Hey Hornets, Get Yourselves Together Before Its too Late!

The season is slipping away from the Hornets as we move thru December, and unless they start playing with intensity for 48 minutes a night, a season that started with so much promise will join the stack of disappointing seasons in the Hornets history.  We are always told to be patient as fans, we are only 24 games into the season and we have a new coach….BLAH, BLAH, BLAH……  The honest truth is very simple, this team has zero margin of error in the second half of the season due to a very difficult schedule heavy with road games. The Hornets have 9 of the next 13 games at home and 2 of the road games are against struggling teams in the Nets and Knicks.  This stretch will end right after we toast to the New Year, the question is will we as fans be fired up about the future of this season….or will we be hung-over from drowning our sorrows as we watch the Hornets waste another season by underachieving? We have reached the part of the season where teams who were struggling early are starting to figure things out and we have slowly begun to slide down the standings. I have some thoughts on what we need to see (Besides 8 or 9 wins) before we reach January 3rd.

STOP THE MADNESS MR. BORREGO

While I have seen some positives from the new coach early this year, I do have a couple concerns.  While Frank has played fairly well of late, I don’t like the fact that Willy Hernangomez lost his spot in the rotation due to injury, and now has been stuck behind Biz in recent games. This can’t continue. Biz isn’t a part of the future of this team, and honestly shouldn’t be part of the present. In the Hornets loss to the T-wolves Biz played 4 minutes while the game was in question and was a -9. So please Mr. Borrego let Willy play, and let Biz go back to waving a towel.  Another issue is a closing line-up, WE HAVE TO DECIDE ON ONE! I saw a Tweet from noted Buzz Beat numbers guy Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) in reference to the Hornets 4th quarter lineups.

Hornets haven’t played a single 4th quarter lineup more than 12 minutes. Charlotte played 18 different Q4 lineups between 5-12 minutes.  Dec 4th 2018

Now don’t get me wrong, I get the need for experimentation, but this seems a little extreme. The coach needs to try and let players get used to performing in closing roles along side the same teammates in order to get more comfortable in the quarter that they seem to struggle so much in. We all know the Hornets have been insanely bad late in games, but this is something that will only be solved when players know what is expected of them when tight games happen.

PLAYERS MUST BRING IT, EVERY NIGHT

Guys are gonna miss shots, we know that and understand that, what I can’t deal with is not coning on the court with intensity on defense. This team flat out doesn’t have enough talent to get lazy on the defensive end. (See loses to 3 terrible teams so far this season) While the offense is still very dependent on the 3 point shot, the defense relies on energy and communication, which are things that players can control every time they step on the court. The defense has been sliding of late, and if it doesn’t turn around upcoming games vs. teams like the Lakers, Nuggets (twice) and Celtics could get really ugly early.

FANS MUST DO THEIR PART

These next 9 home games will be crucial to the Hornets success or failure this season. The only thing fans can truly control in this game is the home court advantage.  Get out and get loud, if you haven’t seen the team live in awhile make a trip uptown to be a part of helping the team. If you have season tickets, get a little louder than usual. Follow Bring Back The Buzz on twitter to get updates on cheap tickets for the games as well. The louder the stadium is the better chance the team has of making noise in the eastern conference.

This stretch starting tonight could possibly not only be the determining stretch of this season, but could ultimately lead to shaping the future of this franchise for years to come. If the Hornets can get hot and put themselves solidly in playoff contention as we hit the new year, it could force the franchise to go out and get another impact player via trade, However, if the Hornets fall flat on their faces and find themselves deep on the wrong side of .500 as the ball drops on New Years Eve, it could lead to one of the scariest words in sports…..”Rebuild”.

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Hornets Draft Thoughts: Avoiding the Bust

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(Image from NBA.com)

The draft is now this week, and the Hornets are picking 11th overall. While the 11th pick is a solid position, it is just outside of the range needed to ensure a difference maker, but still early enough to land a sleeper or someone that slid for one reason or another. The Hornets are in desperate need of drafting a player who can make an impact in a big way, which isn’t exactly something we have ever been able to do. Since Kupchak has announced the team has no intentions of rebuilding yet, it is fair to assume unless something surprising happens no trades will be made, and we will have no money to dish out in free agency. Knowing this, the most important acquisition in the offseason will no doubt be whoever the Hornets pick at number 11 on June 21st.

There are two major holes that need to be answered this offseason: backup point guard and small forward. Night in and night out the Hornets bench blew leads during the late 3rd quarter and early to mid-4th quarter. Before the season started, the expectation was MCW would have a bounce back season and otherwise Monk would gradually learn to play backup point as well because he was an undersized two guard. MCW went on to get hurt early and Monk missed most of the offseason because of an ankle injury, so neither were able to catch up and find their footing, leaving us in a bad spot. The one bright spot was that Monk looked to be making real progress to close the season and seems to be extremely committed to working most of the offseason on his game, but it still seems clear he is a much better shooting guard. The only point guard I see as a possibility at 11 that is worth drafting would be Collin Sexton. For us to draft Sexton it would require him to slide a few picks, but we saw that happen last year with Malik Monk. If Sexton doesn’t fall to us at 11, it seems like there will be no other point guards that will garner enough attention to be worthy of a pick that high. On the other hand, if there is a point guard several picks back the team is highly interested in such as Arron Holiday, the Hornets could trade back and possibly dump a contract in the process. The only problem with Arron Holiday is he was turnover prone in college at UCLA, which is the last thing we need from someone who is trying to facilitate an NBA offense when Kemba is off the court.

The second position of need is a small forward. We are paying Nic 22 million and it is highly unlikely we are going to be able to get him off the roster any time soon. Behind Nic is MKG who we are paying 12 million to only play one side of the ball. I personally don’t know which situation is worse or who annoys me more, but I do know neither showed starting capability last year. The problem with drafting a small forward is we become loaded at the position since we already have Dwayne Bacon, and that is another player at a position we are already poring out 35 million to. If we do decide we want to go with a small forward, there is much more of a selection than point guard. Mikal Bridges, Kevin Knox, and Miles Bridges are all projected to be picked right around the 11th pick and with a small slide Michael Porter could also end up being available.

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(Image from WFNZ.com)

As of right now I feel if Collin Sexton is available, the Hornets should take him. It seems like 11 is very high to take a backup point guard but it will allow flexibility. Currently he would fill a much-needed hole, but If the season doesn’t look good by the trade deadline and we decide we want to rebuild, we would no longer require a point guard with other pieces in return for Kemba. Collin Sexton and Malik Monk would be a very promising back court to build around for the future and they are also very young as well. If Sexton is available, it is a win-win opportunity for now or for the future. If Sexton is not available Michael Porter and Mikal Bridges are the two best options but could be gone by the time the Hornets select, which would leave Kevin Knox and Miles bridges as the two remaining. Neither would be optimal in the moment because Knox was very inconsistent in his one year at UK and Bridges is a tweener between the two forward positions. Hopefully the Hornets will be able to right their wrongs and nail a draft that could make the difference in if we will choose to rebuild or not.

Player Only Fans are Back in Buzz City

This has been a rough start to the Hornets season, and the fans are struggling to deal with it as expected. All over Hornets Twitter and in Facebook groups there is discussions of trades, arguments on who should shoulder the blame, and questions of what to do next. Yet there is a new type of fan involved in many of these discussions, and to be honest I have no clue of how to understand them. Before we dive into them though, I want to take you back to my childhood so you get a better picture of me as a fan.

