LaMelo Ball alone isn’t going to fix the problems facing the Charlotte Hornets, but he figures to be a big part of the solution.
The Hornets already appear in a desperate situation, so his season debut during the weekend was a much-needed boost for the club.
“You can just see what a terrific player he is,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s in the paint. He puts a ton of pressure on the defense. He has a great feel for where his teammates are. It’s been whatever — five, six weeks since he’s played. It was great to have him back. It makes a huge difference in our team.”
Ball’s appearance won’t be the only notable storyline when Charlotte visits the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
Clifford is a former Magic coach who returned this season to begin his second stint with the Hornets.
The Magic are coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season. The Magic have sputtered this season, but by winning their past two games against Dallas and Phoenix, they’ve pushed their win total to four — one more than Charlotte.
Meanwhile, the Hornets will try to snap an eight-game losing streak, their longest since January 2020. They’ve lost the first two games of a three-game road trip, dropping games Thursday night and Saturday night in Miami.
Having Ball, who had been out since a preseason injury, in the lineup should bode well for the Hornets in the long run, though it might take time to see the dividends.
Many of the Hornets’ snags have come on offense. Ball’s presence could start to remedy those, something that might have begun to develop when they shot a season-best 51.1 percent from the field Saturday night in a 132-115 loss to Miami.
“We can get back to getting his offense in and getting everybody comfortable when he’s out there,” Clifford said. “I think we’ll get a lot better very quickly.”
Defensive woes have also popped up for the Hornets, who surrendered 45 third-quarter points to Miami on Saturday night. Part of the problem was the lack of much rim protection.
“It’s just not a team defense you can win with,” Clifford said.
Orlando has an emerging star in rookie Paolo Banchero, who turned 20 on Saturday. He has missed the past two games with an ankle sprain. His status for Monday night is murky.
“He’s still day-to-day,” coach Jamahl Mosley said.
Banchero has averaged 23.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 11 outings.
“He’s a worker. He loves to be in the gym. He retains information,” Mosley said. “I think the more games he plays, the better he sees it (and) the better he feels it.”
The Magic have found offensive success, shooting a combined 53.1 percent from the field in the last five games.
Defense might be taking a turn for Orlando as well.
“We did a really good job (on Wednesday with) our ability to get out to shooters,” Mosley said. “I think our guys flew around a ton with the multiple efforts, just being able to contest all shots.”
A 50-38 rebounding edge in the Phoenix game helped the Magic, with Bol Bol’s 15 boards the most for any player on the team this season.
–Field Level Media