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With Hayward out, who will Hornets use in his place? Coach names 4 candidates

By Richard Walker

Losing your top offseason acquisition to a broken finger certainly isn’t what Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego wanted when his four-game preseason schedule began.

But with Hayward out of action, Borrego says several other Hornets will get a chance to earn playing time in Charlotte’s final two preseason contests at the Orlando Magic.

“We’ll spread it out,” Borrego said of filling Hayward’s role after Thursday morning’s shootaround. “It opens up some opportunities for more minutes for other guys.”

Borrego mentioned Cody Martin, Jalen McDaniels, Malik Monk and Caleb Martin as candidates who could fill in for Hayward until he returns.

Charlotte announces Wednesday afternoon that Hayward sustained an avulsion fracture of his fifth metacarpal on his right hand during Monday’s preseason home game against Toronto. The pinkie finger injury has Hayward listed as “day-to-day” by the Hornets, though it’s highly unlikely he would play in either of the final two preseason games.

Borrego wasn’t ready to make any proclamation about Hayward’s readiness for the Dec. 23 regular season opener at the Cleveland Cavaliers after Thursday morning’s shootaround.

“I don’t want to speculate about opening night,” Borrego said. “He’s feeling better today so that’s good. But it’s going to be day-to-day with him.”

Hayward was the Hornets’ biggest offseason acquisition after the Boston Celtics free agent reached an agreement with Charlotte and the teams later made it official with a sign-and-trade deal on Nov. 29.

A 10-year NBA veteran, Hayward has averaged 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 641 games (479 starts). Hayward has started both preseason games and is averaging 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Cody Martin is averaging 4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 16.0 minutes in the preseason, with McDaniels averaging 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 15.5 minutes, Caleb Martin 4.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 18.5 minutes and Monk had two points and three assists in 11 minutes in his lone game after he was held out of the opener due to missing much of training camp following a positive COVID-19 test.

After Thursday night’s 7 p.m. preseason game at Orlando, the Hornets remain in Orlando to close out their 2020 preseason schedule with 7 p.m. Saturday night game against the Magic.