Hornets forward Nic Batum expressed his desire to be more involved in the offense following Friday’s game against the Jazz.
Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum has struggled this season. An elbow injury in the team’s first preseason game cost him 13 regular season games and he has yet to find a consistent groove since returning. His 9.9 points and 4.8 assists per game are more in line with his injury-riddled last season in Portland than his prior two seasons in Charlotte. Part of this, at least early on, could be chalked up to the lingering effects of his injured elbow; however, there have been nights where Batum has all but disappeared in the offense, taking few shots and scoring in the single digits.
Fans want Batum to play more aggressively, and according to Batum, he does as well. Batum spoke with the media following Friday’s win over the Utah Jazz. Asked by Locked On Hornets own Doug Branson how important it was for him to get involved early in the game in order to play well offensively, Batum expressed it was very important, but explained that it’s been “different” due to the makeup of the roster.
“It’s different right now because you know, we have new players,” Batum explained. Citing an earlier conversation with associate head coach Stephen Silas, Batum stated, “We talked about the last game and [Silas] told me he didn’t run stuff for me because Kemba had a good night and Dwight was rolling. So he wanted me to give the ball inside to Dwight and increase space for Kemba.”
While Batum acknowledged the plan, he expressed a desire to be a part of the offense no matter the situation. He explained that when he’s “trying to run the offense” by creating more space and opportunities for Walker, there is more ball movement.
“That’s why they brought me here and that’s why they want me to create movement,” said Batum.
Batum followed up by stating he wants to remain involved throughout the game, which was more his role the previous two seasons. He added that when the offense ran more through him last season they were successful prior to the injury to Cody Zeller.
“That was my job with the team and that was successful. Because I’m running stuff and Kemba was running stuff and the ball went through us. And this year is different for me.”
The addition of Dwight Howard in the offseason has added new wrinkles to the Hornets offense including post-touches and putback plays that Batum isn’t always a part of. Howard is being used much more on offense than Cody Zeller was last season and that’s meant a subtraction in usage for Nic Batum. He’s seen his usage percentage dip from 22.1% last season to 17.2% this season.
Batum remained a larger part of the offense in Saturday’s loss as well. He attempted 13 shots, second most on the team, and finished with 12 points and two assists. He found open looks from beyond the arc throughout the game, but went just 2-for-7 from the field. While it wasn’t one of his better nights, it is certainly preferable to games when he attempts just a few shots. Judging from Batum’s comments, he agrees.
With head coach Steve Clifford returning next week, it will be interesting to see if Batum’s involvement increases and what that means for a Hornets offense that is currently ranked 23rd in the league.
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Why have the Hornets lost so many close games? Steve Clifford has an answer.
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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.