Charlotte Hornets

October 24, 2013

Jeff Taylor’s 20 leads Charlotte Bobcats past Cleveland Cavaliers

Reserve small forward Jeff Taylor scored 20 points off 11 shots to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to a 105-92 preseason victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Charlotte Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson had a bit of a told-you-so moment Thursday.

Early on last season Henderson predicted excellence from rookie Jeff Taylor; maybe not immediately, but inevitably. Taylor showed what Henderson was talking about with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the Bobcats’ 105-92 preseason victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I said he reminded me of myself – the things you have to learn. It’s about getting comfortable,” said Henderson, who added 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. “He had a really good summer between (Las Vegas) and FIBA. His confidence his sky-high right now.”

That was part of the issue a year ago. The first pick of the second round, the 6-foot-7 Taylor had all the tools, but not necessarily the conviction to use them. He looked tentative, playing behind fellow rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the second overall pick. There was nothing tentative about Taylor’s play Thursday.

Taylor got additional minutes in the second half while Kidd-Gilchrist rested a strained right hamstring. It is unlikely Kidd-Gilchrist will play in the Bobcats’ preseason finale Friday against the New York Knick, though the injury is not considered serious.

Taylor was having a big night before Kidd-Gilchrist hurt himself and kept rolling. Taylor was at the training facility the most of any Bobcat over the summer, and the progress is telling.

“He had an aggressive mindset tonight and the shot was there,” said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford. “Before, it was either a spot-up 3 or all the way to the basket. Now he’s got more balance to his offensive game.”

Taylor worked with assistant coach Stephen Silas on developing a mid-range game that would complement what he arrived with from Vanderbilt.

“I worked hard at that – curling (off screens) and dribble hand-offs,” Taylor said.

He also starred for his native Sweden in the Eurobasket event, after excelling with the Bobcats in summer league.

“It was a really good experience – the ball in my hands, extremely good competition and representing my country,” said Taylor.

The end result of all that is a guy earning more minutes by the week.

“It would be hard keeping him off the floor playing like that,” Clifford concluded.

Notes: Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said pre-game that center Al Jefferson is progressing well from the ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 11 against the Miami Heat. Jefferson is expected to play in the opener against the Rockets Oct. 30.

Clifford hopes Jefferson can practice early next week at full speed.

“It will be hard for him if he doesn’t,” Clifford said. “He didn’t miss a week; he’s played a game and a quarter” this preseason …

Clifford is using the last two exhibitions to run rotations more like the regular-season, anticipating the Bobcats’ crowded early schedule: 17 games in the first 31 days.

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