Five years after Michael Jordan infamously told the world that “the ceiling is the roof,” his team looks to still be as confused as we are.
In a busy offseason that’s been full of league-shifting trades — and trade requests — as well as free agent signings, the Charlotte Hornets continue to make NBA fans scratch their heads. With a young roster that was fourth in the league in scoring, 25th in defense, and tied for second in the Southeast Division before losing the play-in game to the Atlanta Hawks, all signs point to the Hornets’ front-office preparing to sign an aging point guard that can’t give them what they need, which is defense.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, “[T]he Hornets are considering a reunion with former franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker among other point guard options, sources told The Athletic. The team is also interested in the potential re-signing of Isaiah Thomas, who had strong play last season and emerged as a positive locker room leader in Charlotte.” Last month, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that the Hornets had “real interest” in trying to get Russell Westbrook.
Walker is 32 while Westbrook and Thomas are 33.
The need for a veteran backup guard is obvious given that the Hornets are one of the youngest teams in the league, but does that mean that you have to be rumored to have interest in every one of them that could potentially be on the market?
Neither of the three fit the mold of what the Hornets need to take the next step.
Thomas is trying to permanently find his way back into the league as he’s been popping up here and there on 10-day contracts. But even at his peak, he made his money by scoring, not playing defense. The same could be said for Westbrook and Walker. Because while they may have been capable defenders during their best years, it’s not what they were paid to do. Besides, age, injury, or both, have stripped all three men of the athleticism that once made them so special.
Of the three, Walker seems like the most logical fit after Charlotte took him ninth in the 2011 draft. It would be a return home for the veteran who played in Charlotte from 2011 to 2019, as he made three of his four All-Star appearances in a Hornets uniform. But, this is Jordan’s team we’re talking about, which means that making the logical decision might not be the final decision. This is the same franchise that fired Steve Clifford as their head coach in 2018, but ultimately had to bring him back last month when he was rehired — but only after Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson changed his mind about the job and decided to stay with the Warriors.
This is also a franchise that has no idea what to do with arguably its best player, as Miles Bridges led the team in scoring last season and was expected to command a deal potentially worth $173 million over the next five years. But, that was before Bridges was arrested for felony domestic assault before the beginning of free agency in an ugly situation in which too many were fixated on the millions he may have lost instead of the alleged victim.
If the Charlotte Hornets can increase their win total next season, in hindsight it may be because of the veteran leadership they added to their backcourt. But right now, they look like a desperate team. And when you’re trying to land players through free agency or negotiations, that’s not always the best way to present yourself.