Late Night Thoughts on the Hornets Season So Far and What’s to Come

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Published: February 9, 2012

With each passing game that the margin between wins and losses widens, the reality that the Hornets aren’t under-performing sets in for me. Worse yet, Gordon’s return probably won’t fix anything considering the likely timing of it. Regardless, my spirits remain high.

Here’s a fun fact– Most of the Hornets veterans have played well so far relative to what they normally bring to the table.. You may not think so because of the record, but looking at the team as a whole, they are largely outperforming what was reasonably expected out of them individually.

Jarrett Jack, for all the crap he takes from some fans lately, has been playing the best ball of his life. Ariza has been the stud defender he always is, and has a) shown life offensively, and b) mostly stopped taking atrocious shots. Okafor’s offensive game has grown leaps and bounds. Jason Smith has played so much better this year on both sides of the ball that I’m half wondering if he has a twin brother somewhere who’s a bit less physically gifted.

Not only that, but the team is getting contributions from Ayon that they can’t possibly expect him to keep up. The dude’s PER is 21 right now. Don’t get me wrong–he’s solid, but he’s not going to play out the year at the level we’ve seen so far. He’s already been coming back down to earth in recent games. Vasquez has even looked like a legit starter at times offensively (on defense it appears he has and will continue to have some limitations).

Of the veterans, two guys have underperformed. Belinelli has had a bad year so far, and Landry has played slightly below what we could have expected from him prior to the season. Also the Hornets have gotten next to nothing out of their random players not named Gustavo. Squeaky, Summers, Trey, Thomas, and Aminu have had roughly one really good game between them (Aminu’s double-double), but can they really be expected to do more going forward?

We can’t forget Kaman, either. He’s been a bit of a mess, but a) his rebound rate is top 20 in the league, and b) he’s going to be gone soon. When we’re thinking about the Hornets being better soon, we should probably just assume that it’s going to be a Kaman-free world and that whatever we get back for him is going to contribute less than he does, this year at least.

So what can we expect in the next few months? That’s going to depend on when Gordon comes back. Theoretically, the team could see him back in a week or so. That’s the early timeframe on the 3-6 week timeline the team gave out two weeks ago. If he’s back then and somehow healthy enough to go 35 a night or whatever at a high level (which seems about as likely to me as Mardi Gras being cancelled due to clouds), then on-court performance will improve and that should translate into more wins.

But, if he doesn’t come back until after the All-Star break or later, his return will likely roughly coincide with the departure of at least one, and I would like to think two, veteran players. The haul, like I mentioned when discussing Kaman, will contribute less this year than the players who we ship out. I guess we could wind up getting a vet with a bad deal, but that’s something I’d rather not think about at the moment.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Jack/Landry and Kaman get dealt for a young players, two picks, and a few bad expiring deals. The Hornets would be losing lots of production and getting very little in return. Even if Gordon were to come back to a team like that at full strength, he wouldn’t make a difference like he would have on a team that was heading the closing minutes of most games within striking distance. He won’t be winning them more than a few games.

I still contest that if the Hornets had remained healthy and added instead of subtracted at the trade deadline, they would have been a playoff contender this year. The presence of Gordon would have made the difference in so many close games earlier in the year, but at this point it’s hard to imagine his impact being as large.

Back to what we were talking about though–things probably aren’t going to get better this year, and they may very well get worse. People are starting to realize that, and predictably we’re starting to hear the old, tired cries of those who are “done” with the team, and those who claim that some random loss in the middle of February is the final straw. Stuff like that will continue to be expressed no matter what I saw, but I’ll say it anyway—

You don’t get a prize for saying you’re done first, and there isn’t going to be a line behind you if you leave. Do yourself a favor and sit down, grab a cold one, and watch as the Hornets continue to accumulate ping pong balls with a Hornet on them, an owner, a lease, a new TV deal, additional sponsorship deals, and hopefully a few young players and additional draft picks.

There is more to basketball than winning games, this year at least.

36 comments
da ThRONe
da ThRONe

We need to move all these vets and bring in guys who have better contracts and upside. The fact that most of our vets with 2-3 years left are playing damn good ball individually and could be the missing piece/s for another contending team. We need acquiring younger guys and seeing what they have. This year should be solely dedicated to developing and evaluating young players.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Marco is one of the 1,000 best players in the 7,000,000,000 person world. That is without a doubt, and makes him one in a million. Let's see when the president praises either Italian when he's not talking to Italians, though. For what it's worth, I'm probably the least down on Marco of the regular writers and was glad they extended the QO to him.

sundance
sundance

C'mon Jason, my comment was meant to be lighthearted. I know the insignificance of this blurb. I'm amused the President could string "Marco" and "Belinelli" together and not call him Mario Balotelli by mistake. But to make sure the context is clearer next time, I'll use 2 smiley faces.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

I know it was. Mine was, too. I think I'm the one in need of the smilies, sundance, not you. You guys must think I'm really stuffy . . . not sure why . . .

okithor
okithor

Maybe JamesOnline is really Obama.

