The Charlotte Hornets might begin their four-game homestand against the best team in the Eastern conference with a lot of players sitting out. Kemba Walker is dealing with knee problems, Nicolas Batum with his toe issues, Cody Zeller is still questionable. Who is left? Jeremy Lin (hopefully with a good ankle), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams? Doesn’t sound like much.
But that’s life in the NBA sometimes. Injuries can pile up on you and hit you at the wrong time. They play the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls before going on a long, three-week stretch on the road against Eastern conference team. With the Hornets being just 7-17 on the road, they can’t afford these injuries now and except for what looks like an almost guaranteed loss against the red hot Cavs (looking for their sixth win in a row).
Assuming Walker doesn’t play (it might be a good opportunity to give him some rest), it’s mostly about Lin playing in the backcourt and owning the ball. Not the perfect situation to be in considering the opponent and the lack of players around him (Jeremy Lamb might not play again, and Al Jefferson is nowhere to be found), but still, a chance for Lin to play as the floor general for once without any contest. It could lead the Hornets to playing faster basketball and try to put Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in comfortable situations. Other than that,it’s hard seeing any kind of way the Hornets can bother the Cavaliers, who have scored 111 points or more in each of their five wins since David Blatt got fired.
Lin didn’t just sign on with the Hornets to put up big numbers, although he did hope for a more dominant role. Whether he was misled or simply the team went in a different direction through natural momentum and coaching mistakes, it doesn’t matter. Lin also signed with the Hornets because it’s a team with potential to make the playoffs, even after everything that’s been going on this season. But for a player who almost definitely will be hitting free agency this offseason again to get himself a contract more suitable to his abilities, it’s not such a bad thing to have a game or two to improve your stats.
With so many questionable and doubtful listings on Hornets players, it’s hard to know what kind of lineup they’ll have and the defensive assignments. The Hornets made the Cavaliers look bad for three quarters when the two teams met in November (95-90 win for Cleveland) until Clifford decided to punish Jeremy Lin for a mistake or two and everything fell apart afterwards. Lin finished with 7 points and 4 assists in that game, while also having his “breaking ankles” moment against LeBron James, although he didn’t manage to score on that play. It’ll be surprising if the Hornets manage to hold on for so long this time, but considering Lin is pretty much all Clifford has heading into this game, he’ll finally give him some more space to make mistakes and still remain on the floor.