Rookie Frank Kaminsky Settling Into Expanded Role with Charlotte Hornets

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By Rick Bonnell of CharlotteObserver.com – Charlotte Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky never played in the recent home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the only time in the Hornets’ 7-6 start he didn’t log at least four minutes.

Oddly enough, sitting out that game was Kaminsky’s route to an expanded role.

Coach Steve Clifford chose not to play Kaminsky because the Trail Blazers went to a small lineup late in the first half, and Clifford struggled to find a suitable defensive matchup for the 7-foot power forward. That started a conversation between Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing that left a strong impression on Clifford.

Ewing made the argument that if Kaminsky is a big part of the Hornets’ future, then it’s incumbent on the coaches to find him a matchup and trust Kaminsky to execute.

In the three games that followed that victory over the Trail Blazers, Kaminsky played 24, 23 and 19 minutes. That was partly because of injuries to other players, but it was also a statement about Kaminsky’s value to this team going forward.

“I think he has the agility once he gets more comfortable” to play smaller, quicker power forwards, Clifford said.

“He can score both inside and outside. He can really score in the post. We just don’t have a lot (of plays) for him down there yet. I think that he’ll be good enough to defend (smaller forwards) out on the perimeter and then take them down in the post and punish them.”

The Hornets drafted Kaminsky ninth overall, passing over Duke small forward Justise Winslow and a package of draft picks offered by the Boston Celtics. Kaminsky didn’t contribute much in the season’s first 10 games, but the progress this past week was apparent.

He struggled with his shot against the New York Knicks (1-of-5), but he grabbed five rebounds. In his next two games, he shot 8-of-10 from the field for 11 and nine points in victories against the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

His minutes could be trimmed some when Cody Zeller and P.J. Hairston return from injuries. But he is beginning to figure out how to defend NBA power forwards, which is very different from guarding college centers.

“When he makes a coverage mistake he gets really upset. He doesn’t look around” for someone else to blame, Clifford said of Kaminsky. “He’s making good progress. He’s going to be a good player.”

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