By John Hartman, hornets.com Fan Blogger
Hornets fan blogger John Hartman is a lifelong Charlotte basketball fan and current Swarm 365 team member. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Hornets organization.
When the text came through asking if I would be able to attend Charlotte Hornets Media Day this year and write a blog, I didn’t hesitate in responding. It’s a unique experience to go behind the scenes and see the team chemistry firsthand.
This year I spent my time in the interview room to get the inside scoop of what happens before, during, and after the interviews. The day kicked off with Head Coach Steve Clifford putting a lot of the blame for last season on himself. He even went as far as to insinuate that he’s no longer a top defensive coach after last season. Coach was definitely being a little hard on himself, but it was great to see how motivated he is to get his team back in the Top 5 defensively and Top 10 offensively. In order to accomplish those goals, Coach Clifford noted that the team needs to get back to focusing on progressing each and every day rather than relying on what they know they can do and expecting that to win games.
Next up to the podium was Nic Batum. For the first time in his career Nic decided not to play on the French National Team in the offseason. This allowed him to focus on himself and “get his mind right” in preparation for the upcoming season. A refreshed Batum is also excited about the addition of Dwight Howard and the impact he will have on his game. Throughout the press conferences today a recurring theme was how Batum and Howard are perfect compliments to each other’s game especially in the pick-and-roll. Batum went on to note that he sees himself in a similar role as Hedo Turkoglu’s during Dwight’s Orlando days. He has even spent time this offseason studying tape of those Orlando teams and watching how Hedo and Dwight played together. The comical part of Nic’s presser came when he was asked how he found out about the trade for Dwight. Nic said the trade happened while he was sleeping in France so he woke up to tons of texts from General Manager Rich Cho, Coach Clifford, teammates, etc… His initial reaction was fear that he was the one who got traded. Thankfully that wasn’t the case.
Next up to the podium was Kemba Walker. The interesting takeaway from Kemba’s presser was how impressed he has been with Malik Monk. He started off by echoing the thoughts of pretty much every NBA fan saying that he never thought Malik would be there for the Hornets to pick and considered it a steal. Kemba elaborated that he has spent a lot of time the past few weeks working out with Malik and has come away impressed with his innate ability to score. Overall Kemba feels great and is ready to get the season started.
Another recurring theme throughout the day was how impressed people have been with Jeremy Lamb this offseason. Coach Clifford, Kemba, and Batum all sung his praises noting the dedication and work he has put in. Jeremy expanded on his offseason indicating that rather than starting his offseason regimen a few weeks before training camp, he realized the need to treat his conditioning as a year round job. A lot of his summer was focused on his diet, conditioning and sleep habits, as well as a focus on his mindset and shot selection during games. Jeremy is motivated to help the team in whatever role they need him for this year, whether it be scoring, defense or rebounding.
The two comedians of the day were Frank Kaminsky and Dwight Howard. Frank walked in with a pair of Snapchat Spectacles clipped to his collar and his upcoming Kaminsky stormtrooper bobblehead giveaway on Dec. 9 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He opened with a debate as to whether or not he was a “ginger” as his bobblehead appears to have hair with a slight red shade. Dwight by far had the two funniest responses of the day. He was asked what it was like to play in the championship and not win. He related the experience to being a young child going to McDonald’s for the first time having heard of the Happy Meal, McFlurries, and Big Mac’s but right when you get to the door your mom says you can’t go in. Then the quote of the day came when Dwight was asked if he would go to the White House if he won the championship. He very quickly responded by saying “I’d go to the Dwight house, you know my house.”
The interviews concluded with an unplanned joint interview with Malik Monk and MKG. Malik was due up and MKG jokingly tried to take his spot which led to the joint interview. MKG seems hungry and motivated by the down year last year. Malik was very candid and jokingly said he needs to start reading because he doesn’t know what to do the rest of the day when practice is over at noon.
Overall the key takeaways for me from media day were:
- The locker room has a strong family vibe.
- Everyone is motivated after a disappointing performance last season from Coach Clifford down to the players.
- The offseason work put in by the players combined with the additions of Dwight, Malik, and Dwayne will bolster our depth and add new elements to strengthen our offense and defense.
Coming out of media day I can say that I’m excited for the season to start and have high hopes for the team.