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Don't Suspend Draymond Green

May 23, 2016 -- 12:49pm

There’s a decision that will be made by the NBA sometime today regarding whether or not Draymond Green will be suspended for his kick to groin that brought Oklahoma City big man Steven Adams to his knees.

ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that a decision to suspend Green will be made by the end of the day.

Do I think Green should be suspended? I do not believe he should.

If you’re a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Cleveland Cavaliers I’m sure you’re screaming as you read this YES!

I didn’t include the Toronto Raptors because we all know they won’t be advancing to the NBA Finals.

There is a backlog of Green hitting Adams where it hurts multiple times throughout this series.

When I initially saw the kick I thought it was intentional based on what I’ve seen from Green and his actions towards Adams. The kick goes into the persona of who Green is, the player that keeps a chip on his shoulder and will do any and everything to get under his opponent’s skin.

But in the case of the kick, I thought it was more of Green trying to sell a call rather trying to injure Adams. Goran Dragic couldn't stop getting hit in the mouth and Adams' family jewels can't seem to catch a break.

Why compare these two players and their draw of tough luck? All were unfortunante, but not intentonal.

I’m not going to give you some long drawn on reason why Green shouldn’t be suspended, it’s simple.

Leave Green on the floor and let the play on the court decide the fate of this series, not the league office. The NBA Playoffs have been bad to say the least, and sitting Green might result in Golden State going down 3-1 after having the greatest regular season in NBA history.

Steph Curry is the most popular player in this series and arguably the league, but Green is the heart and soul that drives this 73-win team juggernaut.

Say the NBA suspends Green and Oklahoma City takes a 3-1 series lead and wins the series. The Thunder will get the same treatment Golden State received with people not validating their championship run because of the absence of their opponent’s key contributors. Sure OKC won’t complain about Green being suspended, but for basketball heads like myself we will care for argumentative purposes.

Let’s be honest here, nobody cares about the Cleveland/Toronto series mainly because we know Cleveland will be advancing to the NBA Finals. That’s not the case between Golden State/Oklahoma City, this matchup is extremely intriguing because either team can win. In a perfect world as basketball fans we’d like to see this series go seven games, without Green in Game 4 the likelihood of seven games diminishes.

Don’t suspended Green by sitting him on the sidelines, a more fitting punishment would be if he plays and the Thunder blow out the Warriors in a similar fashion that reminds us of Game 3.

Let this series be determined by on the court play, not to the hands of a suspension. 


Justin Thomas

ESPN Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebok:  Facebok.com/SportsFomMyEyes 

Who Will Rich Cho Make A Priority?

May 15, 2016 -- 9:56pm

There is no secret Nic Batum is Charlotte’s number one priority at the start of free-agency, but after Batum it’ll be interesting to see where the chips fall.

Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lin, Al Jefferson and Courtney Lee will all be free-agents come July 1. During their exit interviews Williams, Lin, Jefferson and Lee all expressed their desires to return to the team.

Who do you make a priority to re-sign?

Williams and Lin had career years, Jefferson showed his value being able to come off the bench and Lee being acquired at the trade deadline was an addition that led the Hornets into the playoffs.

Do I think all four will be back next season? No.

In a league where 3-pointers are being taken at an all-time high, the need to have someone that can stretch the floor is essential. In his 11th season Williams was able to have his best year from 3 shooting 40 percent from behind the arch, it’ll be tough to let a guy walk who shot the ball that well from deep. But then again you have to be cautious when approaching a player after having a great year. You usually get your best out of a player when playing in a contract year. Williams has yet to receive a significant pay day and at this stage in his career with the season he had, I can’t fault him for walking if a nice offer comes his way.

There were times when I went back and forth on the value of a backup point guard, Lin’s play on the floor answered that for me. Outside of the quarterback position, playing point guard arguably is the second most important position in sports today. There were nights when Kemba Walker didn’t have it, and there was no cause to pause, because Lin more times than not delivered when needed. Lin will likely opt out in the second-year of his contract in hopes of securing a long-term deal. Basketball is a business and after the year he had, opting out for a long-term deal is the smartest thing to do.

