Scott Fowler

Charlotte Hornets can extend remarkable season by locking up No. 6 seed

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker has been one of the NBA’s most improved players this season and has keyed the team’s run to the playoffs.
Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker has been one of the NBA’s most improved players this season and has keyed the team’s run to the playoffs. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Noting the sports scene while I'm covering the Masters, awaiting the tournament's fabled back nine that will decide the champion on Sunday:

REMARKABLE:At 46-33 after Friday night’s win, the Charlotte Hornets have three games left in the regular season to decide their playoff seeding.

The Hornets also have more games with at least 10 3-pointers made this season than any other NBA team that is not named Golden State. Kemba Walker is a legitimate candidate for the NBA's "Most Improved Player" award. It's an extraordinary turnaround, particularly given that injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn't been able to be part of it.

No matter which opponent the Hornets draw in the first round -- Atlanta, Boston or Miami -- they have already managed to avoid the worst playoff fate possible (getting seeded No. 8 and having to face Cleveland and LeBron James). With at least a No. 6 Eastern Conference playoff seed guaranteed, the Hornets have a very decent chance at winning a first-round series.

STAY AT 6?! In my mind, the Hornets would be better off staying at No. 6 in the playoff seedings rather than moving into the No. 4 or No. 5 slot. The reasoning: If Charlotte was to win the 4-5 series, the Hornets would have to play LeBron and Cleveland in the second round. That's a very tall order.

If Charlotte stayed at No. 6 and happens to win the 3-6 series, however, the Hornets would likely end up playing No. 2 seed Toronto in the second round. Yes, the Hornets did finally beat LeBron this season to snap King James' personal six-year winning streak against the Charlotte franchise, but the Hornets match up more evenly with Toronto.

RIDICULOUS: I feel certain that House Bill 2 will soon dramatically impact the North Carolina sports world if it is not repealed or changed. It is only a matter of time. PayPal pulling off its expansion plans in Charlotte and Bruce Springsteen canceling his planned Sunday show in Greensboro -- that's just the beginning. The 2017 NBA all-star game in Charlotte is in jeopardy of being moved, and so are a lot of other events, too.

Without getting too much into the politics of HB2, here's my two cents: I just can't believe this issue has consumed our great state. The "bathroom law" back-and-forth strikes me as a largely fabricated controversy. Both sides have entrenched themselves way too far from the middle ground. Get it solved, people. This has gotten absolutely ridiculous.

MASTERS MISHMASH: What's good for golf fans is not necessarily good for golfers. It's been funny to listen to the best golfers in the world complain about the "tough" and "brutal" conditions at Augusta National for the past few days.

If you were a fan -- oh, excuse me, a “patron” -- walking around, it could hardly have been more perfect. It’s been sunny, with temperatures in the 60s and a nice spring breeze always blowing. To the golfers, though, the sun dries out the already fast greens, and the wind's gusts can affect any shot. You say "tomato," I say quit whining.

NFL SCHEDULE RELEASE: The NFL whetted fans' appetites a little this past week with the release of the preseason schedule. But not much. Even at its best, a preseason game feels like sitting in a movie theater and watching a dozen "coming soon" trailers but never getting to see an actual movie.

So when will the real schedule come out for the Panthers and everyone else? The NFL hasn't said yet, but based on past years I would guess sometime around April 20th, give or take a day. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe the Panthers will have an extremely high-profile Week 1 opponent. Carolina’s regular-season Super Bowl rematch against Denver, I believe, will be saved for a Sunday night later in the season by the schedule-makers.

C'MON, KOBE: Is Kobe Bryant's final season still not over? I feel like he started this retirement tour at the same time that Stephen Curry began his freshman year at Davidson.

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