Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets: Scoping defense and risks early on

With just over a week before the start of the regular season, here are five thoughts on the Charlotte Hornets and the NBA:

1 Defend and rebound: I try not to get worked up over preseason performances. But you could clearly see a year ago the direction coach Steve Clifford was pointing the then-Bobcats. They looked locked in on defense and rebounding, and I don’t see that as much this preseason.

I’m not saying the emphasis has changed, but the group is different and each season has its own personality. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson were really sick of losing. Clifford told them the way to change that was lock on a few defensive imperatives: Always get back in transition, minimize points at the rim and don’t foul carelessly.

The Bobcats finished last season having committed the fewest turnovers and fouls in the NBA. I’m not sure this group will duplicate that highly disciplined approach.

2 A sensible change: The NBA announced some rule changes for this season, including the opportunity for referees to review replay if they’re not sure whether a foul qualifies as flagrant.

Last season refs could only review video if a flagrant was initially called. If the new rule was in effect, the NBA might have avoided the awkward situation involving Josh McRoberts and LeBron James in the playoffs.

McRoberts hit James in the throat area with a forearm as James drove to the rim. Referees called a common foul, which at the time seemed questionable. The next day the league upgraded the foul to flagrant and fined McRoberts $20,000.

That dramatic a change in ruling isn’t commonplace. This was a classic example of the value of replay, and it was never used until well after the fact.

3 Low-maintenance bench: One of the subtle positives about the Bobcats last season was the approach of the guys at the end of the bench. Anthony Tolliver, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jannero Pargo never complained about limited playing time and stayed ready in case they were needed.

Point guard Pargo is back for just those qualities and big man Jason Maxiell has a similar approach this fall. If Maxiell makes this team as the 15th man, his professionalism will play a role in why.

4 Risk-reward: Have you noticed the Hornets don’t get a lot of steals? They were 29th among 30 NBA teams in that category last season as the Bobcats.

It’s somewhat by design. The players are taught not to take big risks in pursuit of opponent turnovers that might leave a teammate exposed. Clifford emphasizes minimizing your own turnovers far more than causing those by opponents.

5 Give Williams more time: Hornets power forward Marvin Williams is typically one of the last, if not the last, players off the court following practice. He’s always taking extra shots, particularly 3-pointers, sometimes a half-hour after everyone else is in the locker room.

Early this preseason, practice didn’t make perfect. In the first five exhibitions he shot 7 of 21 from the field and 4 of 15 from 3-point range.

A big factor in the Hornets signing Williams was the expectation he’d help spread the floor with his shooting range. The sample is way too small to dispute that Williams will do just that. But this bears monitoring.

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