Gordon Hayward, Al Jefferson

Report: Gordon Hayward to visit Hornets

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Al Jefferson, a veteran signed from Utah last summer on a deal many considered an overpay, unexpectedly lifted Charlotte into the playoffs.

His transformative effect on the team could be felt for years to come, but it also alters the present.

With higher expectations entering this season, the Hornets need more playmaking on the wing. Their long-term aspirations remain in tact, though.

It’s a tough line to balance.

Maybe another Jazz player – 24-year-old Gordon Hayward, who averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game last season – fits the bill.

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

Forward-guard Gordon Hayward, one of the top free agents in this class, has scheduled a visit with the Charlotte Hornets for early next week, the Observer has learned.

Jefferson and Hayward are friends from their time together in Salt Lake City. A source familiar with the situation said Jefferson has been recruiting Hayward and will be part of the Hornets’ presentation next week.

The Hornets have enough cap room to offer Hayward a max offer sheet, and that’s probably what it would take to get him to sign. Enough other teams – the Cavaliers, Celtics, Suns – are hovering that I can’t imagine Hayward would guarantee himself a lower salary.

The Jazz are threatening to match, and I believe they will – though there’s reason for all sides to posture.

I like Hayward’s fit in Charlotte, and unless the Hornets really fear losing other targets while Utah delays three days to match an offer sheet, maybe the Hornets should take a swing at Hayward.

76ers increase Joel Embiid’s minute limit to 28

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, tries to get around Cleveland Cavaliers' DeAndre Liggins, center, and Kevin Love during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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Take comfort, chairs and staffers.

The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.

Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.

The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.

This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.

James Johnson dunks on Rudy Gobert in crunch time (video)

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Opponents shoot just 41.8% at the rim with Rudy Gobert defending it – which is now second to Hassan Whiteside among the 50 players who defend the most shots at the rim per game.

But James Johnson went up with no fear, scoring two of his 24 points in the Heat’s 111-110 win over the Jazz last night.

Nicolas Batum bounces assist through Dwight Powell’s legs (video)

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The Hornets didn’t just beat the Mavericks, 97-87, last night.

Nicolas Batum got Charlotte style points with this pass through Dwight Powell‘s legs, assisting Cody Zeller.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson floors Malcolm Brogdon with crossover (video)

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To be fair, Malcolm Brogdon was already off-balance before Rondae Hollis-Jefferson began his crossover.

To be real, DID YOU SEE BROGDON FALL OVER?