It was tough to spot any frowns since he was wearing a mask, but James Borrego sure didn’t seem like someone who wasn’t satisfied with what transpired for a couple of hours inside the Novant Health Training Center on Tuesday.
After the Charlotte Hornets coach put his team through its first practice of the season, he proclaimed it was a good start to their laborious, seven-month trek.
“Great energy, guys were really positive,” Borrego said. “We’ve got a long way to go. Had moments of sloppiness, but that’s OK. It’s the first day. This is a part of the process. But great energy. It’s great to be back in the gym.”
Even if they may have been a bit too hyped on occasion.
“I think right now everybody is a little amped up, a little antsy,” Borrego said. “Everyone wants to go make plays right now and that’s OK. That’s just natural. Our guys, they wanted to go play five-on-five when we stepped on the floor the first minute of practice. We’ve got to take a little step back and give them the principles, the foundation, the concepts we want to play out of.”
For Gordon Hayward, it represented the first time he’s been able to officially be on the floor preparing with his teammates since March. He, too, enjoyed what he saw collectively.
“I felt like it was a good day,” Hayward said. “The first day of training camp is always exciting for everybody. We had good juice in the building, though. I like that. We’ve got a lot to learn for sure. Trying to build some chemistry with some of the newer guys that we have. But it was a good first day for us.”
With their initial session of their four days of training camp practices complete, here are three things we learned about the Hornets:
1. LaMelo Ball is healthy again
LaMelo Ball just wasn’t the same following his wrist surgery. Upon his return in May, he wasn’t as effective shooting the ball from 3-point range and didn’t attack the basket with the same aggressiveness.
But after getting right in the offseason, he has regained the form that led to his, at times, breathtaking play.
“He looks 100%, much more comfortable right now,” Borrego said. “Before the injury in L.A., this is the same Melo. He’s got a ton of reps, he’s been around the gym this summer. Yeah, I think it was a tough transition coming out of the injury and obviously it was to his shooting wrist, which has a major impact. But he’s looked good so far at camp and he’s ready to go.”
2. Hornets’ voluntary training session in Miami is paying dividends
When the entire team convened in Miami a couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t exactly so they could all get a little R&R in South Beach. That was a business trip and it’s already paying off for the Hornets.
Organized by Terry Rozier, the players spent Sept. 6-10 together, working out and scrimmaging, among other things. The goal was to bring everybody to one central location so they could use it partially as an early team-bonding moment and it’s been mentioned publicly by more than a few of them over the last two days.
By taking the time to do that leading into training camp, they hope it has jump-started things for them prior to getting underway this week.
“I think that experience more than anything built some chemistry, built some relationships,” Hayward said, “being able to go out to eat and talk with people about (things that are) not basketball. That’s something that we weren’t necessarily able to do last year because of COVID. I think that was good. It was a good start. It just gets everyone used to each other. And, yeah, today was building off of that for sure.”
3. Don’t expect to know how so-and-so looked together
Given all of the new pieces they have to fit together and figure out which combinations work best, it’s only natural for inquiring minds to want to know how it’s going.
But don’t expect a detailed answer for at least a couple of days.
That part of the process hasn’t arrived yet. There are still things that have to be addressed and drilled into the players’ heads.
“Too early,” Borrego said. “Trying to manage 20 guys, it’s a lot. There was a lot of guys out there. So to get everybody reps right now, it just takes time. It can be clunky at times. I think over the next couple of days, I’ll try to look at some of those different lineups. But just not there yet. We’re trying to get our feet settled, get our foundation in, get our defensive principles in, get up and down the floor, fill the gym on both sides of the ball a little bit. So I think we’ll have time for that as we go this week.”