Jeff Taylor and Noah Vonleh need to play more. That wasn’t going to happen anytime soon with the Charlotte Hornets.
So each is headed to an NBA Development League franchise to play three or four games. Taylor is joining the Austin (Texas) Toros and rookie Vonleh is joining the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants.
Their circumstances are somewhat different. Taylor is a third-season veteran who – between a ruptured Achilles tendon and a 24-game NBA suspension – has missed most of the past year. Vonleh is a 19-year-old rookie who missed the preseason due to a sports hernia.
“Jeff badly wants to play. He doesn’t feel like he’s comfortable where he’s at as far as playing. So to me (a D-League assignment) is a great idea,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He didn’t play for a long time. We practice, but we don’t do a lot of contact, so it’s hard for him to get what he needs.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Clifford said Vonleh is still adapting to the NBA game. The defensive strategies are very different from college ball, and Noah hasn’t yet grasped what he needs to know to play meaningful NBA minutes.
“He’s never played an NBA-rules games. One of (fellow rookie) P.J. (Hairston’s) advantages, and you could see it in summer league, was he’d played in the D-League, where they have defensive 3 (seconds) and pick-and-roll (defensive) calls.
“The hardest thing for younger players isn’t offense, its defense. That’s where Noah is way behind. The defense is totally different from college, primarily because of the pick-and-roll game.”
Vonleh has played a total of 32 minutes this season, spread over four games, all of them decided before he was inserted.
“I don’t agree at all that playing is necessarily good for a young player. Playing well when you’re ready to play is good for a young player,” Clifford said of Vonleh.
“If you don’t know how to go from one thing to the next, it makes it hard: Hard for you and very hard on the other four guys out there.”