This season, Kemba Walker appears poised to make the first All-Star appearance of his career (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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The Charlotte Hornets’ reliable core is back this season and performing admirably despite some early-season streakiness. As usual, with a Steve Clifford-led team, the defense is generally stout and the offense is taking care of the ball. Nick Denning, editor for SB Nation’s At the Hive, rejoins the show to discuss Kemba Walker’s brilliance, Nicolas Batum’s multi-faceted game and more broadly why this fundamental, non-flashy team handles its business so well. All that and more on the show, but first some particularly buzz-worthy bites:

3:57-4:15: “100 percent convinced [Hornets head coach Steve Clifford is the right person for the job]. He’s perfect for this team. He’s created an identify for them and one thing that’s becoming pretty clear is that players like to play for him, and we’re not necessarily talking about stars, but a lot of good players like to go play for him just because he knows how to maximize their talent.”

5:01-5:30: “His [Kemba Walker’s] emergence has been really in the last couple of seasons. He’s just never really had the pieces around him to be effective because before it was like they had to rely on him; late shot clock, whatever it was, it’s like you gotta get the ball in his hands or else there’s no chance of scoring. Now, a few more pieces, they’re much better at moving the ball and whatnot, he’s able to do more of the things that he’s good at it, but he’s also improved himself a ton. He’s actually a better player than I thought he would be at this point.”

8:43-9:01: “The four-game losing streak they had earlier, they were all on the road, you could tell they weren’t fresh, but I would say the effort defensively wasn’t where Clifford wanted it to be. But aside from those, there’s three games that stand out to me where just playing a little bit better defensively and actually putting a team away would’ve resulted in a win.”

12:01-12:36: “The one advantage that they have over these teams, their core pieces are very much the same, whereas New York brought in Rose and brought in Noah; they’re trying to piece things together. The Hornets are very much the same team that they were last year minus a few pieces. Some of them key, but Walker’s still there, Batum’s still there, Marvin Williams is still there. But I will say this: Historically speaking, if you look at teams under Steve Clifford, they actually never quite hit their peak until around late February, early March.”

19:06-19:31: “He’s [Nic Batum’s] not actually as good an individual defender as he was maybe a few years ago, but he’s a very smart player and he’s a very quiet, sneaky player. When I saw his stat line after the game, I said, ‘That’s the quietest 16 and 13 that I’ve seen ever,’ and then the eight assists to go with it. So he just quietly puts together a really well-rounded performance.”

21:36-22:04: “[Hornets GM Rich] Cho actually tried to sign him [Marco Belinelli] the season before and then he signed with the Kings, so he obviously was still a favorable player in Rich Cho’s eyes. But I think Tom Ziller for SB Nation kind of summed it up very simply. He said, ‘Belinelli’s a good player on a good team and a not so good player on a bad team. The Kings were bad. The Hornets are good. I think he’ll be fine.’ And that’s basically what’s happened.”

30:46-31:04: “He [Frank Kaminsky] says, ‘We’ll be on the court, and he’ll [Marvin Williams will] start calling the play out. He knows where somebody’s going before it even happens.’ That kind of experience and knowledge is something that really helps him on that end.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod