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Sights, Sounds and Takeaways from Hornets Media Day 2021

by Sam Perley

After a seemingly never-ending offseason in 2020 that lasted over nine months, 2021-22 NBA campaign is now just around the corner with the first day of Hornets Training Camp officially commencing on Tuesday morning. On Monday, a majority of the players spoke at Spectrum Center about this past summer, forthcoming expectations and everything in between.

  • Head Coach James Borrego mentioned “continuity and stability” as two things that the team has going for it right now compared to the start of last season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft, free agency and training camp were all frantically consolidated together into about a four-week window last November and December.
  • Borrego also said he expects the team to be 100% vaccinated by the start of the regular season. Based on current NBA guidelines, a player’s availability after testing positive or being exposed to COVID-19 differs significantly based on one’s vaccination status.  
  • Terry Rozier says making the playoffs is certainly the goal, if not the expectation for the Hornets this season. Of note, he and Gordon Hayward spearheaded an offseason team trip down to Miami a few weeks ago, which all 16 players on the main roster attended. 
  • There will be a minutes-management plan in place for Gordon Hayward this season, who missed the final six weeks of the 2020-21 season because of a foot sprain. Now fully healthy, Hayward has spent the entire summer rehabbing and training in Charlotte and was adamant about having his full trust in Borrego and the training staff. 
  • Like Hayward, LaMelo Ball also spent the offseason in Charlotte and made decision-making, shooting, defense and bulking up his main priorities. The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year has bounced around from different teams, leagues and continents early on in his basketball career and should benefit greatly from finally having extended time in the same location.
  • PJ Washington is eyeing more consistency entering his third year, while also coming off his first normalized offseason as a professional. Amongst other things, one of his goals this season is to shoot at least 40% from three, an area where to date, he’s converted 38.1% of his career attempts (38.6% last season).
  • Miles Bridges was just a few made free throws away from entering the rarified 50/40/90 club last season and says the vast improvements in his shooting simply came down to “having fun and playing hard every game.” In terms of starting versus not starting this season, Bridges says he’s solely focusing on winning games and making the playoffs.
  • Mason Plumlee recalled speed, unselfishness and physicality as things that really stuck out to him about playing against the Hornets last season while with Detroit. He also mentioned that Ball’s passing abilities and size combination reminds him a lot of former Brooklyn teammate and three-time NBA Champion Shaun Livingston. 
  • The one word that constantly came up when discussing Kai Jones? Energy. And his youthful exuberance and excitement has been on full display since draft day, through Summer League and now heading into training camp. Something to keep an eye on – Jones stated he’s already interested in participating in February’s Slam Dunk Contest at NBA All-Star Weekend.
  • Fellow rookie James Bouknight credited Head Coach Dan Hurley and the University of Connecticut as a major factor in preparing him for life in the NBA. “Being able to come in, not [mess around], go hard in every rep, every drill, pushing through fatigue and doing the things you’re asked to do turned me into somebody you can count on.” 
  • Kelly Oubre Jr. used the term “energy” maybe 20 times over the course of his 10 minutes at the podium and said he’s looking forward to a fresh start in Charlotte. The all-good-energy-all-the-time veteran said he is fully recovered from a wrist injury that brought down his three-point percentage to 31.6% last year in Golden State and that this is also the most excited he’s been for a training camp since he was a rookie.
  • Cody Martin said the biggest adjustment to not having his brother Caleb on the roster, who recently signed a two-way deal with Miami, will be felt more off the court than anything. Martin added he’s been focusing on his shooting, confidence and learning how to move on quicker from mistakes without getting too down on himself during games.  
  • Charlotte native Ish Smith is readying for his debut with the hometown team, saying he feels “truly blessed” for the opportunity. Having come back periodically throughout the years to visit family, friends and also play against the Hornets, the Central Cabarrus High School alum said he’s proud of how much change and growth the city has undergone.  
  • Look for the battle for frontcourt rotation minutes to be one of the most competitive storylines of training camp. Plumlee, Bridges, Jones, Washington, Jalen McDaniels, Vernon Carey Jr. and Nick Richards are all options to play the four, five or even both interchangeably this upcoming season. 
  • The 27-point blowout road loss to Indiana back in May’s NBA Play-In Game has left a bad taste in most of the Hornets players’ mouths this summer, with Bridges even terming it “a blessing in disguise.” Expect there to be a little extra motivation when the regular season home opener against the Pacers rolls around on October 20.
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