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Charlotte Hornets

Buzzworthy: Hornets stunned by Heat; rumors continue regarding Walker trade

Nick Denning

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The Charlotte Hornets suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday night

There are few ways worse to lose a game than how the Charlotte Hornets did to the Miami Heat on Saturday. Up five with 34 seconds to go, Miami’s James Johnson scored to bring his team within three. Following an inbounds pass, Johnson stole the ball from Batum and proceeded to tie the game with a 3-pointer. Charlotte had a chance to take the lead, but Walker missed. Miami took the ball down without calling timeout, and Kelly Olynyk was fouled by Dwight Howard with 0.2 seconds remaining.

0.2 seconds. 0.2.

Olynyk missed the first, but sunk the second, and the Heat stole a 106-105 win over the Hornets.

Whether you watched the game live or on record (like yours truly) you undoubtedly were left stunned, angry, and shouting any number of expletives at your TV. Or, maybe the Hornets have broken you already, so you felt nothing.

But with all the disappointment of this season, Saturday’s loss hurt, at least for me, more than any other. The Hornets entered winners of five of the past seven games, and were playing more like the team many expected heading into the season. They even played well throughout the game, and got an inspiring performance from Nicolas Batum. Despite the trade rumors swirling about Kemba Walker, it felt as if all would be righted with a win. But the foul on Olynyk unearthed all the bad feelings of the season.

I can’t imagine the mood in the locker room was afterwards. This season has thrown more curve balls on a team that is quite honestly better than their 18-26 record. But Saturday’s loss gives me the feeling we are only headed towards a conclusion that, come February 8th, could leave a lot of us feeling even more hopeless.

Walker linked with two teams

After Adrian Wojnarowski’s article indicating the Hornets interest in trading Walker along with a bad contract, more reports surfaced over a few teams the Hornets have reportedly contacted.

ESPN’s Ian Begely reported the Hornets want to engage with the New York Knicks over a trade involving Walker. Begely reports that discussions haven’t gone far, and that it, “seems unlikely at this point that the Knicks will want to meet Charlotte’s desired return.” Charlotte wants to attached a big salary along with Walker, and Knicks are hesitant to do so. Charlotte would more than likely want New York’s first round pick, along with rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina.

Walker could potentially be a great fit with Kristaps Porzingis, but you can understand New York’s hesitation. Cap flexibility is important (hence why Charlotte is willing the trade their best player), and while Ntilkina is a work in progress, the Knicks may decide to let him develop rather than trade for the All-Star point guard.

Walker is also linked with the Dallas Mavericks. The report is slim, but Scout.com’s Mike Fisher reports the Hornets have contacted the Mavericks over a Walker trade.

This one feels even less advanced than the not-advanced Knicks deal. More than likely, Charlotte called the Mavericks and made an inquiry. If there’s anyone they’d be interested in, it’s undoubtedly rookie Dennis Smith Jr. At this point, it’s unlikely Dallas would part with Smith Jr. unless the Hornets made a substantial offer.

We’ll see what develops this week. While nothing is in an advanced stage, the Hornets are actively pursuing deals. If your amongst those hoping Walker stays, you’ll be rooting that teams continue to say no.

Nick Denning hails from Raleigh. He blogs about the Charlotte Hornets for Locked On Hornets and SB Nation's At The Hive.

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Charlotte Hornets

Why have the Hornets lost so many close games? Steve Clifford has an answer.

Doug Branson

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© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Gavin Schall from Locked on Nets schools us on NBA Draft pospects

Adam Silver on the future of NBA broadcasts

Steve Clifford reveals why he thinks the Hornets lose so many close games

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Charlotte Hornets

Buzzworthy: Another frustrating loss; Graham stepping up

Nick Denning

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Recapping last night’s frustrating loss; plus, how Treveon Graham is stepping up in the rotation.

The Charlotte Hornets lost another close game last night, this time at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans. Charlotte trailed or led by one possession for much of the game, but come crunch time they couldn’t execute once again.

Dwight Howard, who continues to perform well of late, finished with a team high 22 points, and 16 rebounds. It marks the sixth straight game he’s totaled 15 or more rebounds.

He spoke with the media after the game, stressing that they cannot give up on the season:

Howard has the right mindset. The Hornets are playing well, probably the best basketball since the start to the season in fact, but it is the same story over and over when it comes to close games. They are the worst team in the league in terms of winning close games, and there have been too many that have ended in a one or two possession loss.

And last night was so avoidable, but the Hornets went just 18-for-31 from the free throw line, and those misses extended beyond Howard. Twice a Hornets player was fouled attempting a 3-pointer, and in both cases the players made just 1-of-3. Given how important free throws have been for Charlotte this season, they can’t afford missing so many.

Treveon Graham “rising to the occasion”

Bench played has improved of late. Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb are leading the way, playing with more consistency on the offensive end. But Treveon Graham’s inclusion with the bench coincides with the rise in the play.

At The Hive’s Evan Dyal wrote a follow up piece on Graham earlier this week. Dyal made a case for Graham earlier in the season, and following Cody Zeller’s injury and Dwayne Bacon’s regression, Graham got his chance.

Graham is known for his defense, but Dyal points out how well he is shooting as an opportunistic scorer:

What this means is Graham only shoots when he is open, and if he is not shooting he is moving the ball. This has made Graham efficient in limited minutes, and it’s why he is third on the team in points per shot attempt according to Cleaningtheglass.com. Meaning he doesn’t shoot a lot, but when he does it’s a good shot, and it usually goes in.

Attempting just four shots a game, Graham is making 43.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3. It’s a low volume, but it fits when playing next to Kaminsky and Lamb, two players who need to shoot more in order to get into a rhythm. We’ve seen on a few occasions this where Graham won’t get touches in multiple offense possessions, only to pop up open from beyond the arc and knock down a crucial shot. It’s unlikely he will see an increased role offensive role this season, but it’s a building block for him. Assuming the Hornets re-sign him this summer, he could have a bigger role as he continues to improve his offensive game.

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Charlotte Hornets

Buzzworthy: Walker snubbed from All-Star team

Nick Denning

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The 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, but Hornets guard Kemba Walker was left out

Kemba Walker has played at an All-Star level, but won’t be representing the Charlotte Hornets at this year’s All-Star game. The selections for the 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, and Walker didn’t make the list. For those curious, here are the Eastern Conference reserves:

I have no qualms about any of these — save for Kyle Lowry. I mean, come on. I understand the Hornets poor record was Walker’s undoing here, but Lowry has scaled his role back significantly last season. His shooting averages remain solid, but he’s averaging just 17 points per game, deferring to All-Star starter DeMar Derozan. More than anything, Lowry feels like the legacy pick. If the Hornets were closer to .500, Walker gets in, but Walker should get in regardless because as is painfully obvious this season, the Hornets struggle to play basketball when he isn’t on the floor. All-Stars represent players that are of high importance for their team (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself this very moment). Walker exemplifies that. Okay, maybe I’m being just a tad bit bias.

Batum happy with Clifford’s return

Since Steve Clifford returned last week, Nicolas Batum has played more aggressively. More shots are going up, and, overall, he looks more involved in the offense.

According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, it has a lot to do with the return of Steve Clifford:

That is no coincidence, Batum said Monday morning: Clifford is finding ways to get Batum, the Hornets’ best passer, more involved, particularly early in games. Sometimes that specifically means running plays featuring Batum. Other times, it just means leaning the offense more toward actions that have optimized Batum’s skill set in the past.

Batum is pleased. He says he feels in a rhythm, and he performed well in the heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday (which, yes, was partly his fault for turning the ball over late). Whatever your feelings about Batum, we can agree that he needs to play well, and be more involved in the offense. The ball movement increases as a result, which means better offense for the Hornets.

Clifford impressed with Kaminsky

Steve Clifford spoke well of Frank Kaminsky, stating he’s playing some of the best basketball of his career right now:

“He’s in rhythm and there is no hesitation right now. When he’s half-open, that ball is in the air. I don’t think there is anything more important for him than that. His exceptional trait, particularly for a man of his size, is to attack closeouts” when defenders over-commit to getting to him on jump shots.

Kaminsky is another polarizing figure with the Hornets. Consistency has been an issue, but as Bonnell points out, he’s scored at least 10 points in 10 of the past 13 games. That’s a mark of consistency, and it’s no wonder the bench is improving of late.

 

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