2017 Summer League

Charlotte Hornets rookie Dwayne Bacon plays at his own pace

With first round selection Malik Monk out, second round pick has all Hornets' eyes on him at Summer League in Orlando

Fran Blinebury

ORLANDO — Most rookies know three speeds — fast, faster and fastest. If they aren’t in a hurry to get something done, then they’re racing to cover up for a mistake.

So there goes Dwayne Bacon down the right side of the court on a fast break.

While the Twitter highlight is the behind-the-back bounce pass that Charlotte teammate Andrew Gill flushes home for the first dunk of the 2017 Orlando Summer League, what stands out most is the way Bacon patiently waits for just the right moment to make the play.

The 6-7 guard out of Florida State is far less about raw speed than sheer confidence. He doesn’t have to rush to where he’s going because he knows he’ll eventually get there. In a word, he’s deliberate.

“I’m not out there trying to go to the point where I’m just losing control of everything because I’m trying to speed it up,” Bacon said. “I feel like if I take my time understanding and getting it down pat, then it will be better off for me instead of going full speed and not getting it right. I’d rather take my time and get it right.

“I feel like I’m a smooth type of player to where I can pick my spots and get my spots. But I feel like I have enough energy and power to where I can explode at any time. It’s been in my game since high school. Senior year at Oak Hill (Va.), coach (Steve) Smith just taught me that way. It’s kinda what I ran with through college.”

As the Hornets’ top draft pick Malik Monk mends with a knee injury, the second-round choice Bacon is running at his own pace as the highest-profile rookie on the roster and one to keep an eye on.

He is not quick, but can get to his spot. He is not overpowering, but doesn’t get pushed around. He has been compared, at least in body type and pace of play, to Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce. He won’t beat you with a quick first step. His blocky upper body is reminiscent of Kendall Gill.

“He has ball skills,” said Hornets assistant and summer league coach Stephen Silas. “People have said Joe Johnson. I see a little bit of that. He’s smaller, obviously. He kind of does have that slow pace with his game, but very good with the ball and changes directions. So I can see that.

“He definitely does have that body type. He can get stronger. He can put a little weight on. But the pace that he plays at is a little different than most guys that come into the league. Usually they’re go-go-go instead of slow like how he is.

“We knew coming in that he had some game with the basketball, but we didn’t know that he could play pick-and-roll like that and that he could change directions the way he does. So we’re excited with the way that he’s started. He does have a long way to go, but it’s intriguing and exciting.”

Bacon shot just 3-for-9 and finished with nine points in his debut, but spent his 27 minutes moving around at both ends of the court with a sense of someone who is taking it all in.

The 40th pick in the draft was the leading scorer last season on a 26-9 Seminoles team that included No. 6 pick Jonathan Isaac (Orlando). He needs to work on his shooting range, but Bacon’s change of pace allows him to get to the basket. His mid-range game is solid, but he’ll need to work on his defense.

He is the first second-round draft pick that the Hornets have bothered to hang onto and since 2012 and G.M. Rich Cho even mistakenly introduced him as perennial All-Star and three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade at a news conference in Charlotte.

But nobody’s rushing to make outrageous comparisons or to speed up the learning process. Least of all, Bacon.

“That’s my game,” he said. “I’m calm and collected. I like to get him on my back when I’m off the pick-and-roll. I like to do certain things at my speed. That’s the way I like to play. If I can slow the defender down then I feel like I’m winning at some point, because he’s playing at my pace.”

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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