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.

Trade Talk

By Trace Walker


After a great start to the season, the Hornets have reverted back to their losing ways. The team currently sits at 17-18, which puts them at fourth in the Southeast division. Since December 12, the Hornets are a mere 3-11. Charlotte has had pretty tough competition during this losing streak, playing games against teams such as the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, Clippers, and Clippers. There have also been many games that should have been very winnable, such as the Suns game, where Phoenix ended their nine game losing streak.

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(https://goo.gl/wgygmA)

Many blame the absence of Al Jefferson as one of the main reasons for Charlotte’s losing. Without their center, the Hornets are left with no real big body in the paint. With Jefferson out, the team is left with big men Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, and Spencer Hawes. None of whom can quite fill Jefferson’s role, who has only played in two games since November.

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at Charlotte Hornets

(http://goo.gl/PKQUGI)

With the Hornets falling to tenth in the Eastern Conference, I believe that it’s time to switch some things up in Charlotte. I have conjured a list of attributes I believe the Hornets should trade for, and possible players that could fill those roles.

Needs:

A reliable scorer that can you can count on to get a bucket. Charlotte needs a player that they can lean on when times get tough, a guy that that you can give the ball to, and they can grind out a basket.

(CJ McCollum, Isaiah Thomas, Brook Lopez)

A solid rebounder who can also play defense and contribute offensively.

(Zaza Pachulia, Karl-Anthony Towns, Paul Millsap)

Rim Protection. The Hornet’s have no big man that can block/alter shots, while protecting the paint.

(Clint Capela, Serge Ibaka, Jerami Grant)

But who will the Hornets trade away to improve their team? The following is a list of possible players to ship away. Although some of these trade suggestions may be extreme, they are just ideas for discussion.

Al Jefferson

Although Al is a great contributor to the team, it may make sense to get rid of him while his value is still high. Also, Jefferson has been constantly plagued by injury. I believe he would one of the more elite centers if he could stay healthy, but that’s the problem. Charlotte could trade for better interior defense and rebounding. I don’t think Jefferson will be moved because he can serve as a mentor to the young players on the team, especially to low post players like Zeller and Kaminsky.

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(http://goo.gl/IkeUfm)

Kemba Walker

Although the franchise has basically been built around Walker, his dismissal could possibly spark something for the team. Also, Jeremy Lin has played well this season, and some argue that he should be the starting PG. Kemba is a great guard, and probably my favorite Bobcat ever, but while playing in Charlotte, he has never found any winning success. Is it time to part ways with Kemba and get a new point guard? Walker has great trade value, and the Hornets could get a decent trade with him. I believe that Charlotte needs someone like Damian Lilliard, a player that can take over the game and create points.

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(http://goo.gl/Oyztl1)

P.J. Hairston

Hairston is still trying to find his way in the NBA as he has only played in 77 games. But the production from P.J. has just not been there, and he has failed to find any real consistency. There have been games where he has knocked down a couple threes and found himself in double figures, but there have also been several games where he didn’t score at all. I believe that P.J. could be thrown into a package deal in hopes of landing a decent starter.

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(http://goo.gl/JkA96M)

Rumors

It has been rumored that the Hornets are interested in Bojan Bogdanovic of the Nets. Bogdanovic is a young scorer who struggled to find his place earlier in the season, but as of lately has been putting up some pretty good numbers. In his last 10 games, he has averaged 12.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG.

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(http://goo.gl/JkA96M)

 

 

Game Recap: Hornets Vs. Celtics 12/23/15

By Trace Walker ()

Last year, I failed to make it to a Hornet’s game, so Wednesday nights game against the Celtics was my first game in the new hive. Although the Hornets played as if they were still the Bobcats, it was a great pleasure to see how much things have changed since the return of the Hornets. There seems to be a new found energy in the crowd at Time Warner Cable arena that wasn’t there when it was home to the ‘Cats.

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As for the game, I was disappointed to not see the Hornets come together and play as a team as they have in other games this season. There just seemed to be no flow in the game and the Hornets reverted to playing one on one, isolation basketball. Every time the team started to get something going, it was like the momentum would be immediately crushed by one thing or another.

P.J. Hairston started the game but only ended up playing twelve minutes as he couldn’t knock down wide open shots while giving up multiple offensive rebounds to the Celtics.

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The Hornets couldn’t get any rhythm in the first quarter as they were taking terrible shots, and the good ones they did take, just wouldn’t fall. They also were called for four 3 second violations (They still call those in the NBA??) in the first quarter, which is just absurd.

The game was never really close at any point, and the Hornets fell behind by 20 in the 3rd quarter. The team tried to make a run for the game in the fourth but comeback hopes were squashed when a Frank Kaminsky and-1 was overturned and called an offensive foul. There were also two clear blocks by Hornet players that were called fouls and sent Boston players to the line.

Frank Kaminsky was the high scorer for Charlotte as he had a career high of twenty-three. It was an impressive night for Frank, but it also highlighted his need for future improvement. Kaminsky may have dropped 23, but he also took twenty shots and missed multiple attempts that I feel like he should of made. It was great though to see him knock down some long balls, and showcase some post moves.

I was also disappointed that Jeremy Lin was not rocking his signature mohawk on this night and had his hair down. Lin, alongside fellow guard, Kemba Walker, couldn’t get anything going, between the two, they shot a lowly 30%.

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(http://goo.gl/pfWyLC)

The Celtics are no slouch of an opponent as this is the second time they have beaten the Hornets this year. Boston had a very distributed scoring output, five players finished in double figures: Olynyk (20), Crowder (19), Bradley (18), Thomas (18), and Lee (10). After a disappointing last couple seasons, the Celtics have played well, starting the year 16-13.

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It was good to see Physco T get some playing time, Hansborough played solid defense and grabbed three rebounds in eight minutes. Surprisingly, Tyler had the highest +/- of any Hornets player on the night.

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There was also some brotherly love in the post Wednesday night. Hornet’s forward, Cody Zeller, got to match up with his brother, Tyler Zeller, who plays forward for the Celtics. Cody had the better game as he had seven points, ten rebounds compared to Tyler’s two points, one rebound. Tyler will have the bragging rights at the Zeller Christmas though, due to his Boston team being 2-0 against Charlotte.

ZellersWireFile

After a hot start to the season, the Hornets have cooled down. Just last week the team was found in the top five in the East, but have dropped to tenth after losing five of the last six. Looking forward, hopefully the Hornets can get back on track. The team has been without their center, Al Jefferson, for a month.  It was clear to me how much the Hornets missed their big man. The absence of Big Al left the team with no real big men, and no dominant rebounder. Hopefully his presence will help Charlotte return to their winning ways.

Hugo the Hornet showed up ready for the Holiday buzz on Wednesday night.

Game leaders

Hornets

Points- Kaminsky (23)
Rebounds- Zeller (8)
Assist- Batum (7)

Celtics

Points- Olynyk (20)
Rebounds- Crowder (12)
Assist- Thomas (7)

A Case For a MVP Not Named Curry

By Trace Walker

After a long history of bad draft picks and misfortune, the Hornet franchise have found a diamond in the rough in Nicolas Batum.092915-NBA-Hornets--Nicolas-Batum-pi-ssm.vresize.1200.675.high.42

(foxsports.com)

Summer of 2014

In 2014, Charlotte missed out on signing Gordon Hayward as the Jazz matched his contract offer. The Hornets settled with free-agent Lance Stephenson, a triple double machine for Indiana. Lance was supposed to be the superstar Charlotte never had, but in reality, Stephenson brought the team a 17% three point percentage along with over two turnovers a game.102414_lance.jpg

(cbssports.com)

2015 free agency

Going into the ’15 summer, there was a very hot free-agent market  that included LaMarcus Aldridge, Marco Belinelli, Deandre Jordan, Greg Monroe, and Rajon Rondo. Charlotte signed Nicolas Batum on June 24 in a trade in which the Trailblazers received Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh. Batum has been the rock for the Hornet’s offense this year as he has been averaging 17 PPG, a career high. Nic has also been averaging career highs in rebounds (6.7) and assists (4.7).

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(nba.com)

Who is Nic Batum?

Batum, a frenchmen, has played seven NBA seasons, all of which were previously with the Portland Trailblazers. He also played for Le Mans, a French basketball club. Batum is a skilled scorer who can get buckets inside and out. Nicolas is also a very efficient rebounder and smart player, while getting a lot of blocks for being a guard.

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(bleacherreport.com)

If the NBA season ended today, it would be hard seeing the MVP award given to anyone not on the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors started the season on the second longest winning streak in NBA history, only falling short to the 71-72 Lakers. Steph Curry has dominated the league and is looking to win his second consecutive MVP award, others may even argue that Draymond Green has a solid case as well. Green averages more assist (7) than Curry (6), while still putting up 14 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 1.5 BPG. The Warriors look unbeatable… (they actually are)

Even after losing a game to the Bucks, the Warriors are still on a higher tier than everyone else in the NBA.

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(http://goo.gl/3PW0N0)

Although the MVP will most likely fall into the hands of a Warrior, I argue that Nicolas Batum is also a viable option for the award. The addition of Batum alongside others has completely revamped the Hornets offense. Last year the Charlotte team made 498 three pointers the entire season. This season,   the Hornets have already made 230 threes in only 23 games. That’s nearly half of what was made in the previous season. The Hornets are 14-9 and are first in the Southeast division, the team looks like a real playoff contender as they’ve tallied some impressive wins against the Bulls, Grizzlies, and Kings. Charlotte has also won in many different ways, blowing out teams, winning in OT, and making tremendous comebacks.

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(hornets.com)

Nicolas Batum is the glue that has held Charlotte together this season, and has proven to be able to do it all. Last week, Batum had a triple double in the third quarter as the Hornets demolished the Heat. Batum finished the game with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assist. It’s worthy to note the unselfish play of Nicolas as the last stat he reached double digits in was points.

The Hornets may not have proven their dominance in the Eastern conference quite yet, but the Charlotte team is quietly sitting at fourth in the East. Hopefully moving forward, Nic Batum can lead the Hornets to their first playoff series win. The city has long awaited the arrival of a superstar, but can Batum prove to be the savior of Charlotte basketball?

I sure hope so.