Fall is right around the corner, but that crisp, fresh air you’re breathing as you take a leisurely scroll through At The Hive dot com has nothing to do with a drop in temperature. Optimism, positive energy and excitement of this nature can only mean one thing; the NBA is back!
Teams across the league are holding preseason media day on Monday prior to training camps opening on Tuesday. Our Charlotte Hornets got going bright and early, announcing the training camp roster at 8:30 AM and rolling right into the interviews. Let’s run through the events, shall we?
A notable absence from the camp roster; LiAngelo Ball. The Hornets currently have 16 guaranteed contracts on the books plus Two-Way players Arnoldas Kulboka and Scottie Lewis. Add DJ Carton on an Exhibit 10 and Xavier Sneed on a non-guaranteed camp deal, and that puts Charlotte’s preseason roster at the maximum of 20. Ball performed well within his role at Summer League and obviously the organization is fond of him in some ways, so stay tuned for further announcements on whether he’ll be with the Greensboro Swarm.
Everyone (names will be in bold for those who’d like to skim) will have their own section of embedded tweets from the various media members that attended the press conferences, whether in-person or virtually. Shoutout to Rod Boone, Nekias Duncan, Sam Farber, Walker Mehl, Sam Perley, Steve Reed, and many others for their coverage of Hornets media day!
First up at the podium was head coach James Borrego.
James Borrego said he expects the entire team to be 100 percent vaccinated by the start of the season. Said it shouldn't be an issue.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) September 27, 2021
Thankfully, we got this issue out of the way early. Players being vaccinated is not a personal health/safety issue, it’s a legitimate competitive advantage (or disadvantage) when playing against teams in California, New York and Toronto, and potentially more if/when other states implement similar vaccination mandates. It’s good to see that the Hornets are doing what they can to limit the potential of players missing games due to COVID-19 issues.
Says frontcourt rotation is a work in progress, but "there is much more depth" in this area than previous seasons.— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
Says it'll be a very competitive camp between Plumlee, Bridges, Washington, McDaniels, Jones, Carey and Richards
This is both interesting and relieving. Last season, one of Borrego’s biggest gripes was what he believed to be a lack of depth in the frontcourt, specifically at center. If he feels more comfortable with the depth already, that’s a great sign for each and every one of the bigs. And then there was this...
Borrego believes that rookie Kai Jones will be pushing for minutes.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 27, 2021
Terry Rozier followed Borrego at the podium. No coincidence the newly-extended vet led off the players’ portion of media day.
Live @hornets media day: @T_Rozzay3 on minimum expectations for the season. “You’ve got to make the playoffs.” Went on to say if they don’t make the playoffs it will be a fail but they don’t put a cap on what’s possible. pic.twitter.com/zmP4tCMc46— Sam Farber (@SamFarberLive) September 27, 2021
We love this kind of energy. The players are confident, the staff are confident, and us fans are pretty confident, too (I think?). The East is going to be very tough this year, but the Hornets seem ready to compete.
Leadership, people. Leadership! This is also great marketing for future free agents. The more players come out and say how great it is to play for the Charlotte Hornets, the better off the organization will be in the future.
Gordon Hayward came up to the podium once Rozier was finished and he gave some really insightful quotes.
early theme from the Hornets side, as Gordon Hayward becomes the latest to touch on it, is how locked in the young guys have been this summer. Noted that most have been working with the team all offseason.— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) September 27, 2021
Hornets players made a team bonding trip to Miami in the offseason where all of the players showed up. Hayward said that was encouraging to see. "That speaks to the vibe and chemistry that guys have," Hayward said. Said guys were able to go to dinner as well as play basketball.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 27, 2021
Hayward seemed impressed by the amount of work the Hornets players have put in over the offseason. Working with the team veterans all summer long is going to give the rookies an advantage that the rookies in the 2020 class did not have.
Gordon Hayward says he’s in a good place health wise. Put a lot of work in over the summer— Walker Mehl (@WalkerMehl) September 27, 2021
The news we were all waiting for. The 31-year-old Hayward will work with the coaches and medical staff to determine a load management plan for him this season, though the exact details of the plan haven’t been worked out yet. Regardless, it’s great to hear that Charlotte’s best player is healthy.
Gordon Hayward now up:— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
"I'm excited about our additions... Hopefully we'll push the pace in transition. We have a lot of speed. The young guys have a lot of potential... We have a great vibe and chemistry already."
Hayward on rookie James Booknight: "Book can score with the best of them at all three levels, which is great for a young guy."— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 27, 2021
The young guys got a lot of love on media day. The Hornets are doing a terrible job of not letting us get our hopes up. If James Bouknight is an efficient 3-point shooter as a rookie, he could compete for rotation minutes sooner than later.
Next up: LaMelo Ball.
LaMelo says he doesn't even know how much weight he's put on, and that the question he received about it just reminded him to check lmbo— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) September 27, 2021
He’s the best. Putting on weight was Ball’s biggest developmental need coming into the league. It’ll be exciting to see how much bigger/stronger he’s gotten and how that affects his defense and finishing at the rim.
Adds there is great chemistry already with all the new guys, rookies and veterans.— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
Adds, "As the point guard, I'm definitely going to lead."
Pretty much everybody mentioned team chemistry in some form or fashion and LaMelo seems comfortable with his position as the face of the franchise. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that connectedness and chemistry will be the biggest strength for Charlotte at the outset of the season.
Miles Bridges sat down at the podium after the other half of AirBnB was finished.
Miles Bridges said he isn't worried about whether he starts or not. Said he's only focused on wins. He'll come off the bench if need be. pic.twitter.com/DkRyTRdzlN— Rod Boone (@rodboone) September 27, 2021
Bridges’ willingness to embrace whatever role he’s given by the team is somewhat rare among highly-touted lottery picks like himself. If the leaps he made at the end of last season carry over it’s hard picture him coming off the bench, but even if PJ Washington starts, we know Bridges is going to be 100% bought in.
Adds the Indiana play-in game "was a blessing in disguise. Every time I got tired this summer during a drill, I thought about that game. We can't take any games for granted this season."— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
It’s clear the utter dismantling they experienced at the hands of the Indiana Pacers sat with these guys. Can’t wait to start the 21-22 season off with an opening night revenge game.
PJ Washington shared a similar sentiment to Bridges about the play-in game last season, as well as some of the things he’s tried to improve upon over the summer
Washington says he wants to be 40% 3P shooter and a better rim finisher this season. Also more versatile on defense and be able to switch without fouling.— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
Washington also mentioned “consistency” as a key to himself having a successful season. The sophomore big struggled at times amid injuries and an ever-changing role on the team, but year three should provide him some stability as the roster gets deeper with talent.
Newly-acquired center Mason Plumlee likened Ball’s game to Shaun Livingston, former Golden State Warriors guard. For those who remember just how electric Livingston was before (and even after) his knee injury, this is an awesome comparison.
Adds LaMelo Ball's shooting has stood out in preseason/summer training— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
Says he reminds him of Shaun Livingston in terms of his passing ability from a bigger guard
Kelly Oubre Jr. mentioned how excited he was to start this season and that he’s already come to love Charlotte. He also said a dip in his 3-point percentage last year (31.6 percent) can be partly attributed to injuries he played through to help the Warriors make the playoffs.
"This is a fresh start for me... I love Charlotte. It's a beautiful city. I think all the stars are aligning."— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) September 27, 2021
Rookie Kai Jones seems like one of the most genuinely fun personalities in the NBA already.
kai jones is hilarious. says he wants to be in the dunk contest this season, but only if he thinks he has a chance to win. doesn't wanna lose to zach lavine if he pulls out a between the legs from the free throw line pic.twitter.com/BeObFQBz8k— Zach Aldridge (@wzaldridge) September 27, 2021
Yes, Kai. Please do it. You were born for the Dunk contest.
Kai Jones says he’s been working on touch shots a lot more. It’s something he really didn’t work on a ton. “I guess you can’t just dunk everything”— Walker Mehl (@WalkerMehl) September 27, 2021
Please don’t stop trying Kai
Along with Jones self-reporting that he’s working on touch shots around the rim, both Bridges and Hayward complimented his motor. The Hornets have built a strong organizational culture and they clearly factor that in when drafting.
Bouknight, Vernon Carey Jr., Cody Martin, Jalen McDaniels, Nick Richards and Ish Smith also spoke at media day, but for much shorter lengths of time and gave fewer quotes than other players.
Of course, basketball hasn’t actually began yet, but media day is the unofficial kick-off to the NBA season and actual basketball is right around the corner. It’s nice to see the internet flooded with news that isn’t a Ben Simmons trade rumor, and the unbridled excitement among NBA fans as a whole warms my sweet little heart. The Hornets first preseason game is exactly one week from today on October 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’re almost there!
Oh — and last but not least, unquestionably the most important news we received all day: