Today’s Buzzworthy focuses on Hornets forward Johnny O’Bryant being ready, along with Dwayne Bacon’s most recent assignment to the Greensboro Swarm.
The Charlotte Hornets hope to continue a recent stretch of good play tomorrow against the Dallas Mavericks. While injuries have been a concern all season, they are less so now, despite the indefinite absence of Cody Zeller. This is partly due to Johnny O’Bryant, who is filling in for Zeller off the bench.
O’Bryant spoke with David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders about his increased role this season. Yapkowitz calls O’Bryant the “next man up” referring to an old saying about players being ready when called upon. As he points out, O’Bryant has answered the call recently:
In the past few games, O’Bryant has been a consistent offensive threat for the Hornets. Against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 31, he had ten points in 13 minutes while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. A few nights later on Jan. 2 against the Sacramento Kings, he had a career-high 16 points on 77.8 percent shooting, including 2-4 from three-point range.
“I just think from the time they brought me here, they just let me be myself. They believe in me,” O’Bryant told Basketball Insiders. “I just try to come out and play hard and help the guys as much as I can. I think the main part is Coach Cliff and the front office, they let me stick around and just kind of prove myself in this league.”
Having a coaching staff and front office behind you is key for players on the fringe. All it takes is the right people to believe in a player in order to get a chance. O’Bryant was signed to a non-guaranteed multi-year deal last season. The contract became guaranteed after preseason, and he is now re-paying the Hornets for their belief.
In all likelihood, O’Bryant returns to the bench once Cody Zeller returns. That said, the Hornets have to feel confident about their depth at the position. If another injury were to happen, O’Bryant will be ready.
Bacon off to Greensboro again
The Hornets assigned Dwayne Bacon to the Greensboro Swarm, per a release from the team:
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 8, 2018
Bacon featured in two appearances in his first assignment, but wasn’t away from the team for long. However, this time could be different. The Swarm don’t play again until January 17th. If Bacon is going down now, one has to assume it could be to get a round of practices in with the team to better fit into their roster. If they plan to play him in more games, it makes sense for him to get more accustomed to the Swarm players.
If that’s the case, we may not see him in tomorrow’s game against the Mavericks. But even if he were with the Hornets, it’s doubtful he would play — Bacon has been out of the rotation as of late, and the chances of that changing right now are slim. The team did not announce the length of the assignment, but don’t be surprised if it lasts through the week.
Why have the Hornets lost so many close games? Steve Clifford has an answer.
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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Buzzworthy: Another frustrating loss; Graham stepping up
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:
"Guys are playing hard. We’ve just got to hold our head. You know, stay positive. The season's not over. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to fight and things will turn around." – @DwightHoward pic.twitter.com/JxjRbCmTQi
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 25, 2018
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.
Buzzworthy: Walker snubbed from All-Star team
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:
— NBA (@NBA) January 24, 2018
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.