The first game for the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA season was so disappointing not just because of the loss, but because they strayed away from everything they were building towards through training camp and the offseason, which means playing the kind of basketball Jeremy Lin was brought in for.
Lin didn’t have a bad game against the Heat in a 104-94 loss, which shouldn’t stand out going by the result alone, considering a full, healthy Heat squad is one of the best in the East. He scored 17 points and looked very good in a strong start and in the finish with the Hornets managing to close down a 20-point deficit before running out of momentum. But he should play more than 27 minutes, and the kind of basketball the team plays shouldn’t be so primitive, individualistic and stubborn.
In short, Kemba Walker basketball. Walker is a talented guy, but plays narrow basketball. He doesn’t have great vision often bulls his way towards shots, which results in frustrating to watch offense, and disappointing results. The Hornets were about width in the preseason, with additions that provide the ability to space the floor and move the ball. Steve Clifford complained about ball movement after the first game, and Walker had a lot to do with that malfunction.
P.J. Hairston starting, playing small forward as well, was a weird choice, especially with Lin looking good in the preseason next to Walker. Clifford was probably thinking about how empty his second unit would look without someone who could create, but he didn’t play his best lineup (Lin-Walker-Jefferson-Zeller-Batum) enough. Again, it was a game that went against everything we saw from the Hornets in the preseason, as if all the changes made in the offseason were for naught.
Lin wasn’t perfect in the loss, taking a few bad shots and needing some time to regain his first quarter confidence and fluffiness, but he wasn’t the problem. The Hornets need to realize that when a game is in something of a rough, muddy situation, giving the ball to someone who opens up lanes and opportunities for others is the way to unclog it. Going with Walker who lowers his head and takes bad shots is simply digging yourself a deeper hole.
The Hawks play fast, loose, open basketball. They might cause a problem to the Hornets, but their defense is vulnerable. Al Jefferson should have a field day if he’s used correctly, but against the Hawks it works if a team plays against them, and not just one player jacking up shots one after the other. Carmelo Anthony tried it last night and it didn’t work so well. The Hawks are more vulnerable than last season, especially without DeMarre Carroll. This should mean good things for Nicolas Batum, but for him to play well, Lin has to be more involved, and the offense to go more through him. He wasn’t brought over just so things can be the same as they were last season, was he?