The then-Charlotte Bobcats won last season because they were a work team.
Coach Steve Clifford had to remind his players post-game Thursday that can’t change for the now-Hornets to succeed.
“We had guys just show up and get a workout in. That’s not the approach you can have in this league,” Clifford said of the effort in an 88-79 exhibition loss to the Indiana Pacers. “We don’t have a ton of talent. If we don’t have the intensity of last year, we’ll have a hard time winning.”
Then Clifford drove home his point with this: “That’s an unacceptable effort by most of our guys.”
The Hornets finished the preseason 3-5. There was some good (Clifford loved how his team competed in Chicago against the Bulls), some bad (Thursday for sure) and a lot of uncertainty.
Much of that uncertainty is over nagging injuries to core players: Lance Stephenson (groin strain), Gerald Henderson (hamstring strain) and Kemba Walker (sore left foot) all missed Thursday’s exhibition, as did rookie Noah Vonleh (sprained ankle).
Obviously the Hornets can’t play their best with three of their top six players out. However that wasn’t Clifford’s immediate concern; rather it was the listless way his remaining players performed in falling behind the Pacers by 22 points at home.
It’s not as if the Pacers weren’t hurting, too. David West, George Hill and Rodney Stuckey – all rotation players – missed this exhibition with various injuries.
Despite that, the Pacers shot 56 percent in the first half to lead 54-35.
Just as damning, the Hornets shot 37 percent over the first two quarters.
The Hornets made a comeback to trim the deficit to two in the fourth quarter, with rookie P.J. Hairston scoring all 11 of his points during that last quarter.
Clifford said he liked how Hairston performed late, but he didn’t seem ready to play in the first half. Hairston wasn’t alone in that regard.
“He had a reason not to be” happy, Hornets center Al Jefferson said of Clifford’s post-game reaction. “We’ve got to have effort for 48 minutes – start to finish.”
The Hornets got a good night from fill-in starting point guard Brian Roberts (19 points) and Gary Neal totaled six assists before drawing two technical fouls and an automatic ejection for arguing a foul in the second half.
Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 13 points and seven rebounds, but there wasn’t much else positive about the Hornets’ final exhibition, six days out from the season-opener against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Clifford acknowledged uncertainty about which injured players will be available when the season begins and how many minutes they could handle.
Henderson missed all eight exhibitions and has yet to practice in contact drills. Stephenson should play 35 minutes a night this season, but not anytime soon.
“He couldn’t play 35 minutes right now – no way,” Clifford said.
PACERS 88, HORNETS 79
Percentages: FG .451, FT .704. Three-Point Goals: 5-12, .417 (Miles 3-4, Rudez 1-1, Copeland 1-2, S.Hill 0-1, Thomas 0-1, Sloan 0-3). Team Rebounds: 7. Team Turnovers: 18 (13 PTS). Blocked Shots: 6 (Allen 2, Copeland, Hibbert, Mahinmi, Scola). Turnovers: 18 (Hibbert 4, Sloan 4, Allen 2, Rudez 2, Scola 2, Copeland, S.Hill, Mahinmi, Miles). Steals: 3 (Copeland, Rudez, Scola).
Percentages: FG .370, FT .808. Three-Point Goals: 4-18, .222 (Roberts 3-5, Hairston 1-5, Pargo 0-2, Williams 0-2, Neal 0-4). Team Rebounds: 11. Team Turnovers: 12 (11 PTS). Blocked Shots: 9 (Jefferson 6, Hairston 2, Williams). Turnovers: 10 (Neal 2, Roberts 2, Cobbs, Kidd-Gilchrist, Maxiell, Pargo, Williams, Zeller). Steals: 8 (Hairston 2, Roberts 2, Williams 2, Jefferson, Kidd-Gilchrist). Technical Fouls: Neal, 2, 11:07 fourth. Ejections: Neal, 11:07 fourth.