As the Charlotte Hornets gear up to play with the Utah Jazz to try and end their very evident crisis, it’s easy to see that whatever has been built this year, it’s not going to last past this season. Steve Clifford, we’re guessing, isn’t going to last another year of failing to make the playoffs (where things are headed right now). Jeremy Lin? Why would he stay when he’s been, in a way, marginalized. The one solid immovable rock and foundation, for better and mostly worse? Kemba Walker.
There has to be more than just a Clifford decision to turn Walker into the team’s own personal James Harden than just a coach’s instinct and decision. Michael Jordan and whoever else passes down orders to the 54-year old head coach, who is 94-110 in two and a half seasons with the Hornets, wants Walker as this franchise’s face, present and future. So what if he keeps them stuck in one place? Talented? Yes. But volume shooters are nothing special in this league, and often putting too much faith in them leads to where the Hornets are right now.
We go back to the offseason and the changes, additions and moves the Hornets made. Bringing in Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin (among other players) to try and change this ball club. From post ups and isolations to smarter ball movement and spacing the floor. The Hornets do shoot a lot more three pointers than before, and even have someone like Batum with nice assist numbers. But the basketball envisioned is nowhere to be seen. Some things can’t be controlled, like Al Jefferson’s injury and suspension, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lost for probably the season. But the Hornets have had moments they’ve been unable to sustain in which they’ve looked like the team they were striving to be.
Batum is in a contract year. He’s averaging a career high 15.7 points and 5.5 assists per game, but his defense is slipping for a second straight year, and the numbers also come from a career high usage ratio. Will he stay or will he go? It depends on what his main goal is. But no team unless it’s a horrible one will give him a role as big as this one. But it won’t be surprising to see Batum bolt a ship that’s not exactly sinking, but not going anywhere good either.
Lin? He knew what he was doing signing a two year deal with an option after the first season. Not just the option to make a lot more money ($4.6 million for two years is beyond a steal for any team with this type of player), but seeing how things develop. He’s been in too many situations of things starting out well or promising, and then turning into something completely different. As we always say, Lin can do better on some nights, especially when it comes to shooting consistency. But overall, he’s being used wrong and once again sees others who are no better than him being preferred by the coaching staff and management, for reasons that aren’t completely related to basketball.
Maybe the Hornets get out of this crisis on shooting power alone, but trusting the Walker-Batum backcourt to shoot their way out of trouble is simply delaying the inevitable. Until there’s a change of close to massive proportions in the priorities, hierarchy and style of this team, the Hornets will remains behind in the Eastern conference playoff race, with the gap from 8th to them growing bigger with every losing streak they can’t seem to get out of.