It seems that the Charlotte Hornets are spiraling out of control with a head coach that half-admitted he has no clue what to do. Jeremy Lin is lost among the hero ball worshipness of Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, the defense is non existent and the optimistic feelings of three weeks ago are fading away, just like their touch with the last playoff spot.
The Hornets had a good start but lost at home 105-92 to the Milwaukee Bucks, making it nine losses in 10 games. Jeremy Lin led the scoring with 15 points, but it doesn’t seem that Clifford is thinking about doing something obvious, if he actually thinks that he’s run out of options while Jeremy Lamb is injured and Al Jefferson keeps on staying away from the court, unable to bounce back from his injury and suspension issues.
Walker scored 12 points on 4-of-14 from the field, displaying more awful defense and terrible shot selection. Batum is dragged in the same direction, scoring 6 points on 2-of-10 from the field, and his 9 assists might be nice for the stat sheet, but it’s not part of some amazing ball movement and off the ball shuffle. The Hornets are stuck on offense as they are lost on defense, and the energy they had at least when Lin came on in the second quarter is gone. The rhythm and hierarchy they had is gone, and Clifford doesn’t seem to know what to do.
To be honest, when we get those guys back, I think there could be some lineup decisions to make. Right now, I don’t see anything. You’ve got to start the game with guys who have a chance at both ends of the floor. I don’t know what an option would be.
For Clifford, bringing back Lin into the lineup doesn’t make sense. Not if it’s instead of Walker. He put in Lin for Marvin Williams in the second quarter and lost all shape and form. Lin did finish with 15 points and played well during his second half stint, but spent just 22 minutes on the floor, shooting 6-of-13 from the field, being the point guard who actually makes a difference on defense (three steals). But with some many dysfunctional parts on this team, it made little difference. The Bucks are hot right now, led by Khris Middleton with 24 points, getting help from Greg Monroe scoring 19 points and Jabari Parker finishing with 15.
So that’s all the Hornets can do? Wait? Or maybe some inner changes are in order? Is playing Walker really the best thing for Clifford on both ends of the floor? While he does get hot, he’s cold as ice two out of three games, and his defense is always more about pointing to others where to go while losing the man he’s supposed to be guarding. If energy and scoring are his strengths, why not make him a sixth man. Without Lamb, maybe the bench needs a scorer more than anything?
There are other ideas, especially against smaller teams (Bucks have a big, long starting lineup), like having Lin next to Walker while Batum is the small forward, but that just wastes Lin. It’s less about personnel changes and more about the basketball becoming different. Not all is lost, but Clifford is losing control of his team, and at some point it’s going to be irreversible. Going with Walker and Batum as the vanguard seems to be failing. But it’s the one pairing Clifford is afraid to touch.