Heading into their very difficult road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the question most people are interested in is whether or not Kemba Walker can recreate something of his career and franchise record performance from two days ago, while others, like us, would like to see Jeremy Lin play a bigger part in the Charlotte Hornets offense, because in the long run, it’s better for this team.
Walker scored 52 points in the win over the Utah Jazz. While he made a lot of mistakes in crunch time that nearly cost (he admitted it too in the postgame interview) his team the game, it was something special for himself and the Hornets, who seem to need these kind of performances in order to get a win these days. Reminder? They’ve won just two of their last 11, and their most recent encounter with the Thunder ended in a 19-point loss.
One thing that might work in favor of the Hornets is the Thunder playing back-to-back, coming off a win in Denver, which didn’t look that difficult, and for a team that doesn’t have old key players, it might not make too much of a difference. Jeremy Lamb being questionable instead of completely ruled out could come in handy, and maybe playing against his former team can bring something special out of him, but that’s a big maybe, and a big if.
Where does Lin fall into all of this? Well, the corner, when Walker and Nicolas Batum are on the floor. It seems Steve Clifford is fine with Lin taking just six or seven shots per game and spending about 25 minutes with hardly any touches. To him, this is Walker’s show to conduct, and maybe Batum to help him orchestrate from time to time. But it seems that Clifford, or whoever else is giving the orders over there in Charlotte, seems to forget that for every 52-point game Walker produces, come games of shooting well below 40% from the field, which doesn’t stop him from more shooting, hitting just 41% of his shots in January, and only twice shooting better than 50% from the field.
Maybe Lin needs to be more aggressive (he said so himself) and take more shots, regardless of what’s his designated role, but Lin hardly goes against his coach. When he’s free to make decisions on his own the basketball can be exciting and breathtaking, but he’s rarely given that opportunity except for some short minutes with the second unit, which limits his options of feeding and feeding off other players, especially when Lamb isn’t playing.
For a team trying to get back in playoff contention, the road ahead doesn’t look promising. After the Thunder there’s a road game in Orlando, home game against the Knicks before four Western road games, which include the Kings, Jazz, Blazers and Lakers. Following that? Home games against the Bulls, Cavaliers, Heat and Wizards. After that? Another road trip. In short? The Hornets are putting their faith in Walker ignoring everything around him and isolating their way to victory. Any prospect of developing and playing smarter basketball with a bigger safety net and more players to lean on remains hidden and buried under a lot of preseason promises.