|Hornets hope Batum's return helps against Cavs|
CHARLOTTE -- The Charlotte Hornets expect forward Nic Batum to make his season debut Wednesday night when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hornets will be seeking to end a four-game losing streak and the Cavaliers to extend a two-game winning run when they duel for the first of three times this season.
Cleveland has dominated Charlotte the past three seasons, winning six in a row and 10 of 11. The Hornets haven't beaten the Cavaliers at home since February 2016.
Batum averaged 14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the four Charlotte losses last season, all of which were by 12 points or fewer.
The Hornets are hoping his return can help end a losing streak that's also featured more than its fair share of narrow defeats. Charlotte is coming off losses at New York and Boston by a total of eight points.
Batum torn the UCL ligament in his left elbow in the preseason. He returned to practice in full last week, and -- at least in his mind -- has a green light for Wednesday's season debut.
"If it's my call, yes," he responded when asked about his possible return after Tuesday's practice. "If the coaches and the training staff are OK with it, it should be a go."
Without Batum, the Hornets have slipped to near the bottom of several offensive categories in the NBA. With scoring up in the league overall this season, the Hornets have dipped from 104.9 points per game last year, 16th-best in the league, to 103.4, the NBA's third-worst.
While Batum's 15.1 scoring average has played a role in that, so have the 5.9 assists per game the club has lost in his absence. The veteran ranked up there with the league's best in assists among forwards each of the last two seasons.
The Hornets will take the court Wednesday night as the league's worst team in assists (19.5 per game), well down from last season's 23.1 average.
Batum's return couldn't come at a better time. The Hornets figure to need all hands on deck to deal with a Cleveland club that is headed in a positive direction after a 4-6 start.
The Cavaliers are looking to complete a four-game trip with a third win, having edged New York 104-101 on Monday night.
LeBron James led a late flurry against the Knicks after the Cavaliers had fallen 17 points behind. He wound up playing 36 minutes on a night that began with his coach, Tyronn Lue, criticizing his conditioning.
"He has to get in shape," Lue insisted. "He missed the whole training camp, that's the reason why."
Hornets fans are hoping to see a tired James on Wednesday night because they've surely seen him at his best many times in the past.
James nearly had a triple-double in his last visit in March with 32 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. He also totaled 32 points in Cleveland's road win in December.
James had a triple-double in his sixth career game against the Hornets in 2006, recording 37 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.
His 39-6 career record in games against the Hornets also includes a 61-point explosion for the Miami Heat in 2014.