The Atlanta Hawks had no problem beating the Charlotte Hornets 87-76 with a fantastic start aided by the Hornets playing their dumb, Kemba Walker centric basketball, while Jeremy Lin had himself a decent game, although it’s not going to help him get more minutes or responsibility in the future.
The Hornets scored just nine points in the first quarter, and were down 36-12 early in the second quarter before finally settling in, playing some defense and making some shots. The big comeback occurred in the third quarter with Lin on the court, although his first cameo in the game, coming in right when everything was going down in flames, didn’t really help. The Hornets have taken out the sting in his influence on the court, and with the 21 minutes he got, realizing that being the “nice” guy and spreading the ball around isn’t going to help a lot, he made the most he could for his own cause, on the way helping the team. The Hornets did come within two in the third quarter, but ran out of momentum once the Hawks started creating separation again.
This is what Steve Clifford has turned the Hornets into. A team playing bad basketball by choice, taking note from Walker, who finished with 9 points on 3-of-15 from the field, including 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. Marvin Williams scored 16 points to lead Charlotte but was just 6-of-18 from the field. The Hornets going with either Walker shoots or looks for an open Williams method was going to fail at some point, but from what we’ve seen this season, it’s not really going to change.
Lin finished with 15 points, getting to the line often (6-of-7 free throws) and hitting one three pointer, as his shot is a bit more solid. Playing with a messed up ankle for quite some time, it’s hard to expect any more from him. He did finish with just one assist (to Al Jefferson, who scored six points on 3-of-11 from the field), but at this point, why bother? The Hornets have made their choice. Lin is just some filler for them despite everything he’s done to prove he’s more. In this system of basketball, the positions they’re playing him in and the offense “taught” by Clifford, Lin is at his best when he simply attacks the rim and makes the most of opportunities.
Obviously, this doesn’t result in success. This was a great month for the Hornets, but they look like a team headed towards making the playoffs and failing early on. When all you have to offer is the most basic of basketball philosophies on a player shoved into the star role while everyone stands around watching him, you’ll get Walker with some nice numbers, someone who enjoys open looks when Walker decides to pass, but mostly it’s giving opponents an easy out. In the playoffs, when preparation is a lot more serious, the Hornets forsaking any kind of intelligent basketball will doom them to fail in the first round again, like they always have in the rare cases they’ve actually made the playoffs.
And we can’t sign off without a couple of words on what Amare Stoudemire said in regards to Lin’s short moment of stardom in New York, and him pretty much being pushed out: If Lin stayed it would’ve been cool. But everyone wasn’t a fan of him being the new star. So he didn’t stay long. But Jeremy was a great, great guy. Great teammate. He put the work in and we’re proud of him to have his moment. A lot of times you gotta enjoy someone’s success. And that wasn’t the case for us during that stretch. You got to let that player enjoy himself and cherish those moments. He was becoming a star and I don’t think everybody was pleased with that.
This led to Carmelo Anthony getting all defensive, stating that he doesn’t think Stoudemire is talking about him. Personally, I don’t think there’s some league-wide racist conspiracy against Lin, which is sometimes hinted when trying to analyze why Linsanity hasn’t returned, but maybe I’m wrong. I do think it’s more of a case of landing in bad spots and being the kind of player who needs a certain type of system and backing in order to really show his full arsenal of abilities, which would be great for any team. Problem is, coaching and management in this league feels a lot more comfortable falling back to putting the ball in the hands of their star player and letting it roll from there. Lin is never that star, and despite showing he can run a team as the point guard, it always falls back to the same spot: Thinking about the next team, and finding a new, better situation.