The Answer to Hornets needs is in the Desert, not D.C.

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After witnessing Kemba Walker force the NBA to take notice last week, and also force the front office to get very serious about finding him legit help via the trade market, Im not gonna lie and say I didn’t get excited about the idea of Bradley Beal in the Teal and Purple.  Buuuuuuut, come on folks, we all know another team is gonna come in with a better offer than we can. I mean no one wants Batum even if you attach a couple 1st rounders and one of our three young assets looks like he has been shooting with his eyes closed for 2 weeks. And I’m constantly annoyed by the “Trade Machine” crown on twitter, trying to talk people into how the Hornets can get Kevin Durant for Nic Batum because it works on that dumb ass site. However, I do believe there is an answer to the Hornets prayers for a second scorer who won’t kill you on defense, and he resides currently in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.

T.J. Warren is a 25 year old 6 foot 8 inch combo forward who has spent his entire career  with the Suns playing under multiple coaches in several different roles. He signed a 4 year 50 million dollar contract this past off-season. He is a decent defender, and an okay rebounder but his true strength is very simple, the dude puts the ball in the basket. Last year as a starter he scored 19.6 points a game in 33 minutes on 50% from the floor. His only offensive weakness was shooting the three, and well he seems to have put some work in on that this year as he is hitting 47% on 4 threes a game off the bench for the hapless Suns.  Put this young man in Coach Borrego’s system with ball movement and fast breaks and he could really flourish. He projects to a small ball 4 in the Hornets system but could play minutes at both the 3 or the 5 depending on match-up and would be a great compliment to Bridges as he matures.

His contract is quite affordable compared to Hornets players and there would be several possible packages Mitch can put together to get him here. The Suns aren’t ready to win anything at this point, but could be players in free agency next year with solid cap space available. So maybe you could offer a package including Frank and Lamb who both expire this season and a protected first for him. Or maybe the Suns and their new coach are looking for a solid defensive first player to pair with young guys who struggle to defend. Maybe MKG and a second round pick gets the deal done. We just don’t have a good enough package to bring in a proven young All-Star like Beal, however Warren would be the next best thing, a proven NBA scorer who with a little coaching and some veteran leadership, could be a 20 point a night guy who can both start or come off the bench and is on a team friendly deal for the run the Hornets appear to be gearing up for in the next few years.

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Seriously, Kemba Walker has gotten better…..Again.

Its only 10 games, its early yet, lets not jump to conclusions…..These are all things we hear on podcasts and read on twitter as the NBA calendar hits November. Well, folks I have never been real good at listening to direction, and I am here to tell you right here right now, Kemba Walker is having a career year and its not going to stop. While Hornets fans are likely less surprised than the national NBA fans, the idea that Kemba has found another level is quite amazing, but anyone who has followed Kemba thus far should have seen this coming a mile away.

While we always see guys have a hot start every season that we know is not going to last, for example Blake Griffin is not going to shoot 46% from 3 all season, the boost we have seen in Kemba’s numbers are coming in less minutes per game than his previous 3 years. Walker has found a way to become more aggressive off the ball than we have seen before, his movement without the ball is becoming shooting guard like and his quick trigger coming off screens is leading to more open shots. While Kemba should get most of the credit for his improvement we have to give credit to James Borrego for helping Kemba reach his potential as well.

When JB took over the coaching duties this off-season it was clear he wanted to the Hornets to push the ball and make quick decisions. His philosophy based on space and pace plays right into Walker’s strengths and both a ball handler and scorer.  As fans we watched Kemba become underutilized last year due to the arrival of Dwight Howard. The focus of the offense became a guy who rarely passed, so once he received the ball in the paint, guys just stopped and watched. So the idea of a faster paced offense with more ball movement seemed like a perfect fit. So far the Hornets offense is buzzing and Kemba is posting career highs in points per game, true shooting percent, Player Efficiency Rating and shots per game. He is also taking 51 percent of his shots from three, while lowering his long range 2 point shots to only 9%.

Possibly the largest single improvement thus far this year has been Kemba’s defense. He has always been a capable defender but due to his burden on offense it was hard to blame him for not always going 100% on the defensive end of the floor. This year however the intensity shown from Kemba has been obvious from game one. He has always been good at drawing charges, but this season he is on pace for over 55 charges drawn, a career high by a mile. He also has done a great job slowing down bigger players when he gets switched onto them. He uses his low center of gravity and quick hands to keep players from getting where they want long enough for help to arrive.

The NBA is starting to take notice of what Kemba is doing early in this season, he won Eastern Conference player of the Week honors once already this season, and he is showing up on some Las Vegas MVP lists. The reality is unless the Hornets keep collecting wins that attention will fade as they fade in the standings. However, if the Hornets can continue to stay relevant and force their way into the play-offs as one of the surprise teams who over-achieve pre-season expections, Kemba could be on his way to his first All-NBA Team selection and possible first round series win, which I think we all can agree would cement him as the Franchise GOAT, no matter what some voters have said recently.

Is it Safe to Come out of Hiding Hornets Fans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Of The Hornets Address

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

Disappointments

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

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

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

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

Positives

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Best Win So Far

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

Worst Loss So Far

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

What to watch for in the last 25 games.

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

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?

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.

