Buzz Words | 2018 Training Camp Notebook

Where Do the Hornets Stand Halfway Through the Preseason?

Sam Perley of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the 2018 Training Camp and keeping fans up to date through the Buzz Words | Hornets Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the season unfolds.

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Friday, October 5, 2:01 p.m.

The Hornets are rounding the midway point of training camp and so far, Head Coach James Borrego seems to be pleased with the team’s overall progress. While there’s still plenty of work to get done before Opening Night, encouraging strides have certainly been made up to this point. 

  • “The whole goal of camp is to get better every single day and that’s been our number one objective,” said Borrego. “I think we’re off to a pretty good start. We’re adding more to our playbook, defensive schemes. Solidifying what we want to be about.” 
  • While it can’t be stressed enough that it’s still preseason and many variables are in play, the Hornets currently hold an offensive rating of 103.6 points per 100 possessions and a defensive rating of 99.0 points allowed per 100 possessions. They were exactly 107.0 in both categories last regular season. 
  • The Hornets are assisting on 17.3 percent of their made preseason baskets. Last regular season, that mark was 16.3 percent and ranked in the bottom five of the NBA.  
  • Charlotte is also turning the ball over 14.1 percent of its possessions, a small increase from its regular season mark of 12.5 in 2017-18. Considering the team is playing faster and with more space (and it’s preseason), that’s actually a relatively encouraging figure. 
  • The Hornets are still averaging just over 109 possessions per 48 minutes through three exhibition games, a massive increase from last year’s 82-game mark of 100.53. 
  • Heading into a new campaign, the biggest rotational battles on the roster were going to be at the wing positions. Inevitably, some perhaps very good players will be on the outside looking in on Oct. 17, but the competition isn’t a bad thing whatsoever.
  • “Everybody’s pushing each other. Everybody’s working. There’s a lot of wings. We’re all competing,” said guard Jeremy Lamb. “I’m just trying to be the best I can be for myself and for my teammates. We’ve really been playing together. Whatever role I’m going to play, that’s what I’m going to play.”  
  • “There’s nothing to complain about when you get up every day, come in here and work,” added Dwayne Bacon. “When we go out to play a game, everybody has their time to shine. We shine when everybody buys into a system. Everybody gets part of that shine and as a team, that’s what we’re doing.” 
  • Another interesting observation has been center Cody Zeller shooting more three-pointers. He’s only 2-of-3 in three exhibition outings, although is just 4-of-16 overall in 312 career regular season games. 
  • “We were intentional about moving Cody’s range out,” stated Borrego. “He’s capable of shooting a three. We’d like him to shoot open ones. He’s not going to hunt down as many as our guards and wings, but he’s a capable shooter and he’s going to look for it.” 
  • Turning Zeller into even the mildest of three-point threats would open up a lot of increased offensive opportunities for the Hornets. Theoretically, he would pull opposing centers away from the basket and clear the lane for players like Kemba Walker to drive and/or kick.   

Like the Hornets New Offense, Defensive Improvements Will Begin at the 3-Point Line

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Thursday, September 27, 2:45 p.m.

With new Hornets Head Coach James Borrego’s offensive renovations getting much of the attention this summer, the team’s defense will also hopefully be making some much-needed adjustments for the 2018-19 NBA season. 

  • Borrego said at Monday’s Media Day that he believes the Hornets can have a top-10 NBA defense this year. Last season, Charlotte ranked 16thin the league with a defensive rating of 107.0 points allowed per 100 possessions. For reference, the 10thplace team, Oklahoma City, had a defensive rating of 104.7. 
  • “There’s a lot of factors, but protecting the rim, staying in front of the ball, limiting our rotations and taking away the three-point line,” said Borrego on Thursday when asked about the keys to Charlotte being a top-10 NBA defense this season. 
  • Beginning in 2015-16, Borrego’s former team, the San Antonio Spurs, ranked first (96.6), first (100.9) and fourth (102.4) the last three years in the NBA in defensive efficiency. 
  • One of the biggest weaknesses last season for the Hornets was perimeter defense. The team averaged the fifth-most opposing three-point field goals per game (11.3) and the fourth-highest opposing three-point percentage (37.5 percent) of any team in the NBA. 
  • However, the Hornets certainly weren’t too hospitable in sending other teams to the charity stripe, allowing the fewest opposing free-throw attempts per game in the NBA (18.2). This is somewhat a byproduct of solid defense mixed with opposing players not needing to drive as much because of available three-point opportunities. 
  • Last season, Dwayne Bacon (103.9) had the best individual defensive rating of any player currently on the Charlotte roster. He was followed by Cody Zeller (105.0), Tony Parker (105.3), Marvin Williams (105.5) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (105.8). 
  • “We got to defend first if we want to win any games,” said Bacon. “Defense is always the part that wins the games. We have a lot of offense and guys that can score the ball in many ways, but we got to defend as a team in order to win.” 
  • NBA defense is probably the hardest facet of the game for young players to learn. Whereas offense is entirely action, defense is reactionary. A typical NBA player is bigger, faster and stronger than what college players are generally accustomed to, hence the steep learning curve. 
  • Following the summer trade of Dwight Howard, Bismack Biyombo will be turned to as the primary rim protector for the Hornets this year. The Congolese center has recorded 85+ total blocks in each of his seven NBA seasons. Outside of Howard and Biyombo, Emeka Okafor was the last Charlotte player to produce an 85-block season (2008-09). 
  • “Defense is what we can rely on every night,” stated Biyombo. “Offense comes and goes, but defense, we got to figure out a way to establish that. It’s going to win games for us. [Being a rim protector] gives trust to the other guys. You want guys to be able to get up and pressure the ball. They have to be able to trust that if they get beat, I’m going to be there to protect them.” 

Hornets Enter Preseason with Increased Depth

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Wednesday, September 26, 1:27 p.m.

Three practices up, three practices down for the Charlotte Hornets as their 2018 Training Camp continues along this week in Chapel Hill, NC. With several new additions to the roster this past summer, the competition for playing time should heat up quickly over the next few weeks.  

  • Barring injuries, NBA teams generally use a 10-man rotation on a nightly basis. Not counting two-way signee, J.P. Macura, the Hornets currently have 14 players on their active roster. Some simple math figures at least four players will likely be on the outside of the rotation looking in when the regular season starts on Oct. 17.   
  • “Depth is nice in this league,” said Coach Borrego following practice. “We can go a number of directions. It’s healthy competition. We have a number of guys fighting for spots and it’s made for a very active camp. All 14 guys on this roster right now, at some point during the season, can play in an NBA game or be in our rotation. It’s up to them to separate [themselves] to earn the minutes right now.” 
  • The biggest battles at camp will likely be between Jeremy Lamb and Malik Monk for the starting shooting guard spot and between Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangómez, Bismack Biyombo and possibly Frank Kaminsky at the center position. Ideally, the competition for playing time brings out the best for those involved. 
  • How and where wings Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Miles Bridges and Dwayne Bacon are used will also be intriguing. Offensive and defensive versatility could ultimately be the deciding factor in how things shake out. 
  • Increased depth could be a major factor in fixing a troublesome area for the Hornets last season, which was fourth-quarter efficiency. Charlotte was 23rdin the NBA in offensive efficiency (104.9 points scored per 100 possessions) and 18thin defensive efficiency (107.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) in the final 12 minutes of regulation in 2017-18. 
  • For comparison’s sake, the San Antonio Spurs – where Coach J.B. was an assistant the last three year – ranked eighth in offensive efficiency (109.0) and third in defensive efficiency (103.5) in the fourth quarters of games this past season.
  • Ever since losing Jeremy Lin to free agency in the summer of 2016, the Hornets have struggled to find a consistent backup for Kemba Walker. Enter six-time All-Star and four-time NBA Champion, Tony Parker, who arrives in Charlotte after 17 years in San Antonio. 
  • Amongst players with at least 30 games as a reserve last season, Parker ranked fifth in the Western Conference in assists per outing (3.3), trailing J.J. Barea, Lou Williams, Will Barton and Jameer Nelson. At this point of his career, Parker understands his role and hopefully can provide the Hornets exactly what they need in that second unit. 
  • At 36 years old, Parker could be rested at times this season, particularly on the second leg of back-to-backs. Next in line would be All-American rookie point guard Devonte’ Graham, who couldn’t have asked for a better duo ahead of him in the rotation. 
  • “I got two of the best point guards to learn from,” said Graham after practice. “I couldn’t have asked for any better guys. Usually, people get one, but I got two great ones. I’m definitely picking their brains and learned a lot these last two days.” 

Hornets Offense This Season? Faster Pace, Quicker Possessions, More 3-Pointers

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Tuesday, September 25, 1:49 p.m.

The first training camp practice under new Head Coach James Borrego is officially in the books for the Charlotte Hornets, who are spending the week in nearby Chapel Hill, NC. In today’s Training Camp Notebook, we’ll focus on the team’s offense and what the coaching staff has in mind for this upcoming season.  

  • It was revealed at Monday’s media day that many of the team’s scrimmages this summer have featured a 12-second shot clock. Coach Borrego has been adamant about increasing the team’s pace this year and cutting possessions in half is certainly a way to facilitate this desired adjustment.
  • The Hornets were ninth in the league in pace last year at 100.53 possessions per 48 minutes. “I think we can move that up a little bit,” said Borrego. “We want to score more and our fast-break points to go up. That’s when we can score best. That’s when the defense is most vulnerable. I think we found some guys that can present a problem in transition.”
  • Although Charlotte’s pace was high last season, the squad averaged just 9.3 fast-break points per game, the third-lowest mark in the league behind only New York (8.6) and Portland (8.1). 
  • Interestingly, Borrego’s former team, the San Antonio Spurs, were 29thin pace last season (97.16) and 27thin three-point attempts (24.1), although these numbers are mainly dictated by their personnel and playing style. 
  • Borrego has challenged Marvin Williams to increase his volume of three-point attempts this season. Williams averaged 3.9 long-distance shots in 2017-18 and his career high is 4.7 coming in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.
  •  “Driving, kicking, continuing to move – just playing a little bit faster, practicing a little bit faster,” stated Williams. “The more and more we continue to work on it, the easier it’ll become.” 
  •  “The pace was really fast,” added Kemba Walker. “A lot of threes, a lot of getting to the basket, creating for others. The pace was a lot faster, but good. It plays into the way how I want to play, plays into the way a lot of the other guys want to play on our team. It was a fun first practice.”
  • Walker is fully healthy entering training camp after undergoing minor knee procedures each of the last three summers. “I got a chance to work on my body, my game throughout the whole summer and not have to go at a certain pace. I went hard all summer and I feel good.”  
  • Second-year guard Malik Monk seems like a prototypical player for the team’s new style of offense. He ranked eighth amongst all rookies in total three-point attempts last season (243) and was the 2016-17 SEC leader with 104 long-distance makes. 
  • “The court’s spread way more,” said Monk after practice. “We’re just running more. We’re getting up way more threes. The pace is up and down and I like that.” 

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