JDefense with John DeShazier

April 11, 2013

The reason it’s easier and more pleasant to harp on what might have been is because usually, what might have been is more pleasant than what is.

What might have been, with a healthy team that performed on a reasonable arc of improvement, could have been a team that challenged for a playoff berth through the final month of the season.

What is, though, with three games remaining for the Hornets, is a 27-52 record. It’s a season in which No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis has missed 15 games and potentially will miss more, after spraining his left knee Wednesday night in Sacramento.

What is, is a team that consistently hasn’t played the kind of defense it aspires to; New Orleans is 3-34 in games in which opponents score 100 or more points, a team that allows 98 points per game when the preference would’ve been the 92- or 93-point neighborhood.

It’s half a season of game availability from guard Eric Gordon, who played his first back-to-back nights of the season against the Lakers on Tuesday and Kings on Wednesday, which means rotational continuity has been about as easy to grasp as the wind.

What is, is a second consecutive trip to the NBA Lottery, and the hope that fortune again will warmly embrace the franchise, or at least give it a firm handshake, and reward it with another fortuitous shuffle of the ping pong balls.

But what also is, is this: a 13-11 home record since January, including five wins over playoff teams. And a strong candidate for Most Improved Player in the league, guard Greivis Vasquez.

It’s the emergence of Davis, whose pre- and post-All-Star break numbers show significant improvement: from 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 44 percent from the field and nine double-doubles before; to 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 52 percent from the field and 11 double-doubles after.

What is, is six more wins than last season, in 13 more games played thus far than in that lockout-shortened campaign. That’s a 6-7 record over the stretch and proof that, though the notion of advancing to the playoffs hasn’t been realistic for a while, players didn’t give up on the goal of improving and winning down the stretch.

What is, is a 24-18 record in games in which opponents have been held to less than 100 points. That’s the defense players are capable of playing, and it led to a 57 percent rate of victory in such outings. That winning pace is playoff-caliber, by the way.

What is, is progress. Probably not as much as we’d liked to have seen, but progress all the same.

So, yes, it’s easy and perhaps preferable to fantasize about what might have been. But what is, isn’t totally unappealing if you’re willing to look in the right places.

Monty Williams Show