If you’re a Charlotte Hornets fan, you probably haven’t thought much about Johnny O’Bryant.
O’Bryant, a 6-foot-9 forward-center, played four games for the Hornets last season before an ankle injury caused him to miss the last handful of games in a 36-46 season. He’s a former second-round pick (Milwaukee Bucks), a former development league player, a former 10-day contract guy (Denver Nuggets).
O’Bryant needs a situation where an NBA coaching staff believes enough in his potential to invest time in his development. That situation might well be the Hornets.
Coach Steve Clifford saw something in O’Bryant’s brief stint last season that was intriguing. With 7-footer Frank Kaminsky injured March 4, O’Bryant went into the rotation in Denver, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds in a victory against the Nuggets.
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O’Bryant is practicing at Spectrum Center this week as part of the Hornets’ summer-league team headed to Orlando, Fla. The Hornets will play five games, starting Saturday morning against the Miami Heat.
Summer league can be O’Bryant’s platform, somewhat similar to preseason games for NFL reserves or spring games for college football reserves. He should get plenty of playing time after being a model worker since the season ended.
“All summer, he hasn’t missed a day,” said Hornets assistant Stephen Silas of O’Bryant’s workouts.
“He has a lot to his game. He has a little jumper, he can stretch the floor. He can make 3s and he can post up. He’s not super-athletic, but he’s quick. He can play (power forward and center).
“Definitely intrigued by him.”
The Hornets haven’t been particularly successful in these developmental situations the past few seasons.
Jeff Taylor, a second-round pick in 2013, looked like a keeper before a domestic violence incident started his descent out of the NBA. Taylor played last season in Europe. Two summers ago, undrafted free agent Aaron Harrison played well enough in summer league to get a training camp invitation and made Charlotte’s roster. But he was cut last season, ending up in the D-League (now G-League).
O’Bryant, who played college basketball for LSU, has a chance to break that pattern.
“I’ve talked to Coach Clifford many times, and he’s told me the same thing,” O’Bryant said of this opportunity.
“I’ve bounced around. What this league is about is a coach believing in a young player and throwing him out there. Let him prove himself.”
One thing working in O’Bryant’s favor is the versatility to play multiple positions. Though he’s undersized at center, he is both a rebounder and a shooter.
“When I was here on my (initial) 10-day contract, I played a lot of (center) because we were shorthanded, and I did fine,” O’Bryant recalled. “My natural position is more (power forward), but the league is so about small ball these days.”
The key in Florida is obvious: Keep reminding the coaches what got him on the court last April.
“Summer league is all about young guys showing what they can do,” O’Bryant said.
“I need to show I’m right where I left off.”