The Charlotte Hornets take on the Dallas Mavericks at home tonight in the final preseason game of 2017. The game starts at 6:00 p.m., and the Hornets plan to stream it live on Hornets.com — but there’s a catch. If you live more than 75 miles away from Spectrum Center, you can’t watch it. I was curious what a 75 mile radius would look like, so I looked it up, and it looks like this:
This looked much bigger when I took a screen shot, so apologies if I am causing you to squint or lean closer to the screen. Some notable places just outside the zone include Asheville and Pinehurst, but if there’s one city that should be able to watch but can’t, its Greensboro. You know, the home of the Swarm, the G-League team affiliated with Hornets. Those folks will have to travel to High Point or Winston-Salem to catch the game.
Putting aside this absurd, and oddly specific mile radius for coverage tonight, the Hornets have one more preseason opportunity to prepare for the upcoming season. They’re 1-3 so far, and haven’t looked necessarily great for an entire game. The lone win was a come from behind victory over Detroit, and that’s kind of been a trend so far in preseason: get behind in the first half, then come from behind in the fourth quarter. It’s worked just once.
But records literally mean nothing right now, and what’s apparent through four games is the team is experimenting a lot. We’ve seen a lot of pick-and-roll action with Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard, as the two look to form a potentially killer combo. Walker is good at attacking the hoop, while Howard can catch the lob as good as anyone in the league, but Walker has grown so accustomed to taking it straight to the hoop that he’s having to change his approach off the screen. It showed against Boston, as Walker more often looked for Howard rather than pull-up for a jumpshot or take it to the rim. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, and when they start clicking these two are going to wreck havoc on opposing defenses. It’s just going to take some time.
So I’m less concerned about those two heading into regular season, but on the whole, the roster is bit of a mess. Jeremy Lamb, Treveon Graham, and Michael Carter-Williams are out injured, while Julyan Stone and Terry Henderson are questionable tonight. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, meanwhile, remains away due to personal reasons. Right now, MCW — and Nicolas Batum of course — are the only ones confirmed out for the start of the regular season, but all of the absences has left the team using odd lineups. Marvin Williams at the three could work in theory, but he’s better off playing the stretch four. Frank Kaminsky, who is starting at the four, hasn’t looked sharp on either end, and was continuously exposed by the quicker Jayson Tatum on Wednesday night. Bacon filled in nicely at the two spot, but Lamb remains the preferred starting two guard. Hopefully Lamb and MKG return before the regular season starts, because unless this starting five shows something different tonight I’m not confident in it heading into opening night.
The second unit is currently devoid of true point guard. Malik Monk has looked better than expected at the spot, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable with another ball-handler out there with him. Hopefully Stone is able to go tonight so we can see how those two operate together. If Stone’s passing is as good as advertised, he could open up easier shots for Monk, who has had to create a lot of shots on his own to this point.
But again, a lot of this is experimentation. With players out, and records meaningless it’s fine to try stuff. Put players at weird positions, and let Monk shoot 22 shots. It may not look pretty, but it makes for great game film the staff and players can look over afterwards.
That said, I’d feel better if the rotation tonight more closely resembled the one we’ll see next week. That’s not going to happen with the amount of players out, so the most we can ask for tonight is a better all around performance. Better play in the first half is a must, particularly on defense.
The Mavericks, one of the few teams in the Western Conference that decided to rebuild, could be without a few players. Seth Curry is out for all of preseason, while Dennis Smith Jr. is questionable tonight after spraining his ankle Thursday. There’s also a chance they could rest other players as well, namely some veterans, as well. Whatever happens, or whoever plays, lets hope for some positive signs from the home team tonight.