The idea was to change nicknames, not whole identities.
The troubling truth through four games is that the Charlotte Hornets of 2014-15 have forgotten an awful lot about what made the Charlotte Bobcats of 2013-14 a playoff team. Tuesday night’s result – a 100-91 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans – all but screamed that.
They gave up 53 second-half points and 52 percent shooting in the second half to a Pelicans team that shot just 33 percent from the field one night earlier in Memphis.
Whether it was Austin Rivers dribbling freely to the rim for layups or Anthony Davis (24 points, 13 rebounds, three blocked shots) wide open for foul-line jump shots, the Pelicans seldom looked guarded Tuesday.
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“It’s basic stuff – not running back, not getting our defense set, blown coverages,” said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. “Right now those things are on me. We’re not disciplined and that’s coaching.”
The Hornets come home to face the Miami Heat on Wednesday at 1-3. Had shooting guard Gary Neal not come off the bench to score 21 points Tuesday, this could have been a 25-point loss. They were that bad.
“I just don’t think we’re in the right place. I have to be most responsible for that,” Clifford said. “We’re not disciplined on defense at all. We make mistakes and we stop playing.”
The Hornets played without their top defender, small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed the game with bruised ribs and hip from a nasty fall Sunday against the New York Knicks.
In Gilchrist’s absence Gerald Henderson started, moving Lance Stephenson over to small forward.
Stephenson again struggled with his shooting (1 of 6 from the field) and never played in the fourth quarter, as happened in the home loss Saturday to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Clifford said he’s not looking to shake up the starting five.
“Our starters are going to be our starters,” Clifford said. “A stretch like this (four games in five nights) early in the year you’re going to go with who’s better, but I’m still confident the guys who are our starters are our starters.”
Part of the problem is the density of the schedule – the Hornets play 18 games over the first 32 days of the season. They leave Saturday on a four-game West Coast trip. That means there are seldom opportunities to practice on a team badly in need of fine-tuning.
“It’s not like we can be out on the floor much practicing. We don’t have two days off in a row until after the Portland game” the middle of next week, Clifford said.
“It’s going to have to be on film (study) and guys are going to have to voluntarily cooperate so that we can be more consistent in what we’re doing.”
Clifford isn’t alone in expressing concern the Hornets have strayed from what made them good last season. Henderson, a starter last season, sees the decay in fundamentals.
“We’re not the same defensive team. That was our staple. Our offense improved, but we were a way better defensive team than offensive team,” Henderson described.
“It’s a different season, a different team, different faces. But that’s no excuse. We’ve got to get back to that as soon as we can.
“It’s just the start of the season, but you won’t win any games if you don’t play defense. And we need to get there soon.”