Hornets preseason set to start: Coach Borrego, 2021 Rookie of the Year Ball look for improvement

By Richard Walker

As the Charlotte Hornets prepare to begin a four-game 2021 preseason slate on Monday at Oklahoma City, optimism reigns supreme as it does in many NBA locales following the first week of training camp.

LaMelo Ball meets with the media before training camp started on Monday.

Much of the excitement in Charlotte is focused on the expected improvement of second-year guard LaMelo Ball, who says he’s completely healthy after a broken wrist cost him 21 games last season and limited him in others.

In spite of the injury, Ball did enough – he averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds – to earn Rookie of the Year honors.

Hornets head coach James Borrego has given Ball high praise as Ball’s second season is about to start.

“I want him to take the reins of this program,” Borrego said. “He’s the quarterback, the floor general and for us to take that next step he must run this team, not only on the offensive end but the defensive end as well.”

Charlotte went 33-39 last season but skidded down the stretch and were blown out at the Indiana Pacers in an Eastern Conference NBA play-in game.

Borrego says he has been working closely with Ball in one-on-one sessions, stressing the importance of Ball’s importance in late-game situations.

Charlotte wants to play a fast-paced tempo but Borrego knows some times will try to slow Ball and his team down.

Ball also wants to continue working on his long-range shooting; He made 37.5 percent on 3-pointers in 41 games before breaking his wrist before making 24.4 percent in his final 10 games.

Ball looks forward to the challenge.

“It’s going over plays and stuff and watching film and knowing where to be at and where others players are to be,” Ball said. “It’s leading the pack.”

Teammate Miles Bridges has been impressed with what he’s seen from Ball so far in training camp and says Ball is again fearlessly attacking the rim.

“Melo, he’s still young,” Bridges said. “We sometimes forget that he’s 20 years old. So he’s doing a great job of being a leader on the offensive end. He’s just communicating more and that’s what we want to work on. It’s not hard. He’s a very vocal player. But just him just being comfortable with saying stuff” to other players.

Ball recognizes that simply being a point guard confers some level of leadership.

“That’s a point guard,” Ball said. “I’m definitely going to lead. All of my life I’ve been leading. So it’s a great position for me.”

Ball won’t be the only object of attention from Hornets’ fans as the preseason schedule begins.

How healthy is Gordon Hayward after he missed 29 games last season with various injuries?

Can Terry Rozier continue his ascension as one of the league’s best players?

And how will the Hornets’ rebuilt frontcourt that includes trade aquisition Mason Plumlee, second-year post players Nick Richards and Vernon Carey and rookie first-round draft pick Kai Jones.

After playing at Oklahoma City on Monday, Charlotte returns home for a Thursday night contest with Memphis before visiting Miami and closing the preseason on Oct. 13 at home against Dallas.

Here is the full 2021-22 schedule as the Hornets prepare for an Oct. 4 start to the preseason and an Oct. 20 start to the regular season:

Mon. 4 at Oklahoma City 8:00
Thu. 7 MEMPHIS 7:00
Mon. 11 at Miami 7:30
Wed. 13 DALLAS 7:00

(Regular season)

Wed. 20 INDIANA 7:00
Fri. 22 at Cleveland 7:00
Sun. 24 at Brooklyn 4:00
Mon. 25 BOSTON 7:00
Wed. 27 at Orlando 7:00
Fri. 29 at Miami 7:30
Sun. 31 PORTLAND 7:00
Mon. 1 CLEVELAND 7:00
Wed. 3 at Golden State 10:00
Fri. 5 at Sacramento 10:00
Sun. 7 at LA Clippers 9:00
Mon. 8 at L.A. Lakers 10:30
Wed. 10 at Memphis 8:00
Fri. 12 NEW YORK 7:00
Sun. 14 GOLDEN STATE 7:00
Wed. 17 WASHINGTON 7:00
Fri. 19 INDIANA 7:00
Sat. 20 at Atlanta 7:30
Mon. 22 at Washington 7:00
Wed. 24 at Orlando 7:00
Fri. 26 MINNESOTA 7:00
Sat. 27 at Houston 8:00
Mon. 29 at Chicago 8:00
Wed. 1 at Milwaukee 8:00
Sun. 5 at Atlanta 6:00
Fri. 10 SACRAMENTO 7:00
Mon. 13 at Dallas 8:30
Wed. 15 at San Antonio 8:30
Fri. 17 at Portland 10:00
Sun. 19 at Phoenix 8:00
Mon. 20 at Utah 9:00
Thu. 23 at Denver 9:00
Mon. 27 HOUSTON 7:00
Wed. 29 at Indiana 7:00
Sun. 2 PHOENIX 7:00
Mon. 3 at Washington 7:00
Wed. 5 DETROIT 7:00
Sat. 8 MILWAUKEE 7:00
Mon. 10 MILWAUKEE 7:00
Wed. 12 at Philadelphia 7:00
Fri. 14 ORLANDO 7:00
Mon. 17 at New York 1:00
Wed. 19 at Boston 7:30
Fri. 21 OKLAHOMA CITY 7:00
Sun. 23 ATLANTA 7:00
Tue. 25 at Toronto 7:00
Wed. 26 at Indiana 7:00
Fri. 28 L.A. LAKERS 7:00
Sun. 30 LA CLIPPERS 1:00
Wed. 2 at Boston 7:30
Fri. 4 CLEVELAND 7:00
Sat. 5 MIAMI 7:00
Mon. 7 TORONTO 7:00
Wed. 9 CHICAGO 7:30
Fri. 11 at Detroit 7:00
Sat. 12 MEMPHIS 7:00
Tue. 15 at Minnesota 8:00
Thu. 17 MIAMI 7:00
Fri. 25 TORONTO 7:00
Sun. 27 DETROIT 7:00
Mon. 28 at Milwaukee 8:00
Wed. 2 at Cleveland 7:00
Sat. 5 SAN ANTONIO 7:00
Tue. 8 BROOKLYN 7:00
Wed. 9 BOSTON 7:00
Fri. 11 at New Orleans 8:00
Mon. 14 at Oklahoma City 8:00
Wed. 16 ATLANTA 7:00
Sat. 19 DALLAS 7:00
Mon. 21 NEW ORLEANS 7:00
Wed. 23 NEW YORK 7:00
Fri. 25 UTAH 7:00
Sun. 27 at Brooklyn 7:30
Mon. 28 DENVER 7:00
Wed. 30 at New York 7:30
Sat. 2 at Philadelphia 12:30
Tue. 5 at Miami 7:30
Thu. 7 ORLANDO 7:00
Fri. 8 at Chicago 8:00