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

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.


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