Charlotte Hornets Roundtable | Lance Edition

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QUESTION: In the span of just three weeks, Charlotte replaced McRoberts, Tolliver, Haywood, Ridnour and Rufus Lynx with Vonleh, Hairston, Marvin Williams, Brian Roberts, Lance and Hugo. 


With a “1” being the Kool-Aid man busting through a teal colored wall and a “10” being an MDMA party at Bieber’s crib, where does this summer rank on the EUPHORIA SCALE?

DrE: I’m at a 7, which I believe equates to dropping acid with Bill Walton on a beach in Belize, which is pretty euphorigenic, until the trip goes bad and the ghost of Rick Majerus shows up. But seriously, I’m excited. Can we fast forward to October?

BradfordI’ll go with 7. Cho gets a -3 for losing McRoberts even though I fully understand it. Everything else is a clear upgrade. I’m a big fan of Brian Roberts. Marvin Williams is a good fit on a sensible contract. Vonleh could end up being a steal in the draft (crazy that Charlotte could be considered the “right” destination for a player, right?). Hairston clearly fits a need and I think his “character” issues are extremely overblown. Which brings us to the gem of the off-season, Crazy Eyes Stephenson. Cho clearly preferred Gordon Hayward and took a strategic gamble. I agree with his priorities. He would have been a good fit for the long haul. But Stephenson is the better player right now and fits very well on the court. I’m more worried about a 13.8 turnover ratio than I am blowing in someone’s ear. And can we stop pretending his breaking up the Heat huddle matters? Marcin Gortat does the same thing and it makes him quirky and funny. And as far as the locker room concerns… Paul George bought into his own hype over the off-season and Roy Hibbert is softer than a Drake song. The more I think about it, the less worried I am about Lance. He’s earned everything he’s gotten. New York phenom that goes under-recruited, is a 2nd round pick that barely plays, and builds himself into a potential all-star. I’ll take that on my team. I like his edge, even if it gets a little over the top at times. Until he marries himself and kicks a camera operator in the groin I trust him and the organization to keep it under control without taking away what’s made him successful. Everyone loves Hugo.

ASChin: Currently at a solid “8” but could rise to Bieber-on-goofballs status if the team lives up to its potential. In fact, I’m not even sure I enjoy feeling this way – being a Charlotte NBA fan over the past few seasons has been a bi-polar experience. You had the ultimate low of the seven win season followed by the slow to develop draft picks and the Mike Dunlap mini-era. Now Charlotte is suddenly the hottest team in the Conference – OKC EAST if you will. Got the old name and records back. Dope unis and the illest court in the league. The best offensive big man in the game. An exciting young point guard. Lockdown twenty-one year old wing. One of the NBA’s top coaches. A great GM. And now they add Lance, who’s probably the best two-way SG in basketball at twenty three years of age. Oh, and they got him at a discount. Did I mention the bonus Lottery pick?

QUESTION: Off the court stuff aside, is there any reason to worry about Lance’s fit ON THE COURT?

DrE: The ball handling, playmaking, respectable three-point shooting, and bulldog defense are all godsends. The only thing I’m worried about is the freelancing (pun totally intended) tendencies on offense. Hopefully Lance can direct most of that energy into the minutes when he’s leading the second unit, while keeping the offense running through Big Al when he’s out there with the starters.

BradfordNot as much as some would lead you to believe. Lance has a reputation for being selfish and a ball-stopper. That’s the biggest concern when adding him to the team and wouldn’t seem to mesh when Al Jefferson and Kemba are going to have the ball a lot. Comparing him to the guy he’ll (probably) be replacing in Gerald Henderson, you can see that Lance has a lower usage rate (19.5% vs 22.4%) and a higher assist ration (23.5 vs 14.4). Those numbers come in the context of basically the same number of touches per game (54-55), though Lance did play 3 more minutes per game. Lance also had the ball for 3 minutes each game versus 1.8 for Henderson. Adjusting for time played, Lance had the ball 5 seconds for every minute on the floor and Henderson had it for 3.4 seconds per minute. SportVU shows them having the same number of passes and secondary assists per game, but Lance having 2 more assists, .3 more passes leading to free throws, and 3.4 more assist opportunities (ignores the result of the shot after the pass). Overall, Stephenson added more than 5 points per 48 minutes via passing than Henderson. That’s the really long way of saying I think he fits perfectly.

