Just think how good it could get for the Charlotte Hornets if their co-leading scorer returns to top form.
For now, the Hornets will go into Saturday night’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets looking to produce a four-game winning streak for the first time this season.
Reserve guard Malik Monk made a big impact offensively during Charlotte’s 103-93 win in Chicago on Thursday night in a game that saw Devonte’ Graham held scoreless for the first time this season.
“It shows that anybody can step up at any moment,” Monk said following his 25-point performance. “We’re trusting each other.”
Graham had averaged a team-best 18.1 points per game prior to the All-Star break. He said he needs to make sure that he’s aggressive, but he said the Hornets have lots of options at their disposal.
“We got guys who can step up, make plays. We’re not just dependent on me to score,” said Graham, whose 17.8-point average is tied with Terry Rozier for the team lead.
Monk has made contributions in several games and is another source of offense.
“Been really aggressive and looking for his shot,” Graham said of his teammate.
For Charlotte coach James Borrego, spreading out the production is ideal.
“We have depth. We have versatility,” Borrego said. “Ultimately, that’s what we want to be built. We’re not built around one player. We want to be a team that has depth.”
The Nets went into overtime in their first game back from the All-Star break, falling 112-104 at Philadelphia on Thursday night.
“We’re going to be a good team,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of going down the stretch. “I feel good about that.”
After Thursday’s announcement that guard Kyrie Irving will have shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the season, the Nets can focus on what they need to do without wondering about his potential return.
“They look at it as a challenge and an opportunity to do something special,” Atkinson said of the players. “I’ve been so pleased with the spirit and attitude. The spirit is really good in there and I think these guys want to surprise some people.”
Brooklyn players are optimistic that they can come through without Irving.
“We just have a next-man-up mentality right now and try to finish out this season the right way,” shooting guard Caris LeVert said.
“We have the talent to still be a good team, still make the playoffs,” guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. “It’s just all about coming together, being cohesive and pushing forward.”
That’s the mindset the Hornets have taken as they’re out of playoff contention but want to continue to set a solid foundation for the future. They’ve struggled to close out games at times, so putting together a win streak when the rewards are evident has been crucial.
“You have to learn how to win in this league,” Borrego said. “There are different ways to win in this league.”
Brooklyn won 111-104 on Dec. 6 in Charlotte just a few days before the Hornets claimed the rematch in New York. The Nets are 2-1 in the series this season.
–Field Level Media