If you haven’t been paying attention to how the NBA season has played out so far over the last few months, then you haven’t been keeping a close eye on what may be one of the biggest surprises of the league over the last few months. The Charlotte Hornets have started to find their “swagger”, and are starting to make a lot of noise in a competitive Eastern Conference that is somewhat wide open over the last few weeks, and they continued their impressive rise last night thanks to a 106-103 win over the Miami Heat on the road in what was indeed one of the biggest regular-season games in the 26-year history of the Charlotte Hornets franchise, and ironically, that was good enough to place them tied for third in the Eastern Conference, and tied for second in the Southeast Division standings, meaning that the Hornets are in a good position to possibly capture not only its very first Division title ever in franchise history(since 1988-89), but making the playoffs for the third time since 2014, their 10th overall in Charlotte NBA history.
For those wondering if this year’s Hornets team isn’t like the Hornet teams that constantly won regularly and making playoff appearances during the 90’s, well you’re wrong. This year’s edition of the Charlotte Hornets has been playing some of the best basketball Charlotte NBA fans haven’t seen in a while, and they’ve been getting the job done with a talented roster that has the will and commitment to play hard and win night in and night out, and having so much resiliency to come back to win tight games when it matters the most. Entering this season, the Hornets wanted to put last season’s collapse behind them and to start out with a fresh slate and agenda in an attempt to prove themselves to the rest of the league that they wanted to be the team to beat, and they had to to do it without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the early portions of the season, and yet, they’re doing it again without MKG, who has been out with a torn labrum since February, meaning that Kemba Walker, who has started to gain a lot of confidence to carry the load for Charlotte, has to step it up in MKG’s absence, and he has been doing it right. Walker currently leads the team with 21.4 points per game, and Nic Batum has been doing his job as well to help the Hornets whenever they can, averaging 14.8 points per game, which is good for second on the Hornets so far with less than 14 games remaining in the regular season.
The biggest surprise we have seen out of the Hornets this season, has got to be their bench, known as “Bench Force One”, and they have a secret weapon that has been giving light to the Charlotte bench in “Big Al” Jefferson, who had 21 points to go with 10 rebounds in last night’s win, and despite losing the starting center job to Cody Zeller, Jefferson has started to be a lot more comfortable being a reserve player off the bench for Charlotte, along with Jeremy Lin, Troy Daniels, Frank Kaminsky, and a deep bench that constantly gets the job done right.
Another surprise: Courtney Lee. Charlotte acquired lee in a three-team trade last month, and he too has started to make a name for himself in purple and teal, and in just 14 games since arriving to the Hornets, he has been contributing well to the team’s offense, which is in the top 10 in the league averaging 103.3 points per game in 68 games played so far, and Lee is only averaging just 9.1 points per game, but he still has plenty of games left to go to help Charlotte continue it’s solid play.
This city has been hungry for a contender in the NBA for a while, and what we have been seeing from the Hornets lately has been something this city has to get excited about since the Panthers run to the Super Bowl this past season, and if you were around during the Hornets heyday, then through the ups and downs of the Bobcats, and to the return of the Hornets since last season, then you know that this year’s edition of the Charlotte Hornets is something special to watch and fun to talk about, and with the 2015-16 starting to hit the homestretch, it’s time for this city to sit back, buckle up, and hold on tight for what may be a deep run in the NBA playoffs come April.