There’s a learning curve for teams with players that haven’t together for a very long time. The Charlotte Hornets, with plenty of changes in the offseason, especially when it comes to adding Jeremy Lin and Nicolas Batum to Kemba Walker, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist misses half a season before making his debut, has to be confusing sometimes for everyone involved.
With injuries and without them, the approach of a backcourt led by Walker and Batum that slows up play and includes a lot of isolations, a lot of standing around in the corner, inconsistent defense and other players behind held accountable for mistakes hasn’t really worked out. Stars of this team or not, it’s usually when there’s been a different approach within games or right from the start (very rare) the Hornets don’t just win – they play good basketball.
Lin having a moment that could really turn this season around for him and for the Hornets is another test for Steve Clifford in how he handles this team. Does he have a lineup and system he simply won’t budge from and only makes changes when he’s forced to? Or does he learn from game to game and goes with what seems to be working better? The Hornets playing the Miami Heat in an attempt to make it a third straight win and get back to .500 is an opportunity to once again see what this team is all about.
Walker, who missed the win against the Cavaliers with some knee issues, is likely to play against the Heat. Lineup, which means pushing Lin to the bench again (Batum isn’t going to be benched, and neither is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has been refreshing in his return with his defense, rebounding and energy). That makes no sense considering how well the Hornets have been playing when Lin gets to be a point guard without interruptions, but sense and logic don’t always play enough of a factor in the decision making on this team.
We’re not expecting the Charlotte Hornets to turn Kemba Walker into a bench player even if it’s the smarter move for the team and a better use of their personnel. But we keep mentioning the times Steve Clifford learns and doesn’t. Maybe he lucked out with Lin having a big game against the Cavaliers simply by being forced to go with a certain lineup, maybe not. But one thing he could have learned has been about giving some players a bit of time when coming back from an injury, even minor.
Batum missing a game with toe problems should have earned him a game or two coming off the bench, but he started right away which was bad for both him and the Hornets. Now that they’re in some kind of positive streak building, why mess up the rotation again by putting Walker, with the risk injury, back in the lineup and mess up the flow that worked so well for them in the win against Cleveland?