The Charlotte Hornets have made their choice. Not just about who is going to be their point guard at every possible moment, but who is the player they want their style to be modeled after. Kemba Walker has taken over this team for better or worse, while Jeremy Lin, who was brought over to help change things into something that doesn’t look like half of the other NBA teams, has been brushed aside, losing minutes as we speak and half the time or more playing out of position.
For now, the Hornets don’t feel like they might be making a mistake. The turning point is clear for everyone. The Hornets played their best game of basketball this season on February 3, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers by nine points, with Walker not playing, taking a rest because of a knee problem. Lin had one of those games in which he shows why he’s such an exciting player, such a smart passer and playmaker and when given the creative freedom and control to lead a team, the results are fantastic.
But Walker returned, and it was if all of Lin’s good work previously has been erased and counted for nothing. The Hornets put the ball in Walker’s hands and hope for the best. For the most part over the last month, he’s delivered. It’s stupid basketball. Isolations and wasting time with useless dribbling. But it gets the job done, because the Hornets play pretty good defense recently and players do get open, and with Walker or Batum having the ball in their hands so much, they’re going to pick up some nice assist numbers, like they did in the win against the Indiana Pacers.
The addition of Courtney Lee to cover up for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finishing his season is the final nail in the coffin of Lin having a shot at being someone meaningful for the Hornets this season or the next. Charlotte don’t care. They’ve won six of their last eight games, and although their win against the Pacers wasn’t pretty, and was basically one team shooting not as worse as the other one in a battle of bricking the ball, the playoffs look closer and closer.
Lin? It seems the latest demotion has once again hit his confidence. His minutes have changed and now it seems he can be thankful for 25. He’s playing shooting guard most of the time which is simply wasting away his talent and the best point guard the team has, and his +/- over the last couple of games is -29. He didn’t play too badly, didn’t do anything special too. Just blending in with whatever it is that’s happening on the court instead of leading and changing.
Against the Hawks this Sunday afternoon, it’s not going to be different. The Walker-Lee-Batum trio sets the tone and gets the minutes and positions they’re comfortable in. Lin is just a bench player to fill the time at this point, which seems to be what the Hornets want. All this change and progress feels a lot like the Houston Rockets scenario which began with great promise, and now the Rockets are trying to figure out how to win with the monster they’ve created in James Harden. The Hornets don’t have that ego to handle, but Walker is the same mold of player, and in this league, without doing something a little bit more special, which the Hornets have the personnel for, making the playoffs is the best you’re going to get.