Sports

Oh no MJ, please don’t even think about trading for Russell Westbrook


Michael, we are begging you to look elsewhere for help.

Michael, we are begging you to look elsewhere for help.
Image: Getty Images

MJ, please don’t do this.

You have one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA. LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges are far from the best duo in the NBA, but they are the most fun to watch. The broadcast team, Eric Collins and Dell Curry, are the perfect ringmasters for the high-wire act that Charlotte and League Pass addicts are embracing.

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Why would you ruin this by bringing in Russell Westbrook?

Marc Stein is reporting he’s heard from league insiders that the Charlotte Hornets are a team that has some interest in Westbrook. Come on Mike. You don’t need the expiring contract, your team is on the rise. And you certainly don’t need the headache that Westbrook will bring, with media attention for all the wrong reasons.

You already have two guards that aren’t as dependable on defense as you need them to be in Ball and Terry Rozier. At least they can shoot. I know guard depth is a concern for the Hornets, Isaiah Thomas has been averaging 13.8 minutes a game since they signed him, but Westbrook ain’t the answer. Plus, there is no way that Westbrook is going to be interested in playing a bit part for the Charlotte Hornets. In public he handled the few times that he got benched in crunch time well this past season, but that was with the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James. There’s no way he responds well to watching Rozier close games, much less coming off the bench behind him.

For all of the fun highlights that are accompanied by Collins’ enthusiasm, the Hornets do need to make some changes. It’s unfortunate that Gordon Hayward has missed virtually the entire second half of the season, because he was playing well. He was another playmaker on offense and also averaging 15.9 points per game on 45.9/39.1/84.6 shooting splits. The last game that he was effective in was Jan. 21, when he tallied 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a blowout win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the time they were seventh in the Eastern Conference and six games over .500. However, the Hornets should know they can’t depend on Hayward to be healthy all season. The only season since that ugly injury he suffered in his first game with the Boston Celtics in which he’s played the overwhelming majority of the games was 2018-19, and he was coming off of the bench.

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The Hornets are a 10th seed in the play-in tournament for a second-consecutive season, but it’s still an improvement. Last season, they were six games under .500. As of today they are one game over, and are assured of their first 40-win season since 2015-16. Progress is happening even though changes are necessary.

Those changes mostly need to come on defense. They currently have the sixth-worst defensive rating in the NBA. Even if they do win enough games to avoid the play-in next season that’s not anywhere near good enough to compete in the playoffs. They need to pair a 3-and-D guard next to Ball, and also need a big to protect the paint. Mason Plumlee is a very good athlete, but he can’t anchor a defense like Bam Adebayo, or even Robert Williams. A change there is necessary, and so is continued improvement from the electric Miles Bridges who has the potential to be an all-defensive player as long as he consistently remains engaged on that end of the floor.

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It’s all there for Jordan to get the one thing that has eluded him as a basketball executive and owner, a competitive team. We all know he badly wants it, and the Hornets are only a few moves away with Ball quickly becoming one of the better players in the NBA. He just needs to show some patience.

I know after watching The Last Dance that may not seem possible, but the Hornets are in the beginning stages of team development. Jordan was there once with the Bulls. After he got there, it took them five seasons to become a championship contender. Ball is only in his second season.

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It may be tempting to try and shortcut the process by bringing in Westbrook, but he’s only going to get worse. Every single day he gets further and further away from the rim-rocking, triple-double collecting torpedo that he used to be. Taking him on in the last season of his contract would be throwing away a year of growth for nothing but cap space after it’s all over.

Mike, this team has it. They have a real shot to do something great. Ball is an all-star in year two, and the team’s record has greatly improved over last year’s. I’m sure you want a veteran presence, but Westbrook is not it. Don’t ruin one of the best shows on T.V. with this move. Just take a deep breath after the season, try as hard as possible not to obsess over the Sprint Cup Series, enjoy some Cincoro, and then do good things with this Hornets roster instead of bringing in an ornery superstar whose prime is gone.

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