I grew up in a small town 40 miles south of Seattle, and I bled Sonics Green and Yellow. Many of my favorite sports memories involve the now extinct NBA franchise that ruled Seattle sports in the late 1990’s. My Dad and I went to a few games a year, but i never missed them on TV. I had NBA fever and I had it bad, I grew up listening to Kevin Calabro on the call, and still get chills when I hear his voice doing the occasional national broadcast. I wrote my 7th grade paper on the history of the team ( I got an A by the way) and could recite every player on the roster, where they went to college and their height and weight. My favorite player was Shawn Kemp, the Reignman posters covered my walls and I pretended I was him on the playground. I used to tape the games on the VCR (Go ask your parents what that is) and breakdown the plays. I had his jersey and wore it all the time to the point the numbers began to unstitch. I can still feel the disappointment when we lost to the Bulls in the Finals in 96, I was 18 years old and a young man, and I cried.  Nothing prepared me for what happened the following year though, on September 25th 1997 my favorite player since I was 11, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers……for some bum named Vin Baker. (Vin was actually a decent player looking back now, but I did not care at the time)  I was crushed, but a month later when the 97 season tipped off, I was still a Seattle Sonics fan. I remained one until the 18th of April in 2008, 12 days after i took my wife to see Kevin Durant drop 37 points on Carmelo Anthony, when the NBA approved the team that i loved to move to Oklahoma City.

Fast forward to the 15/16 NBA season, I have now adopted the Charlotte Hornets as my team and have been following and writing about them for 3 years. I swore off the NBA for awhile because I was angry, but watching the best athletes play the best damn sport in the world drew me back in. I adopted the then Bobcats because well, they were terrible. They also were a new franchise that i didn’t have any grudges against from my Sonics days. (Like i could cheer for the Lakers or Trailblazers, ewwww GROSS) This season would be my first interaction with a new type of NBA fan. I call them Player Only Fans.

Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum

Charlotte Hornets’ Al Jefferson (25) gets a point across to teammates, Jeremy Lin (7), Kemba Walker (15) and Nicolas Batum (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. The Hornets won 113-88. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

We all remember when the Hornets signed Jeremy Lin to a cheap contract, I thought “Cool, a good veteran to back up Kemba on a cheap deal.” Within days of the signing I started seeing strange things show up on my twitter feed. Comments from a bunch of new followers telling me Lin should start over Kemba, and that Lin just had not ever gotten a fair chance to prove himself, but he was gonna be way better than Kemba that year. I wasn’t the only writer experiencing this, and as the season wore on it became clear that these fans were not like anything I had dealt with before. They were happy if the Hornets lost, but Lin had a good game. Lin only stayed one season, and when he signed in Brooklyn i was glad to say goodbye to the Linatics (I coined that phrase on twitter and it stuck) thinking that would be the last time I dealt with fans of a player who do not care about the team.

I hate to say it, but these type of fans are back in Charlotte and all over the NBA. The Malik Only Fans are growing in numbers by the day. These fans do not care that Monk is not ready for big NBA minutes physically or mentally. We see them on Facebook and Twitter, complaining that Monk needs to get 25 minutes a night, or should be starting. You can argue till you are Teal in the face with stats and logic, but they don’t care. They want to see “Their Guy” play, no matter how it affects the team. If the Hornets win and Monk get a few minutes and misses his shots, they are no where to be heard. Yet if the Hornets lose a game and Monk hits two shots in garbage time, they post until the next morning how this team sucks all except for Monk. The Fan Boi culture is here to stay, and its something fans of this team and others around the NBA are going to have to learn to co-exist with. Fans changing teams with players in free-agency is becoming the new normal. Stars that have fans that follow them instead of the home team, never understanding the joy or disappointment of your team that you love winning or losing in the Finals. Just a closet full of different jersey’s with the same name on the back, all while not caring in the least about the name on the front.

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.

Zo is Returning to Charlotte

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This Friday should be a pretty big night for the history of the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats franchise. When the Miami Heat come to Charlotte, the Hornets will be honoring Alonzo Mourning as one of the legends of this franchise for his achievements both on and off the court. This will be the second time this season the Hornets have chosen to honor an important player from the past and give them a night of their own. The first one, Dell Curry, was a bit of an easy one for the Hornets to make happen considering he works for them….Zo not so much.

