Charlotte Hornets second-year guard James Bouknight was found unconscious in a parking garage and arrested for driving while impaired on Sunday, according to reports. Forward Miles Bridges is facing domestic violence charges, and star guard LaMelo Ball has a sprained ankle and will not be ready to start the season. The Hornets weren’t going to be very good this season anyway. Given their current issues ,they might want to “tank” this season so they have a shot at landing generational talent Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 draft.
We get it. Tanking goes against the very spirit of sport and true competition. You play to win the game, as a coach in another sport once famously said. But if you aren’t going to be a very good team and the system is designed to give the worst-performing teams the best chance to secure elite talent through the draft lottery, you have to do it.
It would be negligent not to.
Bridges saw a jump in his counting stats last season and was in line to receive a very good extension in restricted free agency this past summer. But he was arrested on June 29 in Los Angeles and charged with beating up his girlfriend in front of their two children. His preliminary current court appearance was delayed for a seventh time and pushed back to Nov. 3. There is no real possibility of him suiting up for the Hornets in 2022, and it’s highly unlikely he plays this season.
Bouknight appeared in 31 games as a rookie last year and played just under 10 minutes per game. This year would have been an opportunity to earn more playing time and show new head coach Steve Clifford he’s committed to becoming the best version of himself. But this arrest, just days after he was cited for speeding and reckless driving, isn’t going to help that cause.
“We are aware of the incident involving James Bouknight and are in the process of gathering additional information,” the team said. “We will have no further comment at this time.”
Ball, the team’s bright young star, is hoping to push his way into the All-Star conversation this season. The ankle injury might not sideline him long. But winning 35 games this season and finishing outside of the play-in tournament will place you outside of the Wembanyama sweepstakes. You want to have one of the three worst records this season, so you have a 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick.
Because French teenage phenom Wembanyama is a one-of-one. The 7-foot-4 big man has deep three point range and is a game-changer on defense. He played his first two games on American soil earlier this month against the G League Ignite and left NBA scouts and execs drooling. So much so that his agent revealed that NBA people told him to shut Wembanyama down ahead of the draft next June.
Victor Wembanyama is a one-of-a-kind hooper!
🦄 37 PTS, 4 REB, 5 BLK, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/jc3Jz6SLio
— NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2022
With Ball’s preternatural passing ability and Wembanyama, the Hornets would have a devastating young core. Assuming the Hornets don’t screw up either player’s development.
Yes, you play to win the game. But if you’re not going to be very good anyway, you might as well give yourself a chance to be better in the future.