Kaminsky breaks out of slump on advice from Jordan, Ewing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two days ago, Charlotte Hornets associate coach Patrick Ewing approached head coach Steve Clifford with a suggestion about rookie Frank Kaminsky.

“We got to post Frank some,” Ewing told him, echoing a point he had made several times in the past.

“And he’s right,” Clifford said after the Hornets’ 96-80 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 3. “And I always go into the game thinking we’re going to post Frank, and I don’t always get to it.”

A day later, Clifford said he “communicated” with Hornets owner Michael Jordan.

“I’d think about posting Frank some,” Jordan told him.

Again Clifford agreed.

“You have two first-ballot Hall of Famers and you average four a game [in college] at Maine-Farmington, and they both say, 'Post Frank?'” Clifford said. “Hell, s---, you’ve got to post Frank.”

On Saturday morning, the first thing Kaminsky saw when he woke up was a text message from his head coach.

“I had the chance to think about it all day,” Kaminsky said. “I talked to him a little before shootaround, er, walk-through, this morning, and he said, ‘When you get it in the post, be patient, go right at ‘em.’”

Kaminsky struggled in the Hornets’ first two games of their first-round series. He didn’t attempt a shot in Game 1, and he missed the one shot he took in Game 2. Kaminsky was the only Hornets player to finish with a positive plus-minus in both games, but nerves, he admitted, got to him.

His third game didn’t start much better.

Bumped up to the starting lineup with Nicolas Batum out with a left foot strain, Kaminsky, a 7-foot former college center, found himself matched up with Luol Deng, a 6-9 “power” forward.

“First play, he just sprinted across the baseline and caught the ball in the corner, shot a 3 in my face and made it,” Kaminsky said. “You just got to figure it out from there.”

Deng shot 4-for-4 from 3 in the first six minutes of the game. Spencer Hawes saw Kaminsky getting down on himself. Clifford instructed Kaminsky to calm down a bit.

“I was just playing for pride,” Kaminsky said. “They came at me to start the game. I didn’t do well on defense [and] I started hanging my head. At halftime, I was like, ‘Well, it can’t get any worse than this, so you might as well just go out there and play your game and see what happens.”

The bounce back wasn’t immediate. Though the Hornets were ahead by five at the half, Kaminsky was 0-for-2. He noticed that the Heat put Dwyane Wade, a 6-4 shooting guard, on him for a couple of possessions at the end of the first half. He and others mentioned it in the locker room at halftime.

Kaminsky said he was surprised.

“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

The Hornets put the same starting lineup out there to start the second half, and Kaminsky again saw Wade assigned to him.

“They started that way in the second half,” Kaminsky said. “[We] called a couple of plays and I was able to get going.”

With the score tied and about eight minutes left in the third quarter, Kaminsky drove past Wade for a layup, marking the first postseason points of his career. On the next possession, with Wade cheating off him for the steal, Kaminsky drove again and got to the free throw line.

He went on to score nine more points in the next six minutes, during which the Hornets went on an 18-0 run that effectively sealed the franchise’s first playoff victory since 2002 and ended the NBA’s second-longest postseason losing streak at 12.

Kaminsky scored 13 points in the third quarter, including two apiece off of post-ups on Joe Johnson and fellow rookie Justise Winslow.

“It was fun,” he said. “Having the crowd like that, our team playing as well as we did, it’s a lot of fun.”

He finished with 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting, six rebounds and an assist.

“He just kept playing,” Clifford said. “He had the right attitude. Playing basketball is no different than anything else. You have the right attitude, you give yourself a chance to get going when things don’t go your way.”