Since LaMelo Ball's arrival in Buzz City, the Hornets have been nothing short of subpar. Obviously, fans see the potential with the young core in Charlotte, but it never really did anything more significant than the play-in tournament. In two years of the LaMelo era in Charlotte, the Hornets have a record of 76-78 and were the 10th seed in both seasons. In both play-in tournaments, the Hornets have lost by a whopping total of 56 points to the Pacers and Hawks.
Last season, the Hornets went past the 40-win column for the first time since having an All-Star caliber player in Kemba Walker in 2016, winning 43 games, ten more wins than the previous season. Needless to say, lady luck hasn't been on their side, and Charlotte hasn't been able to crack the playoff bracket in six years.
After reaching the play-ins for the consecutive season last year, Buzz City has done little to no buzz this offseason. Unfortunately for them, LaMelo Ball's jersey number change has been the only one buzzing in the likes of media. From players making bad decisions to decisions inside the front office, here are five reasons why the Hornets are nowhere near making some noise:
The Great Fumble
Ah yes, the fumble of a player named Miles Bridges. On the eve of free agency, June 29, Bridges was arrested in Los Angeles on a felony domestic violence warrant, the LAPD confirmed with ESPN. Bridges were released later on a $130k bond, and both the league and the Hornets were reportedly aware of the situation and were said to be in the process of gathering information.
Bridges' wife, Mychelle Johnson, spoke about the injuries and the inexcusable abuse she received from the player, stating the experience of "being choked until I went to sleep" and having concussions, along with traumatizing his own children. This situation is far more severe than basketball, and in no way should anyone tolerate this kind of behavior.
Unfortunately for Miles, his reckless decisions may have jeopardized his future in the league. Bridges, 24, was the Hornets' leading scorer last season, averaging 20.2 PPG, and was hunting a max contract this offseason, but right now, that seems like an impossible deal for him. Bridges reportedly pleaded not guilty last week in his first trial for the felony, and the case will be continued on August 19. Bridges' actions extend its consequences to the Hornets team as they lose their leading scorer while gaining nothing but bad press.
More Troubles With the Law
Another player that had problems with the law is Montrezl Harrell. Harrell, 28, reportedly faces up to five years in prison after a felony drug charge. Authorities in Richmond, Ky, said to have found bags of marijuana in his car during a traffic stop. Harrell reportedly "admitted" to having it while getting small amounts from his sweatpants. Per The Washington Post, in Kentucky, what Harrell did is considered to be a Class D felony — carrying around eight or more ounces but less than five pounds of the substance. This felony results in a fine ranging from $1K to $10K and could face imprisonment for one to five years.
The seven-year veteran was a mid-season acquisition for the Hornets team looking to bolster their big man rotation. Harrell was fantastic for Washington last season before getting traded; many fans have even chanted "MVP," and surprisingly, he was in the running for it early in the season. Harrell averaged 11 Points and 5 rebounds in the 25 games he played for the Hornets last season. Despite the allegations, Harrell was seen playing in the Pro-Am Drew League earlier this week as he dropped a 31 Points, 9 Rebound – performance.
Now Harrell may not be a big loss for the Hornets, but his situation just adds up to the piling issues of the players in town. Another name that came up frequently in headlines last season is PJ Washington, who has to pay $200K child support after splitting with ex-wife Brittany Renner. Renner took it to social media in, where she stated:
"The worst people to deal with are athletes."
Renner also added how she knew what would eventually happen with a younger Washington. PJ has been an essential part of Charlotte's young core and has logged on an average of 29 minutes a game since entering the league in 2019.
This offseason was a ride for Charlotte. Although being unable to add some more talent in free agency, the Hornets were in for a trade and a personnel change. Charlotte brought back former coach Steve Clifford, who coached the team from 2013 to 2018, to replace James Borrego as Borrego failed to guide the team to a far more respectable situation.
Now, Clifford was definitely the first choice for the job since Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson was supposedly taking over the team but backed out after Golden State won the title. Mike D'Antoni was also rumored to be a candidate for the job but never gained traction. Atkinson would have been the perfect fit for the young Hornets team as many remember him bringing the young and hungry 2019 Nets team to an overachieving 42-40 record and a playoff berth, which none expected.
Clifford is an experienced and respected coach in the league, but his track record may be a problem for Charlotte. When he coached the franchise from' 13-'18, he had a record of 196-214 while getting the team to the playoffs twice. When Orlando hired him in 2018, he had a record of 96-131 for three seasons and two playoff berths.
In the middle of the 2022 NBA Draft, Shams Charania and Adrian Wojnarowski confused fans with a trade that included the Hornets. Charlotte had just drafted big man Jalen Duren from Memphis with the 13th pick, and Duren was perfect for them as they were looking for a big man for their already improving young core. In his only college year, Duren averaged 12 Points, 8 Rebounds, and just around 2 Blocks a game.
After the pick, Charania tweeted that Duren was going to the Knicks in a trade, while Wojnarowski tweeted he was going to the Pistons. In the end, Duren headed to the Pistons, while both the Knicks and the Hornets received draft compensations. And of course, the Hornets had another pick at 15th; they chose Duke big man Mark Williams, who averaged 10 Points, 6 Rebounds, and 2 Blocks in his two years with Duke.
Obviously, as draft talent goes, Duren and Williams aren't far from each other. Fans were already loving the Duren pick, as some people see him as a better prospect, and fans take their frustrations from settling on future draft assets rather than keeping a highly-valued Duren, who will now complete an amazing young core in Detroit.
Young, Wild, & Free
When it comes to players making the headlines off-the-court, count on the Hornets. Now what players do in their off-days is always their business, but the Hornet's young guys seem to be making a name for themselves out there. With Miles Bridges' rapping and sipping "grape juice", Scary Terry putting out gang signs, PJ Washington being called out on social media, and LaMelo doing all sorts of things, this might start to become their identity; nothing wrong with it, obviously, just might be a little concerning being a winning team in the future as maturity needs to kick in soon.
That doesn't seem to affect how they play, nonetheless, as they still play great despite the off-court lifestyle. Ball, in his second season, tallied almost 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists per game, while being a first-time All-Star for Charlotte last year. Rozier was their third-leading scorer averaging 19 a game, while Oubre averaged 15 points per game. This young core will no doubt continue to develop, and maturity will definitely come along as a part of their growth, but right now, this "young, wild, and free" is where they are at.
A Charlotte team with a young and upcoming point guard, with a couple of players averaging double digits, led by Steve Clifford. Sounds familiar? I don't know about you guys, but the Hornets are in a loop. That is exactly what they built in the 2013 season when Clifford first took charge. A 23-year-old Kemba Walker who averaged 18 a game and a record of 43-39. Of course, the Hornets would go to the playoffs twice in Clifford's tenure, but it doesn't change the fact that we have no idea what direction this team is heading as of this moment, besides putting LaMelo Ball in charge.
Kemba would go on to leave the Hornets in 2019, but as per reports earlier this week, Charlotte may be looking at a reunion with the 32-year-old guard. To take a look back, after he got to Boston, Walker said he felt good about winning even if he was struggling because of the talent around him. Walker would be solid behind Ball and reunited with Clifford, as it didn't work out with Boston and New York.
If this current situation proves to be just a loop of what was Charlotte a few years ago, then the fans better be worried, as well as Michael Jordan. So the Hornets must address what kind of team they want to be simply because their recent seasons are as subpar as possible. Handing the keys to LaMelo at his age may be a risk, but already being an all-star with his talent, it's a risk anyone would take.