ASChin: A few people have been tossing around the “ball stopper” label when it comes to Lance. I’m not buying it. Indy’s offense was a mess last season and Lance finally took it upon himself to create. One look at Big Al’s head-fake, up & under, spin around push-shot and Lance will realize he’s not alone anymore. The offense goes through Jefferson: Lance will facilitate, set up in the right corner for wide open threes. Penetrate and dish. Iso when needed. I am interested in how Clifford handles the rebounding chores. Lance loves hitting the offensive glass and Clifford wants his guys back on D pronto.

QUESTION: True or False: Kemba & Lance will lead the league in “And1 Mixtape” moments.

DrE: Ha, maybe. I’m more hopeful that the professionalism of Big Al, Kemba, Clifford, etc. rubs off on Lance and his game matures.

BradfordBackcourt only? True. Wall and Beal are nice, but Beal is mostly a shooter and straight line driver. Overall duo? Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook have that on lock. Melo and Derrick Rose would have been awesome but alas, money (and actress wives apparently) over everything.

ASChin: Given what we’ve seen of the Gersh Park highlights, I wouldn’t be surprised the TWC bring back “Tone X” to serve as hype-man…

QUESTION: The Hornets are currently carrying five SGs on the roster. Which one doesn’t make it to camp?

DrE: I think Gary Neal has to go — his playing time is going to drop off and he’s unlikely to deal with that well.  I’d love to keep Gerald Henderson around to be Lance’s primary backup.

Bradford: Assuming PJ is prevented from going for non-basketball related reasons, I’m saying all 5. Hairston appears to be a bigger, stronger, more versatile version of Neal so if I had a choice he’d be the one to go. If his ego can stomach it, I love Henderson off the bench. Jeff Taylor is super cheap and I like giving him a chance to re-establish himself, though let’s not indulge a certain local publication’s insinuation that he has a chance at a starting job. Right now he’s a fringe NBA player, but a nice cheap way to fill out the roster with some upside. And Lance is the starter.

ASChin: Still not convinced Henderson is a backup. Lance is playing at least 34-36 minutes a night – and even though he can play small forward, Clifford wants size out there and Charlotte has plenty of it at the three with MKG, Marvin and Jeff Taylor. That leaves around 16-20 minutes per game at SG – ideal for a bench gunner. Both Neal and Hairston fit that role perfectly while Hendo takes forever to get his offense going. Not gonna back off my stance: believe Gerald is on another roster by training camp. And with Vonleh looking good in Summer League, I wouldn’t be surprised if CLT packaged Hendo and Cody to make one more major move; a trade to bring back a legit starting power forward.

QUESTION: Clifford wants another big on the roster and Charlotte currently only goes two deep at Center. Who makes sense and how will they get him?

DrE: I’ve seen the same free agents kicked around Twitter as everyone else. Ekpe Udoh, Emeka Okafor (if he can even still play?). It’s a shame that Jeff Adrien got picked up already. Nazr Mohammed would be great if you’re just looking for a vet to be a good locker room guy.

BradfordNot a lot out there in free agency. I have no interest in Blatche. Elton Brand is a guy I thought would be worth targeting, but he would be pretty small in the middle. Nazr Mohammed could play a little here and there. I think you’re generally looking at replacement level guys.

ASChin: Mohammed makes a ton of sense. Former Bobcat who enjoyed his time in the QC. A vet who can keep the locker room sane. With Big Al and Biz ahead of him, he won’t be required to log crazy minutes. Could be everything the team wanted from Brendan Haywood last season.

QUESTION: Everything goes right for Charlotte next season – health, young guys develop and the new guys mesh – how high is the Hornets ceiling for ’14-’15?

DrE: Eastern Conference Finals.

BradfordThe east is going to be a dog-fight. So many questions exist. Can Bosh be a number 1 option still? Does Deng still have it? How bad can the scoring get in Indiana? Can Derrick Rose stay healthy? Is the Cleveland supporting cast worth anything, and are they willing to grab Love? Who are the Detroit Pistons? What are the Hawks? The Hornets are a good team. With growth from Zeller, contributions from Hairston, a coherent offense from the starters, a move around the deadline… they could be right there in it for a top 4 seed. The roster isn’t the most versatile with an offense built around Jefferson, so a lot of playoff success will depend on matchups. That being said, a lot of the east is pretty conventional outside of Atlanta. I hate predictions, even vague ones. Especially when it involves a team I’m passionate about. My mind can find a way to put the Hornets in the finals. So I’ll say the unlikely ceiling is the Eastern Conference finals. I guess.

ASChin: Someone asked me on twitter if Charlotte will make the EC Finals – my initial reaction, developed after ten years of watching the Bobcats – was a spit-take. Then I thought about it, looked at the roster, the coaching staff and the overall state of the East and, with a straight face mind you, typed “yes”. Guys could get injured, P.J. or Lance could cause problems, MJ could re-hire Higgins, etc. You can never be too sure. But if everything goes right – oh my. No Charlotte NBA has ever made it past the second round. That could very well change this season.

QUESTION: Bigger offseason acquisition: Lance Stephenson or Hugo the Hornet?

DrEI prefer to think that Hugo wasn’t acquired — he’s been waiting patiently for this moment for years, lounging by the Hornets-tiled pool at George Shinn’s old Tega Cay lake house.  So, Lance.

BradfordI’m rolling Hugo. Maybe I’m giving the name too much credit, but after last season and potentially another successful upcoming campaign I think the city has the fever again. While the name is pointless without wins, adding wins to the name will go much further than a successful Bobcats franchise would in my opinion. Lance could be in Charlotte as few as 2 years, Hugo is here to stay.

ASChin: Hugo is Charlotte’s answer to Lebron going back to Cleveland. The return of the Hornets name, history, records, mascot and colors is unprecedented in NBA history. But it happened anyway. Bee-lieve it.

Charlotte Wins Big Thanks to Jordan

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Michael Jordan’s Clutch Move Brings the Hornets Home.

Four years ago Michael Jordan was inducted in to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Of the occasion, Jordan said that it was “simply a continuation of something that I started a long time ago.” During his induction speech Jordan called out a lot of the folks that he didn’t feel were helpful to his ambitions. He even claimed that there was a chance you “might look up and see me playing the game at 50.”

Now at the age of 50, Jordan’s made a huge play off the court for the city of Charlotte. His body might be too old to lace up those eponymous high-tops but Michael’s still the ‘alpha’ and the only one who could make the shot Queen City hoops fans needed someone to make. Say what you will about his past mistakes as an owner, MJ deserves a ton of credit for bringing back the Buzz.

The Long Road Back

Illustration by Mike S

George Shinn

In 2002, George Shinn moved his Hornets down to Louisiana. He sold the NBA on the idea that the Big Easy wanted a pro basketball team and that New Orleans was the only place where he could make ends meet. It worked so well the first time that Shinn tried the same story with the league just a few years later with Oklahoma City. Fortunately, Commissioner Stern and the Board of Governors finally wised up to Shinn’s tactics and took the Hornets off of poor Georgie’s plate for good.

Shortly afterward, the league office found a buyer for the club in Tom Benson, majority owner of the New Orleans Saints. As new owner of the neglected franchise, Benson vowed to make Louisiana proud of their NBA team. His first order of business was to begin the process of rebranding the club with regional ties, and steer toward a name (Pelicans) that meant something to the surrounding area. Along with evoking a sense of local pride, the rebrand will go a long way to separate the climate of new ownership from Shinn’s downtrodden and generic Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

For decades Shinn did his best to render the Hornets brand meaningless – trading players in their prime, disregarding the fan base, and keeping that wandering eye toward the next town’s cash. Yet somehow, twenty-five years since his birth and against all odds, Hugo the Hornet finds himself on the precipice of returning home to the city that once loved him and – as the last twelve months have revealed – still very much does.

The total cost of reclaiming the Hornets moniker and washing away the Bobcats experience will be substantial. It also comes with the risk of alienating the few faithful who’ve kept the franchise afloat. It’s a gamble, but MJ’s always been the gambling type. For the doubters who say the Hornets rebrand won’t matter, be ready to be proven wrong because that’s one of MJ’s two great gifts – proving people wrong. The other? Taking and making big time shots.

-Mike

Remembering Bobby Phills

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Today, the Bobcats are playing the Washington Wizards. Odds are this game won’t be remembered for years afterward. However, December 20 marks a day that some may remember.

Today is Bobby Phills’ birthday.

He would have been 41.

Image via the Bobby Phills Facebook Page


I shouldn’t get so emotional over this. I was too young to remember his games as a Charlotte Hornet. But I do remember when he died. I remember reading the newspapers. I remember the black jersey patch with his number 13. And what I can’t remember, I’ve rediscovered through the magic of YouTube.

