The Charlotte Hornets acquired point guard Mo Williams Feb. 10 in a trade with Minnesota. Williams practiced three times with the Hornets last week and made his debut against Oklahoma City Saturday.
Williams scored a team-high 24 points and distributed a game-high 12 assists.
After three quarters, Williams’ teammates were 0 of 9 behind the 3-point line. Williams was 5 of 7. For the season he hits 35.6 percent.
The Hornets made 40 field goals. With 12 assists and eight field goals, Williams had a hand in half of them.
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Consider what he might have accomplished if he had had four practices.
Even if he had five practices, Oklahoma City would have beaten the Hornets.
The Hornets were bad at defense and worse at rebounding. But they’ll be fine at both despite the 110-103 loss. Only four teams give up fewer points than the Hornets.
Issue No. 1: Making shots
Their problem is scoring. Only three teams score fewer points – depleted Miami and bottom-feeding New York and Philadelphia.
Charlotte’s leading scorer, point guard Kemba Walker, is recovering from knee surgery. And even if he returns in mid-March, he won’t be Kemba Walker for at least a week or two after that. He averages 18.8 points and 5.2 assists.
Williams averages 12.5 points and 6.5 assists.
He plays as if he has no agenda. He doesn’t make his mind up early. Bring the ball up and see what’s there – pass, shoot, go to the basket.
“I let the game go as it goes,” Williams says.
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford says Williams can shoot off the dribble, score in the paint and run the pick and roll. He says Williams could have had five or six more assists.
“He’s a pro’s pro,” says Clifford, the ultimate compliment from a coach who respects the game and people who play it properly.
“I knew he was talented,” says Charlotte forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who met Williams at practice Wednesday. “And he’s a good teammate also.”
Senior moment, with oldddddd pal
How, after only three practices, does a player run an offense?
Williams is oldddd, says Charlotte center Al Jefferson, his longtime friend Jefferson says oldddd loudly enough to ensure that Williams hears.
“Look at all that gray!” Jefferson booms.
Williams’ shirt is gray, his jeans are gray, his leather jacket is gray and his hair might have, you know, traces.
“I’m two years older,” Williams says.
Williams, 6-foot-1, is 32. Jefferson, 6-10, is a spry 30.
Even veterans need time to adjust. Williams says he’s not familiar with Charlotte’s defensive scheme and found himself out of position. He says he missed Cody Zeller on a pass. Had he taken advantage of Zeller’s athleticism, Williams says, Zeller would have had a dunk.
Why is a player the Timberwolves tossed because of his age of value to a team contending for the playoffs?
The Hornets have only four players who average in double figures (five with Walker). As the shot clock winds down they scramble to get off a shot that is as likely to go in as a Lance Stephenson jumper. When they trade baskets with an opponent it’s never a fair trade.
Charlotte’s last regular season game is April 15. The Hornets cling to the one of the final two spots now. But Brooklyn, which was tied with Charlotte going into Sunday’s games, has the talent to move up the standings.
To hang in and move up, scorers are required, and the Hornets appear to have one.
Like most people, I like new, and I don’t want to make more of Williams than he is. Most nights, he will not have a hand in 50 percent of his team’s field goals.
But he has a nice touch and is adept at finding open teammates and at the pick and roll, especially when he runs it with the youthful Jefferson.