Charlotte Hornets

Rookie Frank Kaminsky settling into expanded role with Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky didn’t contribute much in the season’s first 10 games, but the progress this past week was apparent.
Charlotte Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky didn’t contribute much in the season’s first 10 games, but the progress this past week was apparent. Getty Images

Charlotte Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky never played in the recent home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the only time in the Hornets’ 7-6 start he didn’t log at least four minutes.

Oddly enough, sitting out that game was Kaminsky’s route to an expanded role.

Coach Steve Clifford chose not to play Kaminsky because the Trail Blazers went to a small lineup late in the first half, and Clifford struggled to find a suitable defensive matchup for the 7-foot power forward. That started a conversation between Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing that left a strong impression on Clifford.

Ewing made the argument that if Kaminsky is a big part of the Hornets’ future, then it’s incumbent on the coaches to find him a matchup and trust Kaminsky to execute.

In the three games that followed that victory over the Trail Blazers, Kaminsky played 24, 23 and 19 minutes. That was partly because of injuries to other players, but it was also a statement about Kaminsky’s value to this team going forward.

“I think he has the agility once he gets more comfortable” to play smaller, quicker power forwards, Clifford said.

“He can score both inside and outside. He can really score in the post. We just don’t have a lot (of plays) for him down there yet. I think that he’ll be good enough to defend (smaller forwards) out on the perimeter and then take them down in the post and punish them.”

The Hornets drafted Kaminsky ninth overall, passing over Duke small forward Justise Winslow and a package of draft picks offered by the Boston Celtics. Kaminsky didn’t contribute much in the season’s first 10 games, but the progress this past week was apparent.

He struggled with his shot against the New York Knicks (1-of-5), but he grabbed five rebounds. In his next two games, he shot 8-of-10 from the field for 11 and nine points in victories against the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

His minutes could be trimmed some when Cody Zeller and P.J. Hairston return from injuries. But he is beginning to figure out how to defend NBA power forwards, which is very different from guarding college centers.

“When he makes a coverage mistake he gets really upset. He doesn’t look around” for someone else to blame, Clifford said of Kaminsky. “He’s making good progress. He’s going to be a good player.”

No giveaways permitted

Obviously there was substantial difference between the Hornets and Philadelphia in Friday’s 25-point blowout. Perhaps the biggest one was how sloppy the 76ers are about turnovers.

They commit the most in the NBA at more than 19 per game, while the Hornets commit the fewest at just more than 11 per game. On Friday the Hornets converted 18 Philadelphia turnovers into 27 points. The 76ers converted 11 Charlotte turnovers into eight points.

Notes: On Friday the Hornets made 12 3-pointers, the sixth time they have hit 10 or more this season. They totaled nine games of 10 or more 3s last season. …The Hornets have won the first two games of their seven-game homestand. Center Al Jefferson said it’s crucial they use this stretch to stay above .500 before the travel gets heavy again in January: “These are games we have to take advantage of. There aren’t any easy teams coming in, but we’ve just got to be focused and keep our crowd behind us.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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