Hayward Continues to Garner All-Star Consideration, Ball Named East Rookie of the Month
Gordon Hayward Exceeding All-Star Numbers from Four Years Ago
Hornets forward Gordon Hayward has been an NBA All-Star once before and through 20 appearances this season, his numbers are nearly identical or in some cases, surpassing his marks from that breakout 2016-17 campaign with Utah.
Through Monday night’s overtime road win against the Heat, Hayward ranks 11th in the Eastern Conference in scoring (career-high 23.0 points), while shooting personal bests from the field (50.3%), three-point range (43.0% for a career-high 2.3 3PM per game) and free-throw line (85.6%). He’s also averaging 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals, while giving the Hornets a reliable go-to scoring option from virtually anywhere on the court this season.
“He should absolutely be in that [All-Star] category,” said Hornets Head Coach Borrego. “He’s been everything we could have imagined and more. Career highs across the board – scoring, shooting, fourth-quarter efficiency. And then what he’s done for our young guys, he’s raised their level and our level with his competitive spirit.”
“For me, I’ve just been trying to focus on us as much as I can,” stated Hayward. “All the individual stuff usually takes care of itself. I have to continue to get better as a player to help us win games. That’s the important thing for us. It certainly would be nice to get that nod again, but I’m just trying to focus on our team.”
Hayward’s first All-Star appearance took place four years ago, when he put up averages of 22.2 points on 47% shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steal in 50 appearances prior to the NBA’s midseason showcase event. The Jazz were 35-22 at the time and went on to play in the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time in seven seasons. Months later, Hayward sustained the well-documented leg injury in his Boston Celtics debut and since then, has worked tirelessly to get back to the level he was at towards the end of his Jazz tenure.
“You look at what he’s been through with the injuries, you never know if you’re going to come back from something like that,” added Borrego. “The way he’s responded and put himself back in that category speaks to his character, his work ethic and to me, this would be a great reward for that.”
Hayward’s chances of making the All-Star team will continue to increase the longer he plays at this high level and the more the Hornets continue to win as a team. Others in positional contention with the 30-year-old for a spot on the Eastern Conference squad include Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, Orlando’s Nikola Vučević and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.
LaMelo Ball Becomes First Charlotte Player to Win Rookie of the Month Since 2012-13
Now roughly six weeks into his NBA career, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has just racked up his first significant honor since entering the league after he was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December and January on Tuesday afternoon.
The 19-year-old’s play has been nothing short of spectacular so far, as he currently ranks third amongst all first-year players in scoring (12.2 points on 42% shooting), second in rebounding (5.9) and steals (1.4) and first in assists (6.1). He became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double back on Jan. 9 and scored a career-high 27 points three weeks later.
“He’s a wonderful kid, a great person,” said Coach Borrego prior to Ball’s first-ever NBA start on Monday night in Miami. “Genuine, humble, hungry, coachable, joyful – all those things as a coach, I love to be around. He’s really ignited our program. He brings great joy and spirit every day in practice, shootarounds and games. And the biggest thing is his teammates love him and love playing with him.”
Ball is the first Charlotte player to be named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in November of 2012 and the eighth to do so overall. Other notable Hornets to garner this particular award include Kemba Walker, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson.
Charlotte was put in position to select Ball third overall back in November after jumping up five spots in the NBA Draft Lottery, a rare stroke of good fortune that looks more and more impactful each day. The highlight-generating Chino Hills, CA native has played a large role in the Hornets receiving more national attention this year, regularly appearing on SportsCenter’s Top-10 plays segment and becoming one of the most aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable teams to watch by the casual NBA observer.
Borrego added, “His spirit is infectious, his game is infectious. We’re first in the league in assist percentage and assists and he’s a big part of that. It started with our program last year when we laid a foundation and he’s continued that. He’s fearless, he’s confident, he plays with a wonderful joy. I love being around him and I love coaching him.”