Michael Jordan‘s Charlotte Hornets had finally ascended to a prominent place in the Eastern Conference by the end of the 2015-16 season. They were now a winning team, mustering 48 wins in the season — the most victories the franchise has had in 16 years — coming close to sniffing the second round of the playoffs, but ultimately falling short.
The Hornets had a nucleus in rising star Kemba Walker and a core of guys that liked each other and had found an identity. So Jordan was now in the driver’s seat to make the decisions he would plead owner Jerry Reinsdorf to make back in his time with the Chicago Bulls — to sign the players that would help him get far.
Walker felt the pressure right as free agency started.
“I was nervous as hell,” Walker told NBA.com’s David Aldridge. “I didn’t want to lose those guys. I knew we couldn’t pay everyone. I wish we could have gotten a lot of the guys back, but unfortunately, the way this business works is it can’t happen all the time. (Nicolas Batum) and (Marvin Williams) were high priority … I got a chance to go out to Dallas and be a part of Nic’s meeting. Me and MKG flew out. It was super cool. We got a chance to sit in the room and say a few words.”
Batum is an all-around wing that can score from anywhere, pass, rebound and has the ability to block shots and steal the ball in transition. Williams has become a tenacious rebounder and his transition from small to power forward has reaped benefits as he can stretch out opposing bigs to the three-point line.
“Me, Nic, MKG, and Marv and Cody (Zeller) now, we’re all kind of locked in for about the same amount of time,” Walker said. “We are getting the opportunity to grow with each other. It’s a great start. We all love playing with each other. We know how to play with each other very well. We all know each other’s spots and how each other plays and things like that.
“As far as more pieces, I think we’re good right now. We’re going to grow. The best thing about it is how hard we all work. We work extremely hard. The guys around us, they see that. Hopefully over the years, whoever comes here to our team, they see how hard we work, and they follow.”
The Hornets started the season a red-hot 6-1, and now are at the 8-5 mark after defensive miscues have led to four losses in their last six games.