The Charlotte Hornets came out of the gates this season with their collective hairs on fire. They set a franchise record for 3-pointers made in a game in a narrow victory over the Bulls in their season opener while rookie PJ Washington debuted with 27 points. The excitement from that game was enough to persist through a three game losing streak against Western Conference playoff hopefuls, two of which are gunning for a championship this season.
Then the Hornets went on a win streak. Two road wins over the Kings and Warriors were followed by an impressive come from behind win at home against the Pacers. The fan base was buzzing. Maybe this team was better than anyone expected.
But this three game losing streak has brought rain to that parade. The Hornets looked overwhelmed against the Celtics and fell apart in the second half in losses to the Pelicans and 76ers. The team is now 4-6 and a difficult stretch of the schedule is on the horizon. After Friday’s game against the Pistons, the Hornets won’t play consecutive games in Spectrum Center until December.
There is good in these losses. This iteration of the Hornets isn’t as laughably bad as many analysts thought they’d be before the season. They play competitive basketball, which is an accomplishment in and of itself when many of your key players are in their first or second seasons. This isn’t like the 2010-11 Bobcats team or the Process-era 76ers spearheaded by Michael Carter-Williams and Jahlil Okafor. There’s talent here. It’s not championship caliber talent, but it’s good talent.
The team is hoping to get a jolt of that necessary talent from outside the organization, most likely through the draft. This three game losing stretch is a reminder that this Hornets team is destined for a high pick in a June draft that currently looks very strong at the top. In the meantime, we’re going to see a lot of games that look like this most recent run of performances. The Hornets are going to play well and flash their talent, but they’re going to struggle to sustain it for four quarters.
If you’re looking for optimism to cling to during a season that’s going to come with a lot of losses, it’s not hard to find. The Hornets have played well for most of almost every game this season. That’s a weird sentence, but it tells the truth. Thursday’s emotional game against the Celtics was the only Hornets loss where the team trailed by more than three points at halftime. This team can play with anybody for two or three quarters. Finishing the deal as fatigue sets in is where a young team like the Hornets is always going to struggle, and those struggles are what separate the good from the bad in the NBA.
So the Hornets aren’t good. But they’ve established that they’re fun, and that’s all we can ask for in what was always destined to be a losing season. While we look ahead to the future, we can enjoy the present and the glimpses into that future that we get for about 24 to 36 minutes of every game.