Charlotte Hornets

Jeremy Lamb makes case as a starter in Charlotte Hornets’ win over Boston Celtics

Jeremy Lamb says his dream growing up was to be an NBA starter. That didn’t look plausible based on most of his pro career to date, but he sure made a case in the Charlotte Hornets’ first exhibition.

Lamb, starting at shooting guard, hit three of his five 3-pointers, finishing with 15 points and looking generally impressive in the Hornets’ 104-97 victory over the Boston Celtics at the Smith Center on North Carolina’s campus.

Lamb and Malik Monk are the primary contenders to start at shooting guard, after new coach James Borrego shifted Nic Batum from shooting guard to small forward. Monk sat out Friday’s exhibition after missing two of the five practices in Chapel Hill with a pelvic contusion.

Monk sitting out was a precaution, rather than an indication of something serious. He might play Sunday in the rematch with the Celtics in Boston.

Entering his seventh NBA season, Jeremy Lamb (3) has earned a starting spot at shooting guard. Robert Willett

Going into the preseason, Borrego said point guard Kemba Walker was the only sure starter. Borrego’s other starters Friday: Lamb, Batum, Marvin Williams at power forward and Cody Zeller at center.

Three who mattered

Kyrie Irving: The Celtics’ point guard looked sharp in his first game back since a knee procedure in March that ended his season.

Tony Parker: The Hornets’ free-agent acquisition played his first NBA game for anyone other than the San Antonio Spurs. He’ll be the backup to Walker at point guard.

Zeller: He was the logical first option to start at center after the Hornets traded Dwight Howard over the summer. Zeller isn’t known for shooting range, but he hit a 3-pointer in the second half..


Borrego wants the Hornets launching considerably more 3-pointers this season, but that implies making a decent percentage. The Hornets were outscored at the 3-point line 24-12 in the first half, making just four of 18 attempts from the arc. They recovered in the third quarter, making three of their first five attempts from outside the arc.

With Frank Kaminsky moving to primarily center (from power forward), there might not be any room in the rotation for Bismack Biyombo. He didn’t play at all in the first half. That made him the only Hornets player on a guaranteed contract other than Monk who didn’t.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is a huge fan of Hornets assistant Ron Nored. The two have a long history together, as Nored played for Stevens at Butler and later worked for the Celtics’ G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. When Nored first moved to New England, he lived with Stevens and his family. Stevens said the best thing about Nored is he’s such a natural leader, so he’s not at all surprised, after a stint as the Brooklyn Nets’ G-League coach, that Nored would be a full-time NBA assistant.

Playing three of the Hornets’ five exhibitions in the first eight days of the preseason isn’t ideal or what Borrego was used to with the San Antonio Spurs. Borrego plans to make the best of the schedule by doing a lot of video review as part of the six days he’ll have between Tuesday’s home game against the Miami Heat and the Oct. 8 game against the Chicago Bulls .

Marvin Williams-Photo.JPG
Charlotte’s Kemba Walker (15) and Jeremy Lamb (3) help teammate Marvin Williams (2) to his feet during their NBA exhibition against the Boston Celtics on Friday at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Charlotte won 104-97. Robert Willett

Worth mentioning

Hornets rookie Miles Bridges had a “welcome to the NBA” moment in the first half when Celtic Jaylen Brown fooled him with a jab step, made an open 3-pointer and picked up Bridges’ foul.

Not a big surprise that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist came off the bench, playing primarily power forward, rather than small forward.

Guard Marcus Smart was not with the Celtics because of an excused absence for an undisclosed personal matter.

They said it

“If I give them (a correction), they don’t make that mistake the next time most times. Every single practice Miles and Devonte have gotten better.” – Borrego on rookies Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham being quick learners.

“There’s a great rivalry between Duke and UNC, but there’s also tremendous respect for what they’ve both accomplished over time..” – former Duke player, and Celtics star, Kyrie Irving on playing in the Smith Center as a pro.

“Pace and space” – Borrego on his priorities offensively, as far as playing at a faster tempo and averaging more 3-point attempts this season than the Hornets previously did.

Report card

B OFFENSE: It’s inevitable the Hornets would have a clunky start, with Borrego upping the pace this preseason. Definite improvement to start the second half

C- DEFENSE: The Celtics are obviously loaded with scorers, but there wasn’t much resistance to start this game.

C+ COACHING: Hard to draw any real conclusions when a new coach’s first game is five practices into his first preseason.


Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell