Hornets’ coach explains why Noah Vonleh barely sees the court

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Timing is everything.

And to hear Charlotte Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford talk, Noah Vonleh’s timing was all bad with the sports hernia injury that kept him out of training camp. Which is why right now he barely sees the court. The rookie, ninth overall pick of the Hornets in the last draft, played seven minutes of garbage time against Oklahoma City Friday night, which brings him to a total of 32 minutes played this season in four games.

Now that he’s healthy why is Vonleh not getting time on the court and some in-game development? Clifford laid it out for Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“It’s the speed of the game: To play consistent, regular minutes you have to have a comfort level with how the NBA game is played,” Clifford said. “Unfortunately once the season starts you only have certain stretches of the year where you can practice a lot.

“He’s a 19-year-old who missed all of September, when the foundation was put in, and all of October and is now playing catch-up. The thing that gives him a chance is he’s very gifted and a great worker. But it would be tough for anybody to catch up quickly after missing his rookie preseason.”

Vonleh was always seen as a bit of a project — he’s got size and athleticism and showed shooting range in college, but he struggled to bring that shot to the next level (for example, he shot just 28.4 percent overall and 12.5 percent from three in the Las Vegas Summer League). At the time Hornets Summer League coach Patrick Ewing told PBT that Vonleh needed to get stronger, needed to show more consistent effort, and needed to be a beast on the boards to get some minutes when the games count. He hasn’t shown enough of that to the staff so far, apparently.

But if the 10-20 Hornets continue to struggle and fall out of the playoff picture in the East, maybe it will become time to just play the kid and go with some trial by fire.