Charlotte Hornets: Initial thoughts about the 2014-2015 schedule

Mid-August is a pretty boring period on the NBA’s calendar.  There are no monster dunks, ankle-breaking crossovers, or last second buzzer beaters this time of year.  Even the four-letter-network-who-shall-not-be-named has some difficulty coming up with NBA news once the free agency period slows down.  But have no fear die-hard NBA nerds fans; the NBA released its schedule for the 2014-2015 this past Wednesday!  It may not be as sexy as LeBron’s homecoming in Cleveland, the potential Kevin Durant homecoming in Washington (calm down Wiz fans), or even the potential for Andrew Wiggins to waste away his rookie contract in Minnesota, but the schedule does provide a first glimpse at the upcoming season.
The Charlotte Hornets schedule reveals many interesting games, subplots, and narratives for the new and improved Hornets 2.0.  Here, I will break down the Hornets schedule and provide some insight into some of their more interesting matchups.  However, instead of using boring headlines such as “Best Game

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Steph Curry Says He Has Thought About Playing for The Hornets

Golden State Warriors all everything guard Stephen Curry admitted that he’s recently had thoughts about playing pro ball in his home state.
Curry, who is in the middle of an extension he signed two-years ago, was asked about playing with the Hornets and here is what he had to say via the Doug Gottlieb Show.

“I’ve always had thoughts about playing at home, what it would be like,” said Curry, who is in the middle of a four-year, $44 million contract extension with the Warriors. “My dad played there for 10 years, and people around the Greater Charlotte area in North Carolina have done a lot for my family growing up, so you always think about it.
“Right now I feel like I’ve got three years left on my deal, so this isn’t going to be an issue for me for a while. I love the Bay Area and where we are as a team trying to win a championship, and that’s what it’s all about. Of course everybody dreams about or thinks about what it’s going to be like to play at home. Obviously if that opportuni…

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Stephen Curry interested in playing for Hornets?

The Golden State Warriors are excited about another season with star point guard Stephen Curry leading the way, but they may have some concern about his future in Oakland.
Curry talked last week on The Doug Gottlieb Show about potentially going back to his home team and playing at some point in his career. It was very obvious that Curry is intrigued with the idea, and could end up doing that when his next contract rolls around.
“I’ve always had thoughts about playing at home, what it would be like,” Curry said, via Diamond Leung of Inside the Bay Area. “My dad played there for 10 years, and people around the Greater Charlotte area in North Carolina have done a lot for my family growing up, so you always think about it. Right now I feel like I’ve got three years left on my deal, so this isn’t going to be an issue for me for a while. I love the Bay Area and where we are as a team trying to win a championship, and that’s what it’s all about. Of course everybody dreams about or thinks about wh

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Charlotte Hornets Will Bid to Host NBA All-Star Weekend in 2017 or 2018

The newly re-branded Charlotte Hornets are looking to be a factor in the NBA‘s Eastern Conference during the upcoming season, but the organization announced even bigger plans Tuesday. 

According to NBA.com, the Hornets and the city of Charlotte, North Carolina will submit a bid to host NBA All-Star Weekend at Time Warner Cable Arena in either 2017 or 2018.

The announcement was officially made by Charlotte Sports Foundation executive director Will Webb, per NBA.com.

On behalf of everyone involved, we are very excited to announce that we will submit an official bid this afternoon for Charlotte to host NBA All-Star Weekend. The overwhelming support for the Hornets during their playoff run and re-branding has proven the passion Charlotte has for the NBA. And the worldwide fan base of the NBA makes this a perfect opportunity to showcase Charlotte and Time Warner Cable Arena on a global stage.

The Hornets’ official Twitter account released a photo of the contingent that will travel to New York City in order to submit the bid:

Also, Mark Davenport of WBTV News offered a closer look at the bid, which is fittingly encased in a honeycomb:

As seen in this photo courtesy of Fox Sports Hoops, the Hornets certainly seem to boast a venue worthy of hosting the All-Star festivities: 

Winning the bid would be a huge step forward for what has largely been a moribund franchise since its inception in 2004. The original Hornets relocated to New Orleans in 2002, but Charlotte received an expansion franchise two years later in the form of the Bobcats.

With the New Orleans Hornets changing their name to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Bobcats jumped at the opportunity to snag the Hornets name and restore the tradition that Charlotte’s NBA franchise had been missing since returning in 2004.

