Hornets hope Kings just what the doctor ordered

The Charlotte Hornets will be looking to bounce back from a stinging defeat when they continue a five-game homestand with a matchup on Monday against the struggling Sacramento Kings.

Attempting to match their season-best winning streak of three games, the Hornets saw a five-point lead with 34 seconds remaining slip away Saturday night in a 106-105 home loss to Miami.

It was the Hornets' second game since coach Steve Clifford returned from a five-week absence caused by stress-related headaches.

The Hornets are hoping a visit by the reeling Kings will make things as easy on their coach as they were in his return Wednesday night, a 133-109 home win over Washington.

Nothing has gone right for the Kings lately. Not only have they lost seven in a row, but they also announced that one of their best young prospects, Harry Giles, has been ruled out for the rest of this season as he continues to rehab knee injuries.

"No setbacks," insisted Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams, trying to put a positive spin on the team's conservative approach. "We don't have to talk about Harry as injured. There are no red flags."

Giles, a 19-year-old, torn the ACL in each of his knees in high school, then played only briefly in his one season at Duke.

He was the 20th pick in last June's draft.

The Kings are now pointing him toward Summer League, where chances are the team tied for the fewest wins in the league (13) will have yet another high first-round pick ready to debut.

The Hornets had an easy time dispatching the Kings 131-111 when the clubs met in Sacramento earlier this month. Nicolas Batum led eight Hornets in double figures that night with 21 points.

While the Kings have spent much of this season planning for a better future, Clifford assured after the Miami game that he wants every ounce of his club's energy poured into each game.

If the coach was instructed to dial things down a bit after his illness, he wasn't listening when he went on a tirade after the Hornets let what appeared to be a sure win slip away against the Heat.

"We made some mistakes late and a couple of turnovers, but that game should have been a 10- or 15-point win if we defend the way we were supposed to," Clifford said. "I'd say in the fourth quarter alone we made six or seven mistakes on stuff that was covered (Friday), worked on live and then we did it again this morning. And that's how you become a team that wins two and loses one, like we have been.

"Just total lack of concentration, intensity, technique and understanding who the heck you're playing against. It's terrible. Terrible. ... It's disappointing, and it's got to change."

Kemba Walker, the subject of recent trade rumors, put on another nice show for the Hornets with 22 points, seven assists and three steals.

The Hornets reportedly are asking for a young player or draft pick, coupled with the other team's willingness to take on the remaining contract of one of Charlotte's veteran players, in order to acquire the services of the All-Star candidate.

The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 8.
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