So far, November has not been very kind to the Charlotte Hornets. This week provides opportunities to change that.
Charlotte has lost its last four games, and has not won a game since November 1st. The lack of depth has been an issue in particular as Charlotte has had been large leads in their last two games but failed to close down the stretch. The good news is the Hornets expect Nicolas Batum to make his season debut this week. Though his minutes might be limited, his versatility will be crucial for the team as it makes a playoff push.
vs Cavaliers, 8:00 ET, Wednesday, Nov. 15
Charlotte gets a rare nationally televised game as this contest will be on ESPN. This game will be the first for the Hornets in their throwback pinstripe jerseys, a look that will call back to Charlotte legends like Dell Curry and Larry Johnson. The jerseys are a sharp look for sure and are part of the reason the team will be on national television.
The other big reason for the national televised game: LeBron James. That guy is pretty good. He also has historically been very good against Charlotte. LeBron-lead teams (Miami then Cleveland) are 27-1 in their last 28 meetings. James also is aware of history and tends to put on a show when he goes up against Michael Jordan’s team.
Cleveland comes into this matchup with a .500 record. Sports talk has been full of discussion whether or not it is time for Cavs fans to panic. Cleveland looks old and bored. So which is it? Are they old or bored? Well, probably a little bit of both. Rumors are running wild that this is the last year for a veteran group that has been to the Finals 3 years in a row. Cleveland misses Kyrie Irving, who was traded in the offseason. His replacement, Isaiah Thomas, has not played yet and won’t until 2018. Offseason additions Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade are not the players they once were.
Still, the LeBron guy is pretty good. It is important that Batum will be back as the team will need wing defenders. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has not made much impact so far, could use this as a game where he shows his value as a defender. Cavs center Tristan Thompson is out so look for Dwight Howard to be able to cause a lot of disruption inside. Cleveland comes in with the worst defense rating in the NBA (111.1) which hopefully will give Charlotte a chance to get its rather pedestrian offense going.
at Bulls, 8:00 ET, Friday, Nov. 17
Charlotte takes a trip to the Windy City to take on the rebuilding Bulls. These are not the Bulls of recent years. Gone are Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson. The one year experiments of Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo are over too. The Bulls are committed to a full rebuild around young players like Zach LaVine and rookie Lauri Markkanen. The rebuild will mean growing pains, as evidenced in the team’s 2-9 record.
Bulls forward Bobby Portis has played well, averaging 19.3 points and shooting 50 percent from 3. Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller will have their hands full guarding him. Chicago has the worst field goal percentage in the NBA (40.9%), look for Charlotte’s defense to take advantage of the inexperienced Bulls.
vs Clippers, 7:00 ET, Saturday, November 18
Charlotte finishes up the week with a home matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are a team in transition, as Chris Paul was traded to Houston this past summer. The point guard load has been filled by scrappy guard Patrick Beverly. Star Blake Griffin has been good this year, averaging 23.1 points per game. New addition Danilo Gallinari has played well, but has been out with a nagging glute injury. Charlotte might catch a break if he can’t go Saturday.
The Clippers are currently only 5-8, but they still have a positive point differential (1.2). One key will be the second unit and their ability to maintain leads once the starters are out. Lou Williams has been giving the Clippers 17 points per game off the bench, Charlotte will have to work hard to match that bench production. Lamb on the second unit (with Batum’s return) could really give that unit an offensive boost.
Charlotte needs to get back to winning. Winning two out of three this week would go a long way to re energizing the fan base.