Charlotte Hornets: Taking a Closer Look at Steve Clifford’s Interview

Apr 11, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford during a timeout in the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford during a timeout in the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Charlotte Hornets’ head coach, Steve Clifford, had an interview with WFNZ and he talked about some of his thoughts on free agency and the team going forward.

Steve Clifford held an interview with Chris Kroeger of WFNZ radio in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago. I apologize for the tardiness, but I believe this interview shed some great light on Clifford’s thoughts towards the offseason as a whole and how the Charlotte Hornets will move forward this upcoming season.

On Nic Batum:  

“I think that the things that he does are just things that you can’t coach. He does the Gretzky pass, he has a great feel for the game, he makes simple/quick plays and he makes the right play, and not only that is he has such a good feel for who he’s playing with, where they need to get the ball to play effectively and there’s just not that many guys that play like that and especially at his size, so you know he’s a terrific player, he plays at both ends of the floor and he was also really good late in games for us”.

Nicolas proved last season that he is capable of helping lead a team to the playoffs. After signing a five-year, $125 million contract this summer, he will need to prove that he can be a superstar in the NBA. While he did play well, Batum could still take another step for Charlotte.

On Marvin Williams‘ desire to stay in NC:

“Marvin is very bright and mature guy. He has priorities and he has things very well thought out and knew what he wanted and fortunately for us you know I think a lot of the aspects of what he’s looking for in his career, we have here, and starting with North Carolina….having played here he’s has a very close relationship with Coach (Roy) Williams and he still goes to Chapel Hill a lot and I think all of that played a part in this”.

It was clear that Marvin was the team’s second most important priority this offseason after Batum. He is a leader on and off the court and his willingness to sacrifice for the team is unmatched. Taking less money this summer shows how much he loves Charlotte.

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On signing Ramon Sessions and Brian Roberts (guys who are familiar with the Hornets system):

“I think it’s a big plus and you know I think it makes the transition easier for them with their team and teammates and the coaching staff, but the other part is who they are. They’re both high character guys, they’re both very good players and they both played well in the way that we play, so I think it makes everything smoother that way. I’m really excited about both of them; I think Ramon can bring a lot of what we’re gonna miss with Jeremy Lin, you know the ability to get the ball into the paint and…get to the free-throw line, and Brian is a very reliable/dependable player, you know high skill level, very cerebral and he can really shoot the three. They both played well here before and I’m looking for big years out of both of them again”.

While Ramon Sessions and Brian Roberts were two under the radar pick-ups for the Hornets, they still have plenty to prove in Charlotte. It remains to be seen if they can truly replace what Lin brought to the team but they will be expected to produce right away.

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On playing Ramon & Kemba together and the importance Jeremy Lin had on the team:

“Well, that’s the one thing that I talked to him about is, is this was a big advantage for us last year is we got to playing groups (particularly late in the year) where we were playing nine (guys), and the key guy in all of that was Jeremy…Jeremy really battled his way through any difficult match-up that he had and what it allowed us to do was to play with nine.

When you play nine guys versus ten, everybody can play enough minutes so you can expect them to play well to get into a rhythm. What I talked to Ramon about was, we’ll have to see night-in, night-out defensively who the match-ups are too, and then that will really determine if it’s an every night thing or you know just sometimes, but it’ll be something that we’ll definitely do. You know watching film on him, he played, I wouldn’t say significant minutes, but he played some minutes this year with John Wall and it went well”.

This will be important for the Charlotte Hornets this season as the Kemba-Lin combination was one oft he best one-two punches for the team last year. Ramon Sessions will need to take a huge step forward in his game and will be tasked with an important role going forward. Asking a 6’3 guard to play the shooting guard position and defend guys that are bigger than him won’t be an easy job. It will be interesting to see if Sessions can make the transition into that role.

On getting Roy Hibbert back to an All-Star level:  

“I think it’s all mental and I watch him physically with the way he played for the Lakers this year and I don’t think he’s lost anything at all. I think regardless of what the sport is, or really for all of us…we all have good years and bad years. You have to look and evaluate and see why things happen, and for the most part it all starts where we’re at mentally, and whether it’s that maybe he was locked-in more defensively and that’s what made him an All-Star and then maybe he felt like he had to expand his game to other things or whatever, it doesn’t really matter why.

My point to him was, I’m watching him play…well I’m on Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, I see no difference in the movement then or how he’s moving now. I do think he had more of an edge then, he had a definite defensive mind-set when he was on the floor, and he was a huge factor on that team.”

Roy Hibbert has a lot of expectations going into this season even after a down year with the Lakers. He is expected to succeed with Charlotte and under coach Clifford. Hopefully he can get back to form and help the team compete in in the playoffs. Getting back to near all-star level will be a difficult task but with a good team around him, Hibbert may be able to do just that.

Update on MKG’s progression in recovery from shoulder surgery:  

“I think really well, he’s cleared to do everything except to play live. You know no contact yet, that’ll come next month, but he was just cleared to…so that in the weight room for instance…his shoulder is strong enough to handle more weight as he’s lifting. He’s been great on the court, working both with Bruce Kreutzer and Stephen Silas, and you know if you know him he’s a very committed/serious player, and he’s anxious to get back out there but he knows he’s got a couple good months of work before we get going”.

This is great news to all Charlotte Hornets’ fans as everyone is looking forward to seeing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist start on opening night. He will be a key member for the team this season and if he can have a breakout year, they could see themselves as a contender in the Eastern Conference. It will all come down to him being healthy and it seems as though he is on the right track.

On the importance on winning the division and the importance of working hard in the offseason:  

“To be honest…the goal for our team should be to make the playoffs, and there’s no advantage anymore of winning a division, other than saying that you won a division. What I want right now is I want everybody working…I love the way our guys have been in the offseason, and that’s where it starts and that’s what we need to be thinking about. I think that the summer is to get ready for October…but if you start skipping steps and start saying ‘we wanna do this’, ‘we wanna do that’, I think that’s for teams like Golden State. We’re not that team but it doesn’t mean that by the end of the year we couldn’t be playing in a manner where we could beat anybody”.

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It is clear that the team’s mindset is to make the playoffs in 2016. Missing the playoffs would mean an unsuccessful and disappointing campaign. After making the postseason last year, the Charlotte Hornets will be expected to win a playoff series this season.