I’m quitting my job of 7+ years in a month. In an attempt to not get depressed, I’m going to get back to doing things I used to love. Like writing. So I’m going write up my thoughts on the Hornets and post my ramblings here. I haven’t decided how frequent they’ll be, what I’ll write about, or how long they’ll be. Oh, and I haven’t named it yet either. Here’s the first one. I accidentally got a little long winded.
At no point in Charlotte Hornets (and Bobcats) history had I ever felt so completely detached and indifferent. I’ve felt angry, perpetually disappointed, let down, heartbroken, disgusted, and fleeting moments of hope. During this low, I even had the off limits, “no-no” Charlotte Hornets fan thought. Yes, you know what I’m about to say before you even read it.
“This dysfunctional front office and organization deserves to be relocated again. And I don’t care. I really don’t.”
Yes, that one. That was late summer 2022, and it was the lowest point of my career as a Hornets/Bobcats fan. My fandom was left for dead without a pulse, with a do-not-resuscitate order-like many other Charlotte Hornets fans just like me. Before I delve into the present and future, let’s take a look at the moments leading up to the death of my fandom. Feel free to skip this part if you need a break from Charlotte ineptitude and the misery that accompanies it.
Otherwise…Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will soon begin our descent into despondency. As we drop altitude, you may feel the cold grasp of despair; please refrain from vomiting directly onto your computer, smart phone, or whatever electronic device you’re reading this article on. Buckle up.
February 5th: James on James Friendly Fire. James Bouknight had a little “Hold Me Back” moment with coach James Borrego. All great signs that things are going well, right?
February 10th: The Trade Deadline Blues. Still no center. After much chatter, trade rumors, and the same names ran through the rumor mill-still no center. This team perpetually feels like it’s a center short of being anything other than mediocre. Year after year after year. And this year will be no different.
April 13th: The Play-in Debacle. Another underachieving season. The second straight season that ends with a 30 point wimper of a play-in game blow out to a Hawks team that the Hornets just recently beat a month ago, and completely shut down Trae Young in the process. But it gets worse. Unknowingly, it would also be Miles Bridges’s last game in a Hornets uniform. More on this later. Oh, there’s more misery here. A game where Miles was ultimately ejected after a technical foul. There’s still more misery. He was also fined $50,000 by the NBA for hitting a little girl with the mouthguard he chucked into the Atlanta crowd on his way out. Miles Bridges, once a beloved homegrown talent; one of the rare Charlotte developmental success stories, who was prepped to receive a near max contract in the upcoming offseason had just played his final game in a Charlotte Hornets uniform. Unknowingly, his inglorious ejection and mouthguard incident served as an omen for the events to follow.
April 22nd: James Borrego Gets The Axe. The franchise has missed the playoffs for 6 straight seasons and with two consecutive 30 point play-in blowouts, it was time. I personally feel that Borrego lost the locker room and didn’t possess the discipline or leadership qualities needed for a young, developing team. We’ll circle back to locker room culture, accountability, and discipline as this story progresses.
June 6th: Just Kidding Guys, It’s Just Pink Lemonade. Miles Bridges decided it’s a good idea to post a picture of purple drink and a pre rolled joint on the socials. No Miles, no one believes that drink is just pink lemonade. It’s fucking lean my dude. This is a brazenly stupid move for a guy poised to sign a near max (or max) extension from either the Hornets or someone else in the immediate future.
June 10th: Hello Kenny Atkinson! Many of us actually kind of wanted Mike D’Antoni, but cool! Someone actually wants to coach here! And they’ve won things before!
June 13th: Honda Pilot. It’s reported that in May, Montrezl Harrell was arrested for felony marijuana trafficking charges in Kentucky for being stopped in a rental car possessing THREE POUNDS of marijuana. The car was a rental Honda Pilot. Trez’ doesn’t seem like a Honda Pilot guy. He faces up to 5 years in prison for these charges. I do not care how anyone feels about the marijuana decriminalization or legalization issue-traveling around with THREE POUNDS of weed will still be a legal problem, and is just incredibly stupid. If he’s not trafficking or distributing, why is he toting it around in a rental car? And why a Honda Pilot? They could’ve rented something nicer than a Honda Pilot. Sure, you want to be a nondescript drug mule, but we can do better.
