|After unexpected extended break, the Hornets get back to full speed|
|Practices focused on improving defensively|
|Published Friday, January 22, 2021 10:00 am|
|PHOTO | CHARLOTTE HORNETS|
|The Charlotte Hornets (6-8) converted Wednesday's postponed game against Washington into an extended training session to improve their defense and heal nagging injuries. They play 6-8 Chicago tonight at Spectrum Center.|
Because Wednesday’s game against Washington was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols among the Wizards, it’s been six days since the Hornets last played, opening the door for practice and healing before tonight’s game against Chicago at Spectrum Center. Both teams are 6-8 in the Eastern Conference, but the Bulls, who are 12th, are riding a two-game win streak. Charlotte is 11th.
“We’re really excited to play,” said forward P.J. Washington, who has been limited in practice due to an ankle injury. “This has been a long break for us. We’re trying to figure this [unexpected recess] as best we can. I think everybody’s excited to get a couple days off, but everybody wants to play as well, so we’re excited for this match against the Bulls.”
An area of emphasis during the break has been defense. Charlotte has struggled in stretches during the skid, and coach James Borrego is focusing on schemes and situation execution. The Hornets allow 108.1 points per game, ninth in the NBA but too much for Borrego to be pleased.
“We continue to work on our defense,” he said. “We can’t hit that enough, so I don't want to neglect it even though we have a little bit more time than usual [with extra practice time]. Obviously, we're playing different coverages. We want to make sure that we're effective in all of our man and zone concepts. That’s the biggest thing.
“Secondly, we've been working a lot of situational stuff which we haven't been able to do. And when I say what I mean by that is in the game situations – offensively, defensively when we’re up by three, when we're down by three, or end-of-game package.”
Forward Caleb Martin admits it’s challenging to prepare for games that can be postponed at any time.
“It’s a little difficult,” he said. “It's just kind of different but the approach has to be the same, but I think the way that we think about is it’s just a way to take advantage of the time, regardless of us being able to focus on the next game that we’re playing. I think there’s a lot of things that we can focus on within ourselves and on our own team and on schemes, and to make sure we can protect those things that no matter what, we won't have to worry about somebody else’s schemes in order for things to work or in order for us to find ways to win.”
Center Cody Zeller (hand) returns to the rotation Friday, which gives Charlotte some flexibility on both ends of the court when they go with a traditional lineup. Zeller also gives the Hornets rebounding help, an area they’ve struggled with during his 13-game absence. Charlotte averages 44.8 rebounds per game, 13th in the league.
“He definitely looks like he’s in shape, he’s rebounding the ball … he’s playing defense so it’s always good to have a 7-footer that can do those things out there,” Washington said. “He’s a great player for us and we're excited to have him back.”
Playing games that count represents normalcy, and Friday marks its return – even if no fans are allowed. The break, however, has been beneficial as time to reset and fine-tune.
“I think we just take this time and just take advantage of the things that we need to work on within our within ourselves, whether it’s defensively or offense or like game situations,” Martin said. “I just think that we’ve been having the right approach as a team and as a staff. Just take advantage of the time.”
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