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What to Make of the Charlotte Hornets

Jul 28, 2015 -- 5:30pm

If you’re within the Charlotte community you know of the Hornets’ miscues as an organization. The NBA’s roller coaster took you on another turn when Zach Rowe of Grantland.com, did some investigating of his own.

The 2,600-word piece provides insight on what everyone either knew or assumed, when it comes down to key decisions. Michael Jordan is the one calling the shots. For those who know of Jordan’s draft history of Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison, there’s no need to go any further.

There’s a reason why the Hornets are constantly holding lottery picks when it comes to the draft. They just don’t draft well, whether Jordan is making the pick or general manager Rich Cho, they're missing more than they're connecting on picks.

It isn’t a secret that free-agents aren’t flocking to Charlotte, but you can’t tell that to Cho who believes players want to come to Charlotte.

“We’ve seen over the last few years that players want to be here,” Cho says. “Free agents want to come here.”

Is that so?

Nicolas Batum, who was just acquired last month with Portland for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh, already has his sights set on another team once the 2015-16 season ends.

According to Lowe, Batum’s people have already made noise about how much Batum would like to play in Toronto, a city that appeals to his international roots, per several league sources.

Batum has yet to put on a Hornets uniform, and he already has one foot out the door.

Saying that free-agents are attracted to this franchise is one thing, but Cho did put together a solid offseason with additions of Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin and drafting Frank Kaminsky ninth overall.

The roller coaster that is the Charlotte Hornets will need to put together a playoff appearance in 2015, because if they don’t the coaster will likely fall into construction.

The Hornets could lose both Batum and Al Jefferson at the end of the season to free-agency, along with arguably the most intriguing asset coach Steve Clifford, his contract will also be up. If the team was to struggle in 2015 many within the city would see rather Cho go than Clifford. If the team misses the playoffs again I don’t see Clifford wanting to stay, though I could be wrong. This is all just speculation.

In a matter of three years Charlotte could go from making the playoffs during the 2013-14 season to losing the team’s top free-agent signings and the head coach. If anyone is a shoe out the door I would see that being Batum, he’s likely gone even if the Hornets make the playoffs.

You've experienced some steep drops and high speeds, but the ride isn’t over yet.

For fans hoping for better results on draft night that might not come, Lowe spoke with Curtis Polk, the team’s vice-chairman.

“You have two minutes to decide: ‘Do I want to do this trade?’” said Polk, who’s in the war room on draft night. “You don’t have a day. You don’t have hours. After all the intelligence we’d done, we were comfortable with Frank. But now you have two minutes to decide if you make this trade, who you’re gonna take at no. 16, or maybe no. 20, and we haven’t been focusing on that range. In fantasy basketball, it sounds great: ‘Oh my god, they could have gotten all those picks.’ But in the real world, I’m not sure it makes us better.”

This is coming from a front-office member, on entertaining trades on draft night. You would expect executives to have a big board of at least the top-30 players in the first round. Out of the teams in the NBA Finals, the other 28 teams have a month to prepare for the draft, a lack of preparation is inexcusable for a team that missed the playoffs. Smaller market teams have to draft well in order to build.

Charlotte’s draft results are the same as their results on the court, inconsistent.  


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Toughness, Energy, and Hard Fouls

Jul 22, 2015 -- 5:27pm

Wednesday afternoon general manager Rich Cho introduced former North Carolina standout Tyler Hansbrough as the newest member of the Charlotte Hornets.

“We’re really pleased to add Tyler Hansbrough to the Charlotte Hornets roster,” said Cho. “He’s a guy we’ve had a lot of admiration for over the years with his work ethic, energy he brings night in and night out and energy on both ends of the floor.”

The Hornets have brought in some guys to address length and scoring which was a glaring need on the roster, but something was missing; toughness.

If Hansbrough does nothing on the floor he’ll provide three things: energy, toughness and six hard fouls.

“I can come in here add some toughness, compete and that’s where I’ll fit in,” said Hansbrough. “Defensively I’ll play like I’ve always played, aggressive and just do what I’ve done.”

Josh McRoberts provided a bit of toughness, but he wasn’t resigned last summer. Lance Stephenson added some grit, but he was traded for Spencer Hawes.

That void of toughness was missing, but missing no more in the form of Tyler Hansbrough.

Charlotte has never had someone who could sell tickets off of their name alone, but with such strong ties to the North Carolina Tar Heels, Hansbrough will have some form of an impact even if it’s a slight increase in attendance or season ticket holders.

“He told me (my agent) that he’d be talking to Charlotte, and honestly I got excited,” said Hansbrough. “I’ve always wanted to play here.”

While at UNC, Hansbrough was a four-time first team All-ACC selection, three-time first team all-american, the 2008 national player of the year and a driving force behind the 2009 national championship team.

Despite the success he had in college that has yet to translation to his NBA career, five years into his career he’s average 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Good thing is that Hansbrough won’t have to worry about scoring buckets, all he’ll need to do is come off the bench with energy on both ends of the floor, toughness and hard fouls.

“If you can play you’re on the court,” said Hansbrough when asked if he could find his niche in Charlotte. “It doesn’t really matter about your size, size matters, but if you can get out there and play you’ll be on the court. You can run the court and get buckets the easy way too.”

Coach Steve Clifford had to touch on having the right approach and purpose often last season, of the 15 men on the roster Hansbrough won’t be the player he has to question when it comes to effort and purpose.

For those who’ve been calling for Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky to become tougher when attacking the rim or playing in the paint, they’ll become familiar with Hansbrough real quick when training camp is underway. I’m sure they’ll be a few scuffles due to Hansbrough pesky, under your skin defense come September.

When one Blue Devil exits, a Tar Heel comes walking in.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Cam Newton Ranked 14th Among Starting Quarterbacks

Jul 21, 2015 -- 11:25pm


As we’re less than a week away from NFL Training Camps opening, ESPN.com’s second annual "Quarterback Tiers" ranked Carolina Panthers’ own Cam Newton 14th among the 30 starting NFL quarterbacks.

In a year when Newton lost his receiving core in Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn he still managed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Despite the not so great record of 7-8, Newton earned his first career playoff victory, deeming him worthy of making the jump from 16 to 14 going from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

That's a step in the right direction for a guy that many believed wouldn't be successful playing quarterback at the NFL level, after his historic season at Auburn of an undefeated national championship along with winning the Heisman.

Tier 3 quarterbacks are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tougher to contend at the highest level.

Newton now being a Tier 2 quarterback places his in the category of quarterbacks who are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.

Newton has the ability as a quarterback to continue to progress, but there are some things he can improve on if he plans on making it to Tier 1. If Carolina can put a legitimate offensive line in front of Newton and one more proven receiver around him other than bringing back Ginn and Corey Brown, Newton can become a Tier 1 quarterback.

At the start of last season when Newton came into the season nursing an ankle injury, which made him throw rather using his legs was the best I've seen him throw the football. When Newtown became healthy Carolina went back to the read option allowing him to run, I've watched Cam Newton since high school and I've never seen him throw the ball that well than at the start of 2014-15 season.

He can be inconsistent at times, but the guy has shown he can throw the football at a high level. Play calling plays a role in allowing him to showcase his arm rather his legs.

His biggest flaw is arguably his consistency of throwing a high ball. You can see why general manager Dave Gettlemen went with the draft selections of 6-foot-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin and 6-foot-4 Devin Funchess. Before the addition of Benjamin, Newton threw balls that Steve Smith couldn’t even go up to get and Smith can jump for a 5-foot-9 receiver.

Another flaw of Newton’s is his footwork, which you could attribute to his high ball. Sometimes he just doesn’t set his feet, and when you don’t set your feet the football has a tendency to sail on you. Followers of the Carolina Panthers know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ll take you back to last summer, the Panthers’ held their annual “Fan Fest” a glorified practice in shorts and t-shirts before the team takes off to Spartanburg for training camp. Going 11-on-11 without a pass rush nor cornerbacks or safeties going deep, Newton overthrew a wide open Benjamin.

Everything you needed to know about Newton was apparent through watching his body language. One word came to mind, frustration.

People around Charlotte believe that the $60 million-dollar guaranteed deal Newton just inked won’t be justified unless he can get Carolina to a Super Bowl and I don’t agree with that. There are teams who spend years searching for franchise quarterbacks, and when you find one you have to pay them accordingly.

Newton will justify the deal he earned, it could mean a Super Bowl appearance or consistent playoff appearances, either of the two will be something teams without franchise quarterbacks will be hoping for.

The Carolina Panthers are the only team to win back-to-back NFC South divisional titles, Newton is the only quarterback to do so in a division that includes Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.

Do you agree with Newton’s ranking?


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Hornets Add Length and Scoring

Jul 13, 2015 -- 4:31pm

Rich Cho went out this offseason and revamped a roster that needing both length and scoring. Charlotte has been a top-10 defensive team for the past two seasons, but has struggled to score ranking in the bottom third of league.

Cho sent Lance Stephenson to the Clippers for Spencer Hawes. Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh were sent packing to Portland for Nicolas Batum, and Jeremy Lamb was brought in for a 2016 second-round draft pick.

These additions and have things in common: length and scoring.

