Hornets await NBA investigation into Taylor
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets are moving forward for now without Jeffery Taylor, the latest in a growing list of professional athletes arrested on domestic violence charges.
General manager Rich Cho said the Hornets will await the outcome of an NBA-led investigation before deciding whether to reinstate Taylor. He offered no timetable for Taylor’s return to the team.
Speaking at a media day news conference Monday, Cho said it was “appropriate” for the organization to act “decisively and swiftly” in banning Taylor from all team-related activities on Friday.
“We take domestic violence as a very serious matter,” Cho said.
Taylor ran into problems with the law when he was arrested by East Lansing Police in Michigan on Thursday and charged him with one count of domestic assault, one count of assault and one count of malicious destruction of property following an altercation the East Lansing Marriott at University Place.
Cho said he’s spoken with Taylor, who was released Thursday on $5,000 bond, but declined to discuss details of that conversation or any specific information related to the case.
The GM did say he has no knowledge of a video tape from the hotel that might shed light on the altercation.
“We will assist the NBA and law enforcement in any way we can until this comes to an acceptable resolution,” Cho said.
Cho wouldn’t say what it would take for Taylor to be reinstated.
“I don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” Cho said.
Cho called the arrest “disappointing,” but doesn’t believe it should take away from the optimism heading into the season.
The Hornets are coming off a 43-39 last season and have added free agents Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams to the roster.
Coach Steve Clifford said Monday that Taylor was fighting for a spot in the rotation, but said he feels comfortable with the depth the team has there. Clifford likes how Taylor has progressed since coming into the league as a second-round pick in 2012, but there’s no guarantee how much the Vanderbilt product would have played this season.
Clifford said Monday Stephenson will start at one of the wing spots and either Gerald Henderson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will start at the other. The Hornets also have veteran 3-pointer shooting guard Gary Neal coming off the bench.
“We just have to do what other teams do — when one guy goes down, just pull together and continue to fight,” center Al Jefferson said of Taylor’s absence.
Clifford said Kemba Walker, Jefferson and Williams will be the team’s other three starters.
In Clifford’s opinion, this year’s starting lineup is stronger than last year and the overall depth is better too, leading to plenty of optimism.
“From a talent standpoint, the possibilities are exciting,” Clifford said.
The Hornets open training camp Tuesday in Asheville, North Carolina and much of this year’s optimisms surrounds Stephenson, a player who brings proven scoring ability and playoff experience to the roster.
Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last season for the Indiana Pacers. Only 24 years old, Stephenson has already started 37 postseason games during his four seasons in the NBA.
Clifford said he expects Stephenson will be called upon to score more this season.
“I expect to do everything more this year,” Stephenson said with a smile when told of Clifford’s comments.
Stephenson said six months ago he never thought he’d be playing for anyone other than the Pacers.
But he was overwhelmed with the attention the Hornets showed in him during free agency, and loved the idea of playing for his childhood hero and Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
Stephenson is also friends with Walker, who he battled with time and time again as a high school player growing up in New York City.
Throw in the new name and purple and teal uniforms, and Stephenson said he couldn’t be happier.
“I feel like I came to the Hornets at the right time. We changed the name and we changed the swagger,” Stephenson said. “Everybody is happy about the new pieces that we got in place. Just the atmosphere here, you walk around and everybody is like, ‘Hey Lance, we can’t wait for the season to start.’”