Southeast Notes: Hernangomez, Hornets, Hezonja

Willy Hernangomez made it clear that he wanted to play — whether it was in New York or elsewhere — and the Hornets acquired him prior to the trade deadline. The fit seemed odd, given Charlotte’s depth at center. However, the 24-year-old Spaniard can still blossom into an asset, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.

Hernangomez is still an effective scorer in the post and has some passing skills, which fit into head coach Steve Clifford’s system. Also, Hernangomez’s salary is team-friendly at $1.5MM next season and slightly higher the following year. That allows the Hornets to audition Hernangomez for an extended period; he can either develop into a rotational player or as a future trade chip.

Charlotte has one of the elite centers of the last decade in Dwight Howard to help mentor Hernangomez. “It’s great to have Dwight here. I want to learn so much every day,” Hernangomez said. “(Sunday) morning, he talked to me and gave me advice, and he doesn’t know me a lot. I’m very happy to be with one of the best centers in the league. I’m going to learn a lot from him.

Check out other Southeast Division notes below:

  • After Sunday’s loss, the Hornets are 10 games below .500 at 23-33 and their playoff hopes are fading. Bonnell writes in a separate story that it is time for Clifford to reexamine the team and figure out an effective rotation.
  • Mario Hezonja has shown signs of improvement in each of his three NBA seasons and his recent assignment on Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo was a good growing experience, John Denton of NBA.com writes. “Mario had one of his best nights and defensively he got scored on some, but he had some of his best collisions at the rim that I’ve been begging him to do for two years now,’’ head coach Frank Vogel. “So, he had a big growth night.’’
  • Chris McCullough plays sparingly for the Wizards, usually seeing time toward the end of games. However, McCullough prides himself on having an impact for the team in the minutes he is given, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

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