The first half of Thursday’s exhibition against the Indiana Pacers was an extreme version of something Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford has noticed all preseason: slow starts.
The Hornets fell behind by 10 in the first quarter, a deficit that eventually ballooned to 22. The Hornets trimmed that to two points in the fourth quarter, but they just didn’t give themselves much chance because of that dreadful first half.
“We’re not starting games well and it’s not just the starters – when we’re subbing in, we don’t have the same readiness in the first half that we do in the second half,” Clifford said at practice Friday. “The starters’ defense was good and then, when we went to the bench, (the Pacers) had like 12 points in four minutes.”
“Then in the second half our defense (held Indiana) under 32 percent and 1-of-5 from 3. The only time our defense wasn’t good in the second half was when the game was on the line and we kept fouling.”
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That trend – what Clifford calls “needless fouling” – haunted the Hornets during a 3-5 preseason. They committed 197 fouls this preseason compared to 173 opponent fouls. That’s a drastic change from last season when the then-Bobcats committed the fewest fouls in the NBA.
Walker injury: Point guard Kemba Walker sat out Thursday’s exhibition after feeling throbbing pain in his left foot at the morning shootaround.
Walker was limited in practice Friday, but says his foot is feeling much better. He hopes to practice fully Saturday.
“It was something that just happened during shootaround,” Walker said of the pain. “It felt weird, I wasn’t myself. I felt I had to sit out to be prepared for the regular season. I don’t want to rush anything, I want to be 100 percent for the regular season.”
Short-handed: The Hornets weren’t able to scrimmage due to a lack of bodies, particularly at the wing positions. Gary Neal missed practice due to an illness and Lance Stephenson is out, probably until Monday, with a groin strain.
That left the Hornets without enough shooting guards and small forwards to effectively play 5-on-5.
Maxiell staying: Clifford confirmed that free-agent big man Jason Maxiell will be on the opening-night roster. The Hornets waived training-camp invitees Dallas Lauderdale, Brian Qvale and Justin Cobbs, trimming the roster to the NBA-maximum 15 players.
Clifford has praised Maxiell’s professionalism, comparing him to third point guard Jannero Pargo. Maxiell’s contract is unguaranteed so the Hornets retain some roster flexibility.