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Sports

Time Out For Sports: LaMelo Ball Makes His Charlotte Hornets Debut, The Carolina Panthers Lose And Duke Cancels Nonconference Games

LaMelo Ball
Charlotte Hornets
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LaMelo Ball (left), makes his debut with the Charlotte Hornets.

The Carolina Panthers lose another close game, LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward make their preseason debuts with the Charlotte Hornets and an ACC school cancels its remaining nonconference games due to COVID-19 concerns. With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk about these topics is Langston Wertz Jr., a long-time sportswriter with the Charlotte Observer.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi Langston!

Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey Gwen, how are you doing?

Glenn: All is well and the Charlotte Hornets preseason kicked off this weekend! So, point guard rookie LaMelo Ball and small forward veteran Gordon Hayward made their debut with the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday in a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors. How did they look to you?

Wertz: You know what Gwen? I thought Hayward looked really good for, you know, a preseason game. You know, he showed ability to get to the basket. He showed the jump shot. He showed that, you know, he's a multifaceted scorer. And that's one thing the Hornets just haven't had on the wings — a guy who dependably can put the ball in a hoop. I would expect him to average 20 points a game this year for the team.

LaMelo Ball is an exciting player. He makes pinpoint passes. I think this is a guy who's going to put fans in the seats and bring some excitement to the team. And I think he is going to be a really good player one day.

Glenn: I know this was the first preseason game and the Hornets have not played in months, but 23 turnovers … do they have a long way to go to get in sync with each other?

Wertz: I wouldn't put too much into the first preseason game of the season. I mean, they had a big lead. They lost a big lead, end up losing by a lot. But, you know, the Hornets aren't going to transform overnight. It's going to take a while for the guys to get to know each other. You're working in a lot of new pieces.

Glenn: LaMelo did not score any points but he got a lot of praise for his passing and assists, right?

Wertz: Yeah, I mean, he was 0-for-5 from the field. He didn't score it. And he's not known as the really good 3-point shooter. That's one of the things he's going to have to work on. But the passes that he made were incredible. There was one particular pass he made behind the back on a fast break that had everybody excited, jumping in the air. And the Hornets need some excitement. They need a reason for you to go downtown on a Monday night or Thursday night to watch them play.

Glenn: The Carolina Panthers — it was another loss for them at Bank of America Stadium Sunday—32-27 against the Denver Broncos. The Panthers have lost seven straight games where they were within a touchdown of winning. Where did they fall short this week, Langston?

Wertz: They got penalties at the wrong time. They had a chance to get off the field on third-and-8, with a chance to really get back in the game. And Brian Burns had a roughing-the-passer call, another player had a taunting penalty to keep another drive alive. They score a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal. Things like that will just destroy you.

Glenn: Panthers Coach Matt Rhule described the game as being poorly executed and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was sacked several times, took a lot of the blame for the loss.

Teddy Bridgewater: "Our line did a great job of trying to pick up the game but if you look at us throughout the course of the year, we have been coming up short and it starts with me. I have to continue to have the right mindset to put us in positions to win ballgames."

Wertz: One of the biggest plays of the game was they had a second-and-8 right before the two-minute warning. Teddy rushed them up to try to get a play off before the two-minute warning, they're out of time outs. They had a horrible play, they threw the ball. It had no chance of being completed. And then on fourth down, he threw the ball underneath to Curtis Samuel. That ball has to go past the sticks and that really is on the quarterback.

Glenn: Moving on to college football, I’m hearing words like "throttled, annihilated, blow out" in descriptions of the UNC-Chapel Hill 62-26 win Saturday over the Miami Hurricanes. Langston, was that big of a win a surprise?

Wertz: Yes, it was a big surprise. Carolina was No. 5 in the nation in October, but they kind of fell apart. Then they come back as the No. 20 team and beat No. 9 Miami 62 -26 in Miami was huge. It was the first time the Tar Heels beat a top 10 team since beating Miami in 2004.

Glenn: There’s a lot of talk about the Tar Heels being bound for a major bowl game this season. Here’s the team’s Coach Mack Brown on that subject.

Mack Brown: "I hope it works out where we get to go to the Orange Bowl. We haven’t been to a major bowl since the '40s so this would be a major accomplishment for these guys."

Wertz: The Tar Heels are going to need some help to get to the Orange Bowl. First, they need Clemson to beat Notre Dame in the ACC Championship game on Saturday. Then they need college football playoff to take both Clemson and Notre Dame, which I think will happen. And they have to finish higher ranked than Miami in the final college football playoff poll. I think that happens as well. I think it looks good for the Tar Heels.

Glenn: Switching to college basketball, Duke University’s head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski had a big announcement last week.

Mike Krzyzewski: "We’re not gonna play any nonconference games, we’re not gonna try to reschedule. We could reschedule three. Or try to reschedule three games, but we’re not gonna do that.”

Glenn: The coach is being criticized in the media and in some coaching circles for this decision. What’s his reasoning behind the decision and is the criticism justified?

Wertz: He's been one of the guys who was pushing to have college basketball start in January. So I think he is justified in saying this. He's really trying to help the welfare of the kids. I think it's legitimate.

Glenn: Also in ACC men’s college basketball news, NC State announced a pause in all basketball activities due to some positive COVID-19 tests last week. What do you know about that and what’s the latest for upcoming games?

Wertz: Well, they're going to miss the Louisville game on Wednesday; would be the fifth game they've missed. NC State hasn't played since Dec. 3. In the last week, they had two members of a traveling party test positive for COVID-19. It's just one of those seasons, you know, just kind of have these things come up this year.

Langston Wertz Jr. is a veteran reporter for the Charlotte Observer.

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