As far as the draft, Cho took Wisconsin stretch forward Frank Kaminsky with the ninth overall pick. With the help of a strong summer league showing, Cho signed Aaron Harrison of Kentucky from the summer league roster. Kaminsky showed he can knock it down and put it on the floor, and Harrison showed his ability to use his size along with commanding the offense.

Length and scoring was again addressed.

Notice a trend?

To cap the summer off Cho brought in Jeremy Lin as a backup point guard to Kemba Walker. Though Lin will come off the bench he is a much better shooting than Walker. Lin shot the ball 42 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arch last season, both percentages were higher than Walker’s last season.

Standing at 6-foot-3 Lin also brings length and scoring.

Are these moves going to make the Hornets a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference?

No, but these moves will likely grab Charlotte that eighth seed.

The Hornets won 33-games last season. Injuries played a significant role in the underachieving season, but Charlotte didn’t consistently play good basketball either.

Despite not having the year that was expected coach Steve Clifford believes he has a playoff team.

“I thought we had a playoff roster last year,” said Clifford. “Last year before we got hurt late, we had the same record last year after 60 games that we did the year before.  Instead of going 16-6 we went 6-16, I always think we’re good enough to win.”

With the Hornets having so much depth amongst the wings and bigs, come September there won’t be a lack of competitiveness in training camp.

“We’ll have a lot more competition this year than we had the other years,” said Clifford.

Charlotte can legitimately play nine to 10 guys a night.

 Clifford will have a much improved roster in 2015-16 that will include length that he loves and scoring that was needed.

 “I feel like we’ve added size and a lot of shooting,” said Clifford.

The Hornets definitely added length with Hawes and Kaminsky standing at 7’0, the two big men are both considered stretch-forwards who can knock down jumpers. The two wings Batum and Lamb stand 6’8” and 6’5”, respectively. Charlotte even added length at the point guard position with 6’3” Lin and 6’6” Harrison.

The additions of Batum, Lamb and Lin can be special.

Batum battled injuries last season that limited him to nine points per game, but when healthy he can consistently average 13-15 points a game.

Lamb has yet to find his niche in his league, he’ll have a chance to come in right away off the bench and put up points.

Lin can average 10-12 points a night, and is a good passer. The combination of Lamb and Lin off the bench can be exciting for fans to watch. That point guard who captured the attention of the nation back in 2012 is a more “refined” product.

I wouldn’t run off through the hills screaming Eastern Conference Finals, but the playoffs can be a likely destination for the Hornets in 2015-16. An in-shape Al Jefferson can solidify those post season aspirations.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Blogger and Reporter

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Jeremy Lamb's Fresh Start

Jun 29, 2015 -- 11:57am

Image result for Jeremy Lamb in Charlotte


When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb in October 2012, OKC thought it would be getting the 48 percent shooting 14 points a game Lamb from UConn, but that was not the case.

Over the course of three years in OKC, Lamb struggled to find consistency and playing time. Of the 148 games Lamb dressed out for, he only started eight games.

That’s not what you'd expect from the 12th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Many expected Lamb to come in and start at the shooting guard, instead he found himself sitting at the end of bench.

You can argue his more memorable moments as a member of the Thunder came during player introductions, when he shared his over the top handshakes with his teammates before they took the floor.

During the 2014-15 season he recorded 37 DNPs (Did not play) over the course of an 82-game season, that’s a sign of a guy who couldn’t put it together.  Though it didn’t go well in OKC, Lamb did take away some positives that he’ll bring with him as a member of the Hornets.

“They helped me tremendously, even though I wasn’t playing, they still taught me how to be a professional,' he said.

Despite his shortcomings the 23-year old out of Norcross, Ga., has another opportunity to showcase what he can bring to the hardwood. This time around, he’ll be with his collegiate point guard Kemba Walker. They won a national championship at UConn in 2011. They spoke the day the trade became official.

“He told me to be ready to go, and he’s excited I’m coming,” said Lamb. “It’s always good being back with old teammates.”

Coming out of college, NBAdraft.net compared Lamb to Reggie Miller. This comparison is why you have to be careful when comparing young talent to NBA greats.

In three years at OKC, Lamb has yet to come close to reaching those expectations.

“I definitely think it’s a fresh start, it’s there for me I just have to take advantage of it," he said.

Rich Cho addressed the projected starting lineup of Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson.

Newly drafted Frank Kaminsky will compete with Zeller for that starting forward spot, but a much needed scoring option will be needed off the bench and Lamb can fill that void.

Who else is going to come off the bench and provide a spark?

The likely candidates of Marvin Williams, Jeffery Taylor and P.J. Hairston aren’t exactly going to scare opposing teams. From Lamb’s production in OKC he doesn’t add much fear either, but the potential is there for him to do so.

