The Charlotte Hornets finish their Western conference tour in a state of flux. Nicolas Batum just coming back and doing more harm than good, Jeremy Lin injured and not given the credit he deserves, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returning without any transition phase, Steve Clifford confusing us with sudden creativity and chance taking in an almost lost game and one Kemba Walker, who plays the same way and seems to be unaffected with everything around him, while not affecting anything himself.
While the Hornets are better if Jeremy Lin is on the floor, it might be better that he sits this one out. Losing to the Lakers is a painful way to end their Western road trip, but one game can’t be sacrificed for the rest of this season. A loss might hurt, but it won’t take the Hornets out of the playoff race. It’ll just show how bad they are right now, losing to the second worst team in the NBA, who are lucky to see the Phoenix Suns (2-18 in their last 20) sinking their way. One of those wins was against the Hornets.
We’ve been hearing about Steve Clifford being an X’s and O’s kind of guy, but not a great game manager. We’ve been hearing about his defense, but they’re just 14th in the NBA. Maybe Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, back from his injury like nothing has changed (and in his game, really nothing has changed), will help improve that issue. Offensively, he doesn’t help stretch the floor, and will only benefit from a team playing fast basketball.
The Hornets are 16th in the NBA when it comes to pace (95.4 possessions per 48 minutes). Middle of the pack. If the Hornets continue their approach of running the game just through Batum and Walker, which either means long isolation plays or holding on to the ball and waiting for something to happen off the ball, the small use that can be made out of Kidd-Gilchrist offensively is thrown away.
The Hornets remain injured. Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson are out. Lin and Jeremy Lamb are questionable. What’s probably going to happen is the same old basketball we’ve been seeing for most of this season, with maybe Brian Roberts and Troy Daniels suddenly catching fire or something, although it doesn’t happen very often. Whether or not we see a Clifford that actually reacts to the game or one that comes with a gameplan and doesn’t budge from it is interesting less when it comes to the next game, and more when it comes to the rest of this season, and especially in how Lin’s ability falls into the plans.