Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford needs more in reserve from his players.
More specifically, Clifford needs more from his reserves as far as consistency.
It’s not a great surprise the Hornets’ bench has had uneven performances this season, when you consider the off-season makeover. Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee left via free-agency. Now, Marco Belinelli, Ramon Sessions and Roy Hibbert must make up the slack.
The bench has had good games (at Miami in particular) and bad ones (such as the home loss to Boston). What caused Clifford to single out this issue after Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers is he got two completely different halves from the bench.
The reserves got the Hornets back into that game in the second quarter, outscoring Cleveland’s bench 22-5.
Then, in the second half, Cleveland reserves outscored their Charlotte counterparts 23-6.
This isn’t just about making shots, although that is in the equation. More importantly, Clifford needs to cut down on the mental mistakes that led to the Cavaliers’ seven-point victory.
Point guard Sessions gets what concerns Clifford.
“He’s got to be able to depend on us to maintain what the starters accomplish. We’ve been up-and-down and he needs consistency,” Sessions said at practice Monday. “It’s not so much about scoring the ball as details at the defensive end.
“It’s a new group, as far as being together, but we’ve got to be at our spots. Coach is real into being into your right spots at the defensive end. We’ve got to do that the whole time, not just in spurts.”
One of the problems here is the Hornets are in such a busy span of the schedule that practice time and what the Hornets do in that time have been limited. Tuesday’s meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves will be Charlotte’s fifth game in eight nights.
So practice has been less about scrimmaging of late and more about video study and shooting drills. That doesn’t figure to change when the Hornets go on an 18 games-in-32 days run starting with Friday’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Spencer Hawes, a holdover from last season’s bench, says this group has enough experience and savvy that correction via video study should be enough.
“Sometimes it clicks earlier than others, and sometimes it never clicks,” Hawes said. “I think early we’ve shown flashes of that good chemistry. That’s something we’ve got to build on in limited (practice) time.
“Cliff is big on showing you stuff and not having to rep it again and again. With our group of guys having the experience and collective intellect we do, we’re capable of seeing it one time, doing it one time, and getting it.”
Basketball IQ vs. skill
Clifford said as much Monday: That this is one of the best teams he’s been around, in terms of basketball IQ, even by NBA standards.
The other issue is a simple matter of skill. So far, this bench has been good, but hardly great, in that regard.
According to the website hoopsstats.com, the Hornets bench is 11th in scoring among 30 NBA teams at 36.9 points per game. The bench is third in assists (9.7 per game) and eleventh in turnovers (4.3).
But the reserves don’t shoot well. The bench is 21st in field-goal percentage (42.1 percent) and 26th in 3-point percentage (28.4 percent).
If you don’t shoot well, you better be plenty organized at the defensive end, and that’s still a work-in-progress.
“You’ve got to be able to watch the film and learn from it,” Clifford said. “They’re all smart enough to do that. You’ve got to save (practice) energy for games.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell