The Charlotte Hornets losing to the Golden State Warriors (116-99) doesn’t shock anyone. But Steve Clifford making weird decisions, like going with a terrible Kemba Walker no matter what, while mistreating Jeremy Lin once again unless he was being cautious because of an injury, throws his competence as a head coach into serious doubt.
The game seemed to be over in the first quarter. The Warriors ran away with the game to 32-23, and it didn’t feel like Charlotte have the firepower to keep up or make that lead go away. All hope evaporated in the third quarter when Stephen Curry scored 28 points out of his 40, all of them on Walker. Walker made an effort on the first two times Curry scored on him. The rest of the way he simply gave up, while his offense was embarrassing, with 2-of-16 from the field to finish with 4 points.
The Hornets were playing without Al Jefferson which meant Clifford could get creative, but he didn’t. P.J. Hairston started in the lineup and as usual gave the team nothing, not even a foul in five minutes. Nicolas Batum scored 17 points to lead the team and Frank Kaminsky keeps showing signs of promise with 15 points on some nice long range shooting. But the Hornets looked bad, and never seemed to even try something that’s not predictable in order to try and beat a team no one has been able to.
And back to the Lin issue. He played 13 minutes. A little bit in the end of the first quarter going into the second, with one good stretch and then a bad one that included consecutive turnovers before being pulled off. He got a few minutes at the end of the third so he can get a close up view of Curry destroying Walker without any help from his teammates, while Walker kept trying to match up with Curry and failed miserably. Lin was taken out with six minutes to go in the game. Garbage time. It didn’t matter anyway.
As this season enters its December month, which means we’re about six weeks in, it’s getting more and more clear that the Hornets weren’t planning on giving Lin the role they promised him, and suddenly, don’t count on him as such a big part of their team anymore. They seem to be content with running predictable plays through Kemba Walker and live and die with his scoring, combined with some shooting from Batum and posting up Al Jefferson. No one succeeds in the NBA this way unless they have exceptional talent, and the Hornets, a team that should be built around smart basketball that can only be achieved by giving Lin more minutes and time with the ball, don’t have that exceptional individual talent to make up for a poor offensive plan by Clifford.
Maybe Lin was on the floor for 13 minutes because of his ankle injury or some knee issues, that’s perfectly reasonable. But the last two weeks have shown Clifford not living up to the promises he gave Lin when the Hornets signed him for an almost minimum contract, when Lin could have gotten a lot more from a lot of other teams. If Clifford really thinks Brian Roberts is a better player, and if he thinks that using Lin as a second guard next to an awful Kemba Walker, then the Hornets deserve a better head coach.