Frank Kaminsky Finds Growth, Perspective Within Challenging Season

by Sam Perley

Frank Kaminsky played fewer minutes this season by far than he had in any of his three previous NBA campaigns. But with adversity comes opportunity and there’s no denying that a difficult situation helped the 26-year-old learn a lot about himself and his caring support circle.

A solid part of the rotation each of the last three seasons, Kaminsky began the year by moving over to the center position behind two traditional big men in Cody Zeller and Willy Hernangómez. He appeared in just five of the first 16 games, all of which were contests decided by 20-or-more points.

“I came into the season ready to play, feeling the best I have in my career,” Kaminsky said on April 11. “I felt like it was the first summer where I was really consistent and was able to see the progression from where I started. I came into this season extremely prepared. I guess just plans weren’t in my favor.”

He added, “It was difficult. I hated not played. I hated every single second of it. Just the competitor in me, I wanted to play, be a part of this team and help us get to the next level.”

An ankle injury to Hernangómez opened a window for Kaminsky in mid-November and he quickly jumped right through it. He averaged 7.4 PPG on 50.7% shooting, 2.9 RPG and 1.2 APG over the next 14 games, but abruptly fell out of the rotation again for a stretch that lasted nearly two-and-a-half months.

Having dropped seven of nine at the time, Head Coach James Borrego went back to Kaminsky on March 1 in Brooklyn. He responded with 15 points and seven rebounds as the Hornets grinded out a huge 123-112 victory over the Nets. Putting together this kind of performance on a moment’s notice isn’t easy and is certainly a testament to the readiness and preparation Kaminsky maintained throughout the course of the campaign.

He registered marks of 12.8 PPG on 45.4% shooting (36.6% from three), 4.8 RPG and 1.7 APG across the team’s final 21 games of the season. This run included a career-high three-straight 20-point games from April 3-7 and a pair of double-doubles. Kaminsky’s play was a major reason for the team’s late-season playoff push, which ultimately came down to game #82.

“Frank was on the bench up until a month ago,” said Hornets President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, Mitch Kupchak on April 12. “To his credit, you know our office overlooks the court [and] sometimes I would hear a ball bounce. I look down and that was Frank shooting. I know he wasn’t happy and I know he wanted to play.”

“I’m very thankful that at the end of the season, I was put into the lineup,” said Kaminsky. “Pretty much every single game down the stretch was meaningful. That playoff push was fun, exciting. I was just trying to play as well as I could. I don’t know if sitting out for as long as I did contributed to how well I played at the end of the season, but I know going into the season how prepared I was and how I felt. I think [people] saw how all the work and everything I put in throughout the season when I wasn’t playing paid off in the end.”

Kaminsky was also extremely adamant and appreciative about the support his friends and family provided him during this challenging chapter in his NBA career.

“[As a] professional athlete, everyone knows what’s going on in your life at pretty much all times. They see you’re not getting minutes. They see you struggling. They know how much the game means to you when you’re not playing. It hurts them, too. That’s what I’ve really learned about them this year. It really bothers them as well because they just want to see me happy and do what I love to do. What they did for me this year, I don’t know what kind of year it would have been without them. I’m just thankful that I’ve got such great family and friends that are willing to do pretty much whatever I need.”

He added, “I grew more this season than I have in any basketball season in my entire career. I learned a lot about myself not just as a player, but as a person. I learned how much I love this game, how much time and effort I’m willing to put in. I learned a lot about myself that I think will benefit my career in the long run and whatever comes next after basketball’s done for me.”

Overall, Kaminsky averaged 8.6 PPG on a career-best 46.3% shooting (36.0% from three), 3.5 RPG and 1.3 APG in 16.1 MPG over 47 appearances this season. This summer, he’s a restricted free agent, which means the Hornets will have the right to match any offer sheet extended to Kaminsky on the open market. It’s also possible that he signs a one-year qualifying offer with the team and waits for unrestricted free agency in 2020.

“Me, Kemba and Jeremy Lamb are all a package deal,” he said jokingly. “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. I love it here. My family loves it here. Pretty much everyone that’s come out here to visit me has talked about how much they love Charlotte. I don’t know anything else in the NBA. [The organization’s] got a lot of decisions to make this summer and Kemba’s the most important one. Anything after that, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

When he’s not working on his game this summer, look for Kaminsky to spend his free time with friends and family, while taking in plenty of Game of Thrones and Avengers (which he booked tickets for weeks in advance). Just don’t expect him to ever be unprepared whenever his number gets called again.

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