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On the NBA Beat Ep. 19a: Doug Branson: Charlotte Hornets “Definitely in Win-Now Mode”

The crew interviews Doug Branson, host of Hive Talk Live, on the state of the upstart Charlotte Hornets. He expounds on the various factors that have led the team to overachieve this campaign after self-destructing near the end of last season. Chief among these are the play of Charlotte’s most valuable players, Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, the invaluable contributions of glue guy Marvin Williams, remarkable bench play and the team’s 3-point shooting makeover. 

1:40 – 2:30 on Courtney Lee replacing the unstable P.J. Hairston: “Courtney Lee provides a consistency at the starting wing position that the Hornets did not have with P.J. Hairston…There certainly were issues ever since he (Hairston) has been here with staying in shape, with having a professional attitude, with consistency on the court in terms of his 3-point shooting and defense…(He) was a situational starter in there to guard the other team’s best wing to basically give Nic Batum a chance to play well offensively in the fourth quarter.” 

3:35 – 4:25 on how ready the Hornets management is to win: “Let there be no doubt: the Hornets are definitely in win-now mode. They were in that mode last season, and they were just hit with injury after to injury to key guy after key guy. We’ve seen the sequel to that movie this season, but, fortunately, Kemba Walker has been able to stay healthy…The goal has always been to win a playoff series. That’s step one, because the Hornets haven’t won a playoff series since the early 2000s…You can’t attract the free agents you need to take the next step (otherwise).” 

5:15 – 6:05 on coach Steve Clifford: “Steve Clifford has been the model of stability for a franchise that hasn’t been known to be very stable when it comes to coaching. The Hornets put most of those whispers to bed when they extended Clifford in the offseason…The ownership has a lot of respect for Clifford’s style of play…If anyone was on the hot seat this season, it was probably Rich Cho and the general management…there’s still a lot of pressure (there) to make wins happen.” 

8:10 – 8:55 on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: “A lot of these injuries have been freak injuries…the stats don’t lie: the Hornets are much better when he’s on the court and healthy and then the eye test. The little things that he does, energy-wise, that impact the team are just off the charts. Guys are fueled by his energy and intensity, and it was certainly a killer when he went down again.” 

12:15 – 13:30 on Kemba Walker’s hard work: “He’s a gym rat…He spent an enormous amount of time in the offseason focusing on getting his 3-point shot to the point where it had to be respected…The Hornets lost their shooting coach in the offseason, Mark Price, who’s now the head coach of UNC-Charlotte… Price worked with Kemba Walker two years ago to help improve his shot, and it’s a testament to the coaching staff that they were able to keep that work going despite the loss of Mark Price… Both Kemba and MKG live in the gymnasium, and it’s paying off big time.” 

13:50 – 15:20 on Nicolas Batum’s importance to the team: “The Hornets will do everything they can to keep Nicolas Batum, within reason. Despite whatever struggles he’s had game to game with shooting, he has brought an element of playmaking that he Hornets had missed since they lost Josh McRoberts… He’s been just as valuable as Kemba Walker this season…His playmaking ability, his ability to pass and drive the lane, and that dribble handoff play that the Hornets run over and over with (him) have been crucial parts of their offensive renaissance this season.” 

15:50 – 16:50 on the Hornets’ remarkable improvement in 3-point shooting from last season: “Clifford recognizes where the NBA is going, and that is towards 3-pointers and getting to the line…they overhauled their entire bench this season… it hasn’t just been Nic Batum; it’s been Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes. It’s simply personnel. Clifford finally has the guys to execute the offense he wants…Now they can space the floor, now they can get better looks.” 

20:00 – 21:30 on Marvin Williams’ strides this season: “This guy is super glue. This guy is industrial-strength glue. He has found an intensity and energy… he’s averaging something like 6.5, 7, rebounds a game. It’s insane for a guy (who hasn’t really shown) that in the past couple of years… He wanted everyone to know that he had a new off-season regimen that was all about being able to give a little more in terms of stamina on the court… and he’s been a central reason why the Hornets have overachieved.” 

22:30 – 24:00 on the rumored draft-day trade that the Hornets rejected from the Celtics that involved four draft picks for the ninth overall pick: “If you have a feeling that a guy is your guy, you have to shoot your shot…you can’t fence-ride in the NBA or you will get stuck. That’s the perfect way to start spinning your tires and end up the 8 seed for three years in a row. You have to pick a strategy: either we’re tanking or we’re going to win now, and once you’ve picked that strategy, every decision that you make needs to reflect that. The Hornets honed in on Frank Kaminsky, saw something in him, and he’s doing some things in his post game that are remarkable for a rookie and we’ll have to see where that goes… This is all a gamble, but I respect that the Hornets had a strategy and they stuck with it.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod

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