Gerald Henderson – DNP Coach’s Decision. A sign of things to come?


I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to get very uncomfortable watching the Hornets jersey unveiling commercial that plays every once in a while during the game broadcast. We watch Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson and Gerald Henderson, the 2013-14 Charlotte Bobcats tri-captains, see the new Hornets uniforms for the first time.

Obviously the jerseys are awesome, I’m partial to the purple ones right now, but it’s the reminder the Gerald Henderson was an integral part of the team last year. Now, you have to make sure you’re tuned in at the right time to even see Hendo on the floor, if he gets in the game at all.

Nov 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Gerald Henderson (9) during the first half of the game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Last night against the Atlanta Hawks, for the first time since Gerald’s second season in the NBA, he earned a DNP Coach’s Decision. Rookie P.J. Hairston was given all of the minutes as the fourth wing in the Hornets thrilling double overtime victory.

Somewhere amid the postgame jubilation, Gerald Henderson was probably wondering if his days as a Charlotte Hornet are numbered.

Henderson’s Production

Everyone knew that Lance Stephenson would eat into Henderson’s minutes, and for good reason. But I doubt anyone thought Henderson would see his role cut so drastically to begin the season. Check out Hendo’s per-game stats through the first six games:

4.4 points on 4.4 FG attempts, 2.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 18.8 minutes a game.

Compare to Henderson’s 2013-14 Stats: 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 32.0 minutes. Plus Gerald started in each game he played.

If Henderson’s playing time continues at the current pace, he will experience his most minimal role in Charlotte since 2010-11, his second year in the league when he averaged 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.4 minutes per game.

What Went Wrong for Henderson?

The immediate answer is simple. The Hornets realized last season an upgrade on the wing was needed  in order to compete in the East. Specifically the Hornets needed someone who could to go toe-to-toe with the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Stephenson was that person.

I don’t plan on getting into Stephenson’s problems now, and frankly I still haven’t come to understand his maddening blend of jaw-dropping plays and boneheaded mistakes. Regardless, Lance needs the minutes to get acclimated. Plus Lance is simply a better all-around player. Henderson’s other competition in the starting line-up, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is off to a terrific start, leaving last season’s captain relegated to the bench.

After six games, we’ve also seen that Gary Neal and P.J. Hairston are probably better fits in Steve Clifford’s offense. Both can stretch the floor with their three-point shooting, creating driving lanes and leaving more room for Charlotte’s big men to operate.

Henderson was injured for the entirety of training camp, so it is not surprising he has yet to find a rhythm with his new teammates. However, even at this early stage in the season, Charlotte cannot simply play Henderson just to get him minutes.

Nov 7, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard P.J. Hairston (19) shoots the ball during the first half against the Atlanta Hawks at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

What Happens Next?

Henderson continues to sit and is passed by P.J. in the rotation

Coach Clifford was incredibly candid last night in his postgame press conference about Henderson’s playing time, and he said it all comes down to who is playing better and which players give the team a chance to win. Right now, Clifford said, MKG, Gary Neal and Lance have all earned their minutes and will continue to play big minutes every game. P.J. Hairston, through his ability to stretch the floor and open up space for his teammates, is simply a bitter fit for the team. That leaves Henderson the odd man out.

Henderson is traded.

If Henderson continues to sit, it may be in the best interest of the team seek a trade to bring back an asset more useful to the team. For one, Charlotte needs another big man, especially if Bismack Biyombo is in the permanent doghouse. For as many good things Jason Maxiell brings to the Hornets, I can’t imagine Steve Clifford is completely comfortable with him in the big man rotation. Perhaps a package of Henderson and Biyombo could bring a useful big to Charlotte, perhaps Milwaukee’s John Henson, until Noah Vonleh is ready to contribute. There are no signs that Vonleh will break into the rotation anytime soon.

Henderson eventually finds his place in the rotation

If the discussion over playing time is between Henderson and Hairston, it is premature to call the competition over. Henderson has skills that Hairston doesn’t. Gerald is a savvy vet who has played in hundreds of NBA games. He is can get to the rim with ease and is a capable defender. Against teams with dynamic scoring wings, Gerald’s defense is likely superior to Hairston’s.

What do you think? Should Gerald stay and sit, be traded or return to the rotation? Leave your comments below!