Christmas Day is for family, presents, fine food, bright lights…
And a little freak-out if you’re an irritated Charlotte Hornets fan.
Around 5 p.m. Monday, the Hornets announced that rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon were being sent to Greensboro to play for the G-League Swarm. Door-to-door, Charlotte to Greensboro is 92 miles. However, based on the reaction on Twitter, Monk and Bacon had been exiled to Antarctica.
Roughly half the responses sent to me portrayed this G-League assignment as direct evidence how badly managed the Hornets are. I totally understand any and all frustration – and downright anger – over the Hornets’ miserable 12-21 record. I have questioned whether the parts on this roster fit together, and if the playoff chase is already kaput.
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But I don’t think sending Monk and Bacon (who couldn’t make it because of travel hassle) up I-85 for an afternoon matinee at the Greensboro Coliseum significantly reflects on this franchise positively or negatively. It’s just exercising an opportunity for two young guys who aren’t playing to get some minutes on a practice day for the Hornets.
The sub-text of this kvetching is clear: How Monk, the 11th overall pick in June’s draft, is used has become the flashpoint for general resentment over the Hornets’ disappointing results.
Monk drew a lot of attention, and understandably so, in his one season at Kentucky, he had some spectacular scoring games. His coach, John Calipari, told me Monk’s skill set was unique in the 2017 draft.
“He’s special,” Calipari said, “in that he’s got a spirit about him, a confidence about him, a swagger about him.”
We’ve seen glimpses, as in when Monk scored 25 points in a home victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Nov. 1. But lately, Monk and Bacon have mostly sat and watched. Associate head coach Stephen Silas shortened the rotation after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Dec. 9. Silas said this is a time to prioritize chasing wins over developing youngsters - that minutes shouldn’t be “gifted.”
Many of you feel otherwise, and I get why. Monk represents hope and excitement at a time when there isn’t much buzz at Spectrum Center home games. Last week, in a deathly-dull loss to the Toronto Raptors, the biggest cheer of the night (and the bar was low on cheers) came when Monk was sent into the game.
Monk played 14 minutes against the Raptors, the most he’s played in the Hornets’ last seven games. The Hornets next play the Boston Celtics Wednesday, before a four-game West Coast trip. I assume this Greensboro assignment is a one-game thing for Monk..
This isn’t a demotion, and it certainly isn’t punishment. The function of the Swarm – nearby location, run the same offensive and defensive systems as the Hornets – is this sort of assignment. Veteran Hornets guards Julyan Stone and Michael Carter-Williams have made the trip to Greensboro this season for a practice or game.
Monk playing a game in the G-League isn’t below him. When Monk’s minutes were first reduced, a reflection of his defensive struggles, I asked him if he was upset. Monk went out of his way to say this is what being an NBA rookie is, and it didn’t faze him.
He’s 19 , and when the Hornets drafted him they were well aware he was undersized at 6-foot-3 to be a shooting guard. He has plenty of time to figure this out. The first three months of a rookie season do not define an NBA destiny.
The Hornets are eight games away from the season’s midpoint. If something doesn’t improve quickly – and that’s unlikely with an impending West Coast trip – then it makes sense to lean minutes more toward development.
But it’s a little too soon to gift minutes. And way too soon to freak out over a day trip to Greensboro.