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The Charlotte Hornets are the surprise team of the NBA but how did this come to be? There were no big name free agent signings. No big time trades in the offseason. This was to be the season of the Boston Celtics coronation atop the East, but that memo got lost in the junk mail folder. Where the Celtics have regressed, the Hornet have progressed. But how?
They have learned the lost art of team ball.
The leader is still Kemba Walker and with his average of 24 points a game, he seems comfortable with his role but the accolades doesn’t end there. His backcourt mate, Nicholas Batum has been steady in his second season with the team. He has not had a breakout campaign of a 20-plus point average but he defends, rebounds, dishes and hustles which is all the traits needed to be a compliment to Walker.
The frontcourt is sneaky good. There are not many teams that can throw a lineup out as versatile as the Hornets players in the post. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams have done an incredible job on both ends of the floor with their athletic play. While neither possesses the scoring acumen of Kevin Durant or LeBron James, they do provide the gritty blue-collar play not seen in the stat sheet that makes a winner a winner.
The center position has been a thing of beauty for the Hornets. Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller has held down the fort and with Roy Hibbert playing well before an injury sidelined him, the team has not missed a beat with the departure of Al Jefferson.
The measuring stick for any team in the Eastern Conference is still the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Hornets may not be on their radar as of yet, the Cavaliers are still mindful of the team’s hot start to the season. How can they Cavaliers not look over their shoulder in which a team has five players in double figures scoring-wise, six averaging more than one steal a game, four averaging more than one block, three with four assists and eight with four-plus rebounds per game. An elite scorer will get you only so far, but the Hornets have that and more.
For all the heat owner Michael Jordan has taken over the years for his lack of success in building a contender, his name has been kept out of the media as he wants the focus to be on the Hornets and not the weight his name carries.
Can they keep it up? That’s the million dollar question. But that’s down the line. Now, they are who they are and that’s a gritty team fighting the Cavaliers for the best team in the Eastern Conference.