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Will “small ball” be the key to future success for the Charlotte Hornets?

By Richard Walker

The NBA is nothing if it’s not a copycat league.

Since the Charlotte Hornets haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 and haven’t won a playoff series since 2002, it appears their looking at the recent “small ball” success of the Golden State Warriors as their best chance at success in the upcoming 2020-21 season.

With the team preparing for the official start of training camp on Friday, the team made three of its top returnees – Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham and P.J. Washington – available to the media through zoom news conferences.

And each player acknowledged the possibility that a “small ball” lineup with the 6-foot-1 Rozier and 6-2 Graham at guards, 6-7 Gordon Hayward on the wing and 6-7 Miles Bridges and 6-7 P.J. Washington manning the power forward and center positions, respectively, could be beneficial.

Washington even admitted the recent “mini-bubble” training camp in September spent lots of time working with him on playing more at the center position.

“I’m super excited and can’t wait to get out there and do anything I can to help this team win,” Washington said.

Washington went on to say Golden State’s playmaking big man Draymon Green have given players with his skill set something to emulate.

“We have a lot of people that can score and a lot of people that can facilitate,” Washington said.

Graham took it another step further about that possible lineup.

“All five guys can shoot the ball and all five guys can handle the ball,” Graham said. “It gives you more options.”

Coach James Borrego mentioned the possibility of going small when discussing the center position during Tuesday’s zoom news conference.

“There‚Äôs a number of ways we can go,” Borrego said. Seven-foot “Cody (Zeller) fits our roster as a starter in this league. I feel comfortable with him starting with that first unit. (But) I imagine a lot of minutes for P.J. Washington at the 5. Especially where the league is headed playing a lot more ‘small ball.’ We could P.J. to the 5 and Miles at the 4.
“We’re a dynamic, versatile, athletic front court with Miles and P.J. together so I’d expect a lot of those two together.”

Rozier was thrilled to be reunited with Hayward; The two played together for two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19) before Rozier was traded to the Hornets in the summer of 2019.

“He’s a vet and he knows what it takes,” Rozier said of Hayward. “I know we just got better by adding him.”

Graham also talked about what Hornets’ fans have hoping to hear.

“As a team, we want to make the playoffs,” Graham said. “We think that we can push in the East with our new pieces.”