In the NBA, we often highlight the play of one or sometimes two individuals in the overall effectiveness of their teams. After all, basketball is different from all other professional sports in the sense that a single person can be that deciding factor when it comes to winning and losing.
This narrative has also been the case for the Charlotte Hornets over the past couple of seasons. Point guard Kemba Walker’s nightly performances have gone a long way in determining the team’s outcome over such games. The offense had primarily gone through him, and if he was having a cold night shooting, the team wouldn’t perform nearly as well as they should.
However, that “one-way circus” has dwindled down this season due in large part to the player-roster moves in the offseason.
When six-year Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford left the organization and headed to the Orlando Magic this offseason, it changed the organization on a multitude of levels. Mike Batiste, Pat Delaney, and Bruce Kreutzer all went with Clifford to Orlando while former assistant coach Stephen Silas took a job in Dallas. With the majority of the coaching staff gone, it meant that the team was no longer going to go by Clifford’s defensive-heavy mindset. They have instead changed directions into a new style of play, and their new staff has done an excellent job in instilling it in the players.
When comparing the new batch of coaches to the previous one, there is a clear difference that separates the two- the personal connection between the Hornets players.
There was an obvious trend with the hiring of Jay Triano, Jay Hernandez, and Ronald Norad. The trio has all played college ball, with Triano having a successful seven-year career in the NBA. Having first-hand experience with the game of basketball has gone a long way in changing the complexity of the relationship between Hornets coaches and players. There is a more relatable bond between the two parties as they both have experience playing on the court on a high basketball stage.
This has helped tremendously in the gradual improvements of a few of the Hornets players this season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t seen at all as a shooter since his NBA career started in 2012. His offensive polish has been so underwhelming that he has tried numerous coaches to help fix the issue, including NBA great Mark Price. He only made seven career three-pointers in that span, and at a rate of just 19 percent.
But, through the new coaches development, things look promising for the 25-year-old forward. MKG looks more comfortable with the ball in his hands this season and has been able to come in the lane and score through the contact in the paint. This slasher’s mentality was rarely used up until this point and has been a point of emphasis by the new coaching staff as he transitions over to the power forward position.
MKG has also revitalized his game outside the paint. He looks more confident hitting mid-range jumpers and has shown the ability to knock them down even with a defender in his face. Most importantly, his three-point shot has drastically improved this season as he has knocked down six threes on forty percent shooting. Although this is a small sample size, we must give credit where credit is due. The Hornets coaching staff has transformed MKG into a solid offensive player, an area that has been a major question mark his entire career.
Another player that has certainly been benefited by the new staff is center Frank Kaminsky. During the Steve Clifford Era, he was seen primarily as a catch-and-shoot three-point specialist, an area of the floor where the majority of his offense came from.
Cutting inside has been an exciting addition to Kaminsky’s game. No longer is he stationed at the perimeter, as he has improved his handle dramatically over the offseason. He looks capable in the post and has increased his production in that area as well. Transforming into the Hornets first big man off the bench, he finally looks like the player Hornets fans looked for when the team drafted him ninth overall in 2015.
If we transition over to the intangibles of the game, the Hornets new staff show a different style when it comes to game day scenarios.
There is a deeper bond between player and coach than in the years prior, and one man who has shown that is Kemba Walker. He has fawn interest in the long-term success of coaching from Jay Hernandez, who started working out with him during the 2011 offseason. Since then, he and the two-time all-star have grown their passion for the game with each other. They seem to always be in constant contact with one another, and even have an interesting handling drill during pregame.
This bond has transitioned into the in-game strategies authorized by Hornets head coach James Borrego. A larger increase in communication is clear through the entirety of Hornets games as assistant Ronald Nored has been a prominent figure communicating what he is seeing on the court. You rarely see this open conversation approach being used in the NBA, and it has amounted to success for the team early on this season.
One example is when the team came out in a 2-3 zone against the OKC Thunder after they identified an opportunity in stopping the team from getting points in the paint.
Here is the first possession of the 2-3 zone. Zeller hangs back and entices Westbrook to shoot the 3. In the final 6:41, OKC took 6 3PA but only converted on one. pic.twitter.com/6ywY13vuTU— Richie (@RichieRandall) November 24, 2018
An emphasis on Labor Omnia Vincit, which is Latin for hard work conquers all, has been a stylistic approach for the Hornets approach to actions off-the-court. They have instituted a new desire for development and situational modifications, and this has helped the team become competitive in a large some of their games this season.
The work that the Hornets new coaching staff has implemented goes beyond the box score. There has been a higher significance on team-communication, and this style of approach has resulted in a different culture among the organization, an approach that looks to be successful in the long-run.