By Terrence Hinds, Staff Writer
There was a lot of hype surrounding the Charlotte Hornets before this NBA season started. The decision to go back to the old team name and mascot brought a lot of energy to the city. Pair that with the acquisition of Indiana shooting guard Lance Stephenson, and fans was pretty much on fire. The season has not gone quite as smooth as everyone hoped it would go though. The Hornets have stumbled out of the gate with a 22-30 record heading into the All Star break. Injuries and inconsistent play have seriously plagued this team since the beginning of the season.
Head coach Steve Clifford who led this team to a 43-39 record a season ago and a playoff berth has had a tough time this season dealing with new players and major injuries this season. Clifford is a pretty straight forward defensive coach that demands effort and attention to detail out of his players. Yet, key acquisition Lance Stephenson has not played up to the hype surrounding his arrival at all this season. In fact the team has actually been better when he has not played in games, and was playing better going into the break now that he is coming off of the bench instead of starting. The problem is his shooting percentage from the field which is a dreadful 37 percent for the season. He just does not seem to be comfortable in the offense right now. Stephenson is not the only player playing way below his potential. Marvin Williams who was acquired this offseason to help aid the loss of Josh McRoberts has not played well either. He has been a liability in the low post on defense and to add to that, he has averaged career lows in rebounds and points this season.
Last year the Hornets were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, this year they have taken a step back in that category. They have improved as the season has progressed but like the great football head coach Bill Parcells stated, “You are what your record says you are.” And for this team there is no escaping that.
Enough of the doom and gloom perspective though. Let’s look on the bright side. If the playoffs were to start today the Hornets would be the seventh seed thanks to the weak Eastern Conference,which is pretty amazing considering the level of ball they have played thus far into the season. Currently the Hornets two top players in Kemba Walker and AL Jefferson are out with injuries. When these players return, the team should see a dramatic level of increase in their play on the court. Walker and Jefferson are vital to the success of this squad. Michael Kidd Gilchrist’s game has improved tremendously. He is averaging 10 points per game and about seven rebounds per game. His jump shot is no longer the laugh of the league and he’s an animal defensively. He also plays extremely hard and rarely gives up on a play. However, the bad news with Gilchrist is that he has also experienced some injury issues this season.
Shooting guard Gerald Henderson has also been a huge bright spot for this team. I was sure they would trade him before the season with the arrival of Lance, but the Duke standout has been extremely effective for this team. If the Hornets can just get all of their players healthy and recommit to the defensive side of the ball, Charlotte should be able to get themselves together in time for the playoffs. Who knows maybe they’ll win a playoff game for the first time in ten plus years.