Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, N.C., 7:00
It’s finally here Hornets fans, IT’S OPENING NIGHT AT THE HIVE!!! The team has a day packed full of activities leading up to the game and it all culminates as the Charlotte Hornets take on the Milwaukee Bucks in what is sure to be a frenzied atmosphere at Time Warner Cable Arena.
This will be the first regular season game for the new look Hornets as they look to build off of last seasons unexpected playoff berth. Look for a heavy dose of Al Jefferson against the Bucks; center Larry Sanders said he wants play in the opener but he has missed the last four games with an injury. Behind him the Bucks have the lanky F/C John Henson, who is a capable defender, but Jefferson presents a matchup nightmare for most any opposing big man.
A matchup to keep an eye on in this game will be between Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jabari Parker. Kidd-Gilchrist had an encouraging preseason, as it seems that his confidence in his game has returned. He has been more aggressive going to the basket and has shown a significant improvement in his shooting stroke. MKG will most likely draw the defensive assignment against the Bucks’ rookie, who will be playing in his first regular season game as a professional.
Parker, the talented forward out of Duke, was the Bucks’ first round pick and was drafted to be the future of their franchise. Widely regarded as the most NBA ready prospect in the draft, Parker was by far the Bucks most consistent player throughout the preseason, scoring in double figures in every game and flashing glimpses of his all around game that made him a double-double machine at Duke. He will no doubt be the focal point of the Bucks offense, which makes the defensive matchup a pivotal point in this game.
Another intriguing matchup will be between starting guards Lance Stephenson and the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo. Stephenson has been dealing with a lingering groin issue but insists that nothing will keep him from playing in the opener, and his participation in Tuesday’s practice is an encouraging sign. He will be making his regular season debut for the Hornets and he will surely be looking to put his stamp on this game to set the tone for the season. If he is limited, look for backup combo guard Gary Neal, who has played well in the preseason, to fill in for Stephenson.
Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ freakishly talented second year swingman. Milwaukee experimented with using him as their point guard in this preseason to take advantage of his length and raw and versatile talent. His wingspan is over 7’3” but his hands are incredibly long which helps him considerably as a passer and ball handler. His length and all-around game will make Stephenson work hard for everything he gets, ensuring that this will be an exciting matchup to watch.
Charlotte and Milwaukee have struggled with injuries, preventing them from being able to build cohesion throughout the preseason. Both teams are built on youth and athleticism so expect this to be a scrappy game. Neither team shot particularly well last season and that has carried over into the exhibition season for both squads, so I wouldn’t expect this game to turn into a shootout. Gerald Henderson has been cleared to play but his role in this game is unclear after he missed the preseason with a hamstring injury.
No matter what, tonight will surely be an exciting event for the Hornets franchise and their fans; I’ll be in attendance and I encourage all you fans to come out and participate or at least tune in for this historic night. Happy Opening Night Hornets fans, KEEP BUZZING!!!
- Good news for the Hornets; point guard Kemba Walker has re-signed with the team on a four-year $48 million dollar contract.
- The last game the Charlotte Hornets played was against the Bucks on April 14, 2002, at the Bradley Center, when Ray Allen scored a game-high 47 points (including a team-record 10 3-point field goals) in a 98-91 win.
- Bucks forward John Henson (junior) and guard Kendall Marshall (sophomore) were both teammates of Hornets forward P.J. Hairston (freshman) at the University of North Carolina in 2011-12.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
PG Walker Knight
SG Stephenson Antetokounmpo
SF Kidd-Gilchrist Parker
PF Williams Middleton
C Jefferson Henson
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Photo credit: (NBAE/Getty Images)