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Youngest Hornets on crash course of NBA playing time
Injuries to veterans open opportunities
Published Saturday, December 9, 2017 10:18 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Nothing teaches like experience.

The injury-laden Charlotte Hornets (9-16) have no choice but to play their rookies to pick up a depleted rotation. Coach Steve Clifford noted on Nov. 25 they did not have time for their younger players to develop during games. Two weeks later, Clifford is on medical leave and the Hornets have no choice but to dig deep into their bench.

“It’s hard when you haven’t played as many games,” associate head coach Stephen Silas said Saturday. “Now they’re thrown into the fire and getting significant minutes. It’s hard to come in and have rhythm, and know here your shot is going to be and those types of things as much as they work on their games individually, but you know the injury situation we have is pretty dire right now.”

Charlotte hits the road on a three-game losing streak after concluding a 1-3 home stretch with a 110-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Los Angeles’ bench outscored Charlotte’s 53-31.

“The biggest problem was transition defense,” said swingman Treveon Graham, who scored seven points, tallied three assists and three rebounds. “They had 28 points in transition. Just getting back, that was the emphasis for the day and try and make them play from half court, and we didn’t do that today. That was the biggest thing.”

Said Silas: “That’s unacceptable from our team. That’s one of the things that coach Cliff harps on. We did not do a good job getting back in transition.”

Charlotte’s injury list: bigs Cody Zeller (torn left medial meniscus sustained against Golden State on Wednesday) and Frank Kaminsky (sprained right ankle, also on Wednesday) and guards Jeremy Lamb (shin contusion) and Nic Batum (left elbow soreness). While Batum did play 19 minutes against Los Angeles, his performance consisted of two points, three assists and two boards.

“Without Nic, without J-Lamb, without Frank, [and] without Cody…that’s four of your top eight guys that are out there,” Silas said. “So yeah, it’s a tough one.”

Charlotte needs their rookies to play like veterans, which the Hornets admit asks a lot of any young player. Their rookies, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Monk, produced four points, four assists and five boards against the Lakers. While swingman Johnny O’Bryant had his second double-figures game with 11 points, and a season-high seven boards, his playing time in three NBA seasons have been limited. He, like Bacon, Monk and Graham, have an opportunity that would have been unheard of a decade ago.

“The one thing about being young is people are a little bit more lenient with you when you do make mistakes because a lot of things that they are going to see and the mistakes that they are going to make, they just don’t know any better,” said forward Marvin Williams, who has been in the league for 12 years.

“Some of the things that they can control are understanding the offense and knowing where you’re supposed to be defensively. Those are things that they are going to have to try to control and work at.

“I’ve always felt like experience was the best teacher. They have a great opportunity to come in and play. A lot of rookies don’t get the opportunity to come in and play, and those guys are starting… NBA games. Back when I was a rookie, you’d be lucky to get in your first three or four years. They have a great opportunity to really learn from experience, and I think they are taking advantage of that.”

Said Graham: “We’re just trying to become better as a team. We just have to come together, and once we do that, I think we’ll be just fine. We have the talent to be great. It’s just coming together and playing as a team.”



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