June 18th: Bye Kenny Atkinson! “Family reasons”. And a leaked rumor about the Hornets forcing Atkinson to retain all the assistant coach to save face and attempt to shift the blame to the Hornets via bad publicity. On the brightside, Mike D’Antoni could be the silver living here! The draft is less than a week away, and the Hornets still don’t have a coach. Yikes. It if sounds like no one really wants this job, it’s probably because no one really wants this job. And I’m sure Mike D’Antoni wanted to be paid like the Saudi’s dumping endless money into Jared Kushner’s bank account.
June 23rd: The Draft Night Debacle. The excitement, confusion, disbelief, disappointment all in a span of about 15-20 minutes. The stages of grief in such rapid succession, only achievable by the feats of the Charlotte Hornets front office. Duren, the big man with the highest developmental ceiling and projected to go as high as pick 7, drops right into this miserable franchise’s lap at pick 11. The Hornets immediately trade the best big man prospect for a late 1st rounder and a smattering of future 2nd round picks. And then draft Mark Williams. Enjoy the misery. Duren’s first NBA game: 22 minutes, 14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks. Jalen Duren in an average of 21 minutes per game has put up 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 1+ blocks. Mark Williams has played 5 total minutes.
June 24th: Clifford, Steve Clifford. We’re approaching peak misery after the Clifford hiring. But there’s more.
June 30th: Miles Bridges Is Dead To Me. We know what happened, and in effort to be as direct as I can be without mincing words, here are the charges: “District Attorney George Gascon said his office filed one felony count of injuring a child’s parent and two felony counts of child abuse under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death. According to the DA’s release, the case “includes an allegation of causing great bodily injury on the domestic violence victim.” The DA’s release noted that the children were present for the alleged assault but did not otherwise specify what the child abuse counts stemmed from.” It doesn’t matter when he did it, as the basketball and business sides of this are the least important things here, but it was on the eve of free agency. This is the part that scares me the most. Miles is on the cusp of one of the biggest moments in his life, and this is the state his mind was in? The extent and intensity of these charges make it very clear that this wasn’t his first time crossing the line. I’m sorry to break it to people, but this has been happening for a while-and it escalated.
I’m sure there are things that I am ignorant of within the CBA that probably prevented the Hornets organization from commenting on a tenuous legal proceeding, but I still think that the franchise handled the Miles situation poorly. I wanted to see more. I wanted to see leadership. I wanted to see courage. I wanted to see accountability. I wanted to see a disciplined mindset and a strong organizational culture that does not tolerate something such as beating women-and publicly takes a stand. Remember in the “James Borrego Gets the Axe” section when I commented on the locker room culture, lack of accountability and discipline? And said that we’d revisit those issues? We’re revisiting it now. Team culture is largely influenced by and is often the byproduct of the leadership that makes the decisions, creates the environment, and sets the tone for values, ideals, and identity. I’m not necessarily saying that leadership (or lack thereof) created a team culture that encouraged Miles Bridges to beat women. I’m saying that I want a strong team culture that weeds this shit out. I want to cheer for an organization that takes a stand, has some courage, and seeks high quality human beings with high quality character. This needs to be a top down process. The organization had a chance to set a fucking standard, but their resounding silence failed in a pivotal moment. They said nothing and did nothing. Denounce beating women, help raise and donate money to DV shelters, and pull the offer on Miles and cut ties.
As this past season unraveled, I saw this Charlotte Hornets team reach a new level of ineptitude, both on and off the basketball court. It extended into the offseason, which may have been the worst, most disastrous sequence of events for this franchise anyone could have ever imagined. This is when I reached a dangerous point in my Hornets fandom. Morale lower than low, and respect fading; I had the thought: “This dysfunctional front office and organization deserves to be relocated again. And I don’t care. I really don’t.”
October 27th: Who would have thought a 2-2 team coming off a rugged OT loss to the Knicks (playing without LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges) would emotionally move the needle for anyone in this fanbase? I’ve written 1,600 words today and I’m in absolute disbelief that this team has pulled me back in. How did they do it? Come back next week, I’ll tell you all about it.