If it is not evident already, the Hornets have fully initiated their youth movement. During Tuesday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, there were four Hornets on the floor that spent time in Greensboro this season with the Swarm. That’s not a knock on the talents of Jalen McDaniels, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, or Joe Chealey but more so a testament to the value the talent pipeline of the G-League has in the player development equation for the Hornets. It’s also an indicator of the direction in which the Hornets are heading.

When a team enters the waters of youth head-on, the presence of veterans to balance out the mistakes often made by young players is never more crucial to keeping the ship afloat. The vets serve as a steady hand on the floor, but most importantly as a lead voice and mentor both in the locker room, timeouts, and in between plays. 

Marvin Williams was that guy for the Hornets. Now, recently agreeing to a buyout with the team, he is currently a member of the Eastern Conference contending Milwaukee Bucks. Additionally, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was bought out and took his talents to Dallas with Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. Another long-time veteran the Hornets have lost. 

Guys within the Hornets locker room witnessed the impact the aforementioned players held, now seeing a leadership hole that desperately needs to be filled. 

The leadership role hasn’t been overtaken by one player but presumably a collective effort from several players

The average Hornets fan watching from home likely understands the influence and imperative role Marvin Williams had with Charlotte during his six-year tenure. He was typically the individual gathering the troops during timeouts, dead balls, and in between plays. But his impact off the floor is something fans don’t get access to and don’t fully grasp. 

You get the same response talking to almost every player, coach, and member of the Hornets’ organization regarding Marvin Williams. His calming presence, wisdom, and spirit were infectious and beyond valuable to every person he came in contact with. That’s hard to replace and not a task one single Hornet can fill on their own.

“They’re all stepping up right now [from a leadership perspective],” James Borrego told The Painted Lines. “I’ve asked every one of them to step up in their own role, there isn’t one guy who’s taken over Marvin Williams’ spot.

“I’ve asked every one of them, ‘If you can help lead one guy, lead one guy. If you can lead one timeout, one huddle, one locker room, do that.’ I think guys are doing that more and more. Biz [Bismack Biyombo] has stepped up, Devonte’ [Graham], Terry [Rozier], and Miles [Bridges]. Miles has really stepped up in that role. I’ve really seen him become more vocal. It’s not one guy, it’s a collective effort.” 

Miles Bridges taking a step up

Seeing Miles Bridges going through the best stretch of his career over the past 11 games, this comes as no surprise. Often times you find that it takes young players getting hot – and more so comfortable (Terry Rozier as a prime example) – before you see them step up as a leader. Averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 44.8 percent shooting in an 11-game stretch should garner some comfort for a young player. 

A substantial component of leadership is communication – something that has spiked within the Hornets over the past few weeks.

Ramped up communication: another positive transformation for this young Hornets team

In addition to new leadership roles players have had to undertake, there has been a distinctive shift in the past few weeks regarding day-to-day communication. Communication both on and off the floor for the Hornets. 

Terry Rozier discussed the shift, explaining that the team used to constantly talk about wanting to talk more and being more verbal on the floor. The fruits were not initially present – it’s not an overnight change – but over time they began to show. The elevated communication is now visibly sticking out to the Hornets’ head coach, James Borrego.

“They don’t stop talking, they just listen to each other. I think it’s fantastic, I love it,” James Borrego explained last weekend. You oftentimes find specific NBA locker rooms to have a bad dynamic or mojo to them. This Hornets team is different. Talking to some people that have been around the team for many years, this is one of the better locker rooms Charlotte has had. It’s visibly apparent how closely knit this team is.

“We’ve taken another step in our development with how we are talking and how we are communicating,” Borrego said. “At the end of games, on the court, in the huddles, and in the locker room, it’s about those guys. They have to communicate, they have to talk out coverages when things are going south on the court. I don’t have 50 timeouts every half, every game. They have to figure that out. You do that through communication, holding each other accountable, picking each other up, and right now they’re doing that.”

A tough closing stretch garners an increased need for adequate leadership and communication

The Hornets finish out their season with a remarkably challenging schedule. Beginning Friday, they embark on a seven-game stretch against the Raptors, Bucks, Nuggets, Spurs, Rockets, Hawks, and Heat. The final stretch of their season includes games against additional playoff teams such as the Trail Blazers, Lakers, Clippers, and Sixers.

Losing is going to be inevitable during the final 25-games of the Hornets’ season. However, continued communication and collective leadership will be imperative to how the team progresses and finishes out the year.