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Blogcat's Take, 3/28


Hornets fans, I wish I had some words of encouragement for you. Actually, I wish you had some for me, because last night’s 2OT loss at Washington was an unbearably tragic, Fruitvale Station of a game that just left me ashen with grief. Here’s a small sampling of reasons to mourn: a blown 4-point lead with 14 seconds to go; our playoff chances reduced to “mathematical”; my favorite player on the team, my moral compass, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, gone with a sprained ankle; my second-favorite player on the team, Kemba Walker, a dreadful 3-for-17, including a dead-on missed 7-foot teardrop with 30 seconds left in the second OT that would have put us up by 1; Mo Williams, a turnover frenzy, losing it three consecutive times in the first OT; Drew Gooden—Drew Freakin’ Gooden—Drew Freakin’ Gooden the Freakin’ Third (Since when is he “the third”? Has that always been on his jersey? How is that family allowed to replicate?)—finishing with 15 points; Big Al Jefferson, apparently aging in dog years, nevertheless finally having a throwback efficient performance, but all in vain (his slam dunk with about 3:40 to go in regulation reminded me uncomfortably of the final shot in The Wrestler; I seriously thought he might die right then and there). Like I said, there is no consolation in this. I love the Hornets, but they don’t really love me. They just keep me hanging on.

Also, as distraught as these losses make me, as frustrated as I am that Charlotte’s professional basketball team and football team have now both participated in two of the more farcical playoff races in history, I’m no mystic. I’m a stone-cold stats atheist. And so when I scream things like, “That’s not fair!” at Rasual Butler’s 26-footer with 11 seconds left, there’s always a voice inside my head reminding me that Mo Williams’ bonkers, bank-shot 27-footer a few minutes earlier was about 20x “less fair.” And in the indifferent reality of the stat sheet, I see the Wizards missed 16 3-pointers, including an 0-for-6 from Paul Pierce and an 0-for-3 from Martell Webster. NBAstats.com says that Pierce went 1-for-6 on uncontested shots, and Webster went 0-for-3, and while both didn’t shoot exclusively 3’s, you can back out that at least several of their shots from downtown were nonetheless uncontested. There was also a phenomenal 3-minute stretch in the 3rd quarter in which the Wizards went completely cold (we should actually change this phrase to “went completely Hornets”) and literally missed everything, including a layup and 2 Pierce free-throws, thereby allowing the Hornets to get back into the game in the first place. Long, awful, tedious story short: the Hornets were arguably lucky to even drag this game (and all of us wretched viewers) into overtime. So while I feel bad for them and worse for me, I don’t consider this fate to be unjust. Basketball god is dead, and we’re all brain cancer-ridden Nietzsches.

Charlotte has also been victimized lately by some stellar individual performances. In Sacramento last week, Rudy Gay was a red bandanna and crossbow away from being Rambo. He didn’t just score 33 points, he was 5-for-8 from the sinful midrange zone and 8-for-13 on his contested jumpers. I didn’t see the Chicago game, because I was having a much more enjoyable experience filling out a lost-luggage form with Southwest Airlines, but Nikola Mirotic emasculated and took us apart like Ken dolls, going 5-for-9 on his contested shots. Against Brooklyn you’ve got to take not just your hat off, but also your yamaka, toupee, weave, hair plugs, and arrow-through-the-head gag prop for Brook Lopez, who made 7 of his 13 contested shots (by contrast, the traditional Hornets killers, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, made just two of theirs—combined). And last night John Wall, once free of human emergency break MKG, ran us over us like hamsters, scoring 18 of his 30 points after the Kidd departed. The Hornets have largely executed their defensive game plan, but sometimes opposing players just shoot the lights out.

Our team, meanwhile, keeps shooting the lights back on. We’re worse than a defective Clapper. And seemingly every day there’s a new advanced metric documenting how sucky we are. For example, there’s a fairly new site called Inpredictable.com, which basically measures the impact of each player’s offensive action based on the score and the time remaining. Thus the closer the score and the less time remaining on the clock, the more a clutch shot (or miss, or turnover, etc.) is worth compared to an action in a game that just started or in a game that’s a blowout. Then at the end of every game, Inpredictable adds up every positive or negative shift in winning percentage that each player caused to create what the site calls a Win Probability Added (WPA) score. The cumulative season-long tally is an interesting mix of the usual suspects and others who benefit because of their clutch performances. Anthony Davis is the leader with an 8.48 WPA score, while Kyle Korver is second with a 5.28. But guess who’s NOT mixed in: anyone from Charlotte. The first Hornet who appears is Marvin Williams, all the way down at #117, with a WPA of 0.64, which is tied with Mr. Clutch himself, Carlos Boozer. I don’t mean to say that this measurement is the end-all, be-all, but it’s one more confirmation that none of the Hornets seems to end anything or be anything.

In summary, I’m not just mournful, I’m also jealous. I’ve never had a team in any sport in which the game plan was simply, “give it to X and he’ll get us the win.” Or if that was the game plan, it didn’t work. I’d love to know what it feels like to have one of those guys. Over the years of my sad Hornets fandom, I’ve desperately placed my hopes in the likes of Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Adam Morrison, Stephen Jackson, and most recently Kemba Walker. It’s a tortured history, and it seems as though it’s going to continue for at least another pitiless season.

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