When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Amway Center; Orlando, Fla.
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast (or South), NBA League Pass, I don’t know I hope you can figure it out if you’re a cord cutter in the broadcast region
For the final two games of the pre-season, the Charlotte Hornets will go head-to-head with the Magic in Orlando. Road trips are obviously going to be much different than usual this year, so it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts to essentially being locked in a hotel room in Florida for a few days. Hopefully, the team can get home without any hiccups.
The first game against Toronto was largely bad, but the second game was a marked improvement. As players shake the rust off, the sloppiness should subside and the turnover numbers should drop, but it’s still the pre-season so anticipating a well-rounded winning performance is a bit much. We’ll be able to find some positives regardless of the end result.
Orlando is a weird team; Jonathan Isaac should miss the entire season after tearing his ACL in the bubble; Chuma Okeke replaces Isaac’s minutes as a “rookie” despite being drafted 16th overall in the 2019 Draft; Cole Anthony could see the floor a lot in his first season; and most importantly, former Hornets coach Steve Clifford has started former Hornet Dwayne Bacon in their first two pre-season games. Outside of that and a few fringe roster moves, the Magic are the same team, but they kind of got “worse” considering how much Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington improved.
Quite a few Hornets have impressed so far; Gordon Hayward looks as-advertised, LaMelo Ball looks like he should’ve gone first overall, Miles Bridges has taken steps as a ball-handler and playmaker, PJ Washington seems to be capable of anchoring the defense, and Jalen McDaniels looks the part of a wonderful 3&D role-player. Grant Riller looked like he belonged in the league in limited minutes before a knee injury held him out of the second game against Toronto. Xavier Sneed could play himself into a Two-Way/roster spot. Pretty much everyone has shown flashes except Devonte’ Graham, but he’s allowed to stink up the pre-season after he carried the team throughout last year.
It’d be surprising if Malik Monk didn’t get more run tonight than he did on Monday. He looked extremely rusty on offense, but who can blame him? He hasn’t played since February. The bright side is that he was attentive on defense and looks as in-shape as can be considering he had to miss training camp. This could be the last game that the “rotation players” get significant playing time; it’s not really worth giving starters 20+ minutes in games that don’t matter, and the organization might want to see what they have in their training camp invitees. Let Malik work himself into game shape while the young players get some run and the rotation players ice their knees and wave towels on the bench.
I’m sure that James Borrego would like to get a win under the team’s belt before the regular season starts, but I’m also sure that he’d rather use this as an evaluation period than try to compete at a high level. The rotations for the next two games will likely remain a mystery until it’s time for Borrego to implement them.
The pre-season is nice, but it’s not the real thing. The real thing starts in just six days. We’re almost there, everyone.