Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Like it or hate it, the Charlotte Hornets don’t seem to be missing Jeremy Lin much for now. It’s not that he’s injured or out for whatever reason, but in two of the three games since he’s been demoted back to the bench and took a big hit to his playing time, even the minutes he did get didn’t really seem to matter.

The Hornets beat up the broken Chicago Bulls 108-91 mostly thanks to a scorching first quarter, in which they outscored the Bulls by 18 points. The lead was 25 points at its peak late in the third quarter, in a win that brought the Hornets back to .500 for the first time in over a month, while the Bulls lost for the fifth time in six games, sliding closer and closer towards a place where it’s suddenly their playoff spot they need to worry about and not their seeding.

Kemba Walker scored 30 points for the Hornets on 8-of-19 from the field but with four 3-pointers. He’s averaging 24.3 points in 36 minutes since taking one night off due to some knee pain. He’s shooting just 40.4% from the field in those games but hitting quite well from beyond the arc at 44.4%. In short, the Hornets don’t seem to be feeling they’re missing Lin in the lineup at point guard right now, winning two in a row. He also grabbed 7 rebounds to go with 8 assists.

Nicolas Batum had a good scoring game as well on 8-of-13 from the field, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds and adding 8 assists. Batum isn’t resting in the last few games, averaging 42.1 minutes a night in the last three games, scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds and 8 assists while shooting 53.3% from the field. We can write and talk all we want about how Lin in the backcourt makes more sense and better serves the Hornets. The last two games leave nothing to complain about for Charlotte or look for improvements, at least not until the setbacks begin.

And here’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, enjoying the broken down opponent in front him, finishing with 20 points. It was his first game with the Walker-Batum tandem that looked good for him offensively, once again scoring all of his field goals except one from inside the paint. He also grabbed 7 rebounds and provided his usual brand of hustle and defense against the Bulls, missing both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, and led by Pau Gasol with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Where does Lin fall into all of this? Negligible. He did look like he’s trying and attempting to put his frustration behind him but for now, be it a bad case of shooting form, a change in his shooting technique or something else bothering him, shots didn’t fall for him. Forcing it or taking open shots, the only time he found the basket was on an easy layup, making it his only two points of the game on 1-of-7 from the field, adding 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 18 minutes. Lin was pulled out with more than seven minutes left and the game all wrapped up, but never came back. Good defense? It doesn’t matter at this point, no one seems to be watching.

Lin has had rough stretches this season and before and has always been able to shake them off. Maybe this time it’s different, and the hit to his confidence will take a lot longer to bounce back from, especially with the team quite fine that he’s in a backup role. Lin averaged 17.8 points per game as a starter despite relatively low 23.3% usage ratio. Getting sent to the bench has meant falling to just 19.2 minutes per game in the last three, scoring just 5 points a night on 27.8% from the field. That’s something that he simply can’t afford to keep on going on a contract year, regardless of his position on the Hornets right now. Bouncing back from this means a better position for him when he opts out and hits free agency.

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