NBA teams really don’t need eight preseason exhibitions to get ready for the regular season. So you get one like Saturday night every so often.
The New York Knicks played Friday in Boston. The Hornets were two days removed from flying home from China. So Knicks coach Derek Fisher sat out three starters and Hornets coach Steve Clifford sat all five starters in the second half. The result: A 97-93 Hornets victory at Time Warner Cable Arena that left Charlotte 5-0 in the preseason.
This became an opportunity for Clifford to play rookies Frank Kaminsky and Aaron Harrison more than he did in the previous four exhibitions. It was also a chance to give nine-season NBA veteran Damien Wilkins, signed Friday, 17 minutes. Harrison, hoping to secure the 15th and final roster spot, hit two fourth-quarter 3-pointers to help secure the win.
The Hornets have a busy week ahead, with a home exhibition Monday against the Chicago Bulls and then road dates Wednesday and Thursday against the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. The plan Saturday seemed to be get the core players to the bench before anyone significant got hurt.
Three who mattered
Al Jefferson: He looked in mid-season form operating in the low block hitting five of nine first-half shots and getting to the foul line twice. Losing that weight has really helped him.
Jeremy Lamb: After shooting just 35 percent from the field in the first four exhibitions, he found his sweet spots on the floor Saturday. Lamb finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Frank Kaminsky: He got 30 minutes and produced, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds and a block.
▪ P.J. Hairston (calf) and Troy Daniels (hamstring) have yet to play in the preseason. Coach Steve Clifford is still searching for a fifth starter in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s absence. Hairston would be in the mix for that role if he can get healthy enough to show something in the preseason.
▪ Clifford is still experimenting with player combinations, but he wants to start nailing down roles. He says most players can’t be effective if when and who they play with keeps changing.
▪ Wilkins feels his career got a boost from playing for Team USA in the Pan American games this summer.
▪ While Jeremy Lin participated in shootaround Saturday morning, he sat out the Knicks exhibition due to illness. With all the obligations Lin had on the China trip, it’s no surprise he’d be worn down a bit.
▪ Reserve point guard Brian Roberts is having a very solid preseason after what was a pretty inconsistent second half of last season.
▪ Cody Zeller entered Saturday night a perfect 14-of-14 from the field and 3-of-3 from 3-point range in the previous four exhibitions. He missed his second shot against the Knicks, breaking the streak.
▪ The Knicks sat out three starters Saturday – Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez and Jose Calderon (veteran rest night on the second of back-to-back games).
▪ Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis looked utterly baffled trying to defend Jefferson’s post moves in the second quarter.
They said it
“It means absolutely nothing in the regular season.” – Clifford on whether a 5-0 start to the preseason has any tangible value to the Hornets.
“It says a lot about the character of the guys – very unselfish from top to bottom. Nobody cares who is taking the shots as long as the ball is moving. It’s fun for you guys to watch and for us to play.” – Zeller on the Hornets’ improved ball movement.
“When you take a lot of guys who, 1. really know basketball and, 2., are unselfish guys, they tend to make plays like that.” – Marvin Williams on the Hornets’ ball-movement.
B-plus OFFENSE: They didn’t break 100 as they did in each exhibition in China, but the reserves generating 28 fourth-quarter points was promising.
B DEFENSE: Clifford is a stickler for getting back in transition. The Knicks’ 17 fast-break points was unacceptable.
B-plus COACHING: Clifford knows he has three more exhibitions in the next five days. So he rested the starters’ legs in a meaningless second half.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell