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On a day Charlotte Hornets get their 2020-21 schedule, they open training camp minus one player who tested positive for COVID-19

By Richard Walker

Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball called it “business as usual” and coach James Borrego said “today is Day One of our journey” on zoom news conferences Friday after the team began its 2020 training camp.

Shortly after completing those first official workouts, the Hornets found out they’ll open the upcoming season on Dec. 23 at the Cleveland Cavaliers before opening their home schedule on Dec. 26 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Borrego also said guard Malik Monk had tested positive for COVID-19 and while he is asymptomatic, Monk miss practice drills for “a couple of days.”

Much of Friday’s practice focus was on how newcomers LaMelo Ball and top offseason trade acquisition Gordon Hayward would be added to a team that finished with a 23-42 record last season before the NBA stopped play in March due to the pandemic.

Borrego split the teams into groups for 5-on-5 drills and he put LaMelo Ball and Hayward on a team together.

“Working with Gordon was good,” LaMelo Ball said. “I felt good out there. I feel like he’s a great guy and a great fit.”

Borrego, who again declined to establish a definitive preseason goal, said he was going to put the team into different rotation groups and situations throughout training camp.

“We had a lot of group work and film work to get the players up to speed,” Borrego said. “We’re trying to accelerate the learning curve. But we don’t want to skip any steps.
“I’m very much in evaluation mode right now.”

Borrego was pleased with how the 19-year-old Ball did in his first official practice.

“LaMelo was a joy out there today,” Borrego said of the team’s No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft. “He’s a sponge and he going to learn quickly because he has a high basketball IQ.”

For his part, LaMelo Ball was pleased.

“The first day of practice was cool,” he said. “I really liked the vibe.”

The Hornets got the first half of their schedule from the NBA later on Friday. The second half of the season for games from March 11 to May 16 will be released at a later date.

Among the highlights of the first half schedule are home games against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 27, two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 30 and former NBA MVP (and Charlotte native) Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 20.

The Hornets play two teams with Gastonia connections.

On Jan. 13, Charlotte hosts the Dallas Mavericks; The Mavericks have Ashbrook graduate Darrell Armstrong as an assistant coach and former Forestview and Gaston Day standout Nate Hinton is currently in Dallas’ training camp.

And on Feb. 28, Charlotte visits the Sacramento Kings; Gastonia’s Hassan Whiteside, an eight-year NBA veteran, just signed a contract with Sacramento.

The Hornets are slated to play one nationally televised game during the first half of ths season. It’ll be when LaMelo Ball plays against his older brother Lonzo Ball for the first time in the NBA. Lonzo Ball and the New Orleans Pelicans will host Charlotte on Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Also, on Feb. 8, Charlotte hosts the Houston Rockets and new head coach Stephen Silas; He is a former longtime Hornets’ assistant coach and the son of longtime Hornets head coach and team executive Paul Silas.

The Hornets will play 38 of their 72 total games in the first half of the season, including 20 of their 36 home games. The schedule also splits evenly between conferences as Charlotte plays 19 games apiece against the East and the West.

Earlier this week, the Hornets announced that home games will be held without fans when the season begins after consulting with state and local government officials over concerns for safety during the pandemic. A team news release said “the team will continue to work with state and local health officials, as well as the NBA, to develop a plan that will allow fans to return to Spectrum Center in both a safe and timely manner, with the hopes that conditions will improve in the coming months and fans will be able to attend games later in the season.”

2020-21 Charlotte Hornets schedule

DECEMBER
Wed. 23 at Cleveland 7:00
Sat. 26 OKLAHOMA CITY 7:00
Sun. 27 BROOKLYN 7:00
Wed. 30 at Dallas 8:30
JANUARY
Fri. 1 MEMPHIS 7:00
Sat. 2 at Philadelphia 7:00
Mon. 4 at Philadelphia 7:00
Wed. 6 at Atlanta 7:30
Fri. 8 at New Orleans 7:30
Sat. 9 ATLANTA 7:00
Mon. 11 NEW YORK 7:00
Wed. 13 DALLAS 7:00
Thu. 14 at Toronto* 7:30
Sat. 16 at Toronto* 7:30
Wed. 20 WASHINGTON 7:00
Fri. 22 CHICAGO 7:00
Sun. 24 at Orlando 6:00
Mon. 25 at Orlando 7:00
Wed. 27 INDIANA 7:00
Fri. 29 INDIANA 7:00
Sat. 30 MILWAUKEE 7:00
FEBRUARY
Mon. 1 at Miami 7:30
Wed. 3 PHILADELPHIA 7:00
Fri. 5 UTAH 7:00
Sun. 7 PORTLAND 1:00
Mon. 8 HOUSTON 7:00
Wed. 10 at Memphis 8:00
Fri. 12 MINNESOTA 7:00
Sun. 14 SAN ANTONIO 7:00
Wed. 17 CHICAGO 7:00
Fri. 19 DENVER 7:00
Sat. 20 GOLDEN STATE 7:00
Mon. 22 at Utah 9:00
Wed. 24 at Phoenix 9:00
Fri. 26 at Golden State 10:00
Sun. 28 at Sacramento 9:00
MARCH
Mon. 1 at Portland 10:30
Wed. 3 at Minnesota 8:00

* At Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL
Home games in CAPS