Steve Clifford Rumors
BPA: What was it like going into free agency as a highly-touted player, and what was important to you about signing a long-term contract in Charlotte? Nicolas Batum: Free agency is always a special moment, and it’s exciting. I had 22 teams who called my agent. What I felt about this team is last year was great, I loved it, I love my connection with Cliff [Steve Clifford]—the way Cliff and I see the game. And all the guys on this team right now are under contract for a couple years. And Cliff is signed for two more years. Stability is huge with this team, and that’s what I wanted. This city loves this team. We really want to put the Hornets back on the basketball map. That’s a challenge, but I love it though.
NBPA: Why is Charlotte the right basketball fit for you? NB: I had a great connection with coach Clifford first. After I got traded [in June 2015], we talked together and we have the same view about the game, and what he wants from me. He understands the way I see this game and he wants me to be me. My teammates want the same thing. They tell me to take the ball and do what you’ve got to do, because they know I can make them better.
“But the biggest thing was seeing how much all the organizations have grown. Staffs used to be about 10 people. Now it’s 40-50. There’s analytics, sports science, interns, strength and conditioning. Managing all these people. Understanding all the technology. Watching how some organizations utilize that information. The biggest thing was creating a real positive synergy to your building.” One camp Thibodeau visited was Charlotte. “He was more telling me do this better, do that better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said, laughing. “We have that kind of relationship. Playing groups, drills, he would say, ‘I would do this, I wouldn’t do this.’ He studies. He just gets better. He was a great coach anyway. He’s a better coach now.”
Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford was chatting recently with Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. The conversation quickly turned to ex-Lakers center Roy Hibbert, who signed with the Hornets over the summer. “You’ll be surprised how good a basketball player he is on offense,” Kupchak told Clifford. Four games into the Hornets’ preseason, Clifford buys Kupchak’s point.
Hibbert, who is 7-foot-2, was twice named an All-Star center with the Indiana Pacers primarily for his shot-blocking and rebounding. But Clifford has seen a bonus element to Hibbert’s game that he highly values: Hibbert is a good passer . “He can really pass, which I didn’t realize,” Clifford said Thursday. “He’s got a feel for the game. He knows how to play. And you see it more around here every day.” Good passers have always been high in Clifford’s priority list. Think how featured power forward Josh McRoberts was as a then-Bobcat in a way he’s never duplicated since leaving for the Miami Heat. Or how Clifford turned the offense over to shooting guard-small forward Nic Batum a year ago to feature Batum’s play-making skills.