The most important piece to the Charlotte Hornets’ success puzzle going forward is making sure they have Steve Clifford leading their young nucleus, general manager Rich Cho noticed that reaching an extension with the head coach.
Clifford’s extension just might be good enough to keep Nicolas Batum in Charlotte, who’ll be an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the season.
In the last year of his contract Clifford and the Hornets reached a three-year extension, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and the Charlotte Observer.
“As much as anything I’m excited because it’s what I wanted to have happen,” Clifford said. “I feel like we’ve made good strides since we’ve been here. I like our guys, I like the team that we can become, and I also like the people I’m working for.”
Since being hired in 2013, Clifford has an 84-94 overall record, including a playoff appearance in his first season. He's shown he can coach a top-five defensive unit, like he's has in the past two seasons, to leading a top-five scoring team in 2015.
Despite losing their best defender in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to injury, Clifford has his team off to an 8-6 start good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference.
It was speculated that Clifford and Cho didn’t see eye to eye on how to build the roster, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Clifford said that he and Cho work well together, that’s arguably the most important thing that Clifford said when addressing the media.
The Hornets are in good shape looking towards the future having Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Kidd-Gilchrist all under control for the foreseeable future.
Nobody was happier for Clifford’s extension than his point guard.
“I think he really deserves it,” said Walker. “It’s been numerous times when I came to the arena late nights to get some shots up and Cliff was still here in his slippers with no socks walking around,” Walker said jokingly. “He works on his craft every day.”
The support is there when it comes to Clifford and what he can do for this team from management to his players.
Walker and Al Jefferson mentioned how much they enjoyed playing for him noting his hard work and honesty.
Clifford’s hard work has rubbed off on his team, when the Hornets rallied from 22 points in the second half to beat the Sacramento Kings.
When you think of Charlotte you think of a group of scrappy hardworking guys.
Nationally many don’t expect Batum to re-sign with the Hornets as he’s approaching the summer of free-agency, but reaching an extension with Clifford will be something Batum considers on whether he’ll remain a Hornet or not.
“I’ve spent two months with him and I love him,” Batum said. “He trusts me, he really believes in me, it’ll play a big factor for me,” Batum said when asked if Clifford being here will play a role in his decision this summer.
Making the playoffs will help when it comes to Batum, but with or without him Charlotte has the pieces in place to be successful for a number of years.
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An historic night in Halton Arena, a night that marked the first win for first year head coach, Mark Price. In a game that started off slow and sloppy with a plethora of turnovers, Price’s team showed effort and resilience to earn the win 77-68.
“Real proud of my guys, they kept fighting. That’s the best 40 minutes we’ve played in a young season,” said Price after the game. “Our emphasis these last two days has been defense. Basically we said if we defend and rebound we’ll have a chance to win this game and that’s what we did.”
Charlotte (1-2) reeled in 37 boards, winning the battle on the offensive glass and forced Furman into committing 21 turnovers.
Early in the first half, guard Andrien White gave the 49ers some much needed energy, sinking the first basket, then following that up with an and-one lay up that fired up the crowd and earned a 7-6 lead. White would finish with a double-double recording 12-points and 11 boards.
The big story of the night was freshman guard Curran Scott who scored 21 points and stayed perfect at the charity stripe, hitting all 11 free throws.
“It was big for me and the team to get that first win under our belt,” Scott said. “My teammates found me open and I was fortunate to make shots so I give credit to them.”
Charlotte finished the half down 34-35 and shooting just over 35% from the field while turning the ball over a crippling 12 times. Although a staggering number, the 49ers appeared to be moving the ball well, feeding their bigs, but often losing the handle in the paint on many possessions. The 49ers offensive struggles most likely allude to the fact that they’re a young team under a new coach trying to adapt in a different system.
The Paladins (2-1) got off to a hot start in the second half, building their largest lead of the game after forward Kendrec Ferrara grabbed an offensive board and put back the layup to extend their lead 36-29. The Niners would respond quickly, ripping off a commanding 7-0 run capped off by star point guard Braxton Ogbueze’s second three of the game.
Charlotte’s offense started to find their stroke around the seven-minute mark of the second half. Bernard Sullivan would hit a big shot off a Furman turnover, giving the 49ers the edge 56-48. Scott would continue to draw fouls and knock down clutch free throws to fend off any bursts of offense from the Paladins.
Furman would get within striking distance one more time, cutting the lead to just four with 1:25 left in the contest. Cook would once again come through with two more free throws and then assisted on a Sullivan layup to ice the game, extending the lead back to eight, 73-65.
Sullivan would connect on a layup with 14 seconds left to end the Niners scoring for the night.
Charlotte will now take the trek to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Wednesday, November 25 where they will see Syracuse first. Action starts at 2:30 on ESPN2.
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Following Wednesday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets 116-111, Al Jefferson said that the Hornets’ rebounding issues could be fixed in one day.
Is rebounding more about effort or talent?
You don’t necessarily need to be the most skilled guy on the floor to find a body, box out and rebound.
Charlotte has hung their hat on rebounding and effort since the arrival of coach Steve Clifford in 2013. Clifford’s recipe for success includes: defense, not turning the ball over and rebounding.
The defense has slipped, due to loss of their best defender Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, and Clifford understands that. The Hornets are the best in the NBA at not turning the ball over, but that’s only two of the three needed to succeed.
As for the rebounding, Charlotte simply isn’t doing it despite starting the season with the best defensive rebounding percentage in NBA history through the first six games.
In order to win in this league you need to do all the things that’ll make you successful, not just some of things, but all of the things. Rebounding is something the Hornets have yet to make a priority on the floor.
They’ve learned to shoot three-pointers, but forgot how to rebound.
Clifford specifically pointed to two games that would have the Hornets at 8-4 rather 6-6.
“In that game, no matter what (against the Knicks) if we rebound we win,” said Clifford. “Same thing in Chicago, if we rebound in Chicago we win.”
The two best teams in the Eastern Conference are the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, they share a record of 8-3.
Following Clifford’s narrative, Charlotte could potentially have two more wins off of rebounding alone. Let’s just speculate and say they did rebound, the Hornets would be 8-4 sitting at third place in the East. That’s the difference between sitting third and being tied for 10th.
You might not think rebounding is that important, but it's little things that separate playoff teams from teams who enjoy watching them from their living rooms.
Alright teams aren’t consistent in their efforts night in and night out, good teams are consistent. Granted you’ll have games when things just aren’t “clicking”, but for the most part you know what you’re going to get on most nights.
“You can play well, you just can’t give up 20 second chance points, 18 second chance points,” said Clifford.
On most nights if you give up 18 to 20 second chance points you’re more than likely going to lose, and Charlotte came up empty in both games.
What makes you scratch your head is that this team knows what their roles are, according to Clifford.
“The rebounding part is not natural to the majority of them but it’s something we have to learn how to do,” said Clifford. “As you saw last night (Tuesday vs NY), we did a lot of good things, although we were tired but the bottom line is if we rebound, we win.”
Going forward is this going to be a .500 team or a team that’s going to contend for a playoff spot?
The Hornets know what they need to do to win, they simply haven’t done it on a nightly basis. Their inconsistency is a direct reflection of their record, average.
If Charlotte can add some consistency to their game with the skill on the roster, they’ll have the ability to not only shock some teams but also the national media. The opportunity will present itself with their upcoming six-game home stretch. The Hornets are playing well at 4-1 on their home court, we’ll see if it can continue.
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For the Charlotte Hornets to be 5-5 through their first 10 games is a win for a team, who is without their best defender, having the toughest schedule in the NBA to start the season.
There have been some highs of blowout wins, lows of close losses and plenty of excitement coming from three-point range.
