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Hornets’ coaches need to step up

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Published: November 18, 2008

Hornets head coach Byron ScottThe Hornets have lost four of their past six games. In that stretch, we’ve managed to score 100 points just once, against a visiting Miami Heat team who have given up an average of 102.5 points in their other four road games this season, three of them losses. Through those same six games, we’ve witnessed seven quarters where the Hornets have failed to score 20 points or more, including a 7-point second period against those mighty Bobcats in Charlotte. As a team, we’re shooting just 42.8% from the field since we opened the season 3-0.

The Hornets are supposed to be better than this.

Some folks are scratching their heads, unsure what the problem is. Others are suggesting that we’re just not making jump shots, and figure those looks will start dropping again soon and all will be right with the world. Plenty of people are just chalking this slump up as part of the rigors of an 82-game season; ups and downs, strikes and gutters and all that. Everything will be fine in a week or so.

I really hope the Hornets’ struggles can be attributed to a temporary shooting funk or a mysterious fleeting rough patch, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Watching each of the past six games, even the wins, it’s become apparent to me that the problem runs deeper than that. Put simply, that problem is this: our offense is about as sophisticated as a tramp in a shopping cart.

Essentially, here’s what our offense has consisted of this season (yeah, I talked about this in the recap of the Blazers game last Friday, but methinks it bears repeating):

  • Killer play number 1 – Let Chris Paul run the pick and roll and see what he can create out of that. Maybe he’ll force a switch and find Tyson at the rim. Maybe he’ll draw a crowd in the lane and find an open shooter. Or maybe he’ll just go ahead and do the scoring thing himself.
  • Killer play number 2 – Give David West the rock on the low block or on the wing about 17 feet from the hoop. Maybe he can unleash a sick move to beat his man and get a bucket. Or maybe he’ll rain a jumper because he’s got nice range like that.
  • Killer play number 3 – Hope and pray that somebody other than Chris Paul and David West can get an isolation and beat their man off the dribble.

And that my friends, is the complete lack of genius that is the Hornets’ offense. Sure, we play CP off the ball every so often, we have our wings screen along the baseline maybe two or three times a quarter, and I’m pretty sure I saw somebody cut up to the free throw line once during the Rockets game. But 90% of the time, you can bet we end up relying on one of those amazingly amazing killer plays to get a bucket before the shot clock reaches zero.

This mode of attack is proving very easy for defenses to stop. Essentially, all they’re doing is refusing to let West go one-on-one, they’re getting a body on Chandler when he rolls to the rim, and they don’t stray far from our shooters so we don’t get wide open looks from three. Even if the opposition can do two of those three things for most of the night, we’re in trouble.

So why did we do so well last season? Aren’t we running pretty much the same offense now that we were then?

Yeah, pretty much. At least I think so. I’d love to go back and take a look at some games from last season, but I don’t have the means to do that. If I did, my best guess is that I’d find a lot less double and triple teams on West and defenses so focused on Chris Paul that they leave Tyson stroll down the lane untouched and a guy like Peja alone on the perimeter way too often.

Nowadays, not so much.

And so it’s gotta be up to the coaching staff to turn this around. No way we’re beating teams like the Jazz or Lakers in a seven-game series if we remain solely dependent on our stars playing better than their stars. That’s pretty much what we’re doing now, and we probably have enough talent on the roster to win 50+ games that way. But in the playoffs against well-coached teams we’re going to need a lot more than Chris Paul doing ungodly deeds. We’ll need easy buckets off well executed plays. We’ll need guys like Peja and Posey constantly moving and mixing it up mid-range instead of having them chilling on the wing waiting for a kick out, which was all they got to do in Houston on Saturday night. We’ll need somebody, anybody, cutting and catching the ball at the free throw line and posing a threat from there. Just show me something more sophisticated than the high school offense we’ve been running.

Now I’m wondering, how long should I wait to see some improvement? How long before I start questioning Byron Scott’s coaching ability? I love the guy, but part of me wonders if he’s taken this team as far as he can. Does he really have what it takes to lead us to a championship?

Probably best to leave those questions unanswered for a little while. In the meantime, I’ll take Mikey’s advice, as posted in the comments of the Rockets recap:

Team sports are a chess game. There are always adjustments being made. Bottom line is that the bugs are still above .500, and have had the toughest schedule in the league to start the season. Its foolish to expect instant changes from one night to the next. Even changes from one week to the next are a little unrealistic. I too saw the lack of movement away from the ball [against the Rockets], especially on the weak side. This isn’t the playoffs, and we’re not seeing the same opposing squad every other night for a seven game series. What you really want to see is gradual improvement. The Hornets have another game coming up against the Lakers in December. Let’s see how they’ve improved from now till then.

That sounds fair. I’ll hold my tongue and hope for the best until then. I’ll keep reading Hornets Hype and try focusing on the positive. At least the Spurs are still struggling, right? Oh no, wait. They’re just a game behind us in the standings, without Parker and Ginobili.

Hmm.


In other news, don’t miss the latest installment of the Blogger Power Rankings, hosted this week by True Blue Jazz. An entertaining read as always.

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