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Buzzworthy: Kemba Walker returns, but Steve Clifford could be out tonight

Before the Charlotte Hornets take on the Orlando Magic tonight, read up on the latest news about the Hornets from around the league.

Injuries and team news

First up, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker is playing tonight after missing two games. The team listed him as Probable, but Walker confirmed shortly after that he is playing tonight without any restrictions:

His return is greatly needed as the Hornets look to stop a four game losing streak. In addition to Walker, forward Frank Kaminsky is listed as Probable with a right foot sprain, while guard Julyan Stone is listed as questionable to play as he has come down with an illness.

Stone isn’t the only one not feeling well. The team reports that head coach Steve Clifford is not feeling well and missed this morning’s shootaround. If he can’t play, assistant  coach Stephen Silas will fill in as head coach.

It’s unfortunate that Clifford isn’t feeling well, but Silas is an experienced assistant and the team should be in good hands if Clifford isn’t up to it.

Where do the Hornets rank around the NBA so far?

The Washington Post published a piece ranking all 30 NBA teams into tiers. Listed 1-8, Tier 8 represent teams already looking to next June’s NBA Draft, while Tier 1 comprises of the current title favorite, Golden State Warriors. Where do the Hornets rank? Tier 6. Here’s what Tim Botemps has to say:

Tier 6

Indiana Pacers
New York Knicks
Miami Heat
Charlotte Hornets

Four Eastern Conference teams performing outside their preseason expectations. Two have been better than expected (Indiana and New York); the other two have been worse (Miami and Charlotte). It still seems as though the Heat and Hornets will wind up with better records, assuming early injury issues for Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Hassan Whiteside eventually subside. But until either begins to surge forward, or the Pacers and Knicks sustain what they’ve done, they will remain bunched together.

Tier 6 is fair placement given the explanation. The Hornets are under-performing, but there remains time to salvage the season. Botemps believes a healthy roster can fix things. It will certainly help, but it’s clear by this point that the Hornets struggles extend beyond injuries.

An appreciation for Lamb

NBA writer Seerat Sohi profiled Jeremy Lamb for SB Nation. Sohi spoke with Lamb, Clifford, and Silas on Lamb’s improvement the past couple of seasons. All three point to the increased work ethic of Lamb, particularly this past season. Along with working harder, Lamb credits changes in his routine and diet:

“I tried to start being in bed at a reasonable time, and get a good night’s rest rather than staying up all night,” Lamb said. “Just trying to eat right. I’m still not 100 percent healthy when I’m eating but I try to eat more salmon, grilled chicken, try to eat more vegetables, more fruit.”

It’s a good piece, so be sure to check it out in full.

Changing the Hornets defensive scheme?

The Hornets are struggling on the defensive end, despite an offseason revamp to bring in more defensive minded players. But the issue could be scheme not personnel, according to Jonathan DeLong of SB Nation’s At The Hive.

“The idea of protecting the paint first and foremost is becoming outdated by the modern NBA game. When utilizing this school of thought, the goal is to force the opponent to settle for more jump shots, which are obviously lower percentage shots than layups. Unfortunately for Steve Clifford and other coaches of his ilk, teams aren’t falling into the trap of settling for mid-range jump shots. Instead, they are spotting up behind the 3-point line.”

DeLong found that over the past two seasons, teams are shooting a higher volume of 3-pointers over mid-range shots. The increased volume is leading to more points per possession, which is hurting the Hornets defensively. DeLong makes a strong case for why Charlotte should let the likes of Cody Zeller and Dwight Howard defend the paint themselves, and focus more on the perimeter defenders contain the 3-point line.

You can read the full article here.

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