Kemba Walker

Three questions the Charlotte Hornets must answer this season


The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
36-46, missed the playoffs.

I know what you did last summer: Thanks to some circumstances in this year’s draft out of their control, the Hornets sort of fell into the lucky spot of drafting the University of Kentucky’s Malik Monk. Monk is an excellent 3-point shooter and should be a useful scorer for Charlotte off the bench. Meanwhile, the team also drafted Dwayne Bacon at No.40. Oh, and they traded for Dwight Howard. A 31-year-old Dwight Howard, but still.


1) What is the identity of this team? Under head coach Steve Clifford the Hornets have traditionally been a good defensive team. Save for last season, each full year under Clifford the Hornets have been a Top 10 team in defensive rating. But last year it was a bit of a disaster, and Charlotte dipped to just 19th overall.

They could not play their most effective lineups due to injuries, and now with a revamped roster they will have to see if they can make it work. Al Jefferson has been gone for a full season now — long the offensive pacesetter for this team — and this is Kemba Walker‘s squad more than ever. He took a huge leap forward last season in efficiency, and it will be interesting to see where they go with a mix of veterans and young players as they try to fold Howard into it all.

2) Can Howard help a floundering defense? I sort of feel like people forget that the Atlanta Hawks finished with a winning record last season and fifth in the Eastern Conference. That counts for something, especially when you go back and remember that Dwight Howard had one of his best seasons in recent years on that squad. Howard also has the benefit of being familiar with Clifford, who helped coach him when he was a member of the Orlando Magic. Combined with Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, it will be interesting to see how much Howard makes a difference to last seasons injury depleted squad.

Health alone won’t set Charlotte straight, and on offense it will still be the usual suspects carrying much of the load. Defense is where the Hornets have the most to make up in order to reach the playoffs next season, and Howard will be a critical part of that.

3) Is there a clear line between starters and role players in Charlotte? Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwight Howard, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lamb. This is the list of players who hit 1000+ minutes last season in the NBA on this roster. Walker is set to be a starter, as is Batum, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Howard. Williams will likely be the fifth starter as a shooting presence — needed especially as MKG returns and with Marco Belinelli in Atlanta.

But where things could get muddy is if there is are jumps from the young scorers and simultaneous dips from the aging veterans. Charlotte seems open to that — especially when you look at players like Williams and Howard — who will have both Zeller and Kaminsky nipping at their heels. While the starting lineup could be what we’ve seen from Clifford before, the rotations could easily get tricky in Charlotte pretty quick. They’ll need to quickly figure out what those rotations are in order to win games.

Heat forward James Johnson expected to miss 7 to 10 days

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MIAMI (AP) The Miami Heat will be without starting forward James Johnson for at least two games and probably more after bursitis was found in his right ankle.

Johnson left Miami’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday with ankle pain, and an MRI performed Sunday led to the bursitis diagnosis. Johnson is not traveling with the team for its trip for games at Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday.

The team says Johnson could miss seven to 10 days, which would also mean his status for home games against Dallas on Dec. 22, New Orleans on Dec. 23 and Orlando on Dec. 26 is in some doubt.

Johnson is averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Heat this season.

LeBron James wears one black, one white LeBron 15 shoes with “Equality” on back (VIDEO)

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LeBron James notched his third-straight triple-double on Sunday, this one coming against the Washington Wizards. But before the game, the story was all about how James was voicing a silent protest — in Washington D.C., no less — by wearing a special version of his shoes.

LeBron took to the floor wearing his LeBron 15s, but this player edition had the word “Equality” on the back of them. James wore one black shoe and one white shoe.

James wore the black versions of this shoe in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opener to start the season.

Via Twitter:

LeBron finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 106-99.

Stephen Curry says he’d want in on potential Panthers ownership


The Carolina Panthers are up for sale. Owner Jerry Richardson said he would sell the team late on Sunday following an announcement by the NFL that Richardson was under investigation for “workplace misconduct”. The NFL’s investigation and Richardson’s decision to sell was preceded by a report from SI saying Richardson had paid out settlements amid sexual harassment and racial slur claims.

Enter Sean Combs and Stephen Curry.

Combs — that’s Diddy, you to and me — has previously voiced his interest in being involved with the NFL, and after seeing that Richardson would be selling the team, jumped at the chance to boost his profile. Combs tweeted that he wanted to buy the team, and that’s when Curry joined in.

Via Twitter:

Naturally, Curry is from Charlotte and went to both high school and eventually college in the area, playing at Davidson. He’s an avid Panthers fan and has been on the sideline for the team publicly many times over the years.

Curry being part of an ownership group for the Panthers would be pretty wild. Perhaps Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan would like to join in? It seems like they would have the liquidity and credit availability between the three of them to get the team.

Then again, the asking price for the Panthers could be north of $2 billion. The last team to be sold was the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for $1.4 billion. In September, Forbes released a valuation for the Panthers that put them at $2.3 billion.

Might need to get a few others involved in this one.

Watch Raptors fans give Vince Carter a standing ovation in Toronto (VIDEO)

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Vince Carter is 40 years old and playing in what could possibly be his final NBA season. The Sacramento Kings guard started his career with the Toronto Raptors, and on Sunday he played what could possibly be his final game at the Air Canada Centre.

And so, when Carter was subbed out late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the folks in Toronto did what came naturally: they cheered.

The whole thing was pretty great to watch, and a real testament to how Carter is viewed by fans in Toronto.

Via Twitter:

Carter scored just four points in 25 minutes for Sacramento, going 2-of-5 from the field while adding three blocks, two assists, a rebound and a steal.

The Raptors got the win over the Kings, 108-93.