Where: United Center; Chicago, Illinois
When: 8:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets hit the road again to take on the Chicago Bulls. It is the first of a two game road trip before they return to Charlotte for the home finale.
Charlotte is a bit banged up. Cody Zeller has been shut down for the season along with Michael Carter-Williams, while Treveon Graham’s season is in doubt after suffering a concussion on Saturday. Dwayne Bacon is also out with a with a right ankle sprain, while Jeremy Lamb is probable.
With a shortened bench tonight, we will see playing time for 3rd string point guard Julyan Stone. It’s such a given at this point, the Hornets made him the face of today’s gameday tweet:
Feel the excitement.
But in all seriousness, this is common practice for teams out of the playoff race this late in the season. Risking injured players makes no sense, and Stone will likely get the remainder of the season to get an extended run in the rotation.
The Bulls, meanwhile, are also shutting down players. Zach LaVine won’t play the remainder of the season after recovering from a torn ACL. LaVine played in 24 games and averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. Kris Dunn is also being shut down with an injured toe. Both were the key players brought in during the Jimmy Butler trade. The move to rest them in their remaining games is more cautionary than anything. If they were to recover, neither would be in game shape, so it’s not worth risking their long-term health.
In other words, tank season is in full effect.
With the injuries to LaVine and Dunn, expect more playing time for the likes of Ryan Arcidiacono, Cameron Payne, Noah Vonleh, and Sean Kilpatrick. Lauri Markkanen should also play despite elbow and back issues.
Given all the absent players, don’t be surprised if there are a few rough stretches of play tonight. Winning is in neither team’s best interest draft wise, but Charlotte gets the edge here since their entire starting lineup remains healthy. Hopefully Kemba Walker can end the season well after struggling the past couple of games. He’s nearing 10,000 career points, though he’s unlikely to reach that mark unless he averages well over 30 points a game to end the season.
With Stone in the rotation, expect more off ball action for Malik Monk. The rookie is shooting the ball well of late, making at least three 3-pointers in four of his past five games, including four on Saturday. The Hornets drafted him to knock down perimeter shots, and while he is still attempting a bit too many, he is at least starting to make a solid number per game.
Anyways, root for the young players tonight, hope for no more injuries, and don’t worry too much about the outcome.