“I have to keep working hard and do my best,” said Lamb with a look of all seriousness. “If I fail I fail; I can live knowing I gave it my all.”

In the NBA fit is everything, if you aren’t in the right fit you won’t be able to thrive. Landing in Charlotte couldn’t have been better for Lamb, who’s struggled to find his groove.

If he doesn’t provide on the court, he’ll definitely entertain fans with his creativity when it comes to pregame handshakes that you can find on Vine or Youtube.

“We gone get the handshake game cracking,” said Lamb with the biggest smile on his face. “I’ll probably have a handshake with everybody on the team. Maybe some goofy ones, maybe some serious but whatever it is it’ll be dope.”

The Hornets are giving Lamb another shot at turning his career around, we'll see what he makes of the opportunity.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

The All-Star Game is Back

Jun 24, 2015 -- 11:46am

Though Michael Jordan will get majority of the credit for bringing the NBA All-Star Game back to Charlotte, without the collaboration from the community and state this event would not be possible.

“Not only will the attention be on Charlotte and the state of North Carolina, but the entire NBA community will be focused here for a week long full of activities,” said Silver. “The world’s attention, literally the world’s attention will be focused on Charlotte that week in 2017 and we can’t wait to get it started.”

Renovations for 2017 are already underway including the infrastructure, suites and scoreboard, thanks to the $30 million guaranteed from the city.

Feb. 19, 2017 the NBA All-Star Game will be played at Time Warner Cable Arena.

What makes this special is that Jordan played in the All-Star Game hear in Charlotte 24 years ago.

“It is an honor to bring NBA All-Star back to Charlotte,” Jordan said. “I remember the excitement of playing in the 1991 All-Star Game, the first one held in my home state, and I take pride in being able to host NBA All-Star 2017 as the owner of the Hornets.”

“This is a great moment for our fans, our city and our franchise. We are excited to welcome the world to Charlotte and Time Warner Cable Arena in 2017.”

For everyone involved Jordan made sure to thank the people in the community that made this goal achievable.

“We’ve gotten some unbelievable support from around this community,” said Jordan. “Novant Health, who has been probably one of the biggest supporters of the Hornets over the last five years.”

Charlotte mayor Dan Clodfelter was one of the speakers in attendance also. Clodfelter was confident that the city was well equipped to host the All-Star Game, referencing the past events that the city has played host to from the Belk Bowl to the CIAA Tournament, even including the PGA Championship in 2019.

With the community playing a major role in bringing this event back to Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Commission chairman Trevor Fuller, was in attendance as one of the speakers. The county commission represents over a million people who call Mecklenburg County home.

“Many people took part in bringing this together, that’s a hallmark of our community that we work together,” said Fuller. “City, county, private sector, non-profit and the team, we all worked together to bring this to victory. It’s another example of the can-do spirit.”

The city and county weren’t the only ones who worked to bring this event to Charlotte, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory was also in attendance.

“This is great for the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte region and all of North Carolina,” said McCrory.

McCrory recalled a time as a  27-year old referee when he called a travel on Jordan during a 1984 ACC Barnstorming Tour game in Kannapolis, that summer Jordan went on to get drafted third overall by the Chicago Bulls.

“I’ve aged quite a bit since then,” said McCrory. “And Michael Jordan still says it’s a bad call, and he never traveled.”

McCrory switched gears from providing laughter to a more serious tone, elaborating on having the arena built uptown.

“In 2004-05 period of time we knew if we were going to continue to have all these great events come to Charlotte, we needed an arena right in center city; there’s no doubt that had an impact on this decision.”

There’s no secret that Jordan’s stardom was one of the many reasons for the NBA bringing the All-Star Game back to Charlotte, but the community is what brought this event together.

Hornets’ president and chief operating officer Fred Whitfield reiterated that belief, thanking the city council and county commissions.

“Novant Health one of our long standing partners supporting us here,” said Whitfield. “Michael mentioned five years, they have exactly been with us 10 years. You’ve really taken it to another level since Michael took over as majority owner, thank you for your support.”

The economic boom that will take place in Charlotte during 2017 will be paramount, with the CIAA Tournament then following up with NBA All-Star Week.

“You may know the CIAA and All-Star Game are back-to-back, we’re going to have a very busy too weeks” said Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray. “The CIAA Tournament is around $50 million dollar impact, the NBA (All-Star Game) should be around a $100 million dollar impact, these two weeks will almost be as big as the Democratic National Convention (that was held in 2012) it’ll be a big impact on our community.”

Community support helps when attracting a major sporting event, the city of Charlotte is a clear reminder of that.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

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