Last Friday's Media gave Charlotte Hornets fans their first opportunity to see this season's roster that underwent huge overhaul. Often, Media Day is a chance to reflect on last season's successes or failures, while looking forward to what's ahead. It means a fresh start, and new opportunities.
Of course, such overhaul meant the absence of familiar faces from last season and beyond. Gerald Henderson, who had been the longest serving member of the Hornets prior to being traded this offseason, is now with the Portland Trailblazers.
During Portland's Media Day, Henderson talked primarily about his role in the season ahead with the Blazers. He cited his experience as something that will benefit a team largely consisting of players younger than him. "This will be my seventh season, and I've seen a lot in my years, and hope to see a lot more." Henderson has arguably seen more in his seven years than most do their entire careers. From making the playoffs early in his career, to enduring the lowest points of Charlotte basketball history, to the up's and down's of recent years, Henderson has experienced almost every kind of NBA situation aside from a deep playoff run. That kind of experience will be invaluable to a young roster like Portland's.
One of the new, young prospects in Portland this season is Noah Vonleh, who was traded along with Henderson. Vonleh's value is his upside, and he's looking forward to showcasing some of that potential this season, after seeing limited action his rookie season in Charlotte. "Playing in Charlotte last year and not getting no playing time, and coming to Portland and having a good summer league, it feels like a fresh start all over again." When asked what he learned watching from the sidelines last year, Vonleh said, "I just learned a lot of the defensive schemes of the NBA, and learned player tendencies."
None of this is surprising given Vonleh's role last season. Whether he was ready to play or not, it was likely frustrating not to see the floor until the end of the season. With the sweeping changes to Portland's roster, Vonleh should get a great opportunity to break into the rotation.
A new opportunity should benefit Vonleh, and it should benefit Lance Stephenson as well, who was traded to the Clippers after a disastrous single season in Charlotte. Stephenson didn't talk much at all about last season, instead focusing on the season ahead:
"I feel good on this squad. They put me in the right places. I’m just trying to fit in," he said after another strong performance by the Clippers bench on Monday. "… Last year was a struggle, but I feel like Doc puts me in a position where I can succeed and help the second unit at the same time. I just feel comfortable with this squad so far."
Clearly, Charlotte's roster was not a good fit for Stephenson, but there remains a lot of uncertainty as to whether Stephenson can thrive like he once did in Indiana. The Clippers are taking a gamble on Stephenson, even if the plan is for him to be with the second unit. Stephenson should have a better season statistically than he did last season, but the stakes are higher with the Clippers, who are thinking championship rather than simply making the playoffs. Marginal improvements will not be enough, not if Stephenson wants to be a key part of the Clippers' rotation.
Finally, cult hero Mo Williams spoke with Cleveland's media about his return to Cleveland. As with Stephenson, the focus was on the season ahead, along with his free agency process:
Williams said he wasn't sure there would be a fit on the Cavaliers when free agency began, but warmed to the idea after talking to Cavaliers GM David Griffin.
"I'm excited about every piece we have on this team," he said. " I'm not coming back to play 45 minutes a night. I'm just coming in to do my part, spell those guys and play multiple positions."
Despite comments during last season that suggested Williams was open to a return to Charlotte, it never felt like a return was going to happen once the season ended. Williams played some of the best basketball of his career when he first arrived at the trade deadline, but by the end of the season his production had slowed, and his fit with Kemba Walker wasn't good. Returning to Cleveland appears to be the right move for the veteran who is thinking championship at this point in his career.
In all, it seems these former Hornets have moved on. For them, and for most everyone still on the roster, last season was one to forget. For both the former Hornets and current ones, moving on is the theme.