Now that Charlotte is trending in an upward direction, Hornets Sports and Entertainment president Fred Whitfield believes that now is the right time for the city to pursue an All-Star Game, according to NBA.com.

It is our honor to submit our bid for the city of Charlotte to host a future All-Star Weekend. The Charlotte Sports Foundation and other community and business leaders have urged us to undertake this effort and have pledged their full support.  We are grateful for their backing and look forward to once again having the chance to bring international acclaim to the city of Charlotte. With the return of the Hornets name and our team on the rise, we feel like this is the perfect time for Charlotte to host an All-Star Game and we are confident in our chances for success.

Among those who are hopeful that the Hornets will come out on the winning end is Olympic track star Manteo Mitchell:

If the Hornets are successful in their bid, it will mark the first time that the city of Charlotte has hosted the NBA All-Star Game since three years after the Hornets’ initial inception, per Brett Jensen of FoxSports.com:

The organization will have to wait at least a couple seasons to host the game since New York will do so in 2015 and Toronto has those honors in 2016.

There is a great deal of buzz surrounding the Hornets with stars like Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson already in place along with the recent signing of guard Lance Stephenson. Add in the presence of NBA legend Michael Jordan as the franchise’s principal owner and seemingly everything is working in Charlotte’s favor.

Hosting the All-Star Game in 2017 or 2018 is far from a done deal, but Jordan likely has so much pull within the league that it is safe to assume Charlotte will be able to secure one of those games at the conclusion of the bidding process.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Why Charlotte Hornets Must Be Patient with Noah Vonleh’s Development

Sporting a 7’4″ wingspan, 240-pound frame and intriguing inside-out potential, Charlotte Hornets rookie Noah Vonleh is an exciting specimen. But his club should exercise abundant patience in the early going.

The 6’9″ one-and-done power forward out of Indiana is ready to gobble up rebounds, and he covers a ton of ground and space with his mobility and length. He can score via baby hooks and outside jumpers, and he showed stretches of solid defense during summer league.

Don’t confuse those promising qualities with immediate NBA success, though.

There’s so much more to basketball than size, dunks and smooth shooting. Youngsters like Vonleh need to learn about shot selection, passing from the post, pick-and-roll nuances and defensive discipline. And that’s just a small sampling of his homework.

Coach Steve Clifford and the Hornets staff shouldn’t depend on him too heavily during their push for the playoffs, because he’s simply not ready.

Vonleh isn’t an egotistical person or a selfish player by any means, but he’s still learning how to collaborate with his teammates on a possession-by-possession basis. He doesn’t have a keen sense of when to be aggressive and when to dish the rock to open teammates.

“(Vonleh) has a long way to go in terms of feel and basketball IQ,” explains Draft Express video analyst Mike Schmitz. “Doesn’t have a great feel for when to shoot, attack or pass.”

That’s unsurprising to some degree. After all, he’s only a year removed from high school. But even when you compare him to his fellow one-and-done 2014 draftees picked in the top 10, he’s inferior in several key categories.

Note how he lags behind significantly in assists per 40 minutes and free-throw attempts per 40 minutes:

When Vonleh catches the ball on the block or on the elbow, his diagnosis and decision-making are inconsistent. As Schmitz mentioned, the youngster has a difficult time quickly discerning what to do with the ball. He must learn to keep his head on a swivel and exhibit better court vision. That way, he’ll launch timely attacks and also avoid unnecessary turnovers.

The following pair of plays illustrates his deficiencies. First, here’s Vonleh with Indiana, catching the ball in the post with room to turn and finish an uncontested shot. Unfortunately, he never turns to look at the hoop, hastily tossing the ball back out to his Hoosier teammate in order to attempt a re-post:

That’s a classic example of him missing out on an opportunity to assert himself. At the very worst, that play would have resulted in a late-arriving help defender fouling him.

Next, we have an example of the opposite misdiagnosis: In summer league play against the New York Knicks, Vonleh drove into the paint and found himself double-teamed. He opted to attempt an off-balance, contested shot when a couple Hornets were open:

Vonleh ended up making the shot, but he should think twice once he starts playing against big-league opponents. His scoring talent isn’t quite good enough yet to compensate for mental mistakes.

The good news is that the basic tools are there. He has the talent to score in the paint with his left or right, shoot from the outside or face up his man and drive to the tin. He also could become a capable passer once he has time to grow comfortable in Charlotte’s system. Once his knowledge and experience catch up with his physical skills, he’ll be a top-tier stretch 4.

