Hornets continue road trip vs. Blazers
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Charlotte Hornets won't have the newest member of the team with them when they visit Moda Center for a Thursday night date with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Charlotte acquired center Willy Hernangomez on Wednesday in a trade with New York for forward Johnny O'Bryant and two second-round draft picks. But Hernangomez won't join the Hornets until Friday's game at Utah at the earliest.
Thursday's 3 p.m. EST trade deadline looms, and Charlotte general manager Rich Cho said Wednesday it's possible the Hornets will make another deal. Rumors have flown over the past two weeks that discussions have ensued involving point guard Kemba Walker, the team's top scorer at 22.6 points per game. Walker has scored in double figures in the last 17 games.
"There's nothing I can do about that," Walker told the Charlotte Observer. "I'll control what I can control. I take it day by day. I don't think about the trade rumors. At first it got to me, but I got over that a long time ago."
Charlotte (23-30) is clinging to slim playoff hopes as the regular season enters its final two months. The Hornets have won three of their last four games and are 1-1 on their current four-game road trip following a 121-104 loss at Denver on Monday.
Power forward Marvin Williams, who missed the previous four games with a sprained ankle, will return to duty Thursday.
"I don't see why I'd play any less than I normally do," Williams said. "However much they need me to play, I'll be ready to go."
The Trail Blazers have been in trade talks over the past couple of weeks but as of Wednesday hadn't pulled the trigger on any deals. The team's two stars say they hope general manager Neil Olshey will stand pat.
"It's (management's) decision on how we can get better from here, but I like the team we have," Portland shooting guard CJ McCollum said. "We're growing, continuing to find ways to get better and improving."
"We all know the business side of it," Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said. "Our job is just to show up ready to work and deal with what happens. That's all we can control."
"My teammates will always have my loyalty. Every time we get to this point of the year, it's a reminder that it can be sad when you spend so much time with a guy, developing relationships and bonds, and then the business takes over."
The Blazers (29-25) are coming off an 0-3 road trip, with losses at Toronto, Boston and Detroit. Portland has improved its offensive production in recent weeks and is now 15th in the NBA in offensive rating (105.2). The Blazers' defense has softened, though, and they have fallen out of the top 10 in defensive rating for the first time this season, ranking 11th at 104.9.
The Blazers should feel good that the Hornets are coming for a visit. Portland is only 12-20 against teams that are .500 or better but is 17-5 against teams without a winning record.
In the first meeting between the teams this season, Portland won 93-91 at Charlotte on Dec. 16, with McCollum going for 25 points while Walker was held to 14.
The Blazers' starting small forward, Evan Turner (calf), is questionable for Thursday's rematch.
Updated February 8, 2018