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.

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Hornets Fans, Don’t Give Up Hope Yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 6 games against the Contenders Level

  • 18 games against the Wanna-Be Level

  • 20 games against the Crappy Level

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

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

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

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.

Its Time To Rebuild The Hornets’ Nest

By Steve Kwon

When the Hornets’ last game came, it was a somber day. The shorthanded Hornets didn’t have much of a chance against the New Jersey Nets, anchored by Jason Kidd, that year.  When I first starting going to Hornets games, the Coliseum would be always packed to capacity. After the Nets eliminated the Hornets in the playoffs and sent them packing for New Orleans, the arena wasn’t even half full. But I was there. The people who came despite then owner George Shinn’s betrayal wanted to show appreciation for 14 years of unforgettable memories.

I was 14 years old at the time. Like many people my age, I grew up with the Hornets. My dad, a big Hornets fan as well, took me to tons of games. The team played its first game only months after I was born.

I didn’t start watching the Hornets until after Zo left. But after Glen Rice and Matt Geiger arrived in town, I became hooked. I started watching almost every Hornets away game on TV and everytime I see Mike Gminski and Steve Martin working a ACC game, I start feeling nostalgic.

I loved Super Hugo and of course, the Honeybees. Glen Rice or G Money was my first favorite player. Then it was Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn. Who could forget Baron Davis’ game winner against the Magic in the playoffs? Or Glen Rice winning the All-Star MVP award in 1997?

So many great memories. So much rich tradition. So much history.

But all of it was taken away and replaced by the……Bobcats?

I don’t feel like there could have been any name that could have replaced the Hornets, but the choice of Bobcats was horrendous. Obviously, former owner Bob Johnson named it after himself. Strike 1. As Charlotte Observer writer Scott Fowler points out in his most recent blog post, the Bobcats remind you of a middle school team. Strike 2. The Bobcats chose orange as its primary color and its logo looks like it was copy and pasted from a WNBA team. Strike 3.

When the Hornets were in town, I would guess that I would go to an average of ten games a year. I rarely go to more than than two Bobcats games a year, if any. I owned several pieces of Hornets apparel which included my coveted Glen Rice jersey, Hornets jacket and lots of T-Shirts. I own no Bobcats apparel at all and don’t plan to.

The emotional connection to the Bobcats isn’t there and won’t be there, even if the team starts winning games. I watched more games in the Bobcats’ playoff year, but even then I noticed something was missing.

It wasn’t the Hornets.

I think most Charlotteans share a similar sentiment. I really feel that if you took an honest survey and asked Charlotteans whether they would be more engaged with the local NBA team if the team’s nickname changed to Hornets, I would be confident that they would be. Interest would double, if not triple.

The Bobcats claim there is no indication that fans wanted a new name, pointing to a study done by Harris Interactive. However, there’s a catch. The name Hornets couldn’t be included in the study because New Orleans already had the name. So, it doesn’t prove much at all.

But we can come up with our own numbers. If the Beelievers can group together and fund a market research study that shows that a name change to Hornets would be profitable for the Bobcats, despite the $3-5M price tag, could the Bobcats really not do it if the name became available? If the Bobcats won’t commission another study that includes Hornets as a choice, we’ll try.

When Jordan bought the team in 2010, he told reporters he would change the Bobcats’ name if the public wanted it. Two years later, he has a great opportunity to back that up.

Our job is to show him and the rest of the Bobcats executives that Charlotte really does want this. This blog will be a medium in which we can promote the cause. If hundreds of people posted their own Hornets stories and why they want the name back, the Bobcats will notice. The blog will also share important updates for any significant events or news concerning the campaign.

If you would like to write a post for the blog, please email me at stvkwon@gmail.com with your name. I would like to put a different post on here every day if we can. Most likely, it will be a couple posts a week.

With rumors swirling that the new owners of the New Orleans Hornets will likely want to change the name, the time to strike is now. If we ever want the name back, we need to make our opinions heard now.

I wanted to be a part of this because I love Charlotte. Its a great city and I’m glad I moved back here after college. Even though we have the Panthers, I feel the Hornets helped to bring Charlotteans together like nothing else.

In the last week, people have started to get behind this campaign. On Facebook, we gained hundreds of ‘Likes’ in a few days. The same on Twitter. Former players like Muggsy Bogues aren’t immune either. Bogues, still revered in Charlotte, tweeted his support last night.

I look forward to talking and working with many of you to bring our Hornets back.

All we need to do is to BEE-LIEVE!