Charlotte Hornets

Hornets rookie Miles Bridges finds himself in a summer game of trial-and-error

Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges is still working through the quick decisions the NBA game demands, but his wide skill set is apparent.
Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges is still working through the quick decisions the NBA game demands, but his wide skill set is apparent. AP

It's possible Miles Bridges has made more split-second decisions in three summer-league games than he did his entire last season at Michigan State.

That's not a knock in any way on the quality of play at Michigan State or college basketball in general. Bridges got superb coaching from the Spartans' Tom Izzo, and one of the things that attracted the Charlotte Hornets to forward Bridges was how all-around sound he appeared entering last month's draft.

But the NBA is so different in a "life comes at you fast" way. The Hornets coaches constantly remind Bridges and everyone else on this summer roster of the "0.5-second rule." As in, if the ball is in your hands, you have half a second to decide whether to shoot, drive or pass based on what the defense shows you.

Bridges registered strong statistics in the Hornets' 100-80 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday. He scored 20 points, shooting 4-of-10 from 3-point range, and grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes. That's a nice game from the 12th overall pick, certainly plenty to work with going forward.

But there was also plenty to correct for both Bridges and his teammates, as there should be at this stage. The Hornets shot 38 percent from the field Monday, which reflects why they fell behind almost immediately by double figures and never recovered to lose for the first time in three Las Vegas games.

Hornets assistant Jay Hernandez, who is coaching the summer team, thought some shots were rushed in situations where it would have been wiser to probe for a better offensive option.

"We believe Miles can make those shots. That's one of the reasons he was drafted" so early, Hernandez said. "A big thing for a young guy in the NBA is shot selection. He would have had an even better percentage tonight if some of those shots had come off extra passes and different actions.

"It's just a matter of him understanding when to go to the rim and use his gifts to attack the basket. When to get guys open shots and when to take that shot himself."

Ten of Bridges' 17 shots came from 3-point range. The Hornets want him showing defenses he can make shots from outside the arc; that's extra valuable in the NBA, where spacing is a bigger part of the strategy. But the Hornets also want him forcing defenses to foul. And that Bridges didn't attempt a single free throw Monday is far from ideal.

Charlotte Hornets' first- and second-round NBA draft picks Miles Bridges and Devonte' Graham are introduced to the media by general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Speed of the game

Just remember, everything that happens at summer league is trial-and-error. It's faster than practice was last week, slower than exhibition games will be in early October and a lot slower than the regular season.

Bridges is processing all that and feels he's adjusting.

"It's definitely slowed down," Bridges said of the difference for him between the Hornets' opener last Friday and now. "My first game went by like a blur, but now I'm feeling good."

The best thing Bridges has demonstrated in summer league is that he's competent at everything. The Hornets expected his defensive value to be ahead of what he'd do offensively, but so far it's all solid.

"He's definitely not in the specialist category," Hernandez said of Bridges. "He can run, he can dribble, he can shoot. He can do a little bit of everything."

'A basketball player'

At 6-foot-7, Bridges is a small forward who will sometimes branch over to power forward. The Hornets had a conviction going into draft night that Bridges could guard as many as four positions, which is huge in this NBA era of constantly switching defense.

"Nowadays, we're looking for a basketball player, not just (specific) positions," Hernandez said.

If that ends up on Bridges' resume — no obvious flaw, able to guard a wide spectrum of scorers and a shooter whom defenders can't afford to leave along the perimeter — general manager Mitch Kupchak's first draft-lottery decision in Charlotte will be fine.

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