So… injuries and health ARE the Hornets’ biggest concern.
National pundits, so-called “experts”, and fans alike are left wondering what’s wrong with the Hornets this year. The West is as competitive as ever, but our Beloved Bugs just seem to be a step behind the other top teams in the West. Last season this was the team that was neck-and-neck with the Lakers down the stretch. This season, the Hornets are in the pack, but can’t seem to find any comfortable breathing room. The #1 problem… the Hornets cannot consistently put a healthy product on the court. Since the beginning of 2009, only one starting player has yet to miss a game due to injury or suspension, Rasual Butler. Paul, West, Stojakovic, and Chandler have all missed time, with Chandler and Peja missing the most.
To date, since January 1, 2009, the Hornets have played 41 games, exactly half a season. Their record is a respectable 25-16. Pretty good, but how many games have the Hornets played with every member of their starting lineup actually playing in the game? The answer is 13! That’s right, the Hornets’ starters have played together only 13 games out of 41 since the beginning of 2009. The starters’ record when they all play together in 2009 is 10-3, with two of those three losses coming at Utah and at Cleveland. Their quality wins in that stretch include wins at Portland, at L.A. Lakers, at Dallas, at Detroit, and vs Dallas.
Of course, that leaves 28 other games that were played with one, and sometimes two guys in the Bees’ starting rotation missing floor-time; so what happens when the Hornets have starters MIA? Surprisingly enough, it’s still a winning record, 15-13. Even the gimpy Hornets have some good victories over other wounded opponents, such as the Jameer Nelson-less Magic and the Carmelo Anthony-less Nuggets. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Hornets have benefited from a bit of a soft schedule, but overall, the shorthanded Hornets have held serve.
Going in to the home stretch of the regular season, the Hornets find themselves in a familiar position. The Hornets are only 1.5 games out of the 2nd place spot in the West, but only 2.5 games from being the 8 seed which, unless Chicken Little is right and the sky IS falling, gets you a 1st round match up with the Lakers. Still, some questions remain, can the Hornets get to that coveted 2 seed? Is is possible that the Hornets fall to 8th? Is it possible that the Hornets fall out of the playoffs altogether?
The answer to that last question is: Yes, but very unlikely. The Suns are 6 games behind the Hornets, and are on the outside looking in right now in the #9 position. They still have seven remaining games against West elite, with whom they haven’t fared well against all season. The answer to the other two questions really depends on the health of the players. If the Hornets can throw their full compliment of players out onto the court, I like our chances to get that 2 seed. But if the Hornets are missing a couple starters, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see the Hornets fall to 8th. And when the playoffs start, if the Hornets have a full roster, I like our chances against four out of the other seven teams occupying Western Conference playoff spots, and Houston would be a toss-up. With a shorthanded roster though, missing one or possibly two starters, that number falls to one.
Get healthy guys, the Hornet Nation is behind you!