensive power but the team is ranked 7th in points per game (102.5). The defense was also expected to take a hit, but Charlotte is ranked top ten in opponents points per game.
The biggest thing to keep an eye out for on Wednesday night is the ability to hit shots from deep. In the past, being consistent from three for the Hornets was nearly nonexistent. However, this year the addition of shooters Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, and Spencer Hawes have completely revamped Charlotte’s offense. The Hornets are averaging nearly 10 three pointers made per game, which is four more than last year. No stranger to the three point line are the Golden State Warriors whom are leading the league in three point shooting with 13 made a game. At the head of the GSW three point attack is reigning MVP, Stephen Curry. Curry has dominated the league this year, putting up video game like numbers nightly; 31.9 PPG, 6 assist, 5 three pointers per game.
Although no team so far has found an answer to beating the Warriors this year, trying to slow down Curry can do nothing but help the Hornet’s efforts in knocking down last years champions. The job of guarding Curry will fall upon PG Kemba Walker, who will be greatly tested on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for their opponents, the Warriors have proven that they don’t need to rely on Curry to win as he has not played in the 4th quarter in four games this season. Golden state has found great production from the rest of its team. Last week, big man Draymond Green dropped back to back triple doubles, the first Warrior since Wilt Chamberlain to do such. The Warriors have also found double digit scoring from Klay Thompson (16.1), Harrison Barnes (13.4) and Draymond Green (12.8)
What the Hornets do have in their favor is their honeycomb court. At home, Charlotte has a clear edge and have gone 8-2 so far this year. The key for the Hornets in beating the Warriors is not found in one simple answer, but for their best chance to give Golden State its first loss, the Hornets must limit their turnovers, control the tempo, and force the Warriors to beat them from inside and not out. The Hornets will have to do without it’s big man, Al Jefferson. The low post star underwent a MRI on Monday and was diagnosed with a sprained left calf. Charlotte will miss the centers scoring (13.7) and rebounding (6.4), but it is expected he will make a return in two to three weeks.
With an injured Big Al, and a blazing hot Warriors team, the Hornets won’t have their work cut out for them. Hopefully Cam Newton, who was courtside at a recent game, left behind some of his winning ways for the Hornets. Tune into the game Wednesday night to see two young and energetic teams face off at 7:00 PM ET in Charlotte. The game is available for viewing on Fox Sports Southeast – Charlotte and CSN Bay Area. You can catch it on the radio on stations KNBR 680 AM and WFNZ 610 AM. Also follow @BringBackTheBuz on twitter for updates on the Hornets and the Charlotte sports scene.

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BUZZ WEEKLY: 2015-2016 SEASON TIPOFF EDITION

 

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

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

 

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

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

 

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

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

 

BUZZ WEEKLY: Training Camp Edition

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

(Written by David Walters)

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

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

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

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

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

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

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

 

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

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.