His less-than-refined instincts and poor choices extend to the defensive side as well. Vonleh averaged 4.1 fouls per 40 minutes in college, and he continued hacking away during summer league. He committed 8.2 fouls per 40 minutes, which is high even when you consider the coaches aren’t worried about foul trouble (there’s no foul limit in summer league).

In the post, he’s actually a solid one-on-one defender, as he squares up his man and uses strength and size to deter shot attempts. But in help-defense scenarios, he’s either out of position or uses bad judgement when contesting from the weak side.

Robert White of Prospect Next broke down the big fella’s play in Vegas, and he noticed the defensive lapses on the glass and in half-court sets: “He would at times produce a lackadaisical effort in boxing out or free up his man in dangerous spots by chasing unrealistic help attempts.” 

It’s going to take a combination of film work, practice repetitions and game experience for him to create good habits and put himself in better position. That might take some time, especially on Clifford’s defense-oriented club.

If his help-side footwork gradually improves, he’ll be much more efficient on that end and grow into an imposing defender.

It’s easy for onlookers to demand better decision-making, as they desperately want him to make a big impact as soon as possible. But the truth is that it’s not easy to fully grasp every sequence at the NBA level, especially amid the speed of the game.

Clifford knows this, so he’ll feed Vonleh experience in moderate doses, as he explained to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“You’ve got to give (young players) time to grow and put them in situations where they can grow at the pace that works for them. We have to have Noah’s best interest and progress in mind…It’s not fair to throw him out there night after night against starters.”

For some one-and-done power forwards (think Tristan Thompson or Zach Randolph) or international imports (think Serge Ibaka), it takes a couple years before they become a meaningful part of the rotation. Vonleh could enjoy a similar, gradual rise to prosperity in Charlotte.

Not only must the Hornets coaches practice patience as they nurture this newcomer, but the front office should avoid hastily judging their investment and fans should give him a couple years to develop.

 

Dan O’Brien covers the NBA and NBA draft for Bleacher Report.

 

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Court case for Hornets’ Hairston moves to Sept. 12 (Yahoo Sports)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The assault and battery case involving Charlotte Hornets rookie guard P.J. Hairston has been rescheduled for September.

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What Offseason Moves Are Next for Charlotte Hornets with the Draft Complete?

The completion of the Charlotte Hornets (formerly the Bobcats) draft opens up the door for the most exciting part of the NBA offseason: free agency.

Big name free agents such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will get plenty of airplay and rightfully so, but the smaller moves often help complete the equation. For instance, Shane Battier helped swing the 2013 title in the Miami Heat’s favor with his shooting, while Boris Diaw had a similar effect with his passing for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2014 championship season.

In the case of Charlotte, the endgame isn’t a title, but competing for a second-round postseason berth would surely be a welcomed development for its fans. How do the Hornets get there?

Excellent question if I do say so myself.

In order to properly respond, we will look at the glaring needs on the roster, and from there see which players could potentially come in and help.

 

Shooting

The Hornets made 44.2 percent of their shots during the 2013-14 campaign, a figure that ranked 25th in the league.

Those numbers are only slightly better than those of a Milwaukee Bucks team that won 15 games last year. In other words, the Hornets weren’t quite good enough on this front, and that will have to change.

The main problem was that Charlotte was incredibly dependent of Al Jefferson. He is the only player on the roster capable of creating quality shots for himself and others.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe offered this take in late March: “Jefferson commands a double-team on the block against almost any defender, and that has made life easier for his teammates.”

His post-ups produce high-percentage scoring chances either for himself or his teammates whenever defenders converge on him. But that’s not enough.

The front office will have to address the lack of offensive options before the start of the 2014-15 campaign. The Hornets desperately need players capable of manufacturing and making shots.

LeBron and Carmelo would certainly give the Hornets ample help in this spot, however both have title aspirations, and Charlotte isn’t the kind of destination that will help them in their quests.

Instead, there are lesser talented players such as Paul Pierce and Vince Carter who could give the Hornets what they are looking for. Pierce scored 17.1 points per 36 minutes last year, on 45.1 percent shooting for the Brooklyn Nets.

He was an adequate option in isolations and post-ups, where he got to the areas he wanted and produced scores. The same is true for Carter, who averaged 17.6 points per 36 minutes, albeit on 40.7 percent shooting. He offset the low field-goal percentage by shooting a very solid 39.4 percent on three-point shots.