J
J

We need to make some trades to get expired contract players and draft picks.Why more draft picks they're currency in the front office sports world.Ayon,Henry,Kaman,Okafor and Vasguez will be the hold overs from this season to next season.I like the free agent class this year but not as deep as they claim some players will return to their current teams except Dwright Howard & Deron Williams.They've some decent free agents that will draw interest down the road i don't who just leave that to the front office.I believe they'll be a coaching change either Monty goes or his sappy Assistants go or both.I know the owner(s) will do was best for the Hornets and the fans.

Jo D
Jo D

Kaman is a free agent.. Gordon a rfa.. And smith, jack, and aminu are all under contract next year

J
J

re-sign Kaman,trade Jack and Aminu.I would like to see J Smith get tough in the off season he has talent but he's soft. He reminds me of the geeky kid in grade school that can play basketball but get push around by bullies on playground.

BRballboy
BRballboy

Agree w/Jason " most interesting time in club history ". The infinite possibilities. Davis. Drummond. MKG. Barnes. Robinson. Sullinger. WWDD? Who's going to be the new owner? Will he keep Monty? Dell? Will we rebrand? What will the new name be if we do? What can Dell get for Kaman or Okafor or Jack or Ariza or any combination? How many picks could we end up with? How much cap space? WWDD? I feel sorry for those only upset with this years W's and L's.

Holy Cow
Holy Cow

I'm in the camp of realizing that this season is a lost cause from a wins and losses perspective and that every loss potentially brightens our future with respect to the lottery. Looking at on court issues, I think the young players need to get extended playing time as the calendar turns to March so we can make an honest assessment of the assets we have to build on. At this point, all the potential we got in return for Chris Paul is looking less than positive. This team is without a star player. If Eric Gordon is going to be a 60 game per season player he is not a guy we need to invest max money in. Clearly, my perspective on him is jaded by his non-existent body of work as a Hornet, but I just don't have a warm feeling about him being the face of the franchise for the next 5-6 years. I think we have amassed a handful of role players, but we need to find an identity and someone to build around. Off the court, the new owner situation can't get resolved quickly enough. The Hornets absolutely have to have an owner in place before the 2012-2013 season ticket push begins. We need something concrete to invest in as committed fans. I hope the new owner and arena lease are announced before Mardi Gras. I assume the lease will probably lock the team in for 5-7 years so the new owner will have a vested interest in making the team competitive quickly in order to protect their investment which will tied to New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Finally, although he doesn't have the greatest assembly of talent to work with, I'm not sold on the idea that Monty Williams is a great young coach. On the other hand, I'm completely sold on Dell Demps as GM. I think once he gets a real owner and clear direction on the resources available to him to build a team he is going to show us what he can really do. In this season of turmoil there are a lot of moral victories to be had. If the team plays hard, competes for 3+ quarters per night and the young players begin to blossom the losses will not be in vain. The ping pong balls with Hornets on them will hopefully deliver us the player who will fill the role Chris Paul played for the years he was here. Additionally, without a roster full of bad contracts, financial flexibility and an owner with more resources than George Shinn the next generation of Hornets teams will built with the pieces we could not seem to put around Chris in his time here. Right now this is purely blind faith, but I'm hoping that the picture begins to come into focus over the next few weeks.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

I expect the lease to lock us in a bit longer than that. I expect news to be leaking, but nothing formal until mid-March at the earliest.

504ever
504ever

I'm not picking on Harrison Barnes, just suggesting people here don't have very detailed knowledge about most college players and need it, so they don't think the draft is full of saviors for the Hornets. But here is one more fact about Barnes just from the UNC-Duke game. Who was he matched up against most of the night except on switches like the last shot? Austin Rivers!!! Yeah, the same Austin Rivers who scored a career high 29 points shooting 9-16 (6-10 from 3pt line). If Barnes can't even guard a vey good college freshman, what happens to him on defense in the NBA? His defense may be so bad he never makes it as a pro!

