2019-20 Previews: Charlotte Hornets

MKG doing…something. Shooting? It can’t be shooting, right?

Losses: They lost Jeremy Lamb, and Tony Parker retired, but the loss that is sending them from mediocrity into a kind of experiment in talentlessness is Kemba Walker.

Additions: They signed (really acquired in a sign-and-trade with Boston) Terry Rozier to a ludicrous 3 year/$57M contract (at least it descends each year?). They drafted PJ Washington, who is actually kinda promising. They also picked up Cody and Caleb Martin (twins!), and given the dearth of promise on this team, those guys might actually get some chances this season.

Likely Starters
Guard: Terry Rozier, Dwayne Bacon (can Malik Monk play alongside Rozier?)
Wing: Nic Batum, Marvin Williams (Miles Bridges is in the mix, too)
Big: Cody Zeller

Predicted Record: 19–63 | 30th in NBA | 15th in East

I mean, listen, he might actually be good, right?

When it comes to finding meaning in the world around us, perhaps we tend to gloss over how much of the work is done by our ability to discern general patterns. I think about this sometimes when I am following a trail in the woods. On even a pretty well-marked trail, one inevitably, at least once, finds oneself momentarily blind to the next trail marker. Generally, one knows where to go anyway, takes a few hopeful, probing steps, and then, sure enough, there it is: a blaze of yellow on a tree, a pile of stones artfully arranged on a stump, something. In moments of deeper reflection, I can’t help but think: what if there was nothing? What then?

It is alarmingly true that the world generally tells us what we’re supposed to make of it; as such, the majority of our opinions—even those that feel most personally identifiable to us—are given to us over the long course of our socialization within that world. What this means is that most of what counts as conventional wisdom ends up going entirely unchecked; our assumptions are so dearly and thoughtlessly held as to be nearly unregistered by us as assumptions.

If we were vulnerable forest creatures, one thing that would be obvious to us is that anything we’re not noticing might have the potential to kill us. Predators have to sneak up on prey, right? Why are they able to do that? You only notice what you’re capable of noticing, and the whole rest of the universe is made up of blind spots. If you think about it this way, a living thing’s ability to go on living could be said to depend on its ability to widen the scope of what it is able to perceive. Challenging assumptions isn’t just morally beneficial; it is essential to survival.

Now consider you are a fan of the Charlotte Hornets. The team you root for is at this moment almost entirely devoid of rotation-caliber NBA talent. Where would the best player on this team at the moment rank on a list of the best players in the NBA? 100th? 200th? Who even is that player? Terry Rozier? Marvin Williams? I believe this team—when it comes to winning and losing—has a chance to be one of the worst basketball teams we have ever seen, and what’s worse, there is almost nothing here to hope for. Maybe Malik Monk becomes a competent NBA scorer? Maybe Miles Bridges is good?

And yet, because we know that our very survival depends on our ability to try to broaden our perspective, it is incumbent upon us to try thinking about this in a different way. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville wrote:

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all.—Why then do you try to “enlarge” your mind? Subtilize it.

Here we are reminded that broadening our perspective is about subtlety. As a Hornets fan, you must subtilize your fandom. Could there be something to find joy in beyond winning? Something beyond, even, the hope of future winning? What might we be missing in all of this?

Whale with the bemused expression of a 2019-20 Hornets fan no longer under the tyrannical spell of caring about winning.

The answer, I think, is simply the sport itself. At the bottom of everything, beneath all the schemes and sets and salary cap sheets, there is basketball. There is simply the fact that there is a game to watch, and players playing in it. It might be the case that all of our attention to what we conceive of as success is distracting us from what might be an even greater joy. I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing that at times this summer it has felt like the conversation around basketball has moved further and further away from the game itself. In Charlotte this season, this absolutely garbage roster will serve as a kind of experiment in what basketball is when there is no meaning in it whatsoever beyond the fact that it is happening. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing whether I can enjoy it.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s