Charlotte Hornets: All-Star Break Distraction From Rocky Stretch
Amid a tumultuous stretch, the Charlotte Hornets were well represented at the All-Star festivities in New Orleans this weekend.
It’s been a rough new year for the Charlotte Hornets. Since the calender turned, Buzz City is 5-17, struggling to stay above water in the midst of injuries to key rotation players Cody Zeller and Ramon Sessions.
The Hornets will return from the All-Star break at 24-32, two and a half games out of the playoffs.
Barring an out-of-body experience by the team in which they reel off 10 or more wins or have an incredible month, their ceiling for this season tops out at the seventh seed.
That’s a far cry from what many predicted for Charlotte’s season, as they were a trendy pick to steal home court advantage in the first round.
Cue the All-Star break in which Charlotte had the most impact since NBA Live was the king of basketball video games.
With the franchise’s first drafted All-Star since Baron Davis in 2002 with Kemba Walker, a participant in the Rising Stars Challenge in Frank Kaminsky and Walker a Three-Point Contest finalist, Kaminsky netted a team-high 33 points, including 9-of-13 from deep.
His performance featured some 30-foot long balls that had Hornets fans screaming at their television–part hysteria. part exasperation.
Kaminsky is shooting 30.8 percent on shots behind the arc on 4.3 attempts per game, so this was like sprinkling salt on an open wound, as Kaminsky was billed as a stretch big coming out of college. It was just an All-Star showcase with little to no defense, but 9-of-13 is hard to ignore.
No doubt this game will stick in Hornets faithful’s minds if Frank comes back to Charlotte shooting at the same rate for a team desperate for spacing.
-i need this frank kaminsky to show up during the second half of the season in charlotte!
— Bankroll AJizzle ☁️ (@aceboog1e) February 18, 2017
Kemba Walker shot first in the Three-Point Contest, netting 19 points and surviving close calls from Nick Young and defending champion Klay Thompson to advance to the finals alongside Kyrie Irving and Eric Gordon.
After posting 17 points, Walker watched Irving and Gordon both surpass that with scores of 20 apiece, with Gordon winning in the tiebreaker round. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to have a “dog in the fight”, and is a microcasm of Walker’s continued improvement.
After shooting less than 34 percent from deep each of his first four seasons, Walker has made himself into one of the better shooters in the NBA, particularly off the dribble.
The weekend concluded for the Hornets and the league on Sunday night in the All-Star game. Kemba recorded seven points, six assists and three rebounds in 20 minutes. Walker isn’t a high flier like many of the league’s main attractions, so his presence was a bit more understated.
Nonetheless, it was fun to see a Hornet as one of the 24 players representing their respective teams on what can be safely assumed as the world’s best pickup game in 2017.
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Let’s not understate the opportunity for Walker to form and develop relationships with other star players either. Conversations of super teams of the past and present have been born within those All-Star and Olympic locker rooms.
Charlotte doesn’t have a great track record of being a premier free agency destination, but with Walker the franchise has the chance to become more attractive to players with wandering eyes.
He’s not LeBron James, but in Walker the Hornets have a bonafide star point guard in his prime, a necessity in the golden age of the 1 spot.
The biggest domino just fell in DeMarcus Cousins being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, but look for the Hornets to likely be buyers during this trade deadline in an attempt to salvage their season.
The Hornets have a lot of B-minus and C-plus pieces, with Walker being the only elite talent on the team. For a team badly lacking secondary playmaking and scoring, Walker was no doubt trying to sell Charlotte to some players in the locker room.
As we’ve learned, those discussions can quickly lead to much more as Charlotte seeks another piece to vault them into contention and out of the 35-45 win purgatory they’ve found themselves in for the past few years.