Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky: ‘I’ve got to be a better defender’

The Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky, right, has a wide set of skills offensively, but he understands he must improve defensively.
The Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky, right, has a wide set of skills offensively, but he understands he must improve defensively. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Frank Kaminsky has a message for Charlotte Hornets fans who think he was a spotty defender as an NBA rookie power forward: He thoroughly agrees. And given a chance, he’ll improve.

I asked Kaminsky a slew of questions Wednesday at Time Warner Cable…oops the Spectrum Center (going to take a while to get used to name changes). He told me he’s fine following chest surgery to address air bubbles along his lungs and that he appreciates the value coach Steve Clifford places on his wide skill set.

But, frankly, the most interesting answer I got was when I asked Kaminsky, the ninth overall pick in 2015, about what he still perceives as his flaw.

"I’ve got to be a better overall defender. I was overwhelmed at times," Kaminsky said. "My preparation, obviously, needs to get better. I so want to be a more consistent player. I’d have a good game and then disappear in the next."

Kaminsky had a solid rookie season, averaging 7.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. He’s processing one of the most difficult transitions in basketball – from college center at Wisconsin to NBA power forward in Charlotte.

His job at the defensive end with the Badgers was to keep other big men from getting layups and dunks.. In the modern-day NBA, his job as a power forward is to chase sleek, athletic 6-foot-10 guys from the rim to the 3-point line.

Fortunately, Kaminsky has a terrific role model in teammate Marvin Williams. Kaminsky is evolving from a center to a power forward. Williams evolved from a small forward to a power forward. But at the end of the day, Kaminsky can learn so much from Williams, who re-signed with the Hornets this summer.

"Marvin is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever seen. So, of course, I model myself after Marvin," Kaminsky said. "His mindset is always the same. He’s the guy who pays attention to every little nick and nuance of the game.

"Say, you go over something once in a shootaround before a game. The (other) team might run that play once in a game. And before that happens, he knows it’s coming. That’s the way I want to be. He just knows it’s coming."

Williams should undoubtedly be the starter at power forward next season, but that doesn’t mean Clifford lacks excitement about Kaminsky’s potential. A 7-footer who can make 3s, dribble, pass and post up creates intriguing possibilities.

Kaminsky considers himself lucky that Clifford, a grinder by nature, is his first NBA coach.

"You feel so prepared for everything," Kaminsky said. "You saw it in every single shootaround and practice. He sees things. If you take something away once, that might throw off their game plan. Cliff sees that. But if you let them get away with it once, it might be real trouble for you.

"He always says, ‘You play the game you’re prepared to play.’ I don’t think anyone is more prepared than that guy. His notes on every team – on what we need to take away – he always shares them with us pre-game. There are no excuses for why we can’t take something away."

Kaminsky is no conformist. It was funny at media day last fall when he was asked if there’s anything Charlotte should know about him, and he replied: "I’m not weird."

I asked about that Wednesday. He said he’s a bit quirky and a smart aleck, but that shouldn’t be perceived as "weird." Different can be refreshing. He reads books like "Killing Kennedy" and ponders where the truth ends and the fiction starts.

It’s good to have a life beyond pick-and-roll coverages and post-game dinners at Capital Grille.

"I don’t like people to understand what I’m doing," Kaminsky said. "It’s boring when people know what to expect."

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