Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets are committed to 3s, accept the tradeoffs involved

By Rick Bonnell

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker, center, smiles as teammates Nicolas Batum, left and Marvin Williams look on after Walker hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds against the New Orleans Pelicans in the second half of Wednesday’s game. Charlotte won 122-113.
Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker, center, smiles as teammates Nicolas Batum, left and Marvin Williams look on after Walker hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds against the New Orleans Pelicans in the second half of Wednesday’s game. Charlotte won 122-113. AP

There’s a famous line from “The Godfather” trilogy when one gangster says to another, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

Here’s how that applies to this edition of the Charlotte Hornets: They have chosen to be a 3-point team. It was the function of a very deliberate plan last summer that remade this roster. Usually it makes them better. Occasionally not so much.

But like all plans, you either commit to it or you better try something else.

The Hornets won their fifth in a row Wednesday, beating the New Orleans Pelicans 122-113. They started off exceptionally from outside the arc, making eight of their first 11 attempts.

The rest of the game: 7 of 24.

Personally I thought some of those 3s were bad shots taken early in shot-clock possessions. So I asked coach Steve Clifford if that’s cause for concern, something he might have to address with the players.

Clifford firmly responded no.

“If you start saying, ‘Oh, don’t shoot that one!’ then there is hesitancy on their part and I don’t want that. I want them shooting free-and-easy,” Clifford said.

“I don’t think you can evaluate every shot, where people say, ‘That’s a bad shot!’ Every team takes two or three questionable shots per game.

“If it’s bad – if the ball is not going to the paint – then I’ll call timeout, or there are certain sets we can run that are just penetration-type to get the ball going.”

That’s what I meant by the business they have chosen: When you commit to offensive risk-takers like Kemba Walker, Nic Batum and Jeremy Lin, you must accept the good with the bad. And at 35-28, with 11 victories in the last 13 games, there is an awful lot of good going on.

Still, it’s a deviation from the way the Hornets used to play. Sometimes you are going to see an offensive rebound followed within seconds by a 3-point attempt. That didn’t go so well in the second half, when the Pelicans tied the game after having trailed by as many as 17 points.

Clifford said giving up that lead was more about shaky defense than shot selection, and he has a point there. Pelicans Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are a talented pair, but they really shouldn’t have gone off for a combined 78 points on the road.

Fortunately for the Hornets, the Pelicans (24-39) are so depleted by injuries that New Orleans could never quite take control of this game.

The defense was crummy by Hornets standards. You aren’t going to win many games giving up 47 percent shooting from the field and sending the other team to the foul line 28 times.

But that’s what happens when center Al Jefferson gets in immediate and constant foul trouble. With Spencer Hawes out with a sore lower back, starting center Cody Zeller was out there all by himself in the lane. He rose to the occasion with 13 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t easy.

But back to the point: Clifford might desire to correct a player’s shot selection during a game but he filters himself. Walker, who had his fourth consecutive game of 30 or more points, says the players appreciate that for just the reason Clifford described: Maintaining confidence.

“He would never say anything (in games) about shot selection. And I think guys take great shots; the shots they have worked on,” Walker said.

“He’s great about that.”

Why wouldn’t he be? This is, after all, the business Clifford has chosen.

 
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