I encourage you to do the same. You can watch highlights from game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Semifinals and see how Phills refused to roll over against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. You can watch his career highlights. You can even find the Hornets’ farewell video that included the tear-jerking moment of Phills’ son raising his father’s jersey to the rafters at the Charlotte Coliseum.

So, I’d just like for everyone to take this moment to remember this man who had an indomitable spirit and worked more than most professional athletes to reach the level he was at before his tragic death.

Graduating from Southern University with a 3.2 grade-point average, Phills was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1991 but was cut before even playing a game. He signed with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Continental Basketball Association and proceeded to average 23 points, 6.5 rebounds and a little under 2 steals per game. After that, he signed a deal to play 5 years for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Phills continued his NBA career by signing a seven-year, $33 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. In his 9 seasons in the NBA, he went from playing 4.5 minutes per game to playing 36.6.

And regardless of what you think about the circumstances of his death; regardless of his dangerous driving, remember that nearly everyone has a vice. Remember that Rob Woolard, who survived the automobile accident with Phills, has forgiven him. Remember that Bobby Phills was just as much a husband, a father, and a philanthropist as much as a professional athlete.

He and his wife, Kendall, had two children: Bobby Ray III (Trey) and Kerstie. Phills was also an active part of the Charlotte community, volunteering for children’s charities and other organizations. He started the “Bobby Phills Educational Foundation” and in 1998, he was a finalist for the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

Two weeks before the accident, Phills said in an interview, “I’m very secure with myself. I have a great family. I was raised by a great family. I have the American dream.”

And during this holiday season, I urge you to forget for the Bobcats’ struggles just for a little while and cherish the moments you spend with your loved ones. I think that’s what Bobby would have wanted.

- Cardboard Gerald

Quick Start to Bobcats Preseason News

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It seems like the long drought of non-NBA action was so long ago now that NBA Preseason is underway.  The Bobcats have shown some good signs of growth as they’ve put together two competitive games so far against the Cavs (loss) and the Hornets (win).  For anyone who caught the last, local TV broadcast on the FS Carolinas nextwork, it may have seemed like a surreal Charlotte-NBA concoction.  The list of oddities is tough to summarize, but I’ll try –  The Hornets played against the Bobcats in Greensboro’s teal saturated arena, both wearing pinstriped uniforms, with Steve Martin and Dell Curry calling the game for the TV broadcast.


BOBCATS PRESEASON NEWS

  • Emeka Okafor has always presented himself as a great professional and has conveyed as much sophistication as any athlete.  He told reporters that we was surprised by the trade that sent him from Charlotte to New Orleans.  Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on Okafor’s return to NC this past Wednesday.
  • Brian Hendrickson of Sports Illustrated has written an encouraging piece about the Bobcats current situation.  Rarely does SI shed a positive light on the organization, but Hendrickson seems to see the team getting past all of those errors and obstacles.  Read it at SI.com.
  • The Bobcats have finally posted real images of their jerseys on the online team store.  I have to say that the home uniforms are looking great.  The road jerseys might take a little more time to settle in.  This Diaw jersey might be a good purchase.
  • Lastly, the free agent of much Bobcats Baseline adoration doesn’t look so glowingly perfect nowadays.  Memphis Grizzlies guard Allen Iverson looks to be sidelined for the entire Preseason after injuring his hamstring.  Iverson told the media that his leg “popped” when he “stopped on a dime.”  But wasn’t Dime where we read that Iverson had a deal with Charlotte?



NEXT GAME

Cavs vs Cats in Charleston, SC on Saturday night.  No Boris Diaw, Tyson Chandler, Delonte West, or Jamario Moon. . . but there will be plenty of Shaq and Lebron for ESPN to show us afterward.

-Mike

Seattle, Charlotte Feels For You.

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Charlotte Coliseum Marquee 2008

After all of the headlines have passed and while the new OKC NBA team is on the verge of creating a new name, the supporters of NBA Basketball in Charlotte should recognize what has happened to Seattle. We’ve been through this. Somewhere in the days following the Charlotte Hornets achievement of credibility, and several seasons after the town hosted the All-Star game, things began to sour for the franchise. The Hornets’ owner was despised and refused to sell his franchise to any locals. It was made clear that our NBA team was only in town to serve as profit for the owners. Nothing more, nothing less. Does that sound familiar Seattle?
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