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Hot Hornets topics before the start of training camp next week
Dwight Howard and rookies bring change
Published Wednesday, September 20, 2017 2:00 pm
by Herbert L. White

Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard, an eight-time All-Star, was brought in to be a defensive presence. He was acquired via trade from the Atlanta Hawks.

When the Charlotte Hornets open training camp next week at Spectrum Center, there’ll be new pieces and optimism.

The Hornets improved their depth at center and point guard, basketball’s marquee positions, in an attempt to return to the NBA playoffs after missing the 2017 postseason. There’s the potential rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon can bolster a subpar bench and a reworked coaching staff.

What are the hot topics as camp nears? Here’s a starting five:

• Fitting Dwight Howard into the mix.

The biggest offseason move was acquiring the eight-time All-Star center from Atlanta, where the Hawks discovered he didn’t fit after one season. Trading with a division rival made the deal especially curious, but in the modern NBA, that kind of consideration isn’t so much a priority. Still, Howard can be very good, especially on defense, which is why Charlotte swung the deal. If he’s anywhere close to his career standards in rebounds and blocks, the Hornets will get a massive upgrade and offense is extra gravy.

Will Howard be motivated to quiet doubters who contend his best days are long gone? Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, who coached him in Orlando and Los Angeles, is betting big on it.

• Re-working the starting lineup.  Howard, Nic Batum, Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams are a given. Clifford has said Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an offensive liability but capable defender, is in, too. In essence, four of last year’s starters will be in the lineup. Cody Zeller, who started most of last season at center, moves to the second unit.

• Charlotte’s other reclamation project. Michael Carter-Williams, who all but disappeared after earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, gets a chance to contribute as Walker’s backup at point guard. Carter-Williams is 26, so it’s not like he’s too old to help if he has any game left in that 6-6 frame.

• Jeremy Lamb’s upside. Lamb had his best season as a pro with 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. If his defense improves, Lamb figures to be a key reserve or even spot starter when situations dictate.

• The unknowns. Isaiah Hicks and Marcus Paige, a pair of North Carolina alums, and Mangok Mathiang, will try to catch on as free agents. Julyan Stone, whom was signed from his European team, is seen as a potential backup point guard who brings size to the position at 6-6. His previous NBA experience consists of stops in Denver (2011-13) and Toronto (2013-14).


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