Behind the Buck Pass: Charlotte Hornets preview


The Charlotte Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks are set to tip off on Wednesday at 7:00 eastern time. It will be the return of the Charlotte Hornets, and everyone in Charlotte is beyond excited about it.

In anticipation of the return, Behind the Buck Pass (Milwaukee Bucks site) and Swarm and Sting had a Q&A regarding the game. Here are the questions and answers by Joe Dexter of Behind the Buck Pass, and Reece Helms of Swarm and Sting:

More from Swarm and Sting

1. So. In with the Hornets, out with the Bobcats. How thrilled is the Charlotte fan base that they got their mascot back?

Helms – Words cannot describe how happy the people of Charlotte are that the Hornets are back. The Bobcats never had much success, and were the laughing stock of the NBA for a long time. The Bobcats went out on a somewhat positive note last season by making the playoffs, just the 2nd time the Bobcats were able to do that. To answer the question, Charlotte is beyond thrilled that the Hornets are finally back.

2. After missing out on Gordon Hayward, the Hornets were able to land Lance Stephenson, who is a perfect fit for Steve Clifford’s system. What is your overall opinion of adding Lance and can he blow a kiss that sends Charlotte into the postseason?

Helms – Signing Lance Stephenson was a steal for Charlotte. $9 million a year is a great price for Lance. I think losing out on Gordon Hayward was a blessing, as I don’t believe he was worth all the money that the Hornets offered him. Lance was exactly what the team needed, and he will “blow a kiss” that sends Charlotte into the postseason.

3. Speaking of coach Clifford, you could easily argue that the Hornets have one of the most underrated coaching staffs in the league. What is your impression of the Steve Clifford/Patrick Ewing tandem? 

Helms – I love Steve Clifford. The Bobcats had a hard time trying to find a coach, but they finally got one when they brought in Steve Clifford. If the Hornets can achieve what people believe they are capable of this season, Clifford will be a coach of the year candidate. As for Patrick Ewing, I believe he should have gotten more consideration for a head coaching job. Especially with the New York Knicks, who hired Derek Fisher instead.

4. Kemba Walker proved a lot of doubters wrong last year when he led the Bobcats into the playoffs. For everything that he gets criticized for, he’s proved that he’s a gamer. Does he take a step towards being considered elite this season?

Helms – Everyone in Charlotte loves Kemba Walker, and it’s hard not to. He’s an exciting player, and a clutch performer. If the game is on the line, you want the ball in Walker’s hands. Would I consider him an ELITE NBA point guard? Eh….not right now. Would I pay him max-contract money when his deal expires? I wouldn’t. Kemba has had a great career in Charlotte, but this is his most important season. If he can have a breakout season, he will be considered among the best of the young point guards in the NBA. But as of now, Kemba is far from an elite NBA point guard.

5. If you don’t love Big Al Jefferson, you don’t love basketball. He changes the game at so many levels for his teammates. NBA fans ripped Jefferson for signing in Charlotte, because they thought he was chasing a paycheck.  A year later, people are finally considering him one of the best big men in the league. What was it about his performance last season that finally got the attention of others?

Helms – I think some people were surprised on how great Al Jefferson was last year. I don’t know why, but he took some people by surprise. He’s always been a great player, but has never gotten the attention he deserves. That is no longer the case, as he is now expected to put up big numbers. Big Al is the best player for the Hornets, and will be treated like it this season. It was a tragedy that he didn’t even make the NBA All-Star team last year.

6. What’s a realistic expectation for the Hornets this season? 

Helms – I’ve heard some people say the Hornets could be the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference this season, and I think that is ridiculous. I see them being the 5th seed in the playoffs. Best case scenario is 4th, and worst is just missing the playoffs, which I don’t see happening. It’s a bit unfair to put sky-high expectations on this new Hornets team. They are very young, and are being over-hyped a little because they aren’t the Bobcats anymore. My final prediction is that the Hornets will make the playoffs as the 5th seed in the East.