J
J

We had two PG's that would been great for us this season Paul and Collison thus Jack is ok but not on this team next season.I seen the Kendall Marshall videos on youtube his basketball IQ is awesome he would be the right fit for the Hornets in the middle of the 1st round

bee dat
bee dat

I am skeptical but not completely down on harrison as a pro, though it appears at first he will be one dimensional, and has some marvin williams potential. He is an nba ready scorer with a beautiful jumper and slashing moves, I don't know if this makes him top 6 like so many people think. Kendall marshall's stock keeps on rising though. He already contains exceptional court vision and decent size at pg, and his shot is improving. being we need a pg of the future we have to keep an eye on him. I wonder where we would have to be to get him.

504ever
504ever

I'd love to see someone post and update a story with the games stats from the top college players in it. I think many people have no idea how good or bad these players are. Here is Harrison Barnes's stat line from the UNC's home loss to Duke in which he had a very good game for him. He still only shot 50% from the field, had more fouls than rebounds or assists, had more turnovers than assists, and as many steals as turnovers. Maybe this information, coupled with the fact that the NBA team with the worst record only has a 25% chance to get the 1st pick and is only guaranteed a top 4 pick would open some eyes about the "help" that may be on the way. STRTER MN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A RB AST STL TO PF PTS Barnes 35 8-16 1-3 8-12 3 1 2 2 4 25

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

That's right. No prize for quitting on the team. We're all feeling pain. Get it out, then come back in here and look at the big picture. And there's alot more to see if you open your eyes. This is the most interesting time in this team's history likely, and it won't be repeated. Get it while the getting is good.

Cris
Cris

The only news I care to hear for the remainder of the season is that we have an new owner. Last week rumors on hornets and saints blog sites suggested Tom Benson was a done deal. I would expect Kaman to definitely be traded sometime after next week when other players from NOH can be included in the trade. Ariza, Jack, Belinelli and Landry can all be useful to contending teams but I wouldn't expect all 4 to traded perhaps Williams will want to hang onto Ariza.

Pluto D
Pluto D

Well said, Joe. If yall want Anthony Davis (like I do), people will have to be patient. Each loss gets us closer to future contention, I like to think. That's why I'm fine with the losing. What seriously bothers me is the inconsistency of our young players' minutes. There is simply NO REASON to keep playing our starters so much. Why does Monty try to save face? I know he wants to win, but you can't be serious. You can't do the same thing over and over and expect new results. The veterans all know Monty's system, and we're not winning with them....so what do you do? Seems obvious to me. Aminu needs 25+ minutes EVERY GAME. IMO, this guy has more potential than anyone else on our team (except Gordon). I know you guys hate the term "potential," but you know what? If there's a way to prevent him from becoming Julian Wright, you need to PLAY HIM EVERY GAME. A student won't succeed in the real world on just theory (studying and doing homework). They need application as well (real life experiences). Just like hmm...no player can develop on theory (practice) alone; he needs application (games) too. Anyone's confidence will get destroyed when they get yanked out of the game for making a couple mistakes. That's what Byron did to JuJu. Let him play and get the feel for it. EVERY GAME. His confidence and abilities will improve over time, not game-to-game. There's literally no reason not to. Ariza, Jack, Okafor, and Belinelli aren't selling tickets or winning games. Aminu, Henry, and Ayon need those minutes. What is there to lose?

bee dat
bee dat

I have to respectfully disagree with pluto's post. Monty's credibility as a coach is based on the fact that minutes are earned, not given. If aminu comes in firing airballs at the rim and wild passes over people's heads (most nights) he needs to find a seat. I am skeptical that he will be a player that develops into someone who contributes (to wins). He is a piece that many have hope for so he should get a longer leash but the leash should still exist. if he is to develop, he needs role models that are on the court because they've earned it via hard work, coachability and smart decision making.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Dude, Battier was an EXCELLENT defender in his prime. He did things that aren't yet tracked by the box score. He forced opponents into their most ineffecient shots (based on Synergy Sports), boxed out the best rebounding guy of the other team, only took his most efficient shots(but doesn't mean he was efficient offensively). The dude was the king of advanced statistics. If Aminu can come close to HALF of Battier's Basketball IQ, I'd be a happy camper :D

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

You talk as if Battier was a player of 20 ppg and 10 rpg. He's just a good defender. And the maximum that Aminu can achieve, in my opinion, is to be a good defender. He is terrible with the ball in his hands, absolutely terrible.

504ever
504ever

If Aminu=Battier, then I=ecstatic. The bigger problem here is, as pointed out above, is you need veteran players to teach the young ones all of the nlittle and big things needed to be a quality NBA player. So you can't trade away Jack, Ariza, or Okafor. If you do you become the Wizards (forever).

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Thank you, someone agrees with me.

