New Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego said the biggest adjustment he anticipates from the players is the stepped-up pace of play he will demand.
Borrego knows that could make the preseason offense look forced and ragged, but he can live with that.
How intent is Borrego on immediately speeding the pace? During pickup games at the Spectrum Center practice court the past month, the shot clock - which goes to 24 seconds in NBA play - was set to 12 seconds to force the players to make immediate decisions.
Veteran forward Marvin Williams said that was a shock initially.
“It was interesting for me that first day, to say the least,” said Williams, entering his 14th NBA season. “Obviously 12 seconds is still a lot of time...enough time to make a couple of passes and maybe get one or two (offensive) actions really quick, but the first couple of times we did it we did not play that way. We’d come down and literally fire the first 3 that we saw. There were times when I felt literally I was just running back and forth and back and forth” baseline to baseline.
“But it’s great for your conditioning this time of year, so I thought (shortening possessions) was really smart on coach’s part to do that.”
Someone who has to love this faster pace is second-year guard Malik Monk, who will be a contender to start. Monk said Monday he believes his game wasn’t particularly flawed as a rookie last season, but it didn’t necessarily jibe with the style of play then-coach Steve Clifford preferred.
“I’m not worrying about that pace. I love that pace,” Monk said of speeding up play. “The whole culture has changed right away and I’m looking forward to it.”
Monk’s recent decision to become a dog owner became a life lesson in discipline that could work for the Hornets. Monk now has a Neopolitan Mastiff named Bear.
“I look at life differently; it’s like I’ve got a kid now,” Monk said.
“As soon as I get up, I think about doing stuff for him, and I think that makes me a better basketball player, too. It makes me better about being on time for stuff because if you’re not there, he’s going to pee. You wake up 30 minutes late and there’s pee all over the floor..
“He makes me look at everything different. My (sense of) responsibility went up a lot.”
A year later
The biggest change to the Hornets’ roster was the trade in July of center Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets. Howard, a potential Hall of Famer, spent a single season with the Hornets. The Nets immediately negotiated a buyout-and-waiver, facilitating Howard signing with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards will be Howard’s fourth team in as many seasons. There was widespread speculation after the trade that Howard was a disruption in a Hornets season that finished 36-46, their second consecutive losing season. Kemba Walker, Nic Batum and Williams were all asked about Howard and each said Howard was not problematic in the Horrnets locker room.
“He just likes to have a good time, but Dwight Howard was not a problem,” Williams said. “That (season) was a collective lack of effort from the players.”
Regardless of Howard’s personality, it is clear his tendency to hold the ball in the low post was viewed by management as potentially impeding the quick-pace/quick-decision style Borrego wants. Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said after the trade that Howard’s role would have been significantly reduced as a Hornet had he not been traded.
It’s just a number
Two Hornets veterans -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Frank Kaminsky -- will make position shifts as part of Borrego’s plans; Kaminsky will play more center and less power forward and Kidd-Gilchrist will play more power forward and less small forward.
Kidd-Gilchrist said those position labels (a small forward is typically called a 3 and a power forward a 4) don’t define him as a basketball player.
“A 4 and a 3 are one-and-the-same to me,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’m ready to adapt.”