As the Charlotte Hornets gear up for their season opener at home against the Atlanta Hawks this Wednesday, Oct. 25, the team navigates the challenges of missing key player Miles Bridges, who continues to serve his suspension, and welcomes the return of LaMelo Ball after a bout with injury.
Ball, a vital component of the Hornets’ lineup, was side-lined for the final 19 games of the previous season due to a fractured ankle. However, his active participation in training camp and involvement in four preseason games, where he averaged 15.2 points per game, signal his readiness to hit the court for Game 1.
Despite fluctuations in his shooting percentages, ranging from 36 to 43 percent across these games, Ball’s performance has been promising.
Ball's Anticipated Return
While the Hornets have not explicitly stated if Ball will be on a minutes restriction, all signs point to a full recovery and readiness to face off against the Hawks' Trae Young in the opener.
Ball’s previous season performance, with an average of 23.3 points per game in 36 games, sets high expectations for his contribution to the team’s success this season. The Hornets, however, are not without their challenges as they navigate injuries within their guard lineup.
Both James Bouknight and Frank Ntilikina are sidelined until November with knee injuries, and Cody Martin’s participation will be a game-time decision due to knee issues. Turning to Miles Bridges’ situation, the Hornets forward is serving a 30-game suspension handed down by the NBA in April, with 20 games accounted for from last season’s absence.
Thus, Bridges will be unavailable for the first 10 games of the 2023-24 season. This suspension follows an alleged domestic violence incident in June 2022, resulting in his arrest and multiple charges. Bridges ultimately entered a no contest plea, resulting in three years of probation, a year of protective order, 52 weeks of counseling, 100 hours of community service, and avoiding jail time.
Despite these tumultuous circumstances, the Hornets have chosen to bring Bridges back on a one-year qualifying offer worth $7.9 million. Although he did not attract significant interest in the market as a restricted free agent, the team is evidently hopeful that this decision will prove beneficial in the long run.
This game opener, therefore, stands as a critical moment for the Hornets, as they navigate the absence and return of key players, setting the tone for the season ahead.