October 14, 2018
If nothing else, the upcoming season has the framework to be special for Charlotte. The 2018-19 season marks the 30th anniversary of the Hornets inception, and for just the second time ever, the Queen City will be hosting the NBA All-Star Game. All of the publicity around the franchise is fixated on these two things, which in turn has led the actual team to become an addendum, buried under tidal waves of 90’s nostalgia and All-Star hype.
One player who has been able to generate headlines for the team itself is Miles Bridges. Bridges, who was selected with the 12th pick in this year’s Draft, has put himself on the map with perhaps the most impressive preseason of any rookie this year. Bridges’ preseason highlights include thunderous dunks and sharp perimeter shooting along with a shot-blocking ability and defensive prowess much needed. The Hornets have had many lottery picks fail to live up to expectations, but the 20 year from Michigan State has shown thus far that he may be worth the hype.
Bridges will be joining a team whose core remains largely intact. Notable changes in the offseason include the departure of Dwight Howard, the return of Bismack Biyombo, and the signing of veteran point guard Tony Parker. Charlotte’s offseason moves were driven more by substance than flash. The team didn’t sign any All-Star caliber talent, but addressed some key personnel issues, such as the lack of a quality backup point guard to Kemba Walker. Tony Parker is far from the player he was during his prime in San Antonio, but he brings veteran leadership to the team and can dependably facilitate the offense when Walker isn’t on the floor. Another dynamic Parker brings is his great relationship with starting shooting guard Nic Batum. The two were teammates for years on the French national team and actually co-own a French professional basketball team together, which makes fans hopeful the pre-existing chemistry between the two can deepen a formidable backcourt for the Hornets.
It would be a welcome improvement, as Batum has faced more scrutiny than any other player from the Buzz City faithful. Batum, along with Marvin Williams, have frequently been cited as two players who greatly underperformed last season. Perhaps the frustration isn’t so much from the fact they’re underperforming, but rather they’re underperforming and overpaid. To expect either to play to the value of their contracts is unreasonable, but if minor improvements to their game could be made, such as Batum limiting his turnovers and Williams hitting the corner three more consistently, it could go a long way.
If Batum and Williams are to improve, it will be under the guidance of new head coach James Borrego, who accompanies Tony Parker from San Antonio. The Popovich disciple’s coaching philosophy could be the spark the Hornets need, as his offensive system, which emphasizes attacking the defense early in the possession, seems to be working this preseason. Players have noted its extremely quick pace, and the team even does drills in practice where they’re only given a 12-second shot clock. Borrego seems to have prioritized players quickly attacking the basket as well as creating spacing for perimeter shooting, both areas Charlotte struggled in last year.
The Hornets have hit a complete reset on their coaching staff and front office and it seems this season has a mild buzz. But maybe that’s a good thing. For the first time in a while, the Hornets will not have the burden of expectation, and can play loosely, free of playoff aspirations and lofty goals. This year, fans just want to see growth. They want to see Borrego’s new system allow players like Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchirst to flourish. They want to see Miles Bridges tear down the rim at the Spectrum Center on a nightly basis and show he’s a star in the making. They want to see a healthy Cody Zeller making a difference on both ends of the floor. And who knows, if all this happens, maybe the team can make a surprise run to the playoffs, and have the special season this year seems ordained to be.
Check out the full 2018-19 Charlotte Hornets schedule.