Nic Batum’s return from a sore Achilles could change the Charlotte Hornets’ opening-night lineup Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Hornets did several transactions Saturday to address the status of rookies Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels.
Veteran guard-forward Batum missed the last three of five preseason games with soreness in his right Achilles tendon. He was cleared for full participation in practice Saturday, and coach James Borrego indicated Batum could return to the starting lineup for the regular-season opener Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls.
Borrego said he’s not yet ready to declare the starting five that finished the preseason — Terry Rozier, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and Cody Zeller — the starters Wednesday.
“I want to see Monday a few different (lineup) combinations. Nic did go today, so he is a factor in that,’ said Borrego, adding that Batum looked good Saturday for his first full practice back in nearly two weeks.
Rookie Washington replaced Batum in the starting lineup in the preseason game Oct. 11 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Washington, the 12th overall pick in June’s draft, has been the nicest surprise of the Hornets’ preseason. He averaged 12.2 points and shot 63 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.
If Batum went back into the starting lineup, it doesn’t necessarily mean Washington would be the one moving back to the second unit. Because the 6-9 Batum plays both guard and forward, Borrego could hypothetically move Washington, Bridges or Bacon to open a starting spot.
If Batum does move back into the starting lineup, it would be about adding ball-movement, defense and experience to a young group in the midst of a rebuild. Center Zeller is the only current Hornets starter with extensive NBA starting experience.
Caleb Martin gets new contract
The Hornets signed Caleb Martin to a multi-year contract and shifted Jalen McDaniels into a two-way contract slot, after waiving Ahmed Hill.
Martin, twin brother of Hornets draftee Cody Martin, signed with the Hornets over the summer after not being drafted in June. He played the fifth-highest minutes among Hornets in the preseason (20.6 per game) and averaged 9.6 points on 43 percent shooting from the field.
The Martin twins grew up in Mocksville and played at N.C. State before transferring to Nevada. The Hornets drafted Cody in the second round, 36th overall. Cody, who signed a three-year contract in July, missed part of the preseason with an ankle sprain. While Cody and Caleb are both 6-7 guard-forwards, Caleb is considered the better shooter-scorer and Cody the better facilitator.
The Hornets selected San Diego State forward McDaniels with the second of their two second-round picks (52nd overall). He signed midway through the preseason. Converting McDaniels to one of two Hornets two-way contracts allows the Hornets to control McDaniels’ rights while he develops primarily with the G-League Greensboro Swarm
The Hornets signed Hill to a two-way contract in early September, after he played well for the Brooklyn Nets’ summer-league team in Las Vegas. The Hornets’ other two-way contract went to Washington State forward Robert Franks, who played little in the preseason (averaging 6.2 minutes and three points in three game appearances).