Full disclosure: I've been very optimistic for most of the season. From January 2014 (when it became apparent that last year's Bobcats would compete for a playoff spot), until, well, let's say three weeks ago, I've been one of the biggest proponents of the theory that no matter the results of this season, the Hornets would be in pretty good shape for the future, at least relative to what the Bobcats had been building to in the last ten years. I don't want to suggest that just one game completely changed my opinion of the franchise and its future, because that would be absurd. But I will definitely say that tonight's game is the largest point in the counterargument that would make me rethink my earlier position.
I hate to be so blunt, but the Charlotte Hornets played so badly tonight that I'm not sure which stat would be the most eye-poppingly bad. They gave up 93 points to the 24th ranked offense in the NBA, a team that plays at a below-average pace, and allowed the Pacers to shoot their average field goal percentage from the floor, despite the fact that the Hornets are a team who thrives on the strength of their defense. The Hornets themselves shot .350 from the floor, plus .222 from three. Despite being on pace to have one of the lowest giveaway rates in NBA history, the Hornets had 18 turnovers tonight, even though they only had 15 assists. Only one Hornet who saw minutes outside of garbage time (Bismack Biyombo) had a +/- rating in the positive. They scored a combined 22 points in the middle two quarters, while the Pacers scored 48.
The entire game was full of terrible factoids like that. It was really not fun to watch! The final margin of 19 points was in no way indicative of the game that came before it, because it was way, way worse. I genuinely can't remember the lowest point of the game, because basically the entire game felt like a low point after the first quarter. And actually, the first quarter featured some really good play from the Hornets. Marvin Williams scored all ten of his points in the first quarter, so there was that. That was exciting.
Everyone else, though? Woof. And I'm only barely counting Marv-Will as having a good game. Not only is it a relative comparison, but I'm also coming around to the use of Marv-Will as his nickname. Anyway, Kemba Walker shot 1-9 from the floor and finished with six points, Al Jefferson scored only four points before sitting out the entire second half with a knee issue, Mo Williams didn't break double digits, Gerald Henderson missed eight of his thirteen shots, Jeffery Taylor only attempted one shot in nineteen minutes, etc. It goes on and on.
This team just is not very good at offense. They can't make shots, and they normally don't give away shot opportunities to the other team. They just don't make their shots. Despite being able to consistently get open from the perimeter tonight, the Hornets made only four of 18 shots from three. Pardon my French, but Sacré Bleu! That's friggin' terrible.
At a certain point, it's worth it to just look forward to the next season, and this might be the point. But at the same time, it's more evident than ever that there needs to be considerable roster turnover, only it's hard to see how that's achieved (And, to be clear, that turnover will not and should not include firing Steve Clifford, who's likely the only reason that this team ever had a shot of making the playoffs). The only tradeable assets on the roster are all pieces that it would greatly benefit the Hornets to hang onto, Al Jefferson will likely either be banged up with injury or on another team in 2015-16, and one lottery pick isn't going to change the team overnight. This might be the lowest I've felt about the state of the franchise since around 2008, because I'm not even sure where they're supposed to go from here. Obviously, this game looks considerably different with Al Jefferson being healthy enough to play in the second half, to say nothing about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (the team's best player, for my money), and Cody Zeller (who, despite our first impressions of him, has quickly turned into a very good player). Still, this was a really disheartening loss.
In conclusion, I really wish the Hornets had won tonight.