Scott Fowler

Thrust into new role with Charlotte Hornets, Frank Kaminsky vies for consistency

Charlotte Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky III (44) struggled Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons, including Tobias Harris (34), as Kaminsky searches for consistency after being thrust into a starter’s role.
Charlotte Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky III (44) struggled Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons, including Tobias Harris (34), as Kaminsky searches for consistency after being thrust into a starter’s role. AP

There are times when the Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky looks so fluid on the basketball court that you can’t believe he’s 7 feet tall.

And there are times, like in Tuesday night’s 23-point loss to Detroit, when Kaminsky looks as clunky and out of place as a rotary telephone.

In his second year in the NBA, the 23-year-old Kaminsky has received a battlefield promotion at power forward because of Marvin Williams’ lingering knee injury. Kaminsky starts for now, and he should do so again at 7 p.m. Thursday when the Hornets host Dallas.

What Kaminsky wants – and what the Hornets want – is for “Good Frank” to force “Bad Frank” into a permanent seat on the bench.

“I said before the season I wanted to become a more consistent player,” Kaminsky said Tuesday night. “And to do that, I can’t have things happen like they did tonight. I mean tonight is the perfect example of how I don’t want things to go.”

Kaminsky shot 1-for-11 against Detroit, scoring just two points and grabbing only three rebounds in 26 minutes. He shot six three-pointers – several of them with no defenders in the same area code – and missed all six. He looked a little hangdog on the court, too, and admitted as much later.

“I got down on myself pretty early in the game,” Kaminsky said. “You miss a couple of early shots, mess up a couple of times, and things just kind of snowball from there.”

But Kaminsky has had fewer of those kinds of games this season than he did a year ago. Coach Steve Clifford was already trusting him by giving him more significant minutes even before Williams’ injury.

After averaging 7.5 points per game as a rookie, Kaminsky is scoring 11.5 points per game for Charlotte – third-highest on the team behind only Kemba Walker and Nic Batum.

The best example of what he can do, Kaminsky said, came two weeks ago at Minnesota. Kaminsky had 20 points, five assists and four rebounds in a nice road victory for Charlotte. He seemed to figure into every big basket the Hornets had in the fourth quarter, alternating three-pointers with graceful drives and the occasional interior pass to a teammate for an easy layup.

“The way I finished that Minnesota game, that’s the way I want to be able to play every night,” Kaminsky said. “I want to go out there, not make any mistakes on defense, and help our team win on offense.”

Kaminsky is an offense-first player, and his versatility at Wisconsin made him the consensus national player of the year in 2015. Clifford did not use Kaminsky much at the most critical times in Kaminsky’s rookie year, preferring Williams in large part because Williams is a more talented defender. It is harder to Kaminsky to chase a fast 6-foot-9 power forward around the perimeter than it is for Williams.

Kaminsky has a lot of ways to score, though.

“He’s been playing better,” Clifford said of Kaminsky. “And I think he’ll continue to play better. He works at it. He’s very talented. The defensive part is still obviously a challenge, and now he’s playing against starters so it’s a little bit different too.”

Eventually Kaminsky will likely go back to playing with the Hornets’ second unit this season, which is probably for the best. He gets a slightly easier person to guard in those situations and can more readily exploit offensive mismatches.

But Williams’ bone bruise on his left knee is problematic. He remains out indefinitely. So for now, Kaminsky stays as a starter – a trial by fire that will have a lot to do with how hot the Hornets can manage to get in the next few weeks.

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