The Hornets supporting cast stepped up and lead Charlotte to an impressive win over the Knicks to reach the semi finals in Las Vegas.
Cody Zeller sat this one out, he wasn’t injured but the Hornets coaching staff were likely wanting to give others a chance after seeing all they wanted from Cody. The Knicks had already recorded a 95-72 victory over the Hornets in the preliminary rounds, but the Hornets late tournament improvement was on full show as they recorded an impressive 82-79 victory to reach the semi finals against the Rockets.
28 MIN – 12 PTS (FG 5-11 FT 2-2) – 10 REB (5 OFF) – 0 AST – 6 PF – 0 STL – 2 TO – 1 BLK
Vonleh bounced back from his 6pt 5reb performance against the Pelicans. In college, Vonleh averaged 4.1 personal fouls per 40 minutes at Indiana, going some way to explaining his struggles in Las Vegas. However, he is currently averaging 5.7 fouls per game and fouled out of the last two, this is fairly common for young rookies, I have no doubt this will improve over the year. Vonleh again showed to have a quick first step from the perimeter, but in a similar vein to Zeller frequently gets his shot blocked at the rim. Vonleh is going to have to become a little craftier with his finishing, I imagine this will comes as he gains more experience playing against NBA calibre athletes. Vonleh did get two nice lefty hooks to go down in the 4th quarter, he had been getting good looks all week from that left block but had been unable to finish until now.
Despite having other good rebounding games, I found Vonleh’s energy on the glass against the Knicks particularly impressive. Vonleh brought down a lot of “in traffic” rebounds, especially on the offensive end. Early on in his NBA career I see Vonleh’s rebounding ability being a skill he can fall back on, could this make Biyombo expendable? Vonleh again showed good potential to be a post defender, he has a strong core for someone his age and uses his hands well to deny post passes. At times Vonleh can get a little “too eager” and is whistled for fouls, it will take time for him to figure out exactly what the NBA refs will call.
26 MIN – 15 PTS (FG 5-12 3PFG 2-6 FT 3-5) – 4 REB – 0 AST – 5PF – 1 STL – 2 TO – 0 BLK
Hairston had a much better game than in the previous round against the Pelicans, improving his efficiency from the field. The Hairston/Hardaway battle was very entertaining to watch, I’m not over-exaggerating when I say “battle” as both guys went at each other all game. Hardaway started off the better, but by the end of the game it was Hairston who had the last laugh. Defensively, Hairston had his best game of the summer league. Two particular plays stood out, one where Hairston stayed close to Hardaway off a curl, stole the ball and threw it off Jeremy Tyler before his momentum took him over the scorer’s table. On a possession shortly after Hairston deflected a pass, then dove on the floor and managed to regain his team possession. When playing with the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League, Hairston rarely showed this kind of hustle, maybe finally being on an NBA team fighting for a rotation spot has provided the motivation he needed?
Perhaps Hairston’s most impressive play of summer league so far was this nasty slam he threw down after tightly curling off a baseline screen. Again, Hairston is showing he has better athleticism than most people think and isn’t just a one dimensional jump shooter. In my opinion Hairston plays best when he is mixing up his offense by shooting and driving the ball, consistently getting to the free throw line. Clifford should really press Hairston to attack the rim and not settle for jump shots. The Hornets coaching staff have mentioned on numerous occasions how they want to improve their transition game, PJ has run the floor well this week and had a couple of good put back slams. Hairston didn’t pass the ball as well as in previous games, he appeared to play a little more off the ball and triggered very few pick and rolls. Maybe this was by design, maybe it was just how it played out. One may argue he should be more involved to develop his passing game, or you may feel he will be playing off the ball a lot with Lance/Kemba so he should get used to it. In essence, both arguments are correct, so we might as well look at it as a win/win situation.
One thing is for sure, Hairston is going to get under people’s skin, he slipped Hardaway a little forearm in the jugular on one play, then starred him down and walked away. This wasn’t a seriously “dirty” play, but it just shows that Hairston plays tough and takes no prisoners. Pairing PJ with Stephenson and we are going to have ourselves one hard hitting wing combination, lets just hope the term “hard hitting” stays figurative.