The Charlotte Hornets have just one game this weekend – playing the still winless Philadelphia 76ers. Whatever Jeremy Lin does in that game might not be much of an indicator to anything considering the weakness of the opponent, unless it has to do with the intentions Steve Clifford has for him within his gameplan.
The most interesting regarding Lin is the minutes he’ll get, if P.J. Hairston comes back. Lin is averaging 22.9 minutes per game this season, but played a combined 57 in the last couple of outings due to Hairston being out with a bruised thigh. Before that, in the previous eight games in November, Lin played over 22 minutes just once. It was his best game of the season: A 19 points performance in the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Will Hairston returning put him back in the lineup, despite being the worst offensive player on the team? And how much will it eat into Lin’s minutes? We keep thinking Clifford learns that Lin has to play around 30 minutes per game in order to give his offense the best chance of making points, but Hairston’s ability to play small forward, regardless if he does it well or not, keeps him valuable for about 17-18 minutes a night.
Through the first 8 games of the season, Lin shot 44% from the field and 35.7% from beyond the arc. Nothing too spectacular, but not too bad either. Nothing that suggests any kind of problem, just a little bit of luck missing from some of his jumpers, as Lin usually avoids taking really bad shots. In the last four games, it’s been much worse, making just 34.2% of his shots and 9.1% of his 3-point attempts. Lin makes up for it by being a very good shooter from the line and simply attacks the basket more, as we saw in the win against the Nets, but part of his “charm” is spreading the floor, something he worked at and got better at for the last couple of seasons.
Clifford doesn’t have one yet. It’s quite clear that his starting lineup isn’t a very good one. In general lineups with Kemba Walker in them haven’t proven themselves to be very good. Marvin Williams seems to be crucial, and so is Batum, but that depends on who he’s playing with. Clifford is afraid of playing true small ball with Lin, Jeremy Lamb (best scorer per minute on the team) and Batum on the floor together, which should create the quickest and best shooting trio for the Hornets, not to mention their two best passers with their most efficient scorer. The bigs in this scenario? Maybe Frank Kaminsky needs more minutes. He’s hardly had the opportunity to prove his worth, but did a lot of damage in 23 minutes (11 points) against the Nets. The Hornets lack guys who can open up the floor like that, and a few more pounds of muscles on his frame could make Kaminsky an asset the Hornets can’t overlook anymore.
Where do the Hornets fit in the East
Right now, with a 6-6 record, they’re setting themselves up to be part of a pretty big group that battles for places 5-8 in the East, while slowly teams create separation. The Cavaliers will take this thing, followed by the Bulls, Hawks and probably Miami Heat. The Raptors (7-6) are better than where they are right now and so are the Bucks (5-7). The Pacers (7-5), Celtics, Wizards, Pistons, Knicks and even the Magic all plan on making it into the playoffs. The Hornets aren’t more talented than others in this race. Clifford needs to make himself useful and be a game changer, and that means doing a good job of putting the right guys on the floor, making sure the basketball the Hornets had in mind when they put this team together gets played. As you might have guessed, it means not forgetting Lin on the bench for more than 24 minutes a game.