I didn’t envision Jefferson having the up and down season he had after coming into the season in such great shape. He had to deal with injury, a suspension and losing his starting position, even after dealing with that Jefferson expressed his desire to back. The pitfalls that plagued Jefferson added to his value. Not everyone can lose their starting role and still be effective, Jefferson did just that. With low-post back to the basketball being close to obsolete, he holds significant value coming off the bench facing backup centers. Jefferson has starters talent, pairing that to face backups with a lesser skillset is a mismatch on most nights. I’ll say this whether or not he returns to Charlotte, he’ll find a job somewhere in this league as a rotation player. 

Being acquired and playing in only 28 games Lee was an upgrade at the shooting guard from former Hornet P.J. Hairston. Of the four candidates to return, I don’t see Lee returning. Not because of Lee’s performance, but his services just aren’t needed. If all goes according to plan, Charlotte will re-sign Batum to par with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Meaning, if the Hornets are able to keep Batum he’ll play the shooting guard position, excluding the need of Lee. This is no indictment on Lee, he just was an late-season acquisition to keep the playoff push intact, nothing more nothing less.

Of the four free-agents, I could see all four players not being here next season, but I don’t think Charlotte will let that happen. Lee is the easiest to mark off as not returning with Jefferson to follow. Hornets’ General Manager Rich Cho described this situation as “tricky” when it comes down to Williams and Lin. Charlotte doesn’t have Williams’ full Bird rights, and we all know GM’s will overpay for a point guard in regards to Lin.

If you ask me to say who I’ll believe will be back, I’m going with Lin. If Cho went with Williams rather Lin, I’d wouldn’t be surprised, they both presented strong arguments with their play on why they should return.

I’m going with Lin over Williams simply due to the demand of having a quality starting and backup point guard in the game today. Lin and Williams had great years, but you can find another Williams rather Lin. Not to say that Lin is a superior talent than Williams, but you must have quality guard play if you want to be consistent playoff team. Lin showed he can be a quality backup.10 times out of 10 coach Steve Clifford is going to take the veteran guard rather thrusting a rookie into the fire, if it came down to it.

My longshot to return is Jefferson, there’s a chance since he said he’s willing to take a pay cut, going on to say he’s not playing for money at this stage in his career.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Dwight Howard in Charlotte?

May 04, 2016 -- 7:18pm

The Charlotte Hornets had a better than expected season that included winning 48 games and making it to a Game 7 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

General Manager Rich Cho has shown he’s not afraid to make moves. He went out and got Al Jefferson, almost had Gordon Hayward, gambled on Lance Stephenson but Cho redeemed himself bringing in Nic Batum and Jeremy Lin this past summer.

The big reason for coming up short of advancing to the conference semifinals was the lack of rebounding and physicality.

There’s a guy that’ll be an unrestricted free-agent on July 1st that can rebound and provide physicality. His name is Dwight Howard.

There wasn’t one player on the roster that average double digit rebounds. Marvin Williams and Jefferson combined for 12.8 rebounds per game, Howard averaged 11.8 on his own.

Cho’s move to ship P.J. Hairston to Memphis for Courtney Lee saved the Hornets season, allowing them to make their strong playoff push.

Off-season additions Batum and Lin had career years. Williams couldn’t miss from behind the arch shooting 40 percent. Cody Zeller showed that he’s capable of playing center and Frank Kaminsky showed flashes of what could become consistent as a stretch-four.

All of this success without defensive stopper Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the herald “quarterback” of the Hornets’ defense.

Without MKG that defense still managed to stay top-10 in the league.

There were plenty of reasons to smile during the 2015-16 season, but there can be one big reason to smile if Cho is able to re-sign Batum and bring in Howard.

Batum wants to be here and Charlotte will offer him a max-deal.

“July 1st will be a crazy day,” said Batum during the Hornets’ exit interviews. “But I think my first goal will be to be here with the Charlotte Hornets.”

Kemba Walker is your point guard for the future, MKG is your lockdown defender and Batum will be your “do it all” guard/forward.

The only thing missing is a rim protector in Howard.

Head coach Steve Clifford and Howard have history together. Clifford was an assistant in Orlando from 2007-2012 when Howard was the rim protector in their “four out one in” approach.

“I think if you look at a lot of the better teams around the league like Golden State, San Antonio [and] Oklahoma City, one thing that’s helped them over the years is continuity and we want to maintain some sense of continuity, “ said Cho. “At the same time we don’t want to be complacent. We want to improve the team in any way we can as well.”

I completely agree with Cho wanting to keep a core together and letting them grow, but when you have an option to upgrade to a hall of fame type of player that’s when you need to make an exception. Howard is Cho's exception.

Zeller or Howard? Who would you rather have? No need to respond, I already know the answer. For those who blurt out Zeller, simply don’t know basketball.

Clifford’s “four in and four out” with Howard rather Zeller is an upgrade no doubt about it.

You can say that Howard has been a distraction in Los Angeles and Houston, that is true, but Kobe Bryant and James Harden aren’t two guys that players are lining up to play with. The root of the problem is Howard wants to be involved in the offense, along with health. Bryant and Harden are both ball dominate guards, leaving Howard the odd man out.

If Cho is able to sign Howard, he would be incorporated into the offense. Walker improved as a passer, Batum is an above average passer and Clifford would demand Howard gets touches. All would be well, Clifford would have a rim protector and Howard would have teammates that would get him the rock.

In a down year for Howard he still managed to average 13.7 points and more importantly 11.8 rebounds. His durability has been questioned dealing with back issues, but he played in 71 of 82 games averaging 32 minutes a game. That’s playing in 87 percent of the regular season, sorry naysayers the argument of durability is null and void. 

I understand Howard isn’t the same 20 point and 10 rebound player that he was in Orlando, but in Charlotte he would be removed from the circus and larger media market. His name is still an attraction, but his game would able to return to normalcy.

Just think of a lineup that consists of Walker, Batum, MKG, Kaminsky (or Williams) and Howard. If healthy, that’s a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter: @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Hornets/Heat: And Then There Were Three (Games)

Apr 26, 2016 -- 8:55pm

Steve Clifford lashed out at a reporter after losing Game 2 for suggesting he should go with a bigger lineup to match the Heat’s size. Ironically that was the same game Nic Batum went down with an ankle injury forcing Clifford to make an adjustment that changed the trajectory of the series.

Charlotte returned from Miami down 0-2 in the series, with an injured Batum and question marks regarding what changes Clifford could make that would avoid his team being swept for the second time in three years in postseason play.

With the Heat playing out of their mind in combination with Batum not being available for Games 3 and 4, I though the series was over, but boy I was wrong.

In the playoffs you need you stars to shine bright and Kemba Walker refused to let his team lose at home finishing with 34 points, and making big shot after big shot Monday night.

After drawing an offensive foul on Dwyane Wade, Walker and Courtney Lee had a moment only two teammates could share. With the arena in pandemonium Lee and Walker were face to face, with Lee talking to Walker as a big brother empowering his little brother.

“I was letting him know this was his moment,” said Lee. “You’ve worked hard all year, now it’s time for you to takeover this game.”

On the next possession Walker drained a 26-foot 3-pointer; that was his seventh point in the process of scoring 11-straight in the fourth quarter.

Charlotte did what they were supposed to do, protect their home floor. Time Warner Cable Arena has been a source of strength for the Hornets all season long, 30 of their 48 regular season wins came on their home floor.

Now we’re here, the Hornets have returned to South Beach tied 2-2 with the opportunity tonight to take a 3-2 series lead.

In order for the Charlotte to advance to the next round, they’ll need to win two of the next three, with the toughest challenge of winning a game on the road. In order words meaning, the defense they played at home will need to be the same if not better in Miami.

“We have to find a way to carry this defense, on the road which we couldn’t do in the first two games,” said Clifford.

