The meaningful NBA games are still eight days away, but that doesn't mean there aren't any games to talk about. Being undefeated in the preseason may not mean anything, but picking out what trends and observations you would like to see carry into the regular season can be a little fun.
The slimmer, fitter, happier Al Jefferson
One of the most notable Hornets storylines this season was center Al Jefferson shedding 20 pounds. At least on Monday night, Jefferson looked like a different player. After all, as someone who has watched Jefferson for seven years, seeing him with tangible bursts of speed is jarring, but cool. Having that extra speed enabled Jefferson to move more off of the ball on offense, and similarly enhance the team's spacing on the floor.
Defensively, it was also noticeable. While Jefferson has never been a great defender, being lighter made a difference in allowing him to cover more ground, and at least get a hand in the shooter's face. At the age of 30 Jefferson isn't going to become an all-world defender, but it will be interesting to see if he looks better once the real games begin.
Jeremy Lin and the top of the key
Lin had another nice game against the Bulls on Monday with his 18 point, five assist, and eight rebound performance. The most impressive part about Lin's 18 points isn't that he did it in 24 minutes, but that he only needed eight shots to do so since he went 5-9 from the free throw line.
In particular, Lin took roughly half of his shots from the top of the key. Often times, Lin would work off of a screen, and flare out to his spot on the court. It's funny because the long two is a much maligned shot these days, but it's a shot that Lin can hit capably. From 2011-2014 Lin shot between 40.6 percent and 45.2 percent between 16 feet and the three-point line. On Monday Lin went 2-4 from that space above the break, but it's a shot that he's hit well all preseason.
This was Lin's preseason shot chart coming into the night, and has continued to shoot very well from these spaces. I wouldn't expect him to continue to shoot at a near-50 percent clip, because that's incredibly hard to do, but if he can shoot like he did in New York and Los Angeles, Steve Clifford could find himself with another trick up his sleeve.
These Hornets seem born to run
First off, I apologize for the Bruce Springsteen reference; it will never happen again. Secondly, the Hornets offense seems prepped to be more of a running team than we've seen in awhile.
Last season, the Hornets were 29th in the NBA in fast break points per game with 9.2; only the New York Knicks were worse. However, tonight, most noticeably in the second half, the Hornets were all over. The Hornets did an excellent job getting fast breaks filled with quick points and easy baskets. By the end of the night the Hornets finished with 12 points which would put them in the middle of the pack last season.
Watching Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, and the other wings dash towards the rim made for some seriously fun basketball to watch. However, you couldn't watch that and get the feeling they would have been more fun with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist streaking towards the baseline with them.
P.J. Hairston: two steps forward, and one step back
Last season, Hairston found his way into Steve Clifford's doghouse early and often. Clifford wanted Hairston to do more things like sharing the basketball, and exerting more effort on the defensive end. Hairston did a lot of that in the second half. There were times where Hairston showed the awareness, and had the reaction time to close out on a Doug McDermott three-pointer. McDermott still made the shot, but the fact that Hairston was still able to get into position and contest the shot.
Just a handful of possessions later, however, Hairston showed he still has room for improvement. Hairston attempted to work through a screen, but got lost, and tripped over the screener, and the ballhandler tripped over Hairston almost immediately. In theory, if you can have the awareness to do it in one situation, you should be able to do it in another. Nonetheless it was good to see Hairston trying as hard as he was.
Lin could help Frank Kaminsky's development
I single out Lin here only because he led the second unit, and therefore shared the court with Kaminsky more. We also saw a good amount of the Lin-Kemba Walker backcourt, so it's logical to think that Kaminsky might play with Lin the most. At any rate, Lin could ease Kaminsky's transition when they're on the floor together as Lin looked for him several times, often at the basket.
Lin went out of his way to fire some risky passes into the post to find Kaminsky, but the rookie mostly failed to convert, shooting just 1-6 from the field. If the two are able to build that chemistry in shootaround and practice, there could be something to that. In short, there could be potential here, but the two players just need to learn how to play better with each other, and that could very well come with time.
Hornets got beat on the glass, but rebounded when it mattered
The Chicago Bulls' frontcourt is always a challenge, especially on the glass. Monday night was no exception as the Bulls had nearly as many defensive rebounds (43) as the Hornets had total rebounds (45). Yet, when the team needed to get their rebounds, they found a way to get them. Of Charlotte's seven offensive rebounds, three of them came in the final half of the fourth quarter, including one that led to Walker's three to put the game away.