Alluring as the swap-of-point guards story line was, if any news came from the Charlotte Hornets’ preseason opener against the Boston Celtics, it was the abundant depth at power forward.
Rookie lottery pick PJ Washington (16 points, 7 rebounds) — probably the third option at the position — had a terrific first half in a 107-106 preseason loss to the Boston Celtics. With Miles Bridges and Marvin Williams both being primarily power forwards, coach James Borrego is going to have to figure out some things minutes-wise.
This was the Celtics debut for Kemba Walker, after eight great seasons with the Hornets. The Hornets replaced Walker with Terry Rozier, who played four years off the bench for the Celtics.
Walker finished with 12 points and four assists for the Celtics. Rozier had nine points and nine assists for the Hornets.
Rozier’s assists are a promising sign, particularly because the Hornets lost not only Walker but also future Hall of Famer Tony Parker off last season’s roster.
What’s not to like about Washington, who made all six of his first-half shots? Washington missed summer league while healing a foot injury from last season with Kentucky. Even while playing through mistakes, he looks assertive on the court. There is a crowd at power forward, so finding Washington regular-season minutes could be tricky initially.
The Celtics scored 16 first-quarter points in the paint. Improved defense was the overarching focus of Hornets training camp in Chapel Hill last week. That must start with not giving up so much at the rim this season. Borrego went to a simpler defensive scheme this season with an emphasis on rim protection. Now they must execute it.
Making their case
The Martin twins — rookies Cody and Caleb — both got into the first half, well ahead of several other Hornets trying to earn roster spots and minutes. Borrego has talked about position-less basketball and these two 6-7 guys fit that agenda. Preseason minutes don’t necessarily reflect what will happen later, but it’s something to monitor.
Beyond the numbers
Cody Zeller did not start the second half, which reflects that the No. 1 priority regarding the Hornets’ top center is keeping him healthy. Zeller has missed half of Charlotte’s games the past two seasons. Zeller shooting 2-of-9 in the first half showed some rust, but the Hornets have plenty of time to get him back into rhythm.