I’ve heard on multiple occasions the series starts when someone can steal a victory on the road.

Could the series start tonight?

Clifford said in his conference call Tuesday afternoon that they’ll be looking to promote more ball movement in other ways than just post ups and pick-and-rolls, more of the way they played all year. He said it won’t be easy, but they think they have a way to move the Heat's defense around a little bit.

Erik Spolestra’s ball club hasn’t allowed Charlotte to consistently knock down 3-pointers, and I don’t see that changing now.

Defense travels when nothing else does.

The Hornets can make me look like a smart man if they can win tonight, I picked the Hornets in six, but that can only happen if they can steal this one on the road.

By no stretch of the imagination is Charlotte better without Batum, but if you would have told me the Hornets would have tied the series without him I would have laughed, possibly to the point of stomach pain.

What’s been so impressive about this turnaround is that the Heat are still continuing to knock down 3-pointers, and the Hornets still can’t buy a triple, yet they’re still finding ways to win. The difference inside of TWC Arena was Charlotte controlling the paint, something that didn’t occur in Miami.

After being injured, suspended and accepting his role to come off the bench, Al Jefferson has reemerged in the starting lineup with his rookie counterpart Frank Kaminsky playing power forward.

Since going with the bigger lineup the Hornets were able to protect their homecourt and finally started playing defense. In Games 1 and 2 Charlotte allowed a combined 238 points, over the last two games they prevented Miami from breaking 100 in each contest.

If Batum would have never gotten hurt, Clifford might not have made the change to a bigger lineup.

Just let that sink in for me for a minute.

Before you run through the hills celebrating, don’t get too ahead of yourself. Understand that the Heat team that took in the floor in Games 3 and 4 will not be the same team you witness tonight, and the Hornets know that.

I asked Marvin Williams what word he would use to describe what’ll take to get the victory; his response “difficult.” “It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done,” said Williams. “Those guys are going to be ready to play, they’re back on their homecourt, where they made a ton of shots, but I think we can get it done.”

With the series tied at 2-2 going into tonight’s matchup, this is what many figured the series would look like, not the lopsided results of Games 1 and 2.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

The Hornets Are Playoff Bound

Apr 03, 2016 -- 8:30pm

For the past two seasons, I’ve referred to the Hornets as the NBA’s rollercoaster filled with highs, lows and surprise turns, but that is no longer the case.

Since Jan. 22nd this team moved from 12th to third in the Eastern Conference.

Charlotte is going to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons under head coach Steve Clifford.

“To me the biggest goal is to make the playoffs,” said Clifford. “If you’re Cleveland for insistence your goal should be to be the top seed. When you’re a team like ours your goal is to make the playoffs.”

The Hornets are playing good basketball at the right time of year. Since Feb. 1st Charlotte is 21-7 that’s the best record in the Eastern Conference and third in the NBA. Clifford is putting together one hell of a campaign for Coach of the Year.

Nic Batum is showing why the Hornets will have to offer him a max-deal, Kemba Walker is playing at a high level and the nucleus of this team is healthy.

This team has remained confident, when one or two guys went down they continued to scrap and claw, they never wavered. Jeremy Lin's shooting woes are gone and Jeremy Lamb found his way back in the lineup after having time to "regroup", according to Clifford.

“They say the benchmark in the NBA is if you can win 30 at home and 20 on the road,” Clifford said following Friday night’s win over Philadelphia.

Charlotte is inching close to 30 home wins with 28 on the season and 16 road wins. The Hornets will play two more games inside of Time Warner Cable Arena and seven on the road to end the season.

There was a one point during the season Charlotte was on a seven-game losing streak and not playing a lick of defense. Now, they’re tied for sixth in defensive efficiency with the opportunity to win 50 games.

Let that sink in for a second.

Charlotte is top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

Going to the playoffs is a step in the right direction, but a playoff berth doesn’t mean this team is satisfied.