Also, Carter spent his college days playing for North Carolina. That’s not necessarily high on the priority list, but fans might enjoy seeing one of their own in a Hornets jersey.

Considering that Charlotte will have nearly $20 million in cap space, they could potentially sign both Carter and Pierce to orbit around Jefferson. This sounds at least a bit interesting in theory, but both players will be 37 years old when next season opens.

That means there might be too much mileage on their respective legs to carry a heavy burden. In addition, it’s probably fair to assume they might retire after the 2014-15 campaign.

Instead, the Hornets might want to focus their energy on luring Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors and Lance Stephenson from the Indiana Pacers.

Lowry averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists on 42.3 percent shooting last year. One can forgive the low shooting number in this instance because he was effective in setting teammates up for easy scores.

Lowry is a good drive-and-kick player, and he always does a solid job in the pick-and-roll of sucking defenders toward him and then finding the man rolling to the basket.

Lowry gave Toronto some extra gravy by converting 44.1 percent of his spot-up treys during the 2013-14 campaign, per SportVU player tracking. The shooting and playmaking make Lowry a superior option to current Hornets starter Kemba Walker (39.3 percent shooting during 2013-14).

Lowry would be an ideal fit because he addresses the team’s offensive dilemma.

In the event Charlotte fails to get Lowry, Stephenson is a really interesting option because of his ball-handling ability. The Pacers used him as a backup point guard with the second unit and gave him the freedom to orchestrate the offense. He beat defenders off the dribble in one-on-one scenarios and also did a good job of setting up his teammates on pick-and-rolls. His handles allow him to get to most spots on the floor without much of a hitch.

To be fair, playing alongside All-Star Paul George meant that Stephenson didn’t always draw the best defender from the opposing team. But by the same token, George’s presence was part of the reason Stephenson averaged “only” 13.8 points and 4.6 assists in 35.3 minutes per game.

If Charlotte can get one of these players, I would then put the full court press on getting a shooter. P.J. Hairston was drafted to help in this area, but it’s entirely possible that it will take him some time to get acclimated to the professional ranks.

Thus, the Hornets should pull out all the stops to acquire Mike Miller of the Memphis Grizzlies, who would open up the floor for Jefferson.

Some might prefer to see the Washington Wizards’ Trevor Ariza instead, given his defensive acumen and the fact he made 40.7 percent of his three-point shots last year. I can’t fault anyone for that line of thinking.

But I have concerns.

Lowry and Stephenson enjoyed their best professional seasons in contract years (career high PER of 20.1 and 14.7 respectively), which could be a red flag. It’s possible they might never be as good again.

Know who else has that problem?

Ariza!

During the 2009 playoffs, he drilled 47.6 percent of his treys and helped the Los Angeles Lakers win the title in a contract year. He then signed a five-year $33.9 million deal with the Houston Rockets after the 2009 NBA Finals.

In the final year of that contract (the 2013-14 campaign), Ariza had the best three-point shooting year of his career. Coincidence? It’s a possibility, but it could also be a trend that’s taking shape.

That’s why I’m more inclined to pick Miller and his 40.9 percent career mark from long range.

 

Help Inside!

Jefferson is certainly a load on the interior, but he is the only reliable big man on the roster.

The Associated Press reported that Brendan Haywood and the new draft pick Dwight Powell were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Alonzo Gee, which removes a center from the lineup. Haywood missed the 2013-14 campaign due to a stress fracture.

In addition, Bismack Biyombo has proven he’s only a bench option at best judging from the fact he averaged 13.9 minutes per game during the 2013-14 season. Cody Zeller wasn’t much better. He played 17.3 minutes per game and shot 42.6 percent from the floor. Further exacerbating issues, Josh McRoberts is opting out of his contract, according to ESPN.com.

McRoberts was a key piece to the team because of the mix of skills he brought to Charlotte. He’s a good passer with range on his jumper, talents which prompted Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford to use him as a high-post passer at the three-point line.

Instead of stationing him at the free-throw line, Clifford pushed him further out where defenders were forced to abandon the paint and give Jefferson more room to operate.

“He [Jefferson] stays on me to shoot the ball from the outside just because it will give him more space,” McRoberts said to Sporting News’ DeAntae Prince in late January. “That’s something that I have to do in order for him to have more room. Make some plays out there and just stay aggressive so that throughout the game he gets open and we can get him the ball a little bit easier.”

