The Charlotte Hornets spent the summer trying to fix their anemic offense. They spent this six-day trip to China showing off a dramatic improvement.
For the second exhibition in a row against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hornets topped 100 points and won. This time it was a laugher, 113-71 at Mercedes Benz Arena, the widest margin of preseason victory in franchise history.
The 3-point shooting was exceptional (14-of-25, or 56 percent). The ball-movement was just as impressive, with 25 of the Hornets’ 35 baskets coming off of assists. The Hornets entered this preseason with seven roster changes.
“I’m not going to lie; I’m surprised” how quickly the offense has come together, said guard Jeremy Lin “Because we knew coming in we had guys like Spencer (Hawes), Nic Batum, Jeremy Lamb, all new guys. And then you had some guys who really knew how to move the ball.
“We have so much versatility. Honestly how quickly this has come together is a testament to coach (Steve) Clifford’s culture…Honestly right now no one cares who scores.”
The Hornets come home to Charlotte 4-0 in the preseason with four more exhibitions to go.
Three who mattered
Jeremy Lin: He scored the Hornets’ first 10 points, hitting two 3-pointers in the game’s first four minutes.
Al Jefferson: After struggling in Sunday’s first game in China against the Clippers, Jefferson hit eight of 17 shots from the field in the first three quarters to help the Hornets to a big lead.
Kemba Walker: He had a brutal shooting night, missing eight of his first nine attempts from the field.
▪ Lin started at shooting guard and Cody Zeller started at power forward, as coach Steve Clifford continued to experiment with player combinations in the preseason. Zeller was coming off a strong game Sunday in Shenzhen. Clifford is intrigued by the idea of playing Lin and Kemba Walker together to have two players initiating the offense.
▪ It looks like Marvin Williams will be the primary option backing up Nic Batum at small forward. That’s not ideal – Williams is better suited to power forward at this point in his career – but that’s where he’s needed, with plenty of other options at power forward.
▪ Hornets owner Michael Jordan and Chinese basketball icon Yao Ming were introduced to the crowd at mid-court shortly before halftime. Needless to say, they drew wild applause from the sellout crowd.
▪ The Hornets’ charter flight from Charlotte to Shenzhen took about 21 hours, including a two-hour stop in Anchorage to refuel. The return flight is scheduled to be much shorter in time: about 14 hours with no refueling necessary. That’s primarily due to a tailwind on the return, versus a headwind on the way to China.
▪ The Hornets were scheduled to land in Charlotte about 3:30 a.m. Thursday. They have a quick turnaround, with a home exhibition against the New York Knicks Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
▪ Despite suffering a cracked finger earlier in the week, Clippers guard (and former Wake Forest star) Chris Paul started Wednesday. It was a big week for athletes from the Triad in Shanghai. Greensboro’s John Isner is in town to play in the Masters tennis tournament.
▪ Former Hornet Glen Rice was on this trip as one of the “Legends” making appearances for the NBA. Rice still has the Hornets’ single-game scoring record of 48 points versus the Boston Celtics in 1997. To put that in perspective, the Hornets as a team could muster only 59 points against the Celtics in an October 2009 game.
▪ Three Hornets were out with injuries: Troy Daniels (hamstring), P.J. Hairston (calf) and Elliot Williams (hip flexor).
They said it
“If we stay healthy, I think we can be a much better basketball team. Ultimately, making the playoffs is the mark of success. This team has worked hard to promote this game to Charlotte and our fan base. It’s up to us in a basketball sense to turn that into wins.” – Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
“They’re way better. They added a ton this summer. Now they have a lot of shooting on the floor.” – Clippers coach Doc Rivers on the Hornets.
“Our big things were more 3-point shooting and more ways to create the 3-point shot. We’re doing that with perimeter guys who are playmakers and big guys who can make 3s. The ingredients are there.” – Hornets coach Steve Clifford.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell