Charlotte Hornets

What will it take for Charlotte Hornets’ bench to grow up fast?

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford expects Dwayne Bacon (7) and Malik Monk (1) to cut down on mental mistakes, because they belong in the playing rotation seven games in to the season.
Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford expects Dwayne Bacon (7) and Malik Monk (1) to cut down on mental mistakes, because they belong in the playing rotation seven games in to the season. AP

The issue that troubled the Charlotte Hornets most last season – an unreliable bench – is still a big concern this season.

"The bench play is our biggest problem. It’s got to be better," coach Steve Clifford said Sunday, after the home victory over the Orlando Magic.

In general, the Hornets played well Sunday. But in the third quarter, with a heavy dose of bench play, the Hornets let the Magic back into the game, being outscored 37-32. That quarter the Magic shot 63 percent from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

Clifford said that even with the injuries (most notably shooting guard Nic Batum), there is enough talent to form a solid second unit. The issue is more mental mistakes: "Disorganized, poor defense, blown coverages.

"When we break the (starting) lineup, we’ve got to execute. I don’t mind guys missing shots and stuff, but we’ve got to know what we’re doing. If you’re not in the right spot in this league, you’ve got no shot," Clifford said.

This problem came up again in the second quarter Monday on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies. The bench played better in the second half. The second unit right now includes rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, and big man Johnny O’Bryant, who played only 11 NBA games last season.

"Johnny, to me, is a rotation player. Malik is a rotation player. Dwayne? I don’t care if he (he’d been taken) 60th (rather than 40th in NBA draft), he’s ready to be a rotation player," Clifford said.

"But to do it, you’ve got to be ready every night. You’ve got to know what’s going on. I’ve talked to both of them about that: This isn’t a league where you can say, ‘Well, I’ll get it next week.’

"It’s not a talent thing, it’s a maturity thing. We can wait until February (after they) play 30 games and rest 10, or they can grow up now, because they’re good enough."

Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell

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