“It’s an accomplishment, but I don’t think you should sell yourself short for it,” Marvin Williams said after practice on Friday. “Once you qualify for the playoffs that’s the next step, kind of enjoy it for the night but continue to get better and keep working for the ultimate goal.”

If Charlotte was fortunate enough to be Golden State or Cleveland they could rest, but that’s not the case for the Hornets.

The next objective is playing for a top-four seed. Clifford knows the importance of having home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Teams who have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs win 75 percent of the time.

Home-court advantage usually equates to advancing to the conference semifinals. Outside of Cleveland anybody can be beat in the Eastern Conference, but judging by that percentage it sure would be nice for Charlotte to get one of those top-four seeds if they plan on advancing.

Following the loss to Cleveland Sunday afternoon the Hornets are now sixth, but I have a feeling the seedings will change multiple times before the season ends.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Charlotte's Team Bond

Mar 15, 2016 -- 7:39pm

There are many reasons to point to why the Charlotte Hornets are playing such good basketball at the moment. You can point to the upgrade in talent on the roster, you can even downplay their success by saying they play in the Eastern Conference, but neither are the sole reasons for why Charlotte is having their best season in a long time.

We can go back and forth on what is the driving force behind this team, but what we can agree on is one of the reasons for success is the fact that guys are playing for each other and not individual accolades.

You can’t say that about every team in the NBA.

Monday night against Dallas, Nic Batum hit the first 3-pointer of the game for the Hornets at the 8:18 mark in the first quarter, a meaningless bucket to start the game. Jeremy Lamb, Troy Daniels and Jorge Gutierrez all stood up celebrating as if it were a crucial bucket in the fourth quarter.

The celebration isn't because the points came on a fancy Kemba Walker crossover, or a Cody Zeller putback dunk that's a SportsCenter Top 10, its routine. When there's a made basket, appreciation is shown.

What makes this bond of teammates special is that it extends off the floor also; it’s deeper than basketball and more than defensive stops and free-throws.

“This by far is the most together team off the court that I’ve been a part of,” Marvin Williams said. “When we go out of town you’ll catch four, five or six guys getting together for a poker game or guys going out to dinner, or 10 guys at Bible Study something that Jeremy Lin brought to the team.”

If you’ve ever been in an uncomfortable working situation as far as the environment or the people you work with, you understand the importance of enjoying the people you work with.

The Charlotte Hornets aren’t the circus that is the Sacramento Kings.

Courtney Lee, who was acquired from Memphis in a trade, was assured by Memphis’ front office that he wasn’t going to be traded. Now that he’s here, Lee is enjoying his time as a Hornet.

“If I would have known I was getting traded to this team, with these character guys in the locker room, it wouldn’t have fazed me at all,” Lee told me in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “When you see your best player on the team getting up and cheering for you when you make a play, makes you want to do the same for him, it’s definitely contagious.”

This team isn’t a group of guys who’ve played together for five or six plus years, Williams is in his second season year, Lin is in his first, and Lee is on an expiring contract.

A happy work environment leads to quality to performances, and the Hornets are a clear display of that.

When watching a Charlotte game look at the bench after they score, there’s at least two teammates standing up and clapping. There’s a genuine happiness with this team that loves to see their running mates succeed.

All is well when guys are winning and receiving playing time right?

Majority vote will say yes, but one usual in the Hornets’ rotation didn’t see a minute of action Monday night, and that didn’t stop him from cheering.

Jeremy Lamb had his usual 15 minutes of playing time given to Daniels.

“We care about each other and it shows on the court, “Daniels said. “When somebody has a great game, we’re happy for them, it’s never “I need I need”, I got a lot of minutes yesterday and Jeremy (Lamb) didn’t play and he was still cheering me on. That’s just that type of team and players we have, and it’s working our great for us.”

Charlotte is currently sixth in the Eastern Conference and half a game behind Atlanta for fifth. It’s uncertain how high or low the Hornets will go in the standings with 16 games remaining on the regular season schedule, but one thing that won’t be forgotten will be the relationships and bonds formed over the course of this season.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

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