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).

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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.

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.

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.

 

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

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

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

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

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

 

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

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO DECEMBER…

 

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

 

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

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

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

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

 

 

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.

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.