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Blogcat's Take, 11/1

(note: I wrote this just before Saturday's tip-off against Memphis. If the Hornets get crushed and eaten by Z-Bo & Co., sue me for unlawful and aggravated joy)

After I got done simultaneously wetting and soiling my pants, I went back and recorded Kemba Walker’s game-tying and game-winning shots against the Bucks off of the game that I had DVR’d. I knew that distilled versions would soon be made available via NBA.com, but I couldn’t wait that long; I needed the raw product. I spliced video of both shots into a continuous loop, and then watched them over and over for roughly an hour in a joyful, reverse Clockwork Orange. I also stored them for future emergencies so that I could turn to them in times of need—e.g., the following night’s Panthers game. Yes, as a sports addict, I basically can self-medicate with those kinds of videos. And I’m happy to bounce around from one to another other, like Dr. Thackery weaning himself off his cocaine addiction by taking up heroin. They don’t need to be super-significant, either (considering the Hornets’ history, that’s not really an option anyway). Take for example this Gerald Henderson game-winner against the Timberwolves in January 2013. I don’t care if all it accomplished was to raise our record to 11-32; it was and remains visual opium (amplified by the added morphine of the MKG save that enabled Hendo’s shot).

Walker’s already dealt me multiple euphoric hallucinogens in just a few short years, particularly his game winner against Toronto in December 2013. But those two adrenaline shots on Wednesday night were in a class by themselves. Besides the obvious fact that there were two of them, thus providing a speedball-level of potency, they were both were out of rhythm (although much more so with the end-of-regulation 3-pointer), upping the narcotic impact that much further. And considering that they were little teal and purple pills of ecstasy that capped off a 24-point comeback, the nadir of which had the crowd fiending out of hopelessness, I’ll probably inject these videos into my eyeballs until my blood vessels burst.

All in all, this was a deeply weird and often disturbing season opener, long before those 3 shot clock violations that kicked off the first 6 OT possessions. In fact, it started with the lineups. I’ve been crying out for an upgrade to Bismack Biyombo for years, but even I hadn’t considered the possibility of just going without a center entirely. Coach Clifford did just that (call it a non-grade) by spelling Al Jefferson with a combination of Cody Zeller and Jason Maxiell, thereby slapping Biyombo with a DNP, along with P.J. Hairston and Noah Vonleh (so much for the Hornets’ youth movement!). While Big Al was in the game, he was strangely passive and ineffective until nearly the end. True, he was often dealing with double-teams, but he turned it over at least twice, and I don’t remember seeing a vintage Jeffersonian shot-fake/drop-step post move until well into the third quarter...which became a near-terminal problem, because the Hornets’ only two consistent shooters throughout the dismal first three quarters were Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, two men who rate just below Cheech and Chong in terms of combos you feel comfortable relying on. With Jefferson neutered and the offense generally stagnant, the Hornets were on the cusp of matching U2 and Orbital Sciences for disastrous 2014 product launches. Henderson had a hender-rendous 9 minutes in which he went 0-2 with a turnover and a plus/minus of -9 in easily the worst cameo since Vanilla Ice in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. He epitomized the punch-less bench play that I feared in my season preview.

But the real secret of the Hornets’ ooze was Walker (with runner-up awards to Lance Stephenson and Gary Neal, who combined to shoot 5-for-23). More frustrating than the 9-for-26 shooting was the fact that he missed 6-of-11 free throws and that he felt the need to chuck nine 3’s (missing six). The Bucks were adept at shutting him out of the paint and cutting off passing angles, especially those to Jefferson, and thus forcing Walker repeatedly into low-percentage mid-range jumpers (on those he went 3-of- 8), many of which would have made Russell Westbrook blush. But as you would hope from a newly-minted $12M per year earner, Walker made two balls-out awesome shots to win us the game and did just about every other thing well. He didn’t turn it over once and finished a game-high +12. It was a Stephen Jackson-type of game, and I mean that as a compliment, but I hope to god that we get a much more stable performance in the future. Much as I loved Cap’n Jack, I can only take so many of these...

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