Swarm and Sting Hornets Media Day Part 1: Steve Clifford Press Conference


As October finally rolls around in the midst of football season, and the leaves slowly start to turn brown around the Queen City, Hornets basketball is finally upon us.  With training camp kicking off yesterday in Asheville, the Hornets held their annual media day at Time Warner on Monday, and as most of you probably know Swarm and Sting received an invite.

Adam Lutterloh and I met up inside the arena on the rainy Monday morning, not knowing exactly what to expect and feeling completely out of our element.  We were quickly ushered into a media room with the Charlotte Hornets backdrop, and Steve Clifford walked in and started talking Hornets’ basketball.  As other media outlets clambered to ask numerous questions like they belonged, Adam and I quietly jotted down a few notes and took a few pictures.

One of the things Clifford mentioned numerous times, which surprised me, was the progression and anticipated impact of Gary Neal.

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Apparently he rolled into camp in excellent shape, and is poised to take on a greater role on the court.  He added that the Hornets we will all see this year will have much better shooting and depth, after adding numerous free agents and our draft picks.  He addressed the loss of Josh McRoberts, and plans to use a rotation for the utility players on our roster including Marvin Williams which also brings some range to the table.

The team doesn’t have a set starting lineup yet, and Clifford has the sense that he has more options than last year.  Stephenson could start at the 2 spot, with MKG at the 3, or he can have Stephenson at the 3 and Henderson at the 2.

I’m guessing training camp and preseason will feature a little of both, and we will see which has the better impact.  Clifford even briefly address the Jeffery Taylor issue, and said he’s competing for a spot in the rotation, and the team will address that once his situation is settled.

He then went on to talk about the plans to have Marvin Williams start, and rotate Cody Zeller in at PF and Center this year.  He expressed his desire to have set minutes and roles for players.  In his previous experience across the league and in college, he believes that players like to know and have a feel for what exactly they will be asked to do, and where they fit in on the team.  He plans to have that all sorted out before the regular season start against Milwaukee on October 29th.

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Clifford then went on to talk our specialty:


At the beginning of last season the Hornets employed basic defensive schemes and as players progressed and became familiar with what he wanted, he implemented more complex sets.  This year, even with all the additions, Clifford feels that we can hop right into those complex schemes and progress throughout the season.  Since our defensive schemes are similar to the Pacers, he doesn’t see Stephenson having any problem at all from the start.

He expressed a desire to get Kemba at a better FG percentage, and how much that alone will impact the team.

With all the buzz about Lance Stephenson, Clifford feels that Al Jefferson is still our best player.  Our roster doesn’t feature a Kobe or McGrady, but our star power revolves around Jefferson, Kemba, and Stephenson, and our offense will be directed towards them.  Stephenson will be put into a position to score more here than in Indiana.  He’s simply a play-maker, and is excellent in the pick-and-roll.   In Indiana, Stephenson led the second team at times, and Clifford foresees him playing a similar role here, creating plays for our role players, and sometimes even shouldering the load.   Jason Maxiell was brought in last week, and he’s a physical body with a no-nonsense attitude.  He brings a profession approach, and will inevitably fall into his role, along with Jannero Pargo, as a positive veteran presence in the locker-room, while bringing physicality and toughness in the paint.

Clifford went on to talk about how much MKG’s shooting mechanics have improved, and how he has been singularly dedicated to improving in that area.  Mark Price has worked wonders with him, and Clifford has never seen someone’s shot mechanics drastically change as much as MKG’s has.  He explained in college that players with his athletic ability are usually asked to drive or pass, while in the NBA they have to expand that game.

MKG is a work in progress, but is dedicated in the work and putting in the hours to improve, and there is no reason to expect he will fail.  Team chemistry was another topic Clifford talked in length about.  Every year chemistry starts from scratch, and those guys build chemistry in different ways each year.  One of the things we as fans can be confident in is that each and every player on our roster competes at the highest level.  After meeting every guy on our roster, it’s easy to see that these guys are hungry and will compete every second of every game.  That alone inspired confidence in me to believe that great things are in store for our team this year.

The last thing of note from the Steve Clifford presser was some of the things he learned from his first year as a head coach.  He joked and lightly talked about how relieved he was to know that he actually enjoyed it.  When taking on a new position, he never really knew whether he would enjoy it, or whether he would go rather go back to being an assistant, which he also thoroughly enjoyed.  Much to our relief, Clifford actually does enjoy this, and it was easy to see while watching his approach and demeanor to the media.  He was extremely personal and respectful, and wasn’t just going through the motions.  His replies to questions were well thought out, and wasn’t pre-written.  He’s built a relationship with the media outlets around the city, and even talked to some of the folks as he was heading out of the conference.

After the press conference, we were led out onto the court, with a table set up just for us and our fellow bloggers.  We’ll get into that in the next few days, so stay tuned for the individual player interviews coming in a few days!