The Charlotte Hornets' season of high expectations didn't start the way coach Paul Silas had envisioned, so he let his players know about it.
The Hornets, picked by several preseason publications to win the Eastern Conference, led the revamped Orlando Magic by just two points at halftime of their opener Tuesday night. Silas had a few choice words for his players in the locker room, and they responded with a strong third quarter that propelled them to a 100-86 victory.
"I told them some words that can't be repeated," Silas said. "I wasn't very happy with our defense. We really picked it up in the third."
Eddie Jones had seven points and a steal as Charlotte took control by opening the second half with a 15-3 run. David Wesley added five points and two steals in the surge, which gave the Hornets a 14-point lead.
Jones wound up with 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Wesley had 16 points, nine assists and five steals. Bobby Phills added 20 points for Charlotte.
"We have a lot to live up to. We have a very talented team," Wesley said. "We got more aggressive in the second half and got some breakaways in transition."
Orlando, which unloaded Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Horace Grant in the offseason, struggled with its new lineup under first-year coach Doc Rivers. The Magic shot 30 percent in the decisive third quarter and got few contributions outside of Darrell Armstrong, who was the only Orlando starter in double figures with 12. Reserve forward Chris Gatlig had 15, but 10 came in the second half after the outcome had been decided.
"Once we got down, we're not a team that can come back from 20, 24 or 28 points down," Rivers said. "We don't have enough scoring."
The game drew an announced crowd of 17,461 to the 23,799-seat Charlotte Coliseum, the smallest opening-day gathering in the team's 12-year history. Many of the fans voiced their displeasure with Derrick Coleman, the highest-paid Hornet.
Coleman had been targeted to start, but those plans were put on hold last week after he wrecked his sport utility vehicle, was charged with drunken driving and missed several days of practice. Coleman was one of three people injured in the wreck, including teammate Eldridge Recasner, who is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks with a broken shoulder and other injuries.
Coleman, entering the second season of a five-year, $40 million contract, was booed when he was introduced before the game. The jeers started again after his first shot, a 15-foot jumper, missed everything. He finished with seven points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Afterward, Coleman accused reporters of unfairly scrutinizing him because he is a professional athlete.
"I don't think it's right. Accidents happen every day," he said. "It was just a freak accident. I'm just happy everybody's OK and that we can at this particular point in time laugh and joke about it."
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