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Welcome to Buzz City Beat, a daily roundup of the best articles from around the internet surrounding the Charlotte Hornets.

Despite dealing with a dislocated finger, Dwight Howard had one of his best games of the season and led his side to victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. In this edition of Buzz City Beat, we look at what the next step is for the Charlotte Hornets, how Kemba Walker continues to excel with a non-contender and the Greensboro Swarm losing to the Lakeland Magic.
What is the Charlotte Hornets’ next step? (HoopsRumors.com)

Still, it’s not clear what Plan B in Charlotte is. Unlike fellow 11-win teams like the Kings, Suns, and Lakers, the Hornets don’t have a plethora of promising young players they can focus on developing with things going south.

It’s unclear what the best move is for Charlotte going forward. They will have to choose between either re-tooling or completely rebuilding by tanking. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that changes are needed as what they are doing now isn’t working. With Rich Cho in the final year of his deal, the Hornets will probably look to re-tool by improving their current squad in an attempt to make a playoff push int he second half of the season.

Although, if they continue to struggle for long enough, tanking might look more appealing and a rebuild may be their only option. If Charlotte is still near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, their best bet is to cut salary and acquire draft picks/young talent. We’ll have to wait and see what the Hornets’ plan of attack is for the remainder of the season because right now, they don’t have a clear Plan B. What do you think the team should do?
Kemba continues to excel in relative obscurity (UPROXX.com)

Walker isn’t the first, nor the last, legitimate NBA star to languish in anonymity, which comes with the territory when dealing with a sub-.500 team in a market that does not generate national interest on its own. Still, it has to be emphasized, that Walker isn’t the problem in Charlotte, nor is there any real optimism for a future without him should he choose to leave in free agency at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season.

No matter how bad the Hornets have been over the past few years, Walker has always been a constant positive for the team. Despite all of his individual success, the all-star point guard has yet to win a playoff series in his two trips to the postseason. Kemba’s 3-8 record in only 11 playoff games can largely be attributed to the teams around him rather than his individual play.

If Walker played on a team that was consistently in the playoffs or at least was in a bigger market, he would not only get more recognition but also be one of the more popular players in the league. Whether it be in Charlotte or not, hopefully, Kemba can play on a contender one day. In order to increase their chances of keeping Walker long-term, the Hornets will need to prove that they can build a winning team around him over the next couple years.
Greensboro falls to Lakeland despite 31 points from Goodwin (Gleague.NBA.com)

The Greensboro Swarm (7-12) and Lakeland Magic (13-5) went back-and-forth but it was the Magic’s 8-0 run to close the game that sealed a, 106-102, Swarm defeat. Lakeland has won seven straight games.

Just when it looked like the Swarm were about to turn their season around, they are only 2-3 in their last five. Greensboro still has three games left before the new year and if they can win all three, they could move into the top-8 in the Eastern Conference. If Archie Goodwin continues to play well, this team could be in line for more wins going forward.

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New Orleans Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis has been diagnosed with a left adductor strain, the team announced Monday.

An MRI of his injured groin and further examination revealed no structural damage, and the timetable for his return will be day-to-day.

Davis missed Saturday’s game at Portland and will miss Monday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors.

Davis was on the court wearing team warm-up gear before the Pelicans played the Warriors. He said he has not resumed basketball activities.

“I just want to be part of the team. I haven’t done any basketball stuff yet,” Davis said. “I want to make sure that the pain has really gone away, especially since all I did was jump and it kind of killed me.”

He was seen using crutches Saturday night in Portland.

“It’s really hard to explain, but something I never felt before,” Davis said, adding that the crutches were a precaution while doctors were still trying to determine the precise nature of his injury.

“It’s good that they’re not finding anything, obviously,” Davis added. “That pain is still there when I do certain movements, so when that kind of subsides, then I’ll start moving forward.”

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was relieved to find out Davis’ injury wasn’t more serious.

“Very much so,” Gentry said. “The fact that he’s day-to-day, I think is great. We’ll just work him out, rehab him and see where he is every day. Hopefully [his return] is sooner more so than later, but we’re still not going to take any chances.”

“When it’s a noncontact injury, you always worry about the severity of it,” Gentry said. “The fact that it wasn’t — we all had everything crossed that we own. The fact that it isn’t and he’s going to hopefully play soon is refreshing to us.”

Davis has averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds a game for the Pelicans, who are 12-11 and only one game out of sixth place in the Western Conference playoff chase.

Davis, a four-time All-Star, was injured on a noncontact play in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s loss to the Utah Jazz. Without Davis, New Orleans defeated Portland on Saturday behind DeMarcus Cousins’ 38 points.

Davis had been the Western Conference’s Player of the Week with an average of 25 points, 11 rebounds on 57 percent shooting for the Pelicans.

The Pelicans have home games against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Sacramento Kings on Friday and Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.

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The Charlotte Hornets’ top draft pick was benched in favor of Michael Carter-Williams after the team lost six straight games.

Steve Clifford chose to bench his star rookie because he needed more defense. After losing six straight games, he chose not to play Malik Monk a single minute against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Charlotte Hornets‘ head coach said that “It’s not Malik’s fault, it’s just his position; [Michael Carter-Williams is] a difference-maker defensively.” (CharlotteObserver.com)

This was the first time this year that the 11th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft didn’t play in a game for Charlotte. He saw at least nine minutes in the Hornets’ first 14 games of the season. In a surprising turn of events, Monk has fallen out of the team’s rotation while second-round pick Dwayne Bacon is still getting important minutes off of the bench.

The Kentucky product saw 19.8 minutes per game was averaging 8.8 points, 1.9 assists and 1.9 rebounds. He’s been struggling to find his shot shooting only 34.6% from the field and 33.3% from the three-point line. His lack of offensive production hasn’t been enough to overshadow his poor defensive play.

Monk’s defense was a big question mark coming out of college. His size is making him a bit of a liability on that end of the floor. To try and cover up his defensive woes, Coach Clifford was playing Malik at point guard so that he wouldn’t be forced to cover bigger shooting guards. That worked while Michael Carter-Williams was out rehabbing from offseason knee procedures but now that MCW is back, it looks like the rookie has fallen out of the rotation.

Even though the 19-year old is struggling, it isn’t out of the norm for a rookie to have a rough start at the professional level. Even Lonzo Ball, who was the second overall pick, is having his fair share of problems in the NBA. It takes time for most first-year players to adjust to the speed and style of the league.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues going forward. If the hamstring injury that Jeremy Lamb suffered against the Clippers keeps him sidelined, it could mean a return to the rotation for Monk. At some point, you’d have to think that Malik will earn his minutes back.

It’s far too early to completely give up on such a promising rookie but for the time being, the Hornets need win games and Steve Clifford is electing to go with defense over offense. So until Malik improves his play on that end of the court or Charlotte’s defense as a whole gets better, it’s unlikely that he will see significant minutes anytime soon.

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Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors

BOSTON — Al Horford had 24 points in his return from a two-game absence because of a concussion and the Boston Celtics hung on to beat the Toronto Raptors 95-94 on Sunday for their 12th straight victory.

Boston (12-2) was playing without Kyrie Irving after he took an inadvertent elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes on Friday night against Charlotte. Irving has a minor facial fracture but has not been diagnosed with a concussion as initially feared.

Jaylen Brown added 18 points, and Terry Rozier helped fill in for Irving with 16 points off the bench. Boston shot just 40.2 per cent from the field.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points, and Kyle Lowry had 19 points and seven rebounds for Toronto. The Raptors dropped to 7-5 after winning two straight.

Jayson Tatum’s acrobatic layup with 1:26 remaining in the fourth quarter put the Celtics up 95-90.

DeRozan missed a potential go-ahead stepback jumper with 19 seconds remaining. Tatum got the rebound, but elbowed Fred VanVleet in the face for an offensive foul that was confirmed by video review.

DeRozan had another look to give Toronto the win, but missed a turnaround jumper with two seconds left. Serge Ibaka scooped up the rebound, but lost the ball as time expired.

The Celtics took a 77-76 lead into the fourth after fighting back from nine down.

DeRozan and Lowry scored 21 of the Raptors’ 24 first-quarter points, but combined for just five in the second as Toronto led by five at halftime.
MASKED KYRIE

Irving visited a facial specialist Sunday and was fitted for a mask after being injured Friday. The last time Irving played in a mask was on Dec. 15, 2012, when he scored a then-career-high 41 points versus New York with Cleveland.
TIP-INS

Raptors: Lowry’s 3-pointer with 5:32 left in the first quarter moved him past Andrea Bargnani (6,581 points) into fourth place on Toronto’s all-time scoring list. … DeRozan had 20 or more points for the seventh straight regular season game in Boston and is averaging 22 points in that stretch. … Norman Powell left the game with a right hip pointer.

Celtics: Boston’s 12-game winning streak is tied for its third-longest in the last 30 years. The Celtics also won 12 straight from Jan. 11-Feb. 3, 2009. … Rozier scored at least 10 points in a career-best three straight games.

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Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers took a gamble on having just four veteran guards on their 15-man roster, and for the second time already, they have paid a price for their own admission.

They were put in a precarious state when starting point guard Milos Teodosic went down with a plantar fascia injury to his left foot that the Clippers said will sideline him indefinitely.

So now Austin Rivers, who started in place of Teodosic on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams will see their playing time likely increase.

“You take a risk sometimes,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “In our case, we just decided we were going to go with four guards and then use some of the young guys, maybe. So now he’s out, and that hurts us.”

Austin Rivers suffered a strained left glute during the first exhibition game against the Toronto Raptors in Hawaii. That put the Clippers in an insecure spot for the rest of the exhibition season because he didn’t play in the last four games.

Now here the Clippers are again, down one of their seasoned guards. They are hoping that one of their rookie guards, Sindarius Thornwell or Jawun Evans, can provide a lift when called upon.

“I said that before the year. If anyone of those four guys goes out, that puts a strain on us,” Doc Rivers said. “So, Sindarius or Jawun, one of those two will play. They both are ready, in my opinion. I think Sindarius has a chance to be an elite defender in our league, maybe not right away. I think the minutes will help him. So, we’re just going to plug him in.”

Jazz’s Quin Snyder has history with Teodosic

When Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder walked into Staples Center on Tuesday night, he stopped to have a chat with Teodosic, who was on scooter.

The two have a history together.

Snyder was the assistant coach at CSKA Moscow in 2012-13 when Teodosic was on the team.

The amazing passing that everyone saw from Teodosic before his injury is something Snyder saw a lot of when they were in Russia together.

“He’s a unique playmaker,” Snyder said. “I think he’s just got a sense. He’s artistic in the way he plays the game. You don’t have to watch him for long to see that, as far as some of the passes and creativity. He’s a guy that people like playing with, and couple that with his ability to make shots and stretch the floor, he’s a unique player that can really add a lot to an already very, very, very good offensive team.”