BUZZ WEEKLY:HORNETS OFF TO STRONG START

So far, so good in Buzz City.

The Hornets sit at 4-1 five games into the season, with their only stumbling block being a loss to the Boston Celtics in their home opener. They have managed to compile this record despite suffering a few injuries along the way to some key pieces to the team.

After a strong debut in the Hornets first game, Roy Hibbert has remained sidelined with what has been described as “knee soreness,” which can certainly be cause for concern for a big man, particularly in the early stages of the season. The Hornets have managed to play well on defense despite his absence; they rank fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing a stingy 95.4 points per outing while also ranking near the top in blocked shots as a team.

As well as Charlotte has played thus far, it would probably be in their best interest to take their time with the veteran big man in order to preserve him for the latter part of the season as he was ultimately brought in to be the veteran defensive stopper the Hornets lacked in the playoffs last season.

Guard Jeremy Lamb is also out nursing an injured hamstring. He is initially listed as being out for 1-2 weeks but, hamstring injuries can be nagging, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team be cautious with this one also.

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Moving on to the early successes of the team, the Hornets have notched victories against Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. While that isn’t necessarily murderers row, it IS four W’s in the win column, and I think Hornets fans will take a start like this any day of the week.

This team underwent an offensive renaissance last season, after years of setting the tone with their defensive identity, by spreading the floor and adopting a four-out, one-in approach that helped them to a good playoff showing last year. While the offensive principles remain basically the same this year, the team seems to have balanced the focus out better this season, with an emphasis on both sides of the ball and their record boasts the results of that renewed focus.

The team has four games coming up in the coming week after a leisurely start to the season. The Hornets start a three game homestand Monday against the Indiana Pacers who, after a slow start to the season, are coming off a strong showing against the Bulls. It will be a homecoming of sorts for former Hornets big man Al Jefferson, but most of the focus will be on superstar Paul George, point guard Jeff Teague and emerging young center Myles Turner.

Next up will be a second home game against the Utah Jazz. They are another young, up-and-coming team that plays a style similar to the Hornets. They also feature an emerging star big man in Rudy Gobert and forward Gordon Hayward, who is a cognitive piece to their offense, has just returned from injury and looks to be picking up where he left of last season. Newly acquired point guard George Hill is having an offensive resurgence in Utah, leading the team in points and assists.

To finish off the homestand on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors come to town. They are a top five defensive team, they are battle tested and they will be a legit test from a strong playoff contender for the Hornets. Guard DeMar DeRozan has been on an absolute tear this season so far, leading the league in scoring at the moment with 33.7 points per game.

That game should serve as a good springboard for a Sunday afternoon tilt with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. I obviously don’t have to build this one up much, this will serve as the teams biggest test of the season as the Hornets match up with the likes of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. As of now, the Cavs sport the leagues only undefeated record at 6-0, and their offense is clicking as they are leading the league in scoring at 112.3 points per contest.

Those are four tough games on the schedule in the next seven days and they should serve to show us what kind of team we really have this season in Charlotte. Realistically, I can see them coming out of this four game stretch with another three victories, but that will take disciplined play.

The Hornets can ill afford to have slow starts to these games as they did against Brooklyn on Friday. These are all strong defensive teams and if we allow them to set their defensive tone early, it will be tough to get things going afterwards.

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets

Photo Credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Now that all that is out of the way, let’s boast about this team a little bit.

Nic Batum has recently appointed himself as the head of the “Get Kemba to the All-Star Game” committee. (*while having the all-star game here would certainly help his cause…cough, cough*) Walker has had an efficient start to his season so far, averaging 24.4 points per game to go with 4.6 assists and three boards per game. He is shooting more efficiently this season and it’s obvious how much the team trusts Kemba down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Batum is filling the stat sheet across the board and MKG has injected a spark into this team on a nightly basis while leading all small forwards in rebounding with 9.2 boards per game.

Cody Zeller has played efficiently and Frank the Tank is getting the opportunity to show off the versatility that led the Hornets to draft him. Marvin Williams hasn’t had the best start to the season, struggling with his shooting in a few games, but he has so far shown a penchant for making the right shots when we need them the most.

Belinelli has seen his minutes increase with the absence of Lamb and he has answered the call with his court vision and basketball IQ that made him a player that Cho has coveted.

Even Spencer Hawes, the player most often brought up in Hornets trade scenarios, has shown where he fits in on this team. Hawes isn’t going to wow anybody with his athleticism or his man bun, but he does have an accurate shot with range and an incredible basketball IQ as well. He has filled in well during Hibbert’s absence and he has provided a steady hand in the Hornets strong start to the season.

And then there are the intangibles; the chemistry and culture that this team has built in the locker room is conducive to winning. On Friday, former Hornet Jeremy Lin echoed the sentiment from last season that the Hornets locker room is how all NBA locker rooms should be. He’s not the first player, current or former, to comment on the chemistry this team exhibits. Coach Clifford has helped build a culture in Charlotte that the players can buy into, and that’s something that takes time and enough belief in each other to handle the responsibility they’re given.

While the teams 4-1 jump out of the gates is very encouraging, this week’s slate of games can help us get a better scope of what we have in this team. We’ve got a good thing going here at the Hive this season, so sit back and enjoy the view from up here Hornets fans. Until next time, KEEP BUZZIN’!!!

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.