CHARLOTTE — The Boston Celtics take on the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday as Kemba Walker returns to the city where he was drafted.
Here are some interesting plot lines:
1. Kemba’s return should be fascinating.
On the one hand, Walker left his old team — the small-market squad that developed him for years — for a big-market juggernaut, and that type of move is rarely received well. Kevin Durant was booed. Gordon Hayward was booed. Anthony Davis will be BOOED.
But Walker is a little different. He toiled for the Hornets for years, and management never managed to build a coherent, winning roster around him. Like Kevin Garnett (on a slightly lesser level) when he left Minnesota, there seemed to be a sense in Charlotte that Walker did everything he could for the franchise, and when the team didn’t offer him a super-max deal this summer in free agency, the most reasonable thing he could do was move on.
Whether the fan base actually believes that or not remains to be seen, but Walker certainly gave the franchise a lot.
2. Scary Terry vs. the Celtics (regular season edition).
Rozier got his first crack at the Celtics in the preseason, but this is his first chance when the games count.
So far, Rozier has had mixed results as Charlotte’s lead guard. His shooting numbers are fine (41.8 percent from the field, 35.7 from three), and he has been relatively productive — 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game in 32.7 minutes.
But Rozier has not been a natural fit at the point-guard position. In previous seasons, as a combo guard, Rozier has been at or above the 90th-percentile in turnover percentage. With a spike in usage (and with a spike in ball-handling/distributing responsibilities), Rozier’s turnover percentage has plummeted — he’s currently turning over 16.3-percent of his possessions, nearly double his total from the last two years and all the way down to the 20th percentile.
We are only seven games in, of course, but given Boston’s proclivity for turning opponents over, this is worth monitoring.
3. The P.J. Washington vs. Grant Williams matchup should be fun.
Washington has turned a lot of heads so far — he’s averaging 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds, while shooting 57.1 from the field and 47.6 from behind the arc. Arguably the best player in college basketball last year (non-Zion Williamson edition), Washington appears to have picked up right where he left off.
Grant Williams is in a different situation — the Celtics need him to play a role (as opposed to being a featured scorer, like Washington), and he has performed well within that role. But the matchup between the two former SEC rivals could be fun to watch when it happens.
4. Jaylen Brown is “probable.”
Remember Jaylen Brown? He’s on this team too. The Celtics have been without Brown for a few games, but getting him back (probably) will not only give them a boost at the outset, it should help their bench — more of Boston’s best players available means more assistance in the second unit.
5. Charlotte’s point differential is interesting.
The Hornets are above .500 at 4-3, but their point differential is -5.4, which is the point differential of a 27-win team, according to Cleaning the Glass.
So who are the Hornets? Charlotte’s wins include a one-point win over the Chicago Bulls, a two-point win over the Indiana Pacers, a six-point win over the suddenly lowly Golden State Warriors and a seven-point win over the Sacramento Kings. Their losses have been blowouts — 15 to the Los Angeles Clippers, 19 to the Los Angeles Lakers and 22 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Hornets have yet to really prove themselves against a good team. We will see if they do it against the Celtics Thursday.