Look for Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker to play more with the second unit to smooth out the minutes -- usually early in the second and fourth quarters -- when the reserves are mostly on the court.
The Hornets play the Miami Heat Friday at Spectrum Center, starting a span where six of seven games are at home. At 10-17, the Hornets have to make a move up the standings soon to feel good about their playoff prospects.
Acting coach Stephen Silas used All-Star Walker to start the fourth quarter in Monday’s victory over the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Silas said at morning shootaround that’s a strategy he’d likely use more going forward.
“Definitely,” Silas said. “We’re going to be a little bit more selective, and not have the whole second group on the floor at the same time. Doing stuff like that, having Kemba play the whole third quarter and maybe a couple of minutes in the fourth, to where we can make it not so hard when those (backups) come in the game.”
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Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets was lost primarily with the Hornets’ second unit on the floor. There were some striking numbers in the plus-minus statistic among the reserves: The Hornets were a minus-38 when Frank Kaminsky played and minus-32 when Jeremy Lamb played.
Batum discarding padding
Hornets guard Nic Batum said he doesn’t plan to wear padding any more on his injured left elbow. Batum played without padding in the second half of the game in Houston.
Batum has struggled off and on since returning from six weeks of recovery after tearing an elbow ligament in October. He shot 9-of-27 from the field in his last three games.
“I think I need to do a better job of running more plays for him. He finds himself sometimes just out there,” Silas said of Batum. “Him with the ball just makes it better for everybody on the floor. Him getting the ball more on the move and in the pick-and-roll is playing more to his strength: Playing downhill, getting him shots, but he’s also making plays for others.”
Batum said the time away slowed him adapting to how the offense now runs, with a major post-up option in center Dwight Howard.
“This year we get the ball inside a lot more than we used to do, particularly in my two years” with the Hornets, Batum said. “Dwight is so dominant inside, so I’m cool with getting the ball inside. But right now I’m not playing the same game I did the first two years; I was way more involved with pick-and-roll and DHO (dribble-handoffs) and running. Maybe mix it up a little bit.”
Mathiang in Greensboro
The Hornets sent rookie Mangok Mathiang to Greensboro Friday, to play a game with the Swarm. Mathiang and guard Marcus Paige are playing on the NBA’s new two-way contracts, allowing developmental players to spend most of their season in the G-League, but still have their rights held by the parent club.
Mathiang has been with the Hornets the last few games in response to injuries to other big men. Center Cody Zeller is out indefinitely following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Kaminsky missed some time with a sprained ankle.
Silas indicated it’s likely Mathiang will be back with the Hornets, maybe as soon as Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell