Recap: Hornets drop summer league opener to Spurs, 98-77

Every year I go into summer league basketball excited to watch the Charlotte Hornets lace ’em up and play basketball. Then I remember that the Hornets are always aggressively bad in summer league, and that hampers my enjoyment. They went down by 20 early in the first quarter due to some very sloppy, disorganized play on both ends of the floor and some not-summer-league-quality from Julian Champagnie and Dominick Barlow of the Spurs. They found their footing and played relatively evenly in the second half, but they never made any sort of run to put the game in doubt.

The Draft Picks

Brandon Miller had an up and down debut. He committed seven fouls (six in the first half) and six turnovers. He took a little while to find his groove, but he made good reads out of the pick and roll as a ball handler and got to the free throw line when his shot wasn’t falling. He got hot in the later part of the fourth quarter and hit three straight threes followed by this acrobatic and-1 to cap off the game’s scoring. He finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Nick Smith Jr. was more down than up. He showed flashes of tough shot making, mainly on floaters and a deep three in the fourth quarter. However, he kind of hijacked the offense as a lead guard and took a lot of hurried, ill advised shots. Case in point was late in that fourth quarter when Miller was heating up, Smith took a heavily contested pull-up with Miller wide open on the wing. There’s something there as a scorer. He just needs to pace himself better.

Amari Bailey struggled badly in the halfcourt on offense. He had two or three airballs and took some awkward looking pull-up jumpers. He looked good in other areas of the game though. He was active defensively and had some super athletic finishes in transition.

The Good

Bryce McGowens had a bad box score performance, but he looked like the NBA player on the floor. He was composed and more patient than most of his teammates. He just needs to get shots to fall.

Justin Robinson had some nice breaks in transition showing some speed and composure as a ball handler. He’ll be someone to watch.

The Bad

Kai Jones and James Bouknight didn’t particularly stand out like you’d first round picks with two years of NBA experience to. Bouknight wasn’t bad per se, but he should have been a more commanding presence on the floor. Instead he blended in with the rest of the guys trying to fight for roster spots. Kai had a couple of highlight blocks but otherwise was pretty bad all around.

The team in general was a discombobulated mess for most of the game. Even when they settled in during the second half, it was more individual shot making than team basketball. They had just 12 assists on 26 made baskets on offense. On defense they were very disconnected after their initial rotations. It’s just summer league, so this doesn’t matter too much, but it was painful to watch.

What’s Next

The Hornets will have a day off before wrapping up the California Classic against the Warriors on Wednesday.

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