COMMENTARY | Whether it was due to an injury-depleted bench, stiff Western Conference competition, or a well-disguised tank, the New Orleans Hornets era ended with a whimper as the Bees went 1-7 in April. Although the Hornets had far worse seasons in both Charlotte and New Orleans, the 2012-13 squad recorded the worst regular season April record in franchise history.
The argument against tanking is that an equally bad Hornets team under the same coaching staff went 8-6 in April of 2012. For playing the game the right way, NBA Karma rewarded the Hornets with the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Monty Williams is a tough-minded, defensive-oriented coach and it's hard to imagine him tanking NBA games in April or any other month.
Although Williams probably would have loved going 8-0 in April, there is no denying that he gave heavy minutes to players who previously spent most of the season with the best seats in the house. Xavier Henry, for example, did not appear in 24 Hornets games before April, but he played in all eight games in the final month and dramatically increased his minutes per game from 11:30 to 18:54.
Williams also exercised extreme caution when two of the best Hornets, Anthony Davis and Greivis Vasquez, suffered minor injuries in April. Of course, with New Orleans out of the playoff chase, it would have been foolhardy for Williams to have played Davis and Vasquez and risk further injury. Ryan Anderson is one of the NBA's best sixth men and Brian Roberts had proven himself more than capable as an NBA point guard in the second half of the season.
Ironically though, while Williams sat Davis and Vasquez, he gave Eric Gordon more playing time in April than he had ever had in New Orleans. The Hornets' medical staff did not clear Gordon to play in the second game of back-to-backs until April. However, many fans in New Orleans believe that Gordon playing in every Hornets game in April was actually a showcase for potential trade partners to see that he was healthy.
The strangest game that the Hornets played in April was a home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. For 45 minutes, New Orleans thoroughly dominated the Western Conference's fourth-best team before crumbling at the end. Was this an example of Williams demanding extreme effort from his squad before tanking at the end or was it a case of a young New Orleans team still not knowing how to finish off a stronger opponent?
If not for how well the Hornets played in April of 2012 when Anthony Davis was sitting atop the NBA draft, it would be easy to conclude that New Orleans tanked in April of 2013. However, this year's draft lacks the star power at the top that would encourage a weak team to improve its lottery odds. Some in New Orleans believe the Hornets will trade their lottery pick in an effort to add a quality veteran to its young squad.
As is the case with most conspiracy theories, we'll likely never know if the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets tanked in the worst April in franchise history.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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