Malik Monk’s Fourth NBA Season Marked by Growth, Maturity and Perspective

by Sam Perley

In what was already easily the most unpredictable NBA campaign in recent memory, no player on the Charlotte Hornets’ roster dealt with more ebbs and flows this past season than shooting guard Malik Monk. 

Monk started the year on the bench after missing most of training camp because of Health and Safety Protocols. He finally made his way into the rotation in early February, playing as well as he ever had at the NBA level for the next two months before a severe ankle sprain suffered in Brooklyn on April 1 sidelined him for a 15-game stretch.  

The Kentucky product would find his way back onto the court on May 1 and eventually closed out his fourth NBA season with career highs in scoring (11.7 points), assists (2.1), steals (0.5), field-goal percentage (43.4%) and three-point percentage (40.1%) in 42 games off the bench. Monk’s long-distance clip smashed his previous single-season best of 34.2% set as a rookie, and actually stood at 42.4% prior to his ankle injury. 

“It was a plus year for me,” said Monk. “I can’t take anything negative out of it because I learned so much about myself and the team. I didn’t play a lot at the beginning, but I’ve been dealing with that my whole career here, so I was kind of used to it. I knew how to take that and turn it into positive thoughts and work. You saw that when I got on the court.” 

“More maturity, my decision-making and not wasting any reps or possessions,” he added, when asked about the areas he made the biggest strides in. “I get a little amount of time, so I have to do my best in that time. Every possession matters. If you take an early shot with twenty seconds left on the shot clock, that one shot could come down to the last play in the fourth quarter. We could have executed better and made a better shot or decision.” 

Now 23 years old, Monk erupted for a career-high 36 points and nine three-pointers in an overtime win down in Miami on Feb. 1, breaking the franchise’s single-game record for a reserve player in both categories. He rattled off a career-best four consecutive 20-point performances from Feb. 22-28 – a stretch that included a last-second, game-winning and-1 in Sacramento – and also tallied another 32-point showing against the Heat on March 26. 

Having endured a season-ending suspension last year, limited playing time to start this year and then seeing his promising 2020-21 campaign derailed with injury, Monk’s been through a lot these past several months. The adversity has been a blessing in disguise though, providing him with a unique perspective he might not have gained otherwise. 

“Don’t take this game for granted,” he reflected. “You never know when something can happen and it be taken away from you. You can’t take a single second of anything – media, exit interviews, dribbling a basketball, practicing – for granted. There will probably never be a season like this again and we were able to live through it and finish it.”

Monk will be a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning the Hornets reserve the right to match any offer sheet he could potentially receive on the open market. While his future plans are still up in the air, the former 11th overall pick feels good about where he stands coming off a productive season both on and off the court. 

“This is my first time ever experiencing something like this, but I’ve got a great support system and team behind me to help me make decisions,” Monk stated. “I’m very comfortable and happy with the spot I am in right now. I just want to feel wanted – that’s it. If [Charlotte] wants me here, I’d love to be here and do the things that I know I can do. It’s a business and this year, I learned to control what you can control, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

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