With the 2022-23 NBA season approaching fast, the Christmas Day schedule was recently released ahead of the full NBA schedule release on Wednesday. It's not surprising that the Charlotte Hornets are not on that Christmas schedule.
The NBA Christmas Day slate is out, per @ShamsCharania
Which game are you MOST excited for?? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/ygdb2jz1Sq
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) August 14, 2022
There are star-studded matchups that include the league's premier players, from LeBron James facing off against Luka Doncic to Ja Morant taking on Stephen Curry and the defending champs in a budding rivalry game.
Meanwhile, the Hornets have never played on Christmas in all their years of being an NBA franchise. Here is what needs to happen in the 2022-23 season for Charlotte to at least get some consideration to be on the Christmas schedule for 2023.
How Hornets can get on NBA Christmas schedule in 2023
LaMelo Ball needs to go crazy
After winning Rookie of the Year in Year 1 and then becoming an All-Star in his second season, LaMelo Ball is going to have to take another massive step to make the Hornets a true contender. That should entail him improving his averages even more from the 2021-22 season in which he averaged 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 6.7 rebounds. As impressive as these numbers are, they are going to have to take another jump. He is going to have to become a nightly triple-double threat to make his team relevant and avoid the play-in tournament for the third straight year.
Ball already has the attention of the entire world. He quickly became one of the more recognized faces in the NBA thanks to his father, LaVar Ball, plunging his kids into stardom at a very young age. The league knows about Ball's talent, but the Hornets are not a threat to win an NBA championship and they have failed to make the postseason in Ball's first two seasons. If Ball can find a way to get this team into the postseason for the first time since 2016, maybe Adam Silver will consider putting this Hornets team on the Christmas Day schedule.
Steve Clifford needs to make a good second impression
Steve Clifford is a lucky man. After being fired back in 2018, he has been given another chance to lead this team to some success. He wasn't terrible in his tenure the first time around. He was 196-214 in five seasons and managed to make the playoffs twice. It was an average run, but now he has a chance to right his wrongs. Clifford needs to implement a culture that appeals to Ball and the rest of the young players on the roster.
James Borrego did a fairly good job steering the ship the past four years, but got into a verbal spats with James Bouknight and limited Ball on offense. Clifford has already said this is the most talented team he has been around.
Hopefully, for his sake, he figures out what to do with that talent … and fast. Implementing the right system can bring this team to new heights if cranked out the right way. Figuring out how to get LaMelo Ball to superstar level and fixing the defense will be Clifford's biggest tasks.
The “other guys” need to find an identity
The Hornets have a few interesting pieces on roster that need to find out what kind of players they are. With the Miles Bridges situation in limbo, the franchise should operate like he won't be on roster in the 2022-23 season. This means that somebody needs to step up and take that title of being the second-best player on the team. Whether that be PJ Washington taking a step up, or even Cody Martin, somebody needs to replace all that production Bridges brought to the table after his big leap last season.
The Hornets need to go in with the attitude that everyone needs to figure out how to contribute to the team. One guy doesn't need to average 20-plus points for the team to be successful. Everyone just needs to be productive by committee. Between Bouknight, Martin, Washington, Kai Jones, Mark Williams, and others, this team has a lot of young guys who can play big minutes. They still have Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward (it would be nice if he actually stays healthy) to hold down that veteran front and give these young guys direction. The Hornets are in a good place to be competitive.
They have a young and entertaining roster already. The Hornets could follow in the footsteps of the Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams have All-Star guards, but the Grizzlies did a great job of surrounding Morant with good young pieces through the draft and getting good veterans on smaller contracts. Now they have a date with the defending champs in a marquee Christmas game after winning 56 games and making the second round last season.
It's embarrassing to be the only team to never play on Christmas. If they play remotely better than they did last year and develop an even more flashy style, the Hornets can break that streak for good.