First, Charlotte Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing went to Steve Clifford, suggesting they try to post up rookie 7-footer Frank Kaminsky more.
Then, in a separate conversation, team owner Michael Jordan made the same suggestion to Hornets coach Clifford.
So, as Clifford joked after a 96-80 playoff victory over the Miami Heat, when two Hall of Famers make the same suggestion, and the highest level of basketball you played was at Maine-Farmington, you heed their advice.
Good move, because Kaminsky was the driving force in a third-quarter surge that won this game, the first playoff victory for the Bobcats-then Hornets since the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004.
Kaminsky finished with 15 points, 13 of those in the third quarter when the Hornets outscored the Heat 26-14.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tried something out of the box, having 6-foot-4 guard Dwyane Wade defend Kaminsky (and having 6-9 Luol Deng guarding the Hornets’ Kemba Walker).
Spoelstra started experimenting with this a couple of possessions late in the first half. So it was a major topic of conversation at halftime that Kaminsky had to take advantage of the height difference.
About four minutes into the second half, Kaminsky took Wade off the dribble for an uncontested layup. Game on. Kaminsky made five of his eight third-quarter shots to change the course of this game.
Sometimes the unorthodox is brilliant. Sometimes it’s just unorthodox. I’m guessing we won’t see much more of Wade trying to guard a guy 8 inches taller than he is.
Kaminsky started Saturday, in place of the injured Nic Batum. Clifford’s two options were to start Kaminsky and move Marvin Williams to small forward or to start guard Jeremy Lin. Clifford already felt his team was at a size disadvantage against the Heat, so even with Lin’s experience a factor in the decision, it made sense to go with Kaminsky.
Clifford texted Kaminsky early Saturday, cluing him in that they would be looking to post him. That would have happened regardless of the odd matchup Spoelstra dreamed up to defend the 7-foot rookie.
Kaminsky played poorly and timidly over most of the two games in Miami. He took just one shot in 37 minutes and missed that one. His performance was reinforcing the howling that started draft night when the Hornets selected him ninth, passing over Duke star Justise Winslow.
There are factions of Hornets fans who still have a beef with the team’s decision. They think the Hornets should have either drafted Winslow (despite the team having traded for small forwards Batum and Jeremy Lamb in the days leading up to draft night) or dealt the ninth pick to the Boston Celtics for a handful of future picks executive Danny Ainge was offering.
Saturday selecting Kaminsky looked pretty smart. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Winslow was all but invisible off the Miami bench, finishing 1-of-7 from the field for four points and five rebounds.
I’m always a bit leery of the "plus-minus" statistic, because sometimes it’s more circumstantial than representative of a player’s performance. But Saturday Winslow was a minus-26 and Kaminsky was a plus-16.
So, despite all the fuss the Kaminsky selection raised, maybe the Hornets did right on draft night after all.