The Charlotte Hornets’ arrival at good health lasted all of one half Friday.
For the first time this season, no one in the Hornets’ rotation was hurt. Steve Clifford could coach as he intended back in October. This was going to feel like a luxury after all the nicks and bruises this team has endured.
And then, in the third quarter, power forward Marvin Williams was rolling around the floor, clutching his left knee in obvious agony. He hobbled to the bench area and fell flat on his back on the edge of the court, with an expression of sadness and fear.
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The initial diagnosis is a hyper-extended knee. This could have been a lot worse, but still this is problematic. The Hornets plan to list Williams as doubtful for Saturday’s rematch with the New York Knicks at Spectrum Center.
If Marvin Williams is out for any significant length of time, we’re going to see just how important he is to this team.
If Williams is out for any significant length of time, we’re going to see just how important he is to this team. He’s been inconsistent as a shooter so far this season, but his wide-spectrum defensive skills are crucial, particularly for the Hornets’ ability to switch defenders on mid-sized scorers.
Frank Kaminsky, Williams’ backup at power forward, is improving all the time. But he certainly isn’t Williams, in terms of athleticism, knowledge and experience. Kaminsky struggled to guard the Knicks’ 7-foot-3 emerging star, Kristaps Porzingis. Kaminsky also traveled twice for two of the Hornets’ 13 turnovers.
All that factored into the Knicks’ 113-111 overtime victory, dropping the Hornets to 8-7.
They are now on a four-game losing streak. The cushion of an 8-3 start has been all but extinguished by recent events.
It’s not like other teams don’t have injuries, too. But the beauty of this game was finally a chance to see what the Hornets can be with a full pallet.
The odd thing is the Hornets are not playing poorly. Wednesday’s home loss to the San Antonio Spurs was about as well executed by both teams as regular-season NBA basketball gets. Friday’s game in New York was close and compelling and the Hornets at one time led the Knicks by 13 points.
But the Hornets haven’t been the same since that home victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Point guard Kemba Walker, who is easily the most important player on this roster, looks tired. He picked up two quick fouls Friday, and though he had a huge 3-point play off a layup and free throw late in this game, he hasn’t been dominant of late.
The promising thing about Friday was the Hornets finally were healthy. I asked Clifford about that pre-game, specifically what effect never having the same players available each game was having.
Clifford thinks it’s impossible for a team to reach its potential without some sense of continuity. He says when a player doesn’t know from game to game when he’ll play, how much he’ll play and with whom he will play, it undermines performance.
I certainly get his point. Between Cody Zeller, Roy Hibbert and Jeremy Lamb, the Hornets have lost some important pieces for multiple games.
It’s not like other teams don’t have injuries, too. But the beauty of this game was finally a chance to see what they can be with a full pallet.
It might be a while before we get to witness that again. The limp with which Williams walked off the court looked a little ominous.