Dwayne Bacon has had quite a roller coaster of a season.

On Hornets media day, James Borrego said he expected “Bake,” along with Terry Rozier, to be the Hornets’ leading scorers for the upcoming season. JB also expressed his respect for Bacon’s play on the defensive end. He explained that he expected the third-year guard to defend the opponents’ best perimeter player on a nightly basis just as he did at the closing of the 2018-19 campaign. 

Those plans did not seem to become realities as Bake struggled to start the season shooting the ball. In addition, with the ascension of Devonte’ Graham, Bacon was reverted to a role off the bench after a knee injury in mid-November. 

Over the next 23 games, Bacon got eight DNP-CD’s (did not play – coach’s decision). During that stretch, he averaged just 10.4 minutes per game in the 15 games in which he appeared in, shooting just 23.5 percent from the field.

Climbing back into the rotation

The tides shifted on December 31st against Boston. The Hornets were failing to do one particular thing on offense, something that so happened to be Dwayne Bacon’s bread-and-butter. Attacking the rim. 

Borrego explained that the team “needed his overall physicality and aggressiveness to get downhill,” as he told The Painted Lines Monday when asked what sparked him to insert Bake back into the rotation. James Borrego had continually expressed the need for his team to attack the rim – something they had shied away from during a six-game losing streak. Bacon’s number was called against Boston, where he played 18 minutes, scoring 11 points on 4-8 shooting.

Bake has since been inserted back into the Hornets’ regular rotation these past four games, averaging 22.8 minutes per game, scoring 9.8 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting from the field.

Attack Mode

“Obviously, offensively I like what he [Bacon] gives us downhill. He has the ability to play one-on-one, to drive a closeout, and to play in transition,” Borrego said. “He gets to the rim, not only to make plays for himself but to make plays for others. Obviously, he is trying to get to the rim to score, but right now he has the size and the ability to kick out and he’s doing that right now.”

Bacon knows and has explained that he can get downhill to the rim whenever he pleases and knows how valuable it is to his team. Borrego’s mantra offensively is putting pressure on the rim, playing at a high pace, and ball movement. Two of those areas are where Bake succeeds. He feels like having the ability and the aggressiveness to attack the rim is something some players have or some don’t.

“It depends on what type of player you are. Offensively, I’m an aggressive player. I can get downhill,” Bacon told The Painted Lines. “That’s just the type of player I am and the type of game I play. Not every player is consistently aggressive getting downhill. You either have it or you don’t. The coaching staff feels like I got it, or I wouldn’t be playing the minutes I’m playing now.”

The Hornets have continually been outscored in the paint for the majority of the season. Adding that to Borrego’s tendency to often shake up his rotation, this was a perfect time for Dwayne Bacon to climb back in and get some consistent playing time.

Keeping the same mentality

Going from a starter to getting DNP-CD’s can weigh on players. Dwayne Bacon, as previously mentioned, had lofty expectations from his head coach entering this season. Were they too high? Probably. How you react to those specific situations that are thrown your way says a lot about who you are as a person and a basketball player. Having a good head on your shoulders can take you far in life and in the NBA.

Dwayne Bacon’s mindset throughout this season is just about as ideal as you’d desire it to be. He has stayed the course, not losing any confidence in himself, remaining in a team-first mentality through a six-week period where his playing time was as inconsistent as you could presume. 

“I just got to keep the same mentality I always have,” Bacon told The Painted Lines when explaining how to keep your head level through periods of inconsistency. “I can’t get too down about the stuff that I can’t control. I’m just going with the flow, staying ready for when my name’s called.”

Confidence is something players can lose – especially young players. That’s not an issue with Bacon. A healthy combination of humility and confidence is a match made in heaven.

“I never lost faith. There has never been a moment where I thought I didn’t belong in the league. These past couple of games I feel like I’m getting in the game and helping the team with all the time I’m playing. I just gotta keep this going.”

How Bacon can stay in the rotation: consistent aggression

James Borrego talked Monday afternoon about the difference he’s seen in Bake compared to earlier in the year. The biggest area JB has seen improvement is in Bake’s constant attentiveness – especially on the defensive end. We know Bacon can get to the rim at will, but offense is only half of the game. If you have constant lapses defensively, it’s hard to keep you on the floor. 

“I’m seeing more consistent aggression right now. There are fewer plays he’s taking off in general,” James Borrego told The Painted Lines. “That’s what I needed to and we [the coaches] needed to see out of Bake, that there are no possessions taken off. Every possession matters. If he has that mentality he will stay in the rotation.”

Bacon explained Monday night that he knew that was one area he knew he needed to polish up a bit. He further explained that in order to get better in that area that he needed to get time on the floor to do so. He acknowledged that the only thing he can control is what he does on the floor in the minutes he’s given. Nothing in this league is handed out. Earned, not given. He’s gotten that opportunity and shown growth according to his coach, just trying to help his team win ball games.

“I just gotta do what I can with the minutes I’m given in the game. I try to do everything I can to impact the team to help win the game by defending the team’s best player, passing off drives, rebounding. Collectively just doing a little bit of everything to keep the spirit high and keep us in the game.”