Zo is currently the Vice President of Player Programs for the Miami Heat and hasn’t been seen much around these parts since his departure from the city in 1995. As some of you may recall the terms under which Mourning departed were not exactly ideal. George Shinn informed Zo he was not worthy of the money he requested, even though, according to Zo….he wanted to stay in Buzz City. Pat Riley decided Mourning was worth the cash and made the trade for him. The Hornets received Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, and the 6th overall pick in the 1996 Draft (Kobe Bryant or Vlade Divac depending on how you want to look at it) in exchange for Zo in and a few reserves.

Mourning was drafted 2nd overall behind Shaq in the 1992 draft. While Zo was in his rookie season in 1993 he was elected to the all-rookie team and with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks ….he was just 7 blocks shy of averaging a triple double! He is also responsible for the single greatest shot in the history of the Hornets franchise. On May 5th, 1993 against the Boston Celtics in game 4 of the first round of the playoffs Zo jacked up a 20-foot buzzer beater in Charlotte Coliseum that would win the series for the Hornets and send them to the second round to face the Knicks.

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In Zo’s final season as a member of the Hornets in 1994-1995 he lead the team in points, rebounds, blocked shots, field goal percentage and made his first ever appearance in the NBA All-Star Game. Alonzo still currently holds the Hornets franchise records for most blocks with a grand total of 684. Zo was inducted into Naismith the Hall of Fame on August 8th of 2014, where he elected to wear a teal shirt and purple tie….coincidence? We think not.

miami sports.org

pic via miamisports.org

I am glad to see Zo receiving the recognition he deserves. Now if we could just get this franchise to recognize a few more greats like *cough* *cough* Muggsy, Grandmama, Baron and Glen Rice to name a few!

 

Hornets - Alonzo Mourning, Mugsy Bogues, Dell Curry and , Larry Johnson 1995

2 down…4 to go!

 

Charlotte Basketball: More Excuses than Wins

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The Hornets have reached that point in the season that Charlotte basketball fans have become accustom to, the time period in which the losing begins to become so prevalent that you are forced to frantically search for potential trades that could hopefully shake things up enough to get us into the 8th seed. It has been long enough since the season started that injuries are starting to take over but the playoffs are too far away to motivate, at this point in the season most teams are just praying to get through January and reach the All-Star Break. Charlotte basketball fans have not seen a playoff win since the 2001-2002 season, to put that in perspective I was in 8th grade the last time we won a playoff game…….I am now 28. However, it is important that we as fans do not become complacent, demand better and continue to cheer on our team. With that being said, tonight’s game against the Hawks and every game until the All Star break is extremely crucial.

Now,  let’s take a look at this Hawks matchup tonight. The Hawks lead the overall series by 15 games, they are first in our division with a record of 23-15, and they’ve won the 2 previous meetings this season by a combined 5 points (including our home opener).  Now if you read the nationally written game previews they will tell you that Hawks score in the paint well and the Hornets don’t, while that is true the Hawks are almost dead last in the NBA in rebounding, this is a perfect opportunity for Cody Zeller to step up. Cody has been on a bit of a rebounding tear the past few games, he has been in the double-digits for boards 3 out of the last 5 games. If we can get our bigs to rebound we can eliminate those second chance points in the paint (Spencer, I am looking at you, it is time for you to have some kind of impact).

In the previous two matchups the Hornets have also shot much better from 3 than the Hawks, we are going to need that good perimeter shooting and perimeter defense we saw from the Hornets at the beginning of the year to happen tonight. While from the outside looking in, the Hawks would appear to be a heavy favorite, winning 15 out of their last 18 games, and the two previous matchups against the Hornets, however the Hornets are a much better team at home and are a better team at home than the Hawks are on the road.

It is time to stop making excuses for this team and this organization, this fanbase has waited almost 15 long years for a playoff win. The Hornets need to win and they need to win NOW. If Charlotte can get a string of wins going this month they could easily find themselves back in the playoff hunt, they are only 2.5 games back behind the 8th seeded Magic.