30 teams in 30 days: Hornets poised for bounce-back season


30 teams in 30 days: Hornets poised for bounce-back season

One of the bigger disappointments a year ago, the Hornets are poised to improve upon last season’s 36-win club and compete for a playoff spot.

Kemba Walker had a breakthrough season in which he earned his first all-star selection, and will once again be on the short list of top-shelf point guards in the East.

But far too often the Hornets relied on Walker’s offense to carry the day which is why they acquired eight-time all-star Dwight Howard whose presence around the basket should do wonders for a Charlotte team that ranked tied for 26th in the NBA in points in the paint (39.9) last season.

And Howard, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2009-2011), should also play a role in helping the Hornets’ defensively where last season their defensive ranking was 14th (106.1) in the league.

Charlotte also needs more production from Nicolas Batum. 

A 6-foot-8 wing, Batum can do so many things at both ends of the floor to the point where for Charlotte to take that next step and become a top-4 or top-5 team in the East, he has the skills to be far more dominant than his stats suggest.

Last season he averaged 15.9 points per game, but also showed his versatility in also averaging 6.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals.

But the real key to Charlotte’s growth this season will lie in its depth which hasn’t been strong or deep enough for them to make the kind of strides required to be successful.

The addition of former rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams and rookie Malik Monk should provide the Hornets with another ball-handler (Carter-Williams) and shot-maker (Monk) that Charlotte absolutely had to have coming out of this year’s draft. 

Selected by Charlotte with the 11th overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the 6-foot-3 Monk was widely considered one of the best shooters in the draft as he connected on 39.7 percent of his 3’s in his lone season at the University of Kentucky.

How quickly he adjusts to being an effective NBA shooter will be a huge plus for a Charlotte team that struggled mightily most of the season where they shot 44.2 percent from the field which ranked 26th in the NBA.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Dwight Howard (Houston); Michael Carter-Williams (Chicago);

Key losses: Ramon Sessions (Charlotte)

Rookies of note: Malik Monk.

Expectations: 42-40 (Second in the Southeast Division, 6th in the East)

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

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Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Aggressive Al Horford was on the floor Friday night for the Boston Celtics, a good sign for a Celtics team that has been battered by injuries. 

As the oldest member of the team, the 31-year-old’s leadership has to become more example-driven as well as existing in the spoken word.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST  - Smart's importance to C's, dissecting the East

Horford was on point for most of Friday’s 92-83 win over Orlando, a game that was far more lopsided in Boston’s favor than the final score might indicate.

The 6-foot-10 forward/center had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. 

What was more telling was that Horford took a team-high 18 shots from the field, as clear a sign as you will find that Horford’s mindset on Friday was to attack Orlando’s defense early and often. 

And while it’s true that the Magic are one of the worst teams in the NBA, that doesn’t diminish the way Horford executed the plays called by head coach Brad Stevens as Horford played the role of primary scorer more often than usual, instead of being a major facilitator.

Having missed Boston’s previous two games, Horford was admittedly concerned if the lay-off might affect his conditioning. 

“Wind-wise I felt good,” Horford told reporters after Friday night’s win. “A little rusty on offense. But defensively I felt great. I felt our team came out with energy; just a good win.” 

A win that became a lot easier to get with Aggressive Al on the floor. 

 Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in Boston’s 92-83 win over Orlando.



Terry Rozier: He continues to provide the Celtics with really solid guard play, with all-star guard Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) missing. Rozier had a game high-tying 17 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. 

Greg Monroe: The third quarter was when Monroe really began to take over the game. He finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the third. 

Shelvin Mack: Not a lot to cheer about for Mack and the Magic who once again struggled in so many phases of the game. But Mack still managed to score 16 points. 



Al Horford: Having missed the two previous games, Horford was back in full force on Friday. He had 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting to go with nine rebounds

Boston rebounding: The Celtics control of the glass began from the outset and never really eased up. For the game, Boston grabbed 55 rebounds compared to just 40 by Orlando. 



Fourth-quarter Celtics: The only real blemish on an otherwise impressive performance by Boston, was the team’s overall play in the fourth quarter. Boston was outscored 31-17 and turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter. 


Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

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Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams already eliminated from playoff contention. 

And on Friday, it didn’t take long to see why.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST - Smart's importance, dissecting the Eastern Conference

The Boston Celtics didn’t waste any time taking control of the game and never letting up as they cruised to a 92-83 win.

Terry Rozier and Greg Monroe led the Celtics with 17 points each and Shelvin Mack had 16 points and seven rebounds for Orlando.  

With the win, the Celtics (47-22) snapped a two-game losing skid and improved their record since returning from the All-Star break to 7-3. 

Getting back on a winning track was just part of Boston’s motivation heading into Friday night’s game. 

With several key players out with injuries, the Celtics’ depth was once again on display from the opening tip to the final horn. 

In the first half, reserve guard Shane Larkin led the team in scoring with 10 points. 

And in the third quarter, backup center Greg Monroe was too much for the Magic to handle around the basket.

In the third, Monroe scored 10 of his 17 points off Boston’s bench. 

This was a game that the Celtics showed few signs of the kind of let-up we have seen them display against bad teams from time to time. 

But Orlando opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that cut Boston’s lead down to 77-61 with 9:18 to play. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out. 

Orlando was able to chip away a little more at Boston’s lead which peaked at 24 points but was down to single digits in the fourth which provided a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, the Magic could get back in the game.

But when it mattered, Boston made the plays in the game’s closing moments to secure the victory. 

For the Celtics, the goal on Friday night was two-fold: find a way to win and come away healthy. 

Boston found success on both fronts, a refreshing change the Celtics hope to do more of going forward. 

Marcus Smart underwent surgery on his right thumb earlier in the day, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks which would put his return to the floor at the earliest, sometime near the end of the first round of the playoffs or early into the second. 

Daniel Theis underwent season-ending surgery recently for a meniscus tear in his left knee.

And Boston played without Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), but he might back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

Al Horford returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to an illness, and he didn’t disappoint in finishing with a near double-double of 15 point and nine rebounds.