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Blogcat's Take, 12/13

There was no shame in last night’s double-OT loss to the Memphis Grizzlies...except for the burning, searing, eternal mortification of leaving Vince Carter wide-open for a game-tying corner-3 at the end of the first OT. Seriously, leaving Carter open in that situation—given that he checked in specifically for that play and at his age is almost literally incapable of doing anything other than standing in a corner and shooting 3’s—is the equivalent of not covering JJ Watt when he checks in on offense at the 1-yard line. It was so mind-bogglingly inexcusable that I frankly give the Hornets credit for still managing to play somewhat competitively in the resulting 2nd OT, because I personally couldn’t even competitively crawl back up on my chair for at least 30 minutes. As catatonic as I still feel, though, when I think back to the opening three minutes of the game, wherein the Grizzlies led 9-0 and it was unclear if the Hornets were even going to crack double-digits, I return to a feeling of mostly shamelessness regarding the competitive loss.

A close road loss to one of the elite Western Conference teams also validates the theory that the Hornets are improving as of late. Maybe. Those claims remind me of claims that the economy is doing better. Both claims maybe true, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Take the Wednesday win over Boston. First of all, it featured more clanks than a convention of peglegs. Boston actually shot better than Charlotte--.466 eFG% compared to the Hornets’ .435—and both were indisputably wretched in a season in which the median eFG is 50.0%. Second, the talent was drearily uncompelling. At one point in the second quarter the following 5-man lineups were on the floor:

Lance Stephenson, Bismack Biyombo, Gary Neal, Brian Roberts, Marvin Williams.
Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass, Marcus Thortnon

Good god. Look at that crew. I’d rather have those 10 people do almost anything other than play a basketball game against each other, let alone one that I’m paying to watch on League Pass on mute so as not to have to deal with the Boston announcers. Finally, Charlotte’s win basically consisted of watching the Celtics step on a bear trap, fall through a window, and land in a vat filling up with quick-drying cement. Ahead 87-85 with 3:46 to play, and with another blown fourth quarter lead about ready to burst out of their negligées, the Hornets benefitted from a spontaneous Celtic combustion. First Rajon Rondo stupidly fouled Kemba Walker for an and-one, then Jeff Green traveled, then Rondo—again stupidly, this time with a dash of laziness—got trapped into a turnover by Walker, then Thornton and Jared Sullenger missed a few jumpers that they had been making a few minutes earlier, then Rondo had a terrible—so terrible even I actually winced—traveling violation, and capped it off with a pass out of bounds. The final tally on the Hornets “win”: 7 opponent possessions, 5 turnovers. The Hornets are the basketball equivalent of 5.8% official unemployment, but with 11.4% total unemployment and flat wage growth.

If there is a positive indicator, it’s the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a one-man stimulus injection. Charlotte outscored Memphis by 9 points during the 18-minutes MKG was on the court, although he has to take some blame on the Carter trey. (Gerald Henderson is covered in blood for ignorantly over-committing to Marc Gasol at the top of the 3-point line, but some of it splattered onto MKG for sliding too far to Courtney Lee. Ugh, let’s face it, the whole sequence was a Triangle Shirtwaist Factory of poor planning and execution; nobody is innocent, and we the viewers were the helpless worker victims...especially coming out of a timeout and the Grizzlies having no option except to shoot a 3—I repeat: ugh...). In 8 games the boy is up to a 19.3 PER, which is second on the team behind Al Jefferson. And 666 is not just the number of the beast, if you put a decimal in front of it you’ve also got MKG’s true shooting percentage. Last year? Try .516. He’s doing something this year that I never thought I’d see, which is make baskets beyond 3 feet. Per basketball-reference.com, Jesus Gilchrist is making 66.7% of his shots from 3-10 feet and 60% of his shots from 10-16 feet. People keep asking where did Lance Stephenson’s makes go; they were apparently transferred to Gilchrist. Now we just need him to stay upright. Indeed, MKG’s toughest defender might be his own skull and ribs, which tenaciously rush in and intercept his brain and organs at least once a season, causing him to miss several weeks. Besides making rudimentary jumpers, Gilchrist should also be able to stamp out opponents’ shooting percentage, which NBA.com tells is among the 8-worst in the league in just about every zone: restricted area, paint (non-RA), mid-range, and left-corner-3 (one more time: ugh).

Otherwise, the data continues to look mostly bad. Al Jefferson’s TS% is 50%, down from last year’s 53%, and is at its lowest point in...ever, actually. I hate to say it, but last year might have been Peak Jefferson. I can think of countless anecdotal Big Al misses this season that really would have come in handy, such as the 6- and 8-footers in his 0-for-2 fourth quarter last night. True, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph confined him to less space than a CIA black site, but still, Big Al is a brutal 45th among centers in TS% for the season. Just once I’d like to see him rock the rim, Shaq-style, in which he bends it down like a hungry elephant does a tree branch. His passivity around the net is an evergreen nausea wave, especially given his poor FTA/FGA, which would be 19th among the 25 centers who’ve played at least 500 minutes.

We’ll see. Besides MKG, Charlotte’s had to play extended minutes without Gary Neal, who’s one of the few shooting threats we have. Plus I refuse to believe that Brian Roberts is going to continue to suck this spectacularly (.477 TS% so far, compared to .529 last year). Also, PJ Hairston is still finding his way on the court...and to the team’s meetings, apparently. He’s gotta be at the ultimate buy-low stage right now. Perhaps most importantly, the Hornets have played the 3rd hardest schedule, according ESPN.com, so despite their brutal start they’re only 20th in RPI—ahead of teams like Milwaukee, Indiana, and...the Nets, whom they play tonight. So perhaps tonight’s game will be the real acid test. I can’t wait to climb back into my chair and strap in.

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    Founding Hornet
    Dec 13 2014 09:35 PM
    Good read
    Founding Hornet
    Dec 14 2014 08:19 PM
    Nice article in Observer

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