Chemistry Between Hayward, Rozier Noticeable Already for Hornets

by Sam Perley

Yes, it’s just three games into the 2020-21 NBA season for the Charlotte Hornets, but it’s still easy to be encouraged by some of the team’s early trends, particularly the chemistry between a pair of starters who first played together two years ago back in Boston.

Terry Rozier (26.7 points) and Gordon Hayward (22.7) currently lead the Hornets in scoring and are both shooting at least 50% and combing for 10 assists per contest heading into Charlotte’s Dec. 30 road game in Dallas. Of Hayward’s 7.0 assists, 2.3 of them are coming on Rozier field goals at a shooting efficiency of 53% and 50% from three (6-of-12). Likewise, nearly half (1.3) of Rozier’s nightly 3.0 dimes are coming on baskets made by Hayward.

And through Dec. 29’s slate of NBA games, just three other NBA teams had multiple players averaging at least 20.0 points on 50.0% shooting and 3.0 assists: Brooklyn (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving), Indiana (Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo) and New York (Alec Burks, Julius Randle).

Right now, the pair has played more minutes together than any other two-man combination on the Hornets (86 minutes, which is not entirely surprising considering they are both co-starters) and the familiarity is already paying dividends for Charlotte. This pairing plus any other three-man combination is averaging team-high marks in scoring (68.0 points on 45% shooting), assists (18.0) and steals (6.0) in 28.7 minutes per contest.

“They look like they have chemistry,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego. “I don’t know if it’s just back to their time in Boston. I can’t really speak to that, but based on what I see, I think they play off each other well. I’m sure they understand each other’s game at a higher level than if they just came in blindly to this situation. There’s history there, there’s chemistry, there’s connection. I think that helps us right now.”

He added, “We had a good practice today (Tuesday) with those two guys playing off each other together. I like their synergy and connection and I think we saw it a number of times in Boston as well. It’s nice to have a group that’s been together before.”

“I kind of know T-Ro’s game a little bit already and that was definitely helpful with the short training camp,” said Hayward in an interview with Fox Sports Southeast following the team’s home win over Brooklyn on Sunday night. “With not very much time to know people, getting to know T-Ro wasn’t that hard.”

Hayward and Rozier were teammates in Boston from 2017-19, playing just one season together on the court with the former missing the entire 2017-18 campaign after breaking his leg in the team’s regular season opener. Rozier watched firsthand as Hayward not only missed an entire year of play, but spent the ensuing one battling back to get to where he was before the injury.

“I saw his ability to come back stronger and how he prepared,” recalled Rozier. “To be ready at this level is not easy. I was there when he went down with the injury. I watched him work every day to get himself back healthy. Now, it’s just crazy we’re both together and fully healthy. He’s ready to show everybody what he’s fully capable of and what he can do. I’m just happy to see him get through that and grow.”

And right now, the Charlotte Hornets are certainly seeing promising signs of what the reunited duo can do for the organization from both an on-court and leadership standpoint.

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