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Hive Dive: Terry Rozier is the Heart of the Hornets

Production and Leadership Cement Rozier as Centerpiece

Courtesy of the Charlotte Hornets / NBAE Getty Images

Welcome to the first installment of the Hive Dive, a biweekly (for the pedantic, that’s gonna be every two weeks, not twice a week) series analyzing trends and narratives in the Charlotte Hornets that go deeper than just results. Expect one or two larger topics for each article followed by some smaller tidbits or eye-test observations at the end to wrap things up. 

Past two weeks (preseason):

Overall record: 1-3

10/4 @ OKC – W 113-97

10/7 vs MEM – L 128-98 

10/11 @ MIA – L 104-103

10/13 vs DAL – L 127-59 

Quick aside – yes, they lost by 68. No, you shouldn’t be concerned about it. 

Terry Rozier is the Heart of the Hornets 

Terry Rozier secured himself just shy of $100m in a contract extension this offseason, and reactions across the Hornets fanbase and the league in general were split. Whether or not you think that price tag is worthwhile, Rozier has done more than enough to illustrate why the front office would believe it is. Simply put, Terry Rozier at this moment is the heart and soul of the Hornets. 

When Charlotte and Kemba Walker parted ways, it was obvious that the sign-and-trade for Rozier was not just to fill the role of point guard. They had to replace an on-court leader. The Hornets needed someone to step into the mantle of “That Guy.” You know, that shot-clock-winding-down, no-time-for-a-play, go-get-us-a-bucket guy, and Rozier delivered. 

Terry Time

Not only did Rozier lead the team in scoring in the 2020-21 season at 20.4 PPG, but he also had one of the best clutch shooting seasons out of anyone in the league. Rozier posted 45% from 3 and 50% from the field in the clutch, both good for 5th best in the NBA out of those who took at least 20 clutch 3s. Terry was joined by only two other players to make the top 5 for both stats, Karl Anthony-Towns and Jamal Murray. Pretty good company.

VORP Don’t Lie

If advanced stats are more your style for showcasing Rozier’s value to the Hornets, he ranked far ahead of his teammates in Win Shares (5.2) and VORP (2.1) and was second place only behind Devonte’ Graham in RAPTOR (1.6 and 2.4 respectively, although Graham’s is inflated by positive defensive stats which, by the eye test, are honestly hard to believe). 

Looking deeper into Rozier’s time in Charlotte, a quality that may be even more important than his leadership on the court is his leadership in the locker room. 

Don’t take Glue for Granted

When framed in the context of the smoldering tensions (Luka’s irritation with Dallas and Zion’s impatience with NOLA) and open debacles (Simmons and Irving, enough said) visible around the league, it is apparent that team chemistry is not to be taken for granted. Rozier has gone above and beyond to kindle team spirit within the Hornets, and no single event better illustrates this than the player-led workout that he organized in Miami this offseason.

The entire Hornets roster assembled in Florida to train for a week with player development coach Anthony Wells II, and the positive impact on their cohesion and identity is sure to pay dividends in the regular season. As Rozier put it, “No [other] team is doing this in the league,” and he’s right. The sheer logistics of getting 16 NBA players to take time out of their offseason plans and work together shows not only buy-in from players but also their trust in Rozier. 

If there was any doubt about Terry Rozier’s value to the Hornets in his first two seasons, his production thus far, contract extension and continued leadership have cemented his role as the centerpiece to this roster both on and off the court. As for the haters who may have been clamoring for a trade up to this point, it may just be time to sit back and watch Scary Terry work. 

James Bouknight stands with the basketball in his hands while Miami's Kyle Lowry guards him.
Image courtesy of the Charlotte Hornets/NBAE Getty Images

Bug Bites:

  • Bouk On Board

James Bouknight will contribute. Not after the all-star break, not after a month or two of garbage time minutes. Now. He still has flaws and kinks to work out like any rookie, but his scoring ability and athleticism have all but guaranteed him meaningful minutes from the first game of the season. This rings especially true given the trial run we got against Dallas of just how anemic the offense can be when Rozier, Hayward, and Bridges are all sidelined. 

Regardless of the polish that Bouknight still needs, his natural talent for putting points on the board will be sorely needed in the second unit, whether he’s slithering his way to a smooth layup or exploding up for a strong finish. 

  • Nick Richards and the Ghost of Centers Past

Nick Richards appears to be getting the nod over Vernon Carey Jr. so far, with earlier and more extended appearances from him in the preseason. Whether that is in credit to his defensive ability or simply a knock against Carey’s propensity for providing as much resistance as wet toilet paper, it’s hard to tell. One thing we CAN be sure of is that it’s certainly not for Richards’ offense, which seems to have incorporated the signature Bismack Biyombo brick hands as a core feature. 

Maybe it’s just something in the Charlotte water though, given that over in Bank of America Stadium the Panthers are dropping passes left and right too. For the sake of every Carolina sports masochist fan out there, let’s hope the trend doesn’t last much longer. 

  • Chinese Takeout Called…

They want their Plum sauce back. 

If you turned off the final preseason game after the first quarter, you were in good company. However, you also missed Miles Plumlee looking like the star white big man of Jordan’s wildest dreams for exactly one play. Let me paint a picture.

With about 5:30 left in the second quarter, Ish Smith is backpedaling out of traffic and sees daylight over Dwight Powell. He flicks up a shot with confidence, and its high, clean arc is so inspiring that one could almost excuse the way it sails wide of the rim. Enter Mason Plumlee. Like a post-serum Captain America, he leaps over the baseline after the airball, limbs outstretched in the image of power and grace. He corrals the ball with a single hand and turns his head to view the court. Time seems to slow for a moment before he rockets a perfect bounce pass to PJ Washington at the far elbow, who gathers himself and slams it home, giving Plumlee his much-earned assist. 

It was also his only assist in that game, but hey, take what you can get. 

Written by Michael Gallucci

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