Hornets’ Frank Kaminksy Making Strides, Impact as Rookie

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by Bill Kiser of Charlotte Observer – Like many children in Lisle, Ill., Charlotte Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky grew up rooting for the Chicago Bulls and idolized superstar Michael Jordan.

So the irony of Monday night’s game against the Bulls at Time Warner Cable Arena isn’t lost on Kaminsky, considering who signs his paychecks.

“He was one of my idols, one of the greatest basketball players of all time,” Kaminsky said of Jordan, the Hornets’ principal owner since 2010. “When a guy like that has faith in you, it makes you really confident about yourself.”

Unlike most kids in the Chicago area, however, Kaminsky had a more up-close view of his idol during his youth. His aunt and uncle, Karen and Jim Stack, worked for the Bulls during Jordan’s last years.

That meant Kaminsky spent time around the Bulls’ practice facility, watching stars Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and, of course, Jordan.

“I doubt he remembered me,” Kaminsky said of Jordan. “I was there every birthday and whenever my family was there. When we were kids, whenever we had the opportunity to go there, we did.”

Kaminsky grew up to become college basketball’s national player of the year as a senior at Wisconsin. The Hornets drafted him No. 9 overall in the 2015 NBA draft.

“My agent (Kevin Bradbury) got the chance to talk to (Jordan) the day leading up to the draft and said, ‘If I’m there at No. 9, he was going to draft me,’ said Kaminsky, who is 7-foot and 240 pounds. “That made me really excited.”

Monday’s game won’t be the first time Kaminsky has faced Chicago this season. The teams have met twice, with the Hornets winning each. But the rookie says he’s a much different player now.

The numbers back that up: After averaging 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes in his first nine games, Kaminsky now averages 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game.

“He’s done a really good job,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s becoming more comfortable with the NBA game. You can see his instincts, especially offensively, but he’s improved defensively a great deal.

“His (increased) minutes came about because he earned them. Early in the year, he was like the fifth big guy. Now he’s the fourth. It’s just more he’s played well and gotten more time.”

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