Charlotte Hornets hope extra practice helps vs. Bulls

Jan 18, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets during the first half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Time off has come in different fashions for the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets. The team that snaps back into gear the best might be in good shape for Friday night’s meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

The Hornets’ idle time came in an unexpected fashion.

“It’s one of those years you just have to deal with it,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “We’ll make the most of it. It will give us more practice time. We’re going to use it to our advantage.”

The Bulls like the direction they’re going, while the Hornets would prefer to reverse a trend. Both teams hold 6-8 records, though the past week has been vastly different.

The Bulls have won consecutive games, and they’d like to reach a three-game winning streak for the first time this season.

“I think the mentality has just changed,” Bulls forward Thad Young said. “We’re seizing the moment.”

The Hornets have dropped three in a row for the second time this season. Then Wednesday night’s scheduled home game against Washington was called off when the Wizards’ coronavirus issues left the team without the NBA’s required roster numbers.

Read More: 2021 NBA mock draft: Cade Cunningham heads to D.C. with the Wizards at one

The Hornets have plenty of areas to address.

“We needed some more practice time,” Borrego said. “I think this is good for us.”

Hornets forward P.J. Washington agreed. “Trying to take it the best we can, get some work in and get some rest as well,” he said. “But everyone wants to play as well.”

The extra time this week should make the Hornets more efficient in certain situations, Borrego said. It has become a chance to work on specific scenarios.

“We spent a lot of time on our fourth-quarter package, our execution,” Borrego said, pointing out that team newcomer Gordon Hayward has created variations for those late-game options.

Washington tweaked an ankle during Tuesday’s practice but said he doesn’t expect to miss time.

Charlotte center Cody Zeller could be close to a return. He suffered a broken left hand in last month’s opener.

“Everybody is in a good mindset, good spirits,” Washington said. “I think we definitely got better during this time off.”

The Bulls have been making progress, too, under first-year coach Billy Donovan.

Chicago should also be well-rested, as it hasn’t played since Monday’s 125-120 home victory against the Houston Rockets. Zach LaVine’s 33 points led the way.

“I think we adapted to Billy’s offense really well,” LaVine said. “Guys are stepping up and hitting shots. I think we have the right personnel for it this year as well. I have to learn I can’t beat them by myself.”

Related: If you’re a fan of the Hornets, check out #AllFly rumors, rankings, and news here.

Donovan said the Bulls have demonstrated the ability to spread out the offensive production.

“I think the ball finds the open man,” he said. “I think guys shoot the ball more comfortably.”

Donovan said this is especially important because he doesn’t want the Bulls to rely too heavily on LaVine.

“I think if the weight of that is just on him every single time down the floor, I think it takes players out of rhythm,” Donovan said. “I think it’s hard to play and make shots when the ball does find you. I kind of envisioned the group as being a team that’s going to have to move and cut and generate shots collectively.”

Among the storylines, this game marks the return to his home state for Bulls guard Coby White.

It is one of two Chicago-Charlotte meetings on the schedule that’s in place through early March. The second game is set for Feb. 17, also in Charlotte.

–Field Level Media