The Charlotte Hornets begin their NBA season tonight, live inside the Spectrum Center beginning at 7 P.M. against the Toronto Raptors. This will be the Hornets first time playing inside a bubble-like atmosphere – besides newly acquired small-forward Gordon Hayward, who played in Orlando for the Celtics.
According to Charlotte Observer reporter Rick Bonnell, teammates have been asking Hayward what to expect in games with no fans. “The feeling the atmosphere, it’s all the way different. I told them it’s going to be something where we have to bring our own energy.”
There was much criticism of President of Basketball Operations Mitch Kupchak not abiding by his own slogan of building through the draft and not seeking stars through via-free agency, dropping the bag on Gordon Hayward for 4 years, $120 million dollars. You may remember Jordan and company signed Hayward to an offer sheet (4 yrs $63 million) back in 2014. Utah matched it. This time around the Hornets spent double to acquire the star small forward. If the money was a smart invested, remains to be seen.
What can we expect from the Hornets tonight?
If I had to predict the starters tonight – Cody Zeller has been rumored to produce well in team scrimmages, and rightfully so due since this is a contract year for him. He’s earning 15 million this season, which comes off the books next year if the Hornets decide not to retain his rights. Devonte Graham, PJ Washington, Terry Rozier, and Gordon Hayward should suit up alongside Zeller as the starting five against the Raptors tonight.
Yes Lamelo Ball, the highly sensational rookie and number three overall draft pick, will get playing time tonight. Teammates of the rookie have gone on record acknowledging how happy Melo is inside the locker room – something that has been missing for some time. Let’s be honest here, this game is mainly televised because of Lamelo. A Hornets game hasn’t been magnified this highly for television since 2016. “Purple Shirt Guy” angered NBA Champion and Hall of famer Dwayne Wade inside the Spectrum center after the Hornets led the series 3-2. The rest was history.
Second round draft pick out of Duke, Vernon Carey, is expected to get a few minutes in his debut.
Malik Monk, who was cleared from Covid-19 days ago, is not expected to resume team basketball activities until later next week.
The Raptors are a defensive minded team, known creating points off turnovers (2nd in the NBA) and getting out in transition. The Raptors were also 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency. Point of emphasis here is limiting turnovers.
Head coach James Borrego wants to evaluate the talent tonight – allowing players to gel and determine which players make the top 10-12 for opening nights. Borrego was quoted stating, “It’s about evaluation. Right now, it’s about getting players ready for Opening Night. My focus is making sure those guys get enough run, but not too much run. Just getting more comfortable with each other.”
Catch the Hornets tonight at 7P.M. on Fox Sports Southeast, and WFNZ 610 AM.