The Hornets were playing against a playoff team that has been on fire since mid-February. Their opponent had won 11 of their last 12 (and 12 of their last 13 if we count this game) with their only loss coming against probable Finals contender Miami.
Meanwhile, the Hornets are a team that's struggled since a mid-season mini-surge (where the Hornets won 7 of their 9 games over a two week stretch). The bad news just keeps on coming. They've lost Jason Smith. They've lost Austin Rivers. Those injuries especially hurt because both players were finally getting into their respective strides (especially Austin). The team's max-guy can't earn his contract, and the father of the team's franchise guy stormed out of their room after the Lakers debacle. That's not even counting the fact that the coach can't come up with good plays when they actually matter and seems to be stuck in an era where size is better than skill.
Seems like a lot huh?
It is a lot. Because that's how it is supposed to be. You have to go down before you can get up. And we've been down. The end is coming. 19 games left in the season. No more.
But at the end of the day, we should look back at this season as a success rather than a massive failure. We finally have an owner that can offer stability. We're re-branding which means we can move past the awful two years faster and easier (whether you like it or not). And most importantly, we have Anthony freaking Davis for at least 6 more years after this one (including extension).
I needed to do that intro because I wanted people to put this season in the right context. We weren't winning this season. This season was all about development. That was pretty clear from the get-go. Simplifying playbooks, teaching instead of coaching, making sure fundamentals are in check -- all reported as something Monty is doing with a team that ranks as the youngest team in the league.
Yeah, yeah, people like to point to Houston (who ranks 2nd with a average age of 24.3. For reference, the Hornets are at 23.9). But one thing people need to know -- they have James freaking Harden. The guy was pretty much a franchise player in OKC. We don't have that (theoretically, we did but his parts are all over the US with his heart in Phoenix, his mind in Indiana, his knees in LA and the rest in New Orleans).
We'll get there guys, and once we do, it will be so much sweeter. Whether it's with Monty Williams and/or Eric Gordon is a question for another post, but I'm still very hopeful for this team. To the bullet points.
- Anthony Davis was doing work out there -- 20 points (on 20 shots) and 18 rebounds. He was working out there. If he can get his weight to the point where Monty finally trusts him to bang with guys like Howard, Gasol, Pekovic and the like -- look out. He got some time with Anderson despite Gasol being on the court but it was Anderson who was guarding Gasol, not Davis.
- One thing I noticed with Monty's play calling -- the action is strictly restricted to one movement. A simple double high screen-and-roll. A simple cross screen for a post up. That's it. No action whatsoever is happening outside of the two guys near the ball. This allowed Memphis players to sag off their man and clog the lanes. Hornets had 12 turnovers with 7 of them from steals.
- Marc Gasol was all over the place. I would be stupid not to praise him both for his solid defense but also for his work on the other side. Bounce pass to a cutting Tony Allen in the baseline, another over-the-top pass to a cutting Allen (AGAIN), a bounce pass between two players to Ed Davis. Gasol's passing in the high and low post makes the Grizzlies so fun to watch.
- Eric Gordon -- 11 points on 7 shots. Efficient? Yes. But it he didn't get enough volume on it to matter. I sincerely hope he FINALLY plays healthy next season. Whether he stays on the team or goes is none of my concern, I just want the Hornets to get something out of him.
- Vasquez and Aminu both struggled big time. They combined to go 19 points (on 15 shots and 7 FTs), 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 turnovers. Aminu's normal defensive intensity wasn't there. Personally, of the two, I think Aminu has more to give to the Hornets than Vasquez. He provides a nice balance for the future pairing of Anderson/Davis. I just wish he had at least one offensive move he can rely on. One thing that he really needs to work on -- a corner three point shot. Just watch how Kawhi changed his game around that.