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Preview: Hornets open their season at the Cavaliers

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We’ve finally made it to the 2020-21 regular season.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (0-0) at Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0)

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse; Cleveland, OH

How to watch: Fox Sports South(east), NBA League Pass

We’re here. It’s been 286 days since the Hornets played a meaningful basketball game. That ends tonight, when the Hornets take on Cleveland to tip off their regular season.

The Hornets couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to open the season with. The Cavaliers figure to be one of the worst teams in the NBA by a comfortable margin. They have former All Stars Kevin Love and Andre Drummond, but both aren’t significantly elevating a bad team at this point in their respective careers. The rest of the Cavaliers roster is a hodgepodge of reclamation projects and inexperienced youth.

Collin Sexton is the young engine that makes the Cavs go. He can get some buckets, and does so with surprisingly good efficiency, but he does literally nothing else. Darius Garland is trying to become the same player. Rookie Isaac Okoro looked very good in the preseason, but he’s probably not ready to be a huge contributor from day one.

But enough about the Cavs. This is a Hornets blog. The Hornets look like they’ll be at full strength for their season opener, as Gordon Hayward has been a full participant in practice the last few days after missing time with an avulsion fracture in his pinky finger, and the PR team announced yesterday that he’s good to go. That means we’ll get to see the starting lineup of Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, and Cody Zeller play some real minutes together, and I’ll expect they’ll do well. LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, and Bismack Biyombo will all get plenty of minutes as well.

The minutes distribution gets a little murkier after that. Jalen McDaniels seemed to be in the most favor during the preseason, so I’d guess he’s number nine in the rotation. The Martin twins and Malik Monk will have to fight for what little court time is left. Cody Martin and Caleb Martin were good last year but looked very poor in the preseason. Monk started behind the eight ball after missing time with covid, and he did not look ready to contribute for an NBA team during his limited preseason minutes.

The Hornets have a good chance to open the season 1-0, but remember, the NBA is always weird at the beginning of the season. Teams have to find their rhythm, which can make good teams look bad and bad teams look good. So just like we said about the preseason, don’t overreact to what happens in the first game of the season.

All that said, it’s great to have real Hornets basketball on our TV screens once again. This team is going to be a ton of fun to watch this season, and the wait to get to this point has been far too long.