When: 8:00 EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: TNT, NBA League Pass
Normally these previews come out on the day of the game, but Thursday’s showdown with the Boston Celtics deserves extra attention. Former Hornet Kemba Walker will be playing his first game in Spectrum Center as a visitor. This game is big for a number of reasons.
This is the Hornets only ‘real’ nationally televised game. They were the butt of jokes all offseason, and a strong showing in primetime would shift the national narrative. That doesn’t have any tangible ramifications, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Fans don’t by tickets to watch dumpster fires and good players hesitate to join incompetent franchises. A win over an Eastern Conference contender will go a long way towards reshaping the image of the team.
Not only would a win recast the Hornets in a better light, it might even establish them as a surprise playoff contender in a top heavy Eastern Conference. The Hornets are already outperforming early season expectations by starting the season 3-3, even if those three wins are against cellar dwelling opposition. A win over a superior Celtics squad could start up rumblings that this team has a shot to sneak into the bottom of the playoffs, as lofty as that goal might be. The East only has five or six sure bets to make the playoffs. Crazier things have happened (Maybe?).
But the biggest draw in this game is the return of Kemba Walker. Walker spent the first eight years of his career here, growing from an undersized, inefficient chucker to an undersized three-time All Star and one time All NBA guard. He languished on bad teams while putting up numbers that rivaled the best guards the league had to offer. He longed for greener pastures, so he went to literally the greenest team there is, the Boston Celtics.
Walker has been putting up huge numbers for Boston. He’s averaging 26.2 points per game and believe it or not is actually getting a kinder whistle playing for the big market Celtics. He’s averaging 8.2 free throw attempts per game, by far a career high. His assist numbers are down, but the Celtics don’t need him to carry that burden with a better cast around him.
The Celtics have been one of the league’s better teams this season. They have the seventh best net rating in the league, largely thanks to their top ten defense. They’ve won four straight after getting beat down by the Philadelphia 76ers in their first game. Gordon Hayward is playing more like the All Star he was before his gruesome leg injury and Jayson Tatum has taken the step everyone expected him to take last season. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart play suffocating defense on the perimeter. It’s a well balanced roster with no glaring weaknesses. The Hornets will have their work cut out for them if they want to steal this win at home.
Thursday’s game against the Celtics will be huge for the Hornets. Get your tickets from this link or the one in the header right above this to tell them At the Hive sent you. Tickets are affordable, and it’s almost Friday, so why not go out and watch Kemba in the Spectrum Center once again and see if the young guys can show him what he’s missing out on.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.