The Charlotte Hornets have Nicolas Batum back and didn’t wait to put him back in the lineup despite him being rusty and sluggish from his recurring toe injury, which meant Jeremy Lin moving back to the bench. Steve Clifford showed very little wisdom in that choice, which resulted in a terrible loss against the Utah Jazz.
Batum looked bad on his first time back on the floor with bad shooting and not a whole lot of intent of finding open players (not that there were too many of them). Lin looked confused and uncomfortable in his bench role, and the whole dismal performance ended with him hurting his ankle, which will keep him out of the Hornets game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday Night.
What does this mean for the Hornets in their third game on their Western road trip? The usual, just more of it. It’ll obviously put Kemba Walker in a situation in which he’ll play 40 minutes or more and with even less of a need to share the ball. It did seem, at least earlier in games during their three-game win streak, that he’s quite enjoying playing next to Lin in the backcourt, and even deferring to him and letting him take over the show. Now it’s back to Batum, who might once again be playing more minutes than he needs to.
Deserving of a starting spot or not, it doesn’t matter. In Clifford’s mind, Lin needs to come off the bench with the second unit (usually he finishes them in a different kind of lineup, but that’s a different issue of mishandling him in those lineups) and this means, whenever Lin is ready to come back, that he needs to put himself in the sixth man mindset again, one which he performed pretty well until the injuries and losing began, when the second unit often outplayed and saved the lineup time and time again.
This is a weird season for Lin, which began with great hope (every season starts that way for everyone. If you’ve ever played football manager you know how it feels like) and has been filled with ups & downs, a lot of them not up to him. Starters, bench player, great games and some meaningless ones too. It’s probably his first and only one in Charlotte regardless, but in order to get a big fat contract in a situation he likes, he needs to make the most of what’s left in this season, bench player or not again.