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Week 15 Preview: Hard Times

Last week was one of the most up and down weeks in Hornets History. Consider

Charlotte sets franchise scoring record in route of Wizards
Steve Clifford returned for his first game Wednesday since December 1. Coach has had some health concerns and it was great to see him back. The team seemed inspired by his presence, setting a franchise record for points in a half with 77. Charlotte shot 65% from the field is what was easiest the best offense showing of the season. Things were going so right, even Dwight was nailing free throws! Things were looking up!

Reports circulate that Kemba Walker is on the trade block
We can’t have nice things, can we? Shortly after it looked like Charlotte was primed to make a playoff push, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Hornets had made All-Star Kemba Walker available in trade talks. Reports were that Charlotte, dangerously close to the luxury tax line, had not been unable to find any takers for other large contracts and therefore was willing to attach Walker to one of those contracts to move them for cap relief.

The Hornets are in a tough situation. They clearly wanted to make the playoffs this season. But injuries and a tough schedule have put them currently out of the picture. The Hornets, with their guaranteed contracts for next season, plus the cost of next year’s first round pick, and the required amount of minimum contracts, will be over the luxury tax threshold. Michael Jordan is probably not interested in paying the luxury tax for a team that best case scenario is the 7th or 8th seed.

Charlotte is doing the smart thing in seeing if they can move some of those contracts. Moving a contract, at the cost of Kemba, would probably be a mistake. He is the best player in franchise history. In the age of players wanting to move to better teams or bigger markets, Kemba seems committed to Charlotte. If a team like Cleveland dangled the Brooklyn pick and offered cap relief, Charlotte would have to listen. But baring a trade like that Charlotte should hold on to the Captain.

Our own Spencer Percy was recently on WFNZ to discuss the Walker situation. Check out his take here.

Hornets suffer stunning loss to Miami in late game collapse

Charlotte came out sluggish, almost like something that was being rumored was distracting them. But Charlotte came back, and got control in the second half. Nic Batum played maybe his best game of the season, and it looked like Charlotte was on track for a second straight home win. But Charlotte, up 5 with 30 seconds left, could not convert baskets and turned the ball over down the stretch. Dwight Howard committed an awful foul with .2 seconds left, Miami converted the back end of two free throws and escaped with a stunning 1 point win. It was one of the most stunning loses in franchise history. Coach Clifford was not happy.

This Week
It’s so hard to gauge this team right now. They played so well Wednesday, but the distractions of trade rumors seemed to affect this team against Miami. The team has the talent to make a playoff push, but it will be difficult for the players to buy in on a run if they don’t feel the front office is. The next three games are at home, before a road game Saturday. Two of the games are against opponents ranked bottom in their respective conferences. Charlotte needs to win 3 of these games this week to get the good vibes back.
Monday, January 22nd, 7 PM: vs Kings (13-32)
Charlotte leads the season series 1-0
Wednesday, January 24th, 7 PM: vs Pelicans (24-21)
This is the first match-up of the season
Friday, January 26th, 7 PM: vs Hawks (13-32)
Charlotte lead the season series 1-0
Saturday, January 27th, 7:30 PM: at Heat (27-19)
Charlotte trails the season series 0-3