For a brief moment, the lights inside Spectrum Center flickered off as Dallas’ Jalen Brunson dribbled along the baseline during the second quarter, causing a brief stoppage in play.
Even though the problem was corrected in a split-second and things quickly resumed, perhaps it was a sign. Because there is little doubt the Charlotte Hornets were probably about as ready as just about everyone to turn out the lights on an injury-riddled, frustrating preseason.
Missing Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre in their last exhibition tuneup, they received two more brief scares when Miles Bridges and PJ Washington each left the 127-59 loss to Dallas on Wednesday. Bridges exited in the first half with right knee discomfort after appearing to collide with a defender and didn’t return. Washington dislocated his left middle finger and was available to return.
That was about the lone bright spot in an otherwise forgettable outing: neither injury seems serious. Here are three things we learned about the Hornets in their preseason finale:
THEY FINALLY GET MASE’D
After missing the bulk of the past week due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Mason Plumlee was in action against Dallas and got in a pretty lengthy run.
He was the lone starter to play in the second half as Borrego elected to give LaMelo Ball and Bridges the rest of the evening off. Keeping Plumlee on the floor was a necessity in Borrego’s eyes so Plumlee could work himself into playing shape.
“I appreciate him letting me play the minutes I did,” Plumlee said. “I feel good personally. But obviously a lot of work to do.”
Plumlee didn’t even attempt his first shot until he had already logged seven minutes, this after failing to hoist even one field goal against Oklahoma City in 15 minutes during the Hornets’ preseason opener.A putback off a James Bouknight miss was his initial made bucket with the Hornets and he posted four points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. Get used to it. Plumlee is not a high-volume guy.
“That’s the beauty in Mason,” Borrego said. “He doesn’t need shots to be productive. He’s been an unselfish player his whole career. He’s a playmaker out of that position. Adding another playmaker to the depth of our offense and playmaking is important. That’s why we valued him. I don’t think Mase is so concerned with his shots. None of our players should be. For us to be the best team and the depth of our success will be in the team, not on who’s taking shots that night.
“Whatever the defense gives us is what we’re going to take. And I love that about Mase. He’s not so concerned there. He’s a playmaker and a lot of times we’re going to put the ball in his hands at the top of the floor, and he’s going to make plays for other people. He’s another big who can roll to the rim and score at that level, and we’re going to need his interior presence at times to score at the rim.”
OUBRE CLOSE, ROZIER STILL IFFY
The hometown fans have yet to get an up-close view of Kelly Oubre sporting the teal-and-white. He missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle and has been sidelined for more than a week.
Apparently, he’s inching slowly along and could be ready to get back out there soon.
“I would say Kelly is closest right now,” Borrego said. “I wish we had a practice today where he could go full. He’d be a full go today if we were able to practice and take a look at him. We’ve just got to get him in some practices right now. But I’m hopeful to get him back for Friday practice.”
Rozier’s status remains murky and his availability for Wednesday’s season opener against Indiana is uncertain. He sprained his right ankle in practice on Saturday, and Borrego said there is some tenderness. There is no definitive timeline for their veteran leader’s return.
“Terry’s just day-to-day,” Borrego said. “This ankle, everybody’s ankle responds differently. We’ve seen guys go from one day to the next, and have great recovery and just feel better with these ankles. Terry, I just don’t know. It’s still a little sore and we are trying to figure him out. I’m hopeful a week from now we have both guys in the lineup, and there is a chance we will have both. I can’t say for sure.”
In the final opportunity to use game action as an evaluation tool to determine their position battle, the edge went to Cody Martin over rookie Bouknight.
They each bring a different look to the lineup and have both had their moments throughout the first games over the past two weeks. Receiving the starting nod in place of Rozier for the second straight game, Martin registered another solid performance with 11 points and six rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes, draining 5-of-9 shots. That kind of production is a bonus for him.
His specialty is on the opposite end of the floor.
“Cody obviously gives us more defense,” Borrego said. “Cody Martin’s probably our most pound-for-pound perimeter defender. He can guard multiple positions.”
Although he missed his first five attempts against the Mavericks and posted just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, Bouknight has shown he can fill it up. That could give him an advantage over Martin depending on the situation the Hornets find themselves in.
“Bouk’s got more offense,” Borrego said. “He’s younger, he’s learning the game, learning the NBA game. Learning our system. But as we’ve seen in these preseason games, he can go score one-on-one. On his own, he can just go score. You need that in this league. We are going to have to find production. What I have to figure out is based on what we have in the lineup, do we have enough offense and where do we go?
“Is that a Bouk conversation? Is that a Cody conversation? And from night to night I’m just going to have to make a call, and my hope is they sort it out for me. Both have played well to put that pressure on me. So we’ll figure it out.”