The numbers might not be all that impressive, but they do have the feel and impact of Boris Diaw. McRoberts averaged 10.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per 36 minutes coupled with 36.1 percent shooting from downtown (Diaw’s per 36 numbers: 13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, four assists and 40.2 percent three-point shooting).

Even though the Hornets drafted Noah Vonleh, losing McRoberts would be a big blow.

“He was a big part of our team and we definitely want to re-sign him,” general manager Rich Cho said at a pre-draft press conference per ESPN.com. He helped Kemba (Walker) and he helped Big Al (Jefferson). He’s such a great passer. He’s a connector to the team. And he’s a great teammate also. So we’re hoping we sign him.”

In the event Charlotte can’t re-sign McRoberts, the Hornets simply might have Vonleh learn on the job or perhaps go after someone with skills similar to McRoberts. In an odd twist of fate, Diaw is a free agent, but he played before in Charlotte, and the franchise paid him (waived) to go away.

That’s probably still in the back of his mind, and also, there’s that small thing where Diaw was an integral part to a Spurs team that just won the title. I think he wants to enjoy defending it.

That leaves Charlotte with two wildly different choices: Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards or Channing Frye of the Phoenix Suns.

Gortat is your classic center: sets picks, rolls to the basket, protects the interior and rebounds in traffic. He’s not a great low-post player, but he can generate some offense down there.

Because Gortat is a center, that means he would either back up Jefferson or play next to him, with big Al sliding over to power forward. Smart coaches can get away with lineups featuring two interior players (see Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Spurs to name a few) provided they have an abundance of shooters.

Because Charlotte doesn’t yet have an army of snipers coupled with passers to hit them when open, we go to option No. 2.

Frye won’t much get in the way of Jefferson on offense, because he will be stationed beyond the three-point line. He averaged 5.3 long-distance attempts last season and hit 37 percent of them.

That’s a terrific way of loosening the defense while still having a big man on the floor. Frye isn’t the passer that McRoberts is, but Frye’s a better rebounder (6.5 boards per 36 minutes).

These are the moves that I can see Charlotte executing to improve the roster. It should allow them to build on the success of last season’s postseason berth and potentially become a better team.

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Hornets’ Hairston looks to put mistakes behind him (Yahoo Sports)

Charlotte Hornets shooting guard P.J. Hairston said he’s learned from his past mistakes and believes his off-the-court problems are behind him. Hairston, the 26th overall pick in the NBA draft, said Friday at introductory press conference that he ”fully regrets everything that happened” around benefits and eligibility issues while playing at North Carolina. Hairston said he’s matured over the past year. ”I’ve some bumps in the road that I had to overcome and I feel like I’ve done that,” Hairston said.

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Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Charlotte Hornets

The draft everyone was waiting for has come and gone, and the Charlotte Hornets came away with a very impressive haul that almost all would agree was one of the better drafts across the league.

The Hornets nabbed power forward Noah Vonleh with the No. 9 pick, an unexpected slide for the incredibly talented freshman out of Indiana. It was surprising to see him fall out of the top five and also not become the first power forward selected.

Later in the first round, Charlotte traded back a couple of spots to select P.J. Hairston from the Development League, picking up a the 55th pick and a future second-rounder in the process. The Hornets moved from No. 24 to 26 to allow the Miami Heat to snag their man in Shabazz Napier, while the Hornets also grabbed Xavier guard Semaj Christon, who was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for unknown compensation. I know, it is confusing.

Hairston gives the team a valuable outside shooter that the franchise desperately needed. Later on, the team took Stanford big man Dwight Powell to further add to their frontcourt depth.

All three should fit in swimmingly, which we will now examine in the first post-draft depth chart for your new Charlotte Hornets, who, by the way, just killed it with the recent release of their new court design for the upcoming season. Charlotte is in for a whole lot of honey.

When making the depth chart, we will be taking into account all the guys currently under contract as well as the projected impact they should have this upcoming year. One thing that is for sure is this roster is decidedly better than it was 24 hours ago.

Begin Slideshow

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Hornets unveil new basketball court design (Yahoo Sports)

The Charlotte Hornets unveiled a new basketball court design Thursday that features a fierce-looking hornet logo at center court. It’s the final step in the team’s brand identity transformation from the Bobcats to the Hornets. ”When we look at our primary logo in the center, it depicts how we want to play as a team with the fierceness, the tenacity and a sense of protect this place,” Hornets president and CEO Fred Whitfield said. Hornets chief marketing officer Pete Guelli said the team wanted to keep the floor simple and classy, while emphasizing the brand identity of the team.

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