Hornets’ Issues, early season
We are 10 games into this ’08-’09 season, and suffice it to say things have not gone as well as one would like. The problem is the issues facing the Hornets might be worse than its showing right now. Sure it’s no secret that the Hornets’ shooting has slumped lately, but that is the tip of the iceberg.
Where is the help defense? This is a reference to the Sacremento game this past Wednesday. Talking with Joe Block, the Hornets studio voice, after the Wednesday loss, and he commented that the Hornets had a solid game plan for stopping the Kings defesively. It’s no secret that the strength of John Salmons game is getting to the rim. You defeat that by effective team defense, with guards leading him into an inside help defender, thereby making him either take a contested shot or give up the ball. Joe says this was drilled into the players’ heads over and over again at practice. Problem is come game time, bad in-game habits appear. Bigs are late on help or not there at all. CP gets caught trying to roam the passing lanes, leaving wide open perimeter shots for opposing guards. We all know Tyson has issues with going away from the basket to defend bigs that can make perimeter shots. Players are ignoring the team defensive scheme and trying to D-up one-on-one (Butler was guilty of this at least 3 times on Wednesday night, and got burned for a layup every time).
Offensively, the Hornets are essentially the same team as last year, which is a problem in and of itself. An old Army Commander of mine once told me that you’re either moving forward or backward. You cannot stay in the same place and expect to succeed. Well, now that we’re armed with that knowledge, its no secret that San Antonio figured out how to defend the Bees last year in the playoffs. Any team in the league can gain access to those game tapes. Here we are, a season later, expecting the same things to work. In another example from the Kings game, there were a few occasions where Udrich and Bobby Brown were sharing time on the floor. Thats the lollipop guild of guard tandems, so why not put one of our taller guards in the post and generate some offense that way? Here’s the answer; that’s not in our offense. There is nothing in our offensive scheme to exploit mismatches like that. That’s not the only thing.
I just get the feeling that something is wrong with Peja Stojakovic. His shooting is off 7% from last season. I know he shot the lights out from 3 last year, but he is actually off 8% for his career FG% (not just 3’s). He doesn’t seem to be getting up the floor as quickly. He’s not moving as much to find open shots. He’s playing matador defense. He has not scored in double figures in the last 3 games with defenders staying home on him, not to mention he’s shooting a staggeringly bad 33% in the last three games. Let us pray that his back is not acting up again, but he just doesn’t look healthy out there.
Passion, Purpose, Pride
Above all, this has to be the most disappointing aspect of the Hornets performance thusfar this early season. Call it what you want, but for the purpose of this journal, we’ll call it “want-to”. Again, referencing the Wednesday night loss to the Kings… and the one to the Hawks for that matter, I got the sense that those teams just flat out wanted to win the game more than the Hornets did. At the end of the 1st quarter wednesday night I made a comment to a fella named Jason, who sits to my left at all the games, telling him that the Kings were scrapping and playing with “want-to”. The Hornets, on the other hand, were playing with “expect-to”. The Hornets just expected to win that game because the kings have a depleted roster or whatever. The Hornets need to show me that “want-to” they had last season. Yes they won 56 games last year, but last year is last year. This does not mean they should play mad. This team is too young for that. Their emotions are too up and down, especially right now. I just want to see them play with passion and “want-to”.
This does not make me a pessimist. I’m writing about what I see right now. No one can predict how this team is playing come January or March. Can they figure it out and roll off a 9 or 10 game win streak, yes. Can they put it together and peak at the right time vis-a-vis the Lakers last year, yes. Is it a long season, yes. On the other hand, is this a young team that might not be able to handle the adversity and expextations of being a “contender”, very possible. Can the wheels fall off the bus and send this team spirialing out of control, yes I think so. All we can do as fans is support them, so I’ll be watching tonight, and will be at the arena tomorrow, yelling my ass off!