The additions of Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb and Jeremy Lin are getting better as the season progresses.
The trio combined is averaging 14 points a game on 48 percent shooting. Lamb has the team’s highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Batum is third and Lin is fourth. It usually takes new additions time to gel, but it didn’t take long in Charlotte. Batum referred to his teammates as “family” that speaks volumes for a team that’s only 10 games in. Batum has scored 33, 28, 24 and 17 points in the past week, he'll like earn the NBA's Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Lamb has scored in double-figures seven times in his nine games of action on 55 percent shooting. As for Lin, he’s averaging 11.5 points per game, his career average is 11.7. The new additions are not disappointing.
Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are having mediocre starts at best.
So far, Walker has recorded four shooting performances of 40 percent or better, that number should be higher granted Walker worked on his shooting over the summer. He also has yet to record a double-double on the season, yes you read that correctly. Walker hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been great either. The only way Walker is going to improve is if he learns how to shoot, five years in and he has yet to become a consistent shooter. Walker could do a better job distributing, at 5.3 assists per game that ranks 19th among point guards. He's still looking for his double-figure assist game, it has yet to come. Though he’s lost weight, Jefferson hasn’t been much of a factor outside of his 31 point nine rebound performance in a 108-94 win against Dallas. If you go buy the numbers he’s averaging 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. Coach Steve Clifford said Friday night that his team wasn’t giving Jefferson catches close enough to the basketball. That changed Sunday afternoon, Jefferson had 20 points in the first half finishing with 29 points for the game. The 31 and 29 point performances were stellar, but barring those two games he’s averaging 10 points a game. That’s simply not good enough for a guy whose main purpose is to score buckets.
Since having the NBA franchise return to the Carolinas’ in 2004, this is the first team in a long time that’s exciting to watch.
Any giving night the Hornets can explode for 100 points in three quarters, or 71 points in a half. From media members to fans they’ll tell you Charlotte is no longer a boring team to watch. The Hornets are also learning to stretch the floor. Charlotte ranks 10th in the league shooting 36 percent from beyond the arch, compared to ranking 28th last season. That’s a significant jump from the bottom of the league to the top fourth. The Hornets lost to Chicago 102-97 last Friday, but connected on 14-of-29 from three-point range. Charlotte is showing they’re committed to showing the rest of the league the team that was enable of stretching the floor no longer exists.
When adding new pieces there’s going to be a learning curve, that was evident witnessing the 0-3 start. Since the slow start, the Hornets are in the process of adding the organization and detail Clifford mentioned they needed to have if they wanted to have a chance to win games. Charlotte’s committing the fewest turnovers and fouls 11.7 per game and 17.1, respectively in the league.
The Hornets will get a favorable stretch of games that’ll allow them to above .500 if they take care of business having four of their next five at home. They’ll play the Knicks in New York tonight, then get Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Washington all at home. Over that span Charlotte should go 5-2 at the worst losing to New York and Washington, and even those two games are winnable.
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In Jeremy Lamb’s first two games as a Hornet, he averaged 10 points on 43 percent shooting. That was all general manger Rich Cho needed to see. Less than 48 hours later, Lamb signed a three-year $21 million extension.
“He’s a guy we’ve followed and tracked for a long time,” Cho said. “We love his athleticism, we love his work ethic. We’re really happy to keep him on the team for a number of years.”
That same night he scored 20 points on 9 of 10 shooting in 26 minutes in the Hornets 130-105 win over the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m having fun, I just came and asked for an opportunity,” Lamb said. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity, I just want to make the most of it. It’s fun being able to be on the court and being able to cheer for my teammates, the fans have been great.”
It always bodes well when your higher ups believe in you. In many cases believe it or not all someone needs is a boost of confident. With the Thunder there was a crowded rotation, but the opportunity is for the taking in Charlotte.
“I’m at a different place,” Lamb said. “But my mental is the same, continuing to work hard is all I know. Hard work got me the extension. Hard work got me in a position to play.”
There’s no lack of support within the Hornets’ organization when it comes to Lamb’s future.
Nobody is shocked or surprised by Lamb’s performance thus far, the difference between him being in Charlotte than in Oklahoma City is that he’s getting playing time and more importantly he’s comfortable.
He was the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, there's never been a lack of talent, just opportunity.
“I’m completely comfortable with the guys, definitely. I have great teammates, great coaches, I’m completely comfortable in that aspect,” Lamb said.
Since Lamb made his debut as a Hornet, he’s gotten better by the game, though the sample size is small. Through three games he’s averaging 13.3 points on 59 percent shooting and 50 percent from 3-point range.
But Lamb understands the sample size is small.
“Whether I play good next game, whether I play bad, whether I play less or more minutes, I’m just going to continue to work hard,” Lamb said. “I’m just so thankful for the organization, teammates and coaches.”
Coach Steve Clifford praised Lamb following his performance Tuesday night.
“The thing that he possesses is size and skill, he can really shoot,” Clifford said. “Depending on how good we can get offensively, he’s a guy who can legitimately shoot 40 percent from 3(point range).”
There’s more to Lamb’s game than just shooting and Clifford also realizes that.
“He’s better off the dribble than I thought and he can really pass,” Clifford said. “He’s a smart player. He’s decision making. You watch him play and everything makes sense.”
That morning during shoot around Clifford made the comparison of Lamb’s ability to come right off the bench and produce to Bonzi Wells and Lee Nailon.
“I’ve came off the bench before, not just in my NBA career, but I have in high school until my senior year,” Lamb said. “Basically when you come off the bench, you want to add energy. If the team is down you want to try to bring the team back or if the team is up you want to increase the lead.”
It didn’t take long before the chatter began on the possibility of Lamb starting, but that is the last thing he’s concerned about.
“Whatever is best for the team,” Lamb said. “I came here just wanting an opportunity and that’s all I’ve asked for. So whether it’s coming off the bench, starting, whatever it is I just want to play and contribute to some wins.”
As the media crowd began to exit from Lamb’s locker at the conclusion of his media session, Kemba Walker jokingly asked Lamb, “Did you have a good game?” He responded with “Nah dog I was telling them about you.”
Lamb is making the most of his opportunity.
ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger
Whenever you read that the Hornets winning 130-105 it doesn’t seem believable, but that was the final score Tuesday night after Charlotte destroyed Chicago.
Though it was only one win, it was the Hornets first win on the season.
“We played well and the basketball gods were with us tonight,” said Steve Clifford.
The Hornets scored 37 first quarter points, they did that in their home-opener against Atlanta, but don’t take that for granted you won’t see 37 points in a quarter very often.
“We played with a purpose and an energy level that allows you to play well,” said Clifford. “We played hard and those guys worked hard. We have three on the road and we’ll see if we can build on it.”
A win is always good, but you have to be able to move on to the next game. Charlotte will take a road trip when they travel to Dallas, San Antonio and Minnesota.
The Hornets played extremely well against a Bulls team I didn’t expect for them to beat. On the offensive end Charlotte shot 52 percent and an astonishing 61 percent from three-point range.
On the day he signed his three-year $21 million extension, Jeremy Lamb provided 20 points on nine-of-10 shooting off the bench.
“We came out and hit them in the mouth and never looked back,” said Lamb.
Charlotte never trailed at any point during Tuesday night’s game.
The detail and organization was on display against Chicago. Clifford’s ball club didn’t turn the ball over at a high rate, there weren’t many mental lapses and the ball didn’t sick. The Hornets had seven player reach double-figures scoring.
You could tell that the Hornets felt the pressure of falling to 0-4, and they came out and answered the bell, rising to the occasion to earn their first win on the season.
ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger
There are no games scheduled for today.