LaVine leads Bulls into opener against Hornets

The Chicago Bulls enter the season with a roster filled with proven players, but there's a lot to prove for this team.

The Charlotte Hornets look much less imposing at first glance and will be looking to prove people wrong throughout the season.

The teams meet in the season opener Wednesday night at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.

Both teams missed the playoffs last season, so the preseason was crucial.

"We've learned more about our guys," said second-year Hornets coach James Borrego, whose team finished with a 39-43 record last season. "We're learning every day."

The Bulls come into the season off a miserable 22-60 campaign, so they're looking to get things rolling in the right direction.

Guard Zach LaVine, who posted 23.7 points per game last season, figures to be the centerpiece for what Chicago is trying to build. Entering his fifth NBA season, he's coming off his most productive campaign.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen, who took over during the 2018-19 season, has been tough on the team during training camp, something the players said has been a good thing.

"You see how much the guys care for each other, " LaVine said. "The coaches have been doing a good job of putting us in the best positions."

The Bulls have embraced the style of play.

"I think we've come together," Chicago forward Lauri Markkanen said. "Playing the right way, make the extra pass. Playing unselfish basketball, that's what we're looking for, and I think that's going to be our game. ... We're trying to play fast and shoot a lot of 3s and share the ball. It should be fun."

Bulls point guard Coby White, the team's first-round draft pick out of North Carolina, gets the chance to open his career in his home state.

"I'm trying to get confident, get better day-by-day," White said. "I've always had confidence. I'm starting to hit shots, so that's a good thing for me."

The Bulls also hope to get more from second-year forward Wendell Carter Jr., who was limited to 44 games as a rookie because of injuries.

Meanwhile, the Hornets could have a starting lineup with center Cody Zeller (10.1 points per game) as the top returning scorer.

Not only are the Hornets without guard Kemba Walker -- who left for the Boston Celtics -- but Jeremy Lamb also moved on. That means the top two scorers from last season are gone.

Charlotte looks for the arrival of guard Terry Rozier from the Celtics to help pick up the slack. First-round draft pick P.J. Washington, a forward, should have ample opportunity for a key role.

But there are encouraging signs coming from another former Kentucky player. Third-year guard Malik Monk might be in line for significant contributions.

"He looks like he's figuring this thing out," Borrego said.

The same thing for guard Dwayne Bacon, whose impact could be rising.

After opening with a pair of home games, the Hornets head for a four-game West Coast trip.

Chicago opens with three games across a four-night span. Four of its first five are on the road.

--Field Level Media
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