Coming into the season you could see the Charlotte Hornets heading for a ravine. They lost their second-best player to off-the-court issues, and LaMelo Ball was literally limping into the year. Well, the family wagon smashed right off that cliff.
The third-year point guard is the team’s best shot at a franchise building block since forever, and his entire 2022 campaign has been hollow, if not a complete wash. Ball has missed almost half the games with ankle injuries, and I’m not sure how much it would’ve helped even if he had been healthy.
The Hornets are losers of six in a row and eight of their past 10, and sit at 15-42, good for the third-worst record in the NBA. In his second go-round as head coach in the Queen City, Steve Clifford has been a disaster. Shocker, I know. Normally, if you bring back a coach it’s because he was successful.
The team was on ESPN on Friday night, and trailed the Boston Celtics by 20 in the first half en route to a 127-116 loss. I bring this up because development can be made even in a lost season, which is the opposite of what’s happening in Charlotte.
LaMelo might as well be playing in Lithuania still
Ball has basically been left to his own devices, with the lamest of lame-duck coaches and no second banana. It should be no surprise that he’s turning in the emptiest 23, 8, and 6 possible, and isn’t really improving so much as just playing more.
He’s shooting a career-low 40 percent from the field — not from three, from the field — and half of his 20 shots are from deep. The other scoring options on the team are Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier, and between them and Ball they take nearly 60 attempts per game, hitting just over 40 percent of them. Additionally, none of the trio is hitting above 36 percent from three, and they chuck a whopping 26 total per game.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to play on that team, having to watch those three take turns laying bricks all fucking night. It’s gross. The Hornets’ offensive rating is dead last, they’re 24th in scoring and don’t play a lick of defense.
Again, there’s been some bad luck… It’s just really hard to go from 43 wins to 15, and hoping for Victor Wembanyama because he might be the best chance of retaining Ball. The situation is so crucial for young players, and regardless of if it’s Vic or somebody else, they shouldn’t arrive at Ball running around the house with a tie on his head and smacking kids with a wooden spoon.
Speaking of Big Vic
Charlotte fans are praying that the lottery balls bounce their way because the front office is disgraceful. It’s the large Frenchman with transcendent talent, or another opportunity for Charlotte to display the worst instincts imaginable.
Mitch Kupchak moved Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels for Reggie Jackson and second-round picks at the deadline. Jackson and Rozier are the same fucking player, and everybody on the roster save for Ball should’ve been available.
The team can, and has, bottomed out. The NBA was filled with buyers over the past week. Why hold on to P.J. Washington or other scraps? See if you can get a pick or steal a young guy from an impatient contender.
Also, fire Clifford — again. Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George starts doing the opposite of his first impulse and his life starts turning around? Do that. (Unless they get the No. 1 pick, then definitely draft Wembanyama.) There’s no way the Hornets should be this clueless.
LaMelo deserves better. North Carolina basketball fans — and hoops heads in general — deserve better. People who grew up loving Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Alonzo Mourning deserve better.