clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Preview: Hornets host Hawks with Gordon Hayward set to return

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the veteran forward “plans to play” tonight.

Charlotte Hornets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (7-21) vs. Atlanta Hawks (14-15)

When: 7:00 PM EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Outfitting: Hornets — City (granite); Hawks — Icon (red)

Injury report:

ATL: Clint Capela (calf strain), OUT; John Collins (ankle sprain), OUT; Dejounte Murray (ankle sprain), OUT.

CHA: Gordon Hayward (fractured scapula), QUESTIONABLE; Cody Martin (knee surgery), OUT; Dennis Smith Jr. (ankle sprain), OUT; Mark Williams (ankle sprain), OUT.

The Charlotte Hornets meet the Atlanta Hawks in the final game at The Hive before heading out on a rigorous six-game West Coast road trip.

Charlotte Hornets PR upgraded Gordon Hayward’s status to questionable Thursday evening, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the veteran forward “plans to play” in tonight’s game.

After being without five rotation players for an extended period, the injured Hornets players have been quickly nursed back to health. Due to the timing of their respective injuries, tonight marks the first time this season both Hayward and LaMelo Ball will appear in a game together. Charlotte’s offense has ticked up in recent weeks, ranking eighth in the NBA with an offensive rating of 114.6 across the last five games. The return of Ball and Hayward should help that trend continue while also lifting up a sliding defense — the Hornets are dead last with a whopping 125.3 defensive rating in the same five-game stretch.

While the Hornets have been receiving positive injury news, the opposite goes for Atlanta. Clint Capela was ruled out for one to two weeks with a calf strain on Thursday while John Collins and Dejounte Murray are both rehabbing ankle sprains that have sidelined them for weeks. Trae Young also sat out with back soreness in a loss to Memphis that dropped the Hawks to 14-14 on the season. Since the calendar turned to December, Atlanta has been one of the most injury-riddled teams in the league.

On the bright side, AJ Griffin has been a fun story this year. The rookie wing is averaging 10.3 points per game with eight starts, and he’s already tallied 24 points twice while flashing impressive defensive playmaking. The 16th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft looks like a surefire long-term starter already with plenty of potential to reach a level even higher than that.

Though it’ll take a couple games until Ball and Hayward are fully reintegrated into the lineup, the Hornets have an opportunity to take advantage of a shorthanded opponent that has little in the way of size or defensive presence. Ball was his usual self in his return against Detroit, tallying 23 points and 11 assists while shooting 5-13 from long-range and dropping ambitious highlight-reel dimes. He’ll only get more comfortable with each passing game.

One of Charlotte’s seven wins came against the Hawks on Oct. 23, a 126-109 victory in which Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 24 points and Nick Richards had 20/11 off the bench. The Hornets could add to that tonight with three of Atlanta’s key rotation players in street clothes.