The Charlotte Hornets are free-flowing, can be fun to watch and certainly make a lot more threes than they used to.
But what they can’t figure out yet is where Al Jefferson fits into “Hornets 2.0.”
Jefferson lost 25 pounds over the summer, has bought into the new, “let’s-spread-the-floor-with-four-shooters” system and is trying hard to make it work by passing the ball more and setting more side screens. But the player who pushed Charlotte into the playoffs in 2014 now sometimes plays very little in the fourth quarter. And even when he’s in the game, it doesn’t seem the same. Jefferson isn’t shooting well and too often seems out of sync.
Jefferson had one of his vintage performances earlier this month against Dallas, scoring 31 points and toying with the Mavericks’ defense. But in the past three Hornets games entering Sunday’s home contest against Portland, “Big Al” has gone 3-for-9, 2-for-10 and 3-for-9 again from the field. He has not scored in double figures in any of those games.
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Should the offense grind to a halt so Jefferson can set up on his beloved left block and get off 18 shots every game? No. But coach Steve Clifford and his staff must find a way to more gracefully incorporate Jefferson – still one of the Hornets’ 2-3 best players – into the new look.
Kaminsky Struggles: It’s not unexpected, but rookie Frank Kaminsky is struggling early to finish shots down low that he hit all the time in college. NBA defenders are obviously a lot stronger than what he was used to at Wisconsin, and he needs a good bit more seasoning before he is able to bang more effectively.
Hardy Heat: I was glad to see the Dallas Cowboys’ two most legendary quarterbacks – Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman – both rip into Dallas owner Jerry Jones and defensive end Greg Hardy this week.
Staubach told USA Today that while he remained a Cowboys fan, he wouldn’t root for Hardy. And Aikman, when asked on a radio station if there would ever be a point when the Cowboys say ‘That’s enough’ with Hardy, said: “I guess the line is when he’s no longer productive, you know? I think that’s always been the line for Jerry Jones, is he’s one to pretty much accept everything as long as a guy’s productive. There’s not many owners in this league like that. Obviously, (Carolina owner) Jerry Richardson isn’t like that.”
State Stunner: While UNC and Duke performed pretty much as expected in their first games of the season Friday – each winning with relative ease – N.C. State’s loss to William & Mary was a stunner. The fact that the Wolfpack got down 23-5 was especially startling. It wasn’t that much different than what happened to Charlotte – the 49ers were down by as many as 37 points (to Elon!) in Mark Price’s debut.
On the other hand, I was very impressed with the way Duke’s Grayson Allen and UNC’s Kennedy Meeks played in their season openers.
Ticket Time: Tickets for the Wells Fargo Championship go on sale Monday and range in price from $30 for the three practice days to $165 for a weekly ticket book. Rory McIlroy became the tournament’s first two-time winner in 2015. The 2016 tournament will be held May 2-8 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. Go to WellsFargoChampionship.com for information.
Flag Day: Want to take a wild guess at who leads the Panthers in most penalties this season? It is Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who has had six. No one else has had more than four.
The Panthers don’t mind that too much, however, given that Olsen has already scored five TDs in eight games. He’s the only tight end in the league to have scored at least five times in each of the last eight years.