Top Stories

With uncertain coaching situation, struggling Charlotte Hornets trying to stay afloat

From NBA media reports

Strange days in Charlotte right now. On one hand, they pulled one of the more surprising wins of the NBA season by winning at Golden State on Friday, and Dwight Howard, who was considered washed up, has a small chance of making the All-Star team in February. However, they’re near the bottom of the East, can’t win at home (7-14) and their best player, Kemba Walker, is shooting 38 percent in December.

Also: There’s no clarity on the situation involving coach Steve Clifford, who has missed the last three weeks with a personal illness.

The team is giving no updates or making any projections on his return, if he returns at all this season. In the meantime, Stephen Silas is the acting head coach and trying to put his stamp on a team that has suffered from injuries and simply can’t show much if any signs of breaking loose.

Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe spoke to Silas recently:

Silas took over the Hornets on Dec. 4 when the team announced Clifford would take a leave of absence.

“It’s been tough because obviously it starts with Coach Cliff and hoping that he comes back soon and wishing he felt better because to be in a position where you’re not feeling good enough to coach, that’s not a good spot to be in,” Silas said. “So dealing with that with my friend and my boss is something that’s hard to deal with.”

Silas doesn’t carry the tough, intimidating style of his father. Paul Silas was a hard-nosed coach who used interesting language with his players. Stephen is more laid-back and uses his experience to communicate more like a big brother with the younger players.

“I listen to everything he says,” Stephen Silas said of his father. “He did it in a different way than I do it, obviously. He’s an intense, four-letter-word user and he coaches the way that he played when he was with the Celtics. He’s always about giving guys confidence and letting them know that you care about them. You need their production and they have to be confident in the way that they play and know that you have confidence in them. That’s what he’s been telling me lately, as well as a bunch of other things.”

Silas has tried to establish his own personality and voice from Clifford. He has tried to take what he has learned from the veteran coach as well as his own experience to keep the Hornets competitive.

The injury-riddled team is off to a disappointing start.

“The coaching, I just try to do it day to day. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, I really am enjoying coaching the team,” Silas said. “The team has been great to me as far as responding to coaching and not treating me like a substitute teacher. I’m looking forward to Coach Cliff coming back and I’m going to take advantage of every day while I’m doing it.”

If the Hornets don’t turn their season around soon, they could be sellers at the trade deadline. Could another team use Nicolas Batum? How about Jeremy Lamb, whose departure could mean extended playing time for rookie Malik Monk and allow him to develop? The next few weeks will be crucial for the Hornets, who were expected to be better than this.