Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky shines in summer league loss

Charlotte Hornets’ first-round draft choice Frank Kaminsky finished Saturday’s summer league game with 19 points and 12 rebounds and making four of his eight attempts from 3-point range.
Charlotte Hornets’ first-round draft choice Frank Kaminsky finished Saturday’s summer league game with 19 points and 12 rebounds and making four of his eight attempts from 3-point range. AP

The rookie is already talking trash and his summer league coach loves that.

Charlotte Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing found it amusing and encouraging that Frank Kaminsky, the team’s lottery pick, was yapping at opponents late in the Hornets’ 76-74 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando summer league.

Kaminsky took what would have been a game-tying shot – a heavily guarded turnaround jumper – that slid off the rim as time expired. Kaminsky showed plenty Saturday, finishing the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds and making four of his eight attempts from 3-point range.

The Hornets drafted Kaminsky ninth overall last month. That decision has been criticized in some circles because the Hornets also had the option to draft Duke small forward Justise Winslow or trade the pick to the Boston Celtics for a package that reportedly included four first-rounders.

On Saturday, Kaminsky certainly looked top-10 worthy. After a slow start (making two of his first nine attempts from the field) he hit five in a row, including two 3-pointers. Although he was called for two walks, he also demonstrated the ability to drive from the 3-point line to the rim and pick up a shooting foul.

If this game is indicative (and it’s risky to draw too much from summer league), Kaminsky has the skill set to help the Hornets in a variety of ways.

“From the first day of practice until right now, it’s like night-and-day,” Ewing said of three days of preparation for Orlando, “At first he was tentative, like a deer-in-the-headlights. Then as the week went on he started getting his confidence. Getting his swag back. He was trash-talking and I like that.”

Asked specifically about 7-footer Kaminsky’s shooting range, Ewing said, “It’s great. It’s definitely going to open up the floor for Kemba (Walker), Al (Jefferson), MKG and (Nic) Batum.”

Small forward P.J. Hairston said the tumble-down effect of Kaminsky’s range is already so beneficial.

“There were so many times in this game we had lanes to drive and so many kick-outs that were wide open. That’s all about his ability to shoot the ball,” said Hairston, who finished with 13 points. “When you have a (big) guy like that who can shoot like that it makes it so much easier for everyone else.”

Ewing had called Kaminsky “rusty” and appearing to have “jitters” the first day of practice Wednesday. What a difference from then to Saturday.

“It’s all about being comfortable for me,” Kaminsky said. “It took a few practices to learn the offense and understand my role. Now I can take my role and run with it.”

Kaminsky had nine rebounds by halftime. He says he expects that of himself.

“I feel like I’m smart enough to figure out rebounding angles,” Kaminsky said. “I would have liked to have picked up my rebounding in the second half when they made their run, but I know I can rebound.”

And what about that trash talk?

“I’m coming off a great (college) season, and now I’m starting over with no respect,” Kaminsky said. “Now I have to earn my respect.”

Hairston and fellow veteran Troy Daniels, who have featured roles for the Hornets in this summer league, both struggled. They combined to shoot 1-of-11 from 3-point range. Hairston expressed disappointment with himself post-game.

“I feel like I made some mistakes that were critical,” said Hairston, who committed four turnovers. “I was mad at myself.”

It was noteworthy that guard Aaron Harrison, an undrafted rookie who played at Kentucky, got 22 minutes in a 40-minute game.

“I was a little nervous in the beginning, but once you warm up, it’s just basketball,” Harrison said. “I want to show I’m an all-around guard.”

Harrison finished with 10 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. He shot 4-of-10 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range.

“He shot the ball a few times when I thought he should have passed it. But overall he played extremely well for us in the camp,” Ewing said. “Tonight he took a step back. He needs to be a little more aggressive at the offensive and defensive ends, and he has to share the ball.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

Observations

▪ Veteran small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist flew with the Hornets’ summer league team to Orlando. This helps him maintain his off-season workouts with new shooting coach Bruce Kreutzer. Kidd-Gilchrist sat at the scorer’s table Saturday next to coach Steve Clifford.

▪ Point guard Aaron Craft was unable to play against the Thunder because of a nagging toe injury. I got the sense Craft would have played a lot if he was available.

▪ Troy Daniels and P.J. Hairston shooting a combined 1-of-11 from 3-point range certainly isn’t the look the Hornets hope for from two potential rotation players.

▪ Associate head coach Patrick Ewing is toughing it out on a torn meniscus in his left knee. Ewing is on crutches most of the time, but that wasn’t practical in the confined area of the bench for summer league.

▪ It was obvious Frank Kaminsky, Hairston and Daniels would start this week. The other two starters were point guard Jonathan Wallace from Georgetown and center Brian Qvale from Montana.

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