Well, this is the end. No matter what the Hornets did against the Orlando Magic in the last game of the season, it wouldn’t be enough. The Hornets needed to either win out and hope the Pistons lose one game or go 1-1 and hope the Pistons go 0-2 in their last two games. This meant the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies had to pull of an upset against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday to help the Hornets chances. That didn’t happen because despite the Grizzlies holding a 21-point second half lead with Blake Griffin hobbled, the Pistons managed to win 100-93.
The attention then turned to the New York Knicks, who finished this season with the worst record in the NBA. Once again, the Hornets didn’t get the help they needed from the Knicks. The Pistons clinched the playoffs with a 115-89 road win over the New York Knicks in the last game of the regular season. I hope no one legitimately thought the Knicks were going to save the Hornets season. Oh wait:
All of these results meant that even if the Hornets won against the Magic (which they didn’t), they’d miss the playoffs for the third season in a row. It’s fitting that former Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford and former point guards D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams ended the Hornets season while laughing their way to the playoffs.
Watching Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb go for 43 and 22 points respectively in what could’ve been their final games as Charlotte Hornets is fitting as well. Watching the ESPN telecast continue to update the score of the Pistons-Knicks game as the final game of the season went on was extreme torture.
A myriad of things happened to the Hornets this season that caused them to miss the playoffs. It was more of the same from the previous two seasons: results in close games, taking care of business against teams you should win against, getting some wins against playoff teams, and winning games when Kemba goes crazy. How did the Hornets do in these situations? The answer is quite telling:
The Hornets lost to the Hawks, Bulls, Cavs, Knicks, Mavericks (twice), Lakers (twice), Heat (twice in March), Nets (twice), Kings, Timberwolves, Wizards, and Sixers (four extremely depressing times)… 19 games where if 9 or 10 of them go the Hornets way, they’re in the playoffs— Stri:(a (@StrikaNation24_) April 11, 2019
This just shows you how close the Hornets were to making the playoffs, but it also shows you why they’re undeserving of a spot. The 2018-19 season was a failure of just about everyone involved starting at the top with Hornets owner Michael Jordan. It turns out the second half of the 2015-2016 season turned this franchise in the wrong direction. That’s what led to the Hornets running it back with most of the core that made the playoffs that year.
Nicolas Batum, the highest paid player on the team, had the same amount of 20 point games and zero point games (three of each) this season. Bismack Biyombo, the second highes paid player, didn’t do anything of substance. For the second straight year, Cody Zeller was unable to stay on the court due to a plethora of health issues. Tony Parker was practically a San Antonio Spur for the second half of the season. The Hornets fan base was amazed when the coaching staff finally found out that Dwayne Bacon and Miles Bridges are pretty alright at basketball.
Even then, the Hornets were relatively healthy as a team this season with the exception of Zeller. Walker played all 82 games and gave it his all every night even when he struggled (and yes, he’s had some bad nights as well as the good ones). Bridges played in 80 games and Lamb played in 79 of them. It is just another part of why it’s been a disappointing season to say the least. Teams with that amount of talent while being healthy in the eastern conference would likely make the playoffs, but unfortunately not this team.
Everything that the fans of the Queen City have been arguing over all season has now culminated in this turning point for the Charlotte Hornets. This is for all the times Kemba had a teammate starting alongside him that didn’t score in the game. It’s also for the many different times the fan base has seen “#FreeKemba” or “the Charlotte Hornets don’t deserve Kemba” all season. The questions have now officially begun.
What’s next for this team knowing that Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb are now unrestricted free agents? How will the organization improve knowing they’re most likely heading elsewhere? This offseason will bring a lot of uncertainty to the fans that have continued to support this team through depressing times. If this season the last of the Kemba Walker era, he didn’t fail anyone. The Charlotte Hornets failed him and have no one to blame, but themselves.
The Charlotte Hornets should regret every close game that they should’ve won. Because of fitting results like the season-ending loss to the Magic, they’ll likely suffer the consequences this summer because of it. It’s up to the organization to right the ship of what will be a long, immense struggle that is on the horizon. This is what you get for losing to lottery teams, not being good enough to beat playoff teams, and having multiple overpaid players who consistently fail to live up to the expectations of their contracts. The Hornets deserve this and they need to better in a hurry.