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Small world: Hornets shake up rotation in season debut
Up-tempo lineup a plus in 113-112 loss to Bucks
 
Published Wednesday, October 17, 2018 11:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

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The Charlotte Hornets are not afraid to play small.


Coach James Borrego did not see the mental or physical wherewithal from his starting unit to compete in their season opener against Milwaukee. His response? Go small, really small. They lost to the Bucks 113-112, but crawled their way out of a 20-point hole to lead late in the fourth quarter.


“If I find a group that is competitive, urgent and aggressive, we’ll play it,” Borrego said. “Sometimes that’s going to be big. Sometimes that’s going to be small. Tonight it was small.”


Charlotte proved most productive with guards Kemba Walker, Tony Parker (eight points, seven assists and three boards) and Malik Monk in the same rotation.


“It helps us speed the game up,” said Walker, who scored 41 points and had four assists against the Bucks. “Defensively, we are able to switch everything, which we haven’t been doing ever since we’ve been here. Whenever there’s a legit five on the opposite side, it just creates difficulty. It opened up so many lanes for us. It’s different.”


Said Parker of Walker: “That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re an All-Star – you carry your team. I was a six-time All-Star. That is what he is going to do every night. We need him to do that. If not, we’re going to go nowhere. He’s playing great, and he did what he is supposed to do.”


Monk provided 18 points, four boards and two assists. After a disappointing rookie season, Borrego’s desire to establish a fast-paced style play allows Monk to play to his strengths.


“I trust him with the ball,” Borrego said. “The only thing we have tried to encourage him to be aware of is making the right decision, making the right plays. I think he did a pretty good job tonight. There were probably a couple shots that we have to cleanup and look at, but the kid is explosive. He’s willing to take the shot, take the big shot. I think he made pretty good decisions tonight. If he is willing to compete defensively, I can live with that.”


Said forward/guard Nic Batum: “I’ve been talking to [Monk] all year, and last season. It can be frustrating, because he is a great player, and he didn’t have his chance to be that player last year. I always talk to him, ‘you’re going to have your turn. You’re young.’ I never stopped talking to him, because he reminded me of [Portland guard] C.J. McCollum when C.J. was a rookie. C.J. didn’t play his first two years, and I told him his turn would come, and that he would be all right, and to just keep working. Malik is the same. Malik is going to be good for us, he’s going to be huge for us, and for this team for a long time. He just turned 20. He has a lot of time.”


Borrego is not afraid to put Batum at center, a position he last played with the French national team, but never in the NBA until tonight.


“It’s crazy—Nic at the five, but he can make plays,” Walker said. “As the season goes on, we’re all going to get more comfortable. It’s still new for us. Guys are still trying to figure out things.”


Said Batum: “It worked. I don’t think we’re going to do that every game, but I know in some situations that can be good, because we spread the floor. We have Kemba, TP and Malik together on the floor it can be good. If I have to play center sometimes to help the team, I’m going to do it.”


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