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

I see Aminu as a very good defensive player in the future. But just that: a defensive player. Something like Shane Battier.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Because throwing them into the fire will just break their confidence. Bring them along slowly, and when they're ready, give them the minutes they deserve. So far, Aminu/Henry/Ayon haven't played well enough and more consistently enough to warrant consistent 20+ minutes people seem to ask. Henry/Aminu/Ayon aren't the most confident looking guys. Keep the rotation as it is. Only change i'd make is give Henry a shot at the starting SG. if he plays bad, go back to routine. Aminu was given the chance to start. in 5 starts, he only produced 1 great game and 4 below average games. So back to routine. Ayon is another story. He's STILL learning the game, I can't seem to stress this enough. Imagine being a foreigner, who doesn't know the local language where you work, suddenly being given SO much workload, you can't take it anymore? I'd rather see Ayon 15/20 minutes per game and bring him along slowly.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Thank you saltandcarbon, it's exactly what I'm saying. The Kings and the Wizards are the BEST examples. A wealth of young talent, but no development to prove for it. Hell, McGee, Wall, Blatche, Young, Cousins, Evans, Thompson - with all the physical tools and youth they have - haven't developed so much since they came into the league. With the exception of Wall and Cousins, i haven't seen any significant improvement from ANY of them. At least Wall and Cousins are putting together a solid month and a half after a wreck of a first few weeks. But besides those, McGee has uncountable laughable mistakes (have you seen the running back on D video?) Blatche is still Blatche. Young is still a gunner. Thompson is still just a rebounder, Evans is still just a slasher. I don't want us to be like that. I want our youngsters to develop good habits, habits they are picking up right now. I agree with saltandcarbon, I don't know what the line is between young players earning their minutes and allowing them to play through their mistake, but I wouldn't want to be Monty right now. He's got so much on his plate.

saltandcarbon
saltandcarbon

I have a feeling what Nikko is worried about is what can be seen happening on the Wizards. A wealth of super-talented players who have been given the keys far too early, developed bad playing habits, and now haven't learned the discipline or basketball IQ to be able to get it together with any consistency. There is a balance of course, but the answer to developing good young talent isn't necessarily giving them a free pass. I realise no one is saying they would necessarily be able to run amuck like the Wiz, but learning the right way to play might be as important as playing time. I don't envy Monty having to tread that line...

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

@Pluto D: i'd love both. If our youngsters see that our veterans fight valiantly even when outmatched they'll start picking up the same mentality. In return, they'll play harder, they'll play smarter. In return, they'll earn more minutes. In return, they'll gain confidence. In return, we build for our future. As I've said, so long as the system of EARNING minutes is in place, i'm happy with this losing. Make them EARN their minutes, I don't want them just playing through mistake.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

@lucas ottoni, yes, I mean break their confidence. Isn't it bad enough that they're experiencing loss after loss after loss? And then you want to throw them into the fire and just "play through this mistakes" which will break their confidence even more. Players don't just acquire confidence from playing. Players acquire confidence from playing WELL. That's why it's very important that Monty finds the right balance of allowing them to play through their mistakes and yanking them when they make a mistake. Allowing them to play through their mistake, even in a lost season like this, makes them acquire bad habits. Habits which ALL of us will hate. Look at the Kings. We don't want to be like the Kings today, right? Keep it as it is. Aminu hasn't played well enough to warrant giving him minutes. Same with Henry. Vasquez has played well enough to warrant minutes, so as with Ayon. Although Ayon should still be eased into the game.

Pluto D
Pluto D

@ nikkoewan, They haven't played well enough to what? Lose us more games? Would you rather lose knowing our starters, many of whom will get traded soon, played valiantly? Or lose knowing that you are building a foundation for the purpose of future contention?

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

Ops.. Sorry... no "bank". I meant the BENCH.

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

Break confidence? We have 22 losses in 26 games. We reached a point where nobody has confidence, including our coach. Player acquires confidence playing. And our time allows us to develop our younger players. And they will not develop if left in the bank. That's what I think.

D$
D$

ariza and okafor will probably be around for next year too..and probably be starting next year which is fine so they deserve to play..jack is 50/50 i could see the hornets trading him...and i really hope we keep landry, he is someone every team needs

okithor
okithor

I will summarize: We will continue to lose/assemble crappy talent/tank to guarantee a spot at top pick in the upcoming draft. Gonna have to be patient this year and hope the future is bright. Here are some stepping stones/goals: 1. New LOCAL owner!!!! 2. Aim for lottery. 3. Play young talent to help development. 4. Amass draft picks for older guys. 5. Hire offensive genius as AC or co-Head Coach.

Everett
Everett

Yeah, Monty definitely needs help with the offense. Last year he got a free pass on having to emphasize offense because of CP3, this year we've struggled to consistently run good sets.