Hornets make biggest comeback in franchise history

Charlotte was down 24 points in the third quarter.

      
 

 

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Hornets’ Lance Stephenson Dunks over Bucks’ Larry Sanders

It’s only the first game of the season for the Charlotte Hornets, but Lance Stephenson is already making big plays.

Stephenson drove to the lane during Wednesday’s opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, then proceeded to throw down over big man Larry Sanders.

The dunk was nice, but the Hornets were still down 83-68 after the third quarter.

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Kemba Walker and Charlotte Hornets Are Right Match at Right Price

Good for Kemba Walker—and good for the Charlotte Hornets

The two sides agreed (per Marc Stein of ESPN.com) to what seems like a pretty fair deal on a four-year, $48 million extension—a number that doesn’t quite break the Hornets‘ bank, and one that Walker, who had plenty of doubters not too long ago, should feel satisfied with. 

Despite leaving college on a high note after leading Connecticut to a national title, there were questions surrounding Walker’s NBA outlook, like how would a score-first guard under 6’0″ in socks fare at the point in the pros? 

But Walker has managed to adapt, and after three years in the league he’s established himself as a legitimate asset.

For the Hornets’ management, it’s gotta be refreshing knowing they targeted, drafted and groomed Walker themselves—especially after all the duds they went with over the years, from Raymond Felton and Sean May to Adam Morrison, Brandan Wright and D.J. Augustin.

It’s just so rare for the Hornets to actually reward one of the players they drafted this early in the process. The Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell highlighted the driving force behind the team’s motivation to get a deal done:

The Hornets haven’t typically extended players on the rookie wage scale at least until they reach restricted free-agency. In this case, Walker’s asking price figured to keep going up, in part because of the anticipated rise in the salary cap from the NBA’s new television deal.

With big man Al Jefferson looking at an opt-out clause after the season, signing Walker now prevents what could have been a scary situation: Charlotte’s two best players both entering free agency this summer (Jefferson would be unrestricted, Walker would have been restricted).

Now with Walker locked up and the addition of Lance Stephenson, who should help improve the team’s credibility by adding toughness, defense and playoff experience, the Hornets’ sales pitch to Jefferson—the one they’ll give in hopes of convincing him to stick long term—just got a little bit stronger.

You’d also like to think Walker’s extension will be approved by the majority of the fanbase, considering he guided the team to a 43-win season and a playoff berth after they went 28-120 over his first two years.

While Walker’s value around the league might differ, his value to the Hornets is enormous, given the roster’s lack of playmakers. Josh McRoberts and Ramon Sessions finished No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in assists last year for Charlotte—and neither player is back with the team in 2014-15. 

Walker averaged 17.6 points and 6.1 assists last season, numbers that ultimately reflect the offensive firepower he brings to the table.  

He’s also proven to be a guy you can give the ball to on final possessions—someone who can create scoring opportunities out of nothing. And that’s a quality that will continue to hold tremendous value in Charlotte as well. 

“No question, I am definitely the leader of this team,” Walker told Stephen Brotherston of Probballreport.com last season. “I wouldn’t have it no other way.  Guys look to me. Basically, the way I go, the team goes. I definitely wear that hat and I am excited to.” 

It’s obviously nice to see Walker take on a bigger leadership role. But while his maturity and likability, along with his production and impact, likely factored into Charlotte’s decision to further invest, the extension wasn’t just a reward for what he’s accomplished so far. It’s also a reflection of the growth they expect from him over the next few seasons. 

Not to dampen the mood, but $12 million a year is a big chunk of change for a starter whose player efficiency rating ranked No. 18 last year among active point guards. 

Walker has some limitations out there. Without much size or strength, he shot a poor 46.9 percent within eight feet from the hoop last season, a likely reason for him taking a whopping 544 shots from 10-24 feet away.

Feel free to point to Walker’s shot selection as a reason behind his 39.3 percent field-goal clip last season.

His low-percentage attack and high usage rate (finished top 10 among starting point guards last year) probably had something to do with the Hornets finishing No. 24 in offensive efficiency.

And with a so-so assist-to-turnover ratio and pure point rating (18 starting point guards from last year finished with better ones), Walker has work to do as a decision-maker and facilitator as well. 

But you can’t argue with the production he’s put up or the impact he’s had on this team. And at 24 years old having gotten a little bit better through three years in the league, there’s reason to believe we have’t seen Walker peak as an NBA pro. 

This extension seems like a win-win for everyone involved. Walker gets paid and remains the man—he led the NBA in touches last year with 101.8 per game, 4.6 more than Chris Paul, per NBA.com. 

And the Hornets get to lock up a franchise building block at a somewhat reasonable price. Plus, they finally get to build with an asset they acquired from scratch and developed themselves. 

You can argue whether or not the Hornets overpaid by a million or two a year, but this was a deal that really makes everybody happy. Now it’s on Walker to continue his gradual ascent. 

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AP Source: Hornets’ Walker gets 4-year extension (Yahoo Sports)

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 20: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets drives against the Atlanta Hawks on October 20, 2014 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Charlotte Hornets have agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract extension with point guard Kemba Walker, a person familiar with the deal said Tuesday night. The person said deal takes effect beginning in the 2015-16 season, meaning Walker will be under contract through the 2018-19 NBA season. Hornets owner Michael Jordan indicated earlier Tuesday the team was eager to finalize a deal with Walker before Friday’s deadline to prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent in July. Jordan said Tuesday before the deal was signed that he expects Walker, Al Jefferson and recently signed Lance Stephenson will play key roles in the future of the organization.


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Kemba Walker, Hornets Agree on New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

What Michael Jordan wants, Michael Jordan gets. Hours after the Charlotte Hornets owner told reporters he wanted to sign point guard Kemba Walker to an extension before Friday’s midnight deadline, the deal is done.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reported the Hornets and Walker agreed on a four-year, $48 million pact Tuesday evening:

Stein did not indicate whether either side has an early opt-out clause. Walker, 24, is entering the last year of his rookie contract. The NBA draft class of 2011 and their teams have until midnight Halloween night to agree on a long-term contract. Those who don’t reach an agreement by then will become restricted free agents next summer.   

Jordan, who has made himself more present in his ownership role than ever before over the last 24 hours, told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer he preferred an extension over the restricted free agency route.

“I’d much rather get Kemba done before the season starts,” Jordan said. “Ultimately that’s what I intend to accomplish. We’re in real conversations. I’m hopeful. Really hopeful.”

The ninth overall pick in 2011, Walker’s first three seasons have been a mixed bag. While he’s shown deft driving skills and is a solid defender for his size, decision-making and finishing on drives remain problems. Walker is a career 39.8 percent shooter, a number that dipped down to 39.3 percent in 2013-14 after a promising bump in his second season.

Others guards (e.g. Damian Lillard) have been able to maintain their value despite a low field-goal percentage thanks to their three-point proficiency. Walker isn’t quite there in that regard, either, making 32.2 percent of his threes for his career with minimal year-to-year improvement.

Size discrepancies have also limited his effectiveness near the rim. Walker shot 48.9 percent inside the restricted area last season, which put him in a class with the NBA’s worst among high-usage players, per NBA.com. There was at least a small school of thought that Charlotte may allow Walker to hit restricted free agency next summer, hoping to get another year’s sample before deciding how to proceed.

However, with a rebrand back to the Hornets logo and coming off a promising playoff berth, Jordan clearly does not want this team to take a step back. Walker should be under far less pressure as an off-the-dribble creator this season after Charlotte’s surprise Lance Stephenson signing. Stephenson’s presence should help Walker make strides as a spot-up shooter and allow him to avoid defending bigger guards.

At $12 million per season, the Hornets are investing an eye-popping number in Walker. He’ll have the same per-year salary as Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who was a borderline All-Star candidate. Walker was nowhere near Lowry’s stratosphere last season. But with the salary cap due to skyrocket over the next couple years, Charlotte may be getting in at the bottom floor of a massive salary spike.

Either way, expect this move to generate some polarizing opinions.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Jordan announces ‘comeback’ on Hornets’ Twitter

“Just kidding, LOL,” he wrote, in case you didn’t know it was a joke.

      
 

 

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Jordan takes over Hornets Twitter feed, MJ roast ensues

If you didn’t know, Michael Jordan is running the Charlotte Hornets twitter account today. #MJTakeover. The Hornets PR staff probably thought this was going to be a great way for Jordan to communicate with fans. It’s the exact opposite. This has slowly turned into the roast of Michael Jordan. Yes, it’s really me doing this [&hellip (Visited 6 times, 6 visits today) The post #MJTakeover On Twitter Is The Greatest Idea Ever appeared first on No Coast Bias.

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Michael Jordan Makes Comeback Joke, Takes Selfie During Hornets Twitter Takeover

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan doesn’t have much experience with social media, but he took over his team’s Twitter account Tuesday as a way to thank the fans for their support.

The goal was to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at what the greatest basketball player who has ever lived does on a daily basis. There was a lot of buzz for the “MJ Takeover”:

Jordan started the day with a joke:

Then, he showed fans he was ready for the Hornets’ official return to the NBA:

In case anyone didn’t believe he was actually running the account for the day, the 51-year-old took a selfie to prove it:

Jordan is doing his best to have some fun with this Twitter takeover.

[Charlotte Hornets]

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Hornets Injury Update: Lance Stephenson is hopeful for Monday’s practice

The Charlotte Hornets open the 2014-2015 regular season on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks following a 3-5 preseason. Looking to improve upon a 43-39 record from last season, the Hornets added shooting guard Lance Stephenson to the roster, who had the best season of his young career last year with the Indiana Pacers. Although bothered with a groin injury, he’s hopeful for today’s practice and the season opener. Escapists606 via Wikimedia CommonsRotoworld.com reported that Stephenson’s groin injury isn’t serious and he should be able to return to practice today. It’s likely that he’s been rested simply as a precautionary measure to ensure that he’ll start the regular season at 100 percent. Stephenson could be an important piece to the puzzle this season, being that he is effective in scoring, rebounding and assists.Stephenson is in his fifth NBA season and first with the Hornets. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 78 games with the Pacers last season. T

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Charlotte Hornets 2014-15 Season Preview: Roster Breakdown, Win-Loss Prediction

If you’ve been paying any attention to the Kansas City Royals’ remarkable run to the World Series, then you know that only means one thing.

Basketball is upon us!

A lot has changed since the last time an NBA game took place in Charlotte, and the Eastern Conference is going to look radically different. Some guy named LeBron James took his talents elsewhere, along with Kevin Love. Paul George broke his leg and ruined the Indiana Pacers chances of running the East again. Paul Pierce left Brooklyn for the Washington Wizards, and the Heat replaced the King with Luol Deng and Charlotte’s very own Josh McRoberts

However, the biggest change in the conference could still be coming from lovely North Carolina. Lance Stephenson came to town. P.J. Hairston and Noah Vonleh showed up as one of the franchise’s better draft hauls in quite some time. Al Jefferson fixed his foot. By some act of a higher power, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have learned how to shoot a basketball, and best of all, the Bobcats completely rebranded themselves as the Charlotte Hornets.

Fresh off the franchise’s second playoff appearance, (and second sweep), the Hornets are more than equipped to ring in this new era with a loud statement. After Chicago and Cleveland, this conference is presumably wide open. Charlotte came within one win of its franchise record last season at 43-39, and with good health, the Hornets should have no trouble eclipsing that number this year.

Enough speculating, let’s dive right into it. Here is the full preview with everything you need to know about your 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets.

 

Best Five

To some surprise, the Bobcats’ best statistical lineup last year came during the brief 65 minutes shared by Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Anthony Tolliver, Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson. Granted, that is a small sample size. Their most frequent lineup by far was Walker, Gerald Henderson, MKG, McRoberts and Jefferson.

Even though the 65-minute lineup played such a small amount of time together, a few things stuck out from their numbers playing together.

The unit was by far Charlotte’s best outside shooting lineup, namely because of Sessions’ ability to create helped free up Walker to light it up. Tolliver was an assassin all season, and that lineup shot 20 percent better than their opponents.

That lineup also produced the team’s best statistical group when it came to assists and field goals made and attempted. Charlotte had huge advantages in all three categories with that lineup, likely because the ball movement was much more efficient with Sessions in the backcourt, and the team ran more with Zeller in the frontcourt.

I may be digging deep into my basketball nerd encyclopedia, but there is something to be made of the virtues of ball movement, shooting and running the floor—aspects that will get more emphasis with this new Hornets squad. Because of that, Charlotte’s best lineup in 2014-15 will likely be Walker, Stephenson, MKG, Zeller and Jefferson.

Those five could dismantle teams in a variety of ways on offense by playing a brand of basketball that last year’s Bobcats displayed for really only 65 minutes all season. Stephenson provides a second ball-handler in the backcourt, as well as another distributor. He and Walker have shown in preseason that they are going to be ruthless attacking the rim and making flashy passes all over the court. Zeller‘s energy and athleticism will be much different than the fundamental style McRoberts played. A consistent MKG would just be the icing on the cake.

 

Youth Movement

When thinking of this team’s star-in-the-making, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Cody Zeller would be the first choices that come to mind. However, neither is as likely to be as a big a star this year as Lance Stephenson.

To many, this kid might have already become a star. He has been one of the driving forces the past couple of years behind the Pacers’ ascension to the top of the East. However, he just turned 24, and still has plenty of room to improve his game. His fiery style of play fits just what you’d expect from a Brooklyn guard. Pairing him with the Bronx-born Kemba Walker is sure to provide one of the NBA’s most dynamic, talented and underrated backcourtsThese two are no strangers to one another, as well.

Stephenson will act as the Swiss Army Knife that coach Steve Clifford did not have at his disposal last season. He is 100 percent different than anyone else from last year’s Bobcats roster, and if he can continue to improve in terms of attacking the rim and shooting from the outside, he could make another leap to become an All-Star.

Gerald Henderson was the starter last year, and he had a usage rate of 22.1, higher than Stephenson’s 19.4. That just shows how much more effective Stephenson can be than Henderson, what kind of upgrade he can be.

Henderson’s development has been stagnant over the past couple of seasons, whereas Stephenson is going to be more than ready to prove to the Pacers and the rest of the league why he is worthy of much more than the three-year, $27 million deal he signed this past offseason.

One might say he was even…Born Ready.

 

Team Award Predictions

Best Offensive Weapon: Al Jefferson

Big Al had his best campaign last year since he left Minnesota. He was the main reason this squad catapulted to 43 wins. Many were surprised that he took a deal to play in such a small market, but he made a massive contribution to the franchise a year ago and now has this team headed toward unprecedented levels of success.

It was a shame to see his season end with the plantar fasciitis injury in the playoffs, as his Bobcats were hanging in there with the mighty Miami Heat, for the most part. Another year in this system should only help him, and now with an improved roster around him, he could perform even better.

 

Defensive Stopper: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

His improved jumper should actually help him on defense. It will make him less of a liability on that end of the court, resulting in more minutes for MKG.. It will also help to tire out the man guarding him, resulting in said player having less energy to expend on offense. Ironing out that hitch in his shot should go a long way for him.

Having a jumper that is even somewhat respectable will boost his confidence. MKG seemed lost at times last season, and it was clear that his ineptitude on offense hampered his defense a little bit. Look for him to go from being a good perimeter defender to a great one.

 

Biggest Surprise: P.J. Hairston

He won’t be a star right away, but there is a role on this team that he can fill following the departure of Anthony Tolliver. Hairston is a fearless shooter, and so far in preseason and summer league, he has proven he can be a legitimate threat from the outside.

Hairston is not necessarily a chucker, but he could still use more discipline in shot selection. That much was evident in summer league when he was the main offensive option. On this roster, he will mostly be used in the early going as an outside shooting threat off the bench. With some early continued success, Hairston could force his way into some bigger minutes, and success on his part might even push the front office into dealing Gerald Henderson.

 

When The Dust Settles…

I’m predicting a 46-36 record for this team and the fifth seed in the conference. To me, this is tentative. I strongly believe if Hornet players mesh together that this team can surprise the NBA world and push its way higher up the standings, possibly as high as third.

Winning 46 games would be a franchise record, but this team should have bigger aspirations. It is time to make noise as one of the big up-and-comers in the Eastern Conference and get to at least the second round of the playoffs. They got their feet wet last season, and now it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a deeper run once they get to the postseason.

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