|Photo | Troy Hull|
|The Charlotte Hornets had their best performance of the season in six games as they went 4-2, including shots from LaMelo Ball (right) and Gordon Hayward after returning from injury. 2-0.|
The Charlotte Hornets are at their best when their best players are available.
The Hornets have had their best season of the season with four wins in their past six games, including 2 since LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward returned to the lineup. -0. Combined with the continued development of young players forced to play extended minutes, Charlotte (15-36) has shown the potential for any continued rotation consistency.
“We know we haven’t seen as much as we’d like this season because of injuries, but it feels good to finally have the starting five that we set to start the season with, and it’s playing well,” said guard Trillo. Zill said. “It just makes you think about a lot of things, but obviously we’re not stuck in the past, we’re going to move forward. Just focus on how we can be better from now on.”
The projected Opening Day lineup of Ball and Rozier in the backcourt; Mason Plumlee’s Hayward and PJ Washington at forward and center are far from Iron Man. Ball and Hayward have missed a combined 53 games this season, and their absence puts the Hornets at a creative and leadership disadvantage.
Kelly Oubre, the clutch backup who averaged 20.2 points per game, has missed 16 games; top perimeter defender Cody Martin, who came off the bench, has played just seven games.
Center Mason Plumlee said it was “great” to have the full starting lineup. “Obviously, with Gordon, ‘Melo, folks, that’s a big step up. It’s not a knock on anyone who fills the void — we’ve got a lot of good players — obviously G’s just a different class. The player. To have him back, obviously ‘Melon, he changed our whole offense. Hopefully we can stay together in the final stretch.”
Having Ball on the floor with Hayward would pay off immediately. In Sunday’s 122-117 win over the Heat, Hayward snapped the Heat’s seven-game losing streak and became the first Hornets team in franchise history to score at least 20 points on 100 percent shooting.
Hayward made 7 of 7 shots, 3 of 3 from beyond the three-point line, and 3 of 3 free throws to score 20 points. Ball’s presence as a passer and scorer certainly opens up opportunities for everyone.
“‘Melo can be a man, like [Friday against Chicago in a 111-96 win] Not shooting, but he can still impact the game with rebounds, assists, just be the guy that the opposing team’s main focus is on,” said Rozier, who had a team-high 31 points and seven assists against the Bulls. Ping Bauer. “He frees up a lot of other guys and gets the G back, another guy who can create shots or create shots for teammates. So, it’s great to have players around, especially those two. “
Ball said he has missed 27 of 51 games: “It’s great to be back here and play again. It’s a great feeling to be able to touch the rocks, so it’s definitely great.”
Given the injuries the Hornets have suffered this season, they have an opportunity to change the collective narrative with a healthy run that could eventually include a full rotation — something head coach Steve Clifford hasn’t faced.
“I think [rookie center] Mark Williams has been, I wouldn’t say a surprise, but I think he’s been playing better and better,” Clifford said. “He’s got more confidence. I think Mason (Plumlee) played this last stretch. But having Melo and Gordon back, obviously you’re a different team. And then I think there’s hope that we’ll get these other guys back — get Cody back, get Kelly back — and get into the playgroup.
“Then we’ll have a great opportunity to hopefully put some good stretches together and try to get into a game where these guys know who they’re playing with and they know where the shots are coming from. That’s you How